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|Cochin means different things to different people. To some, it is a world-famous port, while to others it is a business centre and a glamorous mirror to Kerala/’s vivid multifaceted personality. To many
travelers, however, this natural harbour is synonymous with its famous geographical hallmark—the underwater mud banks of Malabar.
Cochin (also Kochi) has been an important trading port since ancient times. Today, the land of spices that attracted the European traders is a quaint blend of the old and the new, the Indian and the Western. Popularly
|referred to as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Cochin is today the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala.
Cochin has a moderate climate with heavy rains during the monsoon period from June to August. A visit to Cochin enriches one about the historical and cultural past of Kerala.
Being a major harbour from the times of the British and Portuguese, Cochin has a rich heritage of forts, churches and temples. A visit to these ancient marvels gives you an overview of the political, religious and commercial developments of the city. Some of the major attractions of the city are the Dutch Palace, Jewish Synagogue, Fort Kochi, St. Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica, Dutch Cemetery, the Chinese Nets, Willingdon Island, and Hill Palace Museum.
The excursions around Cochin are equally interesting experiences. Some of the well-known places where one can go for daylong trips are Trichur, the cultural capital of Kerala; Pallipuram Fort, one of the oldest existing European monuments in India; Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya; Cherai Beach, an ideal place for swimming; and Chennamanagalam, an important centre of handloom weaving and coir manufacturing in Kerala.
The Dutch palace at Mattancherry was actually built by the Portuguese and presented to the Cochin Raja in AD 1555. The palace acquired its present name in 1663 when the Dutch carried out some extensions and repairs in it. The main attractions of the palace lie in its wall murals that depict the scenes from the Ramayana.
Founded in 1503, this Portuguese fort is now in ruins. With its European heritage, its air of genteel decay, and stubborn self-absorption, it is a place where history, like a friendly phantom, still stalks the lonely streets. One can see many remains of Indo-European architecture that still exist here. One of the fascinating sights on the Kochi shoreline is the huge cantilevered Chinese fishing nets which were brought here by traders from the court of Kublai Khan.
||At the heart of what is locally called the Jew Town lies the synagogue of the white Jews near Mattancherry palace. The synagogue is now a fascinating mixture of shops, warehouses and spice auction rooms. The Great Scrolls of the Old Testament and the Copper Plates recording the grants of privilege made by the Cochin rulers to the Jewish community are displayed here.
ST. FRANCIS CHURCH
|The oldest European church in India, St. Francis Church was built in the early 16th century. Today, it stands as the pride of Fort Cochin. It was here that the great explorer Vasco da Gama was first buried in 1562 before his mortal remains were taken back to Portugal by his son 16 years later.
SANTA CRUZ BASILICA
||Originally built in 1557 by the Portuguese, the Santa Cruz Basilica was used as a warehouse by the British in the 18th century. The Basilica, with its beautiful carved wooden panels and pulpit, was rebuilt in the early 20th century.
HILL PALACE MUSEUM
About 12 km south east of Ernakulam, on the way to Kottayam, lies the Hill Palace museum at Tripunithura. The museum houses the collections of the Cochin and Travancore royal families.
Headquarters of the Southern Naval Command of India, this manmade island has the seaport, airport, railway terminus, important offices of the port, and the customs house. Out here the regular ferry services on the lake surrounding the island offer inexpensive backwater cruise. The island is named after Lord Willingdon, a British Viceroy to India. Some of the city/’s best hotels, customs and trading centres are located here.
Excursions for Cochin
An important centre of handloom weaving and coir manufacturing, Chennamangalam was one of the chief centres of the Jewish Colony and the seat of Paliath Achan, the hereditary prime minister of the erstwhile state of Cochin from 1632 to 1809. The famous Vaipinkotta Seminary, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, used to stand in the vicinity of the Jewish Colony. An old Syrian Catholic Church established in 1201 now stands near the ruins of the seminary.
Situated at about 21 km from the city and bordering Vypeen Island, the beautiful Cherai Beach is an ideal place for swimming. One can occasionally see dolphins here. A typical Kerala village with paddy fields and coconut groves nearby is an added attraction here.
Located 45 km from Cochin on the banks of river Periyar is Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya. Shankaracharya was a great Indian philosopher who lived in the 8th century AD. Kalady has two shrines made in memory of Shankaracharya: one dedicated to him as Dakshina Moorthi and the other to Goddess Sharada.
Thirty kilometres from Cochin at Kanjiramattom lies a mosque believed to have been erected over the mortal remains of Sheikh Parid. The great Muslim saint, Bavar is supposed to have prayed here and attained eternal bliss. Thousands of devotees throng this place during the Kodikuthu festival which takes place in December-January.
Situated in the northern extremity of the Vypeen Island and built by the Portuguese in 1503, Pallippuram fort is one of the oldest existing European monuments in India. The fort was captured by the Dutch in 1661 and subsequently sold by them to the State of Travancore in 1789. The Catholic Church at Pallipuram is an important pilgrim centre of the Christians.
|Located in the central part of the state, Trichur is also referred to as the cultural capital of Kerala. The city and the area around it have a number of museums, art schools, and institutes, which are dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich cultural traditions of Kerala. One of the most important landmarks of this city is the Vadakkunathan Temple, located on a raised hillock in the centre of the city. The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is an important pilgrim centre in Kerala.
• Area 109.47 sq. km
• Population 582,588
• Altitude Sea level
• Languages Malayalam and English
• STD Code 0484
• Best time to visit December to May