Kochi - New Year Carnival & More – South India VIII
After a quick lunch and some rest, we were set to begin exploring the city. First stop for the day was the Dutch Palace. The Palace, also known as the Mattancherry Palace because of its location, was originally built by the Portuguese. However, it was taken over by the Dutch who presented it to the Raja of Kochi in 17th Century after some modifications. Since then, it has been the official residence of the King and has seen many coronations. The palace has a fine collection of mural paintings depicting scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. The showcases present the entire lineage of rulers of Kochi including various items used by them – weaponry, equipment, dresses, and coins etc. The rich history of the city and the region are brought to life at this Palace.
|Narrow bylanes in Old City|
|Saint Francis Cathedral|
In the evening we went to the Fort Kochi beach to roam around the area and did some shopping for souvenirs in the by lanes. While we were here for a different purpose, there was still time for those celebrations. We saw hectic preparations for the event to mark the beginning of the New Year. Artisans were busy putting final touches to “Pappan Ji”, the fiction based character whose large statue is the center of the celebrations here. I tried asking a few locals but no one had an idea of the symbolism of the practice and its origin. While strolling on the beach we observed large nets extended on metallic frames and this definitely intrigued us. We went near the arrangement and inquired about their purpose. These were Chinese Fishing Nets, the unique identity of Cochin. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets here. Oddly, these nets are found only in Kochi, outside China! Many fishermen earn their livelihood by fishing using these massive nets. A whole stretch of the coast along Fort Kochi and Vypeen are dotted with these nets. We spent a couple of hours on the beach and got a chance to observe the sunset there. A stroll along the beach, particularly at sunset with the Chinese fishing nets and sailing ships in the background, is a memorable experience. Many European style bungalows can be seen along the shoreline. The coastal stretch has loads of small stalls, which make on demand traditional cuisines using freshly caught fish. Of course, being vegetarian to the core, we avoided them but could see the mouthwatering impact they had on the locals.
|Chinese Fishing Nets|
|Artful Capture - Sunset at Kochi Beach|
|Decorations for New Year Welcoming|
It was definitely a unique celebration of New Year and we had witnessed and was very different to the parties that urban India sees in plush hotels and clubs. This is what the power of tradition is – getting the entire city together at a moment to celebrate small joys of life. As we slept away, all we thought of was the good time we had in Kochi and better times that lie ahead in the trip.
|PappanJi in glory before fallout|
|Fireworks Post Effigy|