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Cochin State

COCHIN STATE, a feudatory state of southern India, in political subordination to Madras, with an area of 1361 sq. m. It is bounded on the N. by British Malabar, on the E. by British Malabar, Coimbatore and Travancore, on the S. by Travancore, and on the W. by British Malabar and the Arabian Sea. Isolated from the main territory, and situated to the north-east of it, lies the major portion of the Chittore taluk, entirely surrounded by British territory. The whole state may be divided into three well-defined regions or zones: (1) the eastern zone, consisting of broken forested portions of the Western Ghats, which, gradually decreasing in height, merge into (2) the central belt, comprising the uplands and plains that dip towards the lagoons or "backwaters" along the coast (see Cochin, town), beyond which lies (3) the western zone, forming the littoral strip. The low belt which borders on the seas and the backwaters is by nature flat and swampy, but has in the course of ages become enriched by the work of man. On leaving the seaboard, an undulating country is found, diversified with grassy flats, naked hills and wooded terraces, intersected by numerous torrents and rapids, and profusely dotted with homesteads, orchards and cultivated fields, up to the very foot of the Ghats. Here the landscape, now on a grander scale, embraces great forests which form a considerable source of wealth. Of the total area of the state the forests and lagoons cover nearly 605 and 16 sq. m. respectively.

In 1901 the population was 812,025, showing an increase of 12% in the decade. More than one-fifth are Christians, mostly Syrians and Roman Catholics. The revenue is estimated at £153,000, subject to a tribute of £13,000. During recent years the financial condition of the state has been flourishing. The principal products are rice, cocoanuts, timber, cardamoms, pepper and a little coffee. Salt is manufactured along the coast. The capital is Ernakulam, but the raja resides at Tripunthora. The principal commercial centre is Mattancheri, adjoining the British town of Cochin. The chief means of communication is by boat along the backwaters; but in 1902 a metre-gauge line was constructed by the Madras railway at the expense of the state to connect Ernakulam with Shoranur.

History. - What is now the native state of Cochin formed, until about the middle of the 9th century A.D., part of the ancient Chera or Kerala kingdom (see Kerala). Its port of Kodungalur (Kranganur, the ancient Muziris), at the mouth of the Periyar, was from early times one of the chief centres for the trade between Europe and India; and it was at Malankara, near Kodungalur, that the apostle Thomas is traditionally said to have landed. The history of Cochin is, however, like that of the Kerala kingdom generally, exceedingly obscure previous to the arrival of the Portuguese. The rajas of Cochin, who are of pure Kshatriya blood, claim descent from the Chera king Cheraman Perumal, the last of his race to rule the vast tract from Gokarn in North Kanara to Cape Comorin. About the middle of the 9th century this king, according to tradition, resigned his kingdom, embraced Islam, and went on pilgrimage to Arabia, where he died. Towards the end of the century the Chera kingdom was overrun and dismembered by the Cholas. It was in 1498 that Vasco da Gama reached the Malabar coast; and in 1502 the Portuguese were allowed to settle in the town of Cochin, where they built a fort and began to organize trade with the surrounding country. By the end of the century their influence had become firmly established, largely owing to the effective aid they had given to the rajas of Cochin in their wars with the Zamorin of Calicut. The Syrian Christians, forming at that time a large proportion of the population, now felt the weight of Portuguese ascendancy; in 1599 Menezes, the archbishop of Goa, held a synod at Udayamperur (Diamper), a village 12 m. south-east of Cochin, at which their tenets were pronounced heretical and their service-books purged of all Nestorian phrases. In 1663, however, Portuguese domination came to an end with the capture of Cochin by the Dutch, whose ascendancy continued for about a hundred years. In 1776 Hyder Ali of Mysore invaded the state and forced the raja to acknowledge his suzerainty and pay tribute. In 1791 Tippoo, son of Hyder Ali, ceded the sovereignty to the British, who entered into a treaty with the raja by which he became their vassal and paid an annual tribute of a lakh of rupees. On the 17th of October 1809, in consequence of an attempt of the hereditary chief minister Paliyath Achan, in 1808, to raise an insurrection against the British without his master's knowledge, a fresh treaty was made, by which the raja undertook to hold no correspondence with any foreign state and to admit no foreigners to his service without the sanction of the British government, which, while undertaking to defend the raja's territories against all enemies, reserved the right to dismantle or to garrison any of his fortresses. In 1818 the tribute, raised to 2 lakhs in 1808, was permanently fixed at 2 lakhs. Since then, under the rule of the rajas, the state has greatly advanced in prosperity, especially under that of H. H. Sir Sri Rama Varma (b. 1852), who succeeded in 1895, was made a K.C.S.I. in 1897, and G.C.S.I. in 1903.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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