Kochi Things to Do Tips by ranger49
Kochi Things to Do: 177 reviews and 420 photos
Handpainted Chinese Tiles
The Jewish population in southern India was first established there more than 2500 years ago. Over the following centuries the continuing diaspora brought new members to the community from the middle east and northern Europe. In 1344 the first Jewish settler came to Cochin but it would be another 200 years before the first Jew Town was established in 1567. The construction of a Synagogue in 1568 consolidated their position in Cochin under the protection of the local Indian royal princes.
Women in their society were granted freedoms inusual within the Jewish tradition like for example their right to sing prayers and hymns of praise..
It was not until the colonial rule of the Portuguese that they encountered any discrimination and in 1662 the Synagogue was partially destroyed by the colonial power. It was rebuilt soon after and under the more benign rule of the Dutch and British who followed the community flourished and prospered , playing an important part in the commercial and trading activities of Cochin.
The beautiful decoration of the Synagogue was enhanced by gifts of brass from Indian rulers, the import of chinese tiles from Canton in 1762 and glass chandeliers from Belgium.
I did not think that the synagogue was still in use as a place of religious observance - our guide told us that the last of the Jewish population had left the town - many to settle in Israel.
We got lost while taking a walk in the tree lined roads in the roadsnear Jew Town and saw many lovely, but derelict, houses standing in large neglected gardens. Some seemed to be inhabited by squatters. Further along were more houses in a similar condition and we were told that in these houses the Jewish people had lived, in the second place just one British resident remained (that was Jan.1999)
Straight from the nets
The Market is a lively and colourful place to visit.
It would have been even better if we had been in a position to buy the fresh fish and take it home to cook - but on a cruise no chance.
We enjoyed the atmosphere and chat, and the sight of fisn freshly caught in the traditional manner.
On the morning of our visit tourists were in the minority and it was a good opportunity to wander round a local market with local people.
Spider's Web in the sunset.
The first sighting of the Cheenavala - Chinese fishing nets - is quite remarkable if - like me you have never before even seen a picture of them.
We first saw them towards the end of our Backwaters cruise as the sun was setting. They seem to emerge from the water like a giant spider making a huge web of netting.
The frames are made of wood and operate on a basic mechanical system inventented in China. It is said that they were first introduced to Kochi by traders plying the silk and spice routes from the Court of the Kublai Khan in the 14/15th Century.
Like so many inventions that at first seem complicated their operation is quite simple, though delicately balanced to match changing water depths and tidal movements and the weights used in lowering and raising them.
At one time the catch from the frequent, daily lowering and raising of the nets could produce 40 kilos per day - a good catch for independent fishermen. But it can take half a dozen or more to operate the nets throughout the day.They have to pay the owner of the “contraption” rent and then share the profits from the catch on a cooperative basis.
The 2005 Tsunami in this region had an adverse impact on fish stocks and catches now are much lower.
The fish that are caught are sold in ad hoc market stalls along the beach. a colourful stop for tourists as well as locals.
This is a lovely relaxing way to tour the backwaters and to see some of the life on the waterside. We passed tumbledown cottages, smart little bungalows, imposing churches and other public buildings.
Many of the dwellings were festooned with streamers and decorations - rather like our familiar Christmas decorations. Joseph, our guide reminded us of the high percentage of Christians in this region who celebrate it with decorations in and outside their homes.
We got the impression of a vibrant, active life for the people on the shore - most dwellings had a boat moored nearby, though some others seemed less prosperous.
Fishing we learned was, for most people the main livelihood here.
You could not, however, fail to notice the unhealthy growth on plankton on the water which we thought must be something of an ecological disaster.
According to Joseph there were a number of theories - water pollution, climatic change and recently introduced methods for the excessive production of prawns - factory farming.
Joseph favoured the latter opinion.
He told us that the problem was now being tackled at government level and proposals regarding the solution were being made.
Friends who have visited recently and have seen my photographs have reported the waters were free of plankton overgrowth.
Our tour was included in our cruise but I noticed many small booths selling tickets both for tours and "water taxis".
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