Role of Cultural and Religious Pluralism

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Cultural pluralism is a term used when smaller groups within a larger society maintain their own unique cultural identities. Migration is a key process that makes significant contribution to the growth of urbanism. Often immigrants belonging to particular region, language, religion ,tribe etc tend to concentrate in special geographical areas maintain their cultural identity. Thus the migrants try to maintain their own culture, contributing to the phenomenon of cultural pluralism. 

This research comprises the analysis of Mattancherry, the small coastal town located on the western part of the corporation of Kochi which has experienced rich cultural variety due to migration. The generosity of the earlier kings of Kochi, aided many communities like that of Jews, Konkanis, Gujaratis, Jains, Marathis who made the town their home. The vibrant cultural landscape of Mattancherry, wherein almost sixteen different linguistic and cultural groups coexist even today, is marked by its rich customs, traditions and art forms. Mattancherry is indeed a classical example of creating an urban environment in which diversity becomes a source of strength rather than that of conflict. 

Thus this heritage city has unique linkages that play a important role in communicating the diverse social fabric, vernacular layout and architectural footprint. The paradigm shifts in the original physical and cultural factors that contributed to the evolution of the settlements are examined in this report. Pulling down and unauthorized modifying of valuable heritage structures and public spaces is also a major issue in this zone destroying the harmony in heritage zones due to lack of proper development guidelines. This research is an attempt to bring the sense of cultural pluralism in Mattancherry and emphasis has been given to the architectural context of these settlements. It also aims to promote the awareness regarding the dilapidation of the heritage value structures of these settlements.

Culture is basically conceived as the sum total of ideals, norms, preferences and codes of a people. Culture embodies the very essence and vibrancy of a community and colours every aspects of their lives including their built form and settlements. It plays a major role in giving a unique identity to the community.

Mattancherry, the small coastal town located on the western part of the corporation of Kochi is in close proximity to the present commercial hub of Kerala, Ernakulam (also known as Eda Kochi). This cosmopolitan town was a bustling centre of trade, particularly spices and hence was once the political and economic capital of the state. Its history dates back to 13th century , when the great periyar flood in 1341 A.D. silted up Muziris, which had been a major trading port since long and at the same time flushed open the port of Kochazhi (a small sea), now Kochi. This led to trade moving south from Cranganore to Kochi. The invasions from across the sea were frequent and invaders left ineradicable marks on the landscape, culture, art and social history of the place and the people. 

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Mattancherry has greeted every migrant settlement that came with warmth and provided them with opportunities to thrive soundly. The generosity of the earlier kings of Kochi, aided many communities like that of Jews, Konkanis, Gujaratis, Jains, Marathis who made the town their home. To this day, Mattancherry thrives with people of various languages and ethnic identities. Churches, agraharams, mosques, temples and a synagogue co-exist in the area, along with colonial structures from previous eras, pointing to a colourful past a harmonious and vibrant present. Thus this heritage city has unique and strong linkages that play a crucial role in communicating the diverse social fabric, vernacular layout and architectural footprint. 

Results of urbanization and due to the lack of conservational values, the town is facing a state of urban decay. The history of the place is a result due to spice trade and the power of the colonial architectural spaces in the area provide lasting images and a spectacular urban layout. The colonial buildings of Mattancherry provide innumerable prospects for adaptive re-use. Due to population sprawls and modern pressure, spaces are tightly packed and the existing ideologies especially in the architecture of the township are being tainted. This zone thus needs immediate concentration as its physical composition and traditional fabric in its structures are in a state of afflict.

The Tamil Brahmin settlements at Mattancherry are people who follow a very strict and religious culture. Having migrated from Tirunnelvelli, in the state of Tamil Nadu, they came into various parts of Kerala and set their culture there. The settlement trace back to almost 300 – 400 years. The origin of its establishment to the time, when the Raja of Kochi visited Kayamkulam, found a community of businessmen there from Kallidaikarchi in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu and invited them to settle down in Mattancherry to carry on their trade by providing parcels of land.

The community was a close knit community that exposed themselves in only few environments to interact with other communities. Their initial stay in the land before setting was only for repeating period of 6 months as per the progressing season for trade. As money lenders and merchants they sold goods in the Mattancherry bazaar.

Initially men came here for trade and lived in small houses cooking and living independently. These houses were either shared or people lived individually as per their choice. However they gathered together forming small community, creating their own space in unity. This was secluded and made more unique from the rest of the locality. They formed small enclosures and bound spaces creating a uniform character and identity of their own.   

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