Kochi the Commercial and Industrial Capital of Kerala, has one of the finest natural harbours in the world. Ancient mariners from Arabia, China, Holland, Britain and Portugal have left there on this beautiful island city.
Kochi the most cosmopolitan city of Kerala is where you can settle into resort commanding its
breath taking view, set on a manmade island, with lush green lawns slopping down to the water's edge and relax with a drink to the occasional boatman's cry, watching the Arab dhows on the foreground. Behind the tree shaded buildings of spice traders and coconut merchants the descendants of the families who sold gold, ivory, timber and peacock to King Solomon 19 centuries ago.
Access: Backwater ferry / bus / autorickshaw) A leisurely walk through the city is the best way to discover historic Fort Kochi. An obscure fishing village that became the first European township in India, Kochi has an eventful and colourful history. Its reputation as a seafaring commercial town was such that Nicolas Conti, an Italian traveller of the Middle Ages remarked: "If China is where you make your money, then Kochi surely Is the place to spend it". The town was shaped by the Portuguese, the Dutch and later the British. The result of these cultural influences are seen in the many examples of Indo European architecture that still exist here.
Chinese Fishing Nets / Vasco-da-Gama Square
These huge cantilevered fishing nets are the legacy of one of the
first visitors to the Malabar Coast. Erected here between 1350 and 1450 AD by traders from the court of Kublai Khan, these nets are set up on teak wood and bamboo poles. The best place to watch the nets being lowered into the sea and catch being brought in is the Vasco-da-Gama Square, a narrow promenade that runs along the beach. The Square is an ideal place to idle, with stalls serving fresh delicious seafood, tender coconut etc.
Pierce Leslie Bungalow
This charming mansion was the office of Pierce Leslie & Co., coffee merchants, founded in 1862. A representative of the Fort Kochi colonial bungalow, this building reflects Portuguese, Dutch and local influences. Characteristic features are wood panels that form the roof of the ground floor, arched door ways, carved doors and sprawling rooms. Waterfront verandahs are an added attraction.
Old Harbour House
This elegant old bungalow built in 1808 is in the possession of Carrit Moran & Co., renowned tea brokers, who now use it as their residence. The house was once a boat club.
This magnificent building constructed by Samuel S. Koder of The Cochin Electric Company in 1808 is a supreme example of the transition from colonial to Indo-European architecture. Features like verandah seats at the entrance, floor tiles set in a chess board pattern, red coloured brick like facade, carved wood furniture and a wooden bridge connecting to a separate structure across the street are all unique to this bungalow.
Once a warehouse, this heritage bungalow built in 1808, houses a high school today.
Santa Cruz Basilica
This historic church was built by the Portuguese and elevated to a Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. In 1795 it fell into the hands of the British when they took over Kochi, and was demolished. About a hundred years later Bishop Dom Gomez Ferreira commissioned a new building at the same site in 1887. The church was proclaimed a Basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.
Loafer's Corner / Princess Street
One of the earliest streets to be constructed in Fort Kochi, Princess Street with its European style residences still retains its old world charm. The best view of this quaint street can be had from Loafer's Corner, the traditional meeting place and hangout of the jovial fun loving people of the area.
Believed to have been the residence of Vasco-da-Gama, this is one of the oldest Portuguese residences in Fort Kochi. Built in the early sixteenth century, Vasco House sports the typical European glass paned windows and balcony cum verandahs characteristic of the times.
The large wooden gate facing the Parade Ground, with the monogram (VOC) of the once mighty Dutch East India Company carved on it, was built in 1740.
The four acre Parade Ground was where once the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British colonists conducted their military parades and drills. The buildings around the ground housed their defence establishments. Today, the largest open ground in Fort Kochi, the Parade Ground is a sports arena.
The United Club
Once upon a time one of the four elite clubs of the British in Kochi, the United Club today serves two roles - as class room for the nearby St. Francis Primary School by day and as card room for the current members by evening. Until 1907, the building housed the offices of the Fort Kochi Municipality.
The Bishop's House
Built in 1506 as the residence of the Portuguese Governor, the Bishop's House stands on a little hillock near the Parade Ground. The facade of the House is characterised by large Gothic arches, and has a circular garden path winding up to the main entrance. The building was acquired by Dom Jos Gomes Ferreira, the 27th Bishop of the Diocese of Kochi whose jurisdiction extended over Burma, Malaya and Ceylon, in addition to India.
This bastion of the Portuguese in Kochi was a symbol of the strategic alliance between the Maharajah of Kochi and the Monarch of Portugal, after whom it was named. Built in 1503, the fort was reinforced in 1538. By 1806 the Dutch, and later the British, had destroyed most of the fort walls and its bastions. Today, remains of this once imposing structure can be seen along the beach.
The Dutch Cemetery
The tomb stones here are the most authentic record of the hundreds of Europeans who left their homeland on a mission to expand their colonial empires and changed the course of history of this land. The cemetery was consecrated in 1724 and is today managed by the Church of South India.
This graceful building holds within itself a reflection of the colonial era. The Bungalow was built on the site of the Gelderland Bastion, one of the seven bastions of the old Dutch fort. Earlier known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow, it was home to the managers of the National Bank of India during the British reign. Today, the Bungalow belongs to Ram Bahadur Thakur and Company, the renowned tea trading firm.
Though built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company, David Hall gets its name from one of its later occupants, David Koder, a Jewish businessman. The Hall was originally associated with Hendrik Adriaan van Reed Tot Drakestein, renowned Dutch commander better known for his Hortus Malabaricus, a pioneering compilation of the flora of the Malabar Coast.
The Cochin Club
The club, with its impressive library and collection of sporting trophies, is housed in a beautifully landscaped park. In the early 1900s, when the club had just become operational, admission was restricted to the British and to men only. Today, though the club retains its traditional English ambience, its rules are more liberal and the membership of 250 includes women as well. Strangely enough, alcohol is not served on the premises.
St. Francis Church
Built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars, this is India's oldest European church. This was initially built of timber and later reconstructed in stone masonry. It was restored in 1779 by the Protestant Dutch, converted to an Anglican church by the British in 1795 and is at present governed by the Church of South India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524 before his remains were moved to Lisbon, Portugal. The tombstone still remains here.
Built in the Indo-European style way back in 1667,the Bungalow gets its name from its location on the site of the Stromsburg Bastion of the old Dutch fort. The building blends beautifully into the circular structure of the bastion, has a tiled roof and a typical first floor verandah in wood along its front portion. Though it has been said that a network of secret tunnels runs beneath the bungalow, none have been found. Today, the Bungalow is the official residence of the Sub Collector.
Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace) - Open 1000 - I700 hrs. Closed on
Built by the Portuguese in 1557 and presented to Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Kochi, the palace was renovated in 1663 by the Dutch. On display here are beautiful murals depicting scenes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and some of the Puranic Hindu legends. The palace also houses Dutch maps of old Kochi, royal palanquins, coronation robes of former maharajas of Kochi as well as period furniture.
Synagogue - Open I000 - 1200 hrs; 1500 -1700 hrs. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish
Constructed in 1568, this is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. Destroyed in a shelling during the Portuguese raid in 1662, it was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. Known for mid 18th century hand painted, willow patterned floor tiles from Canton in China, a clock tower, Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, great scrolls of the Old Testament, ancient scripts on copper plates etc.
The area around the Synagogue is a centre of spice trade and curio shops.
This lovely beach bordering Vypeen island is ideal for swimming. Dolphins are occasionally seen here. A typical Kerala village with paddy fields and coconut groves nearby is an added attraction.
This island is famous for its palace of the same name. The Bolghatty Palace was built in 1744 by the Dutch and later taken over by the British. Today it is a hotel run by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, with a small golf course and special honeymoon cottages.
Named after Lord Willingdon, a former British Viceroy of India, this man-made island is surrounded by beautiful backwaters. The island is the site of the city's best hotels and trading centres, the Port Trust and the headquarters of the southern naval command.
The Hill Palace, the official residence of the Kochi royal family, is today the largest archaeological museum in Kerala. Built in 1865, the palace complex consists of 49 buildings in the tr tional architectural style of Kerala, sprawled over 52 acres of beautifully landscaped terraced land which houses a deer park and facilities for horse riding. Numerous species of flora including rare medicinal plants grow here. On display in the full-fledged Ethno-archaeological museum are oil-paintings, murals, sculptures in stone and manuscripts, inscriptions, coins, belongings of the Kochi royal family and royal furniture including the simhasana (throne).
Also exhibited are over 200 antique pieces of pottery and ceramic vases from Japan and China, Kudakkallu (tomb stone), Thoppikkallu (hood stone), menhirs, granite, laterite memorials, rock cut weapons from the stone ages, wooden temple models, plaster cast models of objects from Mohanjodaro and Harappa of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The museum also houses a gallery of contemporary art.
Aluva which is 21kms away from the Kochi city is famous for the Sivarathri festival. This annual festival is held on the banks of the river Periyar. The whole of the city especially the river banks will be illuminated with colourful lamps and it is a must see any person. The devotees stay awake in the whole night engrossed in prayers. The center of attraction is the Sivalingam on the sand bank. During the Sivarathri festival all the Hidus go for the "Pithru Tharppanam", to pray for their beloved ones who are dead.
The temple in Ulliyanoor, an Island in the river is an architectural masterpiece and is supposed to be built by the legendary architect Perunthanchan.
Aluva is one of the Industrial Belt of Kerala as it houses many Private and Public Units.
Angamali, the starting point of the Main Central Road is a fast developing town and it had also
secured a place in the International map being the cradle for the Kochi International Airport.
Kodanad, set on the southern banks of the Periyar river amid the beautiful high ranges near Perumbavoor, is one of the largest elephant training centres of Kerala. Earlier elephants captured from the Malayatoor forests (the forests in the east and north of Kodanad) were trained here. Since the introduction of a ban to elephant capture Kodanad has been reduced to a training centre. The famous Malayatoor Church is near Kodanad.
Kaladi near to Angamali is pilgrim center on the banks of Periyar. It is also the birth place of the great Indian Philosopher Sri Adi Sankara Acharya. There are two shrines of Sri Adi Sankaracharya. One dedicated to him as Dakshinamurthy and the other to Goddess Sarada, maintained by the Sringeri Mutt. On the same premises there is a spot, Vrindavan where Adi Sankaracharya's mother Aryamba was cremated. In addition to it there is a an ancient Srikrishna Temple close by which was the family temple of Sankaracharya. Another temple known as International temple dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna Deva has been built with a hope that it would become a temple for all religions and an abode of peace.
Sri Sankara took to Sanyasa, (renunciation) at the spot of Crocodile Ghat. According to legend it was here that the crocodile caught hold of Sri Sankara, mother Aryamba permited him to accept Sanyasa and the crocodile disappeared.
The famous Catholic Church of Malayattur is on a height of 609 meters and is dedicated to
St. Thomas who had landed the Kerala coast in 52 AD. Thousands of devotees undertake a trip to the shrine to participate in the annual festival Malayattur Perunnal in March. St. Thomas is believed to have prayed at this shrine.
The Kallil Bhagavathi temple is cut from a huge rock and one has to climb 120 steps to reach there. The Iringol Temple which is located amidst dense forest is near Kaladi.
Situated 63kms from Ernakulam, 'Bhoothathan Kettu' is a good picnic spot. There is a dam here and in the reservoir one can go for boating too. The legend says that the dam was built by a "Bhootham" using the rocks, which is the ample proof for the name. Trekking through the forest to the old Bhoothathan Kettu is very interesting. The forest offers a wide variety of flora and fauna and is a botanist delight.
Thattekad which is 20kms from Koithamangalam is the home for the bird sanctuary where we can find some of the rare species of birds. Exotic birds flock in the sanctuary and make this place a heaven for any ornithologist.
Chennamangalam which was the seat of Paliath Achan the heriditory Prime Minister of erst- while state of Kochi from 1632 to 1809 is 5kms from North Paravur. It was the chief center of the Jews in Kerala and has an oriental Jewish Synagogue in the Jewish Colony. Adjacent to it, once stood the famous Vypeen Kotta Semenari built in the 16th Century by the Portuguese. The remains of the Seminari are still visible. The old Syrian Catholic Church established in 1201 is near this. Near the Synagogue and the church there is a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and a Mosque which heralds the communal harmony. The Kottayil Kovilakam which was the seat of the Kshatriya Chieftains of Villaravattom is also situated near the temple. The Kunnathali Temple and the temple of Gowda Saraswatha Brahmins are also situated here.
Chennamangalam is an important center for handloom weaving the coir making. The annual fair called "Mattachanda", barter system is held on the eve of Vishu.
Piravam is famous for the Athachamayam, a spectacular procession which is conducted on the 1st day of Onam festival that last for 10 days. The Athachamayam procession is done in pomp and splender. Temple arts of Kerala, Theyyam, Koodiyattom, Ottam Thullal etc. are performed by skilled artists. Carparisoned elephants and a variety of other floats are inevitable feature of this procession. Panchavadyam, symphony offered by five international instruments is a rare treat to the ears. The town puts on a festive look during these days as the young people join hands to make merry.
Kanjiramattom near Piravam is famous for the Kanjiramattam mosque which was erected over the mortal remains of Sheikh Parid. It was here that the great Muslim Saint Vavar is believed to have prayed and attained eternal bliss. The Kodikuthu festival which falls in December attracts thousands of devotees.
The Kakkoor Kalavayal (cattle fair) is a centuries old post harvest festival which has religious legends connected to it. To know more about this, one of the few surviving cattle fairs in the State, see Kalavayal.
Vypeen a small island in Kochi is just half an hour journey from the main city. Pallipuram Fort which was built by the Portuguese in 1503 is at Vypeen. It is one of oldest existing European monument in India. The Dutch captured the fort in 1661 and sold it to the State of Travancore in 1789. The Catholic Church at Pallipuram is also an important pilgrim center.
Vypeen is also dotted by Chinese fishing nets known as 'Cheenavala'. There are large nets which hang from bamboo or teak post and are still used by local fisherman. They attract fish by means of light suspended above the net. Silhouette against the sunset they present a spectacular sight of Kochi's waterfront.