Culture of KochiKochi for centuries has been seducing traders, seafarers and travellers with its exotic geographical terrains and extensive range of high quality spices. Outlanders from far away countries like Portugal, Greece, Arab, China, The Netherlands and England have made their way to this spice-land with ease and left a hint of their culture before bidding goodbye to the archipelago. Thus, in Kochi we get to see a concoction of cultural depiction - Mattancherry Palace-temple of the Portuguese, Bolgatty Palace of the Dutch, large fishing nets of the Chinese and various crumbling remains of the British. Thus, this multi-cultural city leaves a lot to be explored by the tourists.
For many years Jews, known as Malabar Yehuden, have been a dominant part of Kochi community. They had a strong hold over the city’s business and financial aspect. But, the community has gradually shifted its base to Israel and USA and presently they have a thin population and a small community. Before the arrival of Portuguese, Syrian Orthodoxy was the main Christian tradition that was followed in the town, but after Portuguese dominance, Roman Catholicism became very popular.
Today, this cosmopolitan city lives harmoniously respecting each other’s cultures and tradition. The city witnesses a host of religious festivals and participates in all of them with fervour and gaiety. Two of most important festivals in the city are Onam and Vishu. Onam is rejoiced as a harvest festival in later August or early September. The festival is celebrated for ten days at a stretch. Entire Kochi is adorned with rangolis and beautiful flowers. Women adorn themselves with jewellery and new saree. And on all days people participate in various cultural programmes and sports activities.
Vishu is celebrated to bring economic prosperity in the city. This festival is rejoiced with pomp and grandeur mostly by businessmen and in the industrial estates. Vishu is held in March or April. As per ritual the women prepare a dish that consist of metal bell, a gold ornament, Konna flowers, manuscript, unused cloth, coins, fruits and broken coconut and offer it to the Gods. Other festivals like Holi, Diwali, Id-ul-Fitr, Christmas, Easter, Milad-e-Sharif are also rejoiced.
Kochi Carnival is the biggest and most loved carnival in the city. It takes place in Kochi Fort, the soul of the city, for ten days in the end of December. The carnival is a mark of the continuing Portuguese tradition who welcomed the New Year with splendid parties, fiestas and parades. These ten days see Kochi Fort transformed into a lively and colourful place buzzing with enthusiastic party animals. People dressed in colourful and funky attires participate in boisterous activities. Sports like volleyball, beach bike race, beach football and various other competitions make the days even for fun-filled. The entire city gets soaked in this fervid fervour and merry-making disregarding all their worries and tensions. On New Year’s Day elephant parade is organised and tunes of “Panchavadyam” fills the air.
Apart from religion, literature also plays an important part in reflecting the culture and tradition of Kochi. Cherusseri Namboodiri, a writer of 15th century, gave Malayam literature a new life when he used pure Malayalam words, without the usage of Sanskrit, in his book Krishna Gatha. Post 18th century is known for the inception of modern Malayam literature. Since then Kochi has seen a host of writers like Kesari Balakrishna Pillai, Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, G. Sankara Kurup, Shreedhara Menon and many more.
Kochi also happens to be the centre of all regional movies, Mollywood. Cochin International Film Festival is an annual event that attracts a host of national and international film-makers. Kathakali, is the main dance form in Kochi and also a very popular in other parts of India. This unusual dance form tells a story through eyes and hand movements with very little legs or body movement. Most of these dance tales are based on mythology, legends and religious stories that are well-known in Indian culture.
Kochi cuisine also tells us a lot about Kochi culture.The Kochiites usually prefer food that has abundant spices and coconut. Bananas are also an important ingredient in Kochi cuisine. Dishes like crispy bananas, Kaalan or bananas in yoghurt, pootu where bananas are mixed with rice flour are very popular in Kochi. Being a coastal area, sea fishes are also found aplenty in Kochi and the residents love their non-vegetarian dishes.
Thus, Kochi reflects a very lively and energetic culture that has beautifully weaved together the traditions of olden days and spontaneity of modern times.