After getting the booms from Varuna, the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi, the Goddess of earth, he proceeded to Kanya Kumari (Cape Comorin) and threw his battle-axe northwards across the waters. The waters subsided and what was left over was called the land of Parasurama, that is today's Kerala.
Geologists have pointed out that the elevation of Kerala from the sea was the result of some seismic activity, either suddenly or gradually.
Another Thoughts prevailing in scientific society is the rivers of Kerala emptying into the Arabian seas bring down enormous quantities of silt from the hills. The ocean currents transport quantities of sand towards the shore. The coastal portions could well be due to the accumulation of this silt over thousands of years.
The Early Civilization:
The earliest inhabitants of Kerala were the Pulayas, Kuravas and Vetas. It is at a much later time that migratory Aryan populations from the north landed and subjugated them through caste system.
By the beginning of the Christian era, the Cheran Dynasty was spread up to Western Ghats. The armies of Mauryan Dynasty could not enter the lands of the Cheras. With time the rule of Cheran Dynasty declined, it coincided with the rise of the Brahmins in Kerala. By the 10th century, they were powerful entity from Gokurnum (North Kerala) to the Cape Comorin. These land owning class of Brahmins were well on their way to great wealth and power. To consolidate their power, they developed Caste System (segregation between classes of people). Lands were leased out to next higher castes for share-cropping, and these in turn would further be leased out to those lower on the caste hierarchy and to non-Hindus. The lowest castes of course were only laborers and were traded along with the land. In such a rigid hierarchy, the all-powerful Namboothiries were the unquestioned rulers.
The Christians who had arrived from the Middle East in the 3rd century AD and the Muslims who arrived in the 8th century were generally traders and were not involved in this social segregation and generally kept aloof from the ambit of caste politics. The Jews who arrived Kerala in the early years of the Christian era were given privileges to trade and became an influential part of the melting pot of Kerala's population.
Gradually Kerala entered a phase of feudal chieftains or warlords (naduvazhis). The Namboothiries anointed some. At the turn of the 11th century AD there was a power struggle in the caste system supported by the Landlords and ruled by the warlords. This in turn gave rise to instability in the absence of strong central leadership. Wars and conflicts were common.
Ultimately three warlords emerged with some semblance of authority in their regions - the Zamorin of Calicut (Samuthiri of Kozhikode) to the North, Moopins of Perimpadappu (near modern day Kochi) in the central regions and chieftain of Kollam.
This is precisely what the Europeans who found a sea-lane to the fabled land of spices and gold did. There was nothing anyone could do to stop the next five centuries of colonial rule.
Discovery of India - European conquest
Ancient Kerala occupied a unique place in the commercial world. There are traces of teak found in the ruins of Ur, which must certainly have come from the Malabar Coast. This means trade flourished around 3000 BC. Cotton from this region was a favourite in Egypt; the Phoenicians visited the coast of Malabar around the same time to trade in ivory, sandalwood and spices. King Solomon is said to have sent his commercial fleet to Ophir which is said to be somewhere in Southern Kerala.
Muziris (Kodungalloor or Cannonade) was reputed to be the ancient world's greatest trading center in the East for such highly prized possessions as pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and other spices. Pliny, the younger is said to have lamented the fact that trade with the East was draining the treasury of Rome. The trade flourished by ships riding on the monsoon winds from Africa and back to Arabia, from where the overland caravan took the prized items to the markets along the Mediterranean ports.
India was known as fabled land of spices and gold. It was during this time Europe was busy in exploration and Voyages to unknown land. Route to India was a dream of most of the voyager. Many attempts were made, but most could reach only up to "Cape of Good hope" in Africa. In 1498, Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese naval Captain found the easiest way to India by bribing the Arab pilot when his ship anchored off Kenya at Port Malindi. Following the centuries old route taken by the Arab traders and riding on a monsoon wind, he sailed the Sao' Gabriel to land at Kappad near the town of Calicut or Kozhikode. The entire history of the East was to change from that day.
The Zamorin or Samuthiri received the Portuguese, (known locally as parungees) warmly. Trade concessions were granted to the Portuguese. But sensing the rivalries from the Arabs and the local kings, the Portuguese immediately set about engaging themselves in consolidating their positions at sea. There was resistance from the local Kings. Notable among the Samuthiri's Admirals is Kunjali Marakkar, still a revered hero in Kerala. He succeeded in checking the Portuguese expansionism to certain extent. But could not hold for long against the supremacy of Portuguese weapons and sea prowess. An interesting sidelight is the Portuguese behavior towards the thriving community of Christians in Kerala. Tradition has it that these Christians were converted by St. Thomas the Apostle in the 1st Century AD. The Portuguese were annoyed that the local Christians were more Hindus in their outlook, culture and traditions and never heard of the Pope in Rome. In 1599,the Synod of Diamper (present day Udayamperoor near 14 Kms from Kochi) decreed that all Christians should revert to the Pope in Rome as the Supreme Spiritual head and not the Pontiff at Antioch. This led to a revolt by a section of Syrian Christians. History depicts that the revolters took oath by tying themselves to a Cross-at Kochi on 15 January 1653. This is known as the "Koonan Cross Oath" and is still revered as a turning point among the Syrian Christians.
But the Portuguese had some success in proselytizing and did manage to convert some communities into Latin Catholics. Today this community is one of the influential sections in Kerala.
Arrival of Dutch
The Portuguese finally met their match in the Dutch. The Dutch known locally as Lanthakar, was in the race for evicting the Portuguese from the lucrative Eastern spices trade. Strategic alliance with the Samuthiri helped the Dutch to drive out the Portuguese once and for all by 1663.
They proclaimed the Kochi Maharaja as the titular head and drove the Portuguese out. With aim of total control over the Eastern Spices trade, the Dutch East India Company was set up in 1602. Stefan Van Hegena set sail with 13 ships and reached Kannur (Cannanore) in 1604.
But from then on it was the same old story of the former allies falling out. This phase ended with the Dutch gaining undue advantages and gaining foothold over most of the coastal areas and towns, prominent being Kannur and Kochi. By 1717 a treaty was established. But it could not save the Dutch from defeat in 1741 at the hands of a resurgent king of Thiruvithanmkur, Marthanda Varma in the battle of Kolachel. By 1795, the Dutch were so weakened, that the British did not have much trouble evicting them permanently from the Kerala landscape once and for all.
The Portuguese and the Dutch introduced many novel agricultural crops to Kerala, notable among them being pineapple, papaya, tapioca, rubber and scientific farming methods for coconuts. To this day, the Kerala farmers are critically dependent on these crops for survival in the agrarian economy of the state.
The Bolgatty palace at Kochi, the Dutch Governor's mansion (later the British Resident's mansion) and the Dutch Palace at Mattancherry, Kochi are some of the reminder of Dutch conquest on India soil.
During this time, the most famous ruler was Marthanda Varma, King of Thiruvithamkur. His success started with the subjugation of the local warlords and Dutch. Later he expanded his rule by subjugating all principalities of the southern tip of Kerala up to Kodungalloor up in the North.
He was a great warrior and administrator. He carried out revolutionary reforms in his kingdom like converting the captured lands into state lands, centralising foreign trade to generate government incomes, improving living conditions of farmers, and most importantly reducing the powers of the government servants who till then were exclusively from certain castes and families. He took an unusual step of employing competent people from all castes and for the first time recognised competence over birthright.
It was after Marthanda Varma, the Britisher's conquest reached Kerala. With the defeat of Tipu Sultan of Mysore in 1799, the British became the de facto rulers of North Kerala. The rise of the British was bitterly opposed by the local warlords or naduvazhis. In 1802 Pazhassi Raja, a local chieftain revolted and fought a determined campaign against the British. In a similar fashion, Velu Thampi Dalawa also rose up against what was seen as British attempts at total control of local power centres. Velu Thampi Dalawa had allied himself with the Dewan of Kochi Paliyath Achan in the armed campaign against the British. But these were isolated and did not have the necessary military might to fight a sustained campaign against an emerging World Super Power. After almost a year of sporadic battles, Velu Thampi Dalawa fled the kingdom. With that the power the British residents grew immensely. The Maharaja had to be content with an honorary role in the affairs of State. Once the British military effectively crushed these revolts, no more was heard from these naduvazhis or warlords again.
During the same time there was a different story as far as the peasantry were concerned. There were serious outbreaks of unrest especially in North Kerala against the landlords and the British. These are now called the moppilla lahala or Muslim Revolt. It was ruthlessly suppressed. Today it is a part of the local folklore.
The first signs of freedom struggle surfaced after First World War. In 1922 the students protested against the fee hike in educational institutions. This soon became a rallying point for pro-home rule agitation. Khilafat Movement brought out the issue more forcefully. Hindus and Muslims stood as one against the British and the Landlords in the Malabar region. Severe police action and Martial law followed. The British gained complete supremacy by ruthless deployment of police, notably the Malabar Special Police, which to this day is a feared symbol of colonial oppression.
The Independence movement at the National level had a direct bearing on Kerala's political landscape too. The Salt Satyagraha found its echo here. The Vaikom temple entry Satyagraha for permitting lower castes entry into the temple gained the recognition as a direct challenge to the existing political and hierarchical supremacy of the rulers and by extension the British rule.
But soon there were more organisations formed to fight for their rights. The Samyukata Rashtriya Congress consisting of an alliance of Christian's -Muslims - Ezhavas (a powerful community of Kerala) formed an alliance to seek reservations in Government. This is the first time community based party system came into Kerala's landscape.
The Thiruvithamkur State Congress was founded by Pattom Thanu Pillai to fight against the high handedness of the last Dewan of Thiruvithamkur, Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyengar (popularly known as Sir CP). The movement started in 1938 and led to widespread violence all over the state. The Congress was outlawed.
After Independence, on 01 Jul 1949, a new state "Thirukochi" was formed consisting of old princely states of Thiruvithamkur and Kochi, moves towards reunification of Malayalam speaking population. The Malayalam-speaking regions of Malabar and Thirukochi were joined together as one state on 01 November 1956 and christened KERALA.
Kerala's post independence history is a saga of Leftist movement and Indian National Congress. The deep social, communal and economic division in Kerala was on the boil. The Communist Movement which initially began as naxalite movement, waged a full might against the Suppression. EMS Namboothiripad, AK Gopalan and P Krishna Pillai were the unquestioned leaders of the Communist Movement. By 1957, they had become the first democratically elected Communist Government anywhere in the world.
The story of Kerala after 1959 is a story of many governments of the Congress-led or Left-led parties coming and going at regular intervals. Kerala has seen no fewer than 17 Ministries till now.