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History of Kerala


Sitting pretty on the southern most tip of India is God’s Own Country, Kerala. The origin of which can be traced back to Parashurama, a warrior sage of ancient India. According to a popular myth, Parashurama threw his battle axe into the sea giving rise to the state of Kerala. It is thus also referred to as ‘the land of Parashurama’.


The history of Kerala dates back to the Mauryan Empire under the rule of Ashoka. The Chera dynasty ruled Kerala for the maximum part of the Mauryan Empire. During the Sangam age, three powerful political dynasties ruled Kerala. These were the Cheras in central Kerala, Ays in the south and Ezhimalas in the north. However, Cheras were the most powerful of them all and had a strong hold in Kerala. After the Sangam age, the reign of Kerala fell in the hands of the Kalabhras. This period lasted for over 4 decades and is considered as the darkest period in the history of Kerala. However, in the 8th century A.D. the southern Indian kingdoms succeeded in overthrowing the Kalabhras. This lead to the Chera empire regaining power with the Kulasekhara Alvar. The Alvars were exponents of the Bhakti cult and used to compose and sing hymns in the praise of Lord Vishnu. Rama Verma Kulasekhara was the last of the Chera rulers. His death marked the end of the Chera Empire and further led to the birth of the independent kingdom of Venad. Art and learning was propogated under the reign of two prominent rulers of the Venad kingdom, Ravi Varma Kulasekhara and Udaya Marthanda Varma. Trade and commerce also flourished, however the kingdom disintegrated by the end of the 18th century.


Calicut under the hereditary rule of the Zamorins gained prominence with the end of the Kulasekhara Empire as it had a major port through which trade and commerce flourished with the Chinese and the Arabs. In 1498, the famous Portuguese sailor, Vasco da Gama arrived at Calicut thus leading to trade relations between Calicut and Europe. The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch and the British who also came to establish trade links with India via Calicut. Eventually, it was the British who gained control over Calicut, other parts of Kerala and with time over the entire country. The British faced considerable opposition from the French and the Dutch in Calicut but they were successful in ousting them from their territory.


During the British rule, Kerala, particularly Cochin and Travancore featured prominently in India’s struggle for freedom. The people of Kerala supported the national movement for Independence with all their might with Malabar being a centre of political movement that saw the emergence of many leaders and activists. This period also saw the rise of the Communist party of India and various social reform movements that aimed to bring an end to social evils based on caste differences such as untouchability.


After India’s Independence in 1947, Kerala continued as a province despite the amalgamation of the princely states of Travancore and Kochi. It was only in 1956 with the merge of the Malabar district, Travancore-Kochi and the Kasargod taluk of the South Kanara district that Kerala become a state under the Indian democracy. This was done on the recommendation of a committee which sought to reorganize the states on linguistic norms. The state assembly elections were held in 1957 which led to the formation of a communist government which was regarded as the first democratically elected communist government in the world.


Since Independence, Kerala has made significant developments in the field of art, education, transportation, health care and tourism. Kerala today boasts of a literacy rate close to 100 percent and is a major tourist attraction because of its natural beauty and seamless tranquility that rejuvenates the mind, body and soul.



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