It was during the period of President’s rule that the decision on the re-organisation of the states of the Indian Union on linguistic basis was taker by the Government of India. Under the state’. Re-organisation Act of 1956 the four southern Taluks of Tovala, Agastiswaram, Kalkulam and Vilavancode and a part of the Shencottah taluk were separated from Travancore-Cochin and induced in Madras state.
.The districts of Malabar and Kasargod of South Canara were added on with the remaining portion of Travancore-Cochin to constitute the new state of Kerala. The state of Kerala formally cam~ into existence on November 1,1956, with a Governor as the head of the state. The last vestiges of princely rule in Kerala also disap¬peared with the end of the institution of Rajapramukh, following the formation of the new state. Before the formation of Kerala State, the state was divided into three major regions. History of each region is noted below.
History of Cochin
The history of Kochi is shrouded in obscurity till the advent of the Portuguese at the close of the fifteenth century. A few references in ancient Tamil works and in the works of European and Mohammedan travellers, and a few inscriptions and copper-plates grants which are still preserved, gives occasional glimpses into the state of the country. According to tradition, the first king of Cochin was the son of a sister of the last of the Perumals, and was therefore named the direct heir under the Marumakkattayam law of succession. His name is said to have been Vira Kerala Varma.
Epigraphic research has brought to light the names of three of the early kings of Cochin; Bhaskara Ravi Varma, Vira Raghava and Coda Raja Varma. In the first century of the Christian era, a number of Jews immigrated into Kerala and settled in that portion of it which afterwards became the king¬dom of Cochin, and Christianity also made its way into the country about the same time.
Both, Jews and Christians, seem to have been allowed to remain in the country, helped by their own enterprise and by the intercourse which they kept up with the Eastern Mediterranean countries, they appear to have steadily grown in prosperity and importance so much so that the local kings by charters engraved in copper plates constituted them as self governing communities. By these charters, Joseph Rabban was made the hereditary chief of the Jews and Iravi Collan that of the Christians and they were also given the powers and privileges of Naduvazhi chiefs. These privi¬leges must have been granted in return for substantial help, pecuniary and otherwise, which was rendered to the kings by these trading communi¬ties in repelling foreign aggressions.
The Brahmin colonies of Kerala did not take long in acquiring a predominant position in the coun-try. They gradually established themselves in sixty-four grammas scattered over the whole land. Because of their immense superiority in intelli¬gence, culture and knowledge they acquired great ascendancy over the people and their rulers. They become the preceptors and guides of the people in both spiritual and temporal matters and attained a commanding position in the councils of the king. To protect their interest the Brahmans are said to have divided their sixty-four colonies into four circles represented by the four principal grammas of Pasappur, Perirchellur, Payyannur and Chenganiyur and to have periodically elected a ‘Tahyatiri’ to represent each circle.
In course of time it is not known when and under what circumstances the whole community became split into two antagonistic divisions known as the Kurus and factions of Panniyur and Chovaram, the names of the two of the original sixty-four gramams. This division took place be-fore the grant of the Syrian deed of Vira Raghava Chakravarti, as these two factions are cited in it as witnesses. What opposing interests were repre¬sented by the two divisions is not clear. Probably they were sectarian, Panniyur being Vaishnavite and Chovaram shaivite. It is however well known that every Nambudiri, every chief and every high caste man in Kerala came to be known as belong¬ing to the one or the other of these factions, and that the Zamorin became the chief of Panniyur and the king of Cochin that of the Chovaram faction. The points of distinction between the two factions, must in former times have been impor¬tant and well marked as they materially influenced the political alliances and combinations of Malabar chiefs for four centuries. At present however they are not perceptible.
History of Travancore
The dynasty of Travancore is one of the most ancient in India. The original name of Travancore was Chera. Chera is the first of the three Southern Mandala Kingdoms according to the Tamil Dictio¬nary. Subsequent to the dismemberment of the main part of the Chera Kingdom, the first name was ‘Tiruvarumcode’ – abode of prosperity -which was modified into Travancore, from which Travancore, the name used by the English was derived.
The ancient Sanskrit and Tamil historical writings connected with the Puranas, describe the origin, in the Kritha Yugam (the first age), of three contemporary kings in Southern India called Cheran, Cholan and Pandyan. They ruled over three countries called after their names Chera Mandalam, Chola Mandalam and Pandya Mandalam. These three kings were brothers.
The Hindu geography corresponds to the Euro¬pean geography particulary with regard to the world’s nine divisions, of which Asia dominated. Jemboo, Dwipu which included Bharatha Khandam (1ndia), was divided into 56 Kingdoms. Of these, the last two kingdoms, Chera and Kerala, were owned by the king of Travancore.
The Kingdom of Chera was the most Southern and the largest among the three states already mentioned. The boundaries of the Kingdom of Chera, ancient Tamil authors described as the Pulney Hills in the north, the town of Peroor in the east, the sea about Cape Comorin in the South, and the range of the great mountains on the west, extending about 800 miles. Another Tamil author extends the northern boundary to the Coorg Hills and the Western to Calicut.
In Thretha Yugam (second age), Kerala or Malayalam is said to have been recovered from the sea by Parasu Rama, the sixth incarnation of Maha Vishnu. Several Puranas relate the story though the versions vary. One account says that with the permission of Varunan (the God of the Sea), Parasu Rama flung his weapon from Cape Comorin and it fell at Gokarnam, where upon the sea receded from those two points to the present extent of the Malabar Coast and he called it Keralam. Parasu Rama then invited the Brahmins, who having received grants of land and were located in sixty four gramas. He invited other castes also from foreign countries to occupy his new land and after living on the coast for a long time retired to the Mahendra hills, where he is supposed to be still living.
Parasu Rama after creating Kerala invited Brah¬mins from the north to settle in the country which he divided into sixty four gramas. He ordained several grades of Brahaminical heads, conse-crated numerous shrines between Gokarnam and Cape Comorin. The superintendence of each shrine was entrusted to Brahaminical heads. After consecrating of Temple at Padmanabhapuram, Parasu Rama invited Bhanu Vikrama and three of his brothers. He assembled the Brahmins of the sixty four gramams and declared to them that the capital of his newly reclaimed country, between Cape Comorin and Gokarnam shall be Padmanabhapuram. He also declared that Bhanu Vikrama shall be the king over the land of Keralam. He was placed on a throne of gold set with gems and had holy water and pearls poured over his head. Parasu Rama then gave his own sword together with many royal privileges, to Bhanu Vikrama, king of the land between Cape Comorin and Gokarnam. Gold coins were minted and circulated as the currency throughout his domin¬ions. One of the three brothers of this king was stationed at Gokarnam. There was the king of Kolathunad who ruled South Canara under the designation of Kola. It is also said that a long time afterwards, Parasu Rama personally crowned Bhanu Vikrama’s nephew, Adithya Vikrama, at Padmanabhapuram, presenting him with a sword bright as the sun, and nominated eight ministers under him.
Parasu Rama instituted a ceremony called Mamangam” and performed it with great splendour at Thirunavaye on the banks of river Bharathapuzha. The Brahmins of the sixty four gramams, the chiefs and petty Rajas of the country between Cape Comorin and Gokarnam were assembled here. The first seat in the assembly was assigned to Kulasekhara Perumal, King of Travancore, and the next to Udaya Varman of Kolathunad the latter being assigned the duty of performing the ceremony every twelth year. We also find that the art of warfare was introduced by Parasu Rama and that the kings were taught the use of various weapons.
In the third age, Dwapara Yugam, the King of Kerala is often mentioned in the renowed work “Mahabharatha”. The king of Kerala was one of the vassals of the Emperor, Yudhishtira, and during the great war, the Kerala chiefs fought on the side of Pandavas, who during their secret wanderings, visited Kerala.
Now we enter into the present age (Kali Yugam). In the early part of this age, India was under the rule of the Emperor Yudhishtira. After the close of Yudhishtira’s reign, which is said to have ended in the 36th year of Kali, the subordinate relation to the succeeding emperors continued as a matter of course, up tothe tenth century of the Kali Yugam, forty eight kings reigned over the Chera Kingdom.
One of the most celebrated of the Chera Kings, Kulashekara Perumal unlike his predecessors envinced a very extraordinary attachment to his religion. After ruling the kingdom for some years he abdicated in favour of his heir, and became a spiritual devotee, and added Alwar to his name. He was from that time known as Kuleshekara Alwar.
The correct name of the successor of this vener¬able sovereign ~ well as of many others in his line cannot be found, that the monarchy continued to rule its Chera possessions is a fact supported by several works.
The policy of the Chera king’s appeared to have been, peace at any price, their policy and avoca¬tions were decidedly of a commercial nature. Though there were feuds between Chola and Chera, occassional misunderstandings and quar¬rels with Pandya, Chera appears to have been of a peacable disposition. During any great struggle retired to Kerala, which always offered him an asylum. Since South Kerala was the only province in India which escaped foreign invasions. The Chera dynasty continued in power, though con¬stantly engaged in warfare with its neighbours Pandya and Chola, till central Chera was overrun by the Konga Rajas. The original dynasty of Chera then retired to its southern possessions, and joined the family residing in the south.
The old Chera was finally incorporated with Travancore and its original name Chera was renamed as Travancore. Many ancient and mod¬ern authors use their names indiscriminately. Almost all the southern possessions of Chera were included in the Travancore dominions. It was later conquered by the Madura rulers, and from them by the Carnatic Nawab. There is still a village called Chera Maha Devi in the Ambasamudram Taluk of Thirunelveli District (Tamil Nadu), where we can see the site on which the Chera King’s palace stood.
The general impression in regard to the dynasty of Travancore appears to be that it is the creation of Cheraman Perumal, and the Kingdom was his gift to one of his sons, Veera Keralen from whom the dynasty originated.
Almost all the caste rites and observances of the Travancore and Cochin royal families were simi¬lar, with the exception of marriage. The female members of the Travancore royal family married Kshthriyas, whereas the females of the Cochin Royal family followed the custom of marrying Namboothiri Brahmans.
‘Thulapurasha Danam’ is a ceremony performed by weighing the body of the king against an equal weight in gold, and distributing the same among Brahmins. For this purpose the required quantity of gold is procured, and after purifying it, is coined in different sizes and weights with the inscription “Sree Padmanabha the appellation of Vishnu and the household deity of Travancore on one side. ‘Hirannya Garbham’ or ‘Padma Garbha danam’ is a costly ceremony. The Raja enters into a lotus shaped pure golden vessel, filled with water, ghee, milk and other substances. His highness dips himself into the holy water while the Brah¬mans chant Vedic hymns. These ceremonies ac¬count for the Travancore kings being termed in Malayalam as “PonnuThampuran” (Golden King)
The great and renowned Vedantist, Sankara Acharya was born at Kalady on the northern bank of the Alwaye river (near Kochi). We have only a traditional account of the period of Sankara Acharya’s birth, which is said to have been in the eighth century of the Christian era. At a young age Sankara Acharya, began to criticise the religious proceedings of the Namboothiris and their Vedic knowledge and studies generally. Consequently the community was offended with the youth and began to persecute him in every possible manner. The society even excommunicated his family. When about sixteen years of age Sankara is said to have set out on a pilgrimage as a hermit. Sankara Acharya was the exponent of the ‘Non-dualism’ of Vedantic Philosophy.
The coronation of King Veera Kerala Varma Kuleshekara Perurnal was in 311 AD. His High-ness occupied the throne for a long time and ruled his Kingdom with prosperity and popularity. Veera Kerala Varma Kuleshekara Perumal, was suc¬ceeded by his brother. No particulars of the reign of this King can be gathered from any reliable account. All that is known of him is that he was unable to follow the track of his predecessor. This King’s successor was the nephew of Veera Kerala Varma, whose name he bore. It appears that it was in his reign that the Perumal royalty came to an abrupt end.
For the next two or three hundred years, we find no precise account of the affairs of North Kerala. During this interval, there was alliance between Travancore and the Kolathunad Rajas (Malabar) to repel the invaders of northern Kerala.
In 825 AD. when King Udaya Marthanda Varma was residing in Kollam, he convened a council of all the learned men of Kerala with the object of introducing a new era. After making some astro-nomical researches, he calculated the solar move¬ments throughout the twelve signs of the zodiac, and scientifically counted the number of days occupied in this revolution in every month, it was resolved to adopt the new era from the first of Chingam of that year, 15 August 825, as Kollam year one, and to call it a solar year. This arrange¬ment was approved of by all the wise men of the time, and every neighbouring country began to adopt the same.
In the year 830 A.D., Udaya Marthanda Varma, Kuleshekara Perumal died. His successor’s name and the particulars of his reign are not traceable from the records. The names and other particulars of many of the succeeding Kings are also not in the records.
It was about this period that the combined army of Travancore and Kolathunad drove out the Vellalar from Kerala. Subsequently the Kings of Travancore and Kolathunad reverted to the enjoyment of their respective possessions originally assigned to them by Parasu Rama. In the year 1050 A.D. the ancient Kingdom at Trivandrum was rebuilt by a Travancore Sovereign, whose name is not known.
During the 14th century A.D and in the reign of King Adithya Varma, the Travancore family was under the necessity of adopting two females from the Kolathunad royal family, and royal residence was constructed at Attingal. The reigning King died and the eldest son of the senior Rani of Attingal Sree Veera Rama Marthanda Varma, who was then in his 28th year was installed as king in 1376 A.D and this lasted for a period of forty years. He was succeeded by his third brother Eravi Varman, who resided at Trivandrum. He ruled the Kingdom with great credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction of his subjects. He was succeeded by his nephew, Kerala Varman, who died three months after his corona¬tion. Kerala Varman Kuleshekara Perumal, was succeeded by his twin-brother Chera Udaya Marthanda Varma. The reign of this sovereign was longer than that of all the Travancore mon¬archs.
Udaya MarthandaVarma died in 1444A.D at the ripe age of seventy eight. He wa~ succeeded by Venad Mootha Rajah, who reigned for fourteen years and died in 1458 A.D. From this year up to 1680 A.D, a period of about two and a quarter centuries, no credible accounts of the reigns of the sovereigns can be found.
Taking advantage of the state of affairs of Travancore, in 1680 AD, a petty sirdar, under the Mogul Emperor, entered the Southern part of the Peninsula, with a number of horsemen. They plundered the land and invaded the southern part of Travancore. Since none of the nobles and chiefs were able to oppose the sirdar or arrest his progress, he advanced to Trivandrum and made his headquarters there.
The Mogul Sirdar exercised his power up to Edava (near Kollam) in the north and became sole master of the country between Thovalay (Tamil Nadu) and Edava on the coast line of Travancore.
Her Highness Umayamma Rani found it difficult to recover her kingdom from the hands of the Mogul Sirdar. She invited one Kerala Varma, a member of the northern Kottayam Raja’s family. Raja Kerala Varma was a brave warrior, perfect in sword exercise, arrow-shooting and in the use of other weapons. The Raja personally led the army against the Mogul Sirdar. His army defeated and killed the Mogul Chief with the backing of the Raja. The Rani (Queen) soon rebuilt the palace at Trivandrum. After this, the Queen found no diffi¬culty in bringing to obedience all the refractory chiefs and nobles.
In 1684 AD, Umayamma Rani’s son was duly installed on the throne. Once again the problem of adoption arose as there was no one else in the family. Two males and two females were adopted into the Travancore family. A year after the adoption the Rani died and was followed by the elder of the two adopted Ranis. The junior Rani was the only surviving female member of the royal family. This Rani gave birth to a Prince in 1706 AD. This Prince whose name was Marthanda Varma, distinguished himself above all other sovereign’s and received the well merited title of Zamorin of the kingdom of Travancore.
In 1718 AD King Ravi Varman died, and the eldest of the adopted Princes, Unni Kerala Varma was proclaimed king of Travancore. Though young, Prince Marthanda Varma could not tolerate the state of affairs in the country and asked permission to take an active participation in the affairs of Government. Within no time he began to check the rebellions. He became the target of the Ettu Veetil Pillamar (Rebel chieftains and lords) and the Madempimars (Rebelchieftains4andlordsj. He had to change his residence many times to escape from his enemies.
After six years reign, Unni Kerala Varma died, and was succeeded by his younger brother Rama Varma in 1724 AD. Before his death a female member of the Kolathunad family was adopted as a Princess of Travancore, and Her Highness gave birth to a Prince in the Year 1724 AD. This prince later became the renowned Rama Raja, generally called Dharma Raja.
His Highness along with his intelligent nephew was able to defeat all the Madempimars. But they could not bring the Yogakar and the Ettu Veetil Pillamar under their control easily. In 1728 A.D. an attack was made on the Rani and the Prince but both escaped unhurt. In the same year, king Rama Varma died following an illness.
Commercial speculations seem to have engaged the attention of even the earliest Travancore kings. Travancore seems to have had dealings with foreign nations from the remotest period, pepper, cassia, areca-nut, etc were bartered for Chinese, Arabian and Roman goods. Greece, Egypt, Rome, Denmark, Portugal, Finland, France and Britain were the nations with whom Travancore had commercial relations.
The Portuguese were also allowed to establish themselves as merchants at Puracaud, Quilon, Neendacaray and several other petty sea-ports, soon after their arrival in India. The Dutch re-ceived aid in their attempts to supplant the Portu¬guese and established themselves all along the sea-coast between Colachel Tamil Nadu and Cochin¬ Kochi.
The English were permitted to own land at Anjengo -for the opening of a factory contemporaneously with the establishment of their factories on the Malabar coast, and subsequently permission was given to them for building a fort there. They always received warm support from Travancore in all their subsequent trade projects.
All foreigners were treated very kindly and with respect by the kings of Travancore. The kings cultivated acquaintance and friendship of Europe¬ans and gave to each and every one of them valuable products of Travancore especially pep¬per, without showing partiality and without giving cause for quarrel among them still a strong spirit of rivalry prevailed among European nations and they were constantly at war with each other during that period in Europe.
Various improvements were introduced by the king Ravi Varma during his reign. The power of the local chiefs were curtailed and special agents were appointed at various parts of the country, which was divided into districts called “Pacuthies”, with power to collect the revenue, which was roughly estimated before their appointment. After defraying the expenditure on religious and other institutions the agent was to remit the surplus into the king’s treasury.
All such agents were recognized as the king’s officers and thus the authority and influence of the Madempimar and petty chiefs were curtailed. After the death of king Ravi Varma, successor Unni Kerala Varma was unable to enforce the above systems, and consequently in many parts of the country, especially in the Southern Districts of Nanjinaud, anarchy still prevailed. It was at this state of things that Rama Varma strove to remedy. Unfortunately, however, he died before he could execute his intention, of introducing a better system of Government. He left the kingdom in the hands of the able and bold prince Marthanda Varma.
Most of the Travancore kings ruled the country with wisdom and valour, surmounting all opposi-tions both from the feudatory chiefs and from foreign invaders, and governed the kingdom sat-isfactorily.
Almost all the Sovereings of Travancore were distinguished not only for their princely accom-plishments, but also for the productions of various Sanskrit works on Philosophy, Metaphysics, His¬tory, Religion, Music, Drama, etc. Their govern¬ing abilities were seldom equaled by the other native kings of India.
These sovereigns kept pace with other nations in the art of good principles which were known and testified to by several European nations in the earliest days of their trade connections with India.
History of Malabar
The Kerala Mahatmyam written in Sanskrit, and the Keralolpatti written in Malayalam contain the traditional beliefs of the people regarding the ancient history of Malabar. These two sources confirm the Parasurama legend and states that the people of this land were all Brahmins. In Kerala Mahatmyam there is reference to sixty four vil¬lages or gramams which throws light on the early administrative divisions. Later when disputes arose between the supreme Brahmins and other reli¬gious factions like the Sudras, Parasurama Se¬lected four gramas out of the sixty four and put these under Brahmanical rule. But this system did not work. So the Brahmins assembled at Tirunavay, determined to select a king and empowered the four selected gramams to choose a king. Their choice fell on Keya Perumal.
He ruled for eight years and four months. Alter Keya Perumal’s death the Brahmins brought Choya Perumal from Choyamondalam. He reigned for ten years and was succeeded by Padni Perumal. Then came a king called Bhutarayar Pandi Perumal. Bitter enimity arose between him and the Brah¬mins. Then invasions became frequent. The Brah¬mins approached Parasuraman. He told them to select a king on the Tirunavay festival day when Gangadevi would come to Tirunavay. Parasurama allowed them to choose whomever they wished, and advised them to anoint the new king with the water of Perar, i.e. the Ponnani River. Parasurama also gave them the divine sword for the protection of the country. The Brahmins proceeded to Choyamandalam and brought a king named Keralan. It is said he reigned for twelve years and on account of his good qualities, it is said, the land received the name of Kerala. King Pandyan alias Chennar of the Pandyan Raj succeeded him and he was followed by King Choyiyam of the Choya Raj. In order to prevent the king from seizing despotic power, the Brahmins divided the country into seventeen divisions, and divided the power of control among the four gramams. The Brahmins brought Tulubhan Perumal from the north. Indra Perumal, Arya Perumal, Kannan Perumal, Kotti Perumal, Mata Perumal, Elli Perumal, Komban Perumal, Vijayom Perumal and Harischandra Perumal succeeded one another.
The next Perumal was Kulasekhara Perumal from the Pandyan country. He organised the country into small chieftainships to protect it against the Mappillas. He is also credited with having intro-duced the study of sciences into the Malayali country, for the Malayali Brahmins were said to be ignorant of science upto this time. The Kulasekhara age witnessed the remarkable renaissance of Hin¬duism. Great saints and seers like Sankaracharya, Kulesekhara Alwar and Cheraman Perumal Nayanar lived during this period. The new spiritual cult created great enthusiasm and helped in the rapid revival of Hinduism. But this age also saw the decline of Buddhism and Jainism in Kerala.
According to Keralolpathi, there were twenty five foreign Perumals who ruled over Kerala. Kulasekhara Perumal was such a good king that the people made him emperor for life.