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Queen of the Arabian Sea
A part of the Marine Drive, Kochi, as seen from the Vembanad Lake
Location of Kochi
in Kerala and India
Coordinates 9°58′37″N 76°16′12″E / 9.977°N 76.27°E / 9.977; 76.27
Country  India
State Kerala
District(s) Ernakulam
Mayor Mercy Williams
Deputy Mayor C. K. Manisankar
564,589[1] (2001)
5,951 /km2 (15,413 /sq mi)
1,541,175[2] (2009)
Sex ratio 1.017 /
Literacy 94.3%
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
94.88 km2 (37 sq mi)
0 m (0 ft)
48 km (30 mi)
Am (Köppen)
     2,743 mm (108 in)

Kochi (Malayalam: കൊച്ചി, pronounced [koˈtʃːi]( listen)), formerly known as Cochin, is a city in the Indian state of Kerala. The city is one of the principal seaports of the country and is located in the district of Ernakulam, about 220 kilometres (137 mi) north of the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. It has an estimated population of 600,000, with an extended metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, making it the largest urban agglomeration and the second largest city in Kerala after the state capital.

In 1102 CE, Kochi became the seat of the Kingdom of Cochin, a princely state which traces its lineage to the Kulasekhara empire. Heralded as the Queen of Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the Arabian Sea coast since the 14th century. Ancient travellers and tradesmen referred to Kochi in their writings, variously alluding to it as Cocym, Cochym, Cochin, and Cochi. Occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, Kochi was the site of the first European colonial settlement in India. It remained the capital of Portuguese India until 1530, when they opted for Goa as their capital. The city was later occupied by the Dutch, the Mysore and the British.

Kochi entered a period of economic growth after 2000, leading to a spurt in the city's development. A growing centre of shipping industries, international trade, tourism and information technology, Kochi is the commercial hub of Kerala, and one of the fastest growing second-tier metros in India. Like other large cities in the developing world, Kochi continues to struggle with urbanisation problems such as traffic congestion and environmental degradation.

Successive waves of migration over the course of several millennia have made Kochi a cultural melting pot. Despite the risk of overdevelopment, the city retains its distinct colonial heritage and a blend of tradition and modernity.



Theories regarding the etymology of the name "Kochi" are disputed.[3] One suggests that the city's modern name is derived from the Malayalam word koch azhi, meaning 'small lagoon'. Another version mentions the name as derivative of the Sanskrit word Go shree which means 'prosperous with cows'. Certain ancient texts refer to the city Balapuri (Sanskrit for 'small town'), which became Cochin in course of time.[4]

Cheena vala (Chinese fishing nets).

According to some accounts, traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan gave Cochin the name of their homeland. Yet another theory is that Kochi is derived from the word Kaci meaning 'harbour'.[3] 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 anglicisation 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.


St. Francis CSI Church built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India.[5]
Hebrew inscription at the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations
A painting depicting the city of Kochi (circa.1682)

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.[6] Kochi rose to significance as a trading centre after the port at Kodungallur (Cranganore) was destroyed by massive flooding of the river Periyar in 1341.[7] 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.[8] There are also references to Kochi in accounts written by Italian traveller Niccolò Da Conti, who visited Kochi in 1440.[9]

According to many historians, the Kingdom of Kochi came into existence in 1102, after the fall of the Kulasekhara empire.[10] 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.

Fort Kochi in Kochi was the first European colonial settlement in India. From 1503 to 1663, Fort Kochi was ruled by Portugal. This Portuguese period was a harrowing time for the Jews living in the region, as the Inquisition was active in Portuguese India. Kochi hosted the grave of Vasco da Gama, the first European explorer to set sail for India, who was buried at St. Francis Church until his remains were returned to Portugal in 1539.[11] The Portuguese rule was followed by that of the Dutch, who had allied with the Zamorins to conquer Kochi. By 1773, the Mysore King Hyder Ali extended his conquest in the Malabar region to Kochi forcing it to become a tributary of Mysore. The hereditary Prime Ministership of Kochi held by the Paliath Achans ended during this period.

Meanwhile, the Dutch, fearing an outbreak of war on the United Provinces signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 with the United Kingdom, under which Kochi was ceded to the United Kingdom in exchange for the island of Bangka. However, there are evidences of English habitation in the region even before the signing of the treaty.[12] In 1866, Fort Kochi became a municipality, and its first Municipal Council election was conducted in 1883. The Maharaja of Cochin, who ruled under the British, in 1896 initiated local administration by forming town councils in Mattancherry and Ernakulam. In 1925, Kochi legislative assembly was constituted due to public pressure on the state.

Towards the early 20th century, trade at the port had increased substantially, and the need to develop the port was greatly felt. Harbour engineer Robert Bristow was brought to Kochi in 1920 under the direction of Lord Willingdon, then the Governor of Madras. In a span of 21 years, he transformed Kochi as one of the safest harbours in the peninsula, where ships berthed alongside the newly reclaimed inner harbour equipped with a long array of steam cranes.[13][14]

In 1947, when India gained independence from the British colonial rule, Cochin was the first princely state to join the Indian Union willingly.[15] In 1949, Travancore-Cochin state came into being with the merger of Cochin and Travancore. The King of Travancore was the Rajpramukh of the Travancore-Cochin Union from 1949 to 1956. Travancore-Cochin, was in turn merged with the Malabar district of the Madras State. Finally, the Government of India's States Reorganisation Act (1956) inaugurated a new state — Kerala — incorporating Travancore-Cochin (excluding the four southern Taluks which were merged with Tamil Nadu), Malabar District, and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara.[16] On 9 July 1960, the Mattancherry council passed a resolution—which was forwarded to the government—requesting the formation of a municipal corporation by combining the existing municipalities of Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, and Ernakulam. The government appointed a commission to study the feasibility of the suggested merger. Based on its report, the Kerala Legislative Assembly approved the corporation's formation. On 1 November 1967, exactly eleven years since the establishment of the state of Kerala, the corporation of Cochin came into existence. The merger leading to the establishment of the corporation, was between the municipalities of Ernakulam, Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, along with that of the Willingdon Island, four panchayats (Palluruthy, Vennala, Vyttila and Edappally), and the small islands of Gundu and Ramanthuruth.

Kochi witnessed economic stagnation in the years following India's independence. The city's economic recovery gathered momentum after economic reforms in India introduced by the central government in the mid-1990s. Since 2000, the service sector has revitalised the city’s stagnant economy. The establishment of several industrial parks based on Information technology (IT) and other port based infrastructure triggered a construction and realty boom in the city. Over the years, Kochi has witnessed rapid commercialisation, and has today grown into a commercial hub of Kerala.[17]

Geography and climate

A view of the Kochi harbour mouth from Willingdon Island

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 kilometres (36.63 sq mi). The city is situated at the northern end of a peninsula, about 19 kilometres (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.[18]

The current metropolitan limits of Kochi include the mainland Ernakulam, old Kochi, the suburbs of Edapally, Kalamassery and Kakkanad to the northeast; Tripunithura to the southeast; and a group of islands closely scattered in the Vembanad Lake. Most of these islands are very small, varying in extent from six square kilometre to less than a square kilometre (1,500 to less than 250 acres).

Soil consists of sediments such as alluvium, teri's, brown sands, etc. Hydromorphic saline soils are also found in the areas surrounding the backwaters.[19]

Predominant rock types found here are Archaean-basic dykes, Charnockites and Gneisses. An ecologically sensitive area, the Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary is located in the central part of the city. It has a wide range of mangrove species and is nesting ground for a vast variety of migratory birds.

Under the Koppen climate classification, Kochi features a Tropical monsoon climate. Kochi's proximity to the equator along with its coastal location results in little seasonal temperature variation, with moderate to high levels of humidity. Annual temperatures range between 20 to 35 °C (68–95 °F) with the record high being 34 °C (96 °F), and record low 17 °C (63 °F).[20] From June through September, the south-west monsoon brings in heavy rains as Kochi lies on the windward side of the Western Ghats. From October to December, Kochi receives lighter (yet significant) rain from the northeast monsoon, as it lies on the leeward side. Average annual rainfall is 274 cm (108 in),[21] with an annual average of 132 rainy days.

Civic administration

Kochi City officials
Mercy Williams
Deputy Mayor
   C. K. Manisankar    
Police Commissioner
Manoj Abraham

The city is administered by the Kochi Corporation, headed by a mayor. For administrative purposes, the city is divided into 70 wards, from which the members of the corporation council are elected for five years. Earlier; Fort Cochin, Mattancherry and Ernakulam were the three Municipalities in Cochin area, which was later merged to form the Cochin Corporation. The Corporation has its headquarters in Ernakulam, and zonal offices at Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Palluruthy, Edappally, Vaduthala and Vyttila. The general administration of the city is handled by the Personnel Department and the Council Section. Other departments include that of town planning, health, engineering, revenue and accounts.[22] The corporation is also responsible for waste disposal, sewage management and the supply of potable water, sourced from the Periyar River.[23] Electricity is provided by the Kerala State Electricity Board.

The Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) is the government agency initiating and monitoring the development of Kochi. The Kochi City Police is headed by a Police Commissioner, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. It comprises the traffic police, Narcotics Cell, Armed Reserve Camps, District Crime Records Bureau, Senior citizen's Cell, and a Women's Cell.[24] It operates 19 police stations functioning under the Home Ministry of State Government. An anti-corruption branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation also operates out of the city. Kochi is the seat of the High Court of Kerala, the highest judicial body in the state.


The Tejomaya building at InfoPark, Kochi

Kochi is unofficially reffered as the economic capital of Kerala by volume of trade; though, unlike other leading South Indian cities, Kochi has been slow to industrialise.[17][25] In recent years the city has witnessed heavy investment, thus making it one of the fastest-growing second-tier metro cities in India.[26][27] Sales tax income generated in the Kochi metropolitan area contributes heavily to state revenue.[28] The economy of the city can be classified as a business economy with emphasis on the service sector.[29] Major business sectors include gold and textile retailing, seafood and spices exports, information technology (IT), tourism, health services, banking, shipbuilding, and the fishing industry. The economy is mostly dependent on trade and retail activities.[30] As in most of Kerala, remittances from non-resident Indians (NRI)s is a major source of income.[31]

Eloor, situated 17 kilometres (10.5 mi) north of the city, is the largest industrial belt in Kerala, with more than 250 industries manufacturing a range of products including chemical and petrochemical products, pesticides, rare earth elements, rubber processing chemicals, fertilisers, zinc and chromium compounds, and leather products.[32]

Kochi is the headquarters of the Southern Naval Command, the primary training centre of the Indian Navy.[33] The Cochin Shipyard, which was the largest shipbuilding facility in India till 2008, contributes to the economy of the city.[34][35] The Cochin fishing harbour, located at Thoppumpady is a major fishing port in the state and supplies fish to local and export markets. To further tap the potential of the all-season deep-water harbour at Kochi, an international cruise terminal and several marinas are being constructed.[36][37]

Fishers trawling in traditional boats in the backwaters. Kochi is a major exporter of seafood
The Cochin shipyard

Exports and allied activities are also important contributors to the city's economy. The Cochin Port currently handles export and import of container cargo at its terminal at Willingdon Island. A new international container transshipment terminal is being commissioned at Vallarpadam, which is expected to be a major transshipment port in India.[38][39][40][41] Kochi's historical reliance on trade continues into modern times, as the city is a major exporter of spices and is home to the International Pepper Exchange, where black pepper is globally traded. The Spices Board of India is also headquartered in Kochi.

The IT and ITES related industries are growing up in Kochi. Availability of cheap bandwidth through undersea cables and lower operational costs compared to other major cities in India, has been to its advantage. Various technology and industrial campuses including the government promoted InfoPark, Cochin Special Economic Zone and KINFRA Export Promotion Industrial Park operate in the outskirts of the city. Several new industrial campuses are under construction in the suburbs of the city. Sobha Hi-tech city at Maradu and the SmartCity at Kakkanad are the prominent projects under proposals.

The Cochin International Airport is in the process of setting up an aerotropolis at Nedumbasserry.[42][43]

Kochi also has an oil refinery—the Kochi Refineries (BPCL) at Ambalamugal. Central Government establishments like the Coconut Development Board, the Coir Board and the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) have head offices located in the city.


NH 47 connects Kochi with Trivandrum to the south and Coimbatore and Salem in Tamil Nadu to north.
The Cochin International Airport is one of the busiest airports in India

Public transport in the city is largely dependent on private buses. Taxis and auto rickshaws (called autos) are available for hire throughout the day. Narrow roads and the mix of vastly differing types of vehicles have made traffic congestion a problem in the city. A metro rapid transit service, intended to considerably ease congestion, is currently awaiting sanction of Union govt.[44]

Since it is one of the safe harbours in Indian Ocean, Kochi ranks among India's major seaports.[45] The port, administered by a statutory autonomous body known as the Cochin Port Trust, offers facilities for bunkering, handling cargo and passenger ships and storage accommodation. It also operates passenger ships to Colombo and Lakshadweep. Boat services operated by Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation, the State Water Transport Department, and of private ownership are available from various boat jetties in the city. The junkar ferry for the transshipment of vehicles and passengers between the islands are operated between Ernakulam and Vypin, and between Vypin and Fort Kochi. However, with the construction of the Goshree bridges (which links Kochi's islands), ferry transport has become less essential. The Cochin International Airport, which is about 25 kilometres (15 mi) north of the city, handles both domestic and international flights. It is the largest airport of Kerala, and one of the busiest in India. It is the first international airport in India to be built without Central Government funds.[46] An airport run by the Navy also operates in the city. A third airport, for use by the Indian Coast Guard, is under construction in the suburbs.

There is no intra-city rail transport system in Kochi. The inter-city rail transport system in the city is administered by the Southern Railway Zone of the Indian Railways. There are two main railway stations—the Ernakulam Junction and the Ernakulam Town (locally known as the 'South' and 'North' railway stations respectively). The railway line connecting these two stations cuts the city longitudinally in two, with two narrow bridges connecting the two halves.


An antique shop featuring Jewish remnants of Kochi
Slums next to high-rise commercial buildings in Kaloor, Kochi. Hundreds of people, mostly comprising migrant labourers from other states of India who come to the city seeking job prospects, live in such shabby areas.

With a city population of 564,589 As of 2001, Kochi city ranks first among cities in Kerala, in the population density with 5950 per km2.[citation needed] As of 2009, Kochi had a metropolitan area population of 1,541,175.[2] Scheduled castes and tribes comprise 14% of the city's population. The female-to-male ratio is 1,024:1,000, significantly higher than the all-India average of 933:1,000. Kochi's literacy rate is 94%. The female literacy rate lags that of males by 1.1%, amongst the lowest such gaps in India.[citation needed]

Kochi's major religions are Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam; Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Buddhism have smaller followings. Though 47% practise Hinduism, Christianity's large following (35%) makes Kochi a city with one of the largest Christian populations in India.[47][48]

The majority of residents are Malayalis; however, there are significant ethnic minority communities including Tamils, Gujaratis, Jews, Sikkimese, Anglo-Indians, Konkanis, and Tuluvas. Malayalam is the main language of communication and medium of instruction, although English is more commonly used in business circles. Tamil and Hindi are widely understood—albeit rarely spoken.

A Jain temple in Mattancherry

Like other fast-growing cities in the developing world, Kochi suffers from major urbanisation problems, poor sanitation, and unemployment. The city ranks lowest among Indian cities in terms of house-cost and availability, urban household crowding and household incomes.[49][50]

The city registered an increase of 9.7 percentage points in its unemployment rate from 14.8% in 1998 to 24.5% in 2003.[51] Shortage of potable water is a major concern in the city.[52] The situation is aggravated by the threat posed by pollution in industrial areas.[53] The city also has a growing slum-dwelling population.[54] The government has plans to make the city slum-free by 2016.[55] According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Kochi has one of highest rates of crime in India—498.6, against the national average of 287.3.[56]


Pedestrians can stroll along the Marine Drive, a waterfront promenade of Kochi.

As a result of successive waves of migration over the course of several centuries, the population of the city is a mix of people from all parts of Kerala and most of India. The pan-Indian nature is highlighted by the substantial presence of various ethnic communities from different parts of the country.[57]

Kochi has a diverse, multicultural, and secular community consisting of Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists among other denominations, all living in peaceful co-existence. The city once had a large Jewish community, known as the Malabar Yehuden—and now increasingly as Cochin Jews—that figured prominently in Kochi's business and economic strata.[58] The Syro-Malabar Church, one of the 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches, has its seat at Ernakulam. Prominent places of Christian worship include the St. Mary's Cathedral and the St. Antony's Shrine at Kaloor. Appropriate to its multi-ethnic composition, Kochi celebrates traditional Kerala festivals like Onam and Vishu along with North Indian Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali with great fervour. Christian and Islamic festivals like Christmas, Easter, Eid ul-Fitr and Milad-e-sherif are also celebrated. A merry making fest called the Cochin Carnival is celebrated at Fort Kochi during the last ten days of December.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi is one of the large multi-use stadiums in India

The residents of Kochi are known as Kochiites; they are an important part of the South Indian culture. However, the city's culture is rapidly evolving with Kochiites generally becoming more cosmopolitan in their outlook.[27] The people are also increasingly fashion-conscious, often deviating from the traditional Kerala wear to western clothing.[30]

Kochiites generally partake of Keralite cuisine, which is generally characterised by an abundance of coconut and spices. Other South Indian cuisines, as well as Chinese and North Indian cuisines are popular. Fast food culture is also very prominent.[59]

Kochi was home to some of the most influential figures in Malayalam literature, including Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, Kesari Balakrishna Pillai, G. Sankara Kurup, and Vyloppilli Sreedhara Menon. Prominent social reformers such as Sahodaran Ayyappan and Pandit Karuppan also are from Kochi.

The Maharajas of Kochi (then Cochin) were scholars who knew the epics and encouraged the arts. The paintings at the Hill Palace and the Dutch Palace are testimony to their love for arts.

Kochiites are known for their enthusiasm in sports, especially cricket and football.[60] The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi is one of the large multi-use stadiums in India with International Class Lighting for Day and Night Matches.[61] The Regional Sports Centre is an important centre of sporting activity in the city.


Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology, one of the Engineering schools in the city.

Schools and colleges in the city are either run by the government or by private trusts and individuals. The schools are each affiliated with either the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or the Kerala State Education Board. English is the medium of instruction in most private schools; though government run schools offer both English and Malayalam. After completing their secondary education, which involves ten years of schooling, students typically enrol at Higher Secondary School in one of the three streams—Arts, Commerce or Science. Upon completing the required coursework, the student can enroll in general or professional degree programmes.

The Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) is situated in the city. Most of the colleges offering tertiary education are affiliated either with the Mahatma Gandhi University or the Cochin University. Other national educational institutes include the Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training, the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, the National Institute of Oceanography and the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.


The Shenoys, one of the popular Cineplexs in the city.

Major Malayalam newspapers published in Kochi include Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Deshabhimani, Deepika, Kerala Kaumudi, Madhyamam and Veekshanam. Popular English newspapers include The Hindu, The New Indian Express and The Pioneer. A number of evening papers are also published from the city.[62] Newspapers in other regional languages like Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu are also available.

Being the seat of the Cochin Stock Exchange, a number of financial publications are also published in the city. These include The Economic Times, Business Line, The Business Standard and The Financial Express. Prominent magazines and religious publications like the Sathyadeepam, The Week and Vanitha are also published from the city. Television stations in Kochi include Asianet Cable Vision, Indiavision, Kairali TV, Jeevan TV, Amrita TV, and Manorama News. Satellite television services are available through Doordarshan Direct Plus, Dish TV, Sun Direct DTH and Tata Sky. There are five FM radio stations in Kochi, of which two are operated by the All India Radio.[63] Private satellite radios such as WorldSpace, are also available. There are over ten cinema halls that screen movies in Malayalam, Tamil, English and Hindi. A film festival, known as the Cochin International Film Festival (CIFF), is held in the city every year.

Kochi has the highest density of telephones in India.[64] Telephony services are provided by various players like Aircel, Airtel, Idea cellular, Vodafone, Reliance Infocomm, Tata Docomo, MTS, Uninor, Tata Indicom and the state owned BSNL.


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This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.
  • Ma Huan: Ying Yai Sheng Lan, The Overall Survey of the Ocean's Shores, translated by J.V.G. Mills, 1970 Hakluyt Society, reprint 1997 White Lotus Press. ISBN 974-8496-78-3
  • Plunkett, R, Cannon, T, Davis, P, Greenway, P & Harding, P (2001), Lonely Planet South India, Lonely Planet, ISBN 1-86450-161-8
  • Manorama Yearbook 2003 (English Edition) ISBN 81-900461-8-7
  • Robert Charles Bristow - Cochin Saga, Paico Pub. House; 2d ed. edition (1967), OCLC 1659055
  • Unemployment in Kerala at the turn of the century Insights from the CDS gulf migration studies — K. C. Zachariah, S. Irudaya Rajan
  • Kochi Rajyacharithram by KP Padmanabha Menon. P(1914)
  • Akhilavijnanakosam Malayalam Encyclopedia — D C Books Multimedia Series.

External links

Simple English

Kochi is a city in the state of Kerala, in India. It used to be called Cochin. The city has the highest number of people after the capital city of Kerala, Trivandrum. Kochi is the financial hub of the state. Kochi has a very old synagogue.

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