Cochin or Kochi

Cochin or Kochi

Kochi, known also as Cochin the commercial capital of Kerala, with a style statement different from the rest of the State, is a place with deep roots in history and its streets exude an old-world charm; a place with beautiful monuments and a variety of linguistic and ethnic communities including Jews, Konkinis, Gujaratis and so on. Yet another group looks at Kochi as a thriving, expanding market, providing opportunities for growth and prosperity to all who knock at her doors. The major part of the city is at sea level along the coastline of around 48 kilometres. Spread over an area of 94.88 square kilometres, Kochi is the second largest city of Kerala.    

Kochi offers a cocktail of modernity, old-world charm and a global outlook that, at the same time, facilitates continuity and change. 

For centuries, Kochi had been a main port city, not only of Kerala, but also of the Indian Peninsula. Since the 14th century, Kochi, known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, has had ships from Asian and European countries visiting her port. The traders and travellers from across the globe were welcomed with open arms and minds. This greatly helped in its growth into a cosmopolitan city. Kochi´s growth owes a lot to its strategic position on the northern end of the peninsula that has proximity to the Arabian Sea on the west, and the estuaries and the Western Ghats on the east. As for its geography, it is an indiscriminate mix of hilly areas, estuaries and backwaters, small islands, coastal cities like Fort Kochi and Mattancherry and plain terrain like that of the city of Ernakulam.

With its interesting monuments, geographic peculiarities, and emerging cosmopolitan nature, Kochi can keep a tourist engrossed for days. 

A vibrant culture and thriving port business symbolise the city of Cochin. This coastal town lends credence to Kerala´s claim of being God´s Own Country. Cochin has been bequeathed with many fond names; Queen of the Arabian Sea, Gateway to Kerala, and other local sobriquets. As a tourist destination, Cochin serves a variety of interests. Get a dose of fun and adventure at Fort Cochin beach and Cherai beach on the island of Vypeen or indulge in your spiritual side at Sri Krishna Temple in Gurvayoor, St. Francis Church, and Cheraman Mosque. Much of Kochi lies at sea level, with a coastline of 48 km. Nature buffs can capture the sparkling colours of wildlife at the Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary.  No holiday experience can be complete without shopping at the local market and gorging on local cuisine. From handicrafts to branded apparels, Cochin packs a punch when it comes to shopping. The mouthwatering local cuisine in Cochin is guaranteed to please your tummy and the senses.  

The beaches of Cochin are a fun place to be. The ocean, the palm trees, the sandy beach and the crashing waves make for a relaxing experience. Beach activities include beach volleyball, surfing, swimming and jet skiing. 

Vypeen Island Zone:
Perhaps one of the most beautiful paintings by nature on the canvas of Cochin, the Vypeen Island Zone, comprising of a small group of islands, soars out at the point where the ethereal Vembanad Lake merges with the Arabian Sea.  The magnificent Fort Cochin rises majestically in the background on the other side. Reaching Vypeen Island is easy; there are boats and jetty services to Vypeen from Fort Cochin, and the island is also connected to mainland Ernakulam by bridges.

Chinese Fishing Nets:
Unique to Cochin, the Chinese fishing nets serve as a testimony to the good relations between the ancient Chinese Emperors and the Cochin Kings.  Outside of China, these fishing nets are only found in Cochin. Historians believe that the fishing nets were gifted by Chinese Emperor Kubalagi to the then Cochin King in the 14th century. 

What makes them so unique? Well, the fact that these nets are fixed land installations (unlike the other nets that are not fixed to the land) and use shore operated lift nets for fishing. These 10-metre high nets require up to six men to operate one fully installed net.

Dutch Palace:
The Dutch Palace was originally built by the Portuguese. Later, in 17th century, the Dutch modified it and presented to the Raja of Kochi. Coronation of many Rajas of Kochi was held here. The place has a fine collection of mural paintings depicting the scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. 

Fort Kochi:
A stroll along Fort Kochi, particularly at sunset with the Chinese fishing nets and sailing ships in the background, is a fine experience. Many European style bungalows can also be seen along the shoreline. 

Jewish Synagogue:
The synagogue, magnificently decorated by Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers, was built in 1568. Giant scrolls of the Old Testament can be found here. It is located near the Dutch Palace.

Hill Palace:
Located about 10 kms from Kochi, the Hill Palace Museum was the official residence of the erstwhile rulers of Kochi. Built in 1865, it is now famous for being a full-fledged ethno-archaeological museum and Kerala´s first ever heritage museum. The palace complex itself comprises 49 buildings and is built in the traditional Kerala style of architecture. It has over 52 acres of terraced land around it. One can see oil-paintings, murals, sculptures, manuscripts and belongings of the Kochi royal family. Antique ceramics from the Far East, Kudakkallu (tombstone), Thoppikkallu (hood stone), laterite memorials and wooden memorials from ancient civilisations like the Indus Valley and Harappa can also be found here. It even has a gallery housing contemporary art.
Visiting Hours:  09.00 to 12.30 hrs &14.00 to 16.30 hrs on all days except Mondays.

St. Francis Church, Fort Cochin:
The St. Francis Church is considered to be the oldest church built by the Europeans in India. On his third visit to India, the great Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama fell ill and died and St. Francis church was his burial place. His remains were later transferred from here to Lisbon.

The Jewish Synagogue:
Also known as Paradesi Synagogue and Mattancherry Synagogue, the Jewish Synagogue at Cochin is the oldest existing synagogue among the Commonwealth countries.  The synagogue is beautifully laid out and the interiors are decorated with Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers. Giant scrolls of the Old Testament can be found here.

Museum of Kerala History:
The Museum of Kerala History depicts the history and cultural evolution of Kerala through a spectacular light and sound show in both Malayalam and English.  Along with incredible paintings, the museum also houses magnificent life size statues of prominent personalities. There is an incredibly huge and imposing statue of Lord Parasurama in the museum as well.

Eco Tourist Villages:
The Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village and the Mastyafed Milky-Way Aqua-Tourist Village are two of the eco-tourist villages that should definitely find a place on your itinerary when visiting Kerala.  The Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village holds the distinction of being India´s first eco-tourist village. Here, you can enjoy a plethora of activities such as canoeing in a country boat through the intricate maze of mangroves, exploring the rural work culture, fishing, or even mingling with the locals. 

Hailed and worshipped as one of the most sacred Hindu religious places in the world, Guruvayoor is the abode to the Shri Krishna temple, which attracts more than 10 million devotees every year.  The Shri Krishna temple is considered to be the first temple in India to open its doors to every Hindu, irrespective of their caste.

Veega Land Amusement Park:
Veega Land is an amusement park and is home to more than 50 thrilling rides and various shows. The many rides here are classified into different categories including Family rides, Water rides, Kiddies rides and Hair raising rides.  Veega Land also has some fine restaurants and makes for a great getaway for the entire family. Situated on the top of a hill, this is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Cochin Carnival: 
Perhaps the best time to be in Cochin is during the New Year. The atmosphere during this time is electrifying owing to the Cochin Carnival. Scintillating dance performances, animated shows, concerts and mesmerizing parades light up this extraordinary carnival.

Thrikkakara Temple:
The Thrikkakara Temple is one of the major centers of Onam celebrations in Kerala. Dedicated to Lord Vamana (considered the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu), the temple plays host to ten days of festivities and celebrations on the occasion of Onam. It´s quite a sight to see thousands of devotees come together and paint the temple in colours of joy.

The Roman Catholic Basilica of Santa Cruz:
The Roman Catholic Basilica of Santa Cruz is a colossal cathedral with a dominant Gothic presence in the form of a façade flanked by two huge towers.  At the top of the main altar is a striking painting of the ´Last Supper´, modelled on the renowned work of Leonardo da Vinci. The stained glass windows and intricate wall carvings add to the charm and grandeur of the place.

Kanjiramattam Mosque:
The Kanjiramattam Mosque plays host to the Kudikkuthu Festival and is a scared pilgrimage centre. In history, the Imams of this mosque were believed to be leading scholars who were close advisors of the kings of Cochin.

Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurudwara:
Established in 1955 by the Sikh community settled in Kerala, the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurudwara is the only gurudwara in Kerala and hence holds an important place amongst the Sikhs. 

A langar is held here every day, you can witness a grand langaron Saturdays and Sundays.

Indian Naval Maritime Museum:
Established by the Indian Navy, the Indian Naval Maritime Museum is a keeper of Indian naval history. The museum contains huge replicas of naval ships and an impressive collection of naval arms and ammunition.

Cochin Cultural Centre:
Cochin Cultural Centre is a renowned institution in Kochi, working towards preservation, promotion and propagation of the rich art and culture of Kerala through traditional performing arts. The centre was basically founded as a charitable society of artists in the year 1978 by Sukumaran Nedungadi. Here, regular training is provided to budding artists, and dance performances including Kathakali are organized from time to time.

Besides this, other performing art forms like Kalaripayattu, Keli, Theyyam, Mohiniyattam, Velakali, Shingarimelam, Oottan Thullal, Thiruvathirakali, Oppana, Pulikali, Kurathiyattam, Panchavadyam, Patayani, Marga Kali and Thayambaka can be seen at the on-site theatre.

Highly trained professionals are chosen to be a part of the performances that lasts for an hour. The entire show is segregated into three parts. Firstly, the dancers perform a prayer, followed by an introductory demonstration with narration in English and lastly, the act itself. 

For those who want to acquaint themselves with the traditional art forms, especially Kathakali, can join coaching classes conducted here on a daily basis. Kathakaliis an ancient classical dance form, where a dancer portrays human emotions and moods through facial expressions and mudras (hand gestures that signify an object or action). The dance is accompanied by music, both vocal and instrumental. Other aspects of Kathakali like music, crafts (costume making) and face painting are also taught at the centre.

The theatre at this centre is known for its fascinating architecture that is worth capturing in your camera. Besides, you are allowed to take pictures with the artists once the show is over.  

Cochin is a destination embellished with all the elements required to make your holiday an extraordinary one – come and enjoy yourself in God´s own backyard!

Main things to do in Cochin:
·         Visit Chinese fishing nets 
·         Dutch Palace 
·         The Port of Kochi (World Heritage)
·         Hill Palace 
·         St. Francis Church, the oldest european church in India 
·         Tomb of Vasco da Gama (who discovered India) 
·         Jewish neighborhoods  Mattancherry 
·         Visit the jewish Synagoge (built in 156).