Kerala Tourism has a Kochi Known as ‘Queen of the Arabian sea”, A city born in the storm, nurtured in the rivalry and established as battling ground for European empires. This phrase makes perfect understanding of Kochi, which was formed as an ancient port city after the Great Floods of the Periyar River in 1341. With partitioning of Chera Kerala Empire in the 14th century, this region came under the control of a new dynasty, rivalled by other local feudal lords. With the advent of colonisation, Kochi became the first major battlegrounds of almost all European powers. However, least it made an impact on the fortunes of this city. Kochi merchants began trading in spices such as black pepper and cardamom with the Arabs, Dutch, Phoenicians, Portuguese, and Chinese more than 600 years ago. This helped Kochi to prosper and to become the gateway to old India. It was from Kochi that the colonisation of India started. Portugal was first to establish its base in Kochi, followed by the Dutch and English. The Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1814 compelled the Dutch to hand over Kochi to the British in exchange for Bangka Island in Indonesia. The British managed to establish their influence over Kochi, limiting their direct administration to a small enclave of Fort Kochi and British Ernakulam with their capital at Bolgatty Island. The rest of the Kochi Kingdom was administered by Kochi Maharajas from their capital at Thripunithura. However, the real administration was done by Diwan (Prime Ministers), leaving the Maharajas to patronise culture, arts and focus heavily on public health and education areas. The foundations of modern Kochi city started when Sir Robert Bristow, a senior Royal Navy Engineer felt the need of a modern large port after the opening of Suez Canal. This made the creation of the largest man-made island of the country, the Willington Island to house new Kochi Port. In the 1930s, the Kochi Maharaja joined the public outcry to form a common state of Malayalam-speaking people by merging with the Kingdom of Travancore and British Malabar. Kochi Maharaja Kerala Varma Raja was at the forefront of this agitation and passed the Aykia Kerala Resolution in the Kochi Parliament. In 1947, the Kingdom of Kochi and Travancore merged to form the Royal State of Travancore-Kochi. The Kochi Maharaja was amongst the first to advocate the state joining the newly formed Indian Union. Finally, in 1948, the state of Travancore-Kochi merged with India. Since the formation of Kerala in 1957, Kochi has been the commercial capital of Kerala as well as the seat of the Kerala High Court. Since 2000, Kochi has revitalised its economy, with a focus on tourism, information technology and the port.
Chinese Fishing Nets Locally known as ‘Cheenavala’ at Fort Kochi Beach Serves as the official icon of Kochi and are a testimony of relations between Ancient Chinese Empires and the Kochi Kingdom. They were gifted by Chinese Emperor Kublai to Kochi King in the 14th century. There were more than 100, though currently, only a few remain in working condition.
Hill Palace Museum which was previously erstwhile Kochi Maharaja’s palace, now converted to a large museum along with a small zoo. Has paintings and epigraphy from the collections of the Travancore & Kochi royal families. This is the largest archaeological palace in South India with more than 500 artefacts divided into 16 galleries. The highlight of the Palace is the display of multi-billion worth Cochin Royal Crown and Crown Jewels. The Crown Gallery is a high-security zone which has elaborate security check procedures, photography and bags are prohibited. The Palace complex is huge with several buildings inside it. There is a good Deer Park along with peacocks. A small fauna garden was set up in 2003. Also, the palace has more than 100 different species of trees and plants, many of which are of medical value. The biggest highlight of Hill Palace is the display of Royal Crown, crafted in pure gold weighing 1.75 kg with 95 diamonds and 2,000 other precious stones. It was a gift by the Portuguese to Veera Kerala Varma on his coronation day, which was regarded too extravagant for the Kochi Rajas, who were known for their simple lifestyle. This became a famous tradition that no Kochi Maharajas ever wore this crown, only to keep it on his lap as a testimony of their humbleness and simplicity. Nearly ten golden crowns were gifted to the Rajas by various colonial powers like Dutch, English, Chinese and Arabs which were never worn by the Maharajas.
Kerala Folklore Museum One of the best museums in Kerala. This is a private collection of many different artifacts from around Kerala. There are frequent cultural performances at the museum, which you may be lucky to see while there and are put on when overseas tour groups are in attendance.
Santacruz Basilica The first European Church built in Asia, by the Portuguese in 1502, also the first Cathedral of Asia and set of second Catholic Diocese in India. The British modified the structure and added oil paintings. Today, it serves as the primary seat of the Latin church of Kerala. Pope John Paul II declared it a Basilica in 1984. It houses several historical paintings, decors and artefacts.
Indo-Portuguese Museum A modern museum highlighting the start of European colonisation of the Orient in the 16th century. The museum showcases the growth and decline of the Portuguese life in Kochi with the focus on the growth of the Latin Church. There are also excavated ruins of the former fort wall in the basement of the museum.
St. Francis Church Constructed by the Portuguese in 1503 and the burial place of Vasco da Gama (his remains were later transferred to Lisbon). His tombstone can be seen inside the church. The church has a large cemetery which serves as resting grounds of many Portuguese army officials and soldiers. The church is the only Catholic Church not demolished by Dutch which was handed over to British to re-establish an Anglican church. A large war memorial can be seen in its backyard to honour the unknown soldiers who sacrificed their lives for World War-1. It is an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monument.
VOC Gate The only remains of the office of Dutch East India Company is this large wooden gate with a monogram (VOC – Verenigde Oostindische Companie emblem of Dutch East India Company).
David Hall This 315 years old Dutch bungalow was the official residence of the Dutch Army commanders, the most famous being Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Draakestein who was the author of Horticus Malabaricus. Currently, the complex belongs to Netherlands Govt agency CNO which recently renovated to open a large art gallery, a traditional Dutch performing arts centre and large studio for young painters. The building is a classic specimen of colonial Dutch architecture with elaborate Dutch gardens.
Bastion Bungalow Typical Indo-Dutch architecture, this bungalow was built on the site of the erstwhile Stromsburg Fort, which was demolished during the Arab raids. Currently, it serves as the official residence of the Cochin Sub-Collector and entry is restricted.
Indian Naval Maritime Museum INS Dronarcharya, Fort Kochi Built by the Indian Navy. Many battle scenes are recreated with life-size models, a huge display of naval arms and ammunition, replicas of large naval ships, personalities, are some of the major highlights.
Dutch Palace also is known as ‘Mattancherry Kottaram’ locally was constructed by the Portuguese in 1568 as a gift to Maharaja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma, after he granted permission to construct Fort Immanuel. During the Dutch siege of Kochi, many parts of the original palace were destroyed. However, the Dutch Governor repaired the palace and renamed as Dutch Palace. The coronations of Kochi Maharajas are always held here. A large throne and coronation costumes are on display and there is an extensive collection of royal chariots, swords and other artefacts. The most interesting part is the mural room, which has the entire Ramayana and Mahabharata depicted in a single mural.
Jew Street and Paradesi Synagogue only open to Jews. The synagogue was constructed in 1568 after allowing Jewish refugees from Jerusalem to settle here during the Crusades making this the Commonwealth’s oldest Synagogue. This is one of the very few functional synagogues in India and the structure is unique due to the influence of native Hindu-Christian architecture as well as the only synagogue having two bimahs. Many Jews lived in the area until the creation of Israel, today there is only a handful. Jew Street is a heritage zone with several antique/handicraft shops.
Princess Street also was known as Loafer’s Corner is the most famous street of Fort Kochi which gives you a slice of authentic colonial European architecture. The only street that never faced any raid or demolitions in past, Princess street is a perfect destination for the evening walk with numerous western styled cafes, souvenir shops, art galleries and heritage complexes.
Chendamangalam Palace Fort or ‘Chendamanalam’ Here the plans were forged for revolt against the British in the 1820s. A functional Jewish Synagogue and a large market are some of the attractions. Now, it is a major centre for handloom weaving and coir manufacturing.
Pallipuram Fort located at Vypin Island, built by the Portuguese in 1503 is the oldest existing European fortification in India. It was later handed over to the Travancore Army, to become a major army base till 1903 when it was converted into a heritage museum. It has a small museum and good views of the lagoon on one side and the sea on the other.
Pierce Leslie Bungalow The only surviving bungalow built in authentic Portuguese style, it was the home and office of famous English merchant family the Leslies. Currently, it has been restored into a boutique hotel. The hotel management, however, allows tourists to explore the grand exteriors and public.
Mattamchery Koonen Kurishu Pazhaya Suriyani Palli which means ‘The church made of Mud’ Is St.George Indian orthodox old Syrian church, It’s one of the historical centres of St Thomas Christians also known as Syrian Christians and Nazrani Christians. The famous oath against Roman Catholic Petro ado policies and Portuguese rule supported by Pope of Rome was taken here by the native Christians by holding on to a cord tied to a cross. The cross was destroyed by the Portuguese. Now a beautiful church made of unbaked brick and mud is a great attraction. The uniqueness of the church is the absence of scaffoldings or concrete beams for the roof. The church was recognised with many international and national awards including NDTV National Architecture Award 2015. The koonen cross is now reinstalled in this church. The church is owned by Malankara Orthodox Church, one of the 6 oriental churches. It’s a famous pilgrim centre too.
International Pepper Exchange at Jew town Fort Kochi is Kochi’s answer to New York’s Wall Street, but instead of money, it’s all about pepper trading. This is the world’s only pepper exchange a worth for visiting to see the wide range of pepper varieties as well as some of trading practices.
Museum of Kerala History a good, well-maintained museum with a 40 minute light and sound shows (English and Malayalam) about Kerala history Depicts the history of Kerala through life-like wax statues. Adjacent is the Museum of Dolls with nearly 1,000 dolls from various countries, and M.N.F Art and Sculpture Gallery that has many good collections of paintings and sculptures. This museum has a small, well-maintained garden.
Museum of Kerala History and Art Gallery Contains oil paintings, old coins, sculptures, Mughal paintings plus models of temples and traditional Kerala buildings. This was the official Durbar Hall of Kochi Maharajas, now converted into a large fine arts gallery, named after last Maharaja of Kochi, who was an oil painter. A small studio is nearby promoting young artists. Free.
Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village, Kumbalangi Island. India’s first eco-tourist village, this award-winning initiative allows tourists to explore and enjoy the authentic rural culture with the cooperation of natives without disturbing their natural lifestyle. Tourists to this island village have chances to explore rural work styles, a specialised local paddy cultivation, canoeing in a country boat in a maze of mangrove forests or enjoying fishing or partying in rural style with locals. In order to maintain best eco-protection practices, several restrictions are placed on the use of plastics, smoking or even carrying soft-drinks.
Mastyafed Milky Way Aqua-Tourist Village A unique concept, where a large shrimp farm of the state-run Mastyafed Organization is converted into an Aqua-tourist village with many options to fish for fresh prawns, crabs and shrimp (you can take your catch for a nominal fee), canoeing within a mangrove forest, sun-bathing, swimming at a private beach nearby and enjoying sunset picnic cruise. The breakfast and lunch, which are included in the entry cost, have a wide range of fish delicacies and fish pickles.
Thrikkakara Temple The only temple in India devoted to the Hindu deity Vamana and a major center for celebration of the Onam festival. Get here during Onam and you can catch ten days of festivities, peppered with performances of Kerala’s traditional arts and ending with a Onam feast.
Thirumala Devaswom Temple in Mattancherry, Built on 5 acres of land by the Gowda Sarawatha Brahmins with Lord Venkateswara as the main deity. It is famous for housing the second largest brass bell in Asia. The North Gopuram is fully roofed with copper.
Ernakulam Siva Temple also is known as Ernakulattappan Kshetram located at the centre of City, near the Durbar Hall Ground. Ernakulam Shiva Temple is considered to the Main City temple, with its presiding deity, Lord Shiva respected as Lord of the City. The temple comprises of 3 temples, the Shiva Temple, a Tamil temple for Lord Muruga and Kannadiga Temple for Hanuman.
Chottanikara Devi Temple at Thripunithura 15 km from the city is one of the 108 large Devi (Goddess) temples of India. The temple is famous for treatments of various psychic disorders like split personality syndrome as well as for its annual Makam festival (mid-Feb-mid-March).
Poornathresya Temple in the heart of Thripunithura is devoted to Lord Vishnu was once the royal temple of Kochi Maharajas. This temple is famous for its Panthizhuaari (Milk Dessert made of rice flakes) distributed during afternoons and grand temple festivals twice in a year.
Dharmanath Desar Jain Mandir Popularly known as Gujarati Mandir is one of the oldest Jain temples in India, established by the Gujarati community who settled here more than 300 years ago. This is a major Thirtha (pilgrimage) for Jains and all major North Indian festivals are celebrated in a grand way. Pigeon feeding during noon is one of the main rituals here.
Edappally St.George Cathedral The largest church in India Malayattoor Kurisumudi, (26 km away). Kurisumudi is a mountain located in Malayattoor and is a major Christian pilgrimage centre believed to be the place where St. Thomas visited and prayed. Today, the major feast of Malayattoor is the Puthunjayar festival, celebrated on Sunday that comes after Easter.
St. Francis Assisi Cathedral is Locally known as Kappalpalli (Ship Church due to its ship-shaped structure). St. Francis Here Prays “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen”
St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica The Cathedral is dedicated to “Our Lady of Ports”. The Cathedral was built in the early twentieth century under the direction of Mar Louis Pazheparambil The church is also a prominent Marian Pilgrim Center in India.
St. Antony’s Shrine belongs to Archdiocese of Verapoly people of different faith and culture flock together day and night seeking blessings.
Kanjiramattam Mosque A major Muslim pilgrimage hub and venue of the Kudikkuthu Festival. It is famous for the annual Urus festival. The imams of this mosque are famous for being leading scholars, who were advisors to Kochi Rajas.
Chembittapally Mosque Famous for its large super-imposing structure having large shining copper domes thus the name, which means Mosque having Copper Roofs.
Subhash Park & Park Avenue. One of the largest parks in Kochi. The idea of the new road came up in 1903, when Kochi Maharaja Rajarishi Rama Varma (1895–1914), was travelling to attend the Kochi Durbar. The king was well known for his deep passion for gardening and nature. He felt a need for beautiful tree-lined roads similar to those in Europe and America. He directed the Diwan to lay a new park where the public can unwind in evenings. Thus a new park came up in the open space opposite Shiva temple facing the sea, named as Rama Varma Park. The king ordered for beautifying the road bordering the park with a wide variety of flowering trees like Gulmohar etc. The king even passed a law prohibiting any person cutting down the trees, even branches without the sanction of Royal court. The beauty of road impressed the Hon. British Resident of Kochi, that he renamed the street as Park Avenue.
The beauty of stretch was so impressive that several important institutions were later established in this stretch. This includes the Kochi State Legislature Assembly Building (current Law college), Kochi Royal Huzur Cutchery (Secretariat- the current Taluk Office), Raja’s court of Appeal (current Ernakulam District Courts), Royal Medical Office (current DMO office), Diwan’s Bungalow (current Government Guest House), Ernakulam Mayor House (current Corporation of Cochin office) and St.Teresa’s College. These were in addition to the existing major structures, the Maharaja’s College and Ernakulam General Hospital. The annual Durbar processions which normally used to take place in Chittoor Road was later shifted to this stretch.
On August 15, 1947, the Park witnessed the ceremony lowering of Kochi Kingdom’s Flag for fluttering Indian Tricolour as per Kochi Raja’s directive (who was the first Indian prince to join the Indian Union willingly). After Independence, the road was taken over by Ernakulam Municipality and retained in the same way as desired by its founder- Maharaja Rajarishi.
Children’s Park. With children’s rides, a musical fountain and a small boating lake. The Children’s Park also known as Indira Priyadarshini Park is located in the heart of the city. The main attractions of the park are pedal boating pond, coaching classes for roller skating, musical fountain, mini toy train, small vehicles for hire etc. Children can enjoy a ride on the toy train running through the park. There is a play music fountain also where children can dance to the music played while the water splashes on them. Everything is painted in bright yellows and blue color. There is a recent addition, a renewable Energy park which explains various natural Energy sources and their working to the children. Programmes are conducted to promote children’s talents like drawing, painting, music, dance etc in every holiday season. Kids of all ages can keep themselves entertained for hours. Behind the park starts the Marine Drive walkway.
Managalavanam is an ecologically sensitive area situated at the centre of the Indian city of Kochi.Covering about 2.74 hectares, it also houses a shallow tidal lake connected with Kochi backwaters by a canal. It is situated behind the Kerala High Court building. It is a nesting ground for a large variety of migratory birds and supports many types of mangroves. The Managalavanam is often regarded as the “green lung of Kochi”, considering its role in keeping the city’s air pollution under check. An area is a roosting place for many kinds of resident and migratory birds.
Recently the high-rise buildings in the nearby area are curtailing the movement of birds in the sanctuary. The buildings close to the sanctuary interrupt proper orientation, take-off and landings of the birds. They also cause hurdles in the regular movements of the nesting birds in transporting nesting materials. It is also likely to hinder the movement of birds while bringing food materials to the chicks and fledgelings. The administrative control of the sanctuary is the Assistant Conservator of Forest and Wildlife Warden Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary of Nature Study Centre Kalady and then to the Range Officer Research Range Kodanad.
Poru an unexplored beautiful scenic river bank, The Periyar River flows here in its original pure form, without any kind of pollution. During summer season when the volume of river water is at its lowest, it is very easy to cross the 2 km wide river from one bank to other. Beware during rainy reason, when a large volume of river water flushes this area and it is extremely dangerous to swim.
Cherai Beach Golden beaches with big sand grains, coconut palm corridors, backwaters, and historical monuments. Cherai Beach is one of the safest beaches to swim or play water sports or beach games. Very large beautiful backwaters just 250 m from beach famous for its scenic beauty and boating, Cherai Beach surpasses all with its swimming facility and coconut groves. Occasional sights of dolphins are also an added attraction.
Kodanadu Elephant Training College Lies on the southern bank of the Periyar amongst the scenic beauty of the high ranges; Kodanadu is extremely famous for its unique elephant training college, elephant orphanage and a mini zoo with deer and peacocks here. Wild elephants are first tamed in special cradles and then taken to the nearby training college, where they are trained. The elephant orphanage rears baby elephants until they are ready for training college. Elephant safari is one of the most sought tourist activity here along with kids playing ball games with baby elephants.
Fort Kochi Beach a historic beach where 1st Portuguese-Dutch war broke out in the 17th century. Once a very large beach, it has reduced to a quarter in size after the Tsunami. A beautiful, small walkway is constructed recently, making ideal for evening strolls. One can find remnants of Old Portuguese Immanuel Fort along with parts of Dutch Stromberg Fort with some canons still kept intact. An obsolete boiler that once used for powering cranes of the old port and a very large anchor of an Old Portuguese ship are displayed on the walkway. Works for creating a new artificial beach is undergoing near to this old beach with help of Tsunami development funds.