History of Fort Cochin

Mighty people from medieval times. From left to right: The Thampuran of Cochin; the Prime Minister of Cochin from the Paliath family; Vasco da Gama from Portugal; and a poet. The Paliath family was matriarchally organized up to the 20th century. But its outer representative was always a man.

Origin of the name „Kochi“
The most accepted theory is that the name derives from „kochazhi“ which, in Malayalam, denotes "smal lagune".

Mzthological explanation
An ancient legend sazs that the god Parasurama created Kerala bz throwing his axe inte the ocean. The ocean god retreated until the mark where the axe fell into the ocean.

Scientific theory
Some thousand years B.C. the region of today's Kerala had been covered bz mangrove woods. When the sea level rose, turf/ and sand banks were created which formed the shape of the coastal area as we see it today.

First sources
Since the beginning of our common era, Arabian and Chinese traders sourced pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, sanal wood etc. from the Kochi region. Cultivation and trade concerning these valuable goods shaped the history of the region still until today. First the Arabian traders knew about these products, and they brought the highly wanted merchandise to Europe. Later, the Portugese, then the Dutch, and afterwards the Britishers fought for supremacy in this business. .

Since 600 A.C.
one finds written documents about the Malabar coast. As early as this, there used to live Hindus, Christians, Muslims and a Jewish minority at this place. 1341
The rise of Kochi began when a natural flood desaster destroyed the harbour of the town Kodungalur. By exactly thi flood the harbour of Kochi was created. From then on, the town developed into one of the most important harbours of the Indian West cost. It concentrated on the spice trade with China and Middle East.

At that time, there were two rival kings at the coast of Malabar, the Muslim Zamorins of Calicut, and the Hindu Maharaja of Cochin. This was the time when the first Portugese ships landed at the Malabar coast: Vasco da Gama in Calicut, and Pedro Alvares Cabral in Kochi. The Maharaja of Kochi felt threatened by the Muslim Zamorins at Calicut, and he hoped that the Portugese would help him in his defense of the neighbouring king of Calicut.The Maharaja welcomed the Portugese, and the founded their first tradin center in Kochi. Today some of these building from Portugese times can be seen. - Afterwards the Maharaja of Cochin was largely deprived of his power, and Kochi became the first European colony in India. The Portugese put pressure upon the small Jewish community, and even the "Syrian" Christians, who used to live here since many hundred years, had hard times. The Portugese did not like the idea of a Christian community which did not belong to Rome, and thus they tried to merge the Syrian Christian Church with the Latin Church which consisted of people converted by the Portugese. This created conflicts with the Indian caste system, because the Syrian Christians belonged to a higher caste the the Latin Christian which consisted mainly of poor fisherman from the coast.

From 1653 on
When the Dutch came to India, they allied with the Zamorin of Calicut, and they conquered Kochi in 1653. From then on, the period of prosperity of Kochi began. The town now belonged to the worldwide trading network of the Netherlan East India Company which was responsible for the economic rise of Kochi. The Dutch did not put pressure on the religious communities but had mainly economic interests.

From 1760 on
there came uneasy times for Kochi because of trouble between the regional powers. Kochi was devastated by von Hyder Ali, the later by his son Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan subordinated the town temporarily to the kingdom of Mysore.

From 1790
on Kochi came under the influence of the British. The British/Dutch pact from 1814 Kochi became a part of the Madras Presidency, and thus it became, finally, a part of the British colonial imperium. The British shaped the country until the 20th century, and Kochi has always been a important harbour and trade center.

Indian got its independance.

From 1947
on, Kochi was the capital of the Union State Cochin.

The Union State Kerala was created in accord with the Malayalam speaking regions. Trivandrum became the capital of this state. In 1956 the first free election were held, and the first Kerala government was a communist one, the first freely elected communist government in the world. The communist party has a great impact on Kerala politics even today, and, since then, the government used to change between Communist and Congress party. The last elections in 2005 were won the Communist Party and its allies.