Part of the island of Vypin and blessed with a unique blend of sea and backwater, Cherai is an exotic mixture of nature, culture and history. With the Periyar River to the east and the Arabian Sea westwards, Cherai also offers vast stretches of luminous green coconut groves, paddy fields situated below sea level, a shoreline of secluded golden beaches, an occasional school of frolicking dolphins and tranquil stretches of scenic backwaters with Chinese fishing nets along the banks. Chera's tryst with history includes the fabled ancient port of Muziris and in being part of the European colonial era in Kerala. The area contains several historical temples, churches, mosques and monuments of antiquity.
Little is known for certain about Cherai's early history. But it is surmised that due to flooding of the River Periyar in 1341 the backwaters burst through the narrow sandbanks that separated them from the sea at Kochi thereby creating a new outlet to the sea. It is believed that the island of Vypin was created as a consequence, providing a home to the early inhabitants who made their living from fishing.
Cherai first finds historical mention after the Portuguese arrived on the Kerala coast in 1498. At this time a powerful ruler, the Zamorin ruled over all the feudal chieftains of the time in Kerala including the Cherai area then under the ruler of Kochi. The Zamorin welcomed the Portuguese and allowed them to participate in the trade of spices threatening the monopoly of the Arab traders. The Arabs intervened with the Zamorin to protect their business interests resulting in the Portuguese being refused a monopoly. Angered, they sought favour with the Kochi ruler who nursed ambitions of independence from the control of the Zamorin. In the conflict that followed the Kochi armies with the assistance of the Portuguese General Albuquerque defeated the Zamorin and the Portuguese were given exclusive rights to the spice trade from the port of Muziris. At this point in time the pirates operating in the waters off the Pallipuram area of Cherai posed a constant threat to local merchants and their goods. In order to protect their commercial interests the king of Kochi permitted the Portuguese to construct a fort: a hexagonal, three storey structure that acted as an outpost to protect the trade through the port of Muziris. Pallipuram and Muziris were developed by the Portuguese as 'twin cities'. In 1507 they built the Pallipuram Ave Maria Church followed by a seminary in 1574 and Jesuit monastery. These structures are still intact and accessible to visitors. In 1661 the Dutch Admiral Vander Meyden made an alliance with the Zamorin which eventually resulted in the expulsion of the Portuguese and occupation of the fort in Pallipuram by the Dutch. Although the Protestant Dutch slaughtered local Catholics, they did not destroy the Pallipuram church and instead even built a chapel for the church. In 1728 the seminary was converted to a leprasorium, today it functions as a school. Eventually control of Cherai was transferred to the British colonialists till India's independence from colonial rule. In fact there is an area in Cherai that is still referred to as 'British' by the locals.