Kochi (Cochin) Knowledge Guide
Kochi was the centre of Indian spice trade for many centuries, and was known to the Yavanas (Greeks and Romans) as well as Jews, Syrians, Arabs, and Chinese since ancient times. It rose to significance as a trading centre after the port Muziris around Kodungallur (Cranganore) was destroyed by massive flooding of Periyar in 1341. 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. There are also references to Kochi in accounts written by Italian traveller Niccolò Da Conti, who visited Kochi in 1440.On the Malabar coast during the early 15th century, Calicut and Kochi were in an intense rivalry, so the Ming dynasty of China decided to intervene by granting special status to Kochi and its ruler known as Keyili (可亦里) to the Chinese. Calicut had been the dominant port-city in the region, but Kochi was emerging as its main rival. For the fifth Ming treasure voyage, Admiral Zheng He was instructed to confer a seal upon Keyili of Kochi and enfeoff a mountain in his kingdom as the Zhenguo Zhi Shan (鎮國之山, Mountain Which Protects the Country). Zheng He delivered a stone tablet, inscribed with a proclamation composed by the Yongle Emperor himself, to Kochi. As long as Kochi remained under the protection of Ming China, the Zamorin of Calicut was unable to invade Kochi and a military conflict was averted. The cessation of the Ming treasure voyages consequently had negative results for Kochi, as the Zamorin of Calicut would eventually launch an invasion against Kochi. In the late 15th century, the Zamorin occupied Kochi and installed his representative as the king of the port-city. According to many historians, the precursor state to Kingdom of Kochi came into existence in the early 12th century, after the fall of the Chera Kingdom. The reign of the Kingdom was hereditary, and the family that ruled over the region was known as the Perumpadappu Swaroopam in the local vernacular. Portuguese navigator, Pedro Álvares Cabral founded the first European settlement in India at Kochi in 1500. From 1503 to 1663, Fort Kochi (Fort Emmanuel) was ruled by Portugal. This Portuguese period was a harrowing time for the Saint Thomas Christians and the Jews, 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. The Portuguese rule was followed by that of the Dutch who renamed Fort Immanuel as Fort Stormsburg. In meantime, the Royal Family of Kochi relocated the capital of Kochi Kingdom to Thrissur, leaving nominal authority over Islands of Kochi. In 1664, Fort Kochi Municipality was established by Dutch, making it the first municipality in Indian subcontinent, which got dissolved when Dutch authority got weaker in the 18th century. The remaining part of Kochi were governed by governors of Kochi Kingdom. By 1773, the Mysore ruler 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, east of Sumatra. However, there are evidences of English habitation in the region even before the signing of the treaty. In 1866, Fort Kochi municipality was reinstalled and its first Municipal Council seating contest was conducted in 1883. In 1896, H.H. Rama Varma XV, The Maharaja of Cochin, initiated local administration by forming town councils in Mattancherry and Ernakulam. In 1907, the Governor of the Madras Presidency, Sir Arthur Lawley and his brother, Beilby Lawley, 3rd Baron Wenlock, Governor of Madras, 1891 to 1896, left for an official tour of Cochin and Travancore, which lasted from 25 January to 14 February. On 26 January, they were met by His Highness the Rajah of Cochin who gave a State Dinner in their honour at Ernakulam. By the 1870s, the capital of Kochi Kingdom was relocated again to Kochi Suburb of Tripunithura. In 1910, Ernakulam became the administrative capital of Kochi Kingdom with establishment of Royal Secretariat and State Durbar. The offices of the Diwan and High court were soon moved into 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.In 1947, when India gained independence from the British colonial rule, Cochin was the first princely state to join the Indian Union willingly. 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. 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 Kochi Municipal Corporation 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 and Ernakulam district formed on 1 April 1958 carving areas of erstwhile Travancore-Kochi-Malabar kingdoms. Major portion of the district is from the Kochi kingdom.The city's economic growth gathered momentum after economic reforms in India introduced by the central government in the early-1990s. Since 2000, the service sector has energised the city's economy. The establishment of several industrial parks based on 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 the commercial hub of Kerala.
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. Kochi has a diverse, multicultural, and secular community consisting of Malayalis, Konkanis, Gujaratis, Bengalis, Marathis, Punjabis, Tamilians, Kannadigas, Biharias, Anglo Indians and a few families of Jews among other denominations. The city once had a large Jewish community, known as the Malabar Yehuden—and now increasingly as Cochin Jews—who figured prominently in Kochi's business and economic strata and owned several Synagogues across Kochi and nearby areas such as Chendamangalam, Paravur or Mala. Kochi was one among the seven diocese of Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite Syrian Christian Church) in Kerala formed in 1876. The seat of the Bishop is at St George Cathedral, Karingachira. Also At Mary's Cathedral Elamkulam, seat of bishop of Simhasana churches of Jacobites is in the City. The seat of Roman Catholic Cathedral of Kerala's first Archdiocese Archdiocese of Verapoly and the first diocese Diocese of Cochin are located in the city. The Syro-Malabar Church, one of the 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches and a part of the Saint Thomas Christian community, has its seat at Ernakulam. Prominent places of Christian worship include the St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Cathedral Basilica, Ernakulam, St. Francis Assisi Roman Catholic Cathedral, Ernakulam, Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom, Vallarpadam-Ernakulam, Santa Cruz Basilica Roman Catholic Cathedral, Fort Kochi, St. Antony's Shrine at Kaloor, St. George Forane Church, Edappally and . Appropriate to its multi-ethnic composition, Kochi celebrates traditional Kerala festivals like Onam and Vishu along with North Indian Hindu festivals like Holi 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 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. The people are also increasingly fashion-conscious, often deviating from the traditional Kerala wear to western clothing. 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. Being a tourist hotspot, Fort Kochi have a number of restaurants that offer international cuisine, like Italian, French, Mexican etc. Being close to the ocean and the backwaters, Kochi has an abundance of seafood, which reflects in the cuisine. A service known as You Buy, We Cook is available at the waterfront of Fort Kochi, where the fresh seafood purchased from the nets is cooked as per the customers needs. Arabian food joints that serve Shawarma and roasted chicken are a new addition to the fast food scene in the city. Kochi also has a number of shopping malls including Oberon Mall, Gold Souk Grande, Bay Pride Mall, Centre Square Mall, Abad Nucleus Mall and LuLu Mall, which is the largest shopping mall in India in terms of total leasable area of 17 acres (7 ha). Various shopping malls are expected to open in the city in the near future including Forum Thomsun Mall.Kochi also has the most number of five star hotels in the state. These include international hotel brands like Crowne Plaza, Marriott, Grand Hyatt, Sheraton, Le Méridien, Radisson Blu, Holiday Inn, Ramada, Ibis, Taj Malabar, The Gateway etc. 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 Kochi International Book Festival is an annual event. 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 football and cricket. The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi is one of the largest stadiums in India with floodlights for Cricket and Football matches. The Regional Sports Centre is an important centre of sporting activity in the city. Kochi is reportedly the 6th best city in India according to the livability index of 2011.