- History of Kochi (Cochin)

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The history of Kochi is an intriguing one. The history of the city goes back to the beginning of the megalithic period that forms an important part of the prehistoric life in Kerala. The manuscripts such as Keralolpathi, Keralamahatmyam, Prumpadapu Grandavari shed light on the royal families of Kochi that weaves an mysterious and captivating tale about the kings of Kochi. Although the Kulasekhara rulers governed the place for many centuries, the city rose to prominence only when European voyagers invaded it. With the advent of the Portuguese rule in the ports of Kochi, the city became a major commercial centre for spices, coir, and fishing products. The profiting trade of the Portuguese soon brought other tuft hunters to the port city. The Dutch and the British subsequently followed. By the 17th century, the East India Company took over the place by over throwing its European counter parts and the Mysore Kings. Read the article below to know more about the fascinating tale of Kochi's history.

The port city of Kochi has a very colorful and rich history. It was formerly known as Cochin and used to serve as an important trading center in the ancient times. The city occupies a very strategic position geographically, being flanked by the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. It has, thus, long been a real enticing destination for travelers, traders and seafarers. Slowly it gained the reputation of being a significant spice-trading center.In many ancient scriptures and history books based on Kochi, one will find that the ancient travelers and tradesmen who came to the city referred to it as Cochym, Cochin Chinese, Dutch, and Portuguese, who came here mainly for the purpose of trade. Many of these groups went on to reside in the city for sometime before migrating away to other lands.

Like most cities in India, Kochi has a very long and illustrious history. But, the origin of the name is still shrouded in mystery. Many theories exist, but none are strong enough to be conclusive. Some historians believe that Kochi is a modified form of the word 'Cochazhi' which in Malayalam means 'small sea'. Others are of the opinion that 'Kochi' was named so by the Chinese. According to them, traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, can possibly be attributed to the heavy Chinese influence the city has had in the past. Still another theory is that Kochi is derived from the word 'Kaci' meaning 'harbour'.

For a city identified as a major tourist destination in the state, Kochi has been found wanting when it comes to having a full-fledged museum that does justice to the socio-political and cultural history of Kerala.Centrally located and home to several communities, both Malayali and non-Malayali, the city mainly relies on small museums, owned by private individuals, to cater to the curiosity of tourists and art lovers.

Cochin located at the tip of the Indian peninsula is one of the busy shipping ports in India and a major centre for trade and commerce for it is very close to the Arabian Sea. According to history Chinese traveler Ma Huan has made mention about Cochin in his records. There is a mention about this port city in the travelogue by Niccolo da Conti when he came to Cochin in 1440AD.The history of Cochin even before the rule of Portuguese is faintly perceptible.The King of Cochin always remained only as the title head for it was always under the colonization of foreign invaders. Cochin was mostly in the limelight mainly during the Portuguese period. Under the supervision of the admiral Pedro Cabral, the Portuguese king laid the foundation for a factory in Cochin. Though the King of Cochin supported the admiral,But however a war was declared against the Zamorins by Vasco Da Gama and most of the Arab trading posts were destroyed. After this to protect the factory Fort Manuel was built. The Portuguese and the Raja of Cochin was overthrown by the Dutch and then followed by the English rule. Soon after independence Cochin took the credit of first joining the Indian Union. Slowly Cochin developed into a major commercial and industrial centre.

Cochin's busy port assumed a new strategic importance and began to experience commercial prosperity after the flood. The Portuguese penetrated the Indian Ocean in the late 15th century. Vasco da Gama, discoverer of the sea route to India, established the first Portuguese factory (trading station) there in 1502, and the Portuguese viceroy Afonso de Albuquerque built the first European fort in India there in 1503. It was the first European fort in India. The British settled here in 1635 but were forced out by Dutch in 1663, under whom the town became an important trade center.

Legend holds that the Jews first settled in India during the time of King Solomon, when there was trade in teak, ivory, spices and peacocks between the Land of Israel and the Malabar Coast, where Cochin is located. Others put their arrival at the time of the Assyrian exile in 722 BC, the Babylonian exile in 586 BC or after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 BC. No reliable evidence exists, but most contemporary scholars fix the date at some time during the early Middle Ages. The earliest documentation of permanent Jewish settlements is on two copper plates now stored in Cochin's main synagogue. Engraved in the ancient Tamil language, they detail the privileges granted a certain Joseph Rabban by Bhaskara Ravi Varma, the fourth-century Hindu ruler of Malabar.

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