South India  |  History of Kerala

History of Kerala

Kerala is one of the smallest states in the Indian union. Its area 38.855 square kilometers is just 1.3 percent of the total area of India. The land of India comprises the narrow coastal strip bounded by the Western Ghats n the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. In the words of Sreedhara Menon "Its unique geographical position and peculiar physical features have invested Kerala with a distinct individuality." Hence it has played a vital role in the
commercial and cultural history of India. Kerala has been describes "as the favorite child of nature." Like Kashmir in thenorth, Kerala in the south is famous for its breath-taking natural beauty.With its evergreen mountains, dense forests stately palms, swift flowing rivers, extensive backwaters and blue lagoons, it looks like a fairyland. This atmosphere of beauty and peace has nurtured religion and art in Kerala and enabled her to become a precious gem in the necklace of Indian culture. Indian poets of eminence have showered their praises for the abundance of its peppers, the fragrance of its sandal and the wealth of its coconuts. No part of India is so widely known or has played so important a part in world history as Kerala.
Natural Divisions: Physical features demarcate the state into three natural divisions. They are the lowland adjoining the sea, the midland consisting of the undulating country east of the lowlands and the forest -clad highland on the extreme east. The lowland bordering the sea is dotted with innumerable coconut palms and the expansive stretches of paddy crops. The midland regions comprise valleys, punctuated here and there by isolated hills.This
rich and fertile region bears the largest extent of agricultural crops. The Western Ghats which range along the eastern border constitute the highland.
They form a natural wall of protection to the state. Extensive tea and cardamom plantation dominate the higher elevations; while ginger, rubber, pepper, and turmeric flourish at the lower elevations. The hilly portion is broken up by long spurs, deep savines, dense forests and tangles jungles.
Geographical Isolation: The geographical position of Kerala as a narrow strip of land ensconced between the Arabian Sea and the \Western Ghats has considerably influenced the course of its history. From the dawn of history it has created a kind of insularity. As a result, Kerala seldom felt the impact of many foreign invasions which had ravaged North India form time to time. Owing to this insularity, it took nearly two centuries for Buddhism
to reach Kerala. She also evolved "its own way of life and social institutions unhampered by excessive interference from outside.Long ago in the mists of time as it were, Lord Vishnu descended from the heavens in his incarnation of Parashuram. After slaying the evil kings 21 times over to repeal their force from earth, he did penance for waging the terrible war, and threw his axe into the sea. The area where the axe land- ed, from shaft to blade, rose from the sea as Kerala, a land of plenty and prosperity. Its geographical position has been responsible too for Kera- la's historic ebb and flow. The strip of land found a natural defense in the hills that sealed off one longitudinal section, leaving it open to access from the sea alone. Sea trade started with the Phoenicians, and in 1000 BC Kerala was visited by King Solomon's ships that traveled to `Ophir' in all probability the modern Puvar, south of Trivandrum. Then followed the galleys of other far-off countries : Greece, Rome, Arabia, China. A fresh wave of trading history started with the Europeans : the Portuguese were forced out of the area. By 1795, however, the Dutch too had to move out, for the British traders had become the strongest power in India by that time. In all this period of prosperity and strife, the region's identity existed as the Malabar Coast and Cochin Travancore. It was only in 1956 that it gained recognition as an independent state, Kerala.