Kerala History

Early History

 Marayoor DolmenAccording to anthropologists the earlier inhabitants of the region were Negritoes, Protoastroloids and Mediterraneans. They are believed to have lived here from – BC and spoke an archaic form of Tamil. Kerala also had sea trade relations with Indus Valley. But in the written history the first mentions about Kerala can be found in the inscriptions of the Mauryan is Emperor Ashoka (269-232 B.C). In these inscriptions there are references about four independent kingdoms that lay to the south of his empire, one of which is the Kerala putras or the Cheras, who rigned over Malabar, Cochin and North Travancore all part of present-day Kerala. It is only in the Sangam Age – the period during which Sangam literature was composed – the history of Kerala emerges from myths and legends.
The San Nagercoil witnessed three political powers ruling the area which now constitutes the SOW of Kerala. These were the Ays in the south, the Cheras entral Kerala and Ezhimaltc the north. The Ays for the earliest rulinasts- in South Kerala he ruled over an are a stretching from Nagercoil to Thiruvalla with Aykudi as the capital. However, the Cheras were the most prominent of the dynasties and founded a powerful kingdom in Kerala. The Chera kingdom consisted of the central region of present day Kerala. The capital of Chera Kingdom was Vanchi. After the Sangam Age, Kerala passed through a dark period that lasted four centuries. Just after that, the Second Chera Empire founded by Kulasekhara Alvar with Mahodyapuram (modern Kodangallur) as its capital made its appearance. Kulasekhara Alvar was a scholar and a great patron of the arts.Rajasekhara Varman Rul who succeeded Kulasekhara Alvar founded the `Kollam Era’ (the Malayalam calendar) of Kerala, which began in A.D. 825. He is also reputed to have issued the Vazhappali Inscription,the first epigraphical record of the Chera Kingdom.

Chera Kings

Sri Chithira ThirunaalRama Varma Kulasekhara, the last of the Chera Kings, shifted his capital to Kollam. His death signalled the disintegration of the Chera Empire. After the fall of the Kulasekharas a number of independent states arose indifferent parts of Kerala. Among these Venad, Kochi, Kozhikode and Kolathunad were the prominent ones which played an important role in shaping the medieval history of Kerala. Of these Venad emerged as an independent power and reached its zenith under Udaya Marthanda Varmaand Ravi Varma Kulasekhara. After the death of Ravi Varma Kulasekhara,the kingdom lingered on for some more years before disintegrating. At the same time Kozhikode rose to prominence in the northern part of Kerala under the Zamorins. Accounts of travellers like Ibn Batuta. Ma Huan- the Chinese scholar, Abdur Razzak, Nicolo Conti and Arhanasius Nikitin wrote about the Zamorins.


Kolathiri RajaThe arrival of Vasco da Gama at Calicut in 1498 was a landmark event in the history of Kerala. The Kolathiri Raja offered the Vasco da Gama all facilities and assistance for trade. During his second visit Vasco da Gama laid importance on establishing Portuguese supremacy in the region. He helped the Kochi king to fight Zamorin of Kozhikode. In gratitude Kochi King gave the Portuguese the permission to erect a fort in Kochi. By 1504, the Portuguese became a force to reckon with in Kerala. Portuguese relations with Kerala lasted for over a period of 150 years and they had a strong impact on the political, economic, social and cultural life of Kerala. After Vasco da Gama, the most notable Portuguese to set foot on Indian soil was Albuquerque. But after the period of Albuquerque, Portuguese power in Kerala declined. The Dutch followed the Portuguese and with the treaty of 1619 with the British they fought and eliminated competition from the Portuguese. Though they managed to monopolize the trade in certain areas in Southern Kerala the rise of Venad under Marthanda Varma signaled curtains for them. Travancore rose to prominence under Marthanda Varma and Rama Varma, popularly known as Dharma Raja and flourished under Rani Gouri LakshmiBai, Gouri Parvati Bai Swati Tirunal, Ayilyam Tirunal and Sri Mulam Tirunal.

The British

The British, who also came in as traders to India, managed to gain permission to use all the Portuguese ports in Kerala from the Zamorin. TheBritish fortified Calicut in 1664and then Travancore and Tellicherry also came under their purview. Several revolts took place during the late 18th and early 19th century, which challenged British authority. Among them,the most important was the revolt of Velu Thampi and Paliath Achan who were Chief Ministers of Travancore and Cochin, respectively. But organised movements against British rule were relatively infrequent in Kerala. But there were rebellions led by Pazhassi Raja and Velu Thampi Dalawa. When the whole of India fought against the British, Kerala too joined the brigade.

After Independence

GandhijiAfter India gained Independence from the British in 1947, the princely states of Travancore and Kochi were merged to form the province of Travancore-Cochin. The state of Kerala was created on November 1, 1956 when Malabar District was merged with Tranvancore-Cochin state and Kasargod taluk of South Kanara District. Kanyakumari was given over to Tamil Nadu, based on the recommendations of the State Re-organization Commission set up by the Government of India. And thus Kerala, as we see it today, was born.

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