Kochi Tourist Attractions
Kochi has a natural harbor and is located at the entrance to the backwaters near the Arabian Sea, which gives it a rich maritime heritage.Kochi was settled by the Portugese in the 16th C, becoming one of India's first European colonies. Some of the historical sights include the oldest church in India, mosques, 500 year old Portugese houses, a 16th C synagogue and a Portugese palace.Fort Cochin and Mattancherry are a blend of medieval Portugal, Holland and English country village. The Chinese fishing nets are also distinct to Kochi - only found here! A whole stretch of the coast along Fort Kochi and Vypeen are dotted with these nets.
Mattancherry Palace is also known as the Dutch Palace although it was built by the Portugese in the 16th C and given to the Raja of Cochin as a goodwill gesture.In 1663, the Dutch completely renovated Mattancherry Palace hence the name Dutch Palace. The renovations included a square tiled roof and some extensions.The central hall of Mattancherry Palace, once used for coronation ceremonies, is now a portrait gallery featuring Rajas from 1864 to 1964. The palace also houses a museum with displays of dresses, turbans, palanquins, weapons, costumes, old Dutch maps of Kochi and other royal relics.The most notable aspects of the palace are the amazing murals depicting scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranic legends. The murals decorate the royal bedrooms and private chambers of Mattancherry Palace.The two whitewashed stories are built surrounding a quadrangle in a traditional Keralan style known as 'nallakettu' with European influences. The central courtyard has a Bhagvati Temple as well as Shiva and Vishnu Temples.
St Francis Church
St Francis Church in Kochi is the oldest church in southern India, built in 1503 by the Portugese Franciscan friars. The original wooden structure of St Francis was rebuilt of stone and taken over by the Dutch Protestants, and later the British Anglicans.Vasco de Gama was buried at St Francis Church in 1524 but his remains were returned to Lisbon 14 years later. The gravestone is still located on the south side of the Church.Over the years, St Francis has experienced numerous conversions. This simple structure features a vaulted timber ceiling, rope operated fans and a tropical facade. The Church became a protected monument in April 1923.
Chennamangalam has the oldest synagogue in Kerala, although it is now mostly in ruins! There is also a Jesuit Church and the ruins of the Jesuit seminary. The town is noted for its religious tolerance. The Church, temple, mosque and Jewish synagogue all co-exist in close proximity to each other.The Paliam Palace, a 17th C residence of the Paliath Achans, prime ministers, is located in Chennamangalam. The palace was presented to the prime ministers of the Princely State by the Dutch. It now houses a collection of historic documents and relics.Chennamangalam has abundant scenic beauty provided by the three rivers, seven inlets, hills and vast green plains.
Fort Cochin is the original Portugese settlement located on the tip of the Fort Kochi/Mattancherry peninsula. The architecture is dominated by Dutch and British styles and there are many tourist attractions.An image that cannot be found anywhere else are the Chinese fishing nets, these fixed cantilevered installations are an unusual form of fishing only found in Kochi. Each net is operated by a team of up to six fishermen and mainly used at high tide.As the first European town in India, Fort Cochin has several historic monuments such as the Vasco Da Gama Church, Dutch Cemetry and St Francis Church.
Jew Town is a quarter of Kochi that dates back to the 2nd C when Palestinian Jews fled persecution by the Romans. Jew Town is the area around Pardesi Synagogue and a center of the Kochi spice trade. Today some of the families remain in the traditional spice shops and the air is filled with the aroma of ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric and cloves. The new shops target tourists with antiques, curios, handicrafts, and souvenirs.
Pardesi Synagogue was originally built in 1568, destroyed by the Portugese in 1662 and rebuilt by the Dutch in 1664. Located in the Jewish quarter of Kochi, Pardesi Synagogue features a gold pulpit, hand-painted floor tiles, Belgian chandeliers, interlocking pews and a ladies gallery. The upstairs balcony is required for women as they worship separately according to the Orthodox rites. Ezekial Rahabi brought the floor tiles from China and no two are alike; he also donated the clock tower in the 18th C. It features numerals in Hebrew, Latin, Malayalam and Arabic.Within Pardesi Synagogue is an elaborately carved teak Ark that contains scrolls from the Jewish Torah and gold crowns, set with gems, from the royal family of Cochin.Other items of note are two copper plates with details of privileges granted to the Jews during the 10th C.