1 Understand 1.1 History 1.2 Culture 1.3 Climate 1.4 Orientation 1.4.1 When to visit 1.5 Tourist information A city born in storm, nurtured in rivalry and established as battling ground for European empires. This phrase is a good description of Kochi, which was formed as an ancient port city after the Great Floods of the Periyar River in 1341. With partitioning of Chera Kerala empire in 14th century, this region came under control of a new dynasty, rivaled by other local feudal lords. With the advent of colonization, Kochi became the first major battle grounds of almost all European powers. History Kochi merchants began trading in spices such as black pepper and cardamom with the Arabs, Dutch, Phoenicians, Portuguese and Chinese more than 600 years ago. This helped Kochi to prosper and to become the gateway to old India. It was from Kochi that the colonization of India started. Portugal was first to establish its base in Kochi, followed by the Dutch and British. The Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1814, compelled the Dutch to hand over Kochi to the British in exchange for Bangka Island in Indonesia. The British managed to establish their influence over Kochi, limiting their direct administration to a small enclave of Fort Kochi and British Ernakulam with their capital at Bolgatty Island. The rest of the Kochi Kingdom was administered by Kochi Maharajas from their capital at Thripunithura. However, the real administration was done by Diwans (Prime Ministers), leaving the Maharajas to patronize culture, arts and focus heavily on the areas of public health and education. The foundations of modern Kochi city started when Sir Robert Bristow, a senior Royal Navy Engineer, felt the need for a modern large port after the opening of the Suez Canal. This resulted in the creation of the largest man-made island of the country, Willingdon Island, to house the new Kochi Port. In the 1930s, the Kochi Maharaja joined the public outcry to form a common state of Malayalam-speaking people by merging with the Kingdom of Travancore and British Malabar. Kochi Maharaja Kerala Varma Raja was at the forefront of this agitation, and passed the Aykiakerala Resolution in the Kochi Parliament. In 1947, the Kingdom of Kochi and Travancore merged to form the Royal State of Travancore-Kochi. The Kochi Maharaja was amongst the first to advocate the state joining the newly formed Indian Union. Finally, in 1948, the state of Travancore-Kochi merged with India. Since the formation of Kerala in 1957, Kochi has been the commercial capital of Kerala as well as the seat of the Kerala High Court. Since 2000, Kochi has revitalized its economy, with a focus on tourism, information technology and its port. Culture The colonial charms of Fort Kochi Kochi has a cosmopolitan culture, highly influenced by historical trading partners, Portuguese, Dutch, Arab, Chinese, and Japanese. Kochi is the seat of the Latin church of Kerala and has many Catholic churches and followers. Kochi was traditionally a potpourri of various Indian and international communities. Syrian Christians started the first wave of immigration, followed by Jews between the 7th and 10th centuries. Arab merchants also made a strong settlement in Kochi. In the 15th century, Gujaratis settled in Kochi, especially on Mattancherry, where they played a strong role in spice trading and other areas. Later, at the beginning of the colonial era, the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British all made their settlements in Kochi. The Portuguese had a strong influence in Fort Cochin. British culture was strongly felt, lending Kochi a strong community of Anglo-Indians. In the early 1970s, Punjabis settled here, focusing their strong presence on the local automobile industry. Tamilians, Telugus, Kannadigas have all formed small settlements since the days of royalty. Students from Cambodia, Thailand, Korea, and Indonesia have settled down in Kochi for studies and research activities. Kochi has a sizeable expatriate population mainly from European countries who have settled in Fort Kochi. Most of them are senior citizens who settled down to enjoy retirement life and many run boutique hotels and restaurants in that area. Due to the rapid growth of the city, a majority of the local population are now immigrants. Generally, Kochinites are modern and fashionable. Being a city that has a tradition of various cultures being given equal respect, a high level of tolerance exists. The city has a modern attitude, but some basic social modesty still prevails, especially in villages and rural areas. Climate Kochi has a typical tropical climate. Temperatures range between 30°C and 35°C during daytime and around 24°C at night. Kochi is one of the first places to experience the heavy monsoon showers, which start around mid-May. It thus experiences heavy rainfall between mid-May and the first week in September. Daytime temperatures during the monsoon fall to between 25°C and 30°C. From September to early February, the weather is fine, marked with cool winds and light showers. Summer starts in February. Although temperatures never reach 40°C, the high humidity can make summers uncomfortable. This continues until early May. Frequent showers cool down the harshness of summer. Orientation After rapid growth during the two last decades, Kochi is now one of the most densely populated town areas in India. Kochi city consists of: Map of the Kochi area Aluva — the second largest town in Kochi U/A, famous for its Periyar river banks. Kochi International Airport is nearby. Bolgatty Island — the island where the British established a Royal Residency, which is now converted into a five star hotel. Famous for its large golf course, horse riding tracks, marina and boatyards. Ernakulam Mainland City — the heart and transport hub of Kochi with three distinct parts: the Central Business District (CBD) which has Mahatma Gandhi Road (MG Road) as the main arterial road along with Marine Drive and Chitoor Road; Downtown with upscale residential areas and the business district at SA Road and Vytilla Junction and the Suburb which has many business and commercial areas. Maradu — next door to Kochi city; an upcoming business district with numerous high-end hotels. Peninsula of Mattancherry and Fort Kochi (Old Kochi) — primarily a tourist enclave. Fort Kochi forms the upper part of the Peninsula with neatly arranged colonial buildings, narrow well-paved roads, Anglo-Dutch influenced structures and large antiques shops. Mattancherry is primarily a trading city, famous for its thriving Gujarati settlement brought to the city in the 16th and 17th centuries by the spice trade. Thrikkakara Town — famous for the large Vamana Temple, the focal centre of Onam, the national festival of Kerala. Also the home of Cochin University and other educational institutes. Thripunithura — the erstwhile capital of the Kingdom of Kochi is famous for various historical palaces, museums and temples, and as a centre of the arts. Vallarpadom Island — where the new Kochi International Mega Container Terminal (ICT) has opened. Vypin Island — one of the most densely populated islands in world with numerous fishing villages, tourist villages and the popular Cherai Beach. Willingdon Island — large man-made island made from sand dredged from the backwaters to deepen the Kochi Port. Named after Long Willingdon, then-the reigning Viceroy of India, it houses the Kochi Port, Southern Naval Command Headquarters of Indian Navy and many five-star hotels. When to visit The peak visitor season is often from August to February with December being the busiest month when there are many festivals and special attractions along with the famous Cochin Carnival and Christmas celebrations. Onam season (mid Aug-mid Sept) is also a busy tourist season considering traditional line up of various festivities. Monsoon is being promoted heavily by the tourism department as a rejuvenation season which also slowly becoming a popular season to visit to experience the heavy rainfalls. However it is advisable to avoid March and April considering the harsh summer, though it is a primary Indian domestic tourist season. Tourist information Free information and city maps are available at state run Kerala Tourism Development Corp (KTDC) offices at: Airport Tourist Counter in Arrival hall of both terminals, ☎+91 484 2611308, +91 484 2611309. Central Toll-Free Number, ☎ 1 800 4254747 City Tourist Information Centre at Old Collectorate in Park Ave, ☎+91 484 2381743. Railway Tourist Office at Ernakulam South Railway Station, ☎+91 484 2378723. Tourist Reception office in Marine Drive, ☎+91 484 2353534 from where KTDC city tours starts/ends. The India Tourism also has its office at Willingdon Island ☎ +91 484 2668352. The District Tourist Promotion Council (DTPC) also helps in providing information to tourists about other parts of Kochi District, which can be reached at ☎ +91 484 2367334, +91 484 2383988.