Inside Ernakulam - Fort Kochi
Access: Backwater ferry / bus / auto rickshaw
Loafer’s Corner / Princess Street:
One of the earliest streets to be constructed in Fort Kochi, Princess Street with its European style residences still retains its old world charm. The best view of this quaint street can be had from Loafer’s Corner, the traditional meeting place and hangout of the jovial fun loving people of the area.
The four acre Parade Ground was where once the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British colonists conducted their military parades and drills. The buildings around the ground housed their defence establishments. Today, the largest open ground in Fort Kochi, the Parade Ground is a sports arena.
St. Francis Church:
Built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars, this is India’s oldest European church. This was initially built of timber and later reconstructed in stone masonry. It was restored in 1779 by the Protestant Dutch, converted to an Anglican church by the British in 1795 and is at present governed by the Church of South India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524 before his remains were moved to Lisbon, Portugal. The tombstone still remains.
Built in the Indo-European style way back in 1667, the Bungalow gets its name from its location on the site of the Stromberg Bastion of the old Dutch Fort. The building blends beautifully into the circular structure of the bastion, has a tiled roof and a typical first floor verandah in wood along its front portion. Though it has been said that a network of secret tunnels runs beneath the bungalow, none have been found. Today, the Bungalow is the official residence of the Sub Collector.
Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace) (Open 1000 - 1700 hrs. Closed on Fridays):
Built by the Portuguese in 1557 and presented to Raja Veera Kerala Varma of Kochi, the palace was renovated in 1663 by the Dutch. On display here are beautiful murals depicting scenes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and some of the Puranic Hindu legends. The palace also houses Dutch maps of old Kochi, royal palanquins, coronation robes of former maharajas of Kochi as well as period furniture. The three dimensional portraits of the Maharajas are also noteworthy.
Synagogue (Open 1000 - 1200 hrs; 1500 -1700 hrs. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays):
Constructed in 1568, this is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. Destroyed in a shelling during the Portuguese raid in 1662, it was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. Known for mid 18th century hand painted, willow patterned floor tiles from Canton in China, a clock tower, Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, great scrolls of the Old Testament, ancient scripts on copper plates etc.
Jew Town: The area around the Synagogue is a centre of spice trade and curio shops.
The Hill Palace Museum:
The Hill Palace, the official residence of the Kochi royal family, is today the largest archaeological museum in Kerala. Built in 1865, the palace complex consists of 49 buildings in the tr tional architectural style of Kerala, sprawled over 52 acres of beautifully landscaped terraced land which houses a deer park and facilities for horse riding. Numerous species of flora including rare medicinal plants grow here. On display in the full-fledged Ethno-archaeological museum are oil-paintings, murals, sculptures in stone and manuscripts, inscriptions, coins, belongings of the Kochi royal family and royal furniture including the simhasana (throne).
Also exhibited are over 200 antique pieces of pottery and ceramic vases from Japan and China, Kudakkallu (tomb stone), Thoppikkallu (hood stone), menhirs, granite, laterite memorials, rock cut weapons from the stone ages, wooden temple models, plaster cast models of objects from Mohanjodaro and Harappa of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The museum also houses a gallery of contemporary art.
Utsavam at Mahadeva Temple:
Highlights: Ritual procession, Kathakali, Classical music recitals, Ashtami (November)
Utsavam at Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple:
Highlights: Kanikka edal (offerings placed in a golden pot), Kathakali, Chakyarkoothu, Ottanthullal, Music concerts (December)
Mahotsavam at Mahadeva Temple:
Highlights: Deepakazhcha, illumination of traditional lamps, Ottamthullal, Chakyarkoothu, Kurathiyattam, Elephants pageants (December)
Tourism Week Celebration:
A secular festival that brings together the thirteen communities living in Kochi. Highlights: Food festival, Procession of theme floats, Gajamela (elephant pageants), Music concerts, Jalamela (water fiestas), Cultural programmes, Boat race (December)
Indira Gandhi Boat Race on the Kochi backwaters. (December)
Utsavam at Siva Temple.
Highlights: Seeveli, Panchavadyam, Pakalpooram, Kathakali, Music concerts, Arattu (January)
International Contemporary Dance Festival:
Assemblage of artistes from India, Europe and the Far East. (January)
An entire Kerala village is recreated during this ten day long festival. Highlights: Arts and crafts fair, Kathakali, Thiruvathirakali, Mohiniyattom, Oppana, Kalaripayattu, Sarpapattu, Theyyam, Panchavadyam, Chakyarkoothu, Ottanthullal (February)
Utsavam at Sree Rajarajeswari Temple:
Highlights: Arattu, Makamthozhal (special rite)-Chottanikkara Makam, Pooram on the eighth day, Grand fireworks, Art forms, Cultural performances (February)
A traditional post harvest festival of the peasants of Kakkoor. Highlights: Exhibition of agricultural products, implements, and other traditional crafts, Folk arts, Music concerts, Elephant processions, Bullock race (March)
Bharani festival at Sree Kurumba Bhagavathy Temple:
Highlights: Cultural programmes, Devotional rites (April)
Marks the beginning of the Onam festival. Highlights: Elephant procession, Colourful floats, Musical ensembles, Ritual and folk art forms (September)
Aluva Sivarathri at Siva Temple:
Highlights: Night long reading of the puranas, Rural trade fair, Cultural programmes, Vavubali (ritual in honour of the forefathers) at dawn (March)