Cochin is the colonial name of Kochi in India, a major port city on the Arabian Sea on the southern part of India’s west coast.
Since the 14th century, Kochi has been an important center for the spice trade on the west coast of India, connecting the mainland with the rest of the world and known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’.
Kochi’s rise to fame began in 1340 AD, when a massive flood of the Periyar River destroyed the world-famous harbor at Cranganore, simultaneously creating a natural harbor in the nearby town of Kochi.
With its strategic location on the international sea route between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Rim, the port of Kochi soon developed into a major world trading center for high-quality pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.
The chariot was ruled by numerous empires. Occupied by the Portuguese Empire in 1503, Cochin was the first of the European colonies in colonial India. Chochin was the main seat of Portuguese India until 1530 when Goa was chosen instead. Under the Portuguese, Cochin grew into a prosperous city and in 1530 AD built a fort named “Manuel Kota” (Fort Emmanuel).
Under the Portuguese, Cochin grew into a prosperous town, and in 1530 AD built a fort called ‘Manuel Kotta’ (Fort Emmanuel).
Today, Cochin is the headquarters of India’s Southern Naval Command, home to the main naval training center, air station, and flagship gunnery school located on Willingdon Island.
The coast between Fort Kochi and Vypen is covered with fishermen who earn their living by fishing with giant nets called Cheenavala. Outside of China, these huge fishing nets are found only in Cochin and are believed to have been introduced to the port city by Chinese traders under the court of Kublai Khan.
While Malayalam is the official language of the state of Kerala, English is widely spoken. The people of Cochin practice a range of religions and the population includes Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Jews, and Sikhs.
Cochin has an average of 132 days of rain every year, especially during the southwest monsoons from June to September and the northeast monsoons between October and December. The best time to visit is between October and March.
Tourists often enjoy boating through the backwaters – dotted with many small islands – that separate Ernakulam from Fort Kochi and Mattancherry.
Ninety percent of all pepper produced by India is traded through the International Pepper Exchange in Kochi.
The Church of St. Francis, the oldest church built by Europeans in India, contains a clearly marked burial place for the Portuguese merchant Vasco da Gama, who died in Cochin during his third visit. Vasco was buried in the Church of Saint Francis, but his remains were later returned to Portugal.
Vasco House, located on Rose Street in Fort Kochi, is one of the oldest Portuguese houses in India and has European windows and verandahs.
The Basilica of Santa Cruz, the original Catholic church in Fort Kochi, was built by the Portuguese in 1505 and named a cathedral in 1558. The current structure dates from 1905 and was made a basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.
The Jewish Synagogue, located near the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry, was built in 1568. It is decorated with magnificent Chinese tiles and Belgian chandeliers and houses huge Old Testament scrolls.
Best buys in Cochin for shoppers include metalware, wood carvings and items made from coconut shells, bamboo canes, or rattan. Shops generally open at 10 am and close around 8 pm, and are closed on Sundays.
To learn more about Cochin, India, check out these resources: