(Last Updated on : 20/07/2015)
Kochi is one of the most visited Kerala Backwater
destinations. Kochi port is famous for its spices, exported to the west from ancient times to the present day. The Jewish Synagogue, Kochi Fort
, The Matancherry Palace
built by the Dutch and St Francis Church are popular tourist attractions in Kochi, visited by tourists on Kerala backwater tours.
Location of Kochi
Kochi is located on the southwest coast of India at the northern end of a Peninsula. To the west of Kochi lies the Arabian Sea
and to the east are estuaries drained by perennial rivers originating in the Western Ghats Mountain Range
. Much of Kochi lies at sea level. The present metropolitan limits of Kochi include the mainland Ernakulam, old Kochi, the suburbs of Edapally, Kalamassery and Kakkanad to the northeast of the city. Tripunithura is located in the south east and a group of islands are closely scattered in the Vembanad Lake. Most of these islands are very small and vary in extent from six square kilometres to less than a square kilometre. An estimated population of 600,000, with an extended metropolitan population of about 1.5 million has made Kochi the largest urban agglomeration and the second largest city in Kerala after the capital.
History of Kochi
Kochi is also known as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea," and receives many visitors round the year who travel to Kerala to see its tourist attractions and because Kochi is Kerala's industrial and commercial capital. Many backwater cruises begin or end in Kochi. This city has a historical value as many colonial rulers of the past have left their mark at the time of their reigning. The Portuguese, Dutch and English all have made their presence in Kochi in different phases of civilisation. The name of Kochi was mentioned in the writings of ancient travellers. As per the development of Kochi the history starts from the first dawn. Kochi has remained the centre of Indian spice trade for many centuries, and was well known to the Yavanas or Greeks as well as Romans, Jews, Arabs, and Chinese since ancient times. In 1341, a trading centre after the port at Kodungallur (Cranganore) was destroyed by massive flooding of the river Periyar and Kochi rose to significance. The earliest documented references to Kochi occur in books written by Chinese voyager Ma Huan during his visit to Kochi in the 15th century. Even the Italian traveller Niccolo Da Conti has mentioned the name of Kochi in his writings after his visit in Kochi in 1440 AD. After the fall of the Kulasekhara Empire, the Kingdom of Kochi came into existence in 1102 AD. The King of Kochi had authority over the region encompassing the present city of Kochi and adjoining areas. The family that ruled over Kochi was known as the Cochin Royal Family and 'Perumpadappu Swaroopam' in the local lingua franca. The mainland Kochi remained the capital of the princely state since the 18th century.
The Fort Kochi was the first European colonial settlement in India. From 1503 to 1663, Fort Kochi was ruled by Portugal. This Portuguese period was a harrowing time for the Jews living in the region. The history of Kochi states that Kochi was the site of the first European colonial settlement in India, which was occupied by the Portuguese in 1503 and until 1530 it remained the capital of Portuguese India and later they opted for Goa as their capital. The city was later occupied by the Dutch, the Mysore and the British.
The grave of the first European explorer to set sail for India, Vasco da Gama was located in Kochi. Later the Portuguese rule was followed by that of the Dutch, who had allied with the Zamorins in order to conquer Kochi. The Mysore King Hyder Ali extended his conquest in the Malabar region to Kochi forcing it to become a tributary of Mysore by 1773. During this period, the inherited prime ministership of Kochi held by the Paliath Achans came to an end. In the interim, the Dutch signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 with the United Kingdom, under which Kochi was conceded to the United Kingdom in exchange for the island of Bangka. But the evidences prove that there was English habitation in the region even prior to the signing of the treaty. Fort Kochi was transferred to a municipality in 1866, and its first Municipal Council election was conducted in 1883. In the year1896 Maharaja of Cochin initiated local administration by forming town councils in Mattancherry and Ernakulam. In 1925, Kochi legislative assembly was constituted due to public pressure on the state.
Towards the early 20th century, the trade at the port had increased substantially and the authorities felt the need to develop the port. In a span of 21 years Kochi was transferred to one of the safest harbours in the peninsula, where ships berthed alongside the newly reclaimed inner harbour equipped with a long array of steam cranes. During the latter part of 19th century and early 20th century the Abdicated Highness, Sir Sri Rama Varma, initiated lot of development related projects and promoted the trade of Kochi. Kochi was the first princely state to willingly join the Indian Union, when India gained independence in 1947. In 1947, when India gained independence from the British colonial rule, Kochi was the first princely state to join the Indian Union willingly. In 1949, Travancore-Cochin state came into being with the merger of Cochin and Travancore and was in turn merged with the Malabar district of the Madras State.
Climate of Kochi
The proximity of Kochi to the equator along with its coastal location results in little seasonal temperature variation along with moderate to high levels of humidity. Annual temperatures of Kochi range between 20 to 35 degree Celsius with the record highest being 34 degree Celsius, and lowest 17 degree Celsius. The month of June to September, makes the weather of the city a bit refreshing as the south-west monsoon brings in heavy rains because of Kochi's location on the windward side of the Western Ghats Mountain Range in India. From October to December, Kochi receives light rain from the northwest monsoon. Average annual rainfall in Kochi is 274 cm with an annual average of 132 rainy days.
Culture of Kochi
The culture of Kochi has developed through the different reigning period of different rulers. The nature of the pan-Indian culture is highlighted by the substantial presence of various ethnic communities from different parts of the country. Kochi has a diverse, multicultural and secular community consisting of Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists cultures that have established its existence in Kochi. As a result of different cultural involvement and its multi-ethnic composition, Kochi celebrates traditional Kerala festivals like Onam
and Vishu along with North Indian Hindu festivals like Holi
with great warmth and intensity. Christian and Islamic festivals like Christmas, Easter, Eid ul-Fitr and Milad-e-sherif are also celebrated by the people of Kochi. A merry making fest called the Cochin Carnival is celebrated by the entire population with great excitement at Fort Kochi during the last ten days of December. An important part of South Indian culture is the residents of Kochi that are known as 'Kochiites' which are gaining more cosmopolitan outlook with the rapid evolution of the time.
Cuisine of Kochi
The food of Kochi generally partakes of Keralite cuisine, which is characterised by an abundance of coconut and spices. Other South Indian cuisines, as well as Chinese and North Indian cuisines are popular among the population. The people of Kochi admire the fast food culture hugely. Moreover, Kochi was home to some of the most influential figures in Malayalam literature, including Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, Kesari Balakrishna Pillai, G. Sankara Kurup, and Vyloppilli Sreedhara Menon. Prominent social reformers such as Sahodaran Ayyappan and Pandit Karuppan are also from the cultural land of Kochi. Even the Maharajas of Kochi were scholars and they are the inspirational figures in the field of arts. The paintings at the Hill Palace and the Dutch Palace are testimony to their royal manifestations in arts. Including these, Kochi is named for its encouragement and enthusiasm in spots especially cricket and football. The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi is one of the largest multi-use stadiums in India with International Class Lighting for Day and Night Matches. The Regional Sports Centre is an important centre of sporting activity in Kochi.
Tourism in Kochi
Kochi is a place where the spots of attraction melt the mind of the travellers who want to spend their time in all pervading beauty and richness of nature. Some of the tourist attractions that can be seen on Kerala tours of Cochin, with Kerala Backwater are Chinese Fishing Nets in Kochi Harbour, St Francis Church, Matancherry Palace, Jewish Synagogue and Dutch Palace which are some of the most visited places of Kochi. Among these famous places St Francis Church is the first European church to be built in India. Vasco do Gama, the Portuguese explorer was laid to rest at St Francis Church, Kochi, in Kerala, India in 1524. Later his body was moved to Portugal. His sepulcher can be seen in the historic St Francis Church at Kochi, on Kerala tours.
The Matancherry Palace which is also called the Dutch Palace was built by the Portuguese and given to the Raja of Kochi in 1555 AD. It was renamed the Dutch Palace in 1663. The central hall is an impressive auditorium where the coronation ceremonies of the Rajas of Kochi were held. Including these, there are some other places of interest like Jewish Synagogue which is located in Mattancheri near Kochi. This historic synagogue was built by a thriving Jewish community in 1568 A.D. Now the community has dwindled in numbers, however the synagogue is beautifully preserved. You can see the religious scrolls and the beautiful hand-painted tiles from China, which decorate the synagogue. Furthermore, situated on an island off the coast of Kochi, and accessible by boat, the Dutch palace was built by the Dutch in 1744. Previously used as the residence of the Governor by the Dutch and the British, the palace is now a heritage hotel in Kochi and is famous for its canopied garden.