: 8,700 sq km
Population : 1,600,000
Languages : Malayalam and English
Best time to visit : December to May
STD Code : 0484
In Cochin or Kochi, dawn is not often a thing of
breathtaking beauty, but just a careless smear of tinted
light where sea and sky unite. Daybreak is full of indeterminate
promise. A slow lividness at the mist-obscured harbor
mouth meets the swelling untamed surge of the ocean.
Cargo-laden barges and vallams or country boats move,
ponderously slow, over the sprawling vastness of the
Vembanad Kayal, Keralas largest lake that spreads
full bosomed and silver gray in the sultry sun.
Popularly referred to as the Queen of the Arabian
Sea, Cochin is located on the west cost of India in
the beautiful state of Kerala. The city can be regarded
as the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala.
The city extends from latitude 9°58' in the North
to longitude 76°17' in the East.
Being situated very close to the sea, Kochi has
a moderate climate, with heavy rains during JuneAugust
due to the southwest monsoon. Winter starts from December
and continues till February. In summer, the temperature
rises to a maximum of 35°C and 25°C in the winters.
Annual average rainfall is 310 cm.
Though Cochin had been an important roadstead in
days gone by, it became a natural harbor only when nature
decreed it so. Muziris (present-day Kodungalloor on
the mouth of the Periyar River), 40 km north of Cochin,
was the center of trade with ancient Rome in the products
like pepper and pearls, fine silks, cotton, muslin,
honey, oil, betel, tortoise shell, cinnamon leaf, black
pepper, ginger grass, and indigo.
formation of Cochin harbor has a violent story of which
nature herself was the main character. The harbor was
formed in a.d. 1341, when a great flood in the Periyar
River led to an outlet in the sea. The floods had meanwhile
silted up the mouth of the Muziris harbor and this rich
ancient port was banished to the footnotes of history.
Meanwhile, the merchants of Muziris shifted to Cochin.
centuries, Cochin was the battleground of European powers
for the mastery of the lucrative trade of the Indian
west coast. The fortunes of political powers in Cochin
were dictated by pepper. The Portuguese were the first
to come in. Two years later, the adventurous mariner,
the legendary Vasco da Gama himself landed in Cochin.
The Portuguese erected a fort for the protection of
their factory. Fort Manuel, or Manuel Kotta, named after
the King of Portugal, was the first fortress constructed
by the Europeans in India.
the Portuguese must go the credit for the extensive
scientific cultivation of coconut, ginger, and pepper,
backbone of Keralas economy today. Tobacco, cashew
nut, and fruit cultivation were also introduced. The
pineapple, for instance, is still called prithichakka
in Malayalam, meaning Portuguese jackfruit. They were
also responsible for todays burgeoning trade in
Dutch, full of energy and zeal, were next to enter the
scene and succeeded in throwing out the Portuguese very
soon. Helped by a laissez-faire policy and a self-stipulated
dictum of at least a 100% profit, Cochin
saw a great resurgence of trade.
the Dutch never endured too, and it was the British
who came in next to play out their role. A great milestone
was the direct export of pepper to England in 1636 and
once again, power flowed from pepper.
a hundred years and more, from 1795, Cochin received
a gracious patronage of the British. They tried their
best to develop the harbor at Cochin, the gateway of
South India, but for long dismissed as a dream beyond
the realm of hope for a rock-like barrier of sand blacked
the approach to the port from the sea. No dredging proposition
since the days of the Suez Canal project has aroused
so much technical interest as the opening up of the
fell to the lot of an Admiralty Engineer Sir Robert
Bristow to envision this marvel of engineering.
It was not an easy task for Bristow to construct a port
in these serendipitous surroundings.
was declared a major port in 1936. With its opening,
there was a complete reorientation of shipping and commercial
activities on the Malabar Coast. With its year-round
shipping facilities, it is the busiest port south of
Bombay, lying as it does on the direct route to Australia
and the Far East from Europe and serving the vast southern
hinterland of industrial areas and plantations. It is
a passenger port for the United Kingdom and America
in South India. Moreover, it is one of the few ports
of the world with all the three main forms of transportland,
sea, and air, centered in the same place.
Fort Cochin, with its European heritage, its air
of genteel decay, and stubborn self-absorption is a
place where history, like a friendly phantom, still
stalks the lonely streets.
European have left random imprints in Fort Cochin. The
massive buttresses, which are so conspicuous a feature
of the place, were put up by the British to protect
the houses that had been shaken by the force of an explosion
that blew up the cathedral of Santa Cruz. In fact, they
themselves had bombarded the church fearing a possible
restoration of Dutch supremacy in Cochin. In spite of
it all, the Santa Cruz Basilica still stands in a spirit
of sturdy resistance.
chief landmark though is St. Francis Church, built
in the early 16th century. It is the pride of Fort Cochin.
The most magnificent pageant enacted here was the burial
of Vasco da Gama in 1526. Nevertheless, it was to be
a temporary resting place for this armed interloper,
as after sixteen years later, his son Pedro da Silva
Gama took away the mortal remains of his father back
Francis Church is the oldest existing European
church in India. From this choir, for the first time
in India, resounded the sonorous chants of Rome. The
church began life as a wooden structure built by the
five friars who accompanied the Portuguese to Cochin
in 1503. The Franciscans, followers of St. Francis Xavier
who visited Cochin in the early 16th century, raised
the present edifice.
most enduring impression of Fort Cochin is the enigma
of the Chinese fishing nets. Like totems from another
age stranded in time, they perch along the backwaters.
Curious clumsy things with no bright counterfeit graces.
The Chinese fishing nets are the most efficient means
of backwater fishing and Font Cochin is full of them.
Dutch palace at Mattancherry was actually built by the
Portuguese and presented to the Cochin ruler Vira Kerala
Varma in 1555 as an act of expiation for the plunder
and desecration of a temple near the Rajas palace
by a hot-headed young Portuguese officer. The extensions
of the east and south and the wooden ceilings of the
Coronation Hall were incorporated by the Dutch and hence
the name. The real glory of the palace however lies
in its wall murals, all done using the tempera process
of painting. Forty-five scenes from the Ramayana adorn
the long walls of the bedchamber. They are known for
their brilliant execution. Of the paintings elsewhere
in the palace, one is a large unfinished portrait of
has a predominantly Muslim population. But tucked away
behind its tumult is Jew Town, a quiet cul-de-sac. A
single street of old discolored buildingsQuaint
houses of solid buildwhere the few surviving
members of the oldest Jewish settlement in India live.
Hounded out of Muziris by the Portuguese, they came
to Cochin in the 16th century and found an unexpected
benefactor in the Raja of Cochin who allotted them this
land near his palace and helped them build their place
of worship. The Paradeshi Synagogue was built in 1568
with timber supplied gratis by the Raja who is said
to have personally instructed the masons to mix mortar
with coconut water for strong walls. One of the oldest
synagogues in the world, it is a jewel of incomparable
beauty with its brass columns, Belgian hanging lamps,
and exquisite hand-painted, blue-and-white Chinese porcelain
tiles of which no two are alike.
Parishath Thampuram Museum in Ernakulam has a large
collection of 19th-century oil paintings, old coins,
sculptures, Mughal paintings, and temple models.
and Gundu islands boasts of a lighthouse at Ochanthuruth,
good beaches, and the 16th-century Pallipuram Fort.
Thripunithura, 12 km southwest, has a Hill Palace
Museum housing the collections of the Cochin and Travancore
royal families. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9
a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.
10 km northeast of Ernakulam, has the Museum of Kerala
History. It is open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 12
p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.
35 km north of Cochin, encapsulates the cultural and
religious medley of this region. There is a synagogue,
place of Brahmins, a Syrian Orthodox Church, a Krishna
Temple, and a temple of goddess Mookambic.
kilometers away is Chennamangalam that houses the oldest
synagogue in Kerala. There is also a Jesuit Church and
ruins of a Jesuit College. One can also walk to the
Hindu Temple overlooking river Periyar, a 16th-century
mosque, as well as burial grounds.
The deity of Shiva temple situated at the heart
of Cochin is popularly known as Ernakulathappan. The
annual festival is an eight-day event, and on all these
days, Seeveli procession with nine tuskers and Panchavadyam
are held. On the seventh evening, Pakalpooram is conducted.
Kathakali, Ottanthullal, music concerts are presented
by renowned artists. The festival concludes with the
Valanjambalam Devi Temple located in the heart of Ernakulam
celebrates an annual festival for two days known as
Thalapoli Utsavam. The procession with five caparisoned
elephants accompanied by temple musical ensembles known
as Ezhunnallippu takes place on both days.
There are a lot of handicraft and antique emporia
around MG Road, Ernakulam. One can also buy and see
the works of contemporary artists from different art
galleries situated around the city.
It is better to stay in Ernakulam than Cochin, as
the range of accommodation is greater there. During
DecemberJanuary, there is a great rush for hotel
rooms and tourists are advised to arrange for the same
There are Indian Airlines and Jet Airways direct
services to Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Goa, Bangalore, and
Trivandrum from Cochin.
is connected by rail to most of the important cities
like Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.
is connected by road with several tourist centers in
India. It is 565 km from Bangalore, 223 km from Coimbatore,
848 km from Goa, 694 km from Madras, 470 km from Mysore,
and 312 km form Ootacamund.
and auto-rickshaws are available for local transport.
Tourist taxis, both air-conditioned and ordinary, can
be hired for a day.