Monday, 5 August 2013

Retrieved land - Claims before Muziris glory days

On the banks of Vembanad lake in Udayamperoor lies the famous Parasurama Temple aka Ameda Temple.

'Aamaninnayidam' - the place where the turtle became standstill. 
Said to have built by Lord Parasurama during the time he was travelling across Kerala, the very  land which according to Hindu mythology is claimed by Parasurama from the sea by throwing his axe. During his journey, coincidentally,  Parasurama stepped into the Vembanad lake for 'Sandhyavandanam', the place where the temple is located presently, and he saw a streak of bright light from the center of the lake. Parasurama soon ventured in only to find out that it was 'Sapthamathrukkal' who were traveling through the lake on top of a turtle.
It is believed that as Parasurama walked in, the Vembanad lake had paved way for him and hence the turtle could not swim any further and took a stand still there and this place later came to be known as 'Ameda'. 
     History says Parasurama constructed a magnificent temple for the 'Sapthamathrukkal' exactly where the tortoise stopped, as his move stopped their journey.

 It is interesting to see that there is no exact record for when Parasurama actually retrieved the land now known as Kerala but one can see that the Parasurama temple is located rightly on the banks of Vembanad lake just like the Synod of Diamper in Udayamperoor which is close to Ameda temple.

     Equating this location with the Muziris heritage, one would be surprised if this historic temple in the ideal location does not reveal secrets from the Muziris glory days. If the story of Parasurama has to be true, then quite surely the temple has to be there even before the formation of Kochi region and destruction of  Muziris town - The land that is said to be destroyed due to the massive earthquakes, landslides and floods which occurred during AD 1341. 
     If this phenomenon had to play a significant role in the natural retrieval of land now known as Ernakulam and other coastal areas extending till modern day Mavelikkara, then I would like to assume that Parasurama might have thrown the axe exactly when the floods occurred. One would never know! 

Another interesting fact about the Ameda temple is that it hosts several sacred groves -'Sarpakavu' which are actually abandoned by the land owners. In traditional Kerala, the sacred groves had a significant role in balancing the ecology. But today, a sacred grove in your inherited land would only mean a depreciation in land value and this may even hinder the sale-ability of the land. So when the sacred snake spirits are to be abandoned by the owners, Ameda is a place which accepts these spirits and plays a host for all the sacred groves. Several idols symbolizing this unique ecological balance that the Hindu religion had in the past can be seen all throughout the Ameda Temple.

 'Pulluvan Pattu' - Music for the snake spirits sung by Pulluvar a  different caste in Kerala.

The music from the single stringed instrument elevates the devotees to a special plane of trance. It is performed as a means of worship, ritual, custom and even exorcism in extreme cases by evoking the snake spirits. Devotees today sponsors the ritual as an offering to get rid of 'Sarpa dosha' - omen of snake spirits according to their astrological permutations. These are common practices in temples that worships serpent spirits.

Referring to Abraham Tharakan - Abraham Tharakan Blog

"This flourishing port of Muziris became defunct in 1341 CE. There are different theories about this. One is that natural silting over the years closed the shipping channels. The other is that heavy floods in River Periyar deposited huge quantities of sand and debris making the port unusable. A third and probably the more likely possibility is that some geophysical occurrence in the sea closed Muziris and opened the connection to the Vembanad Lake at Kochi, making it a safe natural harbour."

Indeed there are lot of mismatches in time periods mentioned but if the fall of Muziris opened way for Vembanad, then definitely Ameda temple and the mysterious history behind its formation demands a better research and explanation.

How to get there : From Nadakavu temple junction in the Ernakulam - Ettumanoor highway, take the by-road that connects to MLA road ie take right if you traveling towards Ettumanoor and then its hard to miss the boards that leads you to Ameda temple.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Seven Chilies and a Lemon

A walk through Mattancherry - the warehouse island of Kochi

The Charm of Lemon and Chilies that brings good luck and keeps away evil eyes off the prosperity, alone wouldn't have been enough to fight the foreign invasion over Trade and Commerce in Kochi in the past.
These wonderful Indian traditions are leftovers from our glorious past and that is exactly what you will find when you take a walk through the narrow roads of Mattancherry. Passing warehouse after warehouse most of which are nearing its state of abandonment or conversion, Mattanchery holds stories in every little corner of hers.

Kochi, Kochchi, Kochazhi,Cochym names are several for modern day Cochin. No account of a place named Mattanchery is found in any history books until the Portuguese invasion. The only proof of a stone age existence of a land nearby comes from the menhirs and dolmens found near Tripunithura, Vennala and Kodanadu in Ernakulam.

Old buildings on the banks of Kalvathi Canal, an entry point to spice trade in the past.

“Very little is known about the history of Cochin prior to the arrival of the Portuguese as neither inscriptions nor literary works throw much light. Cochin is not even mentioned in any of the earlier foreign notices of Malabar. Neither in the accounts of Pliny, Ptolemy, Marco Polo or Ibn Batuta do we find any mention, though they give detailed accounts of places situated to the north and south of Cochin. Though it is generally believed that Cochin port was formed only as late as 1341 there is also the possibility of its existence as a small harbour even earlier. In 1341 the heavy floods that took place in the Periyar River silted up Cranganore Harbour (Kodungallur). Useless for purposes of trade, this decline in the importance of Cranganore led to Cochin’s rise into prominence and commercial supremacy.”

The name Mattanchery comes into main frame during the Dutch and Portuguese period as a trade emporium specifically dealing with spices.
When The Rajas of Perumpatappu Swaroopam from their ancestral place of Chitrakootam in Vanneri  then migrated to the emerging harbor town of Kochazhi (meaning Small Sea in Malayalam) the modern day Fort Kochi, and made it their royal head quarters,  Mattanchery falling towards south of this new formed island became an ideal location for warehousing the trade goods.

Once a window to the world of spice trade, today, several functional and nonfunctional warehouses still remain in Mattanchery with its shady colonial architecture modified and redesigned over a period of time. Many of them have been converted into tourist attractions and Art Galleries and the ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale is the latest and by far the largest event to acknowledge the mysterious historical account of Kochi and Muziris.

Portuguese political artist Rigo 23's work installed at the remains of Kalvathi Canal Dockyard in Mattancherry. Rigo 23's installation work has three parts one of which depicts the myth of Kappiri the slave killed by the Portuguese before leaving Kerala. Some people in west Kochi still believes that the Souls of Kappiris are guarding their masters treasures which are hidden under ground and some claims to have seen him on top of certain trees during some evenings.The myth of Kappiri is a legacy of 165 year long Portuguese domination over Kerala, a battle that began in 1498.

How to get there : The easiest route is via ferry service Ernakulam Boat Jetty which takes you directly to Fort Cochin - Mattancheryy. The route via road is lengthy and often hectic due to heavy city traffic.

Note : If you had tried to count the chilies in the first image and thought there are only six in it, appreciate your sense but there is a small chili hidden underneath which is not quite visible in the image. 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Chinese Legacy in Muziris

Traces of early Chinese visitors to Muziris can still be found in its different form across the Muziris belt, the modern day Kodungallur to Kochi region.

Known as "Cheenavala" in local language Malayalam, The Chinese fishing nets as seen from Chathanad near North Paravur and Vypin island as seen on the horizon. The fishing technique first introduced by Chinese traders during the glory days is still being practiced throughout the Kochi Muziris belt although the catch is limited. They remain as an evident mark of this region's history.

The Chinese star lantern illuminates Christmas celebrations through out the Kochi Muziris region. The picture taken from St. Thomas Jacobite Syrian church at North Paravur where the mortal remains of the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem - St. Gregorios Abdul' Galeel is entombed.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Kottakavu Church

St Thomas Kottakavu Forane church North Paravur

One among the seven churches started by St. Thomas the apostle in 52 AD after his arrival in Maliankara in Muziris. In Picture, the St. Thomas Kottakavu Church in North Paravur on a Christmas eve.

From the inside of the new church which was completed in 1938 in Gothic style.














St.Thomas arrived in kottakavu near the backwaters from Muziris 2000 years ago. The ruins of ancient Jewish Synagogue can still be seen outside the Brahmin temple about a furlong off the church in modern day Paravur. Here St.Thomas converted 72 Hindu people to Christianity.

Paravur Jewish synagogue :


Map to Kottakavu St. Thomas Church :

How to get there : From Paravur town via the Paravur - Kodungallur road, take a U-turn before crossing the Vadakkekkara bridge towards St.Thomas Kottakavu Forane Church on highway side.


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Synod of Diamper, Udayamperoor

A major share in changing history of Medieval Kerala.

 Convened by Portuguese Governor and Archbishop of Goa Dom Alexis de Menezes during 1599, The Synod of Diamper in Udayamperoor aka Udayamperoor Soonahdos in Ernakulam district of Kerala played a significant role in changing the approach of the Portuguese to the Muziris city and India. Earlier the foreigners focus was solely on spices and fighting obstacles for its trade. Foreign religion started taking interest in Muziris with the Diamper although the validity of the Synod is still questioned by many scholars.

 From the inside of the old church preserved as a Synod Museum today.

 Pieces of granite with ancient inscriptions in 'Vattezhuthu' known as rounded letters which originated from ancient Tamil people in south India and later supplanted by modern Tamil and Malayalam script.

The granite cross aka "Koonan Cross" which means the bent cross stands as a mark of revolt against western imperialism over Christianity. It is believed to be one of the first uprising of this kind by the Malankara christians, who are referred to as St. Thomas christians from Maliankara in Muziris were St. Thomas first arrived.

The river facing view of the old church complex which was the original entrance during the Muziris heritage period before the construction of the existing road.

How to get there : The easiest route is via Tripunitura in Ernakulam district by taking the Ernakulam - Ettumanoor Highway. As shown in the map below, the church complex is on the right side of the highway soon after the Perumthrikovil Temple.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Pallipuram Fort

The most ancient European building in India. The Pallipuram Fort aka Ayikotta built in AD 1503 by the Portuguese, the fort played a significant role in guarding the trade ships carrying spices as well as securing prime position in battling any foreign entry.

The oldest surviving fort at Pallipuram. The hexagonal outpost like structure gave clear command round the fort for the Portuguese army. Following a history of battles between Vasco Da Gama and the Zamorin empire, the Portuguese leaders succeeded in getting aid from then King of Kochi and the foundation stone of Pallipuram fort was erected on 20th September 1503.  

“... It was completed in 1508 to hold the entrance to the back-water. It was garrisoned by 20 men. Each of its octagonal facets was pierced for cannon. This is the first European building in India.” 

Source: Extract from the letter of Mr. A Galletti ICS to the resident of Travancore and Kochi.

This gave the Portuguese control over spice trade from India and went on to built the Cranganore fort at the mouth of river Periyar which became another significant control point for trade and battles.
For info on Cranganore fort, refer previous post :

During the same period, Fort Immanuel was also built in the modern day Fort Kochi region, the ruins of which can still be found near the Fort Kochi beach area.

One can feel an ancient European memory of Muziris by the very look of it.

The entrance into the out post. The fort was constructed using laterite, chunam and wood and the walls plastered using mortar.

The stone cellar inside Pallipuram fort which was used to store gun powder. Some of the locals believe that this cellar had a secret passage that connected the fort to Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kodungallur or the Cranganore fort or either. 

The walls of Pallipuram fort from the inside over grown with vegetation and algae. The echoes of gun shots are long lost.

 Fishing boats anchored near to the Pallipuram fort area. Several hundreds of trade ships and battle ships must have passed this year during the 16th century.

In 1663, the Dutch army took control over the fort and later in 1798 the then Travancore Maharaja purchased the fort from Dutch under and agreement and today the Fort is preserved by the state Archaeology department.

How to get there : The easiest route is via the Vypin - Munambam road. Before reaching the Pallipuram market, on the right side of the road one can find a narrow entrance fenced on both sides which leads to the Fort.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Paravur Jewish Synagogue

When Jews arrived in Kochi, they never had to deal with any Antisemitism like their counterparts in other places. The harmonious co-existence of all the religious communities settled in the Kochi-Muziris belt must have made it an ideal location for foreign trade. 
The Paravur Synagogue located near the market in North Paravur is said to have built in 1615. A Jew town had developed around the synagogue but most of the buildings have been reconstructed over a period of time as the Jews left. Some say that the Synagogue in Paravur was built over the ruins of a much more older Synagogue that existed in 1165 which would relate the Jewish entry into Muziris soil as one that happened even before the spice trade. 

The Jewish Synagogue in Jew town, North Paravur.

The Synagogue in Paravur is currently closed as restoration works under the Muziris heritage project are proceeding. Shot on 25th December, 2012.

" The synagogue is attractive; there's a pillared entryway that leads from the two rooms at the main entrance to the prayer place .The prayer hall consists of two rooms; a rectangular room generally used for meetings and the other main prayer room with the Bimah and the Ark. There is a balcony above the eastern entry, on the first floor, which was used by the reader on certain special occasions. The ceiling and the brackets supporting the balcony is decorated with gilded carved wooden rosettes, typical to most synagogues. Behind this balcony is the women's gallery, which can be approached by a staircase that was situated near the entry to the synagogue. "

source :

How to get there : From Paravur town via the Paravur - Kodungallur road, take a U-turn from the St.Thomas Kottakavu Forane Church before crossing the bridge and take the 3rd left turn through the narrow road of old Jew street that leads to the Synagogue.