DAYS OF YORE
Ernakulam District came into being in 1958 April 1 by incorporating Kanayannoor, Kochi, Kunnathunadu, Aluva and Paroor Taluks. Deliberation for hours held at the Kerala Fine Arts Hall in 1957 and attended by a host of political, social and media activists was instrumental in the formation of the District.
The etymology of the term ‘Ernakulam’ is linked to different sources, either temple-oriented or mythological. KomattilAchutha Menon attributes the origin of the word from a type of mud called ‘Erangiyal’. Lord Siva was addressed in Chennai as ‘Erayanar’in the past. In Kerala too, this was followed and it later came to be known as ‘Ernakulam’. Ebanubathootha who travelled along the Kerala coast between AD 1342 and AD 1347 did not even make a casual reference to Kochi. The name ‘Kochi’ is a combination of two terms, Koch&Azhi (small river-mouth).
In 1405 AD, the provincial king of Perumbadappu switched its capital from Mahodayapuram to Kochi and came to be recognized as the King of Kochi paving way to the unprecedented glory of the kingdom. The traders from Portugal who had landed in Kochi by then took advantage of the feud between the king of Kochi and the Zamorin of Kozhikode. The king provided the Portughese traders all the facilities including the permission to open a warehouse. Trade flourished in Kochi. Soon there took place a battle between the Zamorin and the king of Kochi. Although the king of Kochi was defeated initially he regained his kingdom with the timely assistance of the warship from Portugal. Eventually the relation between the king of Kochi and the Portughese traders became strained and with the support of the Dutch, the king succeeded in driving out the Portughese from Kochi in 1663.
Of all the kings who ruled Kochi, SakthanThampuran (1790-1805) was the mightiest and during his time the kingdom expanded. Paliathachans who belong to the Chennamangalam village were the Chief Ministers of the kings of Kochi for almost one hundred and fifty years. By 1800, the British took over the administration of Kochi and thenceforth the kings paid tributes to the British in recognition of the latter’s supremacy.
ARRIVAL OF SEMITIC RELIGIONS
One of the cultural distinctions of Kochi is the harmonious coexistence of people belonging to different faiths. Christians, Jews and Muslims have for long shared the legacy of Kochi along with the majority Hindus. The Jewish population in Kochi has been registering a steady decline over the years as most of them have left for Israel. It is widely believed that St. Thomas landed at the Kodungalloor Harbour in AD 52 and established seven churches. A Jewish town was set up in Mattanchery in between 1565 AD and 1601 AD for which the then king of Kochi, Kesavarama Varma provided all facilities. The Mosques in Mattanchery, Fort Kochi and Edappally are centuries old. The five hundred year old Kalvathy Mosque in Fort Kochi was built by the Arabs who had trade-ties with Kochi. In the suburbs of Kochi, Anglo Indians, Jains and the Sikhs have lived peacefully for long with a strong community spirit.
The district is endowed with a rich flora and fauna spread over the mainland and the hinterlands. Two backwaters and three major rivers have been instrumental in the agricultural, industrial and trade development of Ernakulam. Although the construction of huge overbridges such as the Goshree and Varapuzha in recent years have reduced the importance of water-transportation it is still a great attraction for the domestic and international tourists. Monsoon has not been unkind to Ernakulam District all these years. Mangrove forests here come to around 465 square KMs. The foothill areas such as Kodanad and Kothamangalam have a relatively stable eco-system. Besides paddy and coconuts, cash crops too are produced in the district. Ernakulam is the biggest pineapple producing district in Kerala. Two bird sanctuaries in the district, Thattekkad and Mangalavanam, are shelter to the endangered species of birds and primordial spiders.