Cochin. I. A rajahship of India, near its S. extremity, on the Malabar coast, intersected by lat. 10° N., bounded N. by the district of Malabar, S. by Travancore, and W. by the Indian ocean; area, 1,988 sq. m.; pop. about 300,000. A considerable portion of the territory is under the presidency of Madras, and the remainder is governed by a rajah, under the protection of and tributary to the British. Magnificent forests of teak, ironwood, jackwood, and ebony cover the higher grounds, and are the source of most of the revenue of the country. The narrow valleys in the N. portion are well watered and fertile, yielding two crops of rice annually. There are several generally well built and cleanly Christian villages, while near the town two classes of Jews, the Jerusalem or white Jews, and the ancient or black Jews, are numerous. II. A town, capital of the British district, and formerly of the rajahship, 168 m. N. N. W. of Cape Comorin, and 350 m. S. W. of Madras; pop. about 20,000. It is situated on a low sandy fiat on the Malabar coast, and is nearly insulated by a backwater, extending S. to N. about 40 m. The harbor is obstructed by a bar, which prevents vessels of over 400 tons from entering at high tide.
The port is also seriously affected by the S. W. monsoon for several months in the year, during which vessels can neither enter nor depart in safety. The town is a mile in length and half a mile in width, with streets crossing each other at right angles, and houses generally two stories high and covered with tiled roofs. The arsenal is the principal building. The fine cathedral built by the Portuguese was converted by the Dutch into a warehouse for the Dutch East India company. The suburbs Gulvaty and Mattuncherry extend half a mile S. E. along the edge of the backwater, and are inhabited by the white and black Jews, each class having a synagogue. Ship building, formerly the most important interest of the town, is still carried on to some extent, and timber, cocoanuts, cocoanut oil, coir, cordage, and cassia are the chief exports. - In 1503 the Portuguese were permitted to build a fort here. They established a Roman Catholic bishopric, which has long been vacant. The native Christians belong partly to the sect called the Christians of St. Thomas, and partly to the Roman Catholic communion; but they are described as grossly depraved and superstitious. The Dutch captured the town in 1663, made it the capital of their Indian settlements, and under their sway it became populous and thriving.
The British took it in 1795, and in 1806 levelled the ramparts and blew up the fortifications and many of the public buildings, the explosion shattering nearly all the private dwellings of any size and value. Those of the Dutch who had means left the town, but most of them were reduced to beggary. A few Dutch families still reside there, and there is an old Dutch church in the N. W. part of the town, in which a Protestant minister officiates.