Undoubtedly the commercial hub of Kerala, the city of Cochin is where ancient civilization gracefully mingles with modern life. Right from the early years, Cochin has had cultural and trade relations with the outside world. She had also experienced pulsating episodes of European colonial rivalry.
An interesting point to note is that Cochin is probably the only city in India formed from parts of three different states, viz. the two princely states of Travancore and Cochin, and the British Malabar.
In 1976, the village panchayats of Edappally, Vennala, Vyttila, and Palluruthy were merged with the municipalities of Ernakulam and Mattancherry to form the Corporation of Cochin.
Today with a natural, all-weather harbour, an international airport, and replete with serene backwaters, beautiful lagoons, wooded isles, and a magnificent seascape, Cochin is indeed the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
The Mahatma Gandhi Road (earlier known as the Seventy-feet Road), branching off from Banerji Road in its north end right upto Thevara Junction, approximately four kilometers down south, cuts through what is today the city’s main commercial district. A bustling shopping centre where one can buy almost all kinds of goods including textiles, ready-made garments, jewellery, handicrafts, electronic goods, books, footwear, toys, etc. Convent Road, branching westwards, has a growing number of malls, boutiques and outlets for the trendy and the brand conscious. There are also half-a-dozen cinema houses for movie buffs. Minus the dazzling range of shops, buildings on either side house banks, finance firms, insurance companies, hospitals, airline offices, travel bureaus, super markets, hotels, and restaurants. By nightfall, the city’s main artery brightens up with colourful neon signs and is enlivened by busy shoppers or people coming out to enjoy themselves. Market Road and TD Road, which run parallel to MG Road on the western side, and Jew Street which cuts west from MG Road are chock-a-block with shops, both wholesale and retail, selling sanitaryware, hardware, and construction materials. Both, the Ernakulam Junction railway station and the KSRTC bus station are located centrally, east of M G Road. The office of the Principal General Manager, BSNL, is located at BSNL Bhavan, at Kalathiparambil Road, close to the south overbridge. Close by is Pallimukku, where the aptly-named Electronic Street is the right place to check out a wide range of the latest state-of-the-art audio-video equipments. The Cochin Shipyard is located south, overlooking Willingdon Island.
Old Cochin comprising of Fort Cochin, Mattancherry and its adjoining areas is famous for several sites of historical significance. The St. Francis Church, the Santa Cruz Basilica, and the Chinese fishing nets (Fort Cochin); the Dutch Palace, the Synagogue, and the ecclesiastically important Coonen Cross (Mattancherry) beckons you to the bygone era when old Cochin had cultural and trade relations with Arabia, Rome, and China and to a vibrant history of European imperialism thereafter. Fort Cochin’s reputation made the famous Italian traveller of the time, Nicolas Conti remark,"If China is where you make your money, then Cochin surely is the place to spend it". Old houses, particularly in Fort Cochin, still retain their colonial charm, with some neighbourhoods reminiscent of quaint hamlets in Holland, England, and Portugal. Many of the century old mansions have been revamped into luxurious homestays for those wishing to sample Kerala-style home away from home experience. The beach at Fort Cochin is ideal for an evening walk against a spectacular sunset. The highly cosmopolitan population is even today engaged in active trading.
MARINE DRIVEand BROADWAY
The Marine Drive is gradually catching up as another busy retail centre. The lively GCDA Commercial Complex along the waterfront features a kaleidoscope of several business establishments and other institutions, fast foods and cafés, and a variety of shops selling anything from perfumes to high-capacity refrigerators. Luxury apartments, modern shopping malls, elegant hotels, and office buildings are located on either side of the main Shanmugham Road which terminates at HighCourt Junction on the northern end, adjacent to the new High Court complex. An evening stroll along the water-side promenade is a favourite pastime. Tourist boats and house boats anchored along Marine Drive offer great sight-seeing options. North of High Court junction are the Goshree bridges connecting mainland Ernakulam with the adjoining islands of Mulavukad, Vallarpadam, and Vypin.
Broadway - narrow despite its name - running parallel to the east of Shanmugham Road is among the city’s oldest and busiest shopping streets, where the best buys include clothes and spices. The main Ernakulam market is also located alongside Broadway.
The green lung of the metropolis so to speak, the well-shaded, tree-lined Park Avenue gets its name from the beautifully laid-out parks (the historical Rajendra maidan, the sprawling Subhash Bose park, and the innovative children’s traffic parks) on its western side overlooking the backwaters of the Vembanad Lake and having impressive views of Cochin harbour. The ancient Siva Temple, old government buildings, the General Hospital, the main boat jetty, the Cochin Corporation office, the District Court, the government guest house, and some of the city’s finest educational institutions are located alongside this picturesque boulevard.
The Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi Gallery’s Art Centre and the DH Ground, beautified as part of tourism promotion by the Department of Tourism, are of interest along the Durbar Hall Road which branches eastwards from Gandhi Square at the southern end of Park Avenue.
Half a kilometer east of downtown Cochin is Kadavanthra, the seat of the Greater Cochin Development Authority, and the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium - the second largest of its kind in India. The adjoining areas of Gandhi Nagar, Giri Nagar, and Elamkulam are huge residential locales. Panampilly Nagar, also a predominantly residential area located before Kadavanthra and adjoining the city centre, is home to the Malayala Manorama, Kerala’s leading publishing house. The Regional Passport Office is also located in the southern end of Panampilly Nagar.
East of Kadavanthra lies Vyttila, the state’s largest traffic junction, where the NH 47 bypass intersects the Ernakulam-Tripunithura Road. The English daily newspaper, The Hindu, has its Cochin office located by the bypass at Vyttila Junction.
NATIONAL HIGHWAY 47 BYPASS
The stretch of bypass, right from Edappally in the north to Aroor Junction, approximately 16 kms down south, features a clutch of luxury car showrooms, super malls, marble and granite depots, plush hotels, elegant restaurants, airline offices, and hospitals.
The city’s suburbs feature mainly residential colonies mixed with commercial enterprises. Kaloor is situated two kilometers from the city centre. The New Indian Express and Financial Express, the Deccan Chronicle, Mathrubhumi, and Deshabhimani, five leading newspapers, have their Cochin offices located here.Kaloor has also become a major sporting venue with its 55,000-capacity Jawaharlal NehruStadium.
Palarivattom, a further two kilometers uptown, was the erstwhile border between the royal principalities of Travancore and Cochin. Edappally, a small township fringing the northeastern part of the city, is the seat of the St. George Forane Church, famous for its annual May feast, and the unique Museum of Kerala History. It is also the birthplace of the celebrated Malayalam poet, Changampuzha Krishna Pillai. The beautifully laid-out Changampuzha park is popular with children and doubles up as a venue for several art and cultural programmes. Both Palarivattom and Edappally have witnessed a boom in construction activities with several plush apartments and upcoming super malls.
East of Edappally is Kakkanad, where Doordarshan, All India Radio, and the Collectorate are located. The sprawling exurbia is also the base of the Kinfra Export Promotion Industrial Park, the Cochin Special Economic Zone (CSEZ), and is being developed as a major IT hub in south India. With numerous luxury villas and high-rise apartments, Kakkanad has grown into a very popular residential area. Nearby Thrikkakara, with its hills and peaceful ambience, is famous for the ancient Vamanamoorthy Temple, besides a host of educational institutions including the Cochin University of Science & Technology (CUSAT).
Connected to the mainland by the road-cum-railway Venduruthy Bridge, this man-made island, named after the former Viceroy of India, Lord Willingdon, was created with the material dredged while deepening the Cochin port. The island, about four miles long, is divided into two zones - the defence and the civil. The former includes the naval command and the naval aerodrome. The civil side including the harbour is under the Cochin Port Trust. The Customs House and many other central government establishments are situated here. The island has also on it a railway terminus, some of the city’s most luxurious hotels, and a very large number of business establishments. Housing colonies for staff members, schools, hospitals, banks, and parks are the island’s other highlights.