God’s own Country, the tagline from Kerala Tourism stands true to its word. I decided to explore Kochi first. So before embarking on the journey to nature’s paradise, thought of exploring the history of Kochi. In 1341 floods in Kerala created a natural safe port and Kochi was born on the Malabar Coastline. The royal family shifted to this new place from Muziris (50 kilometers up north).
Kochi or Cochin has many similar sounding names and it could have been from the word Koccharzhi meaning a small harbor or maybe from Kochchi, the river connecting backwaters to the sea. It could also have been derived from Malayalam word Kochu azhi, meaning small lagoon. Some believe that Cochin is thus named due to Chinese influence Koh-Chin. It is also called as Ernakulum which refers to central mainland portion of the city of Kochi.
Ernakulam is coined from the Tamil word Erayanarkulam, meaning the abode of Shiva. Rulers of Kochi and Kozhikode were always at loggerhead; Ming Dynasty of China favored more pliable Kochi rulers. Chinese were frequent visitors here in the 14th century and established the famous Chinese Fishing Nets. First European settlement was established by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500 and Portuguese ruled Kochi from 1503 to 1663. Fort Emmanuel or Fort Manuel, the first Portuguese fort in Asia was built and named after the king of Portugal Manual I. Land for construction was given by Kochi King for helping them in their fight against Kozhikode Zamorins.
This commercial capital city of Kerala is on the South-West coast of India, also called as Malabar Coast bordering Tamilnadu, Karnataka and the Laccadive Sea. The city grew as a competition to Kozhikode by attracting Christians, Jews, and Arab settlers. After Portuguese rule, Queen of Arabian Sea as it is often called was governed by Dutch and later by British till 1947.
We reached Kochi in the afternoon and after checking in moved out to explore. It was very hot and as they say, there is only one season in Kochi – summer which may have temporary relief by heavy rains. Our first destination was backwaters. All types of boats are available to explore these lovely waterways. We took a motorboat and navigated through the mangroves, palm-fringed lakes, small Chinese nets, and the canals. There were many small reclaimed land islands inhabited by fishermen.
The livelihood of these inhabitants is fishing as well as rearing Pigs, Ducks, and Chickens. They also do the farming of Prawns and fishes like popular Karimeen. We could spot many birds in the area especially many Herons, Kingfishers, Brahmin Kites, Painted Storks, Ducks, and Darters. Our pilot picked up a Jelly Fish to show us. These backwaters are basically a chain of brackwaters, lagoons, and lakes.
These are called asVeeranpuzha. It is part of Vembanad Lake which is the longest lake in India and largest in Kerala. It is lined with the lovely skyline of Kochi city and has residences of many rich and famous of Kerala. The boating experience was quite pleasant with lovely sea breeze and postcard frames all around.
Chinese Fishing Nets were our main destination for the day. Best time to visit is at sunset time. These represent the most common photographic image of Kochi. Nets were introduced by Chinese traveler Zheng He in the 14th century. Locals call them “Cheenvala” and work on the principle of stationary lift net. These are constructed with bamboo and teak poles working on the principle of a balance. Nets are lowered in the sea and lifted back by counterweights with trapped fishes.
I was able to climb on one of the structure although in retrospect it was fairly risky walking on these rickety bamboos with full camera load on my back. Any wrong step would have definitely resulted in the loss of camera and probably a broken bone but desire to have a vantage position for a good picture overtook the fear. Sunset was very beautiful but extremely dirty beach left a bad taste. Crows and Egrets were all over in large number looking for any leftover fishes.