huge, elegant Chinese Fishing nets that line the northern shore
of Fort Cochin add grace to an already characterful waterside view,
and are probably the single most familiar photographic image of Kerala.
Traders from the court of Kublai Khan are said to have introduced
them to the Malabar region. Known in Malayalam as cheenavala, they
can also be seen throughout the backwaters further south. The nets,
which are suspended from arced poles and operated by levers and
weights, require at least four men to control. You can buy fresh
fish from the tiny market here and have it grilled on the spot at
one of the ramshackle stalls.
on from the Chinese fishing nets brings you to a typically English
village green. In one corner stands the church of St.Francis, the
first European church in India. Originally built in wood and named
Santo Antonio, it was probably associated with Franciscan friars
Portugal. Exactly when it as founded is not known, but the stone
structure is likely to date from the early sixteenth century; the
land was a gift off the local raja, and the title deeds, written
on palm leaf, are still kept in the church today. The facade, with
multi curved sides, became the model for most Christian churches
in India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524, but his body was
later removed to Portugal.
the Dutch, the church was renovated and became Protestant in 1663,
then Anglican with the advent of the British in 1795 and since 1949
has been attached to the Church of South India. Inside, various
tombstone inscriptions have been placed in the walls, the earliest
of which is from 1562. One hangover from British days is the continued
use of punkhas, large swinging cloth fans on frames suspended above
the congregation; these are operated by people sitting outside pulling
interior of the twentieth-century Santa Cruz Cathedral, south of
St Francis church, will delight fans of the colorful-verging on
the downright Gaudy-Indo-Romano-Rococo school of decoration.