Kochi Water Metro work unearths a curious relic

Portion of a possible Gothic pillar found during digging for the Water Metro jetty at Fort Kochi. The relic between history buffs Raigon Stanley (left) and Thaha Ibrahim.

Portion of a possible Gothic pillar found during digging for the Water Metro jetty at Fort Kochi. The relic between history buffs Raigon Stanley (left) and Thaha Ibrahim.

History came tumbling out on Wednesday when a large stone slab was unearthed during digging under way in Fort Kochi for the construction of the Water Metro jetty.

Possibly a portion of a Gothic pillar, dating back to the Portuguese times (1503), there are at least three such slabs in the dugout debris along with other objects of historical value. The digging, as part of construction of the jetty, by the Water Metro has been under way for the past one month.

The 20 cents on which the heritage stones have been found was once the site that housed three structures of historic importance—a port office, a gear shed, and Laurel Club that was a coal shed. The famed Chinese net called the ‘Karipura vala’ stands next to the site.

Raigon Stanley, history buff and founder of The Grey Book Museum in Fort Kochi, has been, along with his team of Thaha Ibrahim and Siddique Tajee, tracking diggings done by Cochin Smart Mission Limited (CSML) in the area, as part of the Smart Mission Project, for the last two years.

“Many objects of antiquity have been found in the pull-outs done for relaying sidewalks, drains, and beautification. This is most likely the base of a Gothic pillar, which was in Fort Kochi during the Portuguese and Dutch periods,” said Raigon.

Former Mayor and local historian K.J. Sohan rebuilds the history based on the pillar. He said that a Portuguese cathedral existed in the area and was converted into a warehouse by the Dutch (1663). The British (1800) who entered the area from Vypeen destroyed the Dutch warehouse, and the pillars are remnants of that old structure.

In 1889 after the Great Fire of Cochin, Port officer J.E. Wrinkler raised the pillars and established the yard of the pilot quarters, opposite the Laurel Club, on which the Water Metro jetty is coming up.

The pillar is etched with this information and was shifted to the walkway on the beach, as part of walkway tourism in the 90s. A similar pillar was, at that same time, relocated and currently stands on the Santa Cruz Basilica premises.

Detailed study

Anoop C., documentation assistant, Archaeological Survey of India, who was present during the extraction of the pillar base, said that a detailed study would be done by the Archaeology department after his initial report. According to him, “the portion of the pillar could be part of the fortification of the Port of yore.”

All such stones found during diggings by CSML and Water Metro authorities are being relocated to the safety of the Bastion Bungalow Museum for further study.

Sohan hopes that a thorough excavation of the area can be done before the construction of the jetty to save the buried precious heritage.

Meanwhile, onlookers and local history buffs were thrilled at the site of the relic which is visibly detailed and clearly has a story to tell.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2022 12:57:46 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/kochi-water-metro-work-unearths-a-curious-relic/article38410195.ece