By Govind Kumar
A major flood in AD 1341 converted this land locked region into one of the finest natural harbors in the world and Kochi became a paradise for seafaring visitors the world over. Kochi become the first European township in India when the Portugese, infatuated with her natural beauty, settled here in the 15th century. No wonder she is the computer and commercial capital of God's own country !
Fort Kochi was wrested from the Portugese by the the powerful Dutch in AD 1663 . Later, the British took over in 1795 and they also fell in love with its exquisite natural beauty. After that, Kochi rose as a commercial center and a major military base, a shipbuilding center and a center for the major religions of the world.
Beatuiful and interesting to behold are sites ornamented by Chinese fishing nets along the Vasco Da Gama Square, VOC Gate & Bastion Bungalow. Amongst tourists, an array of sea food restaurants are also widely popular, apart from these architectural splendors. The Chinese fishing nets were set up here in AD 1400 and they were erected on teak wood and bamboo poles and they work on the principle of balance. You can watch the nets being lowered and pulled out of the sea at the Vasco Da Gama Square, the promenade that parallels the beach, named after that legendary nagivator.
The Jewish Synagogue is another architectural delight. Jews set up their first synagogue here.
The St Francis Church, one of the India's oldest churches is located in Fort Kochi. Vasco Da Gama was buried here in 1524 and his mortal remains were returned to Portugal later.
There are two ways of reaching Fort Kochi. One is by bus from Ernakulam town, which is 13 kms away and this will take one hour. The ferry ride from Ernakulam Main Boat Jetty is about 20 minutes.
Tourist Spots within Kochi are as under:
Bolgatty Palace:TThis magnificent palace adorns Bolghatty Island and is now used as a Hotel. This island also houses a superb gold course and the panoramic view makes it an attractive spot. From the mainland there is always continuos boat service.
Chinese Fishing Nets : TThe Chinese fishing nets found here are unique. The traders from the court of the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan introduced these here. These nets are set up on Teak wood and bamboo poles and they were erected here between 1350 and 1450 AD by those traders. From the Vasco da Gama Square, a promenade that runs along the Fort Cochin Beach, one can watch the nets being lowered into the sea and the catch being brought in.
Kumbalangi, the Tourism Village
The United Nations Development Programme cited Kumbalangi, a small fishing village in Kerala, as an Endogenous Tourism Center. Endogenous means that which is derived internally and that this place shows the inherent skills and traits of Kerala. The Govt declared Kumbalangi as a Model Tourism Village.
Biogas is the gas which accrues from animal waste. Kumbalangi, as an exemplar of Organic Farming, has 800 biogas plants, generating more then 3600 hours of cooking gas !
The backwaters of Venice, the green fields of Europe all combined is this beautiful village. The Lonely Planet called it the ” Paradise found on Earth”. Sandwiched between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea in Peninsular India, is Kerala, the gift given by Nature to mankind !
Close to the port town of Kochi is Kumbalangi, an ideal tourist location. She possesses a vast stretch of backwaters and is rich with cuisines, fish farms, local boat building and coir looms. You will find its inhabitants in tune with Nature, depending on Nature for their survival. There is not too much rush of tourists ( this island gets only 5000 tourists per season ) and you will find her more or less a virgin landscape.
In 2005, the Govt came out with the Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village project, to transform this small island to a model tourism and fishing spot. The Chinese fishing nets which grace Fort Kochi and other places in Kochi can be seen here. Crores were invested in the project, as new roads were built, percolation tanks to store rain water was built ( thus solving the water problem ), fishes which had moved away was brought back and water drainage system was built.
Lack of rooms created Homestays. Now there are a lot of homestays in this village.
Kochi Airport is just 40 kms away and the nearest Rly Station is Ernakulam, 25 km away.
Dutch Palace: Although it was originally built by the Portugese, the Dutch modified it in the 17th century, and they presented it to the Raja of Kochi. This Palace was used later for the coronation of many Kings of Kochi . The Sanskrit classical epics - Epic Poetry - the Ramayana & Mahabharatha were depicted in Mural paintings here and this is a big cultural tourist attraction.
Pierce Leslie Bungalow: A world class architectural delight, founded in 1862 , this Bungalow was the office of Pierce Leslie & Co, the renowned coffee merchants. This Bungalow has strong Dutch, Portugese and local influences. Arched doors, sprawling rooms & wood panels grace this magnificent building, which is also replete with Waterfront verandahs.
Hill Palace: The King of Kochi built this Palace in the 19th century and the Kochi province was administered from here. Now the Palace has been converted into a Museum displaying a massive collection of articles used the earlier Kings of Kochi.
Jew Town: This town has been so named after the Jews as this area around the Synagogue is a centre of Curio Shops and trade in spices.
Museum of Kerala History: If you want go back to the past and view Kerala History, there are many paintings which will help you in your quest. Not only that, this Museum displays the life size Statues of many a famous personality.
Cherai Beach: This picturesque beach bordering Vypeen Island is excellent for swimming and other aqua sports.
Pallipuram Fort: This is one of the ancient Forts in Kerala.
Parikshit Thampuran Museum: SSituated near the famous Durban Hall Ground, near Siva Temple. this Museum houses a massive collection of archeological findings and relics including Murals, Oil paintings and old coins.
St Francis Church: TThis famous Church is where the legendary Portugese trader, Vasco da Gama, was buried. Later his mortal remains were taken to Portugal. The place where he was buried had been marked inside the Church.
General Description about the Queen of the Arabian Sea
|Area -||87341 sq kms|
|Nearest railway station||Ernakulam about 1 1/2 km from the Main boat jetty.|
|Nearest airport||Cochin International Airport, about 20 km|
|Comprising of mainland Ernakulam, Old Cochin, including Mattancherry, Fort Kochi, Palluruthy, and Thoppumpady, Willingdon Island, the suburbs of Edappally and the exurbia of Kalamassery,Thrikkakara and Kakkanad to the northeast, and Tripunithura to the southeast.|
|Population||2589038, Greater Cochin (2001 census)|
|Location||Latitude, 9 degree 15 E, The city lies between 'Thripunithura, the seat of the earstwhile royalty to its southeast and the Eloor-Kalamassery industrial belt to its north. To the west lies is the Arabian sea.|
|Language||Malayalam, the youngest in the Dravidian family. It is the official language of the State of Kerala.English is widely used in business circles.|
|Religion||Hindus account for the largest comnunity followed by Christians and Muslims. Cochin has also a small population of Jains, Jews, and Sikhs.|
|Time||(Indian standard Time + 5.30 hours GMT).|
|Climate||The warm tropical climate recommends light cotton clothes, waterproofing is essential during monsoons.|
|Water||Drink only bottled mineral water. Drink boiled water, particularly during the monsoons.|
|Electricity||220 volts. You'll require plug adapters.|
|Radio||Cochin FM 102.3 MHz. (Timings: 1658 hrs to 300 hrs (all days)|
days) 10 am -2 pm; (Sat) 10 am- 12 noon.
Some banks have evening counters.
Banks remain closed on Sundays (with a few exceptions), and specified bank holidays
Certain banks also provide 24- hour ATM service.
An artist's imagination of the proposed Kochi's Container Terminal