Christians who had arrived from the middle East in the 3rd century
AD and the Muslims who arrived in the 8th century were generally
traders and were not involved in this social segregation and generally
kept aloof from the ambit of caste politics of those days. The Jews
who arrived in Kerala in the early years of the Christian era were
given privileges to trade and became an influential part of the
melting pot of Kerala's population.
The Namboothiries also were the landowners
( janmi) of most lands in Kerala. Lands being leased out to next
higher castes for share cropping, and these in turn would further
be leased out to those lower on the caste hierarchy and to non-Hindus.
The lowest castes of course were only labourers and were traded
along with the land . In such a rigid hierarchy, the all powerful
Namboothiries were the unquestioned rulers.
By and by Kerala entered a phase of feudal
chieftains or warlords (naduvazhis). Some were anointed by the Namboothiries,
but most just walked into a power vacuum existing at the time. Hence,
Kerala at the turn of the 11th century AD had a power triangle in
the caste system supported by the Landlords and ruled by the warlords.
This in turn gave rise to instability in the absence of strong central
leadership. Wars and conflicts were common for control of turf.
Ultimately three war lords emerged with
some semblance of authority in their regions - the Zamorin of Calicut
(Samuthiri of Kozhikode) to the North, Moopins of Perimpadappu (near
modern day Kochi) in the central regions and chieftain of Kollam.
is also interesting to note that these kingdoms are centred around
the ancient ports of Kozhikode, Kochi ( a small harbour appeared
in present day Kochi in 1341 after a natural calamity closed the
ancient port of Muziris or Kodungalloor. The name Kochi comes from
the word kochu thura meaning small port or opening out to the sea
!), and Kollam.
combination of caste, feudalism and warfare ultimately took its
toll. The landlords lived in supreme luxury, while the peasantry
toiled to keep them in comfort. The endless feuds also impoverished
the country side. When Kerala was ripe for the picking.
is precisely what the Europeans who found a sea lane to the fabled
land of spices and gold did.
There was nothing anyone could do to stop
the next five centuries of colonial rule !