KOCHI / COCHIN
The earliest account of Cochin is derived from the records made by the Chinese traveler, Ma Huan. Even in other documents belonging from the same period, the account of Cochin history prior to the Portuguese rule is quite vague. As per the available information, the city gained its reputation of being a port city only after the collapse of the Kulashekhara kingdom. These accounts also state that Cochin was invaded by foreigners and colonized many times. The king remained the titular head.
Pedro Alvarez arrived in Cochin in january 1500 and traded succesfully for spices and demanded the foundation of a factory. The Raja of Cochin succumbed to the demand of the admiral, but mainly out of fear of the native Zamorins. Later, it was the legendary traveler Vasco Da Gama, who managed to pacify the Zamorins. The Portuguese then built Fort Manuel to protect their factory from any sort of attack. The Portugues presence in Cochin lasted until 1663 when de city was conquered by the Dutch East India Company.
They defeated the Portuguese and deposed the Raja. After landing at Njarakal, they went on to seize the Pallippuram fort, which they later gave to the Zamorins. Cochin prospered under the Dutch rule by shipping pepper, cardamom and other spices, coir, coconut, and copper.
In 1791 the Dutche were defeated by Tippu Sultan of Mysore an in the following years the British gained a firm foothold in the city. By the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1815 the loss of Cochin was recognized by the Dutch and the city came in the posession of the Honourable East India Company. British rule was continued by the Raj and ended in 1947 when Cochin was the first princely state to join the Indian Union.
Cochin heraldry is dominated by the heraldry of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English, as it was a part of the Portuguese Seaborne Empire, a settlement of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and later of the Honourable East India Company, for more than three centuries.
The Indian rulers of Cochin only appear in heraldry in the time of the Raj. In 1877 a European styled achievement was granted to Rama Varma (1864-1888). It was:
Arms: Azure, a cross saltire between two reversed conches in pale and two eastern galleys in fess Argent.
Crest: On a helmet guardant, lambrequined Azure and Argent, a fire proper.
Supporters: A bison on the dexter and a tiger on the sinister, both proper.
(T. 24 )
* The reversed conch or śankha is the symbol of Vishnu and of religious authority.
* The eastern galleys probably are mashwa’s, a small boat with a sail lateen, very common at the east coast of India. The mashwa is a smaller version of the pattamar, a two- or three-masted ship, allied to the arabic dhow. Bow and keel of the mashwa and the pattamar are very characteristic.
Soon after the granting of this achievement, but at an uncertain date, a new achievement appeared. It is:
Arms: Murrey, a palanquin in chief and an umbrella, a reversed conch and an oil lamp in base.
Crown: The maharaja’s turban.
Strap: A clasped strap Or charged with the words Manam Kuladhanam Nah.
Supporters: Two elephants Azure*, trunks erect.
Motto: HONOUR IS OUR FAMILY TREASURE (which is the translation of the motto on the strap) in blue capitals on a yellow ribbon .
* In fact: turquoise.
š See illustration in the head of this essay (from a government publication, 1940)
© Hubert de Vries 2009-10-27
) Taylor, Robert M.A. Cantab Bengal Civil Service.: The Princely Armory. Being a display of the arms of the ruling chiefs of India prepared for the Imperial Assembly held at Delhi on the 1st day of January 1877. Printed for the Government of India at the Government Central Printing Office, 8 Hastings Street, Calcutta 1902.