Old colonial bungalows, warehouses, streets, palaces, churches, mosques, Jain temples and a Jewish Synagogue – Fort Kochi or Fort Cochin offers plenty of rare spectacles and cultural specifics to the keen traveler. This beautiful island like southern bank of Kochi harbor lured ancient travelers and explorers from time immemorial. The Romans, the Chinese, the Arabs, the Jews, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English came to these seductive shores and settled down. The whole world has left its imprint in this tiny strip of land between the Arabian sea and Kochi backwaters.
The Jew Street and the still preserved Synagogue are among the ancient surviving ones in the world. Though the Jews had left long ago to their promised land these ancient relics resonate the rich polyphonic culture of South India. The Dutch palace in Mattanchery, slightly south of Fort Cochin is again a historic marvel of hybrid architecture. The Dutch cemetery and bungalows are still surviving and being renovated under the heritage projects. The sparkling little beach nearby attracts a lot of people and the marine walkway is always busy. Some canon barrels and gunnery are still seen near the beach path facing the sea.
Chinese fishing nets are a real treat for the eyes and are lasting legacies of Keala’s historic relations with ancient Chinese culture. We still use
Chinese frying pans, Chinese pots and urns, Chinese lanterns and so on… Kerala architecture and visual culture are reminiscent of the Chinese traditions. Our brave fisher folk still earn a living using the ancient Chinese fishing nets along both the sides of the harbor. Foreigners crowd in numbers to watch the catch still. The ancient trees and the variety of birds here are also adding to the charm and magic of this place. So is the street merchants and their display of handicrafts.
The Vasco da Gama Square offers historic memories of European colonialism. The St. Francis church nearby is one of the ancient churches in the peninsula. Gama’s physical remains were kept here for sometime before it was taken to Europe. The fish market with live catch of prawn, lobsters, shrimp, squids, crabs and a lot more rare sea food is irresistible. The food courts designed in the Portuguese style are dramatic and cozy.
More than everything the people of this place and the people who throng in to this place from various parts of the world to enjoy the sun, wind and sea of Fort Cochin are really exciting and illuminating. Men and women from various corners of the globe come here and share the shared heritage of Fort Cochin and the plural culture of Kerala that opened its windows to the world a lot earlier than other parts of India. This is a great place to be and a great place to learn about the composite culture of Kerala. Whenever I get time I make my regular pilgrimage to this great shore of cultural plurality and historical diversity. The refreshing gushy winds and waves of the Arabian sea, the movement of the Chinese fishing nets, the rejuvenating faces of the travelers from distant shores and the seagulls and terns beckon me time and again to this unique location of culture.