Fort Kochi – A little known treasure

FortKochi-1-Sized

Fort Kochi is a quaint little European township located to the south-west of mainland Cochin. The land, which was ventured by the Portuguese, Dutch, British, Jewish & Chinese explorers, retains a rich assortment of age-old legacies even today. As a souvenir of their visit, these explorers have left behind churches, architectural bungalows, synagogues, Chinese fishing nets, art galleries, and antiques that are strewn everywhere on the narrow streets of Fort Kochi in a pleasant abundance.

In Fort Kochi, every door and window is an excellent photo opportunity. Every door and window has a story to tell. Pay heed to those stories and you will certainly be taken back in time, starting from the 14th century. Though rampant political disputes led to constant destruction, Fort Kochi’s architectural beauty was never to be amassed. Trader after trader came to this land seeking spices. And, slowly but steadily they contributed to Fort Kochi’s architectural wonders. May be those were the best days of Fort Kochi. Over the past few years, the attention of this tiny region has turned entirely towards fishing and tourism. And now everything takes place unhurriedly, in a homey, laid-back fashion with the grace of age-old customs along the shores of the rich Arabian Sea and the town rests peacefully centuries later.

1. A Walk through the by lanes of Fort Kochi 

The streets are calm and oftentimes, there is no one to disturb the quiet. But for a vivid observer there can be lot of happening in the streets—mosses stricken walls, some graffiti painted, some decorated by the early morning dews, colorful single-storeyed bungalows, abandoned buildings, vintage doors and windows. And for a heart that follows feathers, the quest is fulfilled—a passel of pigeons whoosh swiftly along the slopy sun-shade, a swoop of seagulls fly high with the best one leading the flock, or spot a lonely sparrow in her blissful heaven where her silence and solitude are melded into one.

 


***

2. At the Mahatma Gandhi Beach

Oftentimes, huge monster ships sail over the grey sea, slaying its way through the thick sheet of morning haze.In Fort Kochi, the sea port is busier than the waves, both at dawn and dusk. Only now and again, a tiny wave makes a barely audible slurp as it hits upon the rocks of the embankment. 

And where there is beach, there is emotion too 🙂 

.
 
***

3. The Art and Ambiance 

 Much of Fort Kochi’s ambiance reflects the colonial rule. The ancient buildings are now a specimen of  Portuguese, Dutch and Jewish architecture. Some of them are converted into hotels, some into art galleries and art cafés—where the art treasures of the bygone era are now preserved. Pay a visit to the David Art Gallery. And let the eyes of the portraits converse with your mind. When you are left isolated in the hall, these paintings can either harp in impulse of thoughts or cease your mind and make you standstill.
 
 

***

4. The St.Francis Church  

St.Francis Church – the oldest and the first European church built in India, circa 1503 by the Portuguese. This church was where Vasco da Gama was buried for 14 years. For centuries, this modest structure has been home to a battalion of voices, a multitude of prayers, joy and sorrow, destruction and rejuvenation..

                     ‘For Men may come and Men may go but I go on forever…’                         

.                 

  
5. The Jew Town, Mattancherry
 
 The streets are colorful and vibrant. The Jew town is adorned by colorful artifacts—unique antique pieces, intricately carved wall hangings, innumerable statue of gods of different religion, and even a variety of apparel that keeps calling for a purchase—Mattancherry will pull you in, for a shopping loot. 
 
 

The Jew town demands that you know a little bit of its burgeoning past so that you’d appreciate its present better. Mattancherry was a trade hub for its invaders (predominantly Jews) who traded spices viz. pepper and turmeric.At present, a handful of Jew families have settled down in Mattancherry and the rest migrated to their homeland leaving their Hebrew imprinted boards behind, to feel the traces of Jerusalem in Kerala. The town awes the visitors with its age-old ethnicity, social history, diversified settlements and the peaceful co-existence of Temples, Mosques, Churches and Synagogues (a Jewish place of worship). 

 The Paradesi Synagogue is the only functional synagogue in Mattancherry and it is closed on Fridays and Saturdays, as you can see 🙂
 

***

6. The Chinese Fishing Nets, Vypeen Island 

 The Chinese fishing nets was introduced by the Chinese explorer, Zheng He. As I walk alongside the seacoast of Vypeen Island, I was glad to see how the nets operate. It operates on a cantilever system where the 10 m high net, hanging on one end of the beam is counterbalanced by huge stones on the other. The empty net is then lowered in the sea for a few minutes and then lifted up with a variety of fishes.The yield may seem meagre.  

 
 

But, to my surprise the yield wasn’t so bad. 

 
 

 ***

7. The Kashi’s Art Cafe, Fort Kochi

 

The art cafe’s ambience is very different from the rest. The cafe welcomes with a display of contemporary art sculptures and wall hangings, each of which is capable to hold a stare for a while ,  the cobble-stone  pathway leads into the main cafe and the sun rays steal a glance through the canopy of leaves which serves as a roof of the cafe. A leisurely place to have breakfast amidst the gallery of  fine arts or to read a favorite novel in an unhurried pace over a cup of hot chocolate—the cafe just lets you do the same.And that’s precisely why every traveler to Fort Kochi  pays a visit to Kashi’s Art Cafe for sure. 

 
 
***

8. Kathakali at The Greenix Village, Fort Kochi

 

Every day, the art centre offers a variety of  dance and martial art performances—Kathakali, Mohiniatam,Theyyam, Koodiyattam, Kalaripayattu. The art centre also houses an elegant dance theatre, curio shop, book shop and an amazing art museum. The visitors are allowed to see the make-up done for the artist before the dance performance.






At the dance theatre:

Once the make-up session was over, we entered the dance theatre. And surprisingly, we were the only Indian nationals in the theatre that seated about 50 odd people! The show commenced. All lights off. Silence. Darkness. Within a few seconds, the audio of the narrator breaks the silence and welcomes the whole lot for the evening. A circular beam of light appears, illuminating the centre of the stage and slowly the artists flash a parade of their expressions. As we were seated in the last row, the scene was even more exhilarating—the foreground was dotted with silhouetted audience and the main subjects on the stage were striking, bright and vibrant.

 


The narrator continues to elaborate the history of the art form and the characterization of each artist. The artists enacted a short excerpt from the Mahabaratha. The narration, music and the dance are overwhelmingly in sync. The facial expressions of the artists are close to indescribable and they knew how to control each and every facial muscle, especially cheekbones, lips, eyes and eyebrows. I—another silhouetted figure standing in a hardly visible corner of the dance theatre—am constantly clicking photos until my fingers turn numb. Then again, the artists’ movements and expressions provoke indefatigable vigour to take more photographs and that was true for every other photography-enthusiast in the theatre.      

 ***

Fort Kochi is certainly not for the adventure seekers. That being said, Fort Kochi is a endless adobe of relaxation—to settle down in silence, in art, besides the sea, over a cup of coffee, or a leisurely walk, or exchange ideas with people worldwide, to picture the past, to mind-travel a couple of centuries back, to imagine, to admire the colorful and to appreciate the unagitated calmness of this quaint little town. Fort Kochi.


 

*******

Share:

4 Comments

  1. Arumugam Rajasekaran November 18, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    அருமை! உங்களுடைய கவித்துவமான விவரிப்பு. நானும் ஒரு கணம் அந்த மௌன வீதிகளில் நடந்து , பறவையின் படையெடுப்பை வியந்து, குருவியின் சிணுங்களில் சிதைந்து, கலை ஒளியில் நனைந்த ஒரு பயணத்திற்கு உட்பட்டேன். நன்றி…

  2. Jeevitha Balakrishnan November 21, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    Thank you so much for reading. 🙂 The best comment ever!!!
    நன்றி..!!! 🙂

  3. Jeyannathann K December 31, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    It was a pleasant surprise when I came across.this page mainly because of the way the words and pixels have come together to present an ideal marriage between the past
    and the present. Loved the captures and the timely historical references. Would love to see a standalone post about the Cochin Jewish heritage , their cuisine , Synagogues . Thank you for taking us on a travel through Fort Kochi. Kudos from fellow SRV-mate / SRV-ite

  4. Jeevitha Balakrishnan January 2, 2015 at 7:05 am #

    Thanks a bunch Jeyannathann… glad u enjoyed 🙂 a surprise for me too

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*