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Kochi, with the colonial name 'Cochin', is often referred to as the gateway to God's own country, Kerala. This historic city known for its bustling trade is now prominent among the tier-two cities of India.
Vibrant Kochi with breathtaking natural scenery is located in the southwest coast of India, in the state of Kerala. Kochi in fact comprises a cluster of islands. This is perhaps why tourist activities vie with commercial and industrial growth in Kochi. Kochi can be described as the epicenter of multi-cultural festivals and celebrations.
Historical perspective of Kochi
The Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese have left an indelible mark on the way Kochi evolved and grew. They also promoted a cosmopolitan culture, and Cochin was highly influenced by these historical trading partners.
The enterprising merchants of Cochin began trading in spices such as black pepper and cardamom with the Arabs, Dutch, Phoenicians, Portuguese, Chinese and others more than 600 years ago. Cochin prospered and became the 'gateway of old India'. Significantly, it was from Cochin that colonization of India started by the Portuguese, followed by Dutch and English.
It was the humble writer - Robert Clive(1725-1774), who was working for the East India company at that time, laid the foundation of the British Empire. His brilliant strategy in the Carnatic wars and the battle of Plassey proved to be the turning point in history. European colonial powers established their supremacy and eventually wrested power from the Moguls and other Indian kings.
But it was a Portuguese nobleman, the indomitable and exceptionally brilliant admiral- Afonso de Albuquerque ( 1453-1515) who established the base in India without which Europeans could never have founded any colonies in India. Albuquerque installed the Portuguese colonial empire in India and his exploits have rightfully earned many titles like Lion of the Seas and Caesar of the East. Cochin king requested help from the Portuguese commanded by Albuquerque in 1503. Albuquerque vanquished zamorin of Calicut - the enemies of the Cochin king. The grateful Cochin king allowed Albuquerque to build a fort in Cochin which helped the Portuguese to forge lasting friendship with the rulers of this important coastal kingdom. Albuquerque went on to spread the Portuguese empire on the west coast of India - all the way up to Goa.
It was in 1814 that the Dutch exchanged Kochi to the British for Bangka Island in Indonesia. While the British limited their direct administration to a small enclave of Fort Cochin and British Ernakulam, the rest of the Kochi Kingdom was administered by Kochi Maharajas from their capital at Thripunithara.
Under the Maharajas, culture, art and health and education flourished. It goes to the credit of Sir Robert Bristow, who served as a senior Royal Navy Engineer, to have laid the foundations on which modern Kochi rests. This led to the creation of the largest man made island of the country, the Willingdon Island to house new Kochi Port.
The Kochi Maharajas joined with the Kingdom of Travancore and British Malabar in 1930s and later the Kingdom of Cochin and Travancore merged and joined with the newly formed Indian Union.
Cochin has been the commercial capital of Kerala and the seat of the High Court of Kerala since the formation of the state of Kerala in 1957. Cochin is also the seat of the Latin Church of Kerala and has as many as 4 Basilica churches around it. Since then, Cochin has revitalized its economy focusing on tourism, information and technology and the port.
The resplendent seaside Kochi lay between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. A world class port is its main attraction with flourishing national and international trade alike. Kochi also has an airport that links to the major cities world over. Kochi enjoys moderate equatorial climate owing to its nearness to the equator, the sea and the mountains.
What started as a small town Kochi has not outgrown its original bounds and as Cochin now includes a Fort Kochi, Mattanchery, and Ernakulam and many nearby towns and villages.
Ayurveda and Siddha which help prevent and cure body ailments and diseases is one of the best health rejuvenation programme offered by Kerala to refresh the body and mind. Several siddha and Ayurveda centers are found in Kochi.
Kochi's 4000 crore project HDIL Cyber City is coming up in a 70 acre of land at Kalamassery. And located at Kakkanad, the Info Park is one of the major IT parks in India since inception in 2004, including several IT majors.
Kochi and tourism
There are several allusions to the derivation of the word 'Kochi'. While some historians state that Kochi is a modified form of the word 'Cochazhi', which in the native language, Malayalam, stands for 'small sea', yet there are others who state that Kochi is a Chinese term, probably derived from the Chinese ruler 'Kubla Khan's homeland. This connection is further simulated by the presence of fishing nets in Kochi, a strange sight indeed, outside China. Another possibility is Kochi derived its name from 'Koci' which means 'harbor'.
Rated as the top three tourist destinations by the World Travel and Tourism Council and featured in National Geographic Traveler's fifty greatest places of a lifetime, Kochi is arguably the most explorable, with its unfathomable diversity and beauty.
Prominent tourist spots
The Dutch Palace at Mattancherry was built by the Portuguese in 1557. This two storied quadrangular building with a small temple dedicated to Palayannur Bhagwati, has interiors in sharp contrast to the beautiful ceiling and pointed walls. The Central hall has a carved wooden ceiling and the dining halls are ornamented with a series of brass cups. The walls stand decorated with murals and they bring to life scenes from the Hindu mythology such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranic stories. These murals have been well preserved over the years. The murals are by far among the best in India. The museum housed in the Palace exhibits a rich collection of regal memorabilia.
St Francis church at Fort Cochin is believed to be the oldest European settlement in India. It is also the first European church to be built in India. It owes its origin to the Franciscan Friars who came with the Portuguese expedition in 1500. It was originally built with wood. Later it was rebuilt with stones probably by 1516 and dedicated to Saint Anthony.
When the dutch briefly took over this part in the year 1663 and converted this to a protestant church. In latter part of 19th century, the church was renamed after the patron saint St.Francis. Vasco Da Gama, the first European navigator from Portugal was laid to rest in this church in 1524. Later his remains were removed to Portugal in 1538. The grave stones of the Portuguese and Dutch removed from the floor of the nave have been refixed in on the side walls. The earliest epitaph of the Portuguese dates back to 1562.
The Willingdon Island, which is named after the former Viceroy of India, is connected to the mainland of Ernakulam by road cum railway Venduruthy Bridge. An airport is also positioned along with the ship building yard. You will find the Cochin chamber of commerce and industries positioned here. So is the Government of India Tourist information office in the vicinity of the airport. This island with its hub of activities houses offices, banks and travel agencies and shopping centers.
Mangalavanam mangroves are known for its small bird sanctuary with communally breeding birds. Situated in Ernakulam, these mangroves comprise a shallow tidal lake in the center, edges covered with vegetation and backwaters by a canal. You can find bird species such as the Little Cormorant, Black crowned Night Heron, mostly in the months of May to July.
Perhaps this is the 'green lung' of Ernakulam city which is otherwise polluted with industries and motor vehicles.
The Pareekshit Thampuram Museum is situated adjacent to the Shiva temple in the Durbar Hall road in Ernakulam. A discerning visitor can indulge in this Museum housing 19th century paintings and several historic and pre historic monuments. The numismatic gallery boasts of a collection of old coins. Plaster of Paris scriptures and mural painting, belonging to the royal family of Cochin adorn the museum.
Kathakali ranks high among the Indian dance forms. The primordial energy of the masculine gender is well preserved in Kathakali, more than in any other Indian dance forms. Kathakali enthusiasts can check the centers at Kalathiparambil road in Ernakulam and Kannanthodathu lane. Valanjambalam is noted for exotic Kerala Kathakali functions.
The Thattekad bird sanctuary is of the most important bird sanctuaries in South India. A boat cruise from Bhoothathankettu to Thattekkad is an unforgettable experience through the evergreen forests nestling migratory and indigenous birds.
The cradling beauty of Kodanad lying in the Southern bank of Periyar is one of the largest elephant capturing centres of South India till 1977 when it was declared illegal. The elephant kraal and training centre remains intact. Tourists ride the elephants here now and these elephants are specially trained for safari and provided with saddles that are carefully designed to make riding comfortable. There is also a mini zoo at Kodanad sheltering wild animals which have become unfit for survival in the forest.
There is a prosperous Jewish Synagogue in Mattancherry built in 1568. This is the oldest synagogue in India destroyed in a war in 1662 and rebuilt by the Dutch. Don't miss to notice the exquisite hand painted blue willow tiles from China on the floor. The interiors boast of a Belgian chandelier, great scrolls of Old Testament and copper plates recording the privilege made by the Cochin rulers to the Jewish community. There are five finely wrought gold and silver crowns that have been gifted to the synagogue by its patrons. The by-lanes that wind this Jew Town are replete with houses in Dutch, Portuguese and British styles.
With skyscrapers witnessing the vertical growth of this city, shopping malls abound in Kochi with the likes of Oberon Mall and Gold Souk in the pipeline - a delight for the indulgent national and international tourists, offering a range of clothes, jewelry, gold and diamonds and spices and paintings, perfumes to watches and bags and CDs et al.
Kerala cuisine is popular world over and it is a perfect combination of vegetables, meat and seafood soaked in spices and coconuts, a delectable gastronomic delight. Popular Kerala cuisine includes appam, idling, dosa, puttu, and kappa. Lunch is normally a thali meal containing rice, sambhar, avail, rasam, dhal, fish curry, thoren, Kaalan, pachadi and payasam.
South India Travel - Information on South India Travel
South India Tour - Grand Canyon of Asia
Karnataka Tourism - Land of exquisite architecture in Temples and History
Pattadakal - Ceremonial site of the early Western Chalukyan kings
Bandipur National Park - Paradise for wildlife.
Bannerghatta National Park - Animals in their natural habitat.
Jog Falls - highest waterfalls in India
Qutb Shahi Tombs - Persian and Indian architectural style
Fort St Angelo Kannur - 500 year old European built Fort
Bekal Fort - Old Fort near Kasargod
Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary - Jagaru Valley Wildlife Sanctuary
Sharavathi Wildlife Sanctuary - Sharavathi Valley
Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary - Sanctuary near Kannur
Coorg - The Scotland of the East
Kudremukh - Face of a Horse overlooking the Arabian Sea
Santa Cruz Basilica Cochin - 500 year old Basilica near the Arabian sea
Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours - Tallest Church in Asia and the biggest Church in India
St. Andrews Basilica Allepey - Fair skinned Father of Miracles
Basilica of Our Lady of Vallarpadam - Basilica in an Island
Velankanni Basilica - Lady of Health Shrine near the Bay of Bengal
Our Lady of Ports Cathedral Ernakulam - Cochin boasts of 4 Basilicas
St. George Basilica Angamaly - Basilica for a Roman Soldier who slayed Dragons
St. Mary Queen of Peace Basilica Trivandrum - Syrian Malankara Church
Holy Redeemer Basilica Trichi - Mother of Perpetual Help
Poondi Madha Basilica - Lady of Lourdes
St. Mary's Basilica Bangalore - Miraculous statue of Our Lady
Basilica of Our Lady of Snows Tuticorin - Miraculous Statue of our Lady of Snow
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus - Eglise De Sacre Coeur
Santhome Basilica - Houses the relic of St.Thomas
Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption - St.Mary's Church
Divine Retreat Center Chalakudy - Potta Ashram
Church of Our Lady of Angels - 400 year old Church
Basilica of Our Lady of Snows Pallippuram - 500 year old Basilica
St.Lawrence Basilica in Attur - Miracles in Attur
Maria Bambina Church - Marian Devotion
Holy Rosary Basilica Karumathampatty - New Basilica near Coimbatore
Basilica of Our Lady of Health in Harihar - Velankanni of Karnataka
Basilica of St. Anthony - Basilica of St.Anthony of Padua
Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine - Kovalam Shrine
Infant Jesus Shrine - Roman Catholic Shrine in India
Chikmagalur Trekking - Heady mix of Coffee and Waterfalls
Kodachadri Hills - Mountain Peak in Shimoga
Kabini Resort - Forest retreat a few hours from Bangalore and Mysore.
Kemmanagundi - Undulating meadows, gurgling brooks, rolling mist
Hampi - Evokes visions of poetry in stone
Mangalore - A triangular city with a summit to the South.
Mysore Palace - City basking in the glory of past Kings
Hyderabad Travel - City of Nizams
Vishakapatnam - Serene lakes, Cool beaches
Golconda Fort - Military Architecture
Charminar - Qutb Shahi Dynasty
Kodaikanal - South India's better known hill stations
Kerala Tourism - God's own Country
Alappuzha - Palm fringed canals, lazy lagoons and water locked towns.
Kumarakom Backwaters - Idllyic relaxed backwater setting
Mattanchery Palace - Palace in Kochi
Munnar - Emerald green tea estates.
Silent Valley - Sairandhrivanam, meaning forest in the valley.
Wayanad wildlife sanctuary - Holiday Resorts, Ayurvedic Rejuvenation centers and more.
Poovar Island - Holiday in Poovar
Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary - Highest peak in Karnataka
Cochin Travel - Gateway to God's own Country
Belur Hoysala Temples - Poetry in Stone
Chola Temples - Revisit the past glory of the mighty Cholas
Madurai Meenakshi Temple - One of the Biggest temples
Tirupati temple - Lord of the 7 Hills
Rameshwaram Temple - Sethu Yathra
Swamimalai Temple - The Son who taught his Father
Guruvayur Temple - Bhuloka Vaikunta
Sabarimala Temple - Makara Jyothi
Padmanabha swamy Temple - Ananthasayanam
Thiruvannamalai temple - Padal PetraSthalam
Saradamba Temple Sringeri - Sringeri Temples
Ranganatha Swami Temple - Largest Temple in the World
Udupi Krishna Temple - Kanakanakindi
Vaitheeswaran Koil - Prime center for naadi shastra
Sripuram Golden Temple - Temple of Gold
Srikalahasti Temple - Kailas of the South
Kanchipuram Temple - Ancient Pallava built Temple
Palani Temple - Temple dedicated to Tamil God
Thiruchendur Murugan Temple - Part of the 6 Abodes of Murugan