Kerala History

Kerala finds mention in the annuls of international trade from as early as 3000 BCE, having established itself as the major spice trade centre of the world and traded with Sumer. The Aitareya Aranyaka is the earliest Sanskrit work that specifically mentions Kerala. A 3rd-century-BCE rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great references Kerala as Keralaputra.[4] According to the first century annals of Pliny the Elder and the author of Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Muziris in Kerala could be reached in 14 days' time from the Red sea ports in Egyptian coast purely depending on the South West Monsoon winds. The Sangam works have many lines which speak of the Roman vessels and the Roman gold that used to come to the Kerala ports of the great Dravidian kings in search of pepper and other spices, which had enormous demand in the West.

There are myths concerning the origin of Kerala. One such myth is the creation of Kerala by Parasurama, a warrior sage. The Brahminical myth proclaims that Parasurama, an avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of Kerala arose and was reclaimed from the waters.] 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.

Early history

A Muniyara, dolmens erected by Neolithic tribesmen, in Marayoor. The earliest written record mentioning Kerala is contained in the Sanskrit epic known as the Aitareya Aranyaka. Later, such figures as Katyayana (circa 4th century BCE) and Patanjali (circa 2nd century BCE) exhibited in their writings a casual familiarity with Kerala's geography. Megasthanes, the Greek Ambassador to the court of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya (4th Century BCE) mentions in his work Indica on many South Indian States, including Automela (probably Muziris), and a Pandian trade centre. Ancient Roman Natural philosopher Pliny the Elder mentions in his Naturalis Historia (N.H. 6.26) a Muziris probably modern-day Kodungallur or Pattanam as India's first port of Importance. Later, the unknown author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea notes that "both Muziris and Nelkunda (modern Nillakal) are now busy places".

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.

An ancient map of India,showing ports on the coast of Malabar. 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.