Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Top six things to do in Mattancherry in Ernakulam, Kerala

The historic town of Mattancherry in Ernakulam is located around 2.5 kms from Fort Kochi and approx. 10 kms away from Cochin. The place, that has a rich cultural history has a remnant of the Portuguese, Dutch and Jews in India during the colonial era. The architecture and streets are influenced by a mix of Portuguese and Dutch, and also shows traces of British and hints of Kerala. It is perfect for a day trip from Fort Kochi. This is what you can do while in Mattancherry:

#1 Visit the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry

Interestingly, the Dutch Palace was originally constructed by the Portuguese in a predominantly Kerala style of architecture and gifted to the royals of Kochi in 1555. Though most part of it resembles a Kerala bungalow, there are traces of European architecture as well in their arches and chambers. The flooring of the Mattancherry Palace resembles a black marble, but is actually a mix of burnt coconut shells, egg whites, plant juices and charcoal. The Dutch took over the palace in 1663 and it was later taken over by Hyder Ali and Bristish. There are a couple of temples in the palace premises, into which you’re allowed entry only if you’re a Hindu. The entry fee to the palace is a nominal Rs 5/-, and photography isn’t allowed inside it. The palace comprises of several paintings and mural covered walls and a lot of them are religious in nature.

#2 Explore Jew Town in Mattancherry

The narrow street right outside the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry that leads towards the Paradesi Synagogue is known as Jew Town. It is quite touristy than you’d expect it to be and has a ton of stores, cafes, galleries and houses. A short walk away is a Jewish cemetery, entry to which isn’t permitted, but you can see it through the gate. Through the foliage, you can see engravings on the tombs in Hebrew, English and Malyalam.

#3 Shop for some spices and artefacts in Mattancherry

The streets around Mattancherry have some really great artefacts and trinkets you can take home if you’re a history and art buff. The most popular ones are the bronze and other metal items, wooden furniture, crockery, jewellery, musical instruments and handicrafts. The Jew Town also features a spice market which has spice stores lined up amidst heritage houses on both sides of the street, where one can shop for multiple Kerala spices.

#4 Visit the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry

The Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry is one of the two synagogues in Ernakulam (one of which is in Cochin) that was apparently constructed in 5105. It is the oldest synagogue and only one that is still in use. It comprises of a large 18th century clock tower at the entrance. Mattancherry has just one Jewish family comprising of five members and they are the caretakers of the Synagogue. I was told by one of the Jews that the rest have migrated to Israel. There are strict dress codes and timings to be followed, and the Synagogue is shut during weekends and Jewish holidays. There are several items of historic importance in the Jewish Synagogue, for example, the Scrolls of the Law, gold crowns received as gifts, Belgian glass chandeliers, and a brass-railed pulpit. The flooring of the synagogue is made up of multiple 18th-century Chinese hand-painted porcelain tiles – every one of which is unique.

#5 Visit art galleries and arty cafes in Mattancherry

The streets of Mattancherry are lined with art galleries and arty cafes. Most of the galleries have a café attached to it and has a basic café menu. Though the food offerings are varied, they serve the best tea. You must experience the calm sitting by the window side and sipping on some tea as you see life in Mattancherry slowly progress. Some of the lovely cafes you could visit are Mocha Art Café, Café Crafters, Café Jew Town, Café Mattancherry and Yoga Art Café. If not, grab lunch or dinner at a restaurant in the Muslim stretch of town; preferably beef curry with Kerala parota or chicken biryani at Kayees Biryani in Mattancherry. 

#6 Spend some time at the Jain Temple in Mattancherry

The Jain temple dedicated to Shri Dharmanath, the 15th Jain Tirthankar is the only Jain Temple in Kerala and is open for public at certain timings. The temple which was constructed in 1960, is an example of the cultural confluence of the place, spreading over a large area of worship and offerings. The tranquil temple is located on the Gujarati Road in Mattancherry and is inspired by the Jain Temples in Gujarat. Hundreds of pigeons call the premises of the Jain Temple their home and one can feed grains to the pigeons there.

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