Our History


Kerala’s history is closely linked with its commerce, which until recent times revolved around its spice trade. Celebrated as the Spice Coast of India, ancient Kerala played host to travellers and traders from across the world including the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British. Almost all of them have left their imprint on this land in some form or the other – architecture, cuisine, literature.

Early History


Legends apart, the first set of people who left their footprints on the soil of Kerala can be identified at present only with reference to their burial practices. Though records are lacking, a reasonable assumption is that they spoke an archaic form of Tamil. They constructed strange burial monuments in granite, literate and pottery, most of which are strikingly similar to the megalithic monuments of West Europe and Asia.

These monuments are, however, younger than their counterparts in the rest of Asia. Historians have postulated a time bracket between 10th century B.C. and 5th century A.D. for these people. It is clear from the grave relics, including iron tridents and daggers, that the megalithic builders had long emerged out of the stone age into the iron age without passing through a bronze age. In fact, there is very little evidence of the old and the new stone ages in Kerala.

It is quite possible that the Mauryan invaders who reached the Mysore borders in their conquest southwards, encountered the megalith making tribes who lived in hill forts and controlled the surrounding countryside. Fortunately, a whole corpus of ancient Tamil literature known to scholars by the name of Sangham literature, has been preserved.

It is believed that during the period of Asoka the Great, the southern most tribes were just emerging from the tribal status of civilization. Contacts with the more advanced Mauryan world could have accelerated the pace of political and social movement among the Cheras and the minor chieftains of Kerala.

The Cheras

Though the Cheras had their capital at Vanchi in the interior, they had the famous harbour towns of Tyndis and Muziris on the Arabian Sea coast for trade. The Cheras ruled over the central portion of the present day Kerala. They seemed to have attracted a good deal of Roman trade. There are vivid descriptions in Sangham literature of Yavana ships coming to Muziris, laden with gold and waiting for pepper, the black gold of the Romans, at some distance from the shore. The hoards of Roman gold coins unearthed from Kottayam and Eyyal in Kerala authenticity to such statements. There were a number of other minor chieftains who flourished in different parts of Kerala.

The sage Agastya is the father of Tamil grammar and literature and the entire social world of Kerala, as part of Tamilakam (Tamil land) is reflected in the rich collection of secular poems which form the characteristic legacy of the Sangham age.


Contact with the Mauryan empire gave the first impulse for the transformation of tribal policy into civilized polity. The stimulus of overseas trade provided by the Roman empire in the first three centuries of the Christian era triggered off the next phase of development in Tamilakam.

The geographical advantages, ie, the abundance of pepper and other spices, the navigability of the rivers connecting the high mountains with the seas and the discovery of favourable trade winds which carried sailing ships directly from the Arabian coast to Kerala in less than forty days, combined to produce a veritable boom in Kerala’s foreign trade. The harbours of Naura near Kannur, Tyndis near Quilandy, Muziris near Kodungallor and Bacare near Alappuzha owed their existence primarily to the Roman trade. Roman contact with Kerala might have given rise to small colonies of Jews and Syrian Christians in the chief harbour towns of Kerala. The Jews of Kochi believe that their ancestors came to the west coast of India as refugees following the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century A.D. The Syrian Christians claim to be the descendants of the converts of St. Thomas, one of the Apostle of Jesus Christ. Arab contacts are also very ancient and Islam came to Kerala as far back as the 9th century A.D.

Brahmin Settlement

The fourth and fifth centuries witnessed the decline and fall of the western Roman empire. A shriveling of the Roman sea trade followed, leading in its turn, to a decline of the harbour towns like Tyndis and Muziris. Further, political incursions from the north into Tamilakam took place. The traditions of Nambudiris (Kerala Brahmins) recorded in the Keralolpatti chronicle refer to Mayurvarman, the Kadamba king, as their patron during the period the after Parasurama. A Kadamba record of the 5th century at the Edakkal cave in Wayanad bears testimony to the Kadamba presence in Kerala.

The last phase of the Sangham age coincided with a silent revolution that was brewing within the social system in Kerala. By about the 8th century, a chain of thirty two Brahmin settlements had come up, which eventually paved the way for the social, cultural and political separation of Kerala from the Tamil country, in due course. These colonies were capable of producing a great philosopher, Sankaracharya.

Shri Sankara was born in the village of Kaladi in central Kerala. He was an intellectual giant of the 9th century, who saved the Hindu orthodoxy through the synthesis of cults and who can well be ranked with St. Thomas of Acquinas in clarity of thought and understanding. He was a product of the post Sangham, new Aryan settlements of Kerala, who were far removed from the cradle – land of the Indo – Gangetic civilization.

The whole of Kerala came to be covered by a network of temple centered Brahmin settlements. Under their control, these settlements had a large extend of land, number of tenants and the entailing privileges. With more advanced techniques of cultivation, sociopolitical organization and a strong sense of solidarity, the Brahmins gradually formed the elite of the society.

They succeeded in raising a feudal fighting class and ordered the caste system with numerous graduations of upper, intermediate and lower classes. In due course, the consolidation of these settlements and the establishments of their ascendancy gradually led to the evolution of a new Malayalee language and a new Malayalee culture, the separate identity of Kerala was in the making.

Ninth Century

The ninth century raised the curtain of a new epoch in Kerala history. The ancient capital of Vanchi fell into the hands of the Pandyas. The vanquished rulers founded a new capital near the old harbour city of Muciri (Muziri), now known as Kodungalloor. The new capital was called Makotai or Mahodayapura and was built around the great Siva temple of Tiruvanchikulam. No trace of the palace at Makotai remains today. The author of the Kokasandesa found it in ruins even in the 16th century. He saw in the ruins yet another example of the fickle nature of the goddess of prosperity.

The revival of the Chera kingdom was actually a by-product of the Aryan Brahmin settlements and assumption of the socio-political dominance they had established. The Perumal was the Lord of Mahodayapura and the overlord of Kerala (Keraladhinatha). But his sovereignty was constrained by the pre-existing power of the Brahmin settlements and the hereditary chieftains. Each Nadu or District had its own hereditary or nominated governor. Thus the great feudatories were the hereditary governors of Kolathunad, Purakizhanad, Kurumpanad, Eranad, Valluvanad, Kizhamalanad, Vempalanad and Venad.The northernmost district of Kolathunad was almost independent and was brought under Chera sovereignty by force towards the end of the 9th century. Venad, the southernmost district, was carved out of the ancient territory of the Vels. A new harbour city, named Kollam, was established here in A.D. 825. In the course of time, it became the second capital of the Cheras of Makotai. Kollam gradually gained in trade and prosperity under the leadership of Mar Sapir Iso, the Syrian Christian merchant prince. The founding of Kollam city marked the beginning of an era, which came into use all over Kerala and parts of the Pandyan kingdom and even in Ceylon by astronomers and officials, who tagged it on to the Saptarishi era. The Kollam era came to be known as the Malayalam era.

Twelfth Century

The beginning of the 12th century marked a period of troubled times for Kerala. The attack by the combined forces of the Cholas and the Pandyas and internal conflicts in the Chera kingdom made Rama Kulasekhara the Perumal, decided to leave the country in the company of some Arab Muslims. He is believed to have been converted into Islam and have died at a place called Sapher in Arabia. This event has been referred to as the partition of Kerala.

In the absence of a central power, the divisions of the Chera kingdom soon emerged as principalities under separate chieftains. These were crucial events which shaped the destinies of Kerala, for many centuries to come. In this period, Kerala was chiefly a land of agricultural villages. Society had a feudal complexion with a graded hierarchy, hereditary occupations and well-defined duties and responsibilities for each class of people. Proprietorship of land was closely related to political power and administration.

A peculiarity of the social system in Kerala which comes to notice in the epigraphic and literary records of this age is the matrilineal form of inheritance. In spite of the predominantly agrarian character of society, trade and commerce flourished. Hill products from the Western Ghats carried down, by the many rivers, to the natural harbours on the Arabian Sea secured an expanding market in West Asia and Europe. A number of Jewish and Christian traders exploited this situation with the help of the monsoon. The native chieftains overlooked the differences in faith and race and extended them religious tolerance as well as social equality. These merchants were not inclined to or capable of disturbing established order. In fact, Syrian Christian and Jewish leaders like Mar Sapir Iso and Joseph Rabban came to the rescue of Chera kings in times of war and thereby earned their gratitude in full measure.

Intrusion of Foreign Power

The loss of political unity did not lead to the loss of political independence in Kerala during the fag end of 14th century. The ghost of the Chera kingdom haunted the destiny of Kerala as a guardian deity for many centuries to come. Each minor chieftain claimed the gift of the last Cheraman Perumal as the sanction behind his throne. It was essentially a game of power politics.
Within a generation of the decline of Chera power, the governors of Eranad shifted from their interior headquarters at Nediyiruppu to the coastal strip of Kozhikkod. Gradually, the Eradis (rulers of Eranad), now known to the world better as the Zamorins of Kozhikkod, grew in prosperity and power. The locational advantage enjoyed by their new headquarters with its proximity to Kozhikkod was a decisive factor in attracting a growing number of Arab traders. The rulers also exhibited a measure of statesmanship in quarantining religious tolerance to all sects and creeds in the big international mart at Kozhikkod. In due course, they roped in the chieftains of Parappanad and Vettattunad in the south as well as Kurumbranad and Puranad (Kottayam) in the north, within their sphere of influence.

The Zamorin also succeeded in their venture to capture Tirunavaya region from the Valluvanad rulers. This victory brought the Zamorin directly into contact with the rulers of Kochi. It opened up a long chapter of protracted Kozhikkod-Kochi wars. The contest could not stop until one of the powers could eliminate the other. The support of Arab wealth and equipment favoured Kozhikkod against Kochi during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, until this was counter – balanced by the Europeans – the Dutch and the Portuguese – on the other side. Not only the princes and princelings of Kerala, but the entire population had to take sides. In fact, the big Brahmin community split into two, with the Panniyur faction supporting the Zamorin and the Cokiram faction throwing its weight in favour of the Raja of Kochi.The central portion of Kerala, over which the rulers of Kochi held sway, was the seat of Namboodiri (Brahmin) orthodoxy.

Though the Raja of Kochi was respected all over Kerala as the direct descendant of the Perumals and the noblest representative of the Kshatriya race, the inhibiting weight of tradition made him incapable of initiating new strategies and policies to suit the changing times. He remained the highest patron of Brahminical ritual and scholarship. In the process, wealth and power slipped out of his hands and made way for art and literature.

In the southern part of Kerala, Venad was the rising star. Geographically and culturally, the kingdom of Venad remained partly in Keraladesa and partly in Pandyadesa. The Venad area was definitely at a disadvantage in the absence of the original settlements of Tulu-Kerala Brahmins, whose leadership and dominance had been responsible for the distinctive character of Kerala society and culture. However, in course of time, the immense wealth of the Venad kings could attract some of the Kerala Brahmins (Namboodiris) to settle down at Thiruvananthapuram. Nevertheless, excessive involvement in Tamil politics weakened the impact of Venad on the rest of Kerala.

Post Chera Period

The post Chera period witnessed a gradual decadence of the Namboodiris, until by about the 16th century, they put of their affairs in the hands of their Nair secretaries. A Namboodiri – Nair alliance came into being.
Another feature of this period was the widening gulf between the Namboodiri – Nair upper class and the Thiyya – Pulaya lower class. In order to accommodate the class differences properly, the four – fold caste system came to be sub-divided with infinite gradations, based on real occupation, habitat and political influence. New dimensions were invented and added on to the scale of unapproachability and unperceivability.

With increasing rigidity of caste, the worst sufferers were the Parayar, Pulayar, Cheramar, etc. They were attached to plots of cultivable land and unceremoniously exchanged along with the plots without any right to family or children. This feudal society, however, was prosperous and complacent. With agricultural and commercial prosperity on the increase, festivals like Onam and Vishu, which began as mere sectarian religious observances, acquired the character of popular celebrations. They were fixed up at a time when the tenants had to pay their feudal dues to the owners of land. The enthusiasm of the tenants transformed Onam, a Vaishnava sacred day commemorating the Vamana incarnation, into a harvest festival.

At this point of time, feudal society was blissfully ignorant of the Afghan, Pathan and Mongol invasions which uprooted ancient Hindu society in most parts of India beyond the Sahya, the great sentinel of Kerala. This coastal area had, along the rest of Thamilakom, remained outside the big empires in the past. This time also, it escaped the catastrophe of Alauddin Khilji’s campaign, which pushed southward straight to Rameshwaram.

The kings and people were so immersed in their own petty feuds that the appearance of Portuguese naval power on the not-so-distant horizon of the Arabian Sea did not open their eyes to the advent, the perils and prospects of the modern age. Portuguese traveller, Vasco da Gama laid anchor off Kozhikkod on May 21, 1498. This historic even marked the beginning of a new epoch in the history of Kerala. It also opened a new chapter in the relations between the different States in Kerala.

The declared aim of the Portuguese was monopoly of the trade with the country to the exclusion of all others. The Portuguese captain demanded the expulsion of all Muslim traders. The Zamorin explained that for centuries Kozhikkod had been a free port and that the Portuguese were welcome to trade as any one else. This increased the Portuguese who let loose a reign of terror along the coast.

The political set up characterized by innumerable principalities in the area was ideal for their machinations to set the weak against the strong and the subordinate chieftains against their sovereign rights over Kochi. The Zamorin retaliated with all the resources at his disposal. The Malabar fleet was decidedly inferior to the Portuguese fleet. The Zamorin set about to rectify this imbalance by reorganizing his fleet under the able leadership of Kunhali Marakkar. The new fleet under Marakkar soon snowballed into a threat to the Portuguese trade and shipping. They were forced to keep regular fleets to convoy their ships, but of little avail against the wily tactics of Marakkar.

In a bid to humble the power of the Portuguese, the Zamorin launched an attack against Kochi. These attempts failed to drive the Portuguese out of gear and dislocated their shipping and trade. The Zamorin even attempted to forge a coalition of the States bordering the Arabian Sea who were adversely affected by Portuguese activities. These at best, met with partial success in its engagements with the Portuguese. The threat from the Malabar seamen under the Kunhali to Portuguese trade and shipping reached menacing proportions. The Zamorin, in the meanwhile, had fallen out with the Kunhalis. The Portuguese then joined Zamorin in a united thrust against the Kunhalis. After two sieges, the new allies were able to capture Kottakkal, the headquarters of the Kunhalis. But, neither the fall of Kottakkal nor the death of Kunhali Marakkar brought the Portuguese any respite from the attacks of the Kunhalis, who now began to harass Portuguese shipping and trade with a vengeance.

The advent of the Dutch and the English placed the Portuguese at a further disadvantage. The Dutch had come to the East in a spirit of competition with the Portuguese. Their main strategy was to drive out of the latter. By 1663, they had finally overthrown the Portuguese power on the Malabar coast. The treaty which the Dutch concluded with the Rajas of Malabar clearly showed that their monopolistic tendencies were less ambitious than those of the Portuguese whom they supplanted. They tried to entrench themselves by interfering unabashedly in local politics.

The Kochi Raja’s dependence on the Dutch went to such lengths that the latter acquired an effective voice not only in the administration but even in Kochi succession. This interference naturally brought stiff opposition from the Kochi princes and nobles.

The second quarter of the 18th century witnessed a diminution and gradual erosion of Dutch supremacy. The scene was set for the ascendancy of the English on the Malabar coast. The English secured their foothold in Kerala in 1682, when they obtained permission from the Vadakkilamkur Prince of Kolattunad, to settle at Thalassery. In 1694 they settled at Anjengo (Anchuthengu) in Travancore (Thiruvithamcore). It was from these settlements that the English were able to extend their influence over Kerala.

In the initial stages, the English were inclined to take a lesson from the experiences of the Portuguese and the Dutch and keep themselves aloof from local quarrels. But in time, this resolution watered down and the East India Company began to provide assistance to local powers to fight against their common enemies, but without, at the same time, entangling themselves directly in the conflicts. Thus the Company assisted both Marthanda Varma, King of Travancore and the Zamorin in their quarrels with the Dutch and other local powers. The Mysorean invasion of Malabar provided the Company further opportunity to strengthen its grip on the local rajas and chieftains. The Raja of Travancore was asked by the Company officers to met the entire expenditure of the Third Anglo-Mysore war on the plea that the war was undertaken in defense of Travancore. The new treaty of 1795 practically reduced Travancore from the position of a friend and ally of the English East India Company to that of a protected ally. The Raja was forced to entertain a subsidiary force far beyond his capacity to subsidise. The Company also claimed a monopoly in the pepper trade of the country. The natural outcome of all these developments was to drag Travancore into the vortex of a major financial crisis. The Raja was forced to raise loans from bankers and merchants.The Company’s authorities insistantly demanded the clearing of arrears of tribute. The Raja was in a quandary.

Velu Thampi, the newly appointed Dalava tried to put the State’s finances in order by reducing expenditure and increasing revenues wherever possible. One measure of economy was the scrapping of the field allowances paid to troops in times of peace. This led to a revolt by the Travancore troops. The insurgency was put down by the exertions of the native troops alone. But the Company authorities were visibly disturbed. The Madras Government insisted on a modification of the treaty of 1795 so that British troops be used to aid the Raja in quelling internal commotion’s as well. Thus a new treaty of perpetual friendship and alliance was signed in January 1805.

The new treaty was not well received, especially by Velu Thampi Dalava. The Dalava began concerted moves for an open rebellion against the British in defense of the king and the country. He began to recruit soldiers and collect arms. This move had the whole-hearted support from all sections of the people. The insurrection that followed was formidable one. But it was short-lived.

On January 16, 1807 Velu Thampi issued a historic proclamation at Kundara calling upon the people to rise en masse against the British. The response was wide-spread and in many places British troops were put in peril. But, as British contingents began to converge on Travancore from different directions, the rebels lost heart and the revolt began to peter out. The Raja, who was anxious about the safety of his throne, wrote to the Resident requesting for the cessation of hostilities. Peace was concluded in March 1809. Velu Thampi, who was hiding in the Mannadi Temple, committed suicide.

A new treaty was imposed upon Travancore with the same clauses as were found in the treaty of 1805. The natural consequences of fighting with the British and losing the fight, overtook the three princely states. British control over these states increased in inverse proportion to the decrease in the power of the Rajas. By 1812 British control was effectively established all over the three regions of Kerala – Malabar, Kochi and Travancore.The expansion of British powers in Kerala was by no means a smooth affair.

There were occasions of violent resistance against them well up to the second decade of the 19th century by which time consolidation of British power had more or less been achieved. There were organised revolts of the natives at Anchuthengu in 1695 and 1721 and at Thalassery in 1704. But it must be stressed that these uprisings were not merely sporadic and local but singularly lacking in that spirit of nationalism which was animating the nations of Europe at that time. The ruling dynasties and the politically powerful elements in Kerala did not even dimly perceive that the English Company was the entering wedge of European imperalism. As distinct from these sporadic, localized revolts, that showed the characteristics of a popular insurrection was the Kuruchiya revolt of 1812. The Kurichiyas and Kurumbas were a fairly numerous tribal folk inhabiting the mountains of Waynad in Malabar. Led by their chieftain Talakkal Chandu, they constituted the main prop of Pazhassi Raja’s militia and earned for him many victories in his guerilla warfare against the British. After the suppression of the Pazhassi rebellion, the British brought Wayanad under their strict surveillance and subjected the Kurichiyas to untold abuses and misery.The rebellion broke out on March 25, 1812. It speaks much for the unity of the tribals that they kept all preparations a closely guarded secret until the rebellion began. Though confined to a limited area in north Malabar, it was truely a mass uprising triggered off by economic grievances and official high-handedness. The Kurichiyas took possessions of all important passes leading to Wayanad and cut supplies and reinforcements to the ambushed British troops in the valley. The magnitude of the insurrection is revealed by the fact that the sub collector of the division had to frantically requisition troops from Canara and Mysore as the local British regiment was insufficient to deal with the uprising.For a few days at least, British administration ceased to function in the Wayanad area. The failure of the revolt was a foregone conclusion, for tribal heroism was ill-matched with the sophisticated military machinery of the English Company. Early in April, the British troops moved into the jungles, combed out the guerilla hands and suppressed them. By the beginning of May 1812, the revolt was effectively crushed quiet returned to Wayanad.The Kuruchiya uprising represented the last of the early organized revolts against British power in Kerala. A period of political acquiescence, extending for almost a century, ensured. The only exception was the series of violent disturbances known as the ‘Moopa Riots’ in Malabar from about 1835 to the close of the century. Though the riots occured in different parts of Malabar, they were mostly confined to the Eranad and Valluvanad taluks. Agrarian unrest among the Moplas, their general economic backwardness and the low level of education have been mentioned as the fundamental factors behind these outbreaks.Barring these sporadic outbreaks, political tranquility prevailed over the whole of Kerala for roughly a century since the suppression of the Velu Thampi and Kuruchiya revolts. A sense of helplessness against British authority, an awareness that British rule had come to stay, became the dominant note in popular mind. With Malabar directly administered by the British as part of the Madras Presidency and guided by the paramount power, Kerala enjoyed perhaps the longest span of relative peace in her history. It was, moreover, the period when she felt the full impact of the West which helped lay, as it were, the foundations of a “New Kerala”.Under the aegis of the British Government and the enlightened rulers of Travancore and Kochi, substantial developments took place in the administrative, social, economic and cultural fields of Kerala. Reforms and changes were introduced in the administration. The judiciary and the legal systems were completely reorganised. Humanitarian and welfare measures – abolition of slavery and removal of the ban on the wearing of upper-cloth by the low-caste people, to mention only a few, were undertaken. Public works like roads, irrigation and communication received special attention. Above all, the 19th century saw the introduction and spread of western education, in which a very significant role was played by the various Christian missionaries. Through the medium of English education, Kerala was exposed to the full blast of western civilization. Her intellectual isolation was broken.Reforms necessarily entailed changes in the conditions and outlook of the people and these changes in turn necessarily opened the floodgates of further reforms.

Socio-Religious Reform Movement

From 1812 until almost the close of the century, though political life was characterized by inactivity and society presented an outward calmness, subversive forces were forming and developing. This current of social transformation gradually led Kerala into the mainstream of political struggle for freedom and responsible government in the 20th century.The important outcome of this ferment was the awakening of the masses especially the lower orders in the Hindu society, against social injustice and evils. This awakening found articulation in Kerala towards the last quarter of the 19th century. A number of socio-religious reform movements, which were also the earliest democratic mass movements in Kerala, took shape. On the whole, these movements were peaceful and non-violent, though there was an undercurrent of militancy in them. These movements were of the utmost significance, because Kerala had, for centuries, tolerated the caste system in its most oppressive form. The rigid caste system and irrational caste taboos existed in such a heinous way that the lower orders were not only ‘untouchable’ but ”unapproachable” as well. In Malabar, despite the advent of direct British rule and the resultant separation of the caste system from the administrative machinery, social status and economic competence of the individual was still determined by his position in the caste hierarchy. In the princely states of Kochi and Travancore, the hold of the caste system was even more suffocating. Until the 20th century, governmental positions were denied to lower castes and non-Hindus.

One of the most important social reform movements was spearheaded by Shri Narayana Guru, the great Hindu saint and social reformer. The Guru was born in 1856 in the Ezhava Community which had a status far below that of the Nambudiris.

He fearlessly criticized and campaigned against the rigours of the caste system, the Brahmin hegemony and the numerous social disabilities of the Ezhavas and other lower castes. Soon Shri Narayana Guru became the rallying point for the Ezhavas and Thiyyas to unite and organize. The Shri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), literally the society for the propagation of moral teaching of Shri Narayana came into being 15th May 1903. Within a short period, the Guru and Yogam drew towards them a brilliant band of dedicated workers, including the poet Kumaran Asan, whose efforts constitute an eloquent testimony to what a community, submitted to centuries of tyranny, can do and achieve through unity, realism and organism.Shri Narayana was, however, no sectarian philosopher and leader. A programme of action founded upon such sublime humanism and social purpose was not destined to remain confined to one caste only; it soon became the philosophy of Hindu reformation, encompassing all castes, including the Brahmin.The Nairs also felt the need for reform. Throughout the medieval period and until well into the 19th century, the Nairs had a pre-eminent role in Kerala. By the middle of the 19th century, however, this dominance started waning. Institutions like the sambandam (non-legal marriage) and the matrilineal joint family system which had ensured the strength of the Nair community earlier, now became productive of many evils; the system of non-legal marriage produced immorality and vices, while the joint family set-up stifled individual initiative and enterprise. The impact of the market economy, the disappearance of traditional military training, the absorption of new values through the new system of education, the self-consciousness being generated among the lower castes and their cry for equality and privileges – all these factors brought about a decline of Nair dominance. The sense of decline gave an impetus to the spirit of reform that expressed itself in the work of religious men like Chattambi Swamikal, in literature, on the press and platform and later in legislative enactments in respect of marriage, inheritance, property rights, etc. Ultimately, the movements crystallized in the foundation of the Nair Service Society, in 1914.The impulse to change was not confined to the Ezhavas and other untouchables and the Nairs only. As a matter of fact in varying degrees, it affected every caste in Hindu society as well as the Christians and the Muslims.

Emergence of Nationalism

The last decades of the 19th century saw the emergence of nationalism in India. The Indian National Congress was established in 1885 and it soon became the spear-head of the Indian Nationalist Movement. These developments did not go unnoticed in Kerala. A conference was held at Kozhikode in 1904 under the auspices of the Congress and in 1908, a district congress committee was formed in Malabar. Beyond this, there was no political activity worth the name in Malabar.

Malayalee Memorial

In Travancore, political agitation began with the Nairs who found their dominance on the decline and resented the monopolization of higher officers by the Tamil Brahmins inducted from outside. Their appetite for political participation was whetted with the formation of the Travancore Legislative Council in 1888 – the first ever legislative started in an Indian State. The Malayali Memorial, a memorandum bearing the signatures of over 10,000 people, including a sprinkling of Ezhavas, Christians and Muslims, was submitted to the Maharaja in 1891. It was really a Nair plea for privileges and positions. This was soon followed by an Ezhava Memorial (1896), submitted with over 13,000 signatures pleading for extension of civic rights, Government jobs, etc. to the lower castes.

Both the memoranda came to naught. But in the historical perspective, the impact was considerable as they laid the bases for the constitutional style of political agitation in Travancore.

Political activity in Kerala received a new impetus with the outbreak of the First World War and the spread of the Home Rule Movement. Home Rule leagues sprouted in different places in Malabar and the activities of Congress men received enthusiastic encouragement from the people. In 1916 and 1917, the annual meetings of the District Congress Committee were held with great fanfare under the name of the Malabar District Political Conference. Resolutions were adopted at these conferences, demanding self-government for India and the release of political prisoners. In Travancore and Cochin also, political activities were taken up under the aegis of the Congress. Congress Committees were started in Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam. In 1920, the following resolutions adopted at the Nagpur Session of the Indian National Congress to organise Provincial Congress Committees on a linguistic basis, a Kerala Provincial Congress Committee was formed integrating Congress activities in the three territorial divisions of Kerala. The first All-Kerala Political Conference held at Ottappalam in April 1921 was attended by delegates from Malabar, Cochin and Travancore. In a sense, this was the herald of the movement for a united Kerala which – became a reality, 35 years later.

Malabar Rebellion

The non – co – operation movement was in full swing during this period of time. It was particularly strong in Malabar, where the Moppilas were agitated over the Khilafat issue. The Gandhian movement had a tremendous impact in Kerala, with large numbers joining the satyagrapha campaign. Gandhiji visited Malabar in 1921, giving a further impetus to the movement. Khilafat Committees sprang up in large numbers and the fraternity between the Hindus and Muslims, through the work in Congress – Khilafat Committees, was a truly remarkable feature of the non-co-operation movement in Kerala, in its early stages.
The speed with which the Khilafat agitation spread, especially in the Eranad and Valluvanad taluks, created alarm in official circles. A perplexed officialdom clamped down prohibitory orders in the two taluks.

Meetings were banned and many people were arrested in the name of law and order. A tragic episode then ensued, namely the Moppila Rebellion or the Malabar Rebellion of 1921. Police attempted to arrest the secretary of the Khilafat Committee of Pokottur in Eranad on a charge of having stolen a pistol. A crowd of 2000 Moppilas from the neighbourhood foiled the attempt. The next day, a police party in search of Khilafat rebels entered the famous Mambaram mosque at Tirurangadi. They seized some records and arrested a few Khilafat volunteers. A rumour spread that the mosque was desecrated. Hundreds of rustic Moppilas converged on Tirurangadi and besieged the local police station. The police opened fire. The mob reacted in a mad fury. Violence spread and engulfed Eranad and Valluvanad taluks and neighbouring areas for over two months. Congress leaders tried in vain to check the violence. Towards the later stages of the rebellion, owing to unfounded rumour of Hindus having helped the police or sought police help, there were instances of atrocities perpetrated on Hindus. This marred the relations between the two communities. Meanwhile British and Gurkha regiments were rushed to the area. Martial law was clamped. A series of repressive measures followed and by November, the rebellion was practically crushed. Relief operations in the ravaged areas, undertaken mostly by voluntary agencies which received help and funds from Gandhiji, lasted for over six months.

Wagon Tragedy

The epilogue (in the sense that it came to be known only later) was the “Wagon Tragedy” in which 61 of the 70 Moppila prisoners packed in a closed railway goods wagon and carried to Coimbatore jails, died of suffocation on November 10, 1921.In the wake of the suppression of the Malabar Rebellion and until almost the end of the decade, struggle purely for political freedom was on a low key.
This lull was largely because of the brisk activity on the social front. The emphasis was on constructive programmes in which all people could join together and work irrespective of political views or affiliation. The cry for social equality was particularly strong. This was the background of the famous stayagraha at Vaikom Temple (1924) to be followed up later at the Guruvayoor Temple in 1931. Both of them exemplified the immense potentialities of satyagraha as an instrument of social change and both were started with the blessings of Gandhiji.

At Vaikom, the particular demand was only for the grant of right to passage to the untouchables along the approach roads to the temple.

Civil Disobedience

The second phase of the civil disobedience movement, started by Gandhiji with his famous Salt March in March 1930, found enthusiastic response from all parts of Kerala. In several places, particularly at Payyannur and Kozhikode, salt laws were broken and hundreds of agitators courted arrest. A Youth League was formed in Travancore which was able to enlist the dedicated services of quite a good number of spiritual and radical minded young men who later became the prop of the Travancore State Congress.

In the wake of the Civil Disobedience Movement, a parallel movement for responsible Government had begun in Travancore and Kochi. In Travancore, the Nivartana (Obstention) movement began as a protest against the inadequacy of the constitutional reforms of 1932.

The Ezhavas, the Christians and the Muslims apprehended that the new reforms, owing to the provisions for restricted franchise on the basis of possession of property and other qualifications, would secure for them far less number of seats in the enlarged legislature than the Nairs.
They therefore demanded that the seats be apportioned on the basis of population strength. The Government, however, did not view their demands favourably.

The abstentionists then organized a Joint Political Congress to exhort the voters to abstain from voting. Since the three communities together formed about 70 per cent of the population, their agitation had the characteristics of a mass movement. The Government at first adopted a repressive policy but later yielded to the demands of the abstentionists to some extent. In the election held in 1937, most of the candidates fielded by the Joint Political Congress were elected.

The Haripura Session of the Indian National Congress (1938) had resolved that the Congress as such would keep itself aloof from involvement in the affairs of the princely States. The struggle for responsible Government in the States would therefore, be the responsibility of the people of the respective States themselves. It was in this context that the leaders of the Joint Political Congress decided to form a new organization, merging the identity of the Joint Political Congress. Thus, the Travancore State Congress came into being in February 1938. It was pledged to the goal of achieving full responsible Government for the people of Travancore. In neighbouring Kochi, the Kochi State Congress was formed.

The Left movements

An important feature of the freedom movement in Kerala in the 1920’s and 1930’s was the increasing involvement of peasants and workers. This was to release a tremendous mass force into the mainstream of the national movement, giving it a new momentum and a social content. The peasant and labour movements of the 1930’s were to a great extent the cause as well as the consequence of the emergence of a powerful left wing in politics. In 1934, the left nationalists joined together and organized the Congress Socialist Party.

A powerful factor that helped the growth of the left movement was the support it received from the radical section of the nationalist Muslims in Malabar. Left groups started functioning in several parts of Malabar and soon the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee was dominated by them.

The lull in the political horizon had largely been made up. By 1938-39 Kerala was fully drawn into the national struggle for freedom as well as the struggle for responsible Government in the princely States.

The leftists preferred to remain organizationally within the Congress and call themselves socialists. Thus both the left and right groups joined together in order to ensure the success of the Congress candidates in the election of 1936 in Malabar. But the rift came into the open with the out-break of the Second World War, the resignation of the Congress ministries in the provinces and the starting of individual satyagraha. The left-dominated KPCC, contrary to directive of the Congress, observed. The left met in secret enclave at Pinarayi and in December 1939, the Communist Party was born.

Responsible Government

The struggle for responsible Government had been launched in Travancore and Cochin by 1938-39. The struggle in Cochin was far less in intensity than that in Travancore because the rulers of Cochin adopted on the whole, a lenient policy of political concessions which averted violent clashes. In June 1938 a diarchial form of Government was established allowing popular ministers to control some departments. This did not work and the Cochin Praja Mandalam was founded in 1941 to spearhead the agitation for full responsibility in Government.

Th The Travancore State Congress launched a campaign seeking dismissal of the Dewan, C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, against whom they had leveled certain charge

The State Congress and the Youth League were banned. The State Congress then organized a civil disobedience movement. The rising tempo of the movement forced the Government to withdraw the ban. The Dewan refused to open negotiation until the charges were withdrawn. The charges were finally withdrawn following Gandhiji’s intervention. This created a split in the Congress. The members of the Youth League left the State Congress to form the Communist Party.

The end of the Quit India Movement saw Malabar returning to elections and a constitutional Government. Administratively Malabar was a district of Madras Province at the time of independence. In Kochi diarchy was finally abolished and on the eve of independence the Dewanship ended. A popular ministry under Panampally Govinda Menon was sworn into power.

Punnapra- Vayalar Revolt

Travancore, however, was not destined to have a peaceful transition to freedom democracy. In October 1946, she had to face one of the most violent upheavals in her recent history – the Punnapra- Vayalar revolt. It developed as a reaction to the constitutional scheme proposed by the Dewan, C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, early in January, 1946. The scheme provided for adult franchise, but retained the dewanship as an irremovable excertive. The State Congress rejected the scheme. The Communists decided to launch a violent struggle to bring an end to the oppressive rule of the Dewan.
The coastal taluks of Alappuzha and Chertala were, in particular the strongholds of the Communist Party. By the middle of 1946, there were many camps of party workers at Punnapra in Alappuzha and at Vayalar in Chertala.

Volunteers from the working class were recruited and given training. This increased the tension in the area. The Government deployed not only the police but the military also. This worsened the situation. The All Travancore Trade Union Congress called for a general strike on October 20, 1946. Martial law was clamped in the area and the Dewan himself assumed the functions of the commander-in-chief. The impassioned workers and volunteers preferred confrontation – stones, bamboo spikes, areca spears and swords confronting machine guns. What followed, from 24 to 27 October, was a tale of heroism and tragedy.

The revolt was suppressed. But this did not bring the difficulties of the Dewan to an end. A political crisis was again precipitated when the British announced their decision to leave India. The Dewan announced that Travancore would remain an independent State on the lapse of British paramountcy. This unleashed a fierce controversy. The Dewan let loose the forces of repression. In the midst of repression and confusion, an unsuccessful attempt on his life was made. Better counsel prevailed and the Dewan made his exist from the State. With the advent of freedom, Travancore was part of the Indian Union and the first popular ministry under Pattom A.Thanu Pillai was installed.

The movement for a united (Aikya) Kerala

The movement for a united (Aikya) Kerala gathered momentum with the attainment of independence. The first concrete step in this direction was taken on July 1, 1949. Following the national policy of integration, the State of Kochi and Travancore were merged into Travancore-Kochi State under a Rajpramukh. The next step came with the reorganization of States on a linquistic basis in the light of the report of the States Reorganization Commission. It was decided to add Malabar district and the Kasargod taluk of south Canara district to Travancore-Kochi and to separate the Tamil-speaking southern region of old Travancore from Travancore-Kochi for inclusion in Madras State. On November 1, 1956, the new State of Kerala was formally inaugurated. The land of Parasurama thus regained its identity with the unity of the land of Bharatha.

Monuments-peeping into the past

Monuments are great tellers of History. Volumes they speak on Culture, tradition and socio-political scenes in days of yore. The protected monuments come under the administration of Archeology Department of Kerala . Here follows a list of the monuments:



Padmanabhapuram Palace is an ancient historical monument representing the indigenous architectural features especially the in the traditional style of southern Kerala. The palace is situated in the centre of the Padmanabhapuram fort with an area of 186 acres amidst hills, dales and rivers. All the buildings in it are elegantly designed and display a simplicity of architectural style characterised by pointed gables, dormer windows and long corridors. The earliest of structures was built about 1335 AD. The most noteworthy edifices are the Entrace Hall (Poomukham), the Council Chamber (Mantrasala), the Natakasala (Theatre Hall), the Pooja Mandapa (place of worship), the Saraswathy shrine and above all the Uppirikka Malika (storeyed building) which contain well preserved mural paintings.

In the southern side of the main complex of Padmanabhapuram Palace but outside the compound wall there is a small palace. It is actually a traditional building in the style of a Nalukettu. This wonderful architectural elegance shows the beauty of our domestic architecture. Now a Heritage museum is housed in this building.

Padmanabhapuram was the capital of erstwhile Travancore State till 1792. Now it is in Thakkala village Kanyakumari district in Tamilnadu State. But the Palace and adjacent area of 6.5 acres of land is placed under the control of the Govt. of Kerala .


Pandavanpara is monument standing in gigantic manner, protected by a kind of granite pagoda like natural rock facing west, covers an area of about 96 cents occuring between two huge boulders on a hillock sufficiently spacious to accommodate nearly fifty people. This peculiar shelter has engravings of deep kind, unique by itself on its walls and especially the lower portion at the entrance. The engravings at the entrance are mostly floral while on the interior some human figures could be seen in the hunting posture with bow and arrow. This particular characteristic of engraving and polishing in the gate would show that htis work is executed most probably by theNeolithic People.




The Kottukal rock cut temple represents an out standing and typical example for the Rock cut Temple style of Kerala. It has two cells on either side with Sivalingas in each with a projection carrying the figure of Ganapathy at the centre. The mukhamandapa of the large cell has two pillars carved in rock. The wall of the mukhamandapa carries a Ganapathy figure. There is a monolithic Nandi in each cave. One of the riches of the sanctum santorum carries the figure of Hanuman near the monolithic Nandi, probably intended to recollect the Nandi-vanara episode in the Ramayana. It is dated to 8-9th Centuries A.D. Kerala government declared it as a protected monument in 1966. The temple is located at Ittiva village in Kottarakkara Taluk.


Mangadu is a megalithic site situated 8 kms. north-east of Kollam town. The site is located very near to ‘Madan kavu’, a small traditional temple. This urn burial site is demarcated on the surface with uneven blocks of laterite with an area of approximately 10 x 10 meters. The stone blocks form three circles and are in slanting position.


This old Siva temple has circular vimana. It is ekathala alpavimana. It is of sandhara type. Two armed dwarapalakas in stone work is seen here on the flanks of the main door entrance. The Balipita is on the open outside the prakara door on the eastern side. It is a unitary temple but with an interesting array of Kostha devadas on the wall Gavakshas. The windows are set with in the pilastered divisions of the wall. It is an early medieval Kerala type . The temple is situated at Meenad village in Kollam district.


The suspension bridge spanning the Kallada River in Punalur is the only one of its kind in south India and it is 400 ft. long. As this bridge erected in 1877 is found to be not strong enough to cope with the mounting flow of pasenger and goods traffic, a new concrete bridge is constructed near by. The Suspension Bridge is now of archaeological interest only. Its construction was commenced in 1871-72 and completed in 1877-78 AD. Located at Punalur village in Pathanapuram Taluk.



It is the oldest cave temple in Kerala. It belongs to the latter half of the 8th centruy AD if not earlier as suggested by its close resemblance to later Pallava work. The cave is 19 feet 8 inches broad and 8 feet 6 inches high. Two pillars, 8 feet 8 inches in height, divide the breadth of the cave into three openings, two of which are 5 feet broad the other being only 4 feet 8 inches. The central shrine is a cylindrical rock cut linga. The entrance is facing west.

Inside the square garbhagriha, Sivalinga is fixed on rectangle peeta. Two dwarapalaka figures are seen. One of them is of a local chieftain and the other carrying ‘gada’, On the north and south walls of the ardha mandapa there is a figure of Chathurbhuja Ganapathi and a ‘Bhikshu’ respectively. Location: Thiruvalla Taluk in Pathanamthitta District. ALAPPUZHA


This beautiful temple Contains many wooden sculptures which are considered to be of 14th century AD. Temple structure is Chaturasra alpavimana. Nirandhara type, although having a passage around the sanctum. Above the Granite adhistana the outer wall is ornamented with 21 panels of different wooden sculptures of deities and puranic scenes. Dwarapalakas on both sides. Balipita is well outside the inner scheme. Dhwajastambha is in the open. The temple is situated at ChengannoorTaluk in Alappuzha district.


This Buddha Image is of 96 cm. height. It is in yogasana posture. Jvala, and the upper cloth on the left shoulder which spread over the chest with many foldings is very clear. It is datable to 9th century A.D. This image was encountered from Maruthoor Kulangara near Karunagappally is now in better state of protection. Located at Karthikapally Taluk in Alappuzha district.


This Buddha Image is about 3 feet height including the pedestal upon which it is seated. It has the jvala, usnisha and the upper cloth over the chest to indicate its Buddhist character. The sculpture as exhibited highly skilled crafts – manship in depicting the characteristic ornamentations. The jvala is prominent. The image is in the yogasana posture.It is datable to the 9th century A.D. Located at Mavelikkara village in Alappuzha district.


This image of Buddha is popularly known as Karumadikkuttan. It is made of black stone. Its left hand is broken and lost. Several stories are told in the area that are associated with the intallation of the iamge in the site. The usnisha, javala, and traces of the upper cloth passing over the chest indicates that it is a Budha Image. It is about 3ft. high and is in the yogasana posture. It is datable to 8th century A.D. It was declared as protected monument in 1965, with 10 cents of land around it. Situated at Ambalappuzha Taluk in Alappuzha district.


This Buddha Image is executed very elegantly; the upper cloth, particularly the many folded part of it passing over the left shoulder and lying flat on the chest. The usnisha and jvala are prominent. It is in yogasana posture. Now the image is inside the compound of Bharanikavu Badrakali Temple. It was declared as protected monument by Travancore Government in 1941 and is located at Kattanam village in Alappuzha district.


This palace is the best example for the Kerala style architectural buildings, especially the residence of local Chief-tains and royal palaces of Travancore. Its gabled roof, narrow stair – cases, dormer windows, classical impluva, heavy doors, narrow corridors etc. are worth to be mentioned. It carries one of the largest mural paintings of the the 18th century school in Kerala, covering an area of 150 sq.ft. An archaeological museum is also accommodated inside the palace. The palace and the surrounding area is declared as protected . Location: Karthikappally Taluk in Alappuzha district.

Location : Perumkadavila village in Neyyyattinkara Taluk


The ancient palace at Nedumangad is famous in history as the residence of the Perakom Collateral branch of the ancient Venad Dynasty. This palace shows the general architectural characteristics of a typical old and influential Kerala house. The gabled roof, the corridors, the nalukettu style and the mainly wooden character of its constrution that are seen in the Koikkal Palace representing the stylistic perfection of the medieval architecture of Southern Kerala.

Now a folklore and Numismatic Museum, the first of its kind in Kerala has been organised here by the Archaeology Department. The rich and varied collection of musical instruments, occupational implements, house hold utensils, models of folk art forms and rare ancient coins etc. displayed here represents the rich cultural heritage of the past.

Location : Nedumangad Taluk , Thiruvananthapuram District.


This ancient Devi (Sapta matrukkal) temple is in a square plan representative of the Chola Type. The base pillars etc. are in stone. The super structure is in the shape of a dome. It is a simple structure with sanctum sanctorum and ardhamandapa. The temple is dated back to 9th – 10th century A.D. It is the earliest structural temple in Kerala. The temple is situated at Kottukkal village in Thiruvananthapuram district.


Rock cut Temples are one of the main styles of Kerala architecture in 7-9 century AD. This cave temple is found at the mid-height of the rock, facing south west. It has an oblong shrine, with rock-cut linga, an ardhamandapa and pillared facade. The left wall of the ardhamondapa carries a Ganapathy figure and the right side there is a figure of the local chieftain. The temple is dated to about 850 A.D. Located at Iroopara village in Thiruvananthapuram district.


Ayyipilla Asan is the author of Ramakadha pattu, one of the epic of ancient Malayalam Poetry and Ayyinipilla Asan, his brothr is thee author of Mavarathapattu, another book in ancient Malayalam. Considering the cultural and historical impotance, a small edifice for the family deity of the celebrated ancient poets of Kerala is declared as protected monument in 1987. It is a small shrine with an extension. No particular idol in the sreekoil. Located at Vizhinjam village in Thiruvananthapuram District.


This Siva temple belongs to teh 14th Century A.D. It is in circular Dravida style raised on a circular paved disc which forms the outer path of Circumambulaion. The temple is a sandhara Prasada; it has aninner covered ambulatory in addition to the one in the open. This lies behind the circular wall. Steps lead upt to it. The inner wall of this inner ambulatory is square; it is the wall of the prasada proper. It is surmounted by an octagonal dome. The central shrine containing a linga is buildt of laterite, and between it and the circular prakara wall there are pillars, two on each side of the four sides. The temple is situated at Nemom village in Thiruvananthapuram District.


The temple is of circular vimana with granite adhistana and plastered wall. The whole structure is recently renovated. Considering its structural peculiarity the temple is declared as a protected monument from 28-9-1966 onwards. Location : Maranallur taluk in Thiruvananthapuram District.


This Mahavishnu temple is famous for its sculptural extravagance. The temple appears to be very old. Certain sculptures in front of the temple depict chola features of 11th and 12th centurie. The figures of Dwarapalakas, Singers and Mridangists and the exquisite dance posses on the balustrade to the lateral steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum aree worth to be mentioned. Considering the artistic and cultural importance the temple with 47 cents of land was declared as protected monument in 1965. Located at Thirumala village in Thiruvananthapuram District.


The Thiruvananthapuram Fort is built around Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple which was the centre of many historical events. Even though the work was started in 1747, during the reign of Marthandavarma Maharaja, the Fort was completed by Karthika Thirunal Dharma Raja in 1787 A.D. The height of the Fort is about 15 ft. It was built in accordance with the plan of Thaikkad Vishnuthrathan Namboothiri, a famous architect of that period. The Fort has four main gaeways viz. Kizhakke kotta (East Fort), Padinjare Kotta (West Fort), Thekke kotta (South Fort) and Vadakke kotta (North Fort). In addition to these there are gateways at Sreevaraham, Sree Kandeswaram and Vettimuricha Kotta at the south east side for the convenience of people.

Considering the stuctural and historical value, in 1985 the Fort and Fort gates were declared as protected monuments by the Department of Archaeology. Located in Thiruvananthapuram District.


A structural temple of 14th century A.D. Adhistana and wall are of granite. Square vimana, tritala type of super structure, cloister namaskara mandapa etc. are the main features of the temple. It is a sikara type having a combination of the early Vijayanagara style of architecture with local forms and features. The pranala is set on the kumuda in the kantha which is of the main land type. It is sandhara type temple. The carvings especially of the namaskaramandapa shows the characteristic early Vijayanagara style. The temple is situated at Ottoor village in Thiruvananthapuram District.



The temple is of chathurasra vimana having sheet roof. Square arthamandapa has beautiful carvings on the ceiling. Dwarapalakas present. Main deity is Vishnu with Sathyabhama seated on Garuda. Beautiful murals are seen on the lime plasted granite walls of the garbhagriha. The temple and the murals are dated to the 17th to 18th century A.D and is situated at Vadayar village in Kottayyam Taluk.



The temple complex on the top of the Magaladevi Hills facing the Cumbam Valley of Tamilnadu consists of four shrines of different sizes and orientation confined to a well defined Prakara with a fairly large sized Gopuradwara. Among the four temple precincts one is large facing east with a covered GarbhaGriha, Ardhamandapa and an open courtyard. There is a sub-shrine with the trunk of an image, the naval of which appears to be that of a female in Ardha-Paryanka pose. The image is made of soft granite. There are other two sub shrine also in the complex; it is datable to 8-9 century A.D.

Considering the historic and Architectural value, the Department of Archaeology declared it as a protected monument in 1983. Located at Kumili village in Idukki District.


.Ezhuthupara at Marayoor is noted for the collection of Pre-historic cave paintings. Pictures in this megalithic art gallery are drawn in two different media consisting of reddish brown soil containing multicoloured iron minerals and white clay soil. similar paintings have not been discovered any where else in Kerala. Location : Devikulam Taluk in Idukki district. ERNAKULAM


The unique rock cut temple at Kallil near Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district which may be assigned to the peiod after 800 A.D. was originally a Jain shrine. But during the period of th decline of Jainism, it got itself transformed into a Hindu temple dedicated to Bhagavathi which it still is. One of the facade of this rock shelter is carved an unfinished seated image of Mahavira, represented also on the back wall of cavern.


It is sandhara type temple with cardinal doors on Four sides. The plinth and the wall together are of granite stone work and the rest of timber and sheet roof in circulr vimana. Dwarapalakas are made of wood. Main deity sivalinga is facing east. Square ardhamandapa contains beautiful wooden carvings on the ceiling. Pranala is a typical ornate Keral type with standing yaksha bearing at its tip. It has some of the notable examples of old workman ship in wood, illustrating various puranic scenes and figures from Bhagavata, Ramayana and Mahabharata. The temple can be dated to 12th century AD. Location: Muvattupuzha Taluk in Eranakulam district.


This hexagonal building is the oldest extant European monument in India. It was constructed by the Portuguese in 1503. It is popularly known as Ayakkotta or Alikkotta. In 1663 the Portuguese surrendered it to the Dutch. About 1789, through the strategic diplomacy of Raja Kesava Dasan, the able Devan of the Raja of Travancore, the Fort was purchased by the Travancore from the Dutch. Location: Pallipuram village in Kochi Taluk.


This structural temple can be datable to 12-13thh century A.D. It is of circular vimana with granite stone plinth with plastered walls bearing beautiful mural paintings. They include various puranic scenes like Gajendra moksha, Sivathandava, Sastha on hunting, Sreerama Pattabhisheka, the war between Rama & Ravana etc. Main deity is Narasimha moorthy facing east. pranala of the ornate medieval type. Dwarapalakas are painted on the wall. Square ardha mandapa carries beautiful carvings on the wooden ceiling.

The temple is situated at Melmuri village in Ernakulam district.


This inscription is seen in front of the Jews synagogue at Chennamangalam. The Hebrew stone inscription having eight lines shows that the synagogue was built in 1615 and the expenditure was met by David Gastiline, one of the leader of the Jews. It was declared as protected monument in 1966 and is located at North Paravoor taluk in Eranakulam district.


Stone inscription lying in the church compound of Vaipikkotta seminary, Chennamangalam.


A traditional style Nalukettu which was used for the Ariyittu Vazhcha, a ceremony in connection with the coronation of the new heir of Cochin Royal family. The old building in fornt of the Palliyarakavu Bhagavathy temple stands as protected monument . Location: Mattancheri village in Cochin Taluk Ernakulam district.


This strutural temple is of Vritta Vimana. Granite stone for adhistana and wall. Granite wall is coated with plaster on which murals are seen. Sandhara type. Dwarapalakas in stone work are seen on all the four sides. unified copper roofing for the whole temple, Unitary type without any subsidiary shrines. Pranala set in the Kantha and supported by a gana figure. main deity is Sivalingga in front of which is fixed the figures of Siva and Vishnu in the same ‘Pitha’. the concept is not of Sankara Narayana but of Siva and Vishnu in separate entity having equal importance. The square ardhamandapa poses carvings of Navagraha on the ceiling. This temple can be datable to the 11th – 12th century AD. Located at Angamali village in Ernakulam district.


It is a temple of square Sikhara type. The roof and all parts of the Sreekovil is made of granite rock. Dwarapalakas are of granite. Ghanadwaras on three sides. The main diety is vishnu in ‘varadamudra’. This figure is dated to about 9-10 century A.D. Idols of Ganapathy, Bhadrakali, Sastha, nagar are also seen here. This type of temple is very rare in Kerala. Location: Manjapra village in Aluva Taluk.


This structural temple is in the form of vritha vimana with granite adhisthana. A unified tiled roof for the whole temple. Sandhara type with four cardinal openings with wooden doors, square namaskara mandapa with a granite Nandi inside. Balipitha outside the Chuttambalam. Balustrades are of peculiar type. pranala is of unusual pattern with a bull head at the tip and supported by an Yakshi figure. Main deity is Sivalinga facing east. The temple is datable to 12th Century AD.

Considering the structural importance, the ancient temple was declared as protected monument by the Department of Archaeology in 1998. Location: North Paravoor Taluk in Ernakulam District.


The old Kacheri Malika is a beautiful building in which the Alangad Taluk Kacheri functioned under the Travancore Kingdom. It is built in a blended style of Indo-European architecture. From 1922 onwards the Union Christian College has been functioning in this building. Location: Aluva Taluk in Ernakulam district.


This is a centre of historical importance. The word Kottayil Kovilakom means the palace inside the fort. It is the place where the Royal palace of the Villar Vattathu Raja, who ruled over the area of Chennamangalam and adjacent coastal areas, was situated. The remains around the old well is declared as protected site in 1936. A Vishnu temple and the remainsof the Vaipikotta seminary are seen near by this protected site. The Kovilakam is in North Paravoor Taluk.


Vaipikotta seminary was built by the Portuguese in 1577. Many Vattezhuthu inscriptions were encountered during the exploration done here in 1935. The potteries collected from the nearby areas of the church are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum Thrissur. The seminary with 50 cents of land was declared as protected . Location: Chennamangalam village in North Paravoor Taluk.



The old Vadakkechira palace, was renovated to the present style by Sakthan Thampuran, the famous king of the Perumbadappu dynasty. Now it is known as Sakthan Thampuran palace. It is a two storied building with a Nalukettu. The palace is an exquisite example for the combination of Kerala-Dutch architectural Style. Thick walls, tall ceiling, floor with beautiful Itlian marble tiles and spacious rooms are the pecularities of this building. Now it is a protected monument under the Department of Archaeology. The palace is in Thrissur Taluk.

: The flag staff of Tippusulthan which was erected in 1789 is now protected in front of the Sakthanthampuran palace near the fort wall.

: The eastern and western gateway and old fortification around the Sakthan Thampuran Palace is also a protectd monuments due to its stylistic importance.

TWO IMAGES: Two stone images of Nagaraja and Nagayakshi under the Saptaparna tree in Vadakkechira palace (Sakthan Thampuran Palace) compound are protected by the Department.

: A monument put up at the Vadakkechira palace compound where Zamorin Raja of Calicut was cremated in 1748.

 A monument put up at the same site where Raja Ramavarma alias Sakthan Thampuran was cremated in 1805.

TOMB OF RAMAVARMA RAJA: A monument put up at the palace site where Ramavarma Raja of Cochin was cremated.


Rev. Joannes Ernesto Hanxleden SJ was one of the most remarkable scholar missionaries who dedicated their lives to enrich Malayalam literature with their immortal contributions. The German priest, Father Hanxley – den (Arnose Padiri) reached Kerala in 1700.AD. During the thirty years of his life in Kerala he provided Malayalam with a varied and rich flair. Important among them includes Puthen Pana, Umma Parvam, and Malayalam Sanskrit dictionary. His Varthamana Pusthakam is written in chaste prose and is a work of great literary merit. He was a pioneer prose writer in Malayalam. Arnose Padiri built a residence for himself, 113 feet towards the west of the St. Francis Xavier Forance in Veloor. It is a rctangular two storied building resembling the pilgrim halls of Hindu temples. The upper storey of the building is supported by nine pillars made of solid rocks and five laterite stones.

The church of St. Francis Xavier Forance was constructed by Arnose Padiri in 1724. It is a beautiful monument of Indo European style. The roof is made in Kerala style with wood and is supported by fine huge wooden beams. The ancient altar and the beautiful murals on the arch surface above it add attraction to the church. The balcony at the back of the main hall of the church having an area of 27 sq mts. is supported by wooden elephants.

Considering their historical importance, the ancient house of Arnose Padiri and the church of St. Francis Xavier were declared as protected monument in 1995 by the stat Archaeology Department. Located in Talappally Taluk, Thrissur


This live rock cut temple is dated to the 8th century A.D. The Sivalinga faces east and the door of the Garbhagriha is on the north. There is a Ganapathi sculpture on the eastern wall. The arrangement of dwarapalakas and other deities are slightly disturbed to suit the terrain of the rock in which the temple and the figures have been carved. The linga is in the centre, fixed on to a rectangular pedestal. There is an evergreen pond on the top of the rock. The Temple is situated at Mukundapuram Taluk in Trissur district.


A granite slab with Vattezhuthu inscriptions on it. Measuring 6 ft by 4.5 feet. Now in the compound of the Thazhekkad church. A granite slab with a three line inscription in vattezhuthu measuring about 1 feet by 3/4 feet lying in front of the Sreekovil of the Thazhekkad Siva Temple. Located in Mukundapuram Taluk Thrissur.


A megalithic monument (Menhir type) in granite having 15 feet height and 12 feet 4 inches broad standing opposite Anappara on the left side of the Viyyur – Thanikudam Road. Location : Mukundapuram Taluk in Thrissur District.


Monolithic monument (Menhir type) one in standing posture having 12 feet 3 inches height and 10 feet 6 inches broad. One in laying posture having 6 feet length and 5 feet broad. Both are now inside the khadi and village industries compound at Kuttoor village in Thrissur Taluk.


Three dolmans already excavated by the Department. Contents including prehistoric potteries and iron implements were taken to Thrissur Archaeological Museum. The three dolmans with 5 cents of land located in THalappaally Taluk, Thrissur.


The Kottappuram fort or Cranganoor Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1523 AD. Later it was captured and destroyed by the Dutch in 1662. The remains of the Fort is protected by the Department of Archaeology due to its historical importance. The remaining part of the original fort wall shows that it was built by laterite and was 18 feet in thickness. Location: Kodungalloor Taluk in Thrissur district.


This temple can be dated to 14th century A.D. The main deity Hari Kanyaka (Mohini concept) is facing East. The temple has a granite adhisthana with laterite but ornate wall. The murals and sculptures around Garbhagriha are almost deteriorated. The temple with its walls, ruined gopurams, two stories shrine and broken idol along with its constituent portion including the two dwarapalakas and the wooden images attached to Namaskara Mandapam are declared as protected under the purview of the protected monuments Act by the Department of Archaeology in 1936. Location: Talapally Taluk in Thrissur district.


The Travancore lines or Nedumkotta as it was called, ran from the Vaipin Island to the Western Ghats and often through Cochin territory. It was mainly a ditch 16 feet broad, 20 feet deep and 56 km long with a bamboo barricade by its side, protected by ramparts and bastions at strategic points. It was bilt during the reign of Marthanda Varma; Dalawa Marthanda Pillai took up the work and captain D’ Lannoy personally supervised the constructions. Nedumkotta was destroyed in 1790 during the attack of Tippu Sulthan. A portion of the ruined fort is protected at Palamuri and Kottavathil in Thrissur District.


The Cheraman Parambu has an area of three acres. It is believed to have the seat of the palace of Cheraman Perumal. The trial digs conducted in the area has revealed the existence of a number of Chinese shreds along with local potteries. Considering the historical importance, the site is declared as protected .

Location: Kodungalloor Taluk in Thrissur district.


This is one of the few rock cut temples in Kerala with a central figure on the wall of the cell, datable to the 8th-9th centuries A.D. The main deity is Dakshinamoorthy in sitting posture with his left leg placed over the other, with serpents coiling round the body and with an Akshamala, Keyoora and Khadaka on the two upper hands. The linga on the side is believed by the local people as growing in size every day. The Temple is situated at Talappally Taluk in Thrissur district.


This is one of the Eighteen Thali temples in Kerala datable to early 13th-14th century AD. It is dedicated to Siva. The old temple is in ruins and a new structure in its place has been put up. The area is marked by the presence of several broken and damaged idols of gods and goddesses and some of them had been removed to museums. The idol in the structure probably represents the one in the original temple. Located at Methala village in Kodungalloor Taluk.



It is a monument dated to 12th – 13th centuries A.D. This beautiful granite structure which is known as Kattilmadam is in Dravida style with octagonal Griva and Sikhara. Its unique structure having ornated Sthambha pada, peculiar pranala, huge granite pieces used for making the wall and the rood etc. make it worthy to be protected. Location: Ottappalam Taluk in Palakkad district.



This Siva temple is ornated with the beautiful murals on the walls of the garbhagriha and mgnificent wood carvings on the griva. The temple itself is a speciment of indigenous style of temple architecture of 19th century. The ‘Garbhagriha’ and ‘Mukhamandapa’ are square in form. Dwithala vimana with sheeted roof. Dwarapalaka figures are of wood. Pranala with support at the tip.

The writings on the wall of the Garbhagriha shows that the murals were completed in 1053 M.E. The temple is located at Eranad Taluk in Malappuram district.



Vasco-de-Gama landed at Kappad a few miles North of Kozhikkode on 27th May 1948. It was an event which was destined to write the name of Kerala in the annals of world history. A monument was erected there to indicate the historical event.


The house stated to be the residence of the Kottakal Kunjalimarakkar, one of the heroes of Kerala history, is an ordinary single storied building (new) built in laterite stones and with thatched roof. It is situated in a garden land measuring 19 cents. The old house must have been destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The wood works of the existing house are very strong and substantial. They would suggest that they formed part of same old house built previously.

Location: Quilandi taluk in Kozhikode district.


In 1788 Tippu Sultan transferred the capital of the Province of Malabar from Kozhikode to the South bank of Beypore River and built a Fort at the modern village of Feroke. But Tippu’s grand project of founding a new capital was ended in failure because he was compelled to retire to Coimbatore due to the appraoch of monsoon. Considering the historical importance, a part of the laterite fort remaining at Paramukku, Kottasthala is declared as Protected Monument by the Department of Archaeology in 1991 The Fort is in Kozhikode Taluk.

Kalpathoor Bharadevatha TEMPLE

Main deity of this temples is Kirathamoorthy facing west. the ancient templeis having granite adhistana with laterite wall. Dwarapalakas are of wood. Pranala is usual ornate type with a gana support on its tip. The ceiling of the ‘Mukhamandapa’ and the ‘Balikalpura’ have beautiful wooden carvings. Almost dilapidated eastern padippura carries splendid carvings of miniature figures on its ceiling, depicting different puranci scenes like ‘Sree Rama Pattabhishekam’, ‘Anantha sayanam’, ‘Siva Parvathi Parinayam’ etc. The temple can be dated to 14th centruy A.D.

Location: Quilandi taluk in Kozhikode district.



The tomb of the celebrated historical giant and reputed warrior Veera Pazhassi is a historical monument that has laid his great memories on the sands of time. It is a protected monument under the Department. A small site museum is also functioning here. Location: Manarthavadi Taluk in Wayanad district.

Pazhassi Raja: Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja belonged to Kottayam Royal Family. He revolted againt the British revenue policy by organising the tribals like Kurichiyas and Kurumbas of Wayanad. His strong guerilla warfare could successfully resist the wicked British forces several times. He succeeded in winning the full support of his people in this long war with the foreign power. At last to the ingratitude of someof his fellowmen, the ‘Lion of Kerala’ had to surrender. But before being captured byt he British he is said to have committed suicide on 30th November 1805. The dead bdy of the great patriot was brought at Mananthavadi in the leadership of T.H. Baber the then sub collector of Malabar and buried there with all respect.


Ambukuthimala or Edakkalmala is one of the principal hills of the Wayanad District. Edakkal cave is found on its Western slope. The cave contains carved figures, some inscription and symbols on the walls. The carvings clearly represent human and animal figures. Human figures with peculiar head dress and swasthika in various forms are distinctly carved. Specimen of circular ‘Sun Symbols’ and some magic squares are seen engraved on the walls of the cave. It is believed to be the ancient human shelters of 5000 B.C. Located at Sulthan Beteri Taluk in Wayanad district.

The cave and 50 cents of land is taken over by the Department and declared as Protected Monument on 4-7-1985.



Thodeekulam Siva Temple is famous for its murals which seems to belong to the middle stage of Kerala mural tradition perhaps of the 10th – 13th century A.D. The wall of the Garbhagriha is of laterite with plaster coating on which mural scenes are painted. The temple is of Chathurasra Vimana, dwithala with copper roof. No dwarapalakas. Main deity is Sivalinga facing East Pranala is long and rather simple shaft channel set mildly carved at the tip. In front of the square ‘Namaskara Mandapa’ is a granite Nandi. Balipeeta is in the open. The temple issituated at Thalasseri taluk in Kannur district.


The Ezhimala fort or Ettikulam Fort lies about 2 km. South of Mount De-eli or Ezhimala. The fort was built by the Portuguese and subsequently held by the French and the English. It consists of three hexagonal prismatic structures, one of which has been completely damaged. the side walls of the fort are of various lengths and are almost ruined.

Ezhimala, may be a variation of ‘Azhimala’, which meant “The mount near the Sea” was the seat of powerful kingdom which comprised the whole of the present districts from Wayanad to Kasargod and produced the great warrior king Nannan in the 5th century. In the later days Ezhimala was the capital of Mooshika and Kolathiri Rajas. Location: Thalipparambu taluk in Kannur district. KASARGOD


This laterite fort was believed to be built by the Bednore Naikans in the 17th century A.D. The Fort is in complete decay. The remains show that the original Fort was eight feet in thickness and more than fifteen feet in height. Inside the Fort there is a temple, and a big pond with steps. Considering the historical importance, the fort with an area of 8.44 acres of land is already declared as protected monument in 1985 and is situvated at Muliar village in Kasargod Taluk.


This ancient fort is made of hard laterite stones. It was built by the Sivappa Nayaka of Bednore in the 17th centuryA.D, who established his authority over the area and built a chain of forts. The Chandragiri river on which it rises marked the traditional boundary between Kerala and Thuluva kingdom. the two sides of the fort are facing the sea. There are eight view towers with peeranky holes from which Uhe sea route can be guarded closely. the main watch tower is facing north. On the eastern and western side there are two underground passages. A deep well and a pond with flight of steps are there inside the fort. The Fort with an area of 7.76 acres is located at Kalnad village in Kasargod Taluk.


It is a megalithic site having an area of 3 acres 28 cents. A number of rock cut tombs encountered in this laterite zone are of archaeological value. The cave is at Hosdurg taluk in Kasargod district.

It was during the period of President’s rule that the decision on the re-organisation of the states of the Indian Union on linguistic basis was taker by the Government of India. Under the state’. Re-organisation Act of 1956 the four southern Taluks of Tovala, Agastiswaram, Kalkulam and Vilavancode and a part of the Shencottah taluk were separated from Travancore-Cochin and induced in Madras state.

.The districts of Malabar and Kasargod of South Canara were added on with the remaining portion of Travancore-Cochin to constitute the new state of Kerala. The state of Kerala formally cam~ into existence on November 1,1956, with a Governor as the head of the state. The last vestiges of princely rule in Kerala also disap¬peared with the end of the institution of Rajapramukh, following the formation of the new state. Before the formation of Kerala State, the state was divided into three major regions. History of each region is noted below.

History of Cochin
The history of Kochi is shrouded in obscurity till the advent of the Portuguese at the close of the fifteenth century. A few references in ancient Tamil works and in the works of European and Mohammedan travellers, and a few inscriptions and copper-plates grants which are still preserved, gives occasional glimpses into the state of the country. According to tradition, the first king of Cochin was the son of a sister of the last of the Perumals, and was therefore named the direct heir under the Marumakkattayam law of succession. His name is said to have been Vira Kerala Varma.

Epigraphic research has brought to light the names of three of the early kings of Cochin; Bhaskara Ravi Varma, Vira Raghava and Coda Raja Varma. In the first century of the Christian era, a number of Jews immigrated into Kerala and settled in that portion of it which afterwards became the king¬dom of Cochin, and Christianity also made its way into the country about the same time.

Both, Jews and Christians, seem to have been allowed to remain in the country, helped by their own enterprise and by the intercourse which they kept up with the Eastern Mediterranean countries, they appear to have steadily grown in prosperity and importance so much so that the local kings by charters engraved in copper plates constituted them as self governing communities. By these charters, Joseph Rabban was made the hereditary chief of the Jews and Iravi Collan that of the Christians and they were also given the powers and privileges of Naduvazhi chiefs. These privi¬leges must have been granted in return for substantial help, pecuniary and otherwise, which was rendered to the kings by these trading communi¬ties in repelling foreign aggressions.

The Brahmin colonies of Kerala did not take long in acquiring a predominant position in the coun-try. They gradually established themselves in sixty-four grammas scattered over the whole land. Because of their immense superiority in intelli¬gence, culture and knowledge they acquired great ascendancy over the people and their rulers. They become the preceptors and guides of the people in both spiritual and temporal matters and attained a commanding position in the councils of the king. To protect their interest the Brahmans are said to have divided their sixty-four colonies into four circles represented by the four principal grammas of Pasappur, Perirchellur, Payyannur and Chenganiyur and to have periodically elected a ‘Tahyatiri’ to represent each circle.

In course of time it is not known when and under what circumstances the whole community became split into two antagonistic divisions known as the Kurus and factions of Panniyur and Chovaram, the names of the two of the original sixty-four gramams. This division took place be-fore the grant of the Syrian deed of Vira Raghava Chakravarti, as these two factions are cited in it as witnesses. What opposing interests were repre¬sented by the two divisions is not clear. Probably they were sectarian, Panniyur being Vaishnavite and Chovaram shaivite. It is however well known that every Nambudiri, every chief and every high caste man in Kerala came to be known as belong¬ing to the one or the other of these factions, and that the Zamorin became the chief of Panniyur and the king of Cochin that of the Chovaram faction. The points of distinction between the two factions, must in former times have been impor¬tant and well marked as they materially influenced the political alliances and combinations of Malabar chiefs for four centuries. At present however they are not perceptible.

History of Travancore
The dynasty of Travancore is one of the most ancient in India. The original name of Travancore was Chera. Chera is the first of the three Southern Mandala Kingdoms according to the Tamil Dictio¬nary. Subsequent to the dismemberment of the main part of the Chera Kingdom, the first name was ‘Tiruvarumcode’ – abode of prosperity -which was modified into Travancore, from which Travancore, the name used by the English was derived.

The ancient Sanskrit and Tamil historical writings connected with the Puranas, describe the origin, in the Kritha Yugam (the first age), of three contemporary kings in Southern India called Cheran, Cholan and Pandyan. They ruled over three countries called after their names Chera Mandalam, Chola Mandalam and Pandya Mandalam. These three kings were brothers.

The Hindu geography corresponds to the Euro¬pean geography particulary with regard to the world’s nine divisions, of which Asia dominated. Jemboo, Dwipu which included Bharatha Khandam (1ndia), was divided into 56 Kingdoms. Of these, the last two kingdoms, Chera and Kerala, were owned by the king of Travancore.

The Kingdom of Chera was the most Southern and the largest among the three states already mentioned. The boundaries of the Kingdom of Chera, ancient Tamil authors described as the Pulney Hills in the north, the town of Peroor in the east, the sea about Cape Comorin in the South, and the range of the great mountains on the west, extending about 800 miles. Another Tamil author extends the northern boundary to the Coorg Hills and the Western to Calicut.

In Thretha Yugam (second age), Kerala or Malayalam is said to have been recovered from the sea by Parasu Rama, the sixth incarnation of Maha Vishnu. Several Puranas relate the story though the versions vary. One account says that with the permission of Varunan (the God of the Sea), Parasu Rama flung his weapon from Cape Comorin and it fell at Gokarnam, where upon the sea receded from those two points to the present extent of the Malabar Coast and he called it Keralam. Parasu Rama then invited the Brahmins, who having received grants of land and were located in sixty four gramas. He invited other castes also from foreign countries to occupy his new land and after living on the coast for a long time retired to the Mahendra hills, where he is supposed to be still living.

Parasu Rama after creating Kerala invited Brah¬mins from the north to settle in the country which he divided into sixty four gramas. He ordained several grades of Brahaminical heads, conse-crated numerous shrines between Gokarnam and Cape Comorin. The superintendence of each shrine was entrusted to Brahaminical heads. After consecrating of Temple at Padmanabhapuram, Parasu Rama invited Bhanu Vikrama and three of his brothers. He assembled the Brahmins of the sixty four gramams and declared to them that the capital of his newly reclaimed country, between Cape Comorin and Gokarnam shall be Padmanabhapuram. He also declared that Bhanu Vikrama shall be the king over the land of Keralam. He was placed on a throne of gold set with gems and had holy water and pearls poured over his head. Parasu Rama then gave his own sword together with many royal privileges, to Bhanu Vikrama, king of the land between Cape Comorin and Gokarnam. Gold coins were minted and circulated as the currency throughout his domin¬ions. One of the three brothers of this king was stationed at Gokarnam. There was the king of Kolathunad who ruled South Canara under the designation of Kola. It is also said that a long time afterwards, Parasu Rama personally crowned Bhanu Vikrama’s nephew, Adithya Vikrama, at Padmanabhapuram, presenting him with a sword bright as the sun, and nominated eight ministers under him.

Parasu Rama instituted a ceremony called Mamangam” and performed it with great splendour at Thirunavaye on the banks of river Bharathapuzha. The Brahmins of the sixty four gramams, the chiefs and petty Rajas of the country between Cape Comorin and Gokarnam were assembled here. The first seat in the assembly was assigned to Kulasekhara Perumal, King of Travancore, and the next to Udaya Varman of Kolathunad the latter being assigned the duty of performing the ceremony every twelth year. We also find that the art of warfare was introduced by Parasu Rama and that the kings were taught the use of various weapons.

In the third age, Dwapara Yugam, the King of Kerala is often mentioned in the renowed work “Mahabharatha”. The king of Kerala was one of the vassals of the Emperor, Yudhishtira, and during the great war, the Kerala chiefs fought on the side of Pandavas, who during their secret wanderings, visited Kerala.

Now we enter into the present age (Kali Yugam). In the early part of this age, India was under the rule of the Emperor Yudhishtira. After the close of Yudhishtira’s reign, which is said to have ended in the 36th year of Kali, the subordinate relation to the succeeding emperors continued as a matter of course, up tothe tenth century of the Kali Yugam, forty eight kings reigned over the Chera Kingdom.

One of the most celebrated of the Chera Kings, Kulashekara Perumal unlike his predecessors envinced a very extraordinary attachment to his religion. After ruling the kingdom for some years he abdicated in favour of his heir, and became a spiritual devotee, and added Alwar to his name. He was from that time known as Kuleshekara Alwar.

The correct name of the successor of this vener¬able sovereign ~ well as of many others in his line cannot be found, that the monarchy continued to rule its Chera possessions is a fact supported by several works.

The policy of the Chera king’s appeared to have been, peace at any price, their policy and avoca¬tions were decidedly of a commercial nature. Though there were feuds between Chola and Chera, occassional misunderstandings and quar¬rels with Pandya, Chera appears to have been of a peacable disposition. During any great struggle retired to Kerala, which always offered him an asylum. Since South Kerala was the only province in India which escaped foreign invasions. The Chera dynasty continued in power, though con¬stantly engaged in warfare with its neighbours Pandya and Chola, till central Chera was overrun by the Konga Rajas. The original dynasty of Chera then retired to its southern possessions, and joined the family residing in the south.

The old Chera was finally incorporated with Travancore and its original name Chera was renamed as Travancore. Many ancient and mod¬ern authors use their names indiscriminately. Almost all the southern possessions of Chera were included in the Travancore dominions. It was later conquered by the Madura rulers, and from them by the Carnatic Nawab. There is still a village called Chera Maha Devi in the Ambasamudram Taluk of Thirunelveli District (Tamil Nadu), where we can see the site on which the Chera King’s palace stood.

The general impression in regard to the dynasty of Travancore appears to be that it is the creation of Cheraman Perumal, and the Kingdom was his gift to one of his sons, Veera Keralen from whom the dynasty originated.

Almost all the caste rites and observances of the Travancore and Cochin royal families were simi¬lar, with the exception of marriage. The female members of the Travancore royal family married Kshthriyas, whereas the females of the Cochin Royal family followed the custom of marrying Namboothiri Brahmans.

‘Thulapurasha Danam’ is a ceremony performed by weighing the body of the king against an equal weight in gold, and distributing the same among Brahmins. For this purpose the required quantity of gold is procured, and after purifying it, is coined in different sizes and weights with the inscription “Sree Padmanabha the appellation of Vishnu and the household deity of Travancore on one side. ‘Hirannya Garbham’ or ‘Padma Garbha danam’ is a costly ceremony. The Raja enters into a lotus shaped pure golden vessel, filled with water, ghee, milk and other substances. His highness dips himself into the holy water while the Brah¬mans chant Vedic hymns. These ceremonies ac¬count for the Travancore kings being termed in Malayalam as “PonnuThampuran” (Golden King)

The great and renowned Vedantist, Sankara Acharya was born at Kalady on the northern bank of the Alwaye river (near Kochi). We have only a traditional account of the period of Sankara Acharya’s birth, which is said to have been in the eighth century of the Christian era. At a young age Sankara Acharya, began to criticise the religious proceedings of the Namboothiris and their Vedic knowledge and studies generally. Consequently the community was offended with the youth and began to persecute him in every possible manner. The society even excommunicated his family. When about sixteen years of age Sankara is said to have set out on a pilgrimage as a hermit. Sankara Acharya was the exponent of the ‘Non-dualism’ of Vedantic Philosophy.

The coronation of King Veera Kerala Varma Kuleshekara Perurnal was in 311 AD. His High-ness occupied the throne for a long time and ruled his Kingdom with prosperity and popularity. Veera Kerala Varma Kuleshekara Perumal, was suc¬ceeded by his brother. No particulars of the reign of this King can be gathered from any reliable account. All that is known of him is that he was unable to follow the track of his predecessor. This King’s successor was the nephew of Veera Kerala Varma, whose name he bore. It appears that it was in his reign that the Perumal royalty came to an abrupt end.

For the next two or three hundred years, we find no precise account of the affairs of North Kerala. During this interval, there was alliance between Travancore and the Kolathunad Rajas (Malabar) to repel the invaders of northern Kerala.

In 825 AD. when King Udaya Marthanda Varma was residing in Kollam, he convened a council of all the learned men of Kerala with the object of introducing a new era. After making some astro-nomical researches, he calculated the solar move¬ments throughout the twelve signs of the zodiac, and scientifically counted the number of days occupied in this revolution in every month, it was resolved to adopt the new era from the first of Chingam of that year, 15 August 825, as Kollam year one, and to call it a solar year. This arrange¬ment was approved of by all the wise men of the time, and every neighbouring country began to adopt the same.

In the year 830 A.D., Udaya Marthanda Varma, Kuleshekara Perumal died. His successor’s name and the particulars of his reign are not traceable from the records. The names and other particulars of many of the succeeding Kings are also not in the records.

It was about this period that the combined army of Travancore and Kolathunad drove out the Vellalar from Kerala. Subsequently the Kings of Travancore and Kolathunad reverted to the enjoyment of their respective possessions originally assigned to them by Parasu Rama. In the year 1050 A.D. the ancient Kingdom at Trivandrum was rebuilt by a Travancore Sovereign, whose name is not known.

During the 14th century A.D and in the reign of King Adithya Varma, the Travancore family was under the necessity of adopting two females from the Kolathunad royal family, and royal residence was constructed at Attingal. The reigning King died and the eldest son of the senior Rani of Attingal Sree Veera Rama Marthanda Varma, who was then in his 28th year was installed as king in 1376 A.D and this lasted for a period of forty years. He was succeeded by his third brother Eravi Varman, who resided at Trivandrum. He ruled the Kingdom with great credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction of his subjects. He was succeeded by his nephew, Kerala Varman, who died three months after his corona¬tion. Kerala Varman Kuleshekara Perumal, was succeeded by his twin-brother Chera Udaya Marthanda Varma. The reign of this sovereign was longer than that of all the Travancore mon¬archs.

Udaya MarthandaVarma died in 1444A.D at the ripe age of seventy eight. He wa~ succeeded by Venad Mootha Rajah, who reigned for fourteen years and died in 1458 A.D. From this year up to 1680 A.D, a period of about two and a quarter centuries, no credible accounts of the reigns of the sovereigns can be found.

Taking advantage of the state of affairs of Travancore, in 1680 AD, a petty sirdar, under the Mogul Emperor, entered the Southern part of the Peninsula, with a number of horsemen. They plundered the land and invaded the southern part of Travancore. Since none of the nobles and chiefs were able to oppose the sirdar or arrest his progress, he advanced to Trivandrum and made his headquarters there.

The Mogul Sirdar exercised his power up to Edava (near Kollam) in the north and became sole master of the country between Thovalay (Tamil Nadu) and Edava on the coast line of Travancore.

Her Highness Umayamma Rani found it difficult to recover her kingdom from the hands of the Mogul Sirdar. She invited one Kerala Varma, a member of the northern Kottayam Raja’s family. Raja Kerala Varma was a brave warrior, perfect in sword exercise, arrow-shooting and in the use of other weapons. The Raja personally led the army against the Mogul Sirdar. His army defeated and killed the Mogul Chief with the backing of the Raja. The Rani (Queen) soon rebuilt the palace at Trivandrum. After this, the Queen found no diffi¬culty in bringing to obedience all the refractory chiefs and nobles.

In 1684 AD, Umayamma Rani’s son was duly installed on the throne. Once again the problem of adoption arose as there was no one else in the family. Two males and two females were adopted into the Travancore family. A year after the adoption the Rani died and was followed by the elder of the two adopted Ranis. The junior Rani was the only surviving female member of the royal family. This Rani gave birth to a Prince in 1706 AD. This Prince whose name was Marthanda Varma, distinguished himself above all other sovereign’s and received the well merited title of Zamorin of the kingdom of Travancore.

In 1718 AD King Ravi Varman died, and the eldest of the adopted Princes, Unni Kerala Varma was proclaimed king of Travancore. Though young, Prince Marthanda Varma could not tolerate the state of affairs in the country and asked permission to take an active participation in the affairs of Government. Within no time he began to check the rebellions. He became the target of the Ettu Veetil Pillamar (Rebel chieftains and lords) and the Madempimars (Rebelchieftains4andlordsj. He had to change his residence many times to escape from his enemies.

After six years reign, Unni Kerala Varma died, and was succeeded by his younger brother Rama Varma in 1724 AD. Before his death a female member of the Kolathunad family was adopted as a Princess of Travancore, and Her Highness gave birth to a Prince in the Year 1724 AD. This prince later became the renowned Rama Raja, generally called Dharma Raja.

His Highness along with his intelligent nephew was able to defeat all the Madempimars. But they could not bring the Yogakar and the Ettu Veetil Pillamar under their control easily. In 1728 A.D. an attack was made on the Rani and the Prince but both escaped unhurt. In the same year, king Rama Varma died following an illness.

Commercial speculations seem to have engaged the attention of even the earliest Travancore kings. Travancore seems to have had dealings with foreign nations from the remotest period, pepper, cassia, areca-nut, etc were bartered for Chinese, Arabian and Roman goods. Greece, Egypt, Rome, Denmark, Portugal, Finland, France and Britain were the nations with whom Travancore had commercial relations.

The Portuguese were also allowed to establish themselves as merchants at Puracaud, Quilon, Neendacaray and several other petty sea-ports, soon after their arrival in India. The Dutch re-ceived aid in their attempts to supplant the Portu¬guese and established themselves all along the sea-coast between Colachel Tamil Nadu and Cochin¬ Kochi.

The English were permitted to own land at Anjengo -for the opening of a factory contemporaneously with the establishment of their factories on the Malabar coast, and subsequently permission was given to them for building a fort there. They always received warm support from Travancore in all their subsequent trade projects.

All foreigners were treated very kindly and with respect by the kings of Travancore. The kings cultivated acquaintance and friendship of Europe¬ans and gave to each and every one of them valuable products of Travancore especially pep¬per, without showing partiality and without giving cause for quarrel among them still a strong spirit of rivalry prevailed among European nations and they were constantly at war with each other during that period in Europe.

Various improvements were introduced by the king Ravi Varma during his reign. The power of the local chiefs were curtailed and special agents were appointed at various parts of the country, which was divided into districts called “Pacuthies”, with power to collect the revenue, which was roughly estimated before their appointment. After defraying the expenditure on religious and other institutions the agent was to remit the surplus into the king’s treasury.

All such agents were recognized as the king’s officers and thus the authority and influence of the Madempimar and petty chiefs were curtailed. After the death of king Ravi Varma, successor Unni Kerala Varma was unable to enforce the above systems, and consequently in many parts of the country, especially in the Southern Districts of Nanjinaud, anarchy still prevailed. It was at this state of things that Rama Varma strove to remedy. Unfortunately, however, he died before he could execute his intention, of introducing a better system of Government. He left the kingdom in the hands of the able and bold prince Marthanda Varma.

Most of the Travancore kings ruled the country with wisdom and valour, surmounting all opposi-tions both from the feudatory chiefs and from foreign invaders, and governed the kingdom sat-isfactorily.

Almost all the Sovereings of Travancore were distinguished not only for their princely accom-plishments, but also for the productions of various Sanskrit works on Philosophy, Metaphysics, His¬tory, Religion, Music, Drama, etc. Their govern¬ing abilities were seldom equaled by the other native kings of India.

These sovereigns kept pace with other nations in the art of good principles which were known and testified to by several European nations in the earliest days of their trade connections with India.

History of Malabar
The Kerala Mahatmyam written in Sanskrit, and the Keralolpatti written in Malayalam contain the traditional beliefs of the people regarding the ancient history of Malabar. These two sources confirm the Parasurama legend and states that the people of this land were all Brahmins. In Kerala Mahatmyam there is reference to sixty four vil¬lages or gramams which throws light on the early administrative divisions. Later when disputes arose between the supreme Brahmins and other reli¬gious factions like the Sudras, Parasurama Se¬lected four gramas out of the sixty four and put these under Brahmanical rule. But this system did not work. So the Brahmins assembled at Tirunavay, determined to select a king and empowered the four selected gramams to choose a king. Their choice fell on Keya Perumal.

He ruled for eight years and four months. Alter Keya Perumal’s death the Brahmins brought Choya Perumal from Choyamondalam. He reigned for ten years and was succeeded by Padni Perumal. Then came a king called Bhutarayar Pandi Perumal. Bitter enimity arose between him and the Brah¬mins. Then invasions became frequent. The Brah¬mins approached Parasuraman. He told them to select a king on the Tirunavay festival day when Gangadevi would come to Tirunavay. Parasurama allowed them to choose whomever they wished, and advised them to anoint the new king with the water of Perar, i.e. the Ponnani River. Parasurama also gave them the divine sword for the protection of the country. The Brahmins proceeded to Choyamandalam and brought a king named Keralan. It is said he reigned for twelve years and on account of his good qualities, it is said, the land received the name of Kerala. King Pandyan alias Chennar of the Pandyan Raj succeeded him and he was followed by King Choyiyam of the Choya Raj. In order to prevent the king from seizing despotic power, the Brahmins divided the country into seventeen divisions, and divided the power of control among the four gramams. The Brahmins brought Tulubhan Perumal from the north. Indra Perumal, Arya Perumal, Kannan Perumal, Kotti Perumal, Mata Perumal, Elli Perumal, Komban Perumal, Vijayom Perumal and Harischandra Perumal succeeded one another.

The next Perumal was Kulasekhara Perumal from the Pandyan country. He organised the country into small chieftainships to protect it against the Mappillas. He is also credited with having intro-duced the study of sciences into the Malayali country, for the Malayali Brahmins were said to be ignorant of science upto this time. The Kulasekhara age witnessed the remarkable renaissance of Hin¬duism. Great saints and seers like Sankaracharya, Kulesekhara Alwar and Cheraman Perumal Nayanar lived during this period. The new spiritual cult created great enthusiasm and helped in the rapid revival of Hinduism. But this age also saw the decline of Buddhism and Jainism in Kerala.

According to Keralolpathi, there were twenty five foreign Perumals who ruled over Kerala. Kulasekhara Perumal was such a good king that the people made him emperor for life.


  • Padmanabhapuram palace museum Thuckalai, Kanyakumari District, Tamilnadu.
  • Folklore museum at Koikkal Palace, Nedumangadu, Thiruvananthapuram District
  • Kottarakkara Thampuran Memmorial Museum for Classical Arts, Kottarakkara, Kollam District
  • Krishnapuram Palace Museum, Kayamkulam, Alappuzha District
  • Hillpalace Museum, Thrippunithura, Ernakulam District
  • Archaeological Museum, Kollangodu House, Thrissur
  • Pazhassi Raja Museum, East Hill, Kozhikode