Kerala

In the bylanes of Fort Kochi

With the moniker “Queen of Arabian Sea”, the colonial name of this coastal city, Cochin implies “Co-Chin” meaning “like-China” since it resembled China when in 14th-century Chinese traders came in and installed Chinese fishing nets. These finishing nets are still found only in Kochi outside of China and are one of the most photographed places in the city.

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The Chinese fishing nets of Fort Cochin, from Das Buch der Welt, Stuttgart, 1842-48
The Chinese fishing nets of Fort Cochin, from Das Buch der Welt, Stuttgart, 1842-48

Located on the west side of the city is Fort Kochi which has a very interesting history having been invaded by different nations. First came in the Portuguese(who later moved to Goa), the Dutch, followed by the Britishers. So it was from Kochi that the colonization of India started. The name Fort in ‘Fort Kochi’ came from Fort Emmanuel that was constructed by Portuguese, near the waterfront. The Dutch later destroyed it but the name endured.

Comprising of several small islands,  backwaters, and the Laccadive Sea along with two flowing rivers – Periyar & Muvattupuzha, Kochi is a city one falls in complete love with owing to the tropical monsoon climate.

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The streets of Fort Kochi is a subtle mix of traditional houses in Portuguese, Dutch & British styles. There are old style bungalows that have been converted to clubs, art galleries, cafes or homestays. A cornucopia of various Indian & international communities -Syrian Christians were the first one to come followed by Jews, Arabs, Gujaratis, Portuguese, Dutch, French & British- Fort Kochi is a perfect blend of all and is, therefore, best discovered on foot.

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Cafe Pepper House
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Tower Road

The burgeoning cafe culture here is what Fort Kochi has acquired a recent fame for, along with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale held every year at Aspinwall House. Walk around the Parade Ground and into the nearby lanes & you’ll come across cozy cafes, bookstores, antique shops. One can also walk around Fort Kochi Beach(which sadly isn’t a beach anymore) munching tapioca chips from a street vendor, witnessing the steam boilers or go for a Kathakali performance at the Greenix tourist center, or spend some time admiring the collection at the Public library at Pepper House Cafe on Kalvathi Road.

 

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Malabar House Restaurant
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Public Library at Cafe Pepper House

Mattancherry, whose name originates from ‘the street full of butchers’ (Muttoncherie) since cherry means town in Malayalam. The Dutch Palace at Mattancherry has mural paintings in warm colors depicting scenes from Hindu epics Ramayan, Mahabharata & Puranic legends in intricate detail. There are few unfinished murals as well. Also, there is a portrait gallery of Cochin Rajas & their royal paraphernalia. One may also witness few descriptions and references on the history of how the modern day’s sari, petticoat, blouse, came about and from where.

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Cochin Club

 

 

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