Inside Ernakulam - Fort Kochi
Access: Backwater ferry / bus / auto rickshaw
A leisurely walk through the city is the best way to discover historic Fort Kochi. An obscure fishing village that became the first European township in India, Kochi has an eventful and colourful history. Its reputation as a seafaring commercial town was such that Nicolas Conti, an Italian traveller of the Middle Ages remarked. If China is where you make your money, then Kochi surely is the place to spend it. The town was shaped by the Portuguese, the Dutch and later the British. The result of these cultural influences are seen in the many examples of Indo European architecture that still exist here.
Chinese Fishing Nets/Vasco da Gama Square:
These huge cantilevered fishing nets are the legacy of one of the first visitors to the Malabar Coast. Erected here between 1350 and 1450 AD by traders from the court of Kublai Khan, these nets are set up on teak wood and bamboo poles. The best place to watch the nets being lowered into the sea and catch being brought in is the Vasco da Gama Square, a narrow promenade that runs along the beach. The Square is an ideal place to idle, with stalls serving fresh delicious seafood, tender coconut etc.
Pierce Leslie Bungalow:
This charming mansion was the office of Pierce Leslie & Co., coffee merchants, founded in 1862. A representative of the Fort Kochi colonial bungalow, this building reflects Portuguese, Dutch and local influences. Characteristic features are wood panels that form the roof of the ground floor, arched doorways, carved doors and sprawling rooms. Waterfront verandahs are an added attraction.
Old Harbour House:
This elegant old bungalow built in 1808 is in the possession of Carrit Moran & Co., renowned tea brokers, who now use it
as their residence. The house was once a boat club.
This magnificent building constructed by Samuel S. Koder of The Cochin Electric Company in 1808 is a supreme example of the transition from colonial to Indo-European architecture. Features like verandah seats at the entrance, floor tiles set in a chess board pattern, red coloured brick like facade, carved wood furniture and a wooden bridge connecting to a separate structure across the street are all unique to this bungalow.
Once a warehouse, this heritage bungalow built in 1808, houses a high school today.
Santa Cruz Basilica:
This historic church was built by the Portuguese and elevated to a Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. In 1795 it fell into the hands of the British when they took over Kochi, and was demolished. About a hundred years later Bishop Dom Gomez Ferreira commissioned a new building at the same site in 1887. The church was proclaimed a Basilica in 1984 by Pope John Paul II.
Believed to have been the residence of Vasco da Gama, this is one of the oldest Portuguese residences in Fort Kochi. Built in the early sixteenth century, Vasco House sports the typical European glass paned windows and balcony cum verandahs characteristic of the times.
The large wooden gate facing the Parade Ground, with the monogram (VOC) of the once mighty Dutch East India Company carved on it, was built in 1740.
The Bishop’s House:
Built in 1506 as the residence of the Portuguese Governor, the Bishop’s House stands on a little hillock near the Parade Ground. The facade of the House is characterised by large Gothic arches, and has a circular garden path winding up to the main entrance. The building was acquired by Dom Jos Gomes Ferreira, the 27th Bishop of the Diocese of Kochi whose jurisdiction extended over Burma, Malaya and Ceylon, in addition to India.
This bastion of the Portuguese in Kochi was a symbol of the strategic alliance between the Maharajah of Kochi and the Monarch of Portugal, after whom it was named. Built in 1503, the fort was reinforced in 1538. By 1806 the Dutch, and later the British, had destroyed most of the fort walls and its bastions. Today, remains of this once imposing structure can be seen along the beach.
The Dutch Cemetery:
The tomb stones here are the most authentic record of the hundreds of Europeans who left their homeland on a mission to expand their colonial empires and changed the course of history of this land. The cemetery was consecrated in 1724 and is today managed by the Church of South India.
This graceful building holds within itself a reflection of the colonial era. The bungalow was built on the site of the Gelderland Bastion, one of the seven bastions of the old Dutch fort. Earlier known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow, it was home to the managers of the National Bank of India during the British reign. Today, the bungalow belongs to Ram Bahadur Thakur and Company, the renowned tea trading firm.
Though built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company, David Hall gets its name from one of its later occupants, David Koder, a Jewish businessman. The Hall was originally associated with Hendrik Adriaan Van Reed Tot Drakestein, renowned Dutch commander better known for his Hortus Malabaricus, a pioneering compilation of the flora of the Malabar Coast.