Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gods Own Country

Cochin is the colonial name for Kochi. It boasts of A world class port city, and International airport @ Angamalli, connected to almost all parts of the globe. The roads are better networked when compared to the capital, and being centrally located it is also known as gateway of Kerala. Ernakulam is the business district of Kochi, and practically Fort Kochi,Angamally, Cherai, Ernakulam all form a part of the greater Kochi. One should not be surprised by so many other names of the suburb township such as Alwaye, Parur, Nayarambalam, Edapally, Town, etc which all refer to the base town.

The genesus of the word Kochi is subject of speculation some claim since the chinese had trading connection with Kochi, it was named after their homeland away from China as KO CHI or the reverse of CHI KO which phoenetically sounds chinese. Another theory in malayalam lingo Kachi means harbour which is chritianed as Kochi.

Kochi Harbour : Cranganore is the original port town of which was destroyed by massive flooding of Periyar river in 1340, most of the foreign travellers had connection with Kochi due to this old port town. Kochi became a part of the British empire in 1814 after the defeat of the Dutch and a new port town of Wellington was created. The magnificient remanents of the Dutch Fort point to the systematic destruction to accommodate the new British empire. Now it is part of the naval base, airport and command.

Kochi Fort :
The permission to build the first european Fort was given by ruler of Kochi to Portuguese around 1530 AD and the Fort built was known as Fort Emmaneul or Maneul Kotta in local lingo. The Dutch built their own Fort known as Fort Williams and they succeeded the Portuguese in occupying the town.

Trading : When Vasco de gama landed here he came primarily for trading of spices which was grown in plenty in these parts with virgin soil. Pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves are all standards of spice world over. They still hold a high brand value in world market. Foreign travellers, Fa-hien, Huen Tsang, Vasco-de-gama, & Nicolos Conti have sung praise for this land of spices. ‘ In china one makes money and in Kochi one ends up spending ‘ No wonder Gods own country is the place to splurge.


The entire backwaters and beach front around Kochi is filled with ancient heritage of Chinese fishing nets. The majority of these nets are found in Fort Kochi and Vypeen area. Apart from china, Kochi is the only area where these peculiar fishing practise is carried out. Most of the fishes trapped in these nets are curry mean, sardines and other smaller varities.


This church was originally built in 1503, which happens to be the oldest European church built by the Portuguese. Francisco De Almeida was permitted by the Raja to reconstruct the wooden church into a massive church with masonary. In 1516 the current church was completed and dedicated to Saint Anthony. Portuguese were catholics and Dutch were Protestants, when the Dutch took over the territory, they destroyed certain traces and converted the church into a govt one. Later it was handed over to british in 1814 and dedicated to St Francis. On this third visit Vasco de gama fell severly ill and died in 1524 and he was buried inside this church. His body was repatriated to Lisbon on popular request by the natives to honour such a great adventurer. The gravestone marking of Vasco’s burial is still retain for heritage purpose. A centoph is erected as a war memorial for those who died in World war 1 erected in 1920. Today the church is under the control of ASI but managed by CSI for masses. Majority of the artifacts seems to be placed in the museum obviously.


This palace was orginally built by Portuguese and handed over to the local Raja Veera Kerala Varm ( 1537-1565 ) in 1555. The Dutch carried out renovations in 1663 and from thereon the it became popular as Dutch Palace. In 1951, ASI took over and it was declared a protected monument and undertook full scale restoration to maintain the original flavour. Still some renovation work is scheduled to be complete in 2009.

This palace contains many artifacts collected by the dutch, gifts from the Rajas, and all finds in the area during their reign. Mural paintings in rich colours are in plenty, along with the Dutch army personnel and the Raja of times. Paintings on the first floor contain Krishna lifting Govardhan Hillock, Coronation of Rama, Lord Vishnu sleeping, Lakshmi seated on Lotus etc.

There are two temples on either side of this Mattancherry Palace one of Shiva and other of Vishnu.


This Jewish synagouge was built in 1568 by Malabar Yehudan, and it is known as Paradesi Synagouge. Paradesi typically means foreigner in Indian language. The Mattancherry palace temple and Synagouge share a common compound wall. The Malabari Jews were prosperous traders, who may have been directly competing with the Portuguese, which might have been the reason for their persecution. The original Synagouge was destroyed and the present one seems to have been rebuilt under Dutch Patronage. In 1968 the syngaouge celeberated 400th year anniversary and today it is almost 440 years old. Maybe a full scale celeberation in 2012 for completing 444 years is overdue. The unique feature of this synagouge is that it is filled with different types of chandeliers and chinese ceramic floors. Photographs are not allowed inside which is strange, maybe with special permission from the priestess, who seems to managing the show.

Wellington Island being one of the Biggest Hq of the Naval command in India has a magnificient museum dedicated to its seamen, who fought valiantly battles for the British and help to safe guard our huge 12000 km coastline from Dwarka to Calcutta. The Naval strategic importance is being enhanced with Sea Bird. This musuem contains various exhibits including shell of cruise missile, uniforms, helicopter, various types of ammunitions and guns. There is an auditorium showcasing the achievements of our Naval staff and seamen during a bitter war with Pakistan and liberation of Bangladesh. The navy played an important role even in rescue operations immediately after the boxer day Tsunami in 2004. I was given a brief of the naval history by one retired wartime seamen, that is how I came to know the importance of Cranganore, which many localities too are unaware of. In modern times it is known as Kodungallore, where the famous apostle St Thomas Anthony landed in 52 AD.


This is currently under the jurisdiction of KTDC, it is run as a heritage hotel with a tariff plan equavalent to a 5 star hotel . The tariff plan during season is 10 K and off season is 6 K children will be charged extra @ 10%. We were unable to see this place due to barricading for a private wedding party. A ferry from marine lines of Ernakulam, near the high court can take one across to Bolghatty Isle. The route by road is long tedious. This dutch palace was built in 1744 by a dutch trader. Later the palace was leased to the British in 1909 and served as their residency till 1947.

I am still to complete the series on Gods own country…maybe a trip or two I will be able to complete my dedication and travelouge. I am lucky to have a friend based in Kochi to guide me, which enables me to probe further into the hidden mysteries of the past.

1 comment:

P.N. Subramanian said...

Kochi came to prominence because of the flood in the 14th century and destruction of the port at Crnganore. Large scale excavations are going on at Pattanam near Cranganore. I am yet to visit that place. Thanks.