Kochi, also known as Cochin, is a major port city by the Arabian Sea on the south-west coast of India and is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. It is often called Ernakulam, which refers to the mainland part of the city. With a metropolitan population of 2.1 million, it the largest urban agglomeration in the state.
Known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the west coast of India from the 14th century. Occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, Kochi was the first of the European colonies in colonial India. It remained the main seat of Portuguese India until 1530, when Goa was chosen instead. The city was later occupied by the Dutch and the British, with the Kingdom of Cochin becoming a princely state. Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Kerala. Kochi has been ranked the sixth best tourist destination in India.
Kochi’s major religions are Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism and Buddhism, with smaller followings, are also practised in Kochi. Though 47% practice Hinduism, Christianity’s large following (35%) makes Kochi a city with one of the largest Christian populations in India. The majority of the city’s residents are Malayalis. However, there are significant ethnic minority communities including Tamils, Gujaratis, Jews, Anglo-Indians, Sikhs, Konkanis and Tulus. Malayalam is the main language of communication and medium of instruction for primary education, although a number of schools do offer English medium education. The higher education is invariably in English medium, and it is the preferred language in business circles.
As a result of successive waves of migration over the course of several centuries, the population of the city is a mix of people from all parts of Kerala and most of India. The pan-Indian nature is highlighted by the substantial presence of various ethnic communities from different parts of the country. Appropriate to its multi-ethnic composition, Kochi celebrates traditional Kerala festivals like Onam and Vishu along with North-Indian Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali with great fervour. Christian and Islamic festivals like Christmas, Easter, Eid ul-Fitr and Milad-e-sherif are also celebrated. A merry making fest called the Cochin Carnival is celebrated at Fort Kochi during the last ten days of December.
Kochiites generally partake of Keralite cuisine, which is generally characterised by an abundance of coconut and spices. Other South Indian cuisines, as well as Chinese and North Indian cuisines are popular. Fast-food culture is also very prominent. Being a tourist hotspot, Fort Kochi has a number of restaurants that offer international cuisine, like Italian, French, and Mexican etc.
Kochi also has a number of shopping malls including Oberon Mall, Gold Souk Grande, Bay Pride Mall, Centre Square Mall, Abad Nucleus Mall and Lulu Mall, which is the largest shopping mall in India in terms of total leasable area of 17 acres (7 ha). Various shopping malls are expected to open in the city in the near future including Forum Thomsun Mall. Kochiites are known for their enthusiasm in sports, especially football and cricket. The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi is one of the largest stadiums in India with floodlights for Cricket and Football matches.
Kochi also has the most number of five star hotels in the state. Kochi was home to some of the most influential figures in Malayalam literature, The Maharajas of Kochi (then Cochin) were scholars who knew the epics and encouraged the arts. The paintings at the Hill Palace and the Dutch Palace are testimony to their love for arts. Kochi is reportedly the 6th best city in India according to the livability index of 2011.