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This article concerns itself with the history of Kerala, a state in South India. Kerala had direct contact across the Arabian Sea with all the major Red Sea ports and the Mediterranean ports as well as extending to ports in the Far East. The spice trade between Kerala and much of the world was one of the main drivers of the world economy. For much of history, ports in Kerala were the busiest(Muziris) among all trade and travel routes in the history of the world.
He was the sixth of the ten avatars (incarnation) of Vishnu. The word Parasu means 'axe' in Sanskrit and therefore the name Parasurama means 'Ram with Axe'. The aim of his birth was to deliver the world from the arrogant oppression of the ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. He killed all the male Kshatriyas on earth and filled five lakes with their blood. After destroying the Kshatriya kings, he approached assembly of learned men to find a way of penitence for his sins. He was advised that, to save his soul from damnation, he must hand over the lands he had conquered to the Brahmins. He did as they advised and sat in meditation at Gokarnam. There, Varuna -the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi - Goddess of Earth blessed him. From Gokarnam he reached Kanyakumari and threw his axe northward across the ocean. The place where the axe landed was Kerala. It was 160 katam (an old measure) of land lying between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari. Puranas say that it was Parasuram who planted the 64 Brahmin families in Kerala, whom he brought down from the north in order to expiate his slaughter of the Kshatriyas. According to the puranas, Kerala is also known as Parasurama Kshetram, i.e., 'The Land of Parasurama', as the land was reclaimed from sea by him.
This legend, however, may be a Brahmin appropriation of an earlier Chera legend where a Chera King, Velkezhu Kuttavan, otherwise known a Chen Kuttuvan flings his spear into the sea to claim land from it. The myth of Parashurama is debatable as the legendary king Mahabali, under whose rule Kerala was the land of prosperity and happiness, was granted rule over netherworld (Patalam) by Vamana the avatar of Vishnu, who actually comes before the avatar of Parashurama according to the avatar stories of Hindu mythology. There is however a counter-point to this line of argument, because as per the 'Vishupuranam' Mahabali was ruler of the entire World (there is no mention of a place called Kerala) and eyed to capture the abode of the Devas when Vishnu incarnated as 'Vamana' and banished him. Also it is not necessary for one Avatara to end before the other one begins. Parasurama also appears along with Sri Rama in the Ramayana as well as the Mahabharata,as a Guru for Karna.
One legend of Kerala even makes Parasurama a Pandya ruler. In another legend, the Pandyas themselves are the manifestations of Parasurama. P.N. Chopra writes, "Parasurama is deemed by the Keralites as the father of their national identity." The Kollam Era is also known as "Parasurama-Sacam". Travancore Rajas claim descent from Chera King Bhanu Bikram, who according to legend was placed on the throne by Parasurama. Scholar K. Narayanan Sivaraja Pillai mentions, "Even as the West Coast owes its very rudiments of civilized life to Parasurama...". In the Keralolpatti, Parasurama is said to have selected goddess Durga (Kali) to be the guardian of the sea-shore of Kerala. According to legend, Chera King Kuttuvan Chera (also called Kota Varman) once enraged, threw an into the sea, thereby causing it to retreat and the land to dry. According to another legend, a Pandyan called "Vadimbalamba ninrapandyan" threw his spear into the sea, hereby causing the same effect. There is another story of Ukkira Pandiyan obtaining a spear from the Sivan of Madura, and throwing it into the sea, causing the shore to retreat. Tradition says that Parasurama minted gold coins called Rasi and that in Travancore, he sowed them and buried the surplus in Cairns.
Laterite rock-cut caves (Chenkallara), Hood stones (Kudakkallu), Hat stones (Toppikallu), Dolmenoid cists (Kalvrtham), Urn burials (Nannangadi) and Menhirs (Pulachikallu) are the Megalithic monuments found in Kerala.
Malayalam, Kerala's main native language, believed to be originated as an offshoot of Tamil as all historical records available till date from Kerala is in Tamil, the principal native language of neighboring Tamil Nadu was Tamil. Malayalam (Derived from the local words: mala (means Mountain) and aalam (means Kingdom)) as a composite phrase means the living/inhabitants of Mountain Kingdom. This phrase, which in earlier times implied the geographical location of the region, was later replaced by Kerala. Kerala and Tamil Nadu diverged into linguistically separate regions by the early 9th century BCE. The ancient Chera Empire, whose court language was Tamil, ruled Kerala from their capital at Vanchi Karuvur (modern Karur in Tamil Nadu) .As Kerala Society was more Feudal than Royal with Aryan Namboothiri communities heading the Social order. Kerala at that time was composed of 5 regions, Venadu ,Kuttanadu,Kudanadu,Karkanadu,Puzhinadu. Allied with the Pallavas, they continually warred against the neighbouring Chola and Pandyan Empire. History says that (recorded in Mackenzie records) a Chozha (Chola)princess was married to the Chera of Karur and he got a dowry of 48,000 agriculturists from the Chozha(Chola) country. These people were settled in the then forested region of Kerala and thus the first agricultural settlements arose in what is called Kerala today.
A Keralite identity is associated with the development of Malayalam, subsequently evolved sometime during the 8th&9th centuries. Meanwhile, both Buddhism and Jainism reached Kerala in this early period. As in other parts of Ancient India, Buddhism and Jainism co-existed with early Vaishnavism and Shaivite beliefs during the first five centuries. By the 8th and 9th centuries, 2nd Chera kings inclined to Vaishnavism and some of them wrote great literary works in the stream of Vishnu Bhakthi. In the 8th century Sri Sankara (also known as Adi Sankaracharya) was born at Kaladi in central Kerala, who travelled extensively across the length and breadth of the Indian sub-continent, establishing institutions of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. The places of his visit and location of the Muths that he had instituted in the north, south, east and west, are broadly considered to be limits of the geographical expanse of ancient India.
The Dutch were, in turn, routed by the Nairs of Travancore (Thiruvithamcoore) ruler Marthanda Varma at the Battle of Kulachal in 1741. Hyder Ali of Mysore conquered northern Kerala in the 18th century, capturing Kozhikode in 1766. Hyder Ali and his successor, Tipu Sultan, (but Nairs under the capable Diwan of Travancoore Raja Keshavadas (Keshava pillai Diwanji) defeated Tippu near Aluva) came into conflict with the British, and the four Anglo-Mysore wars were fought across southern India in the latter half of the 18th century. Tipu Sultan ceded Malabar District to the British in 1792, and South Kanara, which included present-day Kasargod District, in 1799. The British concluded treaties of subsidiary alliance with the rulers of Cochin (1791) and Travancore (1795), and they became princely states of British India, maintaining local autonomy in return for a fixed annual tribute to the British. Malabar and South Kanara districts were part of British India's Madras Presidency.
Organised expressions of discontent with British rule were relatively not infrequent in Kerala. Uprisings of note include the rebellion by Pazhassi Raja, Velu Thampi Dalawa and the Punnapra-Vayalar revolt of 1946. In 1919, consequent to their victory in World War I, the British abolished the Islamic Caliphate and dis-membered the Ottoman Empire. This resulted in protests against the British by Muslims of the Indian sub-continent which is known as Khilafat Movement, which was supported by Mahatma Gandhi in order to draw the Muslims into the mainstream national independence movement. In the year 1921, the Khilafat Movement in Malabar culminated in widespread riots against the British government and Hindu population in what is now known as Moplah rebellion. Kerala also witnessed several social reforms movements directed at eradication of social evils such as untouchability from among the Hindus, pioneered by reformists like Srinarayana guru, Chattambiswami etc. The non-violent and largely peaceful Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924 was instrumental in securing entry to the public roads adjacent to the Vaikom temple for people belonging to untouchable castes. In 1936, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balaramavarma the ruler of Travancore issued the Temple Entry Proclamation, declaring the temples of his kingdom open to all Hindu worshippers, irrespective of caste.
The state of Kerala was created on November 1, 1956 when Malabar District of Madras Presidency, Tranvancore-Cochin and Kasargod taluk of South Kanara District were merged to form the state of Kerala and Kaniyakumari from Travancore was given over to Tamil Nadu based on the recommendations of the State Reorganisation Commission set up by the Government of India. Elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly were held in 1957; this resulted in the formation of a communist-led government headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Many Indians consider this the first democratically elected communist government in the world; however, both San Marino (in 1948) and Guyana (in 1953) had elected communists to power years earlier. The social factors leading to elections of the communists was discussed in the 1959 book The red interlude in Kerala by Kainikkara Padmanabha Pillai. Radical reforms introduced by the E. M. S. Namboodiripad government in favour of farmers and labourers helped change, to a great extent, the iniquitous social order that had prevailed in Kerala for centuries.
Another feature was the large migration of people, especially Syrian Christians from Central Kerala to Malabar regions; termed as Malabar Migration. This migration, largely motivated by the need to find cultivable land; had started in the early 20th century and continued well into 1980s.
Furthermore, a substantial proportion of Mappilas numbering between 3 and 4 million people have left Kerala to seek employment in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Remittances from these expatriate communities makes Kerala one of the main contributors of foreign exchange to Indian economy.
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