Cochin(kochi) is one of the west coast’s largest and oldest ports. The streets behind the docks of the historic Fort Cochin and Mattancherry districts are lined with old merchant houses, godowns(warehouses), and open countryards heaped with betel nuts , ginger, peppercorns, and tea. Throughout the second millennium this ancient city exported spices, coffee, and coir(the fibre made from the husk of coconut fruit), and imported culture and religion from Europe, china, and the Middle East. Today Cochin has a synagogue, several mosques, Portuguese Catholic churches, Hindu temples, and the United Church of South India( a collection of Protestant churches)
Chinese Fishing Nets.
The precarious looking bamboo and wood structures hovering like cranes over the waterfront are Cochin’s famous Chinese fishing nets. Although they’ve become identified with the city, they’re used throughout central kerala. Thought to have been introduced by Chinese traders in the 14th century, the nets and their catch are easily accessible from at Fort Cochin’s Vasco da Gama square. You can watch the fishermen haul up the nets around 6 am, 11 am and 4 pm. They’re particularly striking at sunset or at any time when viewed from the deck of a boat.
Built by the Portuguese in the mid 16th century, this structure was taken over in 1663 by the Dutch, who made some additions before presenting it to the Rajas of Cochin. The rajas, in turn, added some of India’s best mythological murals- the entire story of the Ramayana is told on the walls in a series of bedchambers, which also have inviting window seats. In the ladies ground floor chamber, you can see a colorful, mildly erotic depiction of Lord Krishna with his female devotees. The coronation hall near the entrance holds port portraits and some of the rajas artifacts, including a fantastic palanquin covered in red wool. The palace has rare, traditional Kerala flooring, which looks like polished black marble but is actually a mix of burned coconut shells, charcoal, lime, plant juices, and egg whites.
St. Francis Church
The Portuguese flag first appeared in Fort Cochin in 1500, and Vasco da Gama arrived in 1502. The following year, Afonso de Albuquerque came with half a dozen ships full of settlers-he built the fort, and five friars in the crowd built India’s first European church, St.Francis, in 1510. Da Gama returned in 1524 as Portuguese viceroy of the Indies, died that same year, and was buried in this church. You can still visit his gravestone, but his remains were shipped back to Lisbon in 1538.
The church’s history reflects the European struggle for colonial turf in India. It was a Catholic church until 1664, when it became a Dutch Reform Church; it later became Anglican and is now part of the Church of South India. Inside are beautifully engraved Dutch and Portuguese tombstones and the Doep Boek, a register of baptisms and marriages between 1751 and 1894 where you can view in photographic reproduction (the original is too fragile).
Santa Cruz Cathedral The interior of this cathedral is full of turquoise and yellow tiles that some would call flamboyant, others downright gaudy. The cathedral’s history dates from the 16th century, but the current structure was comleted in 1904.
The first migration of Jews to Kerala is thought to have taken place in the 6th century BC, followed by a much larger wave in the 1st century AD, when Jews fleeing Roman persecution in Jerusalem settled at Cranganore ( on the coast about 26 km(16mi) north of Cochin). In the 4th century, the local king promised the jews perpetual protection, and the colony flourished, serving as a haven for Jews from the Middle East and in later centuries, Europe. When the Portuguese leader Afonso de Albuquerque discovered the Jews near Cochin in the 16th century, however, he destroyed the Jews near Cochin in the 16th century, however, he destroyed their community, having received permission from his king to “exterminate them one by one.” Muslim anti-semitism flared up as well. The Jews rebuilt in Mattancherry but were able to live without fear only after the less-belligerent Dutch took control in 1663.
This Synagogue was built in 1568 and was considerably embellished in the mid-18th century by a wealthy trader, Ezekiel Rahibi. He had the clock tower built and the floor paved with 1,100 hand-painted, blue and white Chinese tiles- each one different. Like the façade, the interior is white with blue trim, embellished with hanging, glass lamps from Belgium and a Chandelier from Italay; lookup at the ladies gallery for an eye-pleasing row of colored lamps. Ask to see the 200 year old sheep skin Torah page, kept behind closed doors. The Synagogue’s most important relics- the impressive copper plates recording the 4th century decree in which king Bhaskara Ravi Varma guaranteed the Jewish settlers in domain over Cranganore- are no longer available for public viewing . You must remove your shoes before entering.