Thalassery

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Thalassery
തലശ്ശേരി
Town
Clockwise from top:Hermann Gundert Statue, Kalaripayattu Training, Muzhappilangad Beach, Thalassery fort, Theyyam, Spice Market, Cannons near Pier
Clockwise from top:Hermann Gundert Statue, Kalaripayattu Training, Muzhappilangad Beach, Thalassery fort, Theyyam, Spice Market, Cannons near Pier
Nickname(s): The Paris of Kerala[1][2]
Thalassery is located in Kerala
Thalassery
Thalassery
Location of Thalassery in Kerala
Coordinates: 11°45′2.24″N 75°29′13.28″E / 11.7506222°N 75.4870222°E / 11.7506222; 75.4870222Coordinates: 11°45′2.24″N 75°29′13.28″E / 11.7506222°N 75.4870222°E / 11.7506222; 75.4870222
Country  India
State Kerala
District Kannur
Municipality 1 November 1866
Named for Spices (Tellicherry Pepper, Cinnamon)
Government
 • Body Municipality
 • Municipality Chairperson Amina Maliyekkal
Area
 • Total 23.96 km2 (9.25 sq mi)
Elevation 2.5 m-30 m 3 m (10 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 92,558
 • Density 3,900/km2 (10,000/sq mi)
Languages
 • Official Malayalam, English
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 670 1xx
Telephone code 91 490
Vehicle registration KL 58 –
Sex ratio 1000:1125 /
Lok Sabha constituency Vadakara
Vidhan Sabha constituency Thalassery
Website www.thalasserymunicipality.in
Thalassery is located in the southern part of Kannur District

Thalassery (IPA: [t̪laʃeɾi]) is a commercial town on the Malabar Coast in Kannur district in the Indian state of Kerala, bordered by the districts of Mahé (Pondicherry), Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kodagu (Karnataka). It has the second largest population of any municipality of North Malabar. The Europeans nicknamed the town "The Paris of Kerala", as it was in close proximity to the sole French military base in Kerala in that era. Thalassery's history over the past 500 years had enormous significance in the development of Kerala. Thalassery municipality has a population just under 100,000.[3] Thalasssery has an area of 23.98 square kilometres (9.26 sq mi). It is 22 km south of the district headquarters in Kannur town. Thalassery is situated in an altitude ranging from 2.5m to 30m above mean sea-level.

Thalassery municipality was formed on 1 November 1866 according to the Madras Act 10 of 1865 (Amendment of the Improvements in Towns act 1850)[4] of the British Indian Empire, making it the second oldest municipality in the state. At that time the municipality was known as Thalassery Commission, and Thalassery was the capital of North Malabar.[5] Thalassery grew into a prominent place during European rule, due to its strategic geographic location.[6] Thalassery has played a significant historical, cultural, educational and commercial role in the history of India, especially during the colonial period. In 9 February 2014, Thalassery taluk was split in two[7] and Iritty taluk was formed. The north eastern hilly region of the former Thalassery Taluk such as Aralam, Ayyankunnu, Kottiyur, Kelakam is within the Iritty Taluk area.

Etymology[edit]

Thalassery (Hindi: त लश्शेरि) originates from the ancient Malayalam linguistic usage 'Thala' (Head) and 'Kacheri' (Office), thus Thalassery or 'head of offices'. It could also have emerged from Talakkathe cheri, a combination of 'Talakkate' (Upper or north) and 'Cheri' (Settlement). As the suffix 'ssery' is usually used for places in Kerala where higher castes settled, it could also be a combination of Thali(Brahminic habitation) and ssery i.e. Brahminic village. Thalassery could be a Brahminic village, as it hosts ancient shrines dedicated/connected to Shree Ramaswamy (Rama-Vaishnavite sects settlements in various villages in and around Thalassery such as Tiruvangad, Andaloor, Makreri, Peralassery, Edakkad, Taliparamba, Cheruthazham and Mavilayi), rare compared to other places in Kerala. The 1885 administration manual vol. 2 of the former Madras Presidency cites research in regional legends and folklore to indicate that the puranic name of Thalassery was Swetharanya pura.[6] The Upanishad Acharya Swethakethu is believed to have taken penance there and it is said that Shiva danced ananda thandavahere. This is the stala purana of Tiruvangad Shree Ramaswamy Temple. Thalassery was known as Tellicherry the anglicised form of the Malayalam name Thalassery during the European era and in the official documents till the end of 90's but the name Thalassery is now used officially and the usage of the name Tellicherry is less.

Thalassery had a nickname in the nineteenth century, The Paris of Kerala, as it was the major town where the French military base in Kerala was located. Even though later the French abandoned Thalassery and shifted their base to Mahé (5 km south of Thalassery) as spices could be easily transported to sea using canoes through Mahé river (named for French administrator Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais); the nickname remained.

History[edit]

The first European power to enter the region was Portugal, which established a military barracks in Cannanore(~30 km north of Thalassery).[when?] The Netherlands followed the Portuguese.[when?] The French East India Company established military units in Mahé (~5 km south of Thalassery).[when?] The European presence around Thalassery was aimed at the export market for spices.[8]

England was the last European power who came to the region. They established their presence in 1682,[9] when they obtained permission from the Vadakkilankur Prince of Kolattunad to settle in Thalassery. The British presence in Kerala then strengthened. The natives organised revolts against the British-Chirakkal Kingdom establishments.[10]

Map of Malabar region and boundaries of kingdoms before the 1900s

The Malabar Invasion of Mysore (1766–1790)[edit]

In 1766, when Tipu Sultan (20 November 1750 – 4 May 1799) was 15, he accompanied his father on an invasion of Malabar. Tipu received military training from French military officers. He persuaded the Nawab of Hyderabad to ally with him at 17. He accompanied Hyder Ali on many conquests and from whom he learned military leadership.[11][12]

Hyder Ali in 1762, incorrectly described as the Commander in Chief of the Marathas. At the head of his army in the war against the British in India. (French painting)
Tipu Sultan-Sultanate of Mysore

The Mysorian invasion displaced most higher castes to the south in a mass exodus, introduced Islam, destroyed settlements, transferred tax revenue to Mysore, led to better distribution of land among poor and rich and joined the provinces for centralised administration. The local rulers (naduvazhis) were either exterminated or worked for Mysore. Malabar later fell to the British, which resulted in further social, cultural and educational changes. Thalassery bore the brunt of the invasion, as the second biggest city (after Kozhikode) in Malabar.[13]

Background[edit]

The Mamangam festival in Tirunavaya was the main festival of the Chera dynasty. It was conducted by Vellathiri (Valluvakonathiri; the Valluvanad (Palakkad) Raja), who bore the title Maha Raksha Purusha ("Holds the right to resolve dispuits between kingdoms or feudal chiefs of Kerala").[14] He had the authority to sit in the Nilapadu thara where the erstwhile Kulashekhara Perumal (Chera Emperor) sat. Technically this gave the Vellathiri a higher rank than any other ruler in Kerala. The Samoothiri challenged this and in a series of Thirunavaya Wars (1351 to 1363) led to the death of two Vellaattiri princes, Vellattiri at last withdrew from Thirunavaya. Samuthirippad took control of Mamangam and proclaimed himself Maha Raksha Purusha from the Nilapadu thara.[1]

After the retreat of Valluvakonathiri to Palakkad, Samoothiri repeatedly attacked Palakkad and after a successful war led by Chencheeri Namboothiri and annexation of territories, Samuthirippad demanded one-fifth of the area's revenue as war tax. The feudal chieftains approached Mysore Dewan for help. In 1757, the Dewan of Mysore asked Hyder Ali, then a mounted infantry commander (Faujdar),[15] of the Mysore army to help them.

Hyder Ali sent his brother-in-law Maqdum Ali to invade the Kingdom of Zamorin. Samuthiri lost this war and promised a war tax to Mysore. The Mysore army then returned home. After some time Samuthiri again attacked Vellathiri, demanding the tax payment. Samoothiri's army attacked the forts of Vellathiri and killed a number of Achans. Those who escaped the massacre turned to Hyder Ali once again. Itti Kombi Achan entered into an agreement with Hyder Ali,[16] who agreed to help the Vellathiri to regain lost territory[17] in return for allegiance to Mysore; however the Vellathiri himself did not support this proposal. Hyder Ali reinvaded Kozhikkode and encountered great resistance. In retaliation for not paying the tax Hyder tortured the royal family, the aristocracy, Namboothiri families and localities in Kozhikode. The Zamorin killed himself by setting fire to the palace armoury and the royal family fled to Travancore. After the war Hyder returned to Mysore. Prince Kappu Tampan joined the local Nair revolt against Hyder and besieged the Mysore garrison. After three months away from Malabar, Hyder returned to crush this uprising.[18]

The Siege of Tellicherry[edit]

In 1764 Hyder sent emissary Ananta Rao to Tellicherry to make a neutrality pact with the British. In 1766, Hyder Ali and his forces were welcomed to North Malabar by the Ali Raja of Cannanore. The Mysorian army guided by Ali Raja and his brother seized the palace of the Raja of Kolathiri in Chirakkal. The Raja and his family fled south seeking refuge in the English trading station in Tellichery. Hyder's objective was to attack Zamorin for not paying the promised war tax.[19]

Thalassery fort, Thalassery

Hyder installed friendly chieftains as Governors. Prince Regent of Kolathunad became Hyder's administrator; the Prince forced Kurungot Nair and Kottayam Raja of Thalassery to pledge allegiance to Mysore. Hyder could not control the Nair revolt in 1778, however the revolt eventually ceased.

The Seven Years' War between British and French had repercussions for the area. The Prince attacked Thalassery on Hyder's order to protect the French forces in Mahé from the British. British forces in Tellicherry attacked Mahé and forced the French to evacuate in 1779. This prompted the Zamorin and Kottayam Raja to ally with the British and they recaptured most of the territories that had been lost to Hyder. Later, due to an attack by the Prince in Tellicherry, the British left Mahé.[15] In Tellicherry fort, the Captain of Hyder's army was imprisoned after its unsuccessful attempt to attack Thalassery.[20]

In October 1780, Sirdar Khan (Commander in Chief of Hyder's army of Mysore, Calicut province) retaliated with an 18 month military embargo. They blockaded the British and the local administration, both on sea and land. In May 1781 reinforcements arrived from Bombay, under Major William Abington, ending the siege. Mahé was recaptured in 1782. Abington captured Dharmapattanam, Nettur and others and marched south. The Mysorian army was thrown out of Calicut on February 1782. Hyder's failure to capture Tellicherry fort boosted the morale of local Nair chieftains. They captured Mysore garrisons across Malabar and finally the Mysore army remained only in Palakkad.[19] In 1885 Britain returned Mahé to France.

The Malabar Conquests of Tipu Sultan[edit]

The Sultanate of Mysore 1784- Malabar as a province of Mysore

The period of Tipu Sultan's invasions in Kerala (1755–1781) and (1789–1790) was locally known as Padayotta kaalam. As Hyder Ali was losing his territories in Malabar, he sent his son, Tipu, to recapture them. Even though he had assisted Hyder in previous expeditions, this was Tipu's first battle as a commander. One of the principal victims of Tipu’s revenge was the Raja of Chirakkal, who was accused of conspiring against Hyder, attacked and killed. Tipu allegedly plundered large treasures from the Malabar temples. He crowned his achievements by compelling the princess of Cannanore (Arakkal Beevi) to marry her daughter to his son, Abd-ul-Khalik.[21] In December 1773, the British from Thalassery stormed Arakkal Palace, which had resisted, disarming Tipu's Cannanore garrison. They forced Arakkal Beevi into a peace treaty. By the 1774 Treaty of Mangalore concluding the Second Anglo-Mysore War, the English gave up their claims and declared the kingdoms in Kerala to be allies of Mysore.[22]

The British exploited Hyder's death and Tipu's 1781 retreat to Mysore for coronation. Colonel Fullerton captured Palakkad fort in 1783. Tipu returned in 1789 and captured south Malabar, but in this second expedition he was not able to win Thalassery and North Malabar due to the English presence.[23]

Tipu's forces marched towards Travancore, fighting the Battle of the Nedumkotta (1789) in Aluva. The invasion created an exodus towards the southern kingdoms.[24][25][26][27]

Tipu's Kerala conquest later became a reign of terror. Tipu had assisted Hyder in previous Malabar conquests and was well aware about Samuthiri's cheating and had planned to capture Travancore. Tipu's strategy was to create terror in the area by crushing his opponents, creating an exodus to spread the news and to discourage resistance in neighbouring territories.[24] His attitude towards various religions was inconsistent. He had Hindu ministers to assist him in Mysore while persecuting Hindus throughout his battles, especially in Kerala.

Hindus and Syrian Christians fled Malabar, South Canara and Kodagu en masse. Forced conversions to Islam, massacre and mass exodus followed. Travancore ruler Kartika Tirunal Rama Varma accepted the Malabar refugees and henceforth was called by the title Dharma Raja for his generousity.[28] Tipu demolished many temples and churches in the areas he invaded.[29][30][31]

Tipu's retreat from Aluva was caused by the failure of his army against the Travancore army led by Raja Kesavadas in the Battle of Nedumkotta and his army's inability to survive monsoon. When information about the British attack in Sree Rangapattanam reached his ears, Tipu was forced to leave Kerala along with his army. He signed a treaty with the British in Palakkad and eventually the Mysore conquest ended.

Tipu's conquest ended the naduvazhi type of administration, creating a more centralised administration. Tipu built most of the road network in Malabar. Taxation became based on actual production and went directly to the government.[23]

The spice trade[edit]

Thalassery port was a Spice trade export hub of The British

Thalassery had a unique geographical advantage as a trading center: it was on the border of Chirakkal, Kadathanad and Kottayam Kingdom in north, south and east respectively. The eastern area provided access to Wayanad and Coorg. Thalassery lay ahead of the Periya pass from Wayanad, and was the nearest point from the coast.[32]

The Kottayam and Randuthara provinces were rich in black pepper (later known as Tellicherry pepper) cardamom.[32] These advantages outweighed the military disadvantages due to the geographical isolation.[1] Gradually it became a major center of the spice trade and a seaport was developed.[33]

Tellicherry Pepper- A Black pepper variety. This is a produce of Terre Exotique, France[34]

The trading center developed mainly after the 16th century. In negotiations with Vadakkilamkur (the north regent of Kolathunad kingdom) the British got permission to set up a factory in Thalassery. The factory site was located in the territory of Kurungoth Nair, who disapproved of the grant. The factory opened in 1694[32] or (according to Birdwood)) 1683. Randuthara Achanmār and the chiefs of the four families of Randuthara (Poyanādu province – Edakkad, Anjarakkandy, Mavilayi, etc.), allied with the British. In 1704 the descendants of the Udayamangalam Kingdom joined with the Kurungoth Nair to attack the Company warehouse in Thalassery. The British neutralised that and other uprisings.

These events prompted the British to request the Prince of Vadakkilankur (North regent)[35] to build a fort in Thalassery.[36] The Raja of Kolathunad laid the foundation stone for the fort.[37] The Prince gave the fort and adjoining land to the British on 20 August 1708. The fort was later modified and extended by the British East India Company.

Meanwhile Kurungot Nair continued his attack, until in September 1719, he suspended hostilities and formally entered into a friendship treaty with the British. The treaty gave them permission to trade pepper in Thalassery without paying duty. After the construction of the fort Thalassery grew into a prominent trade center and a port in British Malabar.[38] The British won administrative authority over Malabar after annexation from Tipu Sultan in the Battle of Sree Rangapatnam. Thalassery became the capital of British North Malabar.[6][10] When English companies united in 1702, the affiliated factories under Bombay were Karwar, Tellicherry, Calicut and Anjengo. Factory administration was conducted by a Chief and councillors, known as 'factors'.

In 1797 The British East India Company established a spice plantation in Anjarakandy (five tharas of Randathara) in Thalassery.[39] In 1799 it was handed over to Lord Murdoch Brown with a 99-year lease.[40] Coffee, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg were cultivated there. The Anjarakandy cinnamon plantation was the world's largest at that time.

The British East India Company established the first registrar office in south India, in Anjarakandy near Tellicherry in 1865, just to register the cinnamon plantation of Murdoch Brown. The Anjarakandy estate spanned 500 acres (200 ha). He surveyed that land and appointed officers to survey the locals' land. The British approved his surveys. This established a new model of administration, its first use in Asia.[40][41][42]

The construction of the Tellicherry Lighthouse in 1835 evidences the importance the British attached to the area.[43] The British East India Company built a new spice warehouse in 1863. Thalassery pepper (Tellicherry pepper) is one of three varieties of black pepper, (along with Sarawak black pepper from Borneo and Malaysia and Lampong Black from Sumatra.[44] Thalassery fort offers massive walls, secret tunnels to the sea, and huge, intricately carved doors. The fort is now an historical monument.

The British established the district judicial court in Thalassery in 1802.[45] H. Clephen was the First Judge of the Court. During British rule, its jurisdiction extended to Mysore.

Overbury's Folly was built by E. N. Overbury, a local British judge in the 1870s.[46] The old market in that time was only 100 meters from the current sea shore, and the sea eroded it and surrounding areas. The seawalls built on Overbury's order saved Thalassery from further erosion, even though his order was originally mocked as a folly.[8][45][47][48]

The Pazhassi guerilla wars[edit]

Veera Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma

After the annexation of Malabar, the British called upon Thalassery, the Royal families and other major Nair and Namboothiri feudal lords to return, but this was heavily opposed by some local rulers. Along with heavy taxation and laws that curbed free movement, the appeal resulted in multiple uprisings against the British with heavy casualties to British forces. Thousands of soldiers were killed, but the resistance was eventually defeated.

Pazhassi Raja was a member of the western branch of the Kottayam royal clan. He was an expert in guerrilla warfare, was a prominent resistance leader and led one of the earliest uprisings. His war strategy had devastating effects on the British army.[49]

The Pazhassi war was the first major popular uprising against the British in Malabar. When Hyder occupied Malabar in 1773, the Raja of Kottayam found political asylum in Travancore. Pazhassi Raja, the fourth prince in line for succession to the throne during this period, became one of the de facto heads of state surpassing several elder royals. He fought a war of resistance against Hyder from 1774 to 1793.

On account of his refusal to flee and his resolve to fight invaders, the people of Kottayam supported the Raja. His troops were drawn from the Nambiar, Thiyya and also tribal clans such as Kurichias and Mullukurumbas.[50]

Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Major General Arthur Wellesley(who fought during the Battle of Waterloo and became the 1st Duke of Wellington), came to Thalassery to fight against Pazhassi Raja after defeating Tipu Sultan in the Battle of Sri Rangapatna.[51][52]

The war between the East India Company (led by Wellesley and Collector Thomas Harvey Baber), and Kottayam, led by Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja) in the forests of Wayanad, caused immense damage. The forces of Kottayam defeated the company in several skirmishes. The company started bringing reinforcements and due to the fall of Tipu Sultan, the EIC was able to crush the revolt.[50]

Tellicherry British Naval Barracks[edit]

Lord William Cornwallis, First Marquis of Cornwallis

Thalassery hosted one of the British Navy's major naval barracks along the Arabian coast.

As a consequence of the treaty that followed the Seven Years' War (1756–1763) between Britain and France, they briefly refrained from military adventures, helping Tipu in his Malabar conquest. Upon concluding a treaty with Mysore, the British shifted most of their barracks to Tellicherry.

The Tellicherry naval battle (1791)[edit]

In November 1791,[53] three battleships anchored in Tellicherry — Minerva (a 38 gun frigate) led by Commodore William Cornwallis (later Governor General of Madras), Phoenix, a 36 gun frigate led by Captain Sir Richard John Strachan and Perseverance, led by Captain Isaac Smith—confronted a French 36 gun frigate, Résolute and a small convoy en route to Mangalore. The British sought to inspect the French vessels for military contraband. The British suspected that the shipments were for Tipu's army.[54] The French resisted the search and a naval battle ensued. The British overpowered the French vessels, but found no contraband. The skirmishes resulted in a heavy loss of lives, both natives and Europeans. Commodore M. Saint Félix,[55] of the French Navy came from Mahé in 40 gun frigate La Cybéle to Tellicherry and warned the British.

The incident had farreaching consequences, damaging British/French relationships. His Majesty's Consul in Alexandria, Egypt, broadcast the information that France had declared war and all British and Dutch vessels had been seized by the French Navy in Indian seas.[56] The information reached Fort St. George in Calcutta and Fort William in Bengal and war was declared to capture French territories across India. Cybéle and Minerva fought another battle in Pondicherry, which had not ceded to Britain.[57] Lt.Col. James Hartley commanded the expedition that captured Mahé from the French.[58]

La Preneuse Ambush (1798)[edit]

On 19 April 1798, H.C.S Raymond and H.C.S Woodcote, both stationed at Tellicherry port, were attacked and captured by the French frigate Preneuse (1795). La Preneuse was carrying two of Tipu Sultan's ambassadors, returning from an embassy to the French authorities on the Isle de France. These ambassadors had been trying to gain support for Tipu Sultan,[59] and to co-ordinate plans for future joint operations between the French and Tipu's forces.[60] The English suffered a painful loss as there was an especially large crew on board the Woodcote, because she had just rescued the Captain and crew of the HEIC Ship Princess Amelia which had caught fire off Cannanore, on 5 April 1798.[61]

Embarking from Isle de France on 7 March 1798 the La Preneuse, with one hundred French officers and fifty private soldiers was intended to provide instructors and advisors to Tipu Sultan's army. Her destination was Mangalore.[62][63][64] This incident provided the English with a pretext and reason to resume their attack on Tipu Sultan, which led to the fall of Seringapatam in 1799.

This incident demonstrated the defencelessness of shipping in Tellicherry anchorage. A decision was taken to move the settlement's main function and garrison to Cannanore. This began the steady decline of Tellicherry.[65] In 1814 Mahé was again occupied by French forces, as part of the first (1814th) treaty of the "Treaties of Paris, (1814–15)", Mahé then remained under French control until India's independence.[66][67]

Indian Nationalist Movement[edit]

The Indian National Congress (Congress) political organization was established in 1885. It became the center point of the Indian Nationalist Movement. In 1908 a district Congress committee was formed in Thalassery. V K Krishna Menon, who studied in Tellicherry, was an active member of the Tellicherry branch (started in 1916)[23] of the All Indian Home Rule Movement founded by Annie Besant.[68][69][70] Mahatma Gandhi once had a conversation with locals in Thalassery railway station, along with Shaukat Ali in 1934 en route to Kozhikode to attend Khilafat gathering.[71] Notable local freedom fighters include S L Prabhu, Kamala Prabhu, Mukund Maller, Dr. T V N Nair, Sardar Chandroth Kunjiraman Nair, K P Raghavan Nair, N P Damodaran, and Adv. P Kunjiraman.[5]

Geography[edit]

Beach in Thalassery

Thalassery is in Kannur district.[72] The town has Dharmadam Panchayat in the north, Eranjoli and Kodiyeri in the east New Mahé in the south and the Arabian Sea on the west. The palm-fringed terrain has a scenic coastline and features four rivers, canals and hills with orange-hued rock. One of the four rivers is the Mahé River (Mayyazhi river). During the British Raj, the Mahé River was nicknamed the English Channel, because it separated British-ruled Thalassery from French-ruled Mahé. Muzhappilangad Beach,[73] the sole beach where driving is possible in Kerala (with a 4 km long drivable area),[74] is located within 6 km from the town centre.

Unlike southern Kerala, Thalassery region does not have lagoons (Kayal), although many rivers flow through the region. The coast has no delta formation. The coastal plain is only a few kilometres in width and is bordered by highlands. The north of Thalassery is Dharmadam, an island area surrounded by two rivers and the sea. On the eastern side, hilly areas start at Kuthuparamba.[75][76]

Climate[edit]

Thalassery experiences a Tropical wet and dry climate under the Köppen climate classification. The wet season starts in June as the South-west monsoon first hits the coastal Kerala and continues until the end of September. A brief pre-monsoon Mango showers interval occurs sometime during April. Precipitation from the North-East Monsoon sets in during the second half of October through November.

Climate data for Thalassery
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 32.2
(90)
32.6
(90.7)
33.3
(91.9)
33.5
(92.3)
32.8
(91)
30.1
(86.2)
29
(84)
29.2
(84.6)
30.2
(86.4)
31
(88)
31.9
(89.4)
32.1
(89.8)
31.49
(88.69)
Average low °C (°F) 22.9
(73.2)
23.8
(74.8)
25.5
(77.9)
26.3
(79.3)
26
(79)
24.4
(75.9)
23.7
(74.7)
23.9
(75)
24.2
(75.6)
24.2
(75.6)
24.1
(75.4)
22.8
(73)
24.32
(75.78)
Rainfall mm (inches) 7.6
(0.299)
0.4
(0.016)
7.7
(0.303)
28
(1.1)
86.1
(3.39)
408.2
(16.071)
455.1
(17.917)
194.4
(7.654)
66.2
(2.606)
161.7
(6.366)
63.4
(2.496)
9.2
(0.362)
1,488
(58.58)
Source: WWO[77]

Demographics[edit]

Thalassery in Colonial times-Water colour painting of Tellicherry-Viewing Tellicherry from Dharmadam island

As of 2011 India census,[78] Thalassery had a population of 92,558, making it Kerala's 8th largest city in population. Males constitute 47% of the population and females 53%. Thalassery has an average literacy rate of 86%, higher than the national average of 59.5%. Both male and female literacy are 86%. In Thalassery, 10% of the population is under 6 years of age. The Thalassery urban agglomeration consists of the Thalassery municipality and panchayaths of Eranholi, Kadirur, Dharmadam, Muzhappilangad, Pinarayi and New Mahe with a present population of around 200,000.

Hindus make up 51% of the population, Muslims 46% and the balance includes Christians, Budhists and Sikhs.

Thalassery Assembly Constituency[edit]

The Thalassery assembly constituency consists of Thalassery Municipality and four neighbouring Panchayats namely Eranholi, Kadirur, New Mahe and Chokli. Dharmadam is a separate constituency.

Culture[edit]

The British had considerable impact on local culture. As an ancient trade center, the trading and business relations that existed with the Europeans and the Arabs brought people and ideas from many other lands. The Christian missionaries and the educational reforms they brought played an important role in transforming society. The migration to Travancore during Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan's invasion was another factor, resulting in less social distance between upper and lower castes from the 18th to mid-20th centuries. This effect did not reach the Travancore Cochin area, which was not under the Madras Presidency, where inequality was greater.

"Mukathzhuthu"-The face painting of Theyyam, the religious ritual art form in Thalassery
Chatayam celebrations (Birth anniversary of Shri Narayana Guru), have a speciality in Kannur and Thalassery wherein the natives light lamps in their houses, similar to Deepavali.

In the colonial era Thalassery was the centre of learning in north Kerala. The first Malayalam newspapers, novels and short stories in Malayalam were written there. Earlier, the well known romantic poem in Malayalam, "Veenapoovu" (Fallen Flower) of Kumaran Asan was published from Thalassery. It was the birthplace of the Communist movement in Kerala. Rajya Samacharam, the first Malayalam newspaper, was published from Thalassery.[79]

Typical attire of Aristrocracy in Thalassery before 1900's (Malabar Sundari-Painting by Raja Ravi Varma)

The Government of Kerala has included Thalassery in its heritage city project. The project includes the preservation of historial structures.[80][81]

Circus[edit]

Vishnu Pant Chhatre's Great Indian Circus's was established 1880 in Bombay, the first circus establishment in India. A tour of Thalassery led to the meeting of Chhatre with Keeleri Kunhikannan a martial arts trainer.[82] Keeleri Kunhikannan established the first dedicated circus school in India in 1901. He is known as "the father of Kerala Circus".[83] A Circus Academy was inaugurated in Thalassery in 2010.[84]

Architecture[edit]

Older houses in Thalassery are mainly built of stone in traditional Kerala architecture. Stones are the main building components in North Kerala and wood in South Kerala.

The region is rich in vegetation and greenery.

Cuisine[edit]

Main article: Thalassery biriyani

Thalassery is known for its biryani (in local dialect, biri-yaa-ni)[85] Unlike other biriyani cuisines Thalassery biryani Kaima/Jeerakasala rice instead of the usual basmati rice.[86] The influence of Arabian/Mughal culture is evident, especially in the dishes of the Muslim community, although many have become popular among all communities.

Thalassery Falooda

Thalassery Falooda is a regional variant of the Persian dessert. This is a cocktail of fruit salad, dry fruits such as black current, pista, cashew, almond(badam), rose milk and vanila icecream.

The Asian Green Mussel (Perna viridis) cuisines are favored in Thalassery dishes. The mussel is called Kallu-mma-kaya (fruit on the stone). They grow on rocks in contact with sea. Other dishes include Kallummakaya porichathu (fried mussel), Arikkadukka (mussel fried in rice batter), mussel pickels. Elambakka mussels are also popular.[87] The green mussel's popularity led farmers to employ aquaculture in local rivers to increase supplies.[88] Thalassery natives are known for their generous honouring and serving dishes for guests.[89]

Another Thalassery dish is Kozhi-kkalu, made of sliced and fried tapioca. Pappadam-Pazham kuzhakkal, Aval um Poriyum kuzhakkal are other popular dishes.[89]

Muttamala, Taripoli, Pazham nirachatu (fried banana filled with grated coconut sugar or jaggery), Unnakaya, Kaayi pola, Chatti pathiri and Ari pathiri are other local dishes. Porridges such as Mutaari kachiyatu (ragi porridge), are popular.[89]

Theyyam[edit]

Theyyam is a ritual performance art form[90] that depict the cultural heritage of North Malabar, especially of ancient Kolathunad. Theyyam depicts Shiva bhutaganas, Kali and other deities and cultural heroes. The drama is enacted based on ancient stories and the language used is "Tottam pattu", a primitive form of Malayalam. Theyyam shows the Buddhist influence from centuries ago. Theyyam is usually held from October to May every year. The colour of Theyyam is typically red. Velan is described in the Sangam literature 500 CE. It could have been a tribal ritual art which evolved under Buddhism and the Brahminic revival of Hinduism. This art form is addressed as "Kaliyattom" North of Pazhayangadi Puzha, Kannur, as "Theyyam" South of the river and as "Tirayattom" around Thalassery.[91]

Muchilottu Bhagavathi Theyyam
Kundadi Chamundi Theyyam
Vishnumoorthi or Chamundi Theyyam

Kalari Payattu[edit]

Inside of Kalari

Kalari payattu is a martial art practiced in Kerala Dharmapattanam(the current Dharmadam), Kadirur, Kadathanad (the current Vadakara) and Kuthuparamba. The British East India Company established their authority by destroying the traditional military character of the community of Malabar.

The Mysorean invaders destroyed traditional institutions, landholding patterns and supremacy of local rulers, along with the power and prestige of the Malabar militia, leading to the decline of Kalari.[92] On 20 February 1804, Robert Richards, the Principal Collector of Malabar, wrote to Lord William Bentinck, President and General-in Council, Fort. St. George, asking permission to take action against persons carrying arms, either imposing death penalty or deportation for life.[93] Lord Bentinck issued an order on 22 April 1804, that those who concealed weapons or disobeyed the orders of the British against carrying arms, would be deported. At the time of the Pazhassi rebellion, British soldiers rebel homes to confiscate their arms.[94]

Kadal palam

Thalassery is one of the major centres of Vadakkan Kalari. Kalari Payattu had a revival after a resurgence of public interest from Thalassery in 1920. A public protest was led by C V Narayanan Nair.[95]

Archaeological excavations[edit]

Cheraman Perumal-Chera Empire Fort[edit]

The sister of the last Cheraman Perumal, Sreedevi is believed to have resided in Dharmapattanam (the present Dharmadam), near Thalassery.[1][96] The fort was located in a strategic hilly area where a 360 degree view of land and sea tens of kilometres in radius is clearly visible. The relics is seen in the campus of Govt. Brennan College.[97] The relics of the Chera Empire fort are seen in that hill near the college premises especially near to the water tank area.[98]

Megalithic laterite dome[edit]

A laterite dome of the megalithic age was discovered in Kodiyeri, near Thalassery.[99] Kannur University Anthropology Department head S. Gregory, who led the excavation, said similar excavations were done earlier in Sreekandapuram 40 years before. A rock-cut cave of mostly of megalithic age was found near the Jagannath Temple in Thalassery.[100]

Pier cannons[edit]

In June 2013 several cannons estimated to be 250 to 300 years old were unearthed near Thalassery Pier.[101] It was one of the largest finds of cannons in Kerala.[102]

In India the British East India Company first used cannons in Thalassery, during the local rebellion led by Kurungoth Nair, according to Kurup.[103] [103]

Religious places[edit]

  • Sree Jagannath Temple

Sree Gnanodayayogam is a social organisation of North Malabar and the governing body of Sree Jagannath Temple, Thalassery. The temple was consecrated in 1908 by his Holiness Sree Narayana Guru. Sree Varadur Kunhi Kannan visited Guru Dev in December 1904 and suggested that Thiyya Community build a temple at Thalassery. Guru Dev allowed Varadur to invite Kumaran Asan as his representative, and to convene meetings with citizens to ascertain the feasibility of a Temple. Asan accepted the invitation. On his arrival the first meeting was convened at 'Parambath House' of Sree Cheruvari Shirastadar on 9 July 1905. The temple is open to people of all casts; during the period where there was huge caste discremination prevalent in the society.

Sarpa Kavu
  • Sree Andaloor Kavu

The presiding deity is Rama, worshiped as a forest dweller as depicted in Araṇya Kāṇḍa, Kishkindha Kāṇḍa, Sundara Kāṇḍa and Yuddha Kāṇḍa of Ramayana. Lakshmana and Hanuman who accompanied Rama in his forest life are other deities worshiped there. Andaloor is believed to have derived from "Aandava villor" (the land where the Lord's sacred bow was kept). Andaloor kavu is well known for Vaishnavite theyyam. During the festival season in Kumbham, Dharmadam village adapts a vegetarian diet. They purchase new utensils and clothes and paint their homes. Villoppikkal (Bow offering), Meyyalu koodal (a "rush" that ritually accompanies Rama in the battle against Ravana) and Kuluthattal are rituals performed by the men.[104]

  • Odathil Palli

The 200-year-old Odathil Palli mosque is in Thalassery. Its site used to be a sugarcane garden of the Dutch. It changed hands to the British East India Company. It has typical Kerala architecture and it is in the heart of Tellicherry. The crown on the roof is made of gold. The mosque is still in use for worship.

  • Thiruvangad Sree Ramaswami Temple
The Thiruvangad Shree Ramaswamy Temple pond

Sree Ramaswami Temple is dedicated to Sree Rama, in Thiruvangad. It is one of the four important temples dedicated to Sree Rama in Kerala. (The other three are at Triprayar, Thiruvilluamala and Kadalur.) It is Located on an elevated plot of 2.75 hectares with an adjoining temple tank known as Chira that occupies one hectare. It has excellent wood carvings, terra cotta and murals carved on wooden planks in the ceilings.

Chakyar Koothu in Tiruvangad Temple
  • Kottiyoor Vadakkeshwaram Temple

Kottiyoor Mahadeva Temple is 60 km east of Thalassery in Thalassery Taluk. An annual pilgrimage attracts thousands of visitors. It commemorates the Daksha yaga.[105]

  • Tirunelli Temple

Tirunelli is a Mahavishnu temple in the Brahmagiri valley. It is a destination for "Pitru Tarpana" in North Kerala. The temple is centuries old and is still incomplete due to the feud between local rulers at that time. The pledge taken in front of Tirunelli Perumal is considered to have the highest value. Tirunelli is 108 km east of Thalassery.

  • Mamanam Shri MahaDevi temple

The Maha Devi(Bhadrakali) shrine is located in Irikkur, near Anjarakkandy. It is 39 km east of Thalassery. It hosts shrines for Mahadeva, Saptha Mathrukkal and Sasthavu. The shrine is revered among the local community and others. The shrine had been attacked by the Mysorean army and later renovated. The rites changed from Dakshninachara (Sathvika) to Vamachara (Saktheya) after a 16th-century renovation.[106]

  • Lokanar Kavu

Lokanar Kavu is situated near Vadakara, 22 km south of Thalassery. It was established by ancient Aryan immigrants in the region. Its "Lokambika" deity is one of the four Durga Peetham of Kerala (with Moolambika, Hemambika and Balaambika (Devi Kanya Kumari)) worshiped by Parashurama. The temple is the family deity of Kalari payattu martial artists and is mentioned in related folklore.

  • Other Major Shrines

Other religious structures include St. Theresa’s Cathedral, Mahe (7 km from Thalassery), Chirakkakavu Bhagavathi Temple, Shri Moozhikkara Bhagavati Temple, Kottayam Shiva Temple, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swami Temple, Mariamman Koil, Melut Sri Muthappan Madappura, Kaitheri Neelakaringali Amma Temple and Shri Porkali Bhagavathi Temple.

Cricket[edit]

ThalasseryMunicipal Stadium

Thalassery Stadium, located close to the sea, hosts Ranji Trophy cricket matches quite often. Lord Arthur Wellesley is believed to have introduced this game in Kerala in the 18th century for British soldiers garrisoned in the Tellichery Fort.[107] India's first cricket club, which was later named the Town Cricket Club, was formed in 1850 at Tellichery by Wellesley.[107][108][109] The Tellichery Cricket ground was the hub of cricket activities those days. An exhibition match was conducted in this ground to raise funds during the First World War.[107] English cricketer Colin Cowdrey's father was a tea planter in Thalassery, where he used to play cricket in the 1890s. Cowdrey played in Thalassery during the British regime.

Thalassery Cricket Ground celebrated its 200th birthday in 2002 by hosting a match between the former cricketers of India and Sri Lanka. In 2008 a new stadium only for cricket was inaugurated in Conor Vayal near Venus Junction in Thalassery, as a project of the Kerala Cricket Association.

Education[edit]

The educational renaissance of Malabar started from Thalassery due to the influence of European missionaries. Government Brennen College, Thalassery, founded in 1862, is one of the oldest educational institutions in India. The Kannur University campus is located in Palayad, north of Thalassery.[110] The Basel Evangelic Mission Parsi High school is an English Medium school (established 1856) in Malabar. Dr. Hermann Gundert was a tutor there. Kaikose Ruderasha, a Parsi, donated funds to build the institute with the assistance of German missionaries.[111] Around the 1970s Muslim educational trusts such as MES, founded by Dr. Abdul Gafoor, played a considerable role in educating the Muslim community.[112]

Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF)-Established by the Christian Missionaries of Switzerland

Other colleges include Government Brennen College, College of Engineering Thalassery, Medical College, Anjarakandy, Co-operative College of Nursing, Nettur and Co-operative College of Physiotherapy and para-medical sciences, Nettur.

Other educational facilities include Sports Authority of India Centre, Nettur Technical Training Foundation, Kerala School of Fine Arts, Govt. Brennen College of Teacher Education, IHRD College of Applied Science, BKJM School of Nursing, St Joseph's Higher Secondary School, Sacred Heart Girls High School, Basel Evangelical Mission Parsi High School MES Bava Residential School, Thiruvangad, Thiruvangad Girls Higher Secondary School, Madrasathul Mubaraka Higher Secondary School, Government Girls Higher Secondary School and Government Brennen Higher Secondary School.

Healthcare[edit]

Thalasserry Co-op Hospital

Major medical facilities include Malabar Cancer Centre, Moozhikkara, Government General Hospital, Co-operative Hospital, Indiragandhi Co-operative Hospital, Josgiri Hospital, Mission Hospital, Santhosh Hospital, Tely Hospital, Kay paral Hospital, Shemi Hospital, Keerthi Hospital.

Economy[edit]

Trade and commerce in Thalassery is mainly in retail and wholesale industry. The seaport no longer operates. Few industries operate in Thalassery. International trade from Thalassery is now only a fraction of the colonial-era trade.

Many expatriates found work in the Persian Gulf.

The district court is located in Thalassery.[113]

Transport[edit]

Rail[edit]

Thalassery Railway Station operates under the Palakkad Railway Division. It is a Class 'A' railway station. It is on the Konkan railway line from Mangalore. No direct line connects Thalasery to Mysore, although a feasibility study for such a route was funded in 2013.[114][115]

Thalassery railway station

The Thalassery Mysore-Railway Action Committee proposed a 145-km route.[116]

Bus[edit]

The town has four bus stations. New Bus Stand (1982) is the largest. Inter-state buses to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Mysore operate from there. KSRTC bus depot is located at Konor vayal, Near Venus Corner. Passengers to Bangalore, Thiruvanathapuram and Madurai depart from that station. KSRTC and private buses are available to Kodagu and Wayanad. Moffusil bus station is located near the New Bus stand. Town buses also originate from the Old bus stand on General Hospital Road.

Air[edit]

The nearest airport is Kozhikode International Airport, about 93 km south. Kannur International Airport is under construction near Mattanur, around 28 km from the city.[117] Mangalore and Cochin airports could be alternate choices.

Road[edit]

Kanyakumari-Mumbai NH-66 passes through Thalassery. Kozhikode is 66 km from Thalassery. Thalassery Coorg Road is a major road linking Kerala to Kudaku(Karnataka State). Interstate buses ply on this route in a frequency of one in an hour.[118]

Tourism[edit]

The Thalassery carnival, the Beach fest in Muzhappilangad beach and Dharmadam beach are notable attractions.[119] The area's four rivers (Anjarakkandi, Dharmadam, Koduvally and Mahe) around Thalassery town and four beaches (Muzhappilangad, Dharmadam, Thalassery (2 beaches)) with more in Kannur also attract visitors.

It is an important center of Kalari payattu and health tourism.[120] Other visitors come to experience Theyyam and explore the area's history, such as Tellicherry Fort.

Dharmadam Beach and Island
Overbury's Folly, Thalassery

Thalassery Pier (Kadalpaalam), Overbury's Folly, Pazhassi Dam and Reservoir garden[121] and Malayala Kala Gramam, New Mahe,(7 km from Thalassery)[122][123] are other attractions

Muzhappilangad Beach

A shipwreck is visible near the Thalassery shore.[124]

Notable residents[edit]

William Logan-The author of Malabar Manual
  • Veera Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, (1753–1805) The leader of foremost struggle against British in India. His palace was located in Kottayam (Thalassery). He is well known by the epithet "The Lion of Kerala".[125]
  • Hermann Gundert, (1814–1893) German missionary and scholar, he is author of Keralolpathi (1843), Pazhancholmala (1845), Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam(1851), Paathamala (1860) the first Malayalam school text book, Kerala pazhama(1868), Malayalabhasha Nighandu, the first Malayalam dictionary (1872), Malayalarajyam(1879)-Geography of Kerala, Rajya Samacharam (1847 June) the first Malayalam news paper, Paschimodayam (1879)-Magazine[126] lived in Thalassery for 20 years. He is the grand father of Nobel laureate Herman Hesse.[127][128]
Hermann Gundert Monument, Thalassery
  • C V Devan Nair, (1923–2005) The third President of Singapore (In office: 23 October 1981 – 28 March 1985)was a Singapore immigrant who hails from Thalassery.[129]
  • Wing Cmdr. Moorkoth Ramunni IFAS, (1914–2009) the first piolet from Kerala, first chief trainer National Defence Academy, Member of Jawaharlal Nehru's Office, Advisor to the Governor of Nagaland.[130][131][131]
  • William Logan, (1841–1914), was a Scottish historian, his works are considered as reliable historical reference of North Malabar by Government and Universities. He served as the district judge of Thalassery and the author of Malabar Manual, Logan's road in Thalassery is named after him.[1]
  • Captain. Edward Brennan(?-1859), English philanthropist and master attendant at Tellicherry port, established one of the foremost institutions in India to provide English education, The Brennan school establishe in Thalassery in 1862 for all caste and gender.[132][133]
Mattannur Sankarankutty

See also[edit]

The important locations in an around Thalassery

Gallery[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


Preceded by
Kottayam Province of Chirakkal Kingdom
Tellicherry, Madras Presidency, British India
1 November 1866 according to the Madras Act 10 of 1865
(Amendment of the Improvements in Towns act 1850)
Succeeded by
Kerala, India
(States Reorganisation Act, 1956)