Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Pillar At Fort Kochi


A much lesser-known fact about this isolated pillar is that it is a historical symbol; representing one of Kerala’s biggest fire that broke out in the late 19th century now remembered as the Great Fire of Cochin(1889).
In the 19th century, Cochin or British Cochin under the British Raj was much under their monopoly. Indians were thoroughly discouraged to run business in Cochin and were often restricted. Some of the popular and then flourishing businesses belonged to Volkart Bros (now Voltas), Pierce Leslie, Aspinwall, Brindon etc.
In times like that, an indigenous vessel called ‘Chandrabhanu’ was made by the natives. Seeing the potential growth of Indian business, the vessel was held by the court, stating some law and thus preventing the owner from using it. While the owner was going for an appeal, the vessel was held near the Volkart company premises near the shores of Cochin.
On the eve of Jan 4th, 1889, the Volkart workers noticed smoke arising from the vessel. On nearing, they realized the vessel was on fire. Also using this opportunity to get rid of this massive vessel, the rope with which it was held to the shore was cut off to set the burning vessel free for the sea to feed on. Like it was under the fire of revenge, Chandrabhanu started nearing the shores due to strong winds. Since most of the companies did the business of coconut oil, copra, essential oils, ropes, etc and with small settlements having thatched rooves, it wasn't hard for the ball of fire to feed on all the things on the Cochin shore, small and big. Including the Volkart Bros, Aspinwall, Pierce Leslie, Brindon companies and hundreds of settlements in Calvathy, all fell prey to this fire. Least did the people know that this vessel intended only for business would bring such amount of destruction.
To commemorate this day, a pillar was erected in Fort Kochi. Next time you visit this area, do take a second glance at this pillar.

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