/koh"chin/, n.
1. a seaport in W Kerala, in SW India: first European fort in India, built by Portuguese 1503. 438,420.
2. a former state in SW India; merged with Travancore 1949; a part of Kerala state since 1956.

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      town and major port on the Arabian Sea, west-central Kerala state, southwestern India. Also the name of a former princely state, “Cochin” is sometimes used today to refer to a cluster of islands and towns, including Ernākulam, Mattāncheri, Fort Cochin, Willingdon Island, Vypīn Island, and Gundu Island. The urban agglomeration includes the localities of Trikkakara, Eloor, Kalamassery, and Trippunithura.

      Cochin was an insignificant fishing village until the backwaters of the Arabian Sea and the streams descending from the Ghāts caused the separation of the village from the mainland, turning the landlocked harbour into one of the safest ports on India's southwestern coast. The port assumed a new strategic importance and began to experience commercial prosperity. When the Portuguese penetrated the Indian Ocean in the late 15th century and reached India's southwestern coast, the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral (Cabral, Pedro Álvares) founded the first European settlement on Indian soil at Cochin in 1500. Vasco da Gama (Gama, Vasco da, 1er Conde Da Vidigueira), discoverer of the sea route to India, established the first Portuguese factory (trading station) there in 1502, and the Portuguese viceroy Afonso de Albuquerque (Albuquerque, Afonso de, the Great) built the first European fort in India there in 1503. The city remained a Portuguese possession until it was conquered by the Dutch in 1663. Much Portuguese architecture still exists in the city.

      Under Dutch rule (1663–1795) Cochin had its greatest prosperity. Through its harbour were shipped pepper, cardamom, and other spices and drugs as well as coir, coconut, and copra. All of the city's racial and religious groups, including its Hindu majority and Muslim, Syrian Christian, and Jewish minorities, shared in the city's prosperity.

      British rule over Cochin lasted from 1795 until 1947, when India became independent. At the beginning of the 20th century a modern port with dry docks and ship repair yards was constructed, and Willingdon Island (connecting Fort Cochin with Ernākulam and other townships by a rail bridge and road) was built from the dredgings of the harbour's inner channels. After India's independence, Cochin became the major training centre for the Indian Navy.

      A system of inland waterways running parallel to the coast provides Cochin with cheap transportation, encouraging trade. The deepwater harbour is open year-round, even in the monsoon season, and is served by a railway that connects it with Ernākulam. An airport has flights from Cochin to such major Indian cities as Bombay, New Delhi, Bangalore, and Madras.

      Cochin, set among picturesque lagoons and backwaters, attracts a considerable tourist trade. At Fort Cochin is St. Francis Church, built by the Portuguese in 1510 and reputedly the first European church on Indian soil. It was for a time the burial place of Vasco da Gama before his remains were taken to Portugal. Other churches as well as Hindu temples, mosques, and the historic synagogue at Mattāncheri all stand in the area. The Jewish community in Cochin was the oldest in India, claiming to date from the 4th century AD. Almost all of its several thousand members had emigrated to Israel by the late 20th century, however. Pop. (1981) town, 513,249; metropolitan area, 685,836.

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Universalium. 2010.

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