Regarded as the Queen of the Arabian Sea due to its enviable location on the Malabar Coast, the port city of Kochi (formerly Cochin) in the Indian state of Kerala once attracted Arabs, Phoenicians, Portuguese, Dutch and English traders, who were lured by the lucrative spice trade. From its heritage buildings that tell of a storied past to culinary traditions that meld East and West, Kochi is a charm to explore, as photojournalist Adam Lee discovers.
Words: Chitra Santhinathan Photography: Adam Lee & Beverly Rodrigues
A woman paddles a canoe, one of the main modes of transportation along Kerala’s famed backwaters – a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets not far from Kochi.
Keralan cuisine, particularly its richly-spiced curries, often includes turmeric, which lends its yellowish tinge to dishes, and coconut milk, which gives curries a creamy consistency.
Elephants adorned with netipattam (gold or silverplated caparisons), bells and necklaces are an integral part of Hindu ceremonial processions all over Kerala.
A Malayalee (Kerala native) man steers a houseboat carrying tourists through the backwaters.
A tour of Kerala’s palm-fringed backwaters on a kettuvallam (traditional houseboat) will take you past dozens of historic churches and temples.
Brightly-coloured graffiti on the walls of the Draavidia Art Gallery on Calvathy Street in Fort Kochi catches the eye and stirs the imagination.
A boy struggles to pedal a bicycle with two younger passengers on board through rush hour traffic in Fort Kochi.
Believed to have been introduced by traders from China some 500 years ago, Chinese fishing nets are unique to Kochi and can be spotted along the coastlines of Fort Kochi and Vypeen.
Star-shaped lights strung on trees at Fort Kochi’s Old Harbour Hotel illuminate a balmy December night and herald the coming of Christmas.
Art depicting the facial expressions of a Kathakali performer adorns a wall at the Kerala Kathakali Centre, Fort Kochi.
Portuguese missionaries brought Catholicism to Kochi in the early 1500s and built many grand churches such as the beautifully-preserved Santa Cruz Basilica in Fort Kochi.
Kathakali performers in full make-up and costume enact a scene from the Hindu epic Mahabharata in which the Pandava prince Bhima (left) slays the demon Baka.
A sari-clad woman on a motorbike zooms past the many handicraft and clothing stores that line Burgher Street in the heart of Fort Kochi.
Kochi’s version of an ice-cream truck.
Jew Town in Kochi’s old quarter, which once housed the city’s early Jewish settlers, boasts India’s oldest synagogue as well as an array of stores selling antiques, spices and handicrafts.
Local women in traditional attire in Kochi’s historic quarter.
A bronze sculpture of a South Indian beauty welcomes guests at an art gallery.
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