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History Of Kerala

Pre History

Kerala enjoys a rich history. In Idduki District’s Marayur area, some archeological findings from the prehistorical area have been found belonging to the Neolithic era. Originating from muni, also known as sage or hermit and dolmen or ara, they are locally referred to as “muniyara”. The rock carvings founded in the Edakkal Caves date way back to 5000 BCE in the post Neolithic eras. Many sites have been identified by archeologists in Kerala like Neolithic, Mesolithic and Megalithic ages. This information has been made available through the close associations with foreign contacts. According to some studies, there may be a relationship between pre Iron Age and post Bronze Age with Indus Valley Civilization.

Ancient Religious Texts

As per Hindu mythology, Kerala emerged as a stretch of land from sea as a result of Lord Parurama, a famous sage throwing his axe into the sea with great anger. Lord Parsurama, who was also considered to be one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu, he was a warrior sage wielding axe at all times. When he threw his axe into the water, the level of water receded till the axe went. From Gokarna to Kanyakumari, the land extended. It is believed that during the ancient times, a considerable area was under the sea and there is a consensus among scientific geographers regarding this issue. Later on, the legend grew and the same reflected in Keralopathi, a literary marvel in the 17th and 18th centuries. It speaks about society in Kerala in earlier times, issues like administration and land tenure, Parsurama story and much more. Another character that is associated with the history of Kerala from the chapters of Puranas is Mahabali. This character was known to be an asura who used to rule this world from Kerala. He forced devas into exile after winning a war against them. The devas went to Lord Vishnu for his help who as Vamana, took fifth incarnation on this Earth and forced Mahabali to the Patala Lok or the netherworld in order to save Devas from Mahabali. As per legend goes, Mahabali comes to Kerala once in a year during Onam, a popular festival celebrated in Kerala.

Ancient Period

In 3000 BCE, this state gained a lot of popularity as a principle spice exporter. This information has been reported in Sumerian records. In ancient times, Assyrians, Egyptians and Babylonians were attracted to this state, especially Malabar Coast for its high quality spices. This happened during 2nd and 3rd centuries. Trade relations also strengthened with Phoenicians and Arabs and set up strong relations with Kerala during this time. Keralaputra is the first name given to this destination and the record for this information is available on a rock inscription dating 3rd century BCE. This rock inscription hails from Ashoka’s time, grandson of ChandraGupta Maurya. This region was a part of four kingdoms located in the south of India. The other kingdoms were Pandya, Chola and Satiyaputra. Cheras’ alternate name is Keralaputra and it was considered to be one of the powerful kingdoms in South. A common culture and language was shared by these kingdoms. This area was located within Tamilakam. The majority of this state was ruled by Cheras in erstwhile period. Later on, Cholas and Pandyas also ruled this region.

Among Romans and Greeks, the coastal area became famous for its spice trade in last centuries. This region became popular as Malabar or Male in foreign countries. The major ports at that point of time were Berkarai, Muziris and Nelcynda. A lot of trade was conducted with Rome exceeding 50,000,000 sesterces annually. In Sangam literature, Kerala executed trade around 118 BCE with Exodus of Cyzicus. This trade was conducted under Ptolemy VIII’s patronage where a transaction of gold for black pepper was conducted.

Southern European region and Western Asia also conducted trade with this destination. Merchants came here in large numbers from this region and established settlements in the state. Commencing from 573 BCE, trade relations with Jewish settlements began. Kerala enjoyed healthy trade relations with Arabs as well. Eden Jews were sold products that were imported from Kerala as noted by Herodotus. Arabs also marries with Keralans or local people and this is here from where Kerala’s Muslim community has descended. Many Christians also came from Persia to settle in this region belonging to Thomas, Apostle’s evangelistic activities. As a result some other communities like Nasrani Mappalis, Juda Mappalis and Muslim Mappalis who decided to settle here. One can see synagogues, mosques and Christian churches in Kerala. These adjusted well with the local people residing in Kerala and enjoyed harmonious relations with them. Initially, the number of Jews, Christians and Muslims staying in this state was relatively small but today they form a part of local community.

Early Medieval Period

Very little is known about the history of this state between 6th -8th centuries. Kulasekhara Varman established Mahodayapuram’s Kulasekhara Dynasty. The dynasty ruled not only a large chunk of modern Kerala but also a part of Tamil Nadu. During this dynasty’s early history, the Ay kings ruled from Nagerkovil till Thiruvalla but in 10th century they lost their control over this region and the area came under the control of Kulasekhara Empire. This was no doubt a golden period for this region as art, culture, literature, religion and trade flourished during this time. This was at this time that Keralan community separated from the Tamils as far as their communication language was concerned. The entire empire was divided into several provinces. These provinces were under Naduvazhis with a number of Desams under each province and Desavazhis, chieftains’ control.

In 11th century, Chera-Chola wars created certain inhibitions that resulted in the waning of foreign trade in Kerala. Jainism and Buddhism declined in the land. Social system in this land underwent many divisions on the basis of castes thereby resulting in several internal divisions. Later on Cholas and Pandyas subjugated Kulasekhara dynasty in 1102. For a short span of time, Ravi Verma from Kulasekhara family ruled on South India in the 14th century. There was no binding power after his death and as such the state was broken into small principalities that used to fight against each other. Some of the main principalities were Vernad, Samuthiri and Kochi.

Colonial Era

During peak and post mediaeval times, Arabs monopolized a maritime spice business with this state. The Arabs business was challenged by Europeans’ Discovery Age and as a result spice trade came under the control of European traders. Black pepper especially came under European’s control. Later in the 15th century, the trade in this region was dominated by Portuguese. The entire spice trade came under their control. This phase came to an end with the arrival of Vasco da Gama in 1498 touching Kappad Kozhikode. They were given permission by Calicut’s Zamorin to trade with the local traders. Portuguese established a port and a factory and enjoyed flourishing trade with Kerala. Later, due to the attacks made on Arab properties by the Portuguese resulted in Zamorin’s anger and a lot of conflicting situations occurred. Also, the animosity going on between Kochi King and the Zamorin was taken advantage of by the Portuguese. They made alliances with Kochi and in the year 1505, as Portuguese’s India’s first Viceroy, Francisco de Almeida came here. Under his Viceroy ship, relations with Kochi were dominated by the Portuguese and some fortresses were built by them along the Malabar Coast. Zamorin Forces gave Portuguese a stiff competition and a lot of setbacks were suffered by them as a result. Ultimately, Portuguese had to sign a treaty after a crushing impact of naval attacks conducted by Kunjali Marakkars, Calicut Admirals. Finally, Zamorin forces defeated Portuguese in 1571 in a war at Chaliyam Fort.

Dutch East India Company finally ousted Portuguese who had already weakened considerably after countering so many attacks. This Company took advantage of ongoing conflicts between Kochi and Kojhikode and as a result gained supremacy on the trade in this region. The history repeated itself and the Dutch had to suffer great losses as a result of continuing wars with Royal Family of Travancore under the leadership of Marthanda Varma. Finally, in 1741, the Portuguese lost against them at Colachel’s Battle. A Treaty of Mavelikkara was signed between Travancore and the Dutch in 1753. As per this treaty Dutch were forced to stop any political involvements they were engaged in in this land. Through more battles and wars, many new small kingdoms were won over by Marthanda Varma and as a result Travancore started enjoying a prominent position in this state.

Kerala was invaded by Mysore’s ruler, Hyder Ali in 1766. Tipu Sultan, Hyder Ali’s successor carried many campaigns against British East India Company and its expansion strategies. This tiff resulted in two Anglo-Mysore wars. Finally, South Karana and Malabar District were ceded by Tipu to the Company in the year 1795. In 1792, both places were annexed to British India’s Madras Constituency. In 1791, some tributary alliances were forged by the company. In 1791, Kochi was annexed and in 1795, Travancore came under their control. As a result of these annexations, the entire state of Kerala came under the control of the Britishers. The modern Kerala came into existence by merging regions Cochin, Malabar, South Kanara and Travancore after India gained Independence.

Kerala also faced many revolts when it was undergoing a transition phase in the 20th century to democracy. Some of the famous revolts are Malabar Rebellion in the year 1921 and Travancore’s Punnapra-Vayalar revolt in the year 1946. This was when the state was undergoing a transition phase to embrace democracy.

Malabar’s Mappila Muslims played a prominent role in Malabar Rebellion when they went against British Raj and Hindu Zamindars and a riot broke out. In 20th century, there were many mishaps that emerged due to caste related issues. These mishaps led to Temple Entry Proclamation in the year 1936. This resulted in opening up of Hindu Temples for all castes in Travancore.

Post Colonial Period

India and Pakistan came into existence in the year 1947 when British India decided to partition this country. Cochin and Travancore merged to form Travancore-Cochin on July1st, 1949 after joining Union of India. Kerala state came into existence on November 1st 1956 as per States Reorganisation Act. Four regions merged together to form this state. The new Kerala Assembly elections were held in 1957. E M S Namboodiripad came into power and led his communist government.

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