Twenty-first century Kochi, once a small fishing village, is a major port of Kerala, controlling the reins of the country’s economy. The Queen of Arabia, comprising a constellation of islands and peninsulas, was transformed forever by a deluge that shaped this Gateway of South India into a premier seaport, exuding verve.
The Queen of the Adriatic has a rather befuddling history of nomenclature. It can be traced back to the Malayalam word Koch azhi, which means a lagoon which is not very large in size. Another possibility is the name having its roots in Kaci which means port. The history of the name also carries connotations of the Bible scriptures, namely Cohen which metamorphosed into Cocha and eventually into Kochi. The name, Kochi, also has Chinese hints. The legend goes that Emperor Kublai Khan’s merchants gave Kochi its name. An example of the cosmopolitan culture of Kochi is reflected in its Sanskrit inspired name. Many opine that it has its roots in the Sanskrit word Go Shree that literally means thriving with the auspicious animal. Niccolo dei Conti and Fra Paoline’s travelogues associate the name Kochi with the river Kochchi.
Periyar engulfed the harbor of Kodugallur in 1341 and served as the launch pad for the birth of Kochi. Apart from Niccolo dei Conti, the adventurer from China, Ma Huan, also writes about Kochi. The disintegration of the Kulashekhara dynasty saw the coronation of the Perumpadappu Swaroopam or the royalty of Kochi. The traders of Europe flocked to Kochi to cash in on the treasure trove of perfumed sandalwood and spices. They soon forged links with the Arab traders. The commercial aspirations fuelled their dream of ruling Kochi. The Portuguese, who kick-started this gold rush, crowned Thampuran as the Maharaja of Kochi. The merchants from Holland also made a beeline for a share of the immensely profitable pie. The lion’s share was, however, reserved for the British East India Company. It is, however, due to the pioneering efforts of Lord Willingdon, the Governor of Madras during the 1920’s and the port engineer Robert Bristow, that Kochi can boast of world-class port facilities. Kochi acceded to an independent India but faced a bout of economic depression. The reforms envisaged in the economic sector served as a healing touch to Kochi.
Kochi is an important port city is strategically located, well connected by aerial routes, railways, and bus. Travelers who want to avail the aerial route can alight at Cochin International Airport at Nedumbessary. If rail journeys fascinate you then you can inquire at Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction. Mangla Lakshadweep and Netravati Expresses from Mumbai, Trivandrum Rajdhani from Delhi, Ernakulam and Kanyakumari Expresses from Bangalore, Trivandrum Mail from Chennai and Howrah-Trivandrum Express from Kolkata are some of the major trains plying to Kochi. If you want to hit the road to reach Kochi, then you can either inquire at the KSRTC bus junction at Ernakulam or cross the bridges to Willingdon Island and avail NH47A.
Places of Interest
Feast your eyes on the wonderful architecture in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry. A visit to these places should figure prominently in your itinerary. It is an eclectic blend of the Arab, British, Portuguese and Dutch legacy. To get a taste of the Portuguese architecture, you can head towards The Santa Cruz Basilica. This five hundred-year-old church survived the Dutch invasion. These followers of John Calvin, the traders of Holland were probably, enamored by the beautifully stained glass embellishments.
The St. Francis Church, another specimen from the Portuguese era, boasts of having to be the burial site of the famous Vasco da Gama. The ‘Doop Book’, that is a storehouse of records of married and baptized individuals, is a top draw.
The Chinese fishing nets, a remnant from the rule of the majestic Kublai Khan, is another major tourist attraction. After a day of wanderlust, you can unwind at the Fort Kochi Beach, which also houses a pretty lighthouse.
The Pardesi Synagogue, a relic of the Jews also claims huge footfalls. This glorious specimen of Jew architecture is four hundred years old and is adorned with etched brass pillars and floor art. There are a couple of copper discs that have the etchings of the benefits awarded by King Bhaskara Ravi Varman. It also showcases a forty-five feet clock that boasts of Arabic, Latin, Malayalam and Hebrew.
If you want to soak in the feel of the Maharajadom, trudge along to the Mattancherry Palace that is a treasure trove of royal memorabilia.
The Jew Street, the Dutch Cemetery, and the Princess Street are some of other coveted tourist hot spots.
Ernakulam, situated at a stone’s throw distance, from Kochi, exudes generation next verve and enthusiasm with a plethora of theatres, dining joints and shopping havens.
Broadway is a shopper’s paradise, fragrant with an old world charisma. Amble down the seventy-five feet Marine Drive or lean back to feast your eyes on the Ernakulam –Vypeen boat sail at a distance.
If you are interested to bolster your knowledge about the nomenclature of Ernakulam, a visit to the Shiva Temple is a must. Rishinaga-kulam, the name of the temple’s pool of water gives Ernakulam its name. The legend has it that, a mystic gained freedom from the shackles of a curse. January is an ideal month to visit as the temple gears up to revel in the eight-day celebrations. The Pakalpooram, a blend of panchavadyam, and pandimelan, is a unique experience. The new-year festivities of Onam sees Ernakulam all decked to host the Indira Gandhi Boat Race, that generates a lot of thrill and anticipation.
Take a stroll down the various islands that characterize Kochi. The lush Bolgatty Island, Vypeen Island and The Willingdon Island are coveted tourist destinations. They are the ideal romantic getaways for the honeymooners.
The Kanjiramattom mosque, St. George’s Forane Church in Edapally, The Bhagavathy Temple in Chottanikkara are some of the other frequented attractions.
The history of freaks can troop to The Museum of Kerala History in Edapally.
The shopping fanatics can go on no holds barred shopping sprees to Broadway and M. G Road in Ernakulam and Mattancherry and Jew Street in Fort Kochi. You can collect old world charm exuding mementos, intricately carved rose-wood chairs and tables, metal art and a host of other artifacts.
The spices of Kochi have also coveted collector’s item. So shop till you drop and stack your bags with sealed pouches of fresh spices.