You know those fishing nets and sun sets over backwaters you see on Google when you type in Kerala? Chances are all those photos were taken at Fort Kochi. It was a trade port in the olden days and attracted many foreigners from Portugal, China, Netherlands, Britain, the Middle East etc. You can see many of the monuments built by different nations and a walk through Fort Kochi shows you beautiful European Architecture like the Bastion Bungalow in River road which now is the official residence of the Sub-Collector; David Hall made by the Dutch which is a cultural centre today; the Koder house which was a Portuguese Mansion in the 1800s; Old Harbour House built by the Dutch which is the oldest hotel in Fort Kochi and the Piece Leslie Bungalow which portrays Portuguese, Dutch and local influences. Other attractions in the area are the ruins of Fort Immanuel which was the first fort built in the area and is the reason Fort Kochi is named so; Indo Portuguese Museum in Bishop house which has many beautiful artefacts connecting Portugal and India; St. Francis church built by the Portuguese where Vasco da Gama was buried once and Santa Cruz Basilica which was rebuilt after it was destroyed by the British in the 16th century.
If you have a free evening someday, try taking a walk through Marine Drive. Backwater on one side and tiny shops selling almost everything you need on the other side. This long walkway in the middle of the city is good for a sunset stroll through the city’s culture.
Built in 1568, the Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in all the commonwealth nations. The sunlight coming in through the windows into the hall, unique blue hand painted tiles from China, gold crowns received as a gift by the Jewish community and chandeliers from Belgium grab your attention the minute you enter the synagogue. Torah, which are the first five books of the Old Testament coated in Silver and Gold are kept in the teak Ark inside the synagogue. The peace, calm and serenity of the synagogue must be maintained and hence all visitors are requested to adhere to the dress code and the timings of the synagogue.
Dutch Palace/ Mattancherry Palace
Next to the synagogue is the Mattacherry Palace which was built by the Portuguese and renovated by the Dutch in the 16th Century. It is built in the traditional Naalukettu style with a courtyard in the middle where a temple of the Royal Deity is situated. There are many mural paintings in the palace, the most notable ones being the story of Ramayana, Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam, Shiv and Krishna Leela. Robes of the royals, swords, maps of old Kochi are also on display at the palace. This austere, unornamented palace depicts the life of rulers of Kerala and is worth a visit.
The Jain temple in Mattancherry is architecturally similar to the Jain temples of Gujarat and is dedicated to Shri Dharmanath, the 15th Jain Tirthankar (teacher of Jain philosophy).
India’s maritime heritage dates back to the Indus valley civilisation and the maritime museum at INS Dronacharya stands testimony to this great heritage. The museum presents the history of Kerala’s trade links with foreign countries, legends of Kunjali Marakkar, India’s ship building activities etc. It is interesting to see the tiny bits which contributed to India’s rank as one of the top ten naval powers of the world.
Museum of Kerala History, Edapally
Kerala is said to have been created by Parasurama who threw his battle axe into the sea thus creating the stretch of land we call Kerala. The museum has life sized figures depicting the history of Kerala from Neolithic to Modern Era with light and sound shows conducted every day. If you are a history buff, visit this tribute to Kerala history situated in Edapally, a little away from the hustle and bustle of Kochi City.