Fort Kochi and Mattanchery in Kochi

A municipal town from 1866 to 1967, Fort Kochi now is one of the three main urban components that constitute the present day 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 new Corporation of Kochi. Fort Cochin in mainly occupied by the Anglo Indians and Dutch settlers left behind by the Europeans visitors to this part, and something to be noted is that still the European culture is being followed by in Fort Cochin. Fort Cochin is the home to some of the oldest European architecture in India and has been a significant settlement ever since Cochin Harbour was discovered. Unlike the bustling Ernakulum, Fort Cochin is sleepy and retains a great deal of colonial charm. A day spent wandering the streets of Fort Cochin will be well spent. Some of the important charming eye catching views in Fort Kochi are the Santa Cruz Basilica,Chinese net, waterfront, Dutch Cemetary, Princess Street, St Francis church, Cochin carnival, Jew street, synagogue, Mattancherry Palace etc.

Santa Cruz Basilica The Portugese built Basilica’s 500th anniversary was very recently. With gracious and admiring interiors, Gothic façade with soaring and dazzling spires the Basilica is a charming prayer home. The Dutch catch of Kochi in 1663 resulted in booming of warehouses in places of worships. The irresistible beauty garnered by stained glass and the imposing Caryatids over the confessional boxes might have persuaded the Dutch to spare it. It is located on Rampart Road. Founded soon after the arrival of the first Portuguese visitors to India Located on Rampart Street. Open: 9-1 and 3-5 with Masses at 7 am and 6 pm. Mass on Saturday at 6pm is in English

Princess Street: Flower-pot laden windowsills, bronze stucco walls and peeling pastel are the peculiarities of colonial style buildings. See them in Princess Street. Princess Street, a segment of Fort Kochi, revels in moody pastimes. In the morning there is a lovely smell of fresh bread and dont forget to load on Loafer Corner where you can see and be seen.

St Francis Church: Built in timber by Portuguese in 1503, it was overlaid with stone masonry later. Vasco da Gama was cremated here in 1524. His remains were later removed to Lisbon. His tomb, however, still exists. The grave stones were tossed into the walls of the church in 1886. The ‘Doop Book’, that is, old baptism and the marriage register, from 1751 to 1804, kept in the vestry, are the delights of history seekers. A photo copy of the Doop Book is kept outside the vestry to enable interested visitors to glance through. Location: Church Road. Open: 6am - 7pm, Mass at 7.15 am

Dutch Cemetary: Old cemetary for the Dutch settlers and colonists from the 17th to 18th century. Interesting and quiet site for exploring the Fort Cochin history. Location: short walk from the lighthouse.

Waterfront: A little walk-away is Vasco da Gama Square, a narrow promenade running along the beach. Huge cantilevered Chinese Fishing Nets, just before the beach are littered in the water as welcome symbols to the visitors. The Chinese Fishing Nets system works in a systemic way. A bamboo and teak (or any hardwood) contraption with net-spread hanging get pulled down to the water and hauled in with the catch. This is done manually. The catching process is usually in the morning and early evening. The Fort Kochi beach is clean and small. At one end there is a pretty Lighthouse. Recline and relax on the white sand when the eyes will sharp on Lakshadweep bound ships. Lakshadweep gets all the consumer and otherwise goods from the mainland Kochi. Ferry to the distanced sporadic Cherai beach. The receptive white sand there is a luring force to recline, sleep, dance or to football. And swim and sniff. If lucky, dolphins can be spotted. Coconut groves and paddy field across the shore add glamour to this beautiful beach.

Kochi Carnival: The last 10 days of December white rules Kochi. All avenues, establishments and houses in Kochi wear white paper buntings. All available space in the streets host impromptu competitions and multi-faceted celebrations. All these are conducted with self-imposed discipline. No trace of unruliness. Kalam Vara (floor drawing), tug-of-war, bicycle races, swimming in sea, beach volleyball are some of the items packed in the competition basket. The festivities and revelries continue till midnight of December 31st. Fireworks mark the finale. All the days of Carnival large number of people gather to enjoy the events.

Jew Street: Once one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, but now many of the inhabitants have moved to Israel and the once bustling jewish community has now largely shut up shop and the street is quiet. The nearby Market Road still bustles with spice market and tourist curio shops.

Pardesi Synagogue: At one end of Jew Street is Jewish Cemetery Road with its Malayalam and Hebrew tombstones. A short walk brings you to Pardesi Synagogue. Once there were 7 synagogues in Fort Cochin in this street, only Pardesi is still open. The synagogue is 400 years old and its interior holds curved brass columns, an intricately carved teak ark, Belgian crystal chandeliers and Torah crowns of solid gold set with gems. The floor has hand-painted porcelain tiles from Canton, each tile different. The most interesting object are the two copper plates with details of privileges granted to the Jewish community during the reign of Bhaskara Ravi Varman in the 10th century. The 4 dials of the 45 ft clock tower have numerals in Hebrew, Latin, Malayalam and Arabic.
Entry Fee: Rs 2 Open: 10-noon, 3-5pm, closed on Fridays, saturdays and Jewish Holidays. (No video cameras)

Cochin synagogue implements strict dress code A new dress code for visitors at the 16th century Cochin Synagogue here, the only functional synagogue in Kerala. The dress code, enforced from April 27, requires men to wear full shirts and trousers and women to sport long skirts well below the knee.

Mattanchery Palace: Mattanchery Palace, a monument of historical value, was shaped out by Portuguese in 1555. The Palace is located in Mattanchery which is about 8-km from Ernakulam. . Mattanchery is a known trading centre since long and is cosmopolitan. The Oriental styled Palace is unique in architectural point of view. Many years later in 1663 the Palace was remodeled by Dutch and it is known as Dutch Palace thereafter. In the remodeling a great amount of improvements went into. The Palace is a hallmark of unique mythological murals in India. The Palliyara (Royal bed chamber) is stunning – one can easily grasp the entire story of Ramayana from the walls. Traditional flooring which is unique in all aspects is sighted here. It is made of burned coconut shells, lime, plant juices and egg-whites, but many mistook it as polished single piece of black marble. It is said, such flooring techniques were employed only in Kerala and nowhere else in the world. After renovation the Palace was presented to the Kerala Varma Maharaja, the then ruler of Cochin, by the Dutch. Maharaja used it as the Royal House and Coronations used to be held here. The two-tiered quadrangular Palace is spacious. Its halls are long and roomy. There is a central court-yard where the Royal deity, Palayannur Bhagawati is housed. Ground floor is christened as Ladies Chamber which is linked by a staircase to Karithalam room. Coronation Hall, Dining Hall, Bed Chambers, Assembly Hall and the Staircase room are in the upper storey. Coronations are conducted in the square shaped eastern portion of the Coronation Hall. Western portion is earmarked for distinguished guests. Artistically wood-carved floral designs and Adhopadma (inverted lotus) beautify the ceiling. Numerous brass cups decor the Dining Hall ceiling. The ceiling of Assembly Hall is different from other ceilings but looks ornamental. In addition to the temple in central courtyard there ar two more temples on either side of the Place. One is of Lord Krisna and the other is of Lord Shiva. A visit to the palace is rewarding for it s mythological murals, historical and architectural valud and heritage value.

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