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History of Kerala

Kathakali Dance, Kerala

The history of Kerala is surrounded by many legends. There are many legends associated with its origin but the widely accepted legend is one in which an avatar of Lord Vishnu(the preserver of the universe) reclaimed the land of Kerala from the sea. The enchanting land of Kerala finds its first mention in a 3rd century BC rock inscription left by the Mauryan emperor Asoka.

The legend goes that Parasurama, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu took birth to free the weak from the hostilities of the arrogant ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. He was an ace warrior who travelled around the world 21 times and punished the wrong doers for their evil deeds. He put to death all the male Kshatriya kings on earth. In order to find a way of penitence for his sins, he went to some learned people. They advised him to give away the lands he had conquered to Brahmins. After following the advice he went into deep meditation at Gokarnam. From here he made his way to Kanyakumari where he threw his axe northward across the sea. The place where the axe fell was Kerala. According to the puranas, Kerala is also called Parasurama Kshetram, meaning 'The Land of Parasurama'.

Kerala witnessed the rise and decline of several rulers. Foreign invaders had also ruled Kerala for long. Teamed up together, the Dutch, Portugal and British rulers had formed a mixed community in Kerala. The Portuguese were eyeing the spices grown in Kerala and hence established India's first Portuguese fortress at Cochin(Kochi) in 1503. During that time Arabs had control over the spice trade in Kerala. Portuguese broke the monopoly of the Arabs by taking advantage of the rivalry between the kings of Calicut and Cochin.

Temples, Kerala

Constant battles were fought between the royal families of Kerala and the only people who benefited from the rivalries were the Britishers. They formed treaties of subsidiary alliance with the rulers of Cochin(1791) and Travancore(1795), and became princely states of British India. This helped them maintain local autonomy in return for a fixed annual tribute to the British. Many rulers of Kerala revolted against the British rule. Some of them were Pazhassi Raja, Velu Thampi Dalawa and Punnapra-Vayalar revolt of 1946. Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924 enabled the backward castes to enter to the public roads adjacent to the Vaikom temple.

Travancore-Cochin province was formed after independence in 1947 by combining the princely states of Travancore and Kochi. Madras Presidency was transformed into India's Madras State. And the state of Kerala was formed on November 1, 1956.

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