After leaving the fabulous Alleppey, we reached Cochin, nearly 50 km from Alleppey. Cochin is one of the most important port cities of India. It is situated in Ernakulam district of Kerala, with name Ernakulam normally applied to mainland part of the city. Cochin is the home of the Southern Command of Indian Navy and state headquarters of Indian Coast Guard. A major trading center in the Arabian Sea since ancient times, Kochi was famous as Queen of Arabian Sea. 

Cochin has rich colonial heritage. Cochin remained the main seat of Portuguese colonies in India during the initial part of their stay in India, later it was Goa. During Portuguese rule, Christianity rose to prominence in Kerala, although it existed in Kerala right from the first century. Many churches were built during this time. Portuguese rule was followed by that of the Dutch. Dutch exchanged the Kochi with the United Kingdom in return of island of Bangka. Kochi remained a princely state till freedom of India. After Indian independence, Kochi became the first princely state to willingly join the Union of India.

The first area that we visited in the city was Fort Kochi. Contrary to its name, you will not find any fortified structure or huge palaces in Fort Kochi. This was the first place where European colonialism started in India. When Portuguese landed on the Malabar Coast, they were invited by the king of the Kochi as he felt threatened by the neighboring kingdom of Calicut. Later the king of Kochi was deprived of his powers by Portuguese. Today Fort Kochi is a peaceful and good-to-roam-around city. One could sight medium to large ships going to the harbour.

The Chinese fishing nets caught our attention in Fort Kochi. Called cheena vala locally, these nets were fixed on land. The two arms of the nets are so balanced that weight of a man can cause the net to dip in the sea. These nets are then taken out of the water by using ropes, and fishes so caught are collected. These are famous tourist attractions now in Kerala. Earlier it was believed that these nets were introduced by a Chinese traveler Zheng He, but recent researches have shown that these were introduced by Portuguese settlers from Macau. During our visit, we did not see too many fishes caught by these nets, in contrast to the effort and number of people employed in a single net.

We went to St. Francis Church, which was under renovation for the upcoming Christmas season. Built in 1503, it is oldest European church in India. The church was built by Portuguese explorers with the permission from Raja of Cochin. The first European - Vasco da Gama - who set sail to India, died during his third visit to India. He was buried here until his remains were returned to Portugal fourteen years later. The Church remained intact even during the transition from Portuguese to Dutch to British rule.

We also went to the LuLu shopping mall, the largest mall in India when it was built, currently the second largest. After this, we boarded the train from Ernakulam Junction. Thus ended our long trip to Kerala. While looking back, all the places seem so diverse and so beautiful. These days will always be present in my memories.

This post is a part of the series Kerala : God's Own Country.

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