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Kerala ( God's own Country )

Kerala History

Kerala, the south Indian picturesque state is a witness to rich history since the Maurya Empire. Myths say that Kerala was created when Parasurama heaved his axe into the sea. The first recorded history of Kerala was found in the inscription of Maurya. Among the four kingdoms of Ashoka, the Cochin and Travancore kingdoms got mentioned. It is said to be believed that Christianity was first spread into Malabar Coast by St. John, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ on his voyage of Christianity who later pierced into death by Indian sages when he spent his days at a cave at a hill station of Tamil Nadu. The Edakkal caves of Kerala dates back to prehistoric times, perhaps to the Neolithic age as its Stone Age writing bears testimony to the Stone Age.

Early Civilizations of Kerala :
The Pulayas, Kuravas and Vetas were the earliest inhabitants of Kerala and later the Aryans migrated from the north and subdued them through caste systems. At the beginning of the Christian era the Chera dynasty ruled in the Western Ghats and when the rule of this dynasty declined the Brahmins coincided with them. The caste system came into existence and the Brahmins were the landowners and later this was the cause of the caste struggle.

It is believed that St John, one of the apostles of Christ came to the Malabar Coast in the first century AD to spread the message of Christ. Christianity in Kerala was started first in entire India and in the 3rd century AD Christians from Middle East migrated to Kerala and the Muslims those who arrived in 8th century was mostly traders. The Jews who reached Kerala at the early Christian era were engaged in trade and still a Jew town is located at Mattancherry of Kerala.

Later three warlords became the rulers of Kerala in their own regions-- the Zamorin of Calicut (Samuthiri of Kozhikode) to the North, Moopins of Perimpadappu (near modern day Kochi) in the central regions and chieftain of Kollam.

Malabar Coast, the Ancient Trade Centre before the Common Era (Christian era) :
India was the hub of gold and spices and foreign traders from Arab came to India for trade. It is said that India, the fabled land of spices and gold attract the eyes of the world. In ancient Kerala trade flourished around 3000 BC. Malabar Coast was visited by the Phoenicians to trade in ivory, sandalwood and spices.

Muziris, the ancient port city of Malabar was said to be greatest trading centre of the east in the ancient world. It had productions of pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and other spices. Through this port, south India has trade links with the West Asia, and Europe.

Before the European colonization in the 16th century in India, south India was involved in trade and commerce with Europe. It is an interesting fact to mention here that the ships has been ridden on the monsoon winds from Africa and back to Arabia and from there the caravan took the imported things of India to the markets of the Mediterranean countries.

Vasco Da Gamma’s Sailing to India & landing at Calicut :
India was an attraction to the European voyagers, many attempts were made to reach India by sea, but it was in vain as most of them could reach only up to "Cape of Good hope" in Africa. It was the Portuguese navigator Vas Co Da gamma who first landed at Kappad Beach of Calicut in Kerala in the year 1498. It is said that Da Gamma bribed an Arab pilot when his ship was anchored at port Malindi. The centuries old sea route taken by the Arab traders was veiled by Vas Co da Gamma’s voyage on the ship, Sao Gabriel. The entire history of India took another turn after this sea route discovery of the Portuguese navigator.

Portuguese Arrival :
Portuguese arrived in Kerala after Vas Co da Gamma’s landmark visit and they were intended to stop the trade link of Arabs with south India. Although initially the Portuguese did not trade grant with the Zamorin, they later succeeded to procure trade at Quilon and Cannanore. At that time the Raja of Cochin supported the Portuguese and this created inner conflict in between the Cochin and Calicut. After Vas Co da Gamma, the Portuguese trader Albuquerque came who managed to make a cordial relation with the Zamorin. According to the treaty signed in 1513, the Portuguese got permission to build a fort in Cochin.  However the Portuguese power gradually declined in Kerala as the successors of Albuquerque were not competent enough to fend off the local powers.

The Portuguese had a strong influence on the social life of Kerala. They introduced first the printing press in Kerala. However, their behavior towards the local Christians enraged the localities. As the local Christians were Hindu in their outlook and culture, they wanted to proselytize them to Latin Catholics. The Syrian Christians revolted against this and the Koonan Cross Oath is a landmark event in the history. The revolters did take oath tying to a Cross at Kochi on 15 January 1653. Yet Portuguese was successful to convert some Christians to Latin Catholics.

Dutch Conquest in Kerala :
The Dutch traders came after the Portuguese and they were in the race for evicting the Portuguese from the soil of Kerala to grasp the lucrative Eastern spices trade. They had an alliance with the Samuthiri which helped them drive out the Portuguese for ever by 1663. Under their strategy the Kochi maharaja became the titular head only and the Dutch East India Company setting up in 1602 started their trade operations. They gained prominence in Kannur and Kochi. They faced battle of the local resurgent kings. Gradually Dutch power weakened and the British took over their place.

Many novel agricultural crops to Kerala like pineapple, papaya, tapioca, rubber and scientific farming methods for coconuts were introduced by the Portuguese and Dutch. Till now majority of the population are agrarian communities and depend on the cultivation of crops for survival.

Some of the monuments that remind the Dutch conquest are the Bolghatty palace at Kochi, the Dutch Governor's Mansion (later the British Resident's mansion) and the Dutch Palace at Mattancherry.

Travancore Rule & Invasion by Hyder Ali :
During the Dutch conquest the famous local ruler of Kerala was Marthanda Varma, King of Thiruvithamkur who is known as the maker of modern Travancore by introducing new tax systems and others. He subjugated the local warlords and Dutch and expanded his rule up to Kodungalloor up in the North. Another ruler was Rama Varma known as Dharma Raja. After Marthanda Varma, Rama Varma ruled successfully for few years but he had to bear the brunt of Mysore’s invasion. Travancore rule was glorious for a few years under the supervision of administrators like Velu Thampi, Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bai (1810-15), Gouri Parvati Bai (1815-29), Swati Tirunal (1829-47), Ayilyam Tirunal (1860-80), Sri Mulam Tirunal (1885-1924). Science, art and culture flourished tremendously during the reign of Travancore rulers.

Haider Ali, the ruler of Mysore invaded Travancore and was successful to take over the regions of Kolathiri, Kottayam, Kadathanad, Kurumbranad and Calicut. In 1773 Hyder Ali conquered Trichur (present Thrissur) and his son Tipu Sultan ascending the throne annexed the entire South Malabar in 1783. In 1790 he was successful completely to breach the Travancore line. In the third Anglo-Mysore War, Tipu Sultan was defeated by the British and Tipu Sultan surrendered to British forces.

British Raj :
British also came to India like other European traders. By 1634-35, they gained permission to use all the Portuguese ports in Kerala from the Zamorin. They faced struggles from the rivalry traders-Dutch and French. With the treaty of Serirangapatam in 1792, Malabar was handed over to British by Tipu Sultan. Into a district of Madras Presidency Malabar was added. A lot of political and social disturbances were seen in between 1836-56 and one significant was the Mappila Riots or Muslim revolts. It is still questionable whether the cause of the riots was agrarian grievances or religious fanaticism. It was suppressed harshly by the British forces.

Revolt against British :
The local warlords or naduvazhis revolted against the rise of British power in Malabar Coast. In 1802 Pazhassi Raja, a brave local chieftain fought relentlessly against the British. Velu Thampi Dalawa also rose up against to challenge the British Power. Allying himself with the Dewan of Kochi Paliyath Achan, he raised armed campaign against the British. But the local weapons couldn’t face the military might of a super power. Velu Thampi ran away from the kingdom and British Raj was deeply rooted in Malabar.

Indian Freedom Struggle :
Indian Freedom struggle was started in all over India to uproot the British power, the people of Malabar joined hands together and Malabar was a main centre of the political agitation. Many stalwarts of Malabar joined the Indian National Congress and all the popular uprisings of national movement found tremendous supporters from Malabar.

Abdul Rahman Ali Raja of Cannanore got the president chair of the Muslim League in 1937. A congress committee of Indian National Congress was set up in Trivandrum. Popular uprisings of Travancore against the British inspired all to join hands against the British.

Post Independence, Formation of Kerala State :
After Independence, on July 1, 1949, the new state namely "Thirukochi" was established comprising of old princely states of Thiruvithamkur and Kochi. The Malayalam-speaking regions of Malabar (a part of Madras Presidency under British) and Thirukochi were combined together as a one state on November 1, 1956 and this has been christened as Kerala.

The recent history of Kerala comprises of the Leftist movement and Indian National Congress. Malayalam is the main language of the state which is close to Tamil language and belongs to Dravidian family of language.

In the field of education, transportation and health care, Kerala is the top most state of India. This state is teeming with various tourism potentials. Kerala is the highest literate state of India.