Geographical / Historical Area
Onam celebration in North Malabar
|• Body||Northern Range, Kerala|
Mahé Sub-Division, Puducherry
|• Total||4,200 km2 (1,600 sq mi)|
|• Density||819/km2 (2,120/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+5:30 (IST)|
670***, 671*** and 673***
|ISO 3166 code||IN-KL|
|Vehicle registration||KL-11, KL-12, KL-13, KL-14, KL-18, KL-56, KL-57, KL-58, KL-59, KL-60, KL-72, KL-76, KL-77, KL-78, KL-79 & PY-03|
|Vidhan Sabha constituency||24|
|Civic agency||Northern Range, Kerala|
Mahé Sub-Division, Puducherry
North Malabar refers to the geographic area of southwest India covering the state of Kerala's present day Kasaragod and Kannur Districts, the Mananthavady taluk of Wayanad District, the taluk of Vatakara in the Kozhikode District of Kerala and the entire Mahé Sub-Division of the Union Territory of Puducherry.
The greater part of North Malabar (except Mahé) remained as one of the two administrative divisions of the Malabar District (an administrative district of British India under the Madras Presidency) until 1947 and later became part of India's Madras State until 1956. Mahé remained under French jurisdiction until 13 June 1954. On 1 November 1956, the state of Kerala was formed by the States Reorganisation Act, which merged the Malabar District with Travancore-Cochin apart from the four southern taluks, which were merged with Tamil Nadu, and the Kasaragod taluk of South Kanara District.
North Malabar begins at Korapuzha in the south and ends at Manjeshwaram in the north of Kerala and traditionally comprises the erstwhile princely principalities and fiefdoms of Kolathu Nadu, Kingdom of Kottayam, Kadathanadu and southern part of Tulu Nadu.
Culture, geography and people
The socio-cultural background and geography of this area has some distinctions compared to the rest of Kerala. The population consists of native Hindus, native Mappila-Muslims, native Jains and migrant-Christian communities and is characterized by distinct socio-cultural customs and behavior. The people of North Malabar have striven to preserve their distinct and unique identity and heritage since ancient times, through colonial times into modern political India. From the seventeenth century onward, until the early twentieth century, there were cultural taboos among certain communities from North Malabar, which forbade their women marrying people of the same respective communities, from the southern territories. Even in modern times it is not uncommon to see "alliances from Malabar region preferred" in newspaper matrimonial announcements placed by native North Malabar families, irrespective of their ethno-religious background. Traditionally North Malabar has remained the source of an erstwhile aristocracy for many of the southern territories of Kerala through displacement and adoptions including the Travancore Royal Family. Northern Malabar identity and pride is often possessively guarded by its natives of all ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Kottiyoor Vysakha Mahotsavam is a 27-day yearly pilgrimage commemorating the mythology of Daksha Yaga, which attracts thousands of Hindu pilgrims from the Malabar region.
Social, cultural and historical features
In the pre-democratic era, Marumakkathayam-matriliniality was widely prevalent among the natives of North Malabar and included both the Muslim and Nambudiri communities of Payyanur, in addition to other traditional matrilineal communities such as the Nair and Thiyyas. Marumakkathayam was also practiced by the Nair, Nambudiri, and Mappila communities in the Ponnani region of South Malabar.The practice of matriliniality was distinctly different and was predominantly virilocal with married couples residing with or near the husband's parents. Unlike other parts of erstwhile matrilineal-Kerala, polyandry was a strict taboo in North Malabar and exceptional customs such as Putravakaasham (purse/estate grants to children of male members) were occasionally allowed.
Landlords in Malabar during colonial and pre-colonial times were the largest landlords of Kerala and during this time political authority remained decentralized in contrast to that of the southern principalities. The royal position of Kolathiri, although immensely respected, was politically titular. In North Malabar, the Kolathiri Kings had the ritualistic status of Perumaal such that their official designates or sthanis retained their jurisdiction all over Kerala except for the Rajarajashwara Temple at Taliparamba.
The major festival observed by Hindus in this region is Vishu rather than Onam, which remains the major celebration for Hindus in the remainder of Kerala. In North Malabar, Vishu is celebrated as New Year. Because, the Kollavarsham month Medam - which is parallel to first Tamil month Chithirai - is the first month of the year for natives of North Malabar. The Vishu festival is spread over two days and comprises the Cheriya or small Vishu and the Valiya, or main Vishu. Unlike in the rest of Kerala it is not uncommon to see Hindu natives of this region cook and eat non-vegetarian food during their festivals including Vishu and Onam and sometimes even in marriage households.
People from all religions participate in major festivals at temples, mosques and churches. Some examples include: Nadapuram Mosque, Mahe Church, Moonnu Pettumma Palli Pappinisseri and Theyyam ritual art.
North Malabar cuisine is noted for its variety of dishes including chutneys, pancakes, steamed cakes and various dishes such as kalathappam, kinnathappam, uruttu chammanthi, poduthol, pathiri, chatti pathiri and moodakadamban. Bakery-cuisine is well developed in the area and has led to large numbers of natives operating popular bakeries in Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Mysore, Pune and Southern Kerala.
People from this area are characterized by a stronger sense of socio-political aspirations often leading to large outbreaks of political violence.
North Malabar represents one of the earliest and largest pockets of exposure to other cultures in Kerala through Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Tuluvas, Rashtrakutas, Kodavas, Tulus, Arabs, Persians, Portuguese, Dutch, French, British, and through early employment and migrations in government and military services from the time of its incorporation into the Madras Presidency. Nevertheless, its people are conservatively possessive of its identity preferring a "geographical endogamy" culture.
The version of the Malayalam calendar or Kollavarsham used in central and south Kerala begins on August 25, 825 AD. The year commences with Simha-raasi (Leo) and not in Mesha-raasi (Aries) as in other Indian calendars. However, in North Malabar and Kolathunadu the start of the Kollam era is reckoned from the month of Kanya-rasi (Virgo), which begins on 25 September. This variation has two accounts associated with it.
Kerolopathi, a traditional text dealing with the origins of Malabar, attributes the introduction of the Kollam era to Shankaracharya. Translation of the phrase Aa chaa rya vaa ga bhed ya (meaning Shankaracharya's word/law is unalterable) into numbers in the Katapayadi notation produces 0 6 1 4 3 4 1 and these written backwards give the age of the Kali yuga in the first year of the Kollam era. Kali, day 1,434,160, would work out to be September 25, 825 AD, which corresponds to the beginning of the Kollam era in North Malabar, i.e. the first day of the month of Kanya-raasi (Virgo) .
There are several dialects of the Malayalam language prevalent in North Malabar. Loan words, excluding the huge number of words from Sanskrit and Tamil, originated mostly due to centuries long interactions between the native population of North Malabar and the horse and spice traders of the world. These included trading contacts with Arabia, Persia, Israel, China, South Canara, Mysore, Kodagu and European colonial powers for several centuries. Examples of these dialects include Kasaragod Malayalam and Mappila Malayalam. However, the majority of the young-adult Keralites from other provinces who are ignorant of the rich melting-pot culture of Malabar dialects are uncomfortable with these forms of Malayalam.
|Some influences are enumerated|
|Hebrew||Shalom/salaam aayi meaning died (lit. entered the state of peace).|
|Arabic||Bejaar meaning anxiety; matlab meaning consequence; barkat/varkkat meaning value are few examples|
|Portuguese||Veeppa meaning "basket“; 'maesha' meaning "table“; 'jenela' meaning "window“|
|Cryptic Sanskrit tendencies||In North Malabar fish curry is referred to as malsya-curry (from the Sanskrit word matsya for fish) rather than southern usage of meen-curry. Similarly, feeling hungry is paikkunnu rather than southern usage of vishakkunnu. Other examples are annam instead of choru (cooked rice), dhani instead of kaashukaaran (rich man), the word amba (mother) for cow, gauli (lizard) etc.|
Historic immigrations into North Malabar
The three waves of historically significant immigration were as follows.
Tulu Brahmin immigration
In 1617, the Kolathiri Raja Udayavarman, wished to attain the higher status of kshatriya by undergoing the Hiranyagarbham ritual in honour of Hiranyagarbha, the creator of the universe. Since the Nambudiri Brahmins were not prepared for the ceremony, Udayavarman brought 237 families of Shivalli Brahmins from Gokarna in Coastal Karnataka and settled them in the five counties of Cheruthazham, Kunniriyam, Arathil, Kulappuram and Vararuchimangalam in North Malabar. The Sree Raghavapuram temple (Hanuman Kavu) at Pilathara was assigned to the 237 families for worship, and it became their village temple. The 93 Edukunchi families displaced as a result received the hereditary trusteeship of the Sreekrishnapuram temple in Cheruthazham, 62 Gunavantham families that of Arathil Sreebhadrapuram temple and the 82 Vilakkoor families that of Udayapurath Haripuram temple. These 237 families adopted the customs of local Nambudiri Brahmins and came to be referred to as Embranthiris.
The Malabar Migration refers to the large-scale migration of Syrian Christians (Nasranis) from the Travancore region to the Malabar area of northern Kerala in the 20th century. The migration started in the decades of the 20th century and continued well into the 1970s and 1980s. This migration had a significant demographic and social impact as the Syrian Christian population of Malabar increased 15-fold from 31,191 in 1931 to 442,510 in 1971.
Central Travancore had experienced a steep increase in population in the early 20th century while pressure on arable land increased. At the same time, people recognised the potential of the large uncultivated lands in the northern regions called Malabar, which was then part of the Madras Presidency under British Rule. Migration initially started in trickles with land bought from the local rulers. Huge tracts of uncultivated forest and waste land were later converted into farms and plantations. Against the odds, the community thrived, which attracted more migrants. This migration reached its peak in the 1950s.
These migrants came mostly from present day Kottayam, Idukki, Muvattupuzha and Kothamangalam with migrations happening across the entire Malabar region (north Kerala) including into the following districts of present-day Kerala (some key migration centres are also mentioned):
- Kasaragod -Malom, Chittarikkal, Vellarikundu, Panathady, Panathur
- Kannur - Alakkode, Chemperi, Cherupuzha, Kudianmala, Iritty, Peravoor, Chempanthotty
- Calicut - Thiruvambady, Kuttiady
- Malapuram - Nilambur, Edakkara, Chungathara
- Wayanad - Pulpally
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church gave significant support to the migration by providing churches, discipline, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure.
Overall, hundreds of thousands of people moved to North Kerala. The percentage of Christian residents in these districts was small before the migration but since 1950 this settler community has formed a significant part of the population in the hill areas of these districts.
Immigration of Knanaya Christians
Historically, the North Malabar landlords were the largest land-holders in Kerala, but the introduction of the Kerala Land Reforms Bill in 1957 resulted in their panic selling of farm and forest land. This was followed by immigration of Christians from Knanaya into the North Malabar Region in search of virgin land to cultivate and to seek relief from the poverty and financial strain caused by the Second World War. Under the direction of Prof. V.J. Joseph Kandoth and Bishop Mar Alexander Chulaparambil, the Diocese of Kottayam bought 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) of land in the Kasargod area in 1942. The new venture was announced in all the parishes of southern Kerala. Applications were invited and each family was allotted 11.5 acres (47,000 m2) of land 1943. The emigrants from all southern Kerala parishes reached Cochin by boat and from there travelled by train to Shornur and Kanhangad. A team of priests, especially of the O.S.H. Society and laymen were sent ahead to prepare the ground and to receive them on their arrival. The name of the local area was changed from Echikkol to Rajapuram. In the same way, the diocese organized another settlement at Madampam near Kannur. The Diocese bought 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of land and 100 families migrated to the new area on 3 May 1943. The settlement was called Alexnagar after Bishop Mar Alexander Chulaparambil. Madathumala in Kasargod District at its eastern border with the Karnataka state was the venue of a third settlement of 45 families. The land was purchased on 26 September 1969 and the Ranipuram settlement inaugurated on 2 February 1970 dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Although there were initial difficulties due to wild animals, Ranipuram gradually prospered and today there is also a Government tourist center at Ranipuram. The Diocese of Kottayam made also arrangements with the Latin Ordinaries to have pastoral ministry and liturgical celebrations according to their own Syro-Malabar Rite. Presently, one third of the Knanaya Catholic population is in the Malabar area.
In addition, taking advantage of the selling spree of landlords of Malabar in general and more particularly the larger landlords of North Malabar, several other Travancore Christian families immigrated into Malabar to pursue agriculture. These migrations peaked during 1960–71.
Immigration of teachers
The number of large land owning private-Tharavad-owned schools in North Malabar expanded in the first half of the twentieth century partly due to the availability of government grant-in-aid for such enterprises from 1939 onwards. Furthermore, corporate expansion of land owning Tharavads and a decrease in European engineered proletysing of the depressed classes also contributed to the growth pattern. These schools often had teaching staff from educated families. In democratic Kerala however, many of these schools evolved as public and government enterprises, which led to the recruitment of teachers from the southern provinces and the subsequent immigration of teaching staff of all ethno-religious backgrounds, many of whom preferred to settle in the area permanently.
Historic emigrations to Southern Kerala
Historically significant emigration from North Malabar occurred in three phases.
Dispersement of the erstwhile ruling elite
From 1766 to 1792, during the era of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, multiple military invasions, plunder and systematic forcible religious conversions took place in both North and South Malabar. Fearing forcible conversion, a significant number of Nair Chieftains and Brahmins from Malabar chose to take refuge in the erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore, as under the Treaty of Mangalore Travancore had an alliance with the English East India Company according to which "aggression against Travancore would be viewed as equivalent to declaration of war against the English". Thus at various times between 1766 and 1792, all female members and many male members of the different royal families of North and South Malabar: Chirackal, Parappanad, and Calicut, and chieftains' families: Punnathoor, Nilambur, Kavalapara and Azhvanchery Thamprakkal (titular head of all Namboothiri Brahmins), sought asylum in Travancore and temporarily settled in different parts of the kingdom. Even after the fall of Tipu Sultan's regime in Srirangapatnam, some of the Malabar nobility, wholly or partly, preferred to remain in Travancore because of fear of atrocities if they returned home. The 17 prominent aristocratic lineages of southern Kerala that claim their origin from Malabar through displacement during this period are:
- Neerazhi Kovilakam
- Gramathil Kottaram
- Chempra Madham
- Ananthapuram Kottaram
- Ezhimatoor Palace
- Aranmula Kottaram
- Varanathu Kovilakam
- Murikkoyikkal Palace
- Koratti Swaroopam
- Kaippuzha Kovilakam
- Lakshmipuram Palace
Adoptions by the erstwhile ruling elite
The Kolathiris were a family descended from the Cheras and the Ay/Venad/Travancore Royal Family, that originated in the Thiruvananthapuram area, and settled in the Kannur region centuries ago. They had been a constant source of heirs for the Travancore royal family (and this practice of adoption was also reciprocal) by permitting some of its matrilineal branches of members to make settlements in Thiruvananthapuram and be adopted. The first adoption took place around 1310 whereby the two princesses of the Kolathiri family were installed as Senior and Junior Rānis of Attingal, with the titles of Āttingal Mootha Thampurān and Āttingal Elaya Thampurān respectively. Adoptions into the Travancore Royal Family followed in 1684, 1688, 1718, 1748 and 1788 until the 19th century. The celebrated Mārthanda Varma the Great was a result of the 1688 adoption and his successor Dharmarājā, who fought and defeated Tipu Sultan of Mysore, was the result of the 1718 adoption. The weak Balarama Varma who ruled after Dharmarājā in the early 19th century belonged to the 1748 line. The noted Maharanis Gowri Lakshmi Bayi and Gowri Parvati Bayi belonged to the 1788 line as did the Maharajahs Swāthi Thirunāl, Uthram Thirunāl, Āyilyam Thirunāl, Visākham Thirunāl and Moolam Thirunāl.
Economic migration in democratic India
In 1956, the State of Kerala was formed along linguistic lines, merging the Travancore, Cochin and Malabar regions. The first Kerala Legislative Assembly was formed on 1 March 1957 and the following 50 years saw migration of lawyers, politicians, businessmen and government officials from North Malabar to the southern cities of Kerala especially Cochin and Trivandrum. However many of these families still retain their links to their native area through marriage association, partial retention of natal property and often a characteristic sacerdotal North Malabar self-identity.
North Malabar has a rich history of folk-art, culture and tradition. The government of Kerala has encouraged promotion of these through the Kerala Folklore Akademi at Kannur. Among the notable examples are:
Theyyam, an ancient ritual performance art of the region in which a man is dressed symbolically as god. In the Kadathanadan area, it is known as kaliyattam. There are around 400 types of Theyyam, which are conducted on a stage and use elaborate costumes and body-painting. Each type has a distinguishing head-dress and costume made from natural materials, such as coconut leaves and bark. Musical accompaniments are provided by the chenda, elathalam and kuzhal (horn).
Thottam Pattu is ballad sung just before performance of the Theyyam ritual.
The Vadakkan Pattukal are ballads that extol the adventures of the brave men and women of North Malabar. Set against a feudal medieval background, the stories celebrate the valour and skills of their characters. The ballads reflect the peak of Kerala folk-poetry and are associated with Kadathanadu. The movie Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha capitalised on the popularity of these stories.
Poorakkali is a traditional art form performed by a group of men who dance and chant holy verses from the Ramayana or Bhagavata. It is performed during the nine-day Pooram festival in Bhagavathy temples. Payyannur, Trikaripur and nearby places like Vengara, Ramanthali, Karivellur, are well known for this art form.
Kolkali is an art form involving both men and women which is also seen in South Malabar too. It is the only folk art that is performed by both Hindus and Muslims, although there are slight differences in how the two do it. Muslims perform it as a form of entertainment during social gatherings and marriages, whereas the Hindus perform it at temple festivals. It involves rapid limb movements and simultaneous chanting of folksong, with the performers moving in pairs, hitting their batons (koles) against each other in a methodical way in tune with folksongs. It is played according to Vaithari or Thalam by the Gurukkal (Teacher).
The typical Kolkali group will contain between sixteen and twenty members. One among them will sing the folksong and it will be chorused by rest. Harmonizing with generational changes, Kolkali like all other folk-art of North Malabar, has also changed its look and style over time. The noted Kolkali groups are found in the Kasaragod District.
Mappila (Muslim) folklore
Mappila folklore has deep roots in the region. The major Mappila arts of Malabar region (both North and South Malabar) are :
- Kerala Varma Pazhassi (c. 1753 - c. 1805) popularly known as the Lion of Kerala, he was a prince from the royal dynasty of Kottayam (Malabar) which now belongs to the Kannur District of Kerala State. He waged war against Mysore and the British for 27 years.
- K. Kelappan - was the founder President of the Nair Service Society who later became the principal of a school run by the society. He fought for social reforms on the one hand and against the British on the other. He was a great revolutionary, social reformer and crusader for justice to the backward classes. He was called Kerala Gandhi.
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- E. K. Nayanar - (December 1918 - May 2004) born in Kalliasseri, Kannur was a prominent Indian political leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). He held the post of Chief Minister of Kerala three times. He was the longest-serving Chief Minister of Kerala, serving a total of 4009 days.
- K. Karunakaran - (July 1918 - December 2010) was an Indian politician from Chirakkal in the Kannur District. He held the post of Chief Minister of Kerala four times, making him the person who became the Chief Minister for the most number of times, and was also the second longest-serving Chief Minister of Kerala after Nayanar.
- Pinarayi Vijayan - veteran Communist leader, former State secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) and current Chief Minister of Kerala.
- Vijay K. Nambiar - Former ambassador to China and Pakistan and former Chef de Cabinet (Chief of Staff) under UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
- Gireesh Puthenchery - Well known lyricist and screenwriter in the Malayalam film industry.
- T. V. Chandran - Well known director in the Malayalam film industry.
- Mavila Vishwanathan Nair - Banker.
- Vineeth - born on 23 August 1969, a South Indian film actor and classical dancer.
- M. N. Nambiar - (1919—2008) film actor in Tamil cinema who spent more than 50 years in the film industry.
- Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar - (1861–1914) was a Malayali journalist, essay writer, critic and short story writer born into the chieftain family of "Vengayil", Chirakkal Taluk and was a close friend of Dr. Hermann Gundert and William Logan, researchers on the history, language, culture of Kerala.
- Kannavath Sankaran Nambiar - Minister of Pazhassi Raja who was active in resistance to Mysorean and British invaders.
- Sreenivasan - Noted Malayalam actor and director.
- Samvrutha Sunil - Noted Malayalam film heroine.
- Kavya Madhavan - Popular Malayalam film actress.
- O. M. Nambiar - Renowned as an Indian athletics coach.
- M Kunjikannan - Kunjikannan Master, journalist, Gandhian, educational and social activist.
- Kodiyeri Balakrishnan - Home Minister in the V.S. Achuthanandan ministry from 2006 to 2011, and current State secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist).
- Kanayi Kunhiraman - Sculptor.
- M. Mukundan - Novelist and diplomat.
- K. Raghavan - Veteran Malayalam music director.
- Abu Salim (actor) - Popular film actor and Mr India Title winner in 1984 and 1992.
- C. P. Krishnan Nair - Internationally known businessman from the Leela Group of Hotels.
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