Cochin is the largest city in Kerala with a population of 5.5 lakhs. An all weather harbour, Cochin is an important centre for commerce and industry. It has a maritime history that began in the remote past. The Portuguese, the Dutch and the English had established themselves here at one time or the other. In fact Cochin fort was built by the Portuguese with the permission of the local ruler.
Cochin consists of mainland Ernakulam, Willington island, Fort Cochin - Mattancherry peninsula, Bolgatty and Gundu and Vypeen island.
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Cochin can be reached either by plane, by road or by train (All trains from Trivandrum to Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Bangalore and Mangalore pass through Ernakulam). Cochin is 67 kms from Kottayam and 63 kms along the coast from Alleppey.
Kerala State Tourism Development Corporation has 2 conducted tours that touch upon both old and new Cochin.
What to see: St.Francis Church This Protestant church was built by the Portuguese circa 1510 A.D. and is also the oldest church built by the Europeans in India. Vasco-da-Gama's gravestone is located here though his mortal remains were taken back to Portugal several years later. Originally the church was built of wood. Later it was demolished and rebuilt in stone, probably after 150 years. The Dutch and the English were also masters of the church during their occupation of Cochin. It is now a part of the church of South India.
Cochin Fort This fort was built by the Portuguese in 1503 A.D. and is at the entrance to the port. The spiderly Chinese nets at the entrance to the harbour, forming a silhoutte against the sky creates an ethereal picture.
Santa Cruz Church This cathedral was also built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Strangely enough it was blown up by the English in 1795 A.D. in their anxiety to prevent the Dutch from occupying it. It was renovated subsequently.
Bolgatty island This picturesque island has a palace built by the Dutch in 1744 A.D. which is now run as a hotel by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.
Places of interest in the vicinity
Alwaye This industrial town is at a distance of 23 kms from Ernakulam. The river Periyar and the Shiva temple are its attractions. Kaladi Kaladi which is also on the banks of the Periyar river is 19 kms away from Alwaye. This is the birth place of the great Indian philosopher Adi Sankaracharya. There are two shrines here one dedicated to this monotheist and the other to Goddess Sharada (Goddess of learning).
Cranganore Once the capital of the Cherman Perumals, Cranganore is 32 kms away from Cochin. A mosque, said to be the oldest in India, a fort built by the Portuguese and the famous Bhagwathi temple are the tourist attractions here.
Kodanad This elephant training centre is situated on the banks of the Periyar river, 52 kms from Ernakulam.
Kallil Temple This rock-cut temple of the Jains is at a distance of 13 kms from Perambarur. It has a statue of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, carved out of a rock.
Jewish Synagogue This magnificent prayer hall was constructed in 1568 A.D. and is the oldest Synagogue in the Commonwealth. The original building was destroyed in 1662 A.D. due to shelling by the Portuguese. It was rebuilt a few years later.
There are hand painted tiles imported from China in the middle of the 18th century by a business man named Ezekial Rahabi who erected a clock tower at the top of the building. Scrolls of the old testament are preserved here. On view is also the copper plates inscribed in ancient Hebrew script by which Ravi Varma I granted a village Anjuvannam to a Jewish merchant. .
The Synagogue is open from 10 a.m to 12 noon and 3 p.m to 5 p.m except on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. There is no entrance fee.
Butch Palace, Mattancherry This palace was actually built by the Portuguese in 1557 A.D. and gifted to Veera Kerala Varman, the then ruler of Cochin, probably to seek trading favours. However the Dutch undertook the renovation of this two storeyed quadrangular building after 1663 A.D. Since then it has been referred to as the Dutch Palace. It is also known as Mattancherry Palace by virtue of its locality.
The coronation of the kings used to take place in the central courtyard of the palace. Some of the royal possessions such as dresses, turbans and palanquins are displayed here. The most attractive aspect of the palace is the extensive range of murals depicting scenes from the Hindu epics.
Khe palace is open Monday through Saturday from 8.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Information: Courtesy Government of India
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.