History of Kerala
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|History of Kerala|
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The history of Kerala, India, goes back more than several millennia. Stone age carving in Edakkal Caves had pictorial writings believed to be dating to at least 5000 BC, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilization or settlement in this region. From as early as 3000 BC, Kerala had established itself as a major spice trade centre. Kerala had direct contact across the Arabian Sea with all the major Red Sea ports and the Mediterranean ports as well as extending to ports in 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 BCE rock inscription (Rock Edict 2) left by the Maurya emperor Asoka (274–237 BCE). The Land of Keralaputra was one of the four independent kingdoms in southern India during Asoka's time, the others being Chola, Pandya, and Satiyaputra. These territories once shared a common language and culture, within an area known as Tamiḻakam. The Cheras collapsed after repeated attacks from the neighboring Chola Empire and Rashtrakuta Empire. In the 8th century Adi Shankara was born in central Kerala, who 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 way to struggles between colonial and native interests. In 1795, the area was under British dominion. After independence, the state of Kerala was created in 1956 from the former state of Travancore-Cochin, the Malabar district of Madras State, and the Kasaragod taluk of Dakshina Kannada.
- 1 Kerala in Hindu mythology
- 2 Prehistory
- 3 Classical period
- 4 Early medieval period (c. 500-1400 CE)
- 5 Colonial period
- 6 Modern history
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Kerala in Hindu mythology
Perhaps, the most famous festival of Kerala, Onam is deeply rooted in Hindu traditions. Onam is associated with the legendary Asura king Mahabali, who according to 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, he was granted rule over one of the netherworld (Patala) planets called Sutala, by Vamana, the fifth Avatar (earthly incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, according to the Hindu mythology.
The oldest of all the Puranas, the Matsya Purana, sets the story of the Matsya Avatar (fish incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, in the Malaya Mountains, which lie in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The earliest Sanskrit text to mention Kerala by name is the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rigveda. It is also mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata which are the two great and most famous existing Hindu epics.
There are myths dealing with the origins of Kerala geographically and culturally. One such myth is the retrieval of Kerala from the sea, by Parasurama, a warrior sage. The Brahminical myth 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.
He was the sixth of the ten avatars (incarnation) of Vishnu. The word Parasu means 'axe' in Sanskrit and therefore the name Parasurama means 'Ram with Axe'. The aim of his birth was to deliver the world from the arrogant oppression of the ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. He killed all the male Kshatriyas on earth and filled five lakes with their blood. After destroying the Kshatriya kings, he approached assembly of learned men to find a way of penitence for his sins. He was advised that, to save his soul from damnation, he must hand over the lands he had conquered to the Brahmins. He did as they advised and sat in meditation at Gokarnam. There, Varuna -the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi - Goddess of Earth blessed him. From Gokarnam he reached Kanyakumari and threw his axe northward across the ocean. The place where the axe landed was Kerala. It was 160 katam (an old measure) of land lying between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari. Puranas say that it was Parasuram who planted the 64 Brahmin families in Kerala, whom he brought down from the north in order to expiate his slaughter of the Kshatriyas. 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.
One legend of Kerala even makes Parasurama a Pandya ruler. In another legend, the Pandyas themselves are the manifestations of Parasurama. P.N. Chopra writes, "Parasurama is deemed by the Keralites as the father of their national identity." The Kollam Era is also known as "Parashurama-Sacam". Travancore Rajas claim descent from Chera King Bhanu Bikram, who according to legend was placed on the throne by Parashurama. Scholar K. Narayanan Shivaraja Pillai mentions, "Even as the West Coast owes its very rudiments of civilized life to Parashurama...". In the Keralolpathi, Parashurama is said to have selected goddess Durgga (Kali) to be the guardian of the sea-shore of Kerala. Tradition says that Parashurama minted gold coins called Rasi and that in Travancore, he sowed them and buried the surplus in Cairns.
However, the Parasurama legend is possibly a Brahmin appropriation of an earlier Chera legend where a Chera King, Velkezhu Kuttavan, otherwise known a Senguttuvan flings his spear into the sea to reclaim land from it. According to this legend, Chera king Senguttuvan Chera, once enraged, threw a spear into the sea, thereby causing it to retreat and the land to dry. According to another legend, a Pandyan king called "Vadimbalamba ninrapandyan" threw his spear into the sea, hereby causing the same effect. There is another story of Ukkira Pandiyan obtaining a spear from the Siva of Madura, and throwing it into the sea, causing the shore to retreat.
Archaeological studies have identified many Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic sites in Kerala. 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. However, foreign cultural contacts have assisted this cultural formation. The studies suggest possible relationship with Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.
The 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). Rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves (in Wayanad) are thought to date from the early to late Neolithic eras around 5000 BCE. 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 civilization.
C. 3000-1000 BCE
Kerala was a major spice exporter as early as 3000 BCE, according to Sumerian records. Its fame as the land of spices attracted ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians to the Malabar Coast in the 3r and 2nd millennia BCE. Arabs and Phoenicians were also successful in establishing their prominence in the Kerala trade during this early period.
Ancient sources (c. 1000 BCE-100 CE)
A 3rd-century-BC rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great references Kerala as Keralaputra. 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.
The Sangam works Puṟanāṉūṟu and Akanaṉūṟu have many lines which speak of the Roman vessels and the Roman gold that used to come to the Kerala ports of the great Dravidian kings in search of pepper and other spices, which had enormous demand in the West. Especially, one of the earliest surviving pieces of literature to have been composed in ancient Kerala, the pathiRRuppathu is an important source that describes the dynasties of Kerala kings (cheral kings) from the early centuries AD.
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 in Kerala as India's first port of Importance. According to him, Muziris could be reached in 14 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 dynasties (c. 500 BCE - 500 CE)
The Land of Keralaputra was one of the four independent kingdoms in southern India during Asoka's time, the others being Chola, Pandya, and Satiyaputra. Scholars hold that Keralaputra is an alternate name of the Cheras, the first powerful dynasty based on Kerala. These territories once shared a common language and culture, within an area known as Tamiḻakam. While the Cheras ruled the major part of modern Kerala, its southern tip was in the kingdom of Pandyas, which had a trading port sometimes identified in ancient Western sources asNelcynda (or Neacyndi). At later times the region fell under the control of the Pandyas, Cheras, and Cholas. Ays and Mushikas were two other remarkable dynasties of ancient Kerala, whose kingdoms lied to the south and north of Cheras respectively.
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 major part of modern Kerala, and Coimbatore and Salem districts of modern Tamil Nadu. Old Tamil was the language of the region; Malayalam, the language of present day Kerala was developed due to geographical isolation,cultural difference and trade between the Arabs, Sumerians, Romans, and Portuguese. Their capital was at Vanchi (also known as Vanchimutur). The location of the historical city Vanchi is generally considered near the ancient port city of Muziris in Kerala. However, Karur in Tamil Nadu is also pointed out as the location of the capital city of Cheras. Another view suggests the reign of Cheras from multiple capitals. An important source to understand the ancient history of Kerala is the pathinEnmERkanakku.
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 Vaishnavism and Shaivite beliefs during the first five centuries.
Merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala. Jewish connection with Kerala started as early as 573 BCE. Arabs also had trade links with Kerala, possibly started 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. some 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. 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. According to the legends of these communities, the earliest Christian churches, mosque, and synagogue(1568 CE) in India were built in Kerala. The combined number of Muslims, Christians, and Jews 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.
Early medieval period (c. 500-1400 CE)
Much of history of the region from the 6th to the 8th century is obscure. 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 Nagerkovil to Thiruvalla was ruled by Ay kings, who lost their power in 10th century and thus the region became a part of theKulasekara empire. During Kulasekhara rule, Kerala witnessed a flourishing period of art, literatute, trade and the Bhakti cult of Hinduism. A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils, became linguistically separate during this period. For the local administration, the empire was divided into provinces under the rule of Nair Chieftains known as Naduvazhis, with each province comprising a number ofDesams under the control of chieftains, called as Desavazhis.
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. Finally, the Kulasekhara dynasty was subjugated in 1102 by the combined attack ofLater Pandyas and Later Cholas. 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 Nair Chieftains; most powerful of them were the kingdom of Samuthiri in the north, Venad in the south and Kochi in the middle.
Rise of Advaita
Adi Shankara (789 CE ), one of the greatest Indian philosopher, born in Kaladi in Kerala who consolidated the doctrine of advaita vedānta. 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 of which he is known as the greatest revivalist. Adi Shankara is believed to be the organizer 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.
Kingdom of Venad
Venad was a kingdom in the southern tip of Kerala, which acted as a buffer between Cheras and Pandyas. Till the end of 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 Thiruvalla in the north. Their capital was at Kollam. Though a series of attacks by the Pandyas between 7th and 8th centuries caused the decline of Ays, the dynasty was powerful till the beginning of the 10th century. When the Ay power diminished, Venad became the southern most principality of the Second Chera Kingdom Invasion of Cholas into Venad caused the destruction of Kollam in 1096. However, the Chera capital, Mahodayapuram, also fell in the subsequent Chola attack, which compelled the Chera king, Rama varma Kulasekara, to shift his capital to Kollam. 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 kept by the rulers of Venad. Thus the end of Second Chera dynasty in the 12th century marks the independence of the Venad.
In the second half of the 12th century, two branches of Ay Dynasty, Thrippappur and Chirava, merged in the Venad family and thus setting up 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 north of Thiruvananthapuram, and was vested with the authority over the temples of Venad kingdom, especially the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. The most powerful kingdom of Kerala during the colonial period, Travancore, was developed by the expansion of Venad by the king Marthanda varma, who ascended to the throne in the 18th century from Thrippappur branch.
Kingdom of Calicut
Historical records regarding the origin of the Zamorins of Calicut is obscure. However, its generally agreed that the Zamorins were originally the rulers 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. 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 Calicut. They later assumed the title of Samudrāthiri ("one who has the sea for his border") and continued to rule from Calicut.
Samuthiri allied with Muslim Arab and Chinese merchants and used most of the wealth from Calicut to develop his military power. They became the most powerful king in the Malayalam speaking regions during the Middle Ages. In 14th century, Calicut conquered large parts of central Kerala, which was under the control of the king of Kingdom of Cochin. He was forced to shift his capital (c. 1405 AD) further south. In 15th century, Cochin was reduced in to a vassal state of Calicut.
The monopoly of maritime spice trade in the Indian Ocean stayed with Arabs during the high and late medieval periods. However, the dominance of Middle East traders got challenged in the European Age of Discovery during which the spice trade, particularly in black pepper, became an influential activity for European traders. Around the 15th century, the Portuguese began to dominate the eastern shipping trade in general, and the spice-trade in particular, culminating in Vasco Da Gama's arrival in Kappad Kozhikode in 1498.
The Zamorin of Calicut permitted the Portuguese to trade with his subjects. Their trade in Calicut prospered with the establishment of a factory and fort in his territory. However, Portuguese attacks on Arab properties in his jurisdiction provoked Zamorin and finally it led to conflicts among them. The Portuguese took advantage of the rivalry between Zamorin and king of Cochin; they allied with Cochin and when Francisco de Almeida was appointed as the Viceroy of Portuguese India in 1505, his headquarters was at Cochin. During his reign, Portuguese managed to dominate over the relation with Cochin and established a few fortresses in Malabar coast. Nonetheless, Portuguese suffered severe set back from the attacks of Zamorin forces; especially the naval attacks under the leadership of admirals of Calicut known as Kunjali Marakkars compelled them to seek a treaty. In 1571, Portuguese were defeated by the Zamorin forces in the battle at Chaliyam fort.
The weakened Portuguese were ousted by the Dutch East India Company, who took advantage of continuing conflicts betweenKozhikode and Kochi to gain control of the trade. The Dutch in turn were weakened by constant battles with Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family, and were defeated at the Battle of Colachel in 1741. An agreement, known as 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. Hyder Ali of Mysore conquered northern Kerala in the 18th century, capturing Kozhikode in 1766.
Hyder Ali and his successor, Tipu Sultan, came into conflict with the British, and the four Anglo-Mysore wars were 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 they 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 dis-membered the Ottoman Empire. This resulted in protests against the British by Muslims of the Indian sub-continent which is known as Khilafat Movement, which was supported by Mahatma Gandhi in order to draw the Muslims into the mainstream national independence movement. In the year 1921, the Khilafat Movement in Malabar culminated in widespread riots against the British government and Hindu population in what is now known as Moplah rebellion. Kerala also witnessed several social reforms movements directed at eradication of social evils such as untouchability from among the Hindus, pioneered by reformists like Srinarayana guru, Chattambiswami etc. 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.
Formation of Kerala state
The two independent kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin joined with the Union of India after India gained independence in 1947. On 1 July 1949, the two states were merged to form Travancore-Cochin. On 1 January 1950, Travancore-Cochin was recognised as a state. The Madras Presidency was organised to form Madras State in 1947.
On 1 November 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. 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. It was the first time a Communist government was democratically elected to power anywhere in the world. It initiated pioneering land reforms, leading to lowest levels of rural poverty in India.
It refused to nationalize 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 Nairs, which enrolled 40% of the students. The Christians, the land owning communities of Nairs 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.
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.
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 splitted to several groups. Some are come to the democratic way and some to the extreme, anarchic way. The violence alienated public opinion.
The political alliance have strongly stabilized 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 characterized by continually shifting alliances, party mergers and splits, factionalism within the coalitions and within political parties, and numerous splinter groups.
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 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. According to 2011 Kerala Legislative Assembly election results, the UDF has a majority in the state assembly (73/140).
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