From time immemorial, the Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch, and Portuguese have left indelible marks on the history and development of Cochin. Over the years, Cochin has emerged as the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala and is perhaps the second most important city on the west coast of India (after Mumbai/Bombay). Cochin is proud of its world class port and international airport that link it to many major cities worldwide.
Tea Plantation This lovely seaside city is flanked by the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. Its proximity to the equator, the sea and the mountains provide a rich experience of a moderate equatorial climate.
Strictly speaking, Cochin is a small town. But, Cochin has outgrown its original bounds and is now the general name given to much of the region adjoining the original town, which now includes Cochin, Fort Kochi, Mattanchery, Ernakulam and many other nearby towns and villages. Cochin is situated in Ernakulam district in the state of Kerala. Ernakulam is also the name of a town - the administrative capital of Ernakulam district - but, for all practical purposes Ernakulam and Cochin, generally, refer to the same place.
Kochi is the arguably the ideal starting point for exploring the unfathomable diversity and beauty of Kerala, rated in the top three tourist destinations by the World Travel & Tourism Council and featured in National Geographic Traveler's '50 greatest places of a lifetime'.
This site is an attempt to capture the beauty and vigour of this city and provide as much information as possible to people who wish to know more or visit Cochin. This site will use Cochin and Kochi interchangeably since they refer to the same place. Kochi is the original name of the city, while Cochin is the colonial name.
Kochi (Cochin) History - Kochi - Chinese fishing nets (Cheenavala) Like most cities in India, Kochi has a very long and illustrious history. But, the origin of the name is still shrouded in mystery. Many theories exist, but none are strong enough to be conclusive. Some historians believe that Kochi is a modified form of the word 'Cochazhi' which in Malayalam means 'small sea'. Others are of the opinion that 'Kochi' was named so by the Chinese. According to them, traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, gave Kochi the name of their homeland. The peculiar Chinese fishing nets found here, the only place outside China where it has been spotted, can possibly be attributed to the heavy Chinese influence the city has had in the past. Still another theory is that Kochi is derived from the word 'Kaci' meaning 'harbour'.
Cochin Harbour- Spices Kochi earned a significant position on the world trading routes after the world famous port at Kodugallur (Cranganore) was destroyed by massive flooding of the river Periyar in 1340 AD. Records show that Kodugallur (Cranganore) was known to the Arabs and Chinese traders for centuries. After the Kodugallur port was destroyed, the forces of nature created a natural harbour at the nearby city - Kochi. Kochi started to grow and soon developed into a major trading point dealing in pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, etc., which were and still are famous for their quality.
The Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch, Italians and Portuguese helped Kochi emerge as a bustling centre of commercial activity, connecting the mainland to the rest of the world. Kochi owes a lot to great travelers, scholars and traders like Fa Hien, Vasco da Gama, Sir Robert Bristow, etc. to her growth and prosperity. The English called Kochi 'Mini England', the Dutch called it 'Homely Holland' and the Portuguese called it 'Little Lisbon' highlighting Kochi's prominence. Italian traveller Nicolas Conti wrote in his travelogue: "China is where you make your money, then Cochin is surely the place to spend it."
Local and Foreign Rulers- A canon from Fort Emmanuel Over the centuries, the princely state of Kochi came under numerous empires. Over time, the original local rulers were controlled by the Portuguese, Dutch , British and even the Zamorin of Kozhikode (Calicut). Around 1530 AD, under the Portuguese, Kochi grew into a prosperous town. The ruler of Kochi gave the Portuguese permission to build a fort at Kochi called 'Manuel Kotta' (Fort Emmanuel) - which is the first European fort in Kochi.
The Dutch invasion began around 1653 and by 1663 they emerged victorious over the Portuguese. The Dutch then built Fort Williams here. The Dutch were defeated by the great rulers of Mysore - Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Finally, when the whole nation lost to the British, Kochi too became a part of the British empire in 1814. The magnificent forts built here were destroyed by the British. Under the supervision of Sir Robert Bristow, Kochi was developed into a major harbour and Willingdon Island was created. Willingdon Island now accommodates the Cochin Port, Naval Airport and the headquarters of the Southern Naval Command apart from a host of other trading and commercial establishments.
Post-independence- After India became independent in 1947, the state of Kerala was formed in 1956 by the unification of provinces Kochi, Malabar and Travancore. The Corporation of Kochi was formed in 1967 by the merger of the towns - Fort Kochi, Mattanchery, Ernakulam and many nearby villages. Growth in trade and commercialisation has led to the rise of Kochi as the most important city in Kerala and one of the major cities on the west coast of India.
Tourist spots in Cochin
Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Kochi- Chinese fishing nets (Cheenavala) The chinese fishing nets (Cheenavala) are distinctly unique to Cochin. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets here. Oddly, these nets are found only in Kochi, outside China! Many fishermen earn their livelihood by fishing using these massive nets. A whole stretch of the coast along Fort Kochi and Vypeen are dotted with these nets.
Fort Kochi Beach- Fort Kochi beach A stroll along the beach, particularly at sunset with the chinese fishing nets and sailing ships in the background, is a memorable experience. Many European style bungalows can be seen along the shoreline. The coastal stretch has loads of small stalls, which make on demand mouth-watering traditional cuisines using freshly caught fish.
St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi- St. Francis Church It is the oldest church built by Europeans in India. On his 3rd visit to Kerala, Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese trader who reached India from Europe by sea, fell ill and died in Kochi. He was buried in the St. Francis Church. Later his remains were taken back to Portugal. In spite of that, his burial spot inside the church has been clearly marked out.
Vasco House, Fort Kochi- Vasco house, located on Rose Street, is believed to be one of the oldest Portuguese houses in India. Vasco da Gama is believed to have lived here. This house features European glass paned windows and verandahs.
Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Kochi- Santa Cruz Basilica The original church, situated in Fort Kochi, was built by the Portuguese in 1505 and named as a cathedral in 1558. The British colonists destroyed the cathedral in 1795. The current structure was built in 1905 and raised to the status of a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
Jewish Synagogue and Jew Town, Mattancherry- Jewish Synagogue The synagogue, built in 1568, is magnificently decorated by Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers. Giant scrolls of the Old Testament can be found here. It is located near the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry.
Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace), Mattancherry- Dutch Palace The Dutch Palace was originally built by the Portuguese. Later, in 17th century, the Dutch modified it and presented it to the Raja of Kochi. Coronation of many Rajas of Kochi were held here. The palace has a fine collection of mural paintings depicting scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana. The palace is located in Mattancherry.
Bolghatty Palace, Bolghatty Island- This Dutch palace is situated on Bolghatty island which is just a short boat ride away from the mainland. The palace has been converted to a hotel run by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC). The island has a tiny golf course and the panoramic views of the port and the harbour, makes it an attractive picnic spot. Frequent boat service is available from the mainland.
Hill Palace, Tripunithura- Hill Palace Built in the 19th century by the Raja of Kochi, this palace served as the seat of the Raja of the Kochi province. The palace has been converted into a museum displaying a fine collection of articles showing the wealth and splendour of the Rajas of Kochi, including the thone and the crown. The musuem also houses a large collection of archaeological findings. Hill Palace is located 16km east of Cochin in Tripunithura, a satellite town of Cochin.
Palliport (Pallipuram) Fort- It is the oldest surviving European fort in India, built by the Portuguese in 1503. Its situated in Pallipuram on Vypeen island.
Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary- Mangalavanam bats Mangalavanam is a protected bird sanctuary situated right in the heart of Kochi city. It is the home of many exotic and rare varieties of migratory and resident birds. Mangalavanam is located right next to the High Court of Kerala.
Museum of Kerala History, Kalamassery- Museum of Kerala History The museum has on display spectacular audio-visual exhibits depicting the history and culture of Kerala along with many life size statues of many famous personalities and several paintings depicting Kerala history.
Parikshith Thampuran Museum- Parikshith Thampuran Museum This Rajas of Cochin used to conduct their durbars in this impressive building located within the Durbar Hall grounds. It was later converted to a museum which has a treasure trove of archaeological findings and relics including old coins, sculptures, oil paintings and murals. The building has been taken over by the Kerala Lalitha Kala Academy and now houses the Gallery of Contemporary Art. All the exhibits of the museum have been moved to the Hill Palace museum.
Cherai Beach- This lovely beach ideal for swimming is located on the north end of Vypeen island, one of the many small islands just off the mainland. The beach is lined by gorgeous coconut groves and paddy fields. Vypeen can be reached by land or by boat.
Veega Land- Veega Land is South India's largest amusement park situated 14kms from Cochin. The park includes a range of attractions including mini castles, water theme park, ferris wheel, rides, slides, shows and fountains. Kids and adults alike can enjoy the fun and activities.
Marine Drive- Marine Drive A stroll along the long tree-lined coastal pathway that lines the backwater is well worth the time spent, especially late afternoon or dusk. The bustling backwaters, dotted with fishing boats, speedboats, ships, tankers and passenger boats, can be observed from this walkway that lines the coast.
Willingdon Island- Willingdon Island This man-made island was created in 1933 by sand dredged while deepening the backwaters for the Cochin Port, under the direction of Sir Robert Bristow. A while back the Airport, Sea port and the railway terminus (Cochin Harbour Terminus) were situated on this island. Today, it is the home of the Cochin Port and the headquarters of the Sourthern Naval Command. The airport continues to be the naval air station, while the main airport has been moved to Nedumbassery, 30kms north-east of Cochin. Most of the trains now terminate at Ernakulam Junction instead of Cochin Harbour Terminus.
Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kaloor- Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium The Nehru stadium in Kaloor, has a seating capacity of 60,000 in multiple tiers. It is the fourth largest stadium in India and the largest in Kerala. The ground is lit by a set of unique convex pylon floodlights that arch over the ground. The stadium is home to both the Kerala Ranji cricket team as well as FC Kochi football team.
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