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Kerala History

          History of Kerala


          The Portuguese and the Dutch will be remembered for introducing 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) is a much recognised landmark of Kochi. The renovation of the palace at Mattancherry ( known as the Dutch palace) at Kochi also is a reminder of the brief Dutch colonial presence in Kerala.
          The French also had brief moments of glory in Kerala. But a resurgent Britain put paid to their hopes of empire building and managed to confine them to a small enclave Mahe near Kannur.

          Kerala historyNotable in this time was the king of Thiruvithamkur, Marthanda Varma in the 18th century. His success started with the subjugation of the local warlords. Then in a move at consolidating his kingdom, he subjugated all principalities the southern tip of Kerala upto Kodungalloor up in the North.

          His notable achievements of converting these captured lands into state lands, centralising foreign trade and hence improving government incomes, improving conditions of farmers, and most importantly reducing the powers of the government servants who till then were exclusively from certain castes and families set the foundation of modern day Kerala. He also took the rather unusual step of employing competent people from all castes and for the first time recognised competence over birth right. For his army he employed a European De Lanoy. For administration he employed people like Raja Kesava Das, Mallan Govindan etc who were men of proven ability. His defeat of the Dutch at Kolachel in 1741 is the high point of the reign of one of the most colourful kings of Kerala.

          It was after him that the British were trying to extend their influence in South India and they came across Tipu, the Sultan of Mysore. Thiruvithamkur was forced into a common alliance with the British against Tipu.

          Kerala historyThe Mysore war was over in 1799 and the British were de facto rulers of North Kerala, which until then were part of Tipu's kingdom. Both Thiruvithanmkur and Kochi were browbeaten with threats of war and huge war debt payments, that they were forced to accept British residents for the rest of their history.

          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 .

          Kerala historyHowever it was only a matter of time when the reinforcements of the British army arrived from Malabar and the Madras Presidency. After almost a year of sporadic battles, Velu Thampi Dalawa fled the kingdom. The power of the British Resident was now paramount and the Maharaja had to be content with a much reduced say in the affairs of State. The revolt by these two leaders are the stuff of legends to this day. But these were isolated and did not have the necessary military might to fight a sustained campaign against an emerging World Super Power. Once the British military effectively crushed these revolts, no more was heard from these naduvazhis or warlords again..

          But it 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 by extension the British. These are now called the moppilla lahala or Muslim Revolt. Needless to say, these were also ruthlessly suppressed and again form a part of the local folklore to this day.

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