Cochin - Kochi - Ernakulam ( Kerala , South India)
Cochin welcomed, endured, survives and ultimately surmounted the Portugese, the Dutch and the English who were lured by the bewitching shores of this marvellous natural harbour grown from a fishing hamlet. This city has the symbiotic relationship between land and water and can be best observed during a cruise along 'kayal' between Ernakulam and Perumbalam. Ernakulam is Kochi's modern counterpart on the Kerala mainland. Kochi and Ernakulam are in front of each other across the channel. Cochin is now the commercial hub and hence can be termed as commercial capital of Kerala. Consisting of several islands over which the city has spread, Kochi has one of the finest harbours on the Arabian Sea Coast. It is also a major naval base. The close proximity of the wharves, railway terminus and airport has added to give Kochi the name as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea". Kochi is the base for tourists to see places in the interior of Kerala. Centuries old Chinese connection can also be observed in the form of huge cantilevered "cheenavals- Chinese fishing nets", hung from bamboo and teakwood poles at Vasco de Gama Square.
ST. FRANCIS CHURCH: Believed to be the oldest European built church, it was constructed in 1503 AD by Portuguese Franciscan Friars who had accompanied the expedition led by Pedro Alvarez Cabral. This church is a monument of ageless grandeur. Built originally of wood, it was later rebuilt in stone. Surrounded by a bell turret over the gable front, the church which faces west has an impressive fašade with an arched entrance and windows flanked by stepped pinnacles. It still has the original hand pulled Pankhas or fans and the tomb where Vasco de Gama was buried. His remains were taken 14 years later to Portugal. The birth and death register of the church proclaims its antiquity. The Dutch and the English used the church for some time. It is not a Protestant Church taken over by the Church of South India.
KOCHI FORT: This forms a part of the old city through which all the ships enter and leave the harbour. The southern wing of Vypeen is a part of fort Kochi. It was originally built by Portuguese in 1503 AD. Fort Kochi is still a sleepy town. It is like an overgrown village blossomed into a city. There are numerous thickly populated narrow lanes. For any visitor on India tour, the Kochi Fort presents a slice of history with its fishing nets, supposed to have been brought in by the followers of Kubla Khan from China. They work like giant winged insects very ingeniously operated with a cantilever arrangement with stones acting as the counter weights.
SANTA CRUZ CATHEDRAL: Built by the Portuguese in the 16th century as a Roman Catholic Church, it has beautiful paintings and frescoes. The old church was blown off by the British to prevent its occupation by the Dutch. Later, it was rebuilt and renovated with many decorations.
JEWISH SYNAGOGUE: The quaint four centuries old "Paradesi Synagogue" of the White Jews at Mattanchery is something more than a simple but elegant structure. Enshrined within it are certain imperishable values- the inflexible will of a people to follow their ancient faith and their devotion to the land of their adoption. The first Synagogue was built at Kochangadi in 1345 AD. Following their expulsion from Cranganore by the Portuguese, the Jews built their town at Mattanchery and the Synagogue there in 1568 AD. The Portuguese partially destroyed it but it was rebuilt in 1664 AD. The clock tower was constructed by Ezekiel Rahani in 1760. Treasured possessions in the Synagogue are the hand written texts of the five Books of Moses on goat skin and a golden crown presented by the Maharaja of Travancore in 1805. There are also some silver lamps in the Synagogue gifted by Colonel Macauley, the first Resident of Travancore and Cochin. The special attraction is the flooring paved with decorative tiles of willow pattern, blue on white, and none of them alike. Specially made in China, they were presented by Ezekiel Rahani in 1763. The cemetery attached to the Synagogue contains many tombs bearing Hebrew inscriptions. Another interesting feature is that no priest is employed is employed in the Synagogue. Any male Jew, above 13 years, can conduct the service. Nearby is the Synagogue for the Black Jews. Two granite slabs with Hebrew inscriptions are found fixed on its walls. These Synagogues will be of considerable interest to the students of plastic art.
DUTCH PALACE (MATTANCHERY PALACE): One of the oldest buildings built by the Portuguese in India, adopting mostly indigenous style is the Mattanchery Palace. The two storeyed quadrangular mansion, with its long and spacious halls and finely worked ceilings, is also known as the Dutch Palace. This palace was presented to the Cochin ruler Vira Kerala Varma. Abode of the royal family for centuries, the extensions and renovations were done by the Dutch a century later. In the central courtyard is a shrine for Bhagawati, the tutelary deity of the royal family. There are other shrines for Vishnu and Shiva. The building has now been converted as a museum. The paintings on the walls depict the social life of those days. Major attraction is the mural paintings of scenes from Ramayana. The coronation of kings used to take place in the central courtyard of this palace. Some Royal possessions such as their dress, weapons, palanquins and turbans are exhibited here.
KOCHI DEVASWOM: Within the heart of the city is a temple dedicated to Venkateshwara and built by the Konkani Gowda Saraswath Brahmins who migrated to Kochi from Goa in 1560 AD. The idol was brought from Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu by Swamy Raghavendra Tirtha. The temple is constructed in Nagara style of architecture. Very few temples can compete with it in this part of the country from the point of view of size and architecture. It is rich in wooden carvings and paintings.