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Kochi

About the place: 

Known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the west coast of India from the 14th century. Occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, Kochi was the first of the European colonies in colonial India. It remained the main seat of Portuguese India until 1530, when Goa was chosen instead. The city was later occupied by the Dutch and the British, with the Kingdom of Cochin becoming a princely state. Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Kerala. Kochi has been ranked the sixth best tourist destination in India according to a survey conducted by the Nielsen Company on behalf of the Outlook Traveller magazine. Kochi was one of the 28 Indian cities found to be among the emerging 440 global cities that will contribute 50% of the world GDP by the year 2025, in a 2011 study done by the McKinsey Global Institute.

Kochi (formerly Cochin; Malayalam: കൊച്ചി) is a cosmopolitan city in Kerala with a bustling commercial port. Kochi is the financial capital of Kerala and, with a population of more than 2 million, the biggest urban agglomeration in the state. It is one of the major tourist destinations in India.

A city born in storm, nurtured in rivalry and established as battling ground for European empires. This phrase makes prefect understanding of Kochi which was formed as an ancient port city after the Great Floods of the Periyar River in 1341. With partitioning of Chera Kerala empire in 14th century, this region came under control of a new dynasty, rivaled by other local feudal lords. With the advent of colonization, Kochi became the first major battle grounds of almost all European powers. However, least it made an impact over the fortunes of this city.

Kochi merchants began trading in spices such as black pepper and cardamom with the Arabs, Dutch, Phoenicians, Portuguese, and Chinese more than 600 years ago. This helped Kochi to prosper and to become the gateway to old India. It was from Kochi that the colonization of India started. Portugal was first to establish its base in Kochi, followed by the Dutch and English. The Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1814, compelled the Dutch to hand over Kochi to the British in exchange for Bangka Island in Indonesia. The British managed to establish their influence over Kochi, limiting their direct administration to a small enclave of Fort Kochi and British Ernakulam with their capital at Bolgatty Island. The rest of the Kochi Kingdom was administered by Kochi Maharajas from their capital at Thripunithura. However the real administration was done by Diwans (Prime Ministers), leaving the Maharajas to patronize culture, arts and focus heavily on public health and education areas.

The foundations of modern Kochi city started when Sir Robert Bristow, a senior Royal Navy Engineer felt the need of a modern large port after the opening of Suez Canal. This made creation of the largest man-made island of the country, the Willingdon Island to house new Kochi Port.

In the 1930s, the Kochi Maharaja joined the public outcry to form a common state of Malayalam-speaking people by merging with the Kingdom of Travancore and British Malabar. Kochi Maharaja Kerala Varma Raja was at the forefront of this agitation, and passed the Aykiakerala Resolution in the Kochi Parliament. In 1947, the Kingdom of Kochi and Travancore merged to form the Royal State of Travancore-Kochi. The Kochi Maharaja was amongst the first to advocate the state joining the newly formed Indian Union. Finally in 1948, the state of Travancore-Kochi merged with India.

Since the formation of Kerala in 1957, Kochi has been the commercial capital of Kerala as well as the seat of the Kerala High Court. Since 2000, Kochi has revitalized its economy, with a focus on tourism, information technology and the port.

The colonial charms of Fort Kochi with arrays of traditional European bungalows and alleys

Kochi has a cosmopolitian culture, highly influenced by historical trading partners, Portuguese, Dutch, Arab, Chinese, and Japanese. Kochi is the seat of the Latin church of Kerala and has many Catholic churches and followers.

Kochi was traditionally a potpourri of various Indian and international communities. Syrian Christians started the first wave of immigration, followed by Jews between the 7th and 10th centuries. Arab merchants also made a strong settlement in Kochi. In the 15th century, Gujaratis settled in Kochi, especially on Mattencherry Island, where they played a strong role in spice trading and other areas.

Later, at the beginning of the colonial era, the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British all made their settlements in Kochi. The Portuguese had a strong influence in Fort Cochin. British culture was strongly felt, lending Kochi a strong community of Anglo-Indians.

In the early 1970s, Punjabis settled here, focusing their strong presence on the local automobile industry. Tamilians, Telugus, Kannadigas have all formed small settlements since the days of royalty. Recently, students from Cambodia, Thailand, Korea, and Indonesia have settled down in Kochi for studies and research activities. Kochi has a sizeable expatriate population mainly from European countries who have settled in Fort Kochi. Most of them are senior citizens who settled down to enjoy retirement life and many run boutique hotels and restaurants in that area. Due to the rapid growth of the city, a majority of the local population are now immigrants.

Generally, Kochinites are modern and fashionable. Being a city that has a tradition of various cultures being given equal respect, a high level of tolerance exists. The city has a modern attitude, but some basic social modesty still prevails, especially in villages and rural areas.

Climate

Kochi has a typical tropical climate. Temperatures range between 30°C and 35°C during daytime and around 24°C during night. Kochi is one of the first places to experience the heavy Monsoon showers starting by mid of May. Kochi experiences heavy rainfall between mid of May to first week of September. Day time temperatures during the monsoon fall to between 25°C and 30°C during these months. From September to early February, the weather is fine, marked with cool winds and light showers in between. However by February, summer season starts. Though temperatures never touches 40°C, the presence of high humidity can make summers very harsh. This continues till early May. However frequent summer showers cool down the harshness of summer.

Region or Zone: 
South
State or Union Territory: 
Kerala
How to reach: 

By Air: Kochi ic very well connected with all major cities of India and some important International destinations by Air. It has an international airport. General tel: +91 484 305-3000, Flight status and Airline desk transfer: ☎ 91 484 2610115, +91 484 2611322, +91 484 2610033. Located in Nedumbassery, 29 km from the city center, this is the largest airport in Kerala and one of major gateway to India. It is also India's 4th busiest International Airport

By Train: It is also very well connected withall parts of India by train. The two major stations near by are Ernakulam Town Station [ (North Station), (IR Code : ERN), ☎ +91 484 2395198, is mainly for Inter City trains and a few long distance trains.] and Ernakulam Junction Station (South Station), (IR Code : ERS) ☎ +91 484 2353751 (service inquiries ☎ 131, ☎ 133, reservations ☎ 132, ☎ 1361) is a major Indian railways station. Most of the long distance trains to and from Kerala pass through here. There is a good food court, large waiting areas, book shops, a medical shop and a few retiring rooms along with a dorm. Kochi has many suburban railway stations where long distance trains stop, such as Aluva, Thripunithura and Angamally.

By Bus:  Buses from major cities of Southern India ply to Kochi.

By Boat: Kochi can be reached by sea in yachts as well as cruise ship from Goa, Mumbai, Lakshadweep, Colombo and Male. Almost all leading international cruises on global voyages operate to Kochi from the US and Europe at Wellingdon Island Cruise Berth. Yachts can be anchored at Kochi International Marina or Yacht Club Marina. There is a direct ferry service between Kochi and Lakshadweep.
Important Places to Visit: 
  • Chinese Fishing Nets (Cheenavala), Fort Kochi Beach, Beach Rd (Next to Fort Kochi Bus stand). Serves as the offical icon of Kochi and are a testimony of relations between Ancient Chinese Empires and the Kochi Kingdom. They were gifted by Chinese Emperor Kubalagi to Kochi King in 14th century. There were more than 100, though currently only a few remain in working condition.
  • Hill Palace Museum, Hill Palace Rd, Thripunithura (12 km southeast of Ernakulam), ☎ +91 484 2781113. Tu-Su 10AM-12.30PM; 2PM-4:30PM (Crown Gallery closes at 4PM). The erstwhile Kochi Maharaja's palace, now converted to a large museum along with a small zoo. Has paintings and epigraphy from the collections of the Travancore & Kochi royal families. This is the largest archaeological palace in South India with more than 500 artifacts divided into 16 galleries. The highlight of the Palace is the display of multi-billion worth Cochin Royal Crown and Crown Jewels. The Crown Gallery is a high security zone which has elobrate security check procedures, photography and bags are prohibited. The Palace complex is huge with several buildings inside it. There is a good Deer Park (10AM-4:30PM) along with peacocks. A small fauna garden was set up in 2003. Also the palace has more than 100 different species of trees and plants, many of which are of medical value. The palace has five large gardens and two large resting grounds of late Maharajas. Indians Rs 20, foreigners Rs 100 (including Deer Park and all attractions).
  • Santacruz Basilica, Cathedral Grounds, Fort Kochi (opposite Children's Park). Daily 7AM-8PM. The first European Church built in Asia, by the Portuguese in 1502, also the first Cathedral of Asia and seat of second Catholic Diocese in India. The British modified the structure and added oil paintings. Today, it serves as the primary seat of the Latin church of Kerala. Pope John Paul II declared it a Basilica in 1984. It houses several historical paintings, decors and artifacts. Free.
  • St. Francis Church (CSI Pally), Church Rd, Fort Kochi (Near to Fort Kochi Beach). Daily 7AM-7PM. Constructed by the Portuguese in 1503 and the burial place of Vasco da Gama (his remains were later transferred to Lisbon). His tombstone can be seen inside the church. The church has a large cemetery which serves as resting grounds of many Portuguese army officials and soldiers. The church is the only Catholic Church not demolished by Dutch which was handed over to British to re-establish an Anglican church. A large war memorial can be seen on its backyard to honor the unknown soldiers who sacrificed their lives for World War-1 .It is an ASI protected monument . Free.
  • St. Francis Church, Kochi
  • VOC Gate, Fort Kochi (opposite the Parade grounds). The only remains of the office of Dutch East India Company is this large wooden gate with a monogram (VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Companie) emblem of Dutch East India Company).
  • David Hall, Parade Grounds East, Fort Kochi, ☎ +91 484 2218298. Tue-Sun, 11AM-7PM. This 315 years old Dutch bungalow was the official residence of the Dutch Army commanders, the most famous being Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Draakestein who was the author of Horticus Malabaricus. Currently the complex belongs to Netherlands Govt agency CNO which recently renovated to open a large art gallery, a traditional Dutch performing arts center and large studio for young painters. The building is a classic specimen of colonial Dutch architecture with elaborate dutch gardens. For cultural performances, one need to check at the reception to know the schedule.
  • The Dutch Palace, which was the coronation palaces of Kochi Maharaja
  • Bastion Bungalow, Fort Kochi. Typical Indo-Dutch architecture, this bungalow was built on the site of the erstwhile Stromsburg Fort, which was demolished during the Arab raids. Currently, it serves as the official residence of the Cochin Sub-Collector and entry is restricted.
  • Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Kottaram), Palace Rd, Mattencherry. Sat-Thur 10AM-5PM. Constructed by the Portuguese in 1568 as a gift to Maharaja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma, after he granted permission to construct Fort Immanunel. During the Dutch siege of Kochi, many parts of the original palace were destroyed. However the Dutch Governor repaired the palace and renamed as Dutch Palace. The coronations of Kochi Maharajas are always held here. A large throne and coronation costumes are on display and there is an extensive collection of royal chariots, swords and other artifacts. The most interesting part is the mural room, which has the entire Ramayana and Mahabharat depicted in a single mural. Indians Rs 25, foreigners Rs 100.
  • Jew Street and Paradesi Synagogue, Jew Town, Mattancherry. Synagogue Su-F 10AM-5PM, Sa only open to Jews. The synagogue was constructed in 1568 after allowing Jewish refugees from Jerusalem to settle here during the Crusades making this the Commonwealth's oldest Synagogue. This is one of the very few functional synagogues in India and the structure is unique due to influence of native Hindu-Christian architecture as well as the only synagogue having two bimahs. Many Jews lived in the area until the creation of Israel, today there is only a handful. Jew Street is a heritage zone with several antique/handicraft shops. Rs 40.
  • Princess Street (Loafer’s Corner), Fort Kochi. The most famous street of Fort Kochi which gives you a slice of authentic colonial European architecture. The only street that never faced any raid or demolitions in past, Princess street is a prefect destination for evening walk with numerous western styled cafes, souvenir shops, art galleries and heritage complexes.
  • Chendamangalam Palace Fort, Chendamanalam, nr North Paravur. Historically the seat of Paliath Achan, the Prime Minister of Kochi Kingdom. Here the plans were forged for revolt against the British in the 1820s. A functional Jewish Synagogue and a large market are some of the attractions. Now, it is a major centre for handloom weaving and coir manufacturing. 
  • Pallipuram Fort, Pallipuram, Vypin Island. Built by the Portuguese in 1503, this is the oldest existing European fortification in India. It was later handed over to the Travancore Army, to become a major army base till 1903 when it was converted into a heritage museum. It has a small museum and good views of the lagoon on one side and the sea on the other.
  • Mattamchery Koonen Kurishu Pazhaya
  • Suriyani Palli. * 'The church made of Mud'
  • Lobo Junction. Near kayees hotel. Mattamchery(st george indian orthodox old syrian church) Its one of the historical centres of St Thomas Christians (also known as Syrian Christians and Nazrani Christians). The famous oath against Roman Catholic Petroado policies and Portugese rule supported by Pope of Rome was taken here by the native christians by holding on to a cord tied to a cross. The cross was distroyed by the portugese. Now a beautiful church made of unbaked brick and mud is a great attraction. The uniqueness of the church is the absence of scoffoldings or concrete beams for the roof. The church was recognized with many international and national awards including NDTV National Architecture Award 2015. The koonen cross is now reinstalled in this church. the church is owned by Malankara Orthodox Church,one of the 6 oriental churches. Its a famous pilgrim centre too
  • Pierce Leslie Bungalow, Beach Road, Fort Kochi. The only surviving bungalow built in authentic Portuguese style, it was the home and office of famous English merchant family- the Leslies.
  • International Pepper Exchange, Jewtown, Fort Kochi. Kochi's answer to New York's Wall Street, but instead of money, its all about pepper trading. This is the world's only pepper exchange. Its worth to visit to see the wide range of pepper varieties as well as some of trading practices. free.
  • Durbar Hall Ground, DH Rd, Ernakulam City,. The venue for many fairs during festivals and regular evening concerts and other programs.

 

Museums and galleries

  • Museum of Kerala History, NH 47 Rd (near Edappally Toll Gate). A good, well maintained museum with a 40 minute light and sound show (English and Malayalam) about Kerala history. Depicts the history of Kerala through life-like wax statues. Adjacent are the Museum of Dolls with nearly 1,000 dolls from various countries, and M.N.F Art and Sculpture Gallery that has many good collections of paintings and sculptures. This museum has a small, well maintained garden. Rs. 100 (30 for children).

 

 

Museum of Kerala History and Art Gallery

  • Pareekshith Thampuran Durbar Hall Art Gallery, Dubar Hall Ground, DH Rd. Contains oil paintings, old coins, sculptures, Mughal paintings plus models of temples and traditional Kerala buildings. This was the official Durbar Hall of Kochi Maharajas, now converted into a large fine arts gallery, named after last Maharaja of Kochi, who was an oil painter. A small studio is nearby promoting young artists. Free.
  • Indian Naval Maritime Museum, INS Dronarcharya, Fort Kochi. Built by the Indian Navy. Many battle scenes are recreated with life-size models, a huge display of naval arms and ammunition, replicas of large naval ships, personalities, are some of the major highlights.(40.00rs per person)
  • Indo-Portuguese Museum, Fort Kochi. A modern museum highlighting the start of European colonization of the Orient in the 16th century. The museum showcases the growth and decline of the Portuguese life in Kochi with focus on the growth of the Latin Church. There are also excavated ruins of the former fort wall in the basement of the museum.
  • Kerala Folklore Museum Kochi, Folklore Junction, Thevara, Kochi, ☎ +91 484 266 5452. One of the best museums in Kerala. This is a private collection of many different articfacts from around Kerala. There are frequent cultural performances at the museum, which you may be lucky to see while there and are put on when overseas tour groups are in attendance. Rs. 200.
Where to stay: 

Kochi has hotels, home stays, youth hostels and all other types of accommodations. It has options for all budgets. While choosing your accommodation, just make sure which area of the city will better suit you. There are options for those who would like to remain near Ernakulam or for those who wold like to be near Fort Kochi. 

Best time to visit: 
January
February
March
April
September
October
November
December
Location Map: 
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