Famously known as the Queen of Arabian Sea, the city of Cochin has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Centuries of foreign rule has left an imprint and a lot of that can be seen in the design of the houses and churches that cover the city. Kochi is a perfect gateway to Kerala and a must visit for people visiting the state. Besides a taking peek into arts, history and culture of Kerala, there are a host of things to do in Kochi and places to visit.
Famous for its variety of spices this city used to be the trade center during the Portuguese rule. As the sun rises at the horizon, the fishermen cast their huge nets across the sea to catch a fresh batch of fishes. In Cochin a sense of freshness lingers in the air and the tower bell of the church starts ringing at a distance, tourists from all over the world start exploring the city after an early morning breakfast.
History, Art and Architecture in Cochin
Cochin was under the rule of many foreign powers such as the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Arabs and the British. This city used to be the center of Portuguese rule in India. Kathakali, the cultural dance of Kerala is a feast to watch. Artists in vibrant red and white outfits, their face painted in artistic kathakali style and the artistic headgear adds more glory to the show. They dance with grace and express emotions such as fear, happiness, anger, sadness etc, Kalarippayattu is another form of martial art and involves a lot of physical strength and attention.
Most of the churches and monuments are built in Portuguese style with artistic doors and windows. The exteriors are inspired by the Tuscan architecture which has plain white walls and pillars. The interiors are made in baroque style with large central space, an altar and a dome-shaped overhead ceiling which are filled with paintings of angels and saints.
Must Visit Places in Cochin
Some of the main tourist attractions in Cochin are in the Fort Kochi and Mattancherry area. Nowhere else do you get to see such a mix of diverse cultures as you see in Cochin. 500-year-old churches and synagogues, giant Chinese fish nets, Portuguese remains, and ruins of the monuments. Places in Fort Kochi area are at a walkable distance and it is best experienced when explored on foot. This city has inspired a lot of people to stay back and call this their home.
1) St. Francis Church
If you loved history classes (or you did not) you must visit the church of St Francis. In 1503 the Portuguese built the St Francis church and now it is one of the oldest churches in Kerala. This church has a plain exterior and towers on all sides. Inside the church, you can find the tomb of the great explorer Vasco da Gama. His remains were kept in this church until much later it was moved to Lisbon leaving the gravestone behind. On the walls, you will find paintings based on the life of Vasco da Gama and his explorations. This 500-year-old church is an evidence to the colonial revolutions that happened in India and hence is considered as a landmark monument.
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2) Cherai Beach
Cherai beach is the perfect place for all the beach lovers out there. And if you don’t enjoy getting into the water then take a stroll along the warm shore and watch the sunset across the horizon. And if you are an adventure seeker then you can try water sports like speedboats canoe ride and much more. Watch the dolphins dancing at a distance, search for some sea shell, enjoy the beauty of thick coconut grove in the background. You can also see the fishermen catching fishes using a huge fish net docked by the shore. These are called the Chinese fishnets (Cheena Vala) and they have been in use for more than 500 years now. Stay a bit longer if you want to get a glimpse at the beautiful sunset. The high lamps by the walking edges add to the glory of the nightlife at the beach.
3) Paradesi Synagogue
Ever wondered about the cultural history and the religious practices of the Jews, then you must visit Paradesi Synagogue. Here you can get a glimpse into the Jewish community, as this is one of the oldest and the only active synagogues in Cochin. Being one of the seven synagogues, Paradesi synagogue was constructed in 1567 and it is located in the quarters of Old Cochin called Jew Town. The ceilings of these synagogues are covered with magnificent chandeliers and delicate lamps which belongs to the 19th century. They glow vibrantly when the sunshine falls on the glass surface. One of the floor you can see beautiful hand-painted tiles. Each one of these artistic tiles is unique and adds to the beauty of the synagogue. Apart for Friday, Saturday and other Jewish Holidays, this place is always filled with tourists and visitors.
4) Mattancherry Palace
Popularly known as the Dutch Palace, Mattancherry Palace is a must visit when you are in Fort Kochi. This palace has wooden ceilings and balconies, sloppy roof and elegant white exterior. The palace is a double storied building. It was built in traditional Kerala style with four separate wings opening into a central courtyard. The central courtyard houses a temple of the royal deity Goddesses Bhagavathi.
On either side of the complex, there are two other temples dedicated to Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva. In the western side of the palace, there is a large masonry tank for bathing. The walls are brimming with life-size paintings of all the kings of Cochin and murals that tell stories about Ramayana and Mahabharata. You also get to see ancient swords, daggers, axes and utensils among other things. Finally, take a stroll in the beautiful, well-maintained gardens and lawns that adds to the beauty of the museum. Except for Fridays, this place is open for visitors on all the other days.
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5) Vypeen Island
Hop on the ferry ride to one of the most peaceful and most beautiful beaches in Cochin. These islands were formed due to the massive floods in 1341 and have one of the longest beaches in Kerala. Vypeen Island is known for its clean and tranquil atmosphere and is a perfect place to relax and refresh yourself. These islands were inhabited by the people belonging to the fishing community prior to the Portuguese rule. You can also find a variety of fishes and prawns on this island.
Author: Sachu & Prathima