Kathkali Dancers, Cochin, India
Posted Jun 07, 2011
Located in the state of Kerala in the southern part of India, Cochin is a city that has served as a melting pot for diverse cultures over thousands of years. When you visit this city on a shore excursion as part of an Asian cruise, you will witness how the many traditions that have influenced Cochin's culture in the past affect the modern metropolis in the present.
Cochin sprawls over a large area that includes several islands, so one way to explore the city is by riding a boat through its canals. From these waterways, you can see the city's famous Chinese fishing nets, which are graceful cantilevered contraptions that are used by Cochin's many fishermen. Introduced by traders from China in the 14th century, these devices are a unique reminder of the city's diverse cultural heritage.
One important aspect of Cochin's culture comes from Indian traditions, particularly the concept of "kathakali," a performance that blends poetry, dance, music and mythology. When in town, you can learn more about the stories that underlie Indian religious heritage when you witness this colorful and exotic form of art. Another local tradition you have to see when you visit Cochin is kalaripayuttu, an ancient martial art that derives its movements from those of animals.
To learn more about the industrious side of Kerala, you will want to pay a visit to the countryside. Here, you will find local artisans creating a wide variety of wares, ranging from pottery to carpets. Some of the most important products include coir, a fiber made from the husk of the coconut, and khadi, a light and breathable handwoven fabric.
Cochin has been influenced heavily by European merchants as well. One important locale is Fort Cochin, which was the first European settlement in all of India. Established by Portuguese spice traders as a stopping point on the way to the East Indies, this fortification is also home to a famous church built in 1510 by Franciscan friars. Another important religious structure is the Cochin Synagogue. Built in 1568, this Jewish temple truly represents Cochin's blending of cultures, as it features floor tiles hand-painted with Cantonese designs. Meanwhile, the Dutch left their mark on Cochin as well, and you can see their legacy at the spectacular Dutch Palace.