Mythological Background - Parasurama - founder of KeralamParasurama, the short-tempered warrior-sage regarded as the incarnation of Vishnu. After defeating the Kshathriya Kings, the sage approached the wise men for penance. As a Self-mortification he was advised to create a land for Brahmins. He readily agreed and meditated at Gokarnam, (considered to be the end of land). After getting the booms from Varuna, the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi, the Goddess of earth, he proceeded to Kanya Kumari (Cape Comorin) and threw his battle-axe northwards across the waters. The waters subsided and what was left over was called the land of Parasurama, that is today's Kerala.

Kerala At a Glance

Area 38,863 Sq.Km.
Population 29,098,518 (1991 census)
Literacy rate 92.98
Districts Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram.
Airports Nedumbassery(Cochin), Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram

Scientific Theology

Geologists have pointed out that the elevation of Kerala from the sea was the result of some seismic activity, either suddenly or gradually.Another Thoughts prevailing in scientific society is the rivers of Kerala emptying into the Arabian seas bring down enormous quantities of silt from the hills. The ocean currents transport quantities of sand towards the shore. The coastal portions could well be due to the accumulation of this silt over thousands of years.
The Early Civilisation

The earliest inhabitants of Kerala were the Pulayas, Kuravas and Vetas. It is at a much later time that migratory Aryan populations from the north landed and subjugated them through caste system.By the beginning of the Christian era, the Cheran Dynasty was spread up to Western Ghats. The armies of Mauryan Dynasty could not enter the lands of the Cheras. With time the rule of Cheran Dynasty declined, it coincided with the rise of the Brahmins in Kerala. By the 10th century, they were powerful entity from Gokurnum (North Kerala) to the Cape Comorin.

These land owning class of Brahmins were well on their way to great wealth and power. To consolidate their power, they developed Caste System (segregation between classes of people). Lands were leased out to next higher castes for share-cropping, and these in turn would further be leased out to those lower on the caste hierarchy and to non-Hindus. The lowest castes of course were only laborers and were traded along with the land. In such a rigid hierarchy, the all-powerful Namboothiries were the unquestioned rulers.

The Christians who had arrived from the Middle East in the 3rd century AD and the Muslims who arrived in the 8th century were generally traders and were not involved in this social segregation and generally kept aloof from the ambit of caste politics. The Jews who arrived Kerala in the early years of the Christian era were given privileges to trade and became an influential part of the melting pot of Kerala's population.

Gradually Kerala entered a phase of feudal chieftains or warlords (naduvazhis). The Namboothiries anointed some. At the turn of the 11th century AD there was a power struggle in the caste system supported by the Landlords and ruled by the warlords. This in turn gave rise to instability in the absence of strong central leadership. Wars and conflicts were common.

Ultimately three warlords emerged with some semblance of authority in their 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.This is precisely what the Europeans who found a sea-lane to the fabled land of spices and gold did. There was nothing anyone could do to stop the next five centuries of colonial rule.

Discovery of India - European conquest

Ancient Kerala occupied a unique place in the commercial world. There are traces of teak found in the ruins of Ur, which must certainly have come from the Malabar Coast. This means trade flourished around 3000 BC. Cotton from this region was a favourite in Egypt; the Phoenicians visited the coast of Malabar around the same time to trade in ivory, sandalwood and spices. King Solomon is said to have sent his commercial fleet to Ophir which is said to be somewhere in Southern Kerala. Muziris (Kodungalloor or Cannonade) was reputed to be the ancient world's greatest trading center in the East for such highly prized possessions as pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and other spices. Pliny, the younger is said to have lamented the fact that trade with the East was draining the treasury of Rome. The trade flourished by ships riding on the monsoon winds from Africa and back to Arabia, from where the overland caravan took the prized items to the markets along the Mediterranean ports.
India was known as fabled land of spices and gold. It was during this time Europe was busy in exploration and Voyages to unknown land. Route to India was a dream of most of the voyager. Many attempts were made, but most could reach only up to "Cape of Good hope" in Africa. In 1498, Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese naval Captain found the easiest way to India by bribing the Arab pilot when his ship anchored off Kenya at Port Malindi. Following the centuries old route taken by the Arab traders and riding on a monsoon wind, he sailed the Sao' Gabriel to land at Kappad near the town of Calicut or Kozhikode. The entire history of the East was to change from that day.

The Zamorin or Samuthiri received the Portuguese, (known locally as parungees) warmly. Trade concessions were granted to the Portuguese. But sensing the rivalries from the Arabs and the local kings, the Portuguese immediately set about engaging themselves in consolidating their positions at sea. There was resistance from the local Kings. Notable among the Samuthiri's Admirals is Kunjali Marakkar, still a revered hero in Kerala. He succeeded in checking the Portuguese expansionism to certain extent. But could not hold for long against the supremacy of Portuguese weapons and sea prowess. An interesting sidelight is the Portuguese behavior towards the thriving community of Christians in Kerala. Tradition has it that these Christians were converted by St. Thomas the Apostle in the 1st Century AD. The Portuguese were annoyed that the local Christians were more Hindus in their outlook, culture and traditions and never heard of the Pope in Rome. In 1599,the Synod of Diamper (present day Udayamperoor near 14 Kms from Kochi) decreed that all Christians should revert to the Pope in Rome as the Supreme Spiritual head and not the Pontiff at Antioch. This led to a revolt by a section of Syrian Christians. History depicts that the revolters took oath by tying themselves to a Cross-at Kochi on 15 January 1653. This is known as the "Koonan Cross Oath" and is still revered as a turning point among the Syrian Christians.
But the Portuguese had some success in proselytizing and did manage to convert some communities into Latin Catholics. Today this community is one of the influential sections in Kerala.

Arrival of Dutch

The Portuguese finally met their match in the Dutch. The Dutch known locally as Lanthakar, was in the race for evicting the Portuguese from the lucrative Eastern spices trade. Strategic alliance with the Samuthiri helped the Dutch to drive out the Portuguese once and for all by 1663.

They proclaimed the Kochi Maharaja as the titular head and drove the Portuguese out. With aim of total control over the Eastern Spices trade, the Dutch East India Company was set up in 1602. Stefan Van Hegena set sail with 13 ships and reached Kannur (Cannanore) in 1604. But from then on it was the same old story of the former allies falling out. This phase ended with the Dutch gaining undue advantages and gaining foothold over most of the coastal areas and towns, prominent being Kannur and Kochi. By 1717 a treaty was established. But it could not save the Dutch from defeat in 1741 at the hands of a resurgent king of Thiruvithanmkur, Marthanda Varma in the battle of Kolachel. By 1795, the Dutch were so weakened, that the British did not have much trouble evicting them permanently from the Kerala landscape once and for all.

The Portuguese and the Dutch introduced many novel agricultural crops to Kerala, notable among them being pineapple, papaya, tapioca, rubber and scientific farming methods for coconuts. To this day, the Kerala farmers are critically dependent on these crops for survival in the agrarian economy of the state.

The Bolgatty palace at Kochi, the Dutch Governor's mansion (later the British Resident's mansion) and the Dutch Palace at Mattancherry, Kochi are some of the reminder of Dutch conquest on India soil. During this time, the most famous ruler was Marthanda Varma, King of Thiruvithamkur. His success started with the subjugation of the local warlords and Dutch. Later he expanded his rule by subjugating all principalities of the southern tip of Kerala up to Kodungalloor up in the North. He was a great warrior and administrator.He carried out revolutionary reforms in his kingdom like converting the captured lands into state lands,

centralising foreign trade to generate government incomes, improving living conditions of farmers, and most importantly reducing the powers of the government servants who till then were exclusively from certain castes and families. He took an unusual step of employing competent people from all castes and for the first time recognised competence over birthright.

Britisher's Entry

It was after Marthanda Varma, the Britisher's conquest reached Kerala. With the defeat of Tipu Sultan of Mysore in 1799, the British became the de facto rulers of North Kerala. The rise of the British was bitterly opposed by the local warlords or naduvazhis. In 1802 Pazhassi Raja, a local chieftain revolted and fought a determined campaign against the British. In a similar fashion, Velu Thampi Dalawa also rose up against what was seen as British attempts at total control of local power centres. Velu Thampi Dalawa had allied himself with the Dewan of Kochi Paliyath Achan in the armed campaign against the British. But these were isolated and did not have the necessary military might to fight a sustained campaign against an emerging World Super Power. After almost a year of sporadic battles, Velu Thampi Dalawa fled the kingdom. With that the power the British residents grew immensely. The Maharaja had to be content with an honorary role in the affairs of State. Once the British military effectively crushed these revolts, no more was heard from these naduvazhis or warlords again.

During the same time there was a different story as far as the peasantry were concerned. There were serious outbreaks of unrest especially in North Kerala against the landlords and the British. These are now called the moppilla lahala or Muslim Revolt. It was ruthlessly suppressed. Today it is a part of the local folklore. Freedom StruggleThe first signs of freedom struggle surfaced after First World War. In 1922 the students protested against the fee hike in educational institutions. This soon became a rallying point for pro-home rule agitation. Khilafat Movement brought out the issue more forcefully. Hindus and Muslims stood as one against the British and the Landlords in the Malabar region. Severe police action and Martial law followed. The British gained complete supremacy by ruthless deployment of police, notably the Malabar Special Police, which to this day is a feared symbol of colonial oppression.

The Independence movement at the National level had a direct bearing on Kerala's political landscape too. The Salt Satyagraha found its echo here. The Vaikom temple entry Satyagraha for permitting lower castes entry into the temple gained the recognition as a direct challenge to the existing political and hierarchical supremacy of the rulers and by extension the British rule.

But soon there were more organisations formed to fight for their rights. The Samyukata Rashtriya Congress consisting of an alliance of Christian's -Muslims - Ezhavas (a powerful community of Kerala) formed an alliance to seek reservations in Government. This is the first time community based party system came into Kerala's landscape.

The Thiruvithamkur State Congress was founded by Pattom Thanu Pillai to fight against the high handedness of the last Dewan of Thiruvithamkur, Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyengar (popularly known as Sir CP). The movement started in 1938 and led to widespread violence all over the state. The Congress was outlawed.

After Independence, on 01 Jul 1949, a new state "Thirukochi" was formed consisting of old princely states of Thiruvithamkur and Kochi, moves towards reunification of Malayalam speaking population. The Malayalam-speaking regions of Malabar and Thirukochi were joined together as one state on 01 November 1956 and christened KERALA.

Post Independence

Kerala's post independence history is a saga of Leftist movement and Indian National Congress. The deep social, communal and economic division in Kerala was on the boil. The Communist Movement which initially began as naxalite movement, waged a full might against the Suppression. EMS Namboothiripad, AK Gopalan and P Krishna Pillai were the unquestioned leaders of the Communist Movement. By 1957, they had become the first democratically elected Communist Government anywhere in the world. The story of Kerala after 1959 is a story of many governments of the Congress-led or Left-led parties coming and going at regular intervals. Kerala has seen no fewer than 17 Ministries till now.

One of the most competent and popular Chief Minister of Kerala

AYYENKALI A prominent leader of the oppressed classes. Born in 1863, he successfully organised educational and other rights for people of the lowest strata of society.

AYYAPPAN (Sahodaran Ayyappan) A noted leader of the oppressed classes. He started the paper Sahodaran in 1921 and hence the name Sahodaran Ayyappan. He was a noted member of the ministries of Kochi from 1946 onwards till 1949. Died in 1968. The main arterial road from East into Kochi is today named after him

ARNOS PADIRI A German priest who later became a Sanskrit scholar and penned many notable Sanskrit books of high repute. Also produced the first Malayalam - Portuguese dictionary.

AL BARUNI A traveller from Arabia circa 1000 AD, who first described Malabar in his writings. Talks about Buddhist influence in Kerala during his travels.

ALPHONSA DE ALBURQUEQE Portugese governor of Kerala from 1506. He is credited with expanding Portuguese power to the entire coast of Kerala, Goa and Malacca in the east by force of arms and shrewd alliances. He was an able administrator and brought in a semblance of law and order and sensible civil laws.

AROMAL CHEKAVAR Legendary figure of 12th century AD. Hero in many Vadakkan Pattu or local chronicles. Reputedly man of great chivalry and bravery. His memory is revered in many parts of Kerala to this day.

CABRAL ALVAREZ Soon after Vasco de Gama returned to Portugal, Cabral sailed to Kerala with 33 ships and 1500 men. Cabral was noted for his treachery and cruelty. Soon the entire coast was a battle field and forced Cabral to seek the help of the Kochi Raja to fight the Zamorin.

C KESAVAN Freedom fighter and Chief minister of the state of Thirukochi in 1951.

GUBERNADOR, PAREMACKEL A priest from a small parish of Ramapuram, he undertook a journey to Rome in 1778. Thereafter he wrote the first ever Travelogue in Malayalam.

Herman Gundert, a German missionary is credited with having prepared and published the first Malayalam dictionary in 1872. A noted educationist and literary figure.

Another great traveler, from Africa, who wrote about the great port cities of Kerala - Caulum (Kollam), Calikooth (Kozhikode). There is no mention of Kochi in his memoirs.

JOHN NEUHOFF A Dutch traveler to Kerala in 1664 wrote an exhaustive travelogue on Kerala.

KANAI THOMMAN This Arab merchant arrived at Kodungalloor in 345 AD and laid the foundations of the Syrian Christian of Kerala. The local Raja accorded him great honours and positions in credited with founding the Syrian Christian community of Kerala.

E.M.S Namboothiripad A versatile genius and the first Chief Minister of Kerala . Born on 14th June 1909 in Elamkulam Mana near Perinthalmanna. EMS began his public activities in 1930, when as a student he participated in the Namboodiri social reform movement. During 1957-59 and during 1967-69 he was the Chief Minister of Kerala. In 1959 his government was dismissed by the Central Government following the liberation struggle against it. He died on 19th march March 1998 at Thiruvananthapuram.K.

KARUNAKURAN Karunakaran was one among the able Chief Ministers of Kerala. Popularly known as 'Leader'.

KUNJALI MARAKKAR The Admiral of great courage and tactical capabilities, was reportedly o Arab descent. He is probably the only person to have effectively challenged the might of the Portuguese fleets. But the odds were too great against the might of the Portuguese empire

KAYAMKULAM KOCHUNNI A famed highwayman of Central Thiruvithamkoor in the early part of the 19th century. He is reported to have stolen from the rich and given to the poor. Legends about his exploits are part of the local folk lore. Died in jail in 1859.

KELAPPAN A Gandhian who fought ceaselessly against all form of subjugation and oppression. Closely identified with the Vaikom satyagraha (temple entry for all castes).

E.K. Nayanar E.K. Nayanar was one among the able Chief Ministers of Kerala.

A great Malayalam poet in the court of Marthanda Varma MARTHANDA VARMA The founder of the unified state of Thiruvithamkur in the 18th century. He conquered all the medium sized principalities upto Kochi and laid the foundations of a modern state. He employed people with known capabilities in the military, administration and education.

MUNROE, JOHN, COLONEL A able administrator and resident of Thiruvithamkoor in the early years of 19th century. Introduced very far reaching and sensible reforms.

PATTOM THANU PILLAI One of the early Chief Ministers of Kerala in its formative years in 1960.

PANAMPILLY GOVINDA MENON An eminent political figure of Kochi. He was the Chief Minister of Kochi in 1947 and 1955. He was also member of the Union Cabinet.

PAZHASSI RAJA The Pazhassi raja led an insurrection against British rule in Malabar in 1797. The British took causalities in the beginning, but asserted themselves as the campaign wore on. By 1804 Pazhassi's revolt was all but suppressed. In 1805 he was killed in the forests of Wayanad. He is to this day revered as one of the greatest patriots of Kerala.

R. SHANKAR One of the Chief Ministers of Kerala after Independence.

Powerful Dewan of Thiruvithamkur state at Independence. It must be said that Sir CP (as he was popularly known) nursed ambitions of making Thiruvithamkur an independent country. However, a violent personal attack on him demoralised him and he went to self exile.
SRI NARAYANA GURU One of the greatest social reformers of India and a contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi. His call for equality among people found a great following. His teachings have had a profound effect on the caste-ridden Kerala landscape and helped the state achieve great social progress when compared to the other states of India. Founded many ashrams, the most important being at Sivagiri near Kollam. He died in 1928.

THACHOLI OTHENAN Another legendary warrior from North Kerala at the end of the 16th century. Highly stylised songs and stories of his valour and chivalry abound. UNNIARCHA Legendary warrior figure , sister of Aromal Chekavar, mother of Aromalunny. The songs and chronicles have to this day kept the legend alive.

VASCO DE GAMA The European merchant prince who opened up the East to European rule. Landed at Kozhikode in 1498 and established trading stations and in the end Portuguese rule over Kerala.

VELU THAMPI DALAWA Velu Thampi led what is perhaps the most courageous rebellion against the British which started as a direct fall out of the British Resident Macauly's humiliating interference in the affairs of the Thiruvithamkur . Th e revolt started in 1808 . The Kundara Proclamation of 1809 was an open call to arms and thousands flocked to his banner.

Initially, he was helped in his cause by the Dewan of Kochi, Paliath Achan, but in the later stages he fought a lonely campaign against the British. He was no match for the military might of the British Army and finally fled the state and reportedly committed suicide in March 1809. Most of Velu Thampi's followers were either hanged or imprisoned after the termination of hostilities. There would not be any insurrection on this scale for the rest of the British presence in Kerala.

Pronunciation Key Kerala , state (1991 pop. 29,098,518), 15,003 sq mi (38,858 sq km), SW India, on the Arabian Sea. Thiruvananthapuram is the capital. A wet tropical climate and coastal lowlands support cultivation of rice, coconuts, tapioca, and spices; the interior hills produce rubber, coffee, and tea.

A densely populated Indian state, Kerala was created in 1956 from the Malayalam-speaking former princely states of Cochin and Travancore and Malayalam-speaking areas formerly in Madras state (now Tamil Nadu). About 60% of the population is Hindu; Christians and Muslims each make up about 20% of the remaining inhabitants. Although Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India (1981 est. 70%), it suffers from economic underdevelopment and unemployment. In 1957, India's first Communist state administration was elected in Kerala, and a Communist coalition was again elected in 1967, 1970, and 1987. Maoist Naxalite groups were active in the state. Kerala takes its name from the ancient Tamil kingdom of Kerala (Chera), which traded with the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. The state is governed by a chief minister responsible to an elected unicameral legislature and by a governor appointed by the president of India.

(Post Office) Colonel John Monroe introduced the Anchal (Postal) system in Thiruvithamkur in 1811. Originally restricted to carrying royal implements, government letters and flowers as offering to Shri Padmanabha temple at Thiruvananthapuram, the facility was later extended to all for a fee of one chakram ( coin of Thiruvithamkur) for any article to any distance. The Post master was universally known as "Anchal Pillai" and was a man of considerable influence. The postal runners by royal decree were allowed to occupy the centre of the road and any obstruction was deemed to be a serious offence.

AMMACHI PLAVU( Mother of all Jack fruit Trees) Famous in the local folk lore as the tree which sheltered King Marthanda Varma while on the run. A huge hole in it helped the king hide in its hold.

The word comes from Azhi Kotta and is the first fortification built by the Europeans near Kodungalore.

ARAKKAL ROYAL FAMILY The prominent Muslim Royal Family of Malabar. The family had suzerainty over Male and the Lakshadweep Islands.

The fort was constructed in Kochi by the Portuguese in 1503. The Dutch under Van Goyan attacked the fort and captured it. By 1795 the fort was in British hands. To ensure no more wars were fought over it, the British destroyed the fort. Today's town Fort Kochi stands in its place.

The Synod at Diamper (Udayamperoor near Kochi) was called in 1599 to convert the Thomas Christians to Latin rites and make the Pope of Rome the supreme religious head. The synod had limited success.

In Wayanad in North Kerala, these caves are believed to have been used by the cave dwellers in 7000 BC.

The local chieftains who were considered to be rivals to the power of the King Marthanda Varma . Their riotous reign was finally ended by the king and all were hanged. OPHIR The port of Ophir is mentioned in Biblical times. King Solomon is supposed to have traded extensively with Ophir. One school of thought puts Ophir as Poovar in South Kerala while others think it could be Beypore in the North.

MUSIRIS This was the ancient world's name for Kodungalloor or Crangannoor near Kochi. Many consider it as the Manhattan of the ancient world. A major natural calamity in the 14th century obliterated the ancient city. The exact location of the old city is much debated upon, but never really pinpointed. In this same calamity, some nearby places emerged from the seas. One such small opening which came up towards the South was referred to as the kochu thura which today is known as Kochi, the major commercial centre and Port of Kerala.

KAVU THEENDAL In a temple near Kochi, in Kodungalloor a peculiar brand of temple rites is known by the name of Kavu Theendal. The king accepts coconut water from a commoner, a hen is slaughtered and all commoners for once were allowed to rush into the temple. The most interesting part of this ceremony which still takes place, is the ritualistic singing of dirty songs (something like Rugby Songs). The how or why this originated is lost in time, but one version hints at this type of singing was intended to chase away the Buddhist sanyasins (priestesses) from the temple premises in the 8th or 9th century AD.

SACRED GROVES(Kavu) The sacred groves or forests (kavu) is perhaps the oldest eco-friendly project of ancient Kerala. The evergreen forests with temples within them used to be considered sacred and protected . There was a more earthly reason for this. The kavu normally was surrounded by paddy fields ( most important agricultural crop). The birds which made the kavu their home feasted on the vermin from the fields, thus ensuring crop protection and plentiful harvest. The forests also helped in water conservation, and conservation of plant species especially medicinal herbs. Very few kavu survive to this day. The most famous kavu is situated near Perumbavoor, 20 kms from Kochi.

KOONAN CROSS (Koonan Kurissu )
The Syrian Christians wowed not to accept the suzerainty of the Roman Pope as their spiritual head. To make sure of the sanctity of the oath , some tied themselves to the cross for extra effect. The cross can be seen in Mattancherry (in Fort Kochi). From being part of the general mainstream of Indian culture. Mountain ranges and tropical rainforest produce 60-80 humidity in the winter and 80-100 in the summer. Summer temperature in Kerala would be between 27o to 35 o C and winter temperature 22 o to 27 o C. The land supports natural vegetation and is good for cultivation, stock-raising and Plantation. Kerala is one long stretch of a village dotted with small cities, with not many heavy industries and pollutions, with many rivers and lakes, is a destination for tourists world over.