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Fort Kochi is one of the three main urban components that constitute the city of Kochi in the Indian state of Kerala, the other two being Mattancherry and Ernakulam. In 1967, these three municipalities, along with a few adjoining areas, were amalgamated to form the Corporation of Cochin.

Cheena vala (Chinese fishing net)

Contents

Origin of the name Kochi

One theory for the origin of the name is that it derives from kochazhi which, in Malayalam, denotes "small lagoon".

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Scientific theory

In the B.C. period, the region that is today known as Kerala was covered by mangrove woods. Turf and sand banks were created with the rise in sea-level which formed the shape of the coastal area as we see it today. The name Cochin implies "co-chin", meaning "like-China". It looked like China when the Chinese came to the region during the 14th century and installed Chinese nets. Mattancherry is the nerve town of old historic Cochin. In old Malayalam it is maadan-cherry, cherry meaning town. Maad or cow was the stamp of Old Royal Fort of Rajah of Cochin, who built his palace after the fall of Kodungallur or Mussaris port due to a gigantic tsunami in 1341 A.D.. The Perumpadappu Swaroopam or the Forte of Rajah had its palace on the banks of the Calvathy River. Due to frequent wars between King Zamorin of Kozhikode and the western colonial forces, the Rajah left the place for Tripunithura. The king had his vaishnav leanings and cow or maadu was their symbol.

History

A Jain temple in Fort Kochi

Kochi was a fishing village 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. The Portuguese built their settlement behind the fort. They also built a wooden church, which was rebuilt in 1516 as a permanent structure, today known as the St Francis Church. Fort Kochi remained in Portuguese possession for 160 years. In 1683 the Dutch captured the territory from the Portuguese, destroyed many Portuguese institutions, particularly Catholic including convents. The Dutch held Fort Kochi in their possession for 112 years until 1795, when the British took control by defeating the Dutch. Foreign control of Fort Kochi ended in 1947 with the Indian independence.

A mix of old houses built by the Portuguese, Dutch and British in these colonial periods line the streets of Fort Kochi. St Francis Church was built in 1503 by the Portuguese as a Catholic church. Vasco da Gama was once buried in this church which now falls under the Church of South India and is one of the national monuments. 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 more 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.

First sources

Since the beginning of Common Era, Arabian and Chinese traders sourced spices, especially pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, sandal wood etc from the Kochi region. Cultivation and trade of these valuable goods shaped the history of the region. Even today, Kochi is an important centre of spice export. The Arabian traders were the first to know about these spices, and they carried the highly wanted merchandise to Europe. Centuries later, they were followed by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and afterwards the British.

Around 600 A.D.

Written documents about the Malabar Coast show that this region had Hindus, Christians, Muslims and a Jewish minority.

Around 1341

The natural harbour of Kochi was created by a flood which also destroyed the harbour of the town Kodungallur. Thereafter, the town developed into one of the most important harbours on the West Coast of India. It concentrated on the spice trade with China and the Middle East.

Around 1500

During this period, Calicut was ruled by king Zamorin and Kochi was ruled by the Maharaja of Cochin. This was the time when the first Portuguese ships berthed at the Malabar Coast: Vasco da Gama in Calicut and Pedro Álvares Cabral in Kochi. The Maharaja of Kochi felt threatened by the Zamorin of Calicut, and he hoped that the Portuguese would help him in his defense from the neighbouring king of Calicut. The Maharaja welcomed the Portuguese, and they founded their first trading center in Kochi. However, 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 lived there for hundreds of 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 who consisted mainly of poor fishermen from the coast.

Around 1653

When the Dutch came to India, they allied with the Zamorin of Calicut, and they conquered Kochi in 1653. A period of prosperity of Kochi began. The town now belonged to the worldwide trading network of the Netherlands East India Company which was responsible for the economic rise of Kochi. The Dutch mainly had economic interests and did not put pressure on the religious communities.

Around 1760

There came uneasy times for Kochi because of trouble between the regional powers. Kochi was devastated by Hyder Ali, then later by his son Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan subordinated the town temporarily to the kingdom of Mysore.

Around 1790

Kochi came under the influence of the British around this period. In 1814, Kochi became a part of the Madras Presidency becoming a part of the British colonial empire. The British shaped the country until the 20th century, and Kochi has always been an important harbour and trade center.

1947

Kochi was made the capital of the Union State Cochin after India gained independence.

1956

The Union State of Kerala was with respect to the Malayalam speaking regions with Trivandrum as the capital. In 1956 the first free elections were held and the Communist Party formed the first government of Kerala, the first freely elected communist government in the world.

Main Tourist Attractions

References


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