Kochi – The Queen of the Arabian Sea

Kochi also known by its anglicized name Cochin is located in Kerala, the southern State in India. It is the second largest city in Kerala after the state capital 제주독채민박 Thiruvananthapuram. It is located in the district of Ernakulam and about 220 kilometers (137 miles) far from the capital. With the largest urban agglomeration in the state, the city has always been one of the principal seaports of the country. Heralded as the Queen of Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the Arabian Sea coast since the 14th century. Kochi merchants began trading in spices such as black pepper and cardamom more than 600 years ago.

In many ancient scriptures and history books based on Kochi, one finds that ancient travelers and tradesmen frequented the city from time immemorial including the Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch, and Portuguese, who came here mainly for the purpose of trade have left indelible marks on the history and development of Cochin. Many of these groups went on to reside in the city for sometime before migrating away to other lands. Kochi thus has been a cultural melting pot due to successive waves of migration both within India and from outside over the course of several millennia.

The pan-Indian nature is highlighted by the substantial presence of various ethnic communities from different parts of the country and many people including Anglo-Indians who are products of cross-breeding with foreigners. The city once had a large Jewish community, known as the Malabar Yehuden-and now referred to as Cochin Jews. The nos. of this group has dwindled and the foreign blood has been substantially diluted with local marriages. Retaining the Jewish knack for business, this group has figured prominently in Kochi’s business and economic strata.

Over the years, Cochin has emerged as the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala and is perhaps the second most important city on the west coast of India (after Mumbai). Cochin has a world class port and international airport that links it to many major cities worldwide. Its strategic importance over the centuries is underlined by the reference-Gateway to Kerala.

Kochi is a prosperous city and also known as the financial capital of Kerala. Surrounded by the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west, it is a breathtakingly beautiful and scenic land. Kochi one of the best places to travel and it also boasts of hundreds of islands, some even uninhabited. This important and beautiful port city been rated as the top three tourist destinations by the World Travel & Tourism Council and featured in National Geographic Traveler’s ’50 greatest places of a lifetime’.

Kochi has a lot of remnants from the past still clinging on. As European a city as one can find in India, it has Fort Cochin built by the Portuguese on an island offshore that seems to be pulled straight out of the 16th century with narrow, winding, canal-lined streets, 500 year-old Portuguese houses, cantilevered Chinese fishing nets lining the northwest shore of the island, a 16th century synagogue surrounded by ‘Jew Town,’ which was once home to the flourishing.

Indian Jewish population, the oldest church in India and a palace that was built by the Portuguese, renovated by the Dutch, and eventually was given to the Indian Raja of Cochin. The most famous symbol of Kochi is the row of Chinese fishing nets at the mouth of the harbor leading to the Arabian Sea in Fort Kochi, the oldest part of the city. In Ernakulam, where modernity has ushered in skyscrapers and shopping malls, the old quarter.

The Fort Kochi area and Mattancherry area — maintains a colonial air and has building that have been designated as a part of Kochi’s heritage. Vasco House in Fort Kochi located on Rose Street, is believed to be one of the oldest Portuguese houses in India. Vasco da Gama is believed to have lived here. This house features European glass paned windows and verandahs. Da Gama reached India in the autumn of 1524, but he died in Kochi only three months after his arrival. Even in death, Da Gama remained a traveller. Though his remains were removed from Kochi and buried in Goa.

It was subsequently removed and sent to Portugal to be interred in the Church of Vidigueira. However, the coffin remained there until 1880, and it was finally transferred to a marble sepulcher in the church of the Monastery of the Jerónimos at Belém, outside Lisbon. Kochi had the honour of hosting the great explorer-colonist and the fact that his final exploration of another world began here associated the city with him forever. Despite the forward march of modernity, the city retains its distinct colonial heritage and is a lovely blend of tradition and modernity.

Etymology:

Etymologically, many theories exist pertaining how Kochi derived its name. Ancient travellers and tradesmen referred to Kochi in their writings, variously alluding to it as Cocym, Cochym, Cochin, and Cochi. According to some accounts, traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan gave Cochin the name of their homeland. The Chinese connection seem to obvious from the trademark fishing nets prevalent in the area known as china-vala or Chinese nets. Another theory is that Kochi is derived from the word Kachi meaning ‘harbor’.

Accounts by Italian explorers Nicolo Conti (15th century), and Fra Paoline in the 17th century say that it was called Kochchi, named after the river connecting the backwaters to the sea. After the arrival of the Portuguese, and later the British, the name Cochin stuck as the official appellation. The city reverted to a closer Anglicization of its original Malayalam name, Kochi, in 1996. However, it is still widely referred to as Cochin, with the city corporation retaining its name as Corporation of Cochin.

Geography:

Kochi is located on the southwest coast of India at 9°58?N 76°13?E? /?9.967°N 76.217°E? / 9.967; 76.217, spanning an area of 94.88 square kilometers (36.63 sq mi). The city is situated at the northern end of a peninsula, about 19 kilometers (12 mi) long and less than one mile (1.6 km) wide. To the west lies the Arabian Sea, and to the east are estuaries drained by perennial rivers originating in the Western Ghats. Much of Kochi lies at sea level, with a coastline of 48 km.

This lovely seaside city is flanked by the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. Its proximity to the equator, the sea and the mountains provide a rich experience of a moderate equatorial climate. It is separated into numerous distinct areas particularly close to each other. These include the mainland areas of Ernakulam City (where the train stations to the rest of India leave and arrive), Willingdon Island, Fort Kochi (the primary tourist enclave), Mattancherry, Kumbalangi and outlying islands. These distinct neighborhoods arose as the result of a mixed past.

Brief History:

The port city of Kochi has a very colorful and rich history. The city occupies a very strategic position geographically, being flanked by the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. Cochin’s trade links with Chinese and the Arabs is reputed to be at least 2000 years old. Christianity in this city dates back to the apostle Thomas, who, as tradition holds and evidence suggests, landed in India in AD 54 to spread the Gospel.

Kochi was the centre of Indian spice trade for many centuries, and was known to the Yavanas (Greeks) as well as Romans, Jews, Arabs, and Chinese since ancient times. The earliest documented references to Kochi occur in books written by Chinese voyager Ma Huan during his visit to Kochi in the 15th century as part of Admiral Zheng He’s treasure fleet. There are also references to Kochi in accounts written by Italian traveller Niccolò Da Conti, who visited Kochi in 1440.

It may be said to have originated as an important port in 1341 AD when the flooded Periyar River destroyed a world-renowned port, at Kodungallur, just north of Cochin and created an all-new harbor in Cochin, which is today one of the finest natural harbors on the West coast of India. Cochin’s busy port assumed a new strategic importance and began to experience commercial prosperity after the flood. The Portuguese penetrated the Indian Ocean in the late 15th century.

Vasco da Gama, discoverer of the sea route to India, established the first Portuguese factory (trading station) there in 1502, and the Portuguese viceroy Afonso de Albuquerque built the first European fort in India there in 1503. It was the first European fort in India. The British settled here in 1635 but were forced out by Dutch in 1663, under whom the town became an important trade center. It came under the sovereignty of Haider Ali, the militant prince of Mysore in 1776, but was surrendered by his son Tipu Sahib to the British in 1791.

There is also evidence pointing to the presence of Jews since at least AD 388. Legend holds that the Jews first settled in India during the time of King Solomon, when there was trade in teak, ivory, spices and peacocks between the Land of Israel and the Malabar Coast, where Cochin is located. Others put their arrival at the time of the Assyrian exile in 722 BC, the Babylonian exile in 586 BC or after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 BC.

No reliable evidence exists, but most contemporary scholars fix the date at some time during the early middle Ages. The earliest documentation of permanent Jewish settlements is on two copper plates now stored in Cochin’s main synagogue. Engraved in the ancient Tamil language, they detail the privileges granted a certain Joseph Rabban by Bhaskara Ravi Varma, the fourth-century Hindu ruler of Malabar.

The earliest account of Kochi is derived from the records made by the Chinese traveler, Ma Huan. Even in other documents belonging from the same period, the account of Cochin history prior to the Portuguese rule is quite vague. As per the available information, the city gained its reputation of being a port city only after the collapse of the Kulashekhara kingdom. In 1102 CE, Kochi became the seat of the Kingdom of Cochin, a princely state which traces its lineage to the Kulashekhara Empire. According to many historians, it came into existence in 1102, after the fall of the Kulashekhara Empire.

The King of Kochi had authority over the region encompassing the present city of Kochi and adjoining areas. The reign was hereditary, and the family that ruled over Kochi was known as the Cochin Royal Family (Perumpadappu Swaroopam in the local vernacular). The mainland Kochi remained the capital of the princely state since the 18th century. However, during much of this time, the kingdom was under foreign rule, and the King often only had titular privileges.

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