A municipal town from 1866 to 1967, Fort Kochi
now is one of the three main urban components that constitute the present day City of Kochi
in the Indian
State of Kerala
, the other two being Mattancherry
. In 1967, these three municipalities, along with a few adjoining areas, were amalgamated to form the new Corporation of Kochi.
Origin of the name Kochi
The most accepted theory is that the name derives from kochazhi
which, in Malayalam, denotes "small lagoon".
An ancient legend says that the god Parasurama created Kerala by throwing his axe into the ocean. The ocean god retreated until the mark where the axe fell into the ocean.
In the B.C.
period, the region that is today known as Kerala, had been covered by mangrove woods. When the sea level rose, turf and sand banks were created, which formed the shape of the coastal area as we see it today. The mattancherry is the nerve town of old historic cochin. Cochin, the name denotes, "co-chin", meaning "like-china". It looked like China
when the Chinese
came to the region during the 14th century
and erected beautiful Chinese nets. Incidentally, cherry means town in old malayalam. It is maadan-cherry. Maad or cow was the stamp of Old Royal Fort of Rajah of Cochin, who had built his palace at first, after the fall of Kodungallur or Mussaris port due to a gigantic tsunami in the year 1341 A.D.
. The Perumpadappu Swaroopam or the Forte of Rajah had its palace on the banks of the Calvathy River. Because of continued wars between King Samorin of Kozhikode and among the western colonial forces, the Rajah had to quit the place to Tripunithura. The king had his vaishnav leanings and cow or maadu was their symbol. So maadan-cherry or mattancherry, which never has exhibited any kingish or royal scar in its character .
Once a fishing village of no significance in the Kingdom of Kochi in the pre-colonial Kerala, the territory that would be later known as Fort Kochi was granted to the Portuguese in 1503 by the Rajah of Kochi, who also gave them permission to build a fort near the waterfront to protect their commercial interests. The first part of the name Fort Kochi comes from this fort, Fort Emmanuel, which was later destroyed by the Dutch. Behind the fort, the Portuguese built their settlement and a wooden church, which was rebuilt in 1516 as a permanent structure and which today is known as the St Francis Church. Fort Kochi remained a Portuguese possession for 160 years. In 1683 the Dutch captured the territory from the Portuguese, destroyed many Portuguese, particularly Catholic, institutions including convents. The Dutch held Fort Kochi as their possession for 112 years until 1795, when the British took control by defeating the Dutch. Four hundred and forty four years of foreign control of Fort Kochi ended in 1947 with the Indian independence.
A mix of old Portuguese, Dutch and British houses from these colonial periods line the streets of Fort Kochi. St Francis Church, built in 1503 by the Portuguese as a Catholic church and where Vasco da Gama was once buried, is now used by the Church of South India and is one of the national monuments of India. The Catholic church, Santa Cruz Basilica, also built by the Portuguese in the 1500s, was later destroyed by the British and rebuilt near the end of 19th century. The landmark that causes perhaps the most public and visitor interest is a series of pre-colonial Chinese fishing nets on the waterfront, believed to have been introduced by Chinese traders in the early 1300s.
Since the beginning of our common era, Arabian and Chinese traders sourced pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, sandal wood etc. from the Kochi region. Cultivation and trade concerning these valuable goods shaped the history of the region still until today. First the Arabian traders knew about these products, and they brought the highly wanted merchandise to Europe. Later, the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and afterwards the British fought for supremacy in this business.
Since 600 A.D.
One finds written documents about the Malabar coast. As early as this, there used to live Hindus, Christians, Muslims and a Jewish minority at this place.
The rise of Kochi began when a natural flood disaster destroyed the harbour of the town Kodungalur. By exactly this flood the harbour of Kochi was created. From then on, the town developed into one of the most important harbours of the Indian West Coast. It concentrated on the spice trade with China and Middle East.
At that time, there were two rival kings at the coast of Malabar, the Zamorin of Calicut, and the Maharaja of Cochin. This was the time when the first Portuguese ships landed at the Malabar coast: Vasco da Gama in Calicut, and Pedro Alvares Cabral in Kochi. The Maharaja of Kochi felt threatened by the Zamorin at Calicut, and he hoped that the Portuguese would help him in his defense of the neighbouring king of Calicut. The Maharaja welcomed the Portuguese, and they founded their first trading center in Kochi. Today some of these buildings from Portuguese times can be seen. Afterwards, the Maharaja of Cochin was largely deprived of his power, and Kochi became the first European colony in India. The Portuguese put pressure upon the small Jewish community, and even the "Syrian" Christians, who used to live here since many hundred years, had hard times. The Portuguese did not like the idea of a Christian community which did not belong to Rome, and thus they tried to merge the Syrian Christian Church with the Latin Church which consisted of people converted by the Portuguese. This created conflicts with the Indian caste system, because the Syrian Christians belonged to a higher caste than the Latin Christians which consisted mainly of poor fishermen from the coast.
From 1653 on
When the Dutch came to India, they allied with the Zamorin of Calicut, and they conquered Kochi in 1653. From then on, the period of prosperity of Kochi began. The town now belonged to the worldwide trading network of the Netherlan East India Company which was responsible for the economic rise of Kochi. The Dutch did not put pressure on the religious communities but had mainly economic interests.
From 1760 on
There came uneasy times for Kochi because of trouble between the regional powers. Kochi was devastated by von Hyder Ali
, then later by his son Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan subordinated the town temporarily to the kingdom of Mysore.
From 1790 on
Kochi came under the influence of the British. The British/Dutch pact from 1814 Kochi became a part of the Madras Presidency, and thus it became, finally, a part of the British colonial imperium. The British shaped the country until the 20th century, and Kochi has always been an important harbour and trade center.
From 1947 on
Kochi was the capital of the Union State Cochin.
The Union State Kerala was created in accord with the Malayalam speaking regions. Trivandrum became the capital of this state. In 1956 the first free elections were held, and the first Kerala government was a communist one, the first freely elected communist government in the world. The communist party has a great impact on Kerala politics even today, and, since then, the government used to change between Communist and Congress party. The last elections in 2005 were won by the Communist Party and its allies.
Main Tourist Attractions
- Indo portuguese museum
- Chinese Fishing Nets
- Dutch Cemetry
- Southern Naval Command Maritime Museum
- St. Francis Cathedral
- Santa Cruz Basilica
- Bishop's House