About Us

Fort Square Homestay is located in the heart of Fort Cochin, the beautiful heritage tourist centre of Kerala.

Our spacious and beautiful A/c and non A/c rooms with balcony and well-furnished interiors are mosquito proofed, and have TV, fan, large and clean attached bathrooms, and 24 hours hot/cold shower. There is also a spacious lounge and dining room.

About Kochi

Kochi

The venerable city of Kochi (long known as Cochin), is Kerala’s hottest tourist spot, spreading across islands and promontories in a stunning location between the Arabian Sea and backwaters. Its main sections sections-modern Ernakulam, in the east, and the old districts of Mattancherry and Fort Cochin on a peninsula in the west-are linked by a complex system of ferries, ad distinctly less romantic bridges.

Although most visitors end up staying in Ernakulam, Fort Cochin and Mattancherry are the focus of interest, where the city’s extraordinary history of foreign influence and settlement is reflected in an assortment of architectural styles.

During the wander through their narrow lanes, you will stumble upon spice markets, Chinese fishing nets, a synagogue, a Portuguese palace, India’s first European church, Dutch homes, and a village green that could have been transported from England’s Home Counties. The city is also one of the few places in Kerala where, at any time of year, you can be assured of seeing Kathakali dance, either in one of several special tourist theatres, or at a more authentic performance by a temple based company.

Kochi was born in 1341, when a flood created a natural safe port that swiftly replaced Muziris (Kodungallur, 50 km north) as the chief harbour on the Malabar coastline. The royal family transferred here from Muziris in 1405, after which the city grew rapidly, attracting Christian, Arab and Jewish settlers from the Middle East. Its name probably derives from kocchazhi, meaning the new, or small, harbour. The history of the European involvement in Kochi from the early 1500s onwards is dominated by the aggression of, successively, the Portuguese, Dutch and British, competing to control the port and its lucrative spice trade. From 1800 the state of Cochin was part of the British Madras Presidency; from 1812 until Independence in 1947, its administration was made the responsibility of a series of divan, or finance ministers. In the 1920s, the British expanded the port to make it suitable for modern ocean-going ships; extensive dredging created Willingdon Island, between Ernakulam and Fort.

Fort Cochin

Moving northwest from Mattancherry Palace along Bazaar Road, you pass wholesale emporia where owners, sitting behind scales surrounded by sacks of spices, may well be prepared to talk about their wares. Keep walking in a northerly direction, over the canal and then westwards into Fort Cochin. The architecture of the quiet streets in this enclave is very definitely European, with fine houses built by wealthy British traders, and Dutch cottages with split farm house doors. At the water’s edge there’s a bus stand, boat jetty and food and drinks stalls.

Chinese Fishing Nets

Fort Kochi

The huge, elegant Chinese Fishing nets that line the northern shore of Fort Cochin add grace to an already characterful waterside view, and are probably the single most familiar photographic image of Kerala. Traders from the court of Kublai Khan are said to have introduced them to the Malabar region. Known in Malayalam as cheenavala, they can also be seen throughout the backwaters further south. The nets, which are suspended from arced poles and operated by levers and weights, require at least four men to control. You can buy fresh fish from the tiny market here and have it grilled on the spot at one of the ramshackle stalls.

St. Francis Church

St. Francis Church

Walking on from the Chinese fishing nets brings you to typically English village green. In one corner stands the church of St. Francis, the first European church in India. Originally built in wood and named Santo Antonio, it was probably associated with Franciscan friars from Portugal. Exactly when it as founded is not known, but the stone structure is likely to date from the early sixteenth century;  the land was a gift off the local raja, and the title deeds, written on palm leaf, are still kept in the church today. The facade, with multi curved sides, became the model for most Christian churches in India. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524, but his body was later removed to Portugal.

Under the Dutch, the church was renovated and became Protestant in 1663, then Anglican with the advent of the British in 1795 and since 1949 has been attached to the Church of South India. Inside, various tombstone inscriptions have been placed in the walls, the earliest of which is from 1562. One hangover from British days is the continued use of punkhas, large swinging cloth fans on frames suspended above the congregation; these are operated by people sitting outside pulling on cords.

Santa Cruz Basilica

Santa Cruz Basilica

The Santa Cruz Basilica, a church was built originally by the Portuguese in 1558, later the British commissioned a new building in 1887. Santa Cruz was proclaimed a Basilica by the Pope John Paul II in 1984. This magnificent church is one of the finest impressive churches in Kerala, endowed with architectural and artistic grandeur and colours of the gothic style. The interior of the cathedral, south of St Francis church, will delight fans of the colorful-verging on the downright Gaudy-Indo-Romano-Rococo school of decoration.

Mattancherry

With high-rise development restricted to Ernakulam, across the water, the old fashioned character of Mattancherry and near by Fort Cochin remains intact. Within an area small enough to cover on foot, bycle or auto-rickshaw, glimpses of Kochi’s variegated history greet you at virtually every turn. As you approach by ferry (get off at Mattancherry),  the shoreline is crowded with tiled buildings painted in pastel colors, a view that can’t have changed for centuries.

Despite the large number of tourists visiting daily, trade is still the most important activity here. Many of the streets are busy with barrows loaded with sacks of produce trundling between godowns (warehouses) and little shops where dealers to business in tea, jute, rubber, chillies, turmeric, cashew, ginger, cardamom and pepper.

Jew Town

The road heading left from Mattancherry Jetty leads into the district known as Jew Town, where N.X. Jacob’s tailor shop and the offices of J.E. Cohen, advocate and tax consultant, serve as reminders of a once-thriving community. Nowadays many of the shops sell antiques, Hindu and Christian woodcarvings, oil lamps, wooden jewellery boxes and other bric-a-brac.

Turning right at the India Pepper & Spice Trade Building, usually resounding with the racket of dealers shouting the latest spice prices, and then right again, brings shouting the latest spice prices, and then right again, brings you into Synagogue Lane.

Jewish Synagogue

Jewish Synagogue

The Paradesi (White Jew) Synagogue (daily except Sat 10 am- noon & 3-5 pm) was founded in 1568, and rebuilt in 1664. Its interior is an attractive, if incongruous, hotchpotch; note the floor, paved with hand-painted eighteenth- century blue-and-white tiles from Canton, each unique, depicting a love affair between a mandarin’s daughter and a commoner. The nineteenth-century glass oil-burning chandeliers suspended form the ceiling were imported from Belgium. Above the entrance, a gallery supported by slender gilt columns was reserved for female members of the congregation. Opposite the entrance, an elaborately carved Ark houses four scrolls of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) encased in silver and gold, on which are placed gold crowns presented by the maharajas of Travancore and Cochin, testifying to good relations with the Jewish Community. The synagogue’s oldest artifact is a fourth-century copper plate inscription from the Raja of Cochin.

An attendant is usually available to show visitor’s around, and answer questions; his introductory talk features as part of the KTDC guided tour. Outside, in a small square, several antique shops are well worth a browse, but don’t expect a bargain.

Mattancherry Palace

Mattancherry Palace (daily except friday 10 am-5 pm) stands on the left side of the road a short walk from the Mattancherry Jetty in the opposite direction to Jew Town. The gate way on the road is, in fact, its back entrance and it remains inexplicably  locked. I the walled grounds behind the gate stands a circular, tiled Krishna temple closed to non-Hindus).

Although known locally as the Dutch Palace, the two-storey palace was built by the Portuguese as a gift to the Cochin Raja, Vira Keralavarama (1537-61), and the Dutch were responsible for subsequent additions. While its appearance is not particularly striking, squat with whitewashed walls and tiled roof, the interior is captivating. The murals that adorn some of its rooms are among the finest examples of Kerala’s much underrated school of painting; friezes illustrating stories from the Ramayana. On the first floor, date from the sixteenth century. Packed with detail and gloriously rich colour, the style is never strictly naturalistic; the treatment of facial features is pared down to the simplest of lines for the mouths, and characteristically aquiline noses. Downstairs, the woman’s bed chamber holds several less complex paintings, possibly dating from the 1700s. One shows Shiva dallying with Vishnu, who has assumed a female form as the enchantress Mohini, a second portrays Krishna holding aloft Mount Govardhana, another features a reclining Krishna surrounded by gopis, or cowgirls. His languid pose belies the activity of his six hands and two feet, intimately caressing adoring admirers.