History of Kerala
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History of Kerala

Silk Road map. The spice trade was mainly along the water routes (blue).

The history of Kerala, India, dates back many millennia. Stone Age carvings in the Edakkal Caves feature pictorial writings believed to date to at least the Neolithic era around 5,000 BC, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilisation or settlement in this region.[1] From as early as 3000 BC, Chera nadu, currently known as Kerala had established itself as a major spice trade centre. Keralam, the then Chera nadu had direct contact across the Arabian Sea with all the major Mediterranean and Red Sea ports as well those of the Far East. The spice trade between Kerala and much of the world was one of the main drivers of the world economy. For much of history, ports in Kerala were the busiest (Muziris) among all trade and travel routes in the history of the world.

The word Kerala is first recorded (as Keralaputra) in a 3rd-century BC rock inscription (Rock Edict 2) left by the Maurya emperor Ashoka (274-237 BC).[2] The Land of Keralaputra was one of the five independent kingdoms in southern India during Ashoka's time, the others being Chola, Pandya, Tamiraparani and Satiyaputra.[3] A 3rd century CE, Brahmi inscription, found on Edakal cave, Ambukuthi hill, contained the word 'Chera' ('kadummipudha chera'), the earliest inscriptional evidence of the dynasty Chera.[4] The Cheras collapsed after repeated attacks from the neighboring Chola Empire and Rashtrakuta Empire. In the 8th century, Adi Shankara was born at Kalady in central Kerala. He travelled extensively across the Indian subcontinent establishing institutions of Advaita Vedanta philosophy.

Contact with Europeans after the arrival of Vasco Da Gama in 1498 gave rise to armed conflicts between colonial and natives mainly due to disputes on trade . The state of Keralam was created in 1956 from the former state of Travancore-Cochin, the Malabar district of Madras State, and the Kasaragod taluk of Dakshina Kannada.[5]

Reference in Old testament

According to Biblical legends, many historians locate port cities Ophir and Tarshish mentioned in old testament in ancient Kerala. Poovar near Thiruvananthapuram is believed to be Ophir mentioned in old testament bible. Similarly Kollam, another ancient port city, is believed to be Tarshish.[6]

Kerala in Hindu Purana

Some of the legends of the native people in Kerala are common with the rest of India coming from the Puranas. However, new scholarship claims that the connections between Kerala's own legends and Aryan history are added at a later stage as part of cultural and religious assimilation.


Perhaps the most famous festival of Kerala, Onam, is deeply rooted in Kerala traditions. Onam is associated with the legendary king Mahabali, who according to tradition and the Hindu Puranas, ruled the Earth and several other planetary systems from Kerala. His entire kingdom was then a land of immense prosperity and happiness. However, Mahabali was tricked into giving up his rule, and was thus overthrown by Vamana, the fifth Avatar (earthly incarnation) of Lord Vishnu. He was banished from the Earth to rule over one of the netherworld (Patala) planets called Sutala by Vamana. Legend says that Mahabali comes back to visit Keralam every year, and that festival is known as Onam. Onam is celebrated in Kerala with respect to Maveli Thampuran of Mavelikkara and Thrikkakkarayappan.[]

Other texts

The oldest of all the Puranas, the Matsya Purana, sets the story of the Matsya Avatar (fish incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, in the Western ghat Mountains of old Tamil Nadu, which lie in between Chera Nadu and chola and pandiyanadu. The earliest Sanskrit text to mention Kerala by name is the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rigveda.[7] It is also mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata[8]


Parasurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna to part the seas and reveal Kerala.

There are legends dealing with the origins of Kerala geographically and culturally. One such legend is the retrieval of Kerala from the sea, by Parasurama, a warrior sage. It proclaims that Parasurama, an Avatar of Mahavishnu, threw His battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of Kerala arose, and thus was reclaimed from the waters.[9]

He was the sixth of the ten avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu. The word Parasu means 'axe' in Sanskrit and therefore the name Parasurama means 'Ram with Axe. In Treta yuga, Parasurama retrieved the land submerged under the ocean from Varuna - the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi - Goddess of Earth. From Gokarnam He reached Kanyakumari and threw His axe northward across the ocean. The land that came up from the waters till the spot where the axe landed, became Kerala. It was 160 katam (an old measure) of land lying between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari. Puranas say that it was Parasurama who planted the Brahmins and Nayakas in 64 regions of Kerala from Chera and Pandya regions. According to the puranas, Kerala is also known as Parasurama Kshetram, i.e., 'The Land of Parasurama', as the land was reclaimed from sea by him.


A dolmen erected by Neolithic people in Marayur.

Archaeological studies have identified many Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic sites in Kerala.[10] These findings have been classified into Laterite rock-cut caves (Chenkallara), Hood stones (Kudakkallu), Hat stones (Toppikallu), Dolmenoid cists (Kalvrtham), Urn burials (Nannangadi) and Menhirs (Pulachikallu). The studies point to the indigenous development of the ancient Kerala society and its culture beginning from the Paleolithic age, and its continuity through Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic ages.[11] However, foreign cultural contacts have assisted this cultural formation.[12] The studies suggest possible relationship with Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.[13]

Archaeological findings include dolmens of the Neolithic era in the Marayur area. They are locally known as "muniyara", derived from muni (hermit or sage) and ara (dolmen).[14] Rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves in Wayanad are thought to date from the early to late Neolithic eras around 5000 BCE.[15][16][17] Historian M. R. Raghava Varier of the Kerala state archaeology department identified a sign of "a man with jar cup" in the engravings, which is the most distinct motif of the Indus valley civilisation.[18]

Spice trade (3000 BC - 1000 AD)

Kerala was a major spice exporter as early as 3000 BCE, according to Sumerian records.[19] Its fame as the land of spices attracted ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians to Muziris [3] in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE. Arabs and Phoenicians were also successful in establishing their prominence in the Kerala trade during this early period.[20][21]

Muziris in the Tabula Peutingeriana, an itinerarium showing the road network in the Roman Empire.

According to Sumerian records Kerala still referred to as the "Garden of Spices" or as the "Spice Garden of India". Kerala's spices attracted ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians to the Malabar Coast in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE.[] Arabs and Phoenicians established trade with Kerala during this period.[] The Land of Keralaputra was one of the four independent kingdoms in southern India during Ashoka's time, the others being Chola, Pandya, and Satiyaputra.[] Scholars[who?] hold that Keralaputra is an alternate name of the Cheras, the first dominant dynasty based in Kerala.

In the last centuries BCE the coast became important to the Greeks and Romans for its spices, especially black pepper. The Cheras had trading links with China, West Asia, Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire. In foreign-trade circles the region was known as Male or Malabar.[22]Muziris, Berkarai, and Nelcynda were among the principal ports at that time.[23] The value of Rome's annual trade with the region was estimated at around 50,000,000 sesterces;[24] contemporary Sangam literature describes Roman ships coming to Muziris in Kerala, laden with gold to exchange for pepper. One of the earliest western traders to use the monsoon winds to reach Kerala was Eudoxus of Cyzicus, around 118 or 166 BCE, under the patronage of Ptolemy VIII, king of the Hellenistic Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. Roman establishments in the port cities of the region, such as a temple of Augustus and barracks for garrisoned Roman soldiers, are marked in the Tabula Peutingeriana; the only surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus.[25][26]

Merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala. The Jewish connection with Chera nadu started in 573 BCE. Arabs also had trade links with Kerala, starting before the 4th century BCE, as Herodotus (484-413 BCE) noted that goods brought by Arabs from Kerala were sold to the Jews at Eden. They intermarried with local people, resulting in formation of the Muslim Mappila community. In the 4th century, the Knanaya Christians also migrated from Persia and lived along side the early Syrian Christian community known as the St. Thomas Christians who claim to trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century although no evidence has been established to this claim. Mappila was an honorific title (Mapillai is a Tamil word for bridegroom, because foreign male partner married to local woman, they have been called Mapillai community) that had been assigned to respected visitors from abroad; Jewish, Syrian Christian, and Muslim immigration account for later names of the respective communities: Juda Mappilas, Nasrani Mappilas, and Muslim Mappilas. According to the legends of these communities, the earliest Saint Thomas Christian Churches, Cheraman Juma Masjid (629 CE)--the first mosque of India--and Paradesi Synagogue (1568 CE)--the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations--were built in Kerala by Cochin Jews.

Megasthanes, the Greek Ambassador to the court of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya (4th Century BC) mentions in his work Indica on many South Indian States, including Automela (probably Muziris), and a Pandian trade centre. Ancient Roman Natural philosopher Pliny the Elder mentions in his Naturalis Historia (N.H. 6.26) Muziris [4] in Kerala as India's first port of importance. According to him, Muziris could be reached in 40 days' time from the Red sea ports in Egyptian coast purely depending on the South West Monsoon winds. Later, the unknown author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea notes that "both Muziris and Nelcynda are now busy places".

Ancient sources (c. 1000 BC-AD 100)

The Sangam works Pu?an?u and Akanau have many lines which speak of the Roman vessels and the Roman gold that used to come to the Kerala ports in search of pepper and other spices, which had enormous demand in the West. Especially, being one of the earliest surviving pieces of literature to have been composed in ancient Kerala,Patiuppattu is an important source that describes the dynasties of Kerala (Cheras) from the early centuries CE.[27]

An important source to understand the ancient history of Kerala is the Pati?e?m?lka?akku. Collections of poems by Sangam poets like Paranar, Kapilar, Gautamanar, Mamulanar, and Avvaiyar give us information about the Chera kings like Uthiyan, Neduncheralathan and Senguttuvan. Silappatikaram, one of the Five Great Epics in Tamil literature, was written by a Chera prince Ilango and refers to Vanchi as ruled by Cheras.

A 3rd-century-BC rock inscription by emperor Ashoka the Great references Kerala as Keralaputra.[28] Sanskrit scholars of ancient India, Katyayana (circa 4th century BC) and Patanjali (circa 2nd century BC), exhibited in their writings a casual familiarity with Kerala's geography.

Ancient dynasties (c. 500 BC - AD 500)

The Land of Keralaputra was one of the five independent kingdoms in southern India during Ashoka's time, the others being Chola, Pandya, Tamiraparani and Satiyaputra.[3] It had a trading port sometimes identified in ancient Western sources as Nelcynda (or Neacyndi).[29]

The Cheras ruled western Malabar Coast, the Cholas ruled in the eastern Coromandel Coast and the Pandyas in the south-central peninsula. There were also numerous small vassal kingdoms and city-states called "Vels". The Chera kingdom consisted of a major part of modern Kerala and Kongunadu which comprises districts of modern Tamil Nadu like Coimbatore and Salem.[30][31] Old Tamil and Sanskrit was the language of the region; Malayalam, .[32][33] Their capital was at Vanchi (also known as Vanchimutur).[33] The location of the historical city Vanchi is generally considered near the ancient port city of Muziris in Kerala.[34][35] However, Karur in modern Tamil Nadu is also pointed out as the location of the capital city of Cheras.[30] Another view suggests the reign of Cheras from multiple capitals.[15]

There were harbours of Naura near Kannur, Tyndis near Koyilandy, and Bacare near Alappuzha which were also trading with Rome and Palakkad pass (churam) facilitated migration and trade. The contact with Romans might have given rise to small colonies of Jews and Syrian Christians in the chief harbour towns of Kerala. The Cochin Jews believe that their ancestors came to the west coast of India as refugees following the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century AD. Saint Thomas Christians claim to be the descendants of the converts of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Jesus Christ although no evidence that 'Saint' Thomas ever visited Kerala has been established.

Ancient religions and ethnic groups

Buddhism and Jainism reached Kerala in this early period. As in other parts of Ancient India, Buddhism and Jainism co-existed with early Hindu beliefs during the first five centuries.

Merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala.[36] Jewish connection with Kerala started as early as 573 BC.[37][38] Arabs also had trade links with Kerala, possibly started before the 4th century BC, as Herodotus (484-413 BC) noted that goods brought by Arabs from Kerala were sold to the Jews at Eden.[23] In the 4th century, the Knanaya Christians also immigrated from Persia and joined the early Syrian Christian community who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.[39][40]Mappila was an honorific title that had been assigned to respected visitors from abroad; and Jewish, Syrian Christian, and Muslim immigration might account for later names of the respective communities: Juda Mappilas, Nasrani Mappilas, and Muslim Mappilas.[41][42] According to the legends of these communities, the earliest Christian churches,[43]mosque,[44] and synagogue (AD 1568)[45] in India were built in Kerala. The combined number of Jews, Christians, and Muslims was relatively small at this early stage. They co-existed harmoniously with each other and with local Hindu society, aided by the commercial benefit from such association.[46]

A silent revolution was taking place in the social system of the western coast of south India during the last phase of Sangam Age. Towards the end of Sangam age, Brahmins migrated into this region and by about the 8th century, a chain of Brahmin settlements had come up a large number of which were in Central Kerala. Temples were constructed, Nambudiri community was evolved. Adi Shankara the exponent of Advaita (monistic) philosophy lived in the 8th century AD. The whole of Kerala came to be covered by a network of Hindu temple centered Brahmin settlements. Under their control, these settlements had a large extend of land, number of tenants and the entailing privileges. With more advanced techniques of cultivation, sociopolitical organisation and a strong sense of solidarity, They succeeded in raising a feudal fighting class and ordered the caste system with numerous graduations of upper, intermediate and lower classes.

Early medieval period (c. 500-1400 CE)

Second Cheras

Tharisapalli plates granted to Saint Thomas Christians testify that merchant guilds and trade corporations played a very significant role in the economy and social life during the Kulasekhara period.

Much of history of the region from the 6th to the 8th century is obscure.[2] A Second Chera Kingdom ( c. 800-1102), also known as Kulasekhara dynasty of Mahodayapuram, was established by Kulasekhara Varman, which at its zenith ruled over a territory comprising the whole of modern Kerala and a smaller part of modern Tamil Nadu. During the early part of Kulasekara period, the southern region from Nagercoil to Thiruvananthapuram was ruled by Ay kings, who lost their power in 10th century and thus the region became a part of the Kulasekara empire.[47][48] During Kulasekhara rule, Kerala witnessed a flourishing period of art, literatute, trade and the Bhakti movement of Hinduism.[49] A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils, became linguistically separate during this period.[50] For the local administration, the empire was divided into provinces under the rule of local Chieftains known as Naduvazhis, with each province comprising a number of Desams under the control of chieftains, called as Desavazhis.[49]

The inhibitions, caused by a series of Chera-Chola wars in the 11th century, resulted in the decline of foreign trade in Kerala ports. Buddhism and Jainism disappeared from the land. The social system became fractured with internal divisions on the lines of caste.[51] Finally, the Kulasekhara dynasty was subjugated in 1102 by the combined attack of Later Pandyas and Later Cholas.[47] However, in the 14th century, Ravi Varma Kulashekhara (1299-1314) of the southern Venad kingdom was able to establish a short-lived supremacy over southern India.[] After his death, in the absence of a strong central power, the state was fractured into about thirty small warring principalities under local Chieftains; most powerful of them were the kingdom of Samuthiri in the north, Venad in the south and Kochi in the middle.[52][53]

Rise of Advaita

Adi Shankara (AD 789), one of the greatest Indian philosophers, is believed to be born in Kaladi in Kerala, and consolidated the doctrine of advaita ved?nta.[54][55] Shankara travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers. He is reputed to have founded four mathas ("monasteries"), which helped in the historical development, revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta.[55] Adi Shankara is believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and the founder of the Shanmatatradition of worship.

His works in Sanskrit concern themselves with establishing the doctrine of advaita (nondualism). He also established the importance of monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra, in a time when the Mimamsa school established strict ritualism and ridiculed monasticism. Shankara represented his works as elaborating on ideas found in the Upanishads, and he wrote copious commentaries on the Vedic canon (Brahma Sutra, principal upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) in support of his thesis. The main opponent in his work is the Mimamsa school of thought, though he also offers arguments against the views of some other schools like Samkhya and certain schools of Buddhism.[56][57][58] His activities in Kerala was little and no evidence of his influence is noticed in the literature or other things in his lifetime in Kerala. Centuries later after his period he became famous in Kerala as usual during the medivial period stories or myths were propagated that he was born into a Bhrahmin family and other related stories ere formulated. Not even that mimicking the four ashrams he formed so Bhrahmin families even formed four ashrams in Kerala with ridiculous names and again created stories related to it. But no such markings or ashrams were formed in the Kaladi which was propagated as his birthplace. Even though Sankara was against all caste systems, in later years his name was used extensively by the Brahmins of Kerala for establishing caste system in Kerala.

Kingdom of Venad

Venad was a kingdom in the south west tip of Kerala, which acted as a buffer between Cheras and Pandyas. Until the end of the 11th century, it was a small principality in the Ay Kingdom. The Ays were the earliest ruling dynasty in southern Kerala, who, at their zenith, ruled over a region from Nagercoil in the south to Thiruvananthapuram in the north. Their capital was at Kollam. A series of attacks by the Pandyas between the 7th and 8th centuries caused the decline of Ays although the dynasty remained powerful until the beginning of the 10th century.[59] When Ay power diminished, Venad became the southern most principality of the Second Chera Kingdom[60] Invasion of Cholas into Venad caused the destruction of Kollam in 1096. However, the Chera capital, Mahodayapuram, fell in the subsequent attack, which compelled the Chera king, Rama varma Kulasekara, to shift his capital to Kollam.[61] Thus, Rama Varma Kulasekara, the last emperor of Chera dynasty, is probably the founder of the Venad royal house, and the title of Chera kings, Kulasekara, was thenceforth adopted by the rulers of Venad. The end of Second Chera dynasty in the 12th century marks the independence of the Venad.[62] The Venadu King then also was known as Venadu Mooppil Nayar.

In the second half of the 12th century, two branches of the Ay Dynasty: Thrippappur and Chirava, merged into the Venad family and established the tradition of designating the ruler of Venad as Chirava Moopan and the heir-apparent as Thrippappur Moopan. While Chrirava Moopan had his residence at Kollam, the Thrippappur Moopan resided at his palace in Thrippappur, 9 miles (14 km) north of Thiruvananthapuram, and was vested with the authority over the temples of Venad kingdom, especially the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple.[60] The most powerful kingdom of Kerala during the colonial period, Travancore, was developed through the expansion of Venad by Mahahrajah Marthanda Varma, a member of the Thrippappur branch of the Ay Dynasty who ascended to the throne in the 18th century.

Kingdom of Kozhikode

Historical records regarding the origin of the Samoothiri of Kozhikode is obscure. However, its generally agreed that the Samoothiri were originally the Nairs chieftains of Eralnadu region of the Later Chera Kingdom and were known as the Eradis. Eralnadu province was situated in the northern parts of present-day Malappuram district and was landlocked by the Valluvanad and Polanadu in the west. Legends such as The Origin of Kerala tell the establishment of a local ruling family at Nediyiruppu, near present-day Kondotty by two young brothers belonging to the Eradi clan. The brothers, Manikkan and Vikraman were the most trusted generals in the army of the Cheras.[63][64]M.G.S. Narayanan, a Kerala-based historian, in his book, Calicut: The City of Truth states that the Eradi was a favourite of the last Later Chera king and granted him, as a mark of favor, a small tract of land on the sea-coast in addition to his hereditary possessions (Eralnadu province). Eradis subsequently moved their capital to the coastal marshy lands and established the kingdom of Kozhikode[65] They later assumed the title of Samudr?thiri ("one who has the sea for his border") and continued to rule from Kozhikode.

Samoothiri allied with Muslim Arab and Chinese merchants and used most of the wealth from Kozhikode to develop his military power. They became the most powerful king in the Malayalam speaking regions during the Middle Ages. In the 14th century, Kozhikode conquered large parts of central Kerala, which was under the control of the king of Kingdom of Kochi. He was forced to shift his capital (c. AD 1405) further south. In the 15th century, Kochi was reduced in to a vassal state of Kozhikode .

Colonial period

Vasco da Gama landing in Kerala

The maritime spice trade monopoly in the Indian Ocean stayed with the Arabs during the High and Late Middle Ages. However, the dominance of Middle East traders was challenged in the European Age of Discovery. After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in Kappad Kozhikode in 1498, the Portuguese began to dominate eastern shipping, and the spice-trade in particular.[66][67][68]

Portuguese period

The path Vasco da Gama took to reach India (black line)

The Samoothiri Maharaja of Kozhikode permitted the Portuguese to trade with his subjects. Their trade in Kozhikode prospered with the establishment of a factory and fort in his territory. However, Portuguese attacks on Arab properties in his jurisdiction provoked the Samoothiri and finally led to conflict. The Portuguese took advantage of the rivalry between the Samoothiri and Rajah of Kochi--they allied with Kochi and when Francisco de Almeida was appointed Viceroy of Portuguese India in 1505, he established his headquarters at Kochi. During his reign, the Portuguese managed to dominate relations with Kochi and established a number of fortresses along the Malabar Coast.[69] Nonetheless, the Portuguese suffered severe setbacks due to attacks by Samoothiri Maharaja's forces, especially naval attacks under the leadership of admirals of Kozhikode known as Kunjali Marakkars, which compelled them to seek a treaty. The Portuguese Cemetery, Kollam (after the invasion of Dutch, it became Dutch Cemetery) of Tangasseri in Kollam city was constructed in around 1519 as part of the Portuguese invasion in the city. Buckingham Canal (a small canal between Tangasseri Lighthouse and the cemetery) is situated very close to the Portuguese Cemetery.[70][71] A group of pirates known as the Pirates of Tangasseri formerly lived at the Cemetery.[72] The remnants of St. Thomas Fort and Portuguese Cemetery still exist at Tangasseri.

French Region in Kerala

The French East India Company constructed a fort on the site of Mahé in 1724, in accordance with an accord concluded between André Mollandin and Raja Vazhunnavar of Badagara three years earlier. In 1741, Mahé de La Bourdonnais retook the town after a period of occupation by the Marathas.

In 1761 the British captured Mahé, India, and the settlement was handed over to the Rajah of Kadathanadu. The British restored Mahé, India to the French as a part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris. In 1779, the Anglo-French war broke out, resulting in the French loss of Mahé, India. In 1783, the British agreed to restore to the French their settlements in India, and Mahé, India was handed over to the French in 1785

Dutch period

Dutch commander De Lannoy surrenders to Marthanda Varma at the Battle of Colachel (1741). Depiction at Padmanabhapuram Palace.

The weakened Portuguese were ousted by the Dutch East India Company, who took advantage of continuing conflicts between Kozhikode and Kochi to gain control of the trade. The Dutch Malabar (1661-1795) in turn were weakened by their constant battles with Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family, and were defeated at the Battle of Colachel in 1741, resulting in the complete eclipse of Dutch power in Malabar. The Treaty of Mavelikkara was signed by the Dutch and Travancore in 1753, according to which the Dutch were compelled to detach from all political involvements in the region. In the meantime, Marthanda Varma annexed many smaller northern kingdoms through military conquests, resulting in the rise of Travancore to a position of preeminence in Kerala.[73]Hyder Ali of Mysore conquered northern Kerala in the 18th century, capturing Kozhikode in 1766.

British period

Captured Mappila prisoners of 1921 revolt, taken after a battle with British troops.

Hyder Ali and his successor, Tipu Sultan, came into conflict with the British, leading to the four Anglo-Mysore wars fought across southern India in the latter half of the 18th century. Tipu Sultan ceded Malabar District to the British in 1792, and South Kanara, which included present-day Kasargod District, in 1799. The British concluded treaties of subsidiary alliance with the rulers of Cochin (1791) and Travancore (1795), and these became princely states of British India, maintaining local autonomy in return for a fixed annual tribute to the British. Malabar and South Kanara districts were part of British India's Madras Presidency.

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (Kerul Varma Pyche Rajah, Cotiote Rajah) (3 January 1753 – 30 November 1805) was the Prince Regent and the de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Kottayam in Malabar, India between 1774 and 1805. He led the Pychy Rebellion (Wynaad Insurrection, Coiote War) against the English East India Company. He is popularly known as Kerala Simham (Lion of Kerala).

Organised expressions of discontent with British rule were not uncommon in Kerala. Uprisings of note include the rebellion by Pazhassi Raja, Velu Thampi Dalawa and the Punnapra-Vayalar revolt of 1946. In 1919, consequent to their victory in World War I, the British abolished the Islamic Caliphate and dismembered the Ottoman Empire. This resulted in protests against the British by Muslims of the Indian sub-continent known as the Khilafat Movement, which was supported by Mahatma Gandhi in order to draw the Muslims into the mainstream national independence movement. In 1921, the Khilafat Movement in Malabar culminated in widespread riots against the British government and Hindu population in what is now known as the Moplah rebellion. Kerala also witnessed several social reforms movements directed at the eradication of social evils such as untouchability among the Hindus, pioneered by reformists like Srinarayana guru and Chattambiswami among others. The non-violent and largely peaceful Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924 was instrumental in securing entry to the public roads adjacent to the Vaikom temple for people belonging to untouchable castes. In 1936, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balaramavarma, the ruler of Travancore, issued the Temple Entry Proclamation, declaring the temples of his kingdom open to all Hindu worshipers, irrespective of caste.

Modern history

Formation of Kerala state

The two independent kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin joined the Union of India after India gained independence in 1947. On 1July 1949, the two states were merged to form Travancore-Cochin. On 1January 1950, Travancore-Cochin was recognised as a state. The Madras Presidency was reorganised to form Madras State in 1947.

On 1November 1956, the state of Kerala was formed by the States Reorganisation Act merging the Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks, which were merged with Tamil Nadu), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara.[74] In 1957, elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly were held, and a reformist, Communist-led government came to power, under E. M. S. Namboodiripad.[74] It was the first time a Communist government was democratically elected to power anywhere in the world. It initiated pioneering land reforms, aiming to lowering of rural poverty in Kerala.But these reforms were largely non effective to mark a greater change in the society as these changes were not effected to a large extend. Lakhs of farms were owned by large establishments, companies and estate owners. They were not affected by this move and this was considered as a treachery as these companies and estates were formed by and during the British rule. Two things were the real reason for the reduction of poverty in Kerala one was the policy for wide scale education and second was the overseas migration for labour to Middle east and other countries.[75][76]

Liberation struggle

It refused to nationalise the large estates but did provide reforms to protect manual labourers and farm workers, and invited capitalists to set up industry. Much more controversial was an effort to impose state control on private schools, such as those run by the Christians and the NSS, which enrolled 40% of the students. The Christians, NSS and Namputhiris and the Congress Party protested, with demonstrations numbering in the tens and hundreds of thousands of people. The government controlled the police, which made 150,000 arrests (often the same people arrested time and again), and used 248 lathi charges to beat back the demonstrators, killing twenty. The opposition called on Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to seize control of the state government. Nehru was reluctant but when his daughter Indira Gandhi, the national head of the Congress Party, joined in, he finally did so. New elections in 1959 cost the Communists most of their seats and Congress resumed control.

Coalition politics

Later in 1967-82 Kerala elected a series of leftist coalition governments; the most stable was that led by Achutha Menon from 1969 to 1977.[77]

From 1967 to 1970, Kunnikkal Narayanan led a Naxalite movement in Kerala. The theoretical difference in the communist party, i.e. CPM is the part of the uprising of Naxalbari movement in Bengal which leads to the formation of CPI(ML) in India.Due to the several difference in the ideological level the CPI-ML split into several groups. Some are come to the democratic way and some to the extreme, anarchic way. The violence alienated public opinion.[78]

The political alliance have strongly stabilised in such a manner that, with rare exceptions, most of the coalition partners stick their loyalty to the alliance. As a result, to this, ever since 1979, the power has been clearly alternating between these two fronts without any change. Politics in Kerala is characterised by continually shifting alliances, party mergers and splits, factionalism within the coalitions and within political parties, and numerous splinter groups.[79]

Modern politics in Kerala is dominated by two political fronts: the Communist party-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the Indian National Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) since the late 1970s. These two parties have alternating in power since 1982. Most of the major political parties in Kerala, except for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), belong to one or the other of these two alliances, often shifting allegiances a number of time.[79] According to 2016 Kerala Legislative Assembly election results, the LDF has a majority in the state assembly seats (91/140)

See also


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