Fort Kochi is a melting pot; it is a charming testament to the dynamism of the age of exploration when Chinese, Arab, and European traders flocked to its famous spice markets.
The Dutch, Portuguese, and British influences stand out in particular, fused into everything from the Indo-European architecture to the rich cuisine.
Walking through Kochi today, this history surrounds you as Fishermen haul in catches from traditional Chinese fishing nets. In recent years, this working fishing town has undergone a sophisticated cultural rebirth in connection with the famous Kochi Biennale. Along side the bustling spice markets that attracted traders from around the world in the age of exploration, are sleek cafes displaying contemporary art and serving steaming chai.
The result is intoxicating. Discover a town that is both easily walkable and can be endlessly explored; that blends rustic authenticity with picturesque sophistication as expertly as its cafes do spices and hot water.
Spice Capital of India
The picturesque feel of modern day Fort Kochi could easily lull one into overlooking the thrilling history not far beneath its charming surface. Heir to Muziris, a trading center of the ancient world, Fort Kochi carried a legacy of economic and cultural exchange in the age of exploration as the spice capital of the world. With the fragrant cinnamon, cardamom and black gold (or peppercorns), Fort Kochi emerged as one of the most important trading centers on the western coast of India.
The Melting Pot
Fort Kochi (or Cochin as it was known) became the first European colony in all of India when the Maharaja welcomed the Portuguese, famously lead by Vasco da Gama, to establish a presence there in 1503. The “Fort” of Fort Kochi was later destroyed by the Dutch, who overthrew the Portuguese in the 17th century and established the city as a center in the trading network of the famous Dutch East India Trading Company. The final European power to shape Kochi were the British who took control of the spice capital in 1795. In addition to the constant European presence, a continuous Syrian Christians and Jewish population further diversified the melting pot that is Fort Kochi.
Yesteryear’s Fort Kochi
As traders, missionaries and soldiers from empires across the world passed through Kochi, pieces of each of these diverse cultures remained forever embedded in the identity of the town. The famous “Chinese fishing nets” vaulted out over the beach are graceful reminders of Chinese traders from the court of Kublai Khan in the 14th century. The aged stones of the Dutch cemetery are testament to soldiers and traders who gave their lives to the age of exploration. Just down the street is St. Francis Church, the final resting place of the man who made the whole era possible, Vasco de Gama.
The Contemporary Art City
Even as this history lives on, this working fishing town has undergone a sophisticated cultural rebirth in recent years in connection with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale the world famous contemporary art exhibition. Taking over cafés and heritage buildings every two years, this event has gained international following and acclaim since its inception in 2012. Watch the city awash with its effects.
Fort Kochi is easily walkable and can be endlessly explored. Wander down narrow lanes where the oldest Portuguese house in all of India sits unassumingly next to polished galleries on the cutting edge of contemporary art. Recharge in cozy cafes nestled amongst vibrant markets hawking the same spices that have drawn people to this exotic corner of the Arabian sea for millennia.