Burgher Street in Fort Kochi keeps alive the Dutch history
Though most of the residents and the tourists who throng Fort Kochi, pass by this street which is located close to many tourist attractions like art galleries, most of them seem to be unaware of the historic connection associated with the Burgher street. There are only two streets in Fort Kochi which still bear Dutch names, Burgher Street and Petercelli Street as the other streets have been renamed by the British who came later.
The word Burgher in Dutch means ‘clerk’ in reference to the Portuguese descendants of clerks here who had built the street. Though there are no Burghers on the street anymore, it remains a mute testimony of a 300 year old Dutch legacy. It is ironical that this erstwhile Dutch street has a number of Portuguese descendants but no Dutch residents.
The legacy says that in the 15th Century when the Portuguese first came to Kerala, they built a fort in the area and the city around it was called Fort Kochi. But soon the Dutch came in and they destroyed the fort and many other Portuguese buildings and brought in the Protestant reign which made them unpopular among the local populace, which ultimately forced them to leave the area for the Portuguese.
Even today, the Burgher Street has some ancient buildings that showcases specks of Dutch architecture including high ceilings, thick walls and a small courtyard. However it is alarming to note that many modern constructions have come up in the heritage zone, violating the norms, which makes the conservation of these vestiges an uphill task. Like the many pieces of forgotten history, the Burgher Street too has lost its historical significance somewhere; nonetheless let us hope that these vital links of history are not lost forever.