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The Medieval Kingdoms

The period after the dissolution of the Second Chera Empire of the Kulasekharas witnessed the rise of several small kingdoms in Kerala.  The important ones are Venad {Travancore), the Perumpadappu Swarupam (Cochin), The Nediyirippu Swarupam of the Zamorins of Calicut.  The minor principalities are Desinganad, Attingal, Karunagappally, Karthikappally, Kayamkulam, Purakkad, Pantalam, Tekkumkur, Vadakkumkur, Punjar, Karappuram, Anchi Kaimals, Edappally, Parur, Alangad, Cranganore, Airur, Talappilly, Valluvanad, Palghat, Kollengode, Kavalappara, Parappanad, Kurumpranad, Kottayam, Cannanore, Nileswaram, and Kumbla.


The royal house of Venad, which later came to be called Travancore, claims Rama Varna Kulasekhara as its founder and Quilon as its capital.  Venad became a power in the fourteenth century under Ravi Varna Kulasekhara (1299-1314), the conqueror, who claimed lordship even over the Pandyas.  He assumed the Sanskrit title sangramadhira (strong in battle).  Quilon acquired great prosperity and prominence at this time that travellers like Marco Polo visited the city at the end of the thirteenth century.  According to Marco Polo, "the merchants from China and from the Levant went there with their merchandise in their ships and made huge profits from the import-export business."

In the eighteenth century, Venad was blessed with two great rulers, Marthanda Varma (1729-1758) and his nephew, Kartika Tirunal Rama Varma or the Dharna Raja (1758-1798).  The former annexed several neighboring states to Venad and the latter consolidated the gains by maintaining the independence of the state from the external aggressions of Hyder Ali and Tippu, the Sultans of Mysore.  One of the most important acts of Marthanda Varma the Conqueror was the dedication (Trippatidanam) of the newly organized kingdom to his household deity Sri Padmanabha (Vishnu) 
of Trivandrum on Wed-nesday, January 3, 1750.  As Marthanda Varma is remembered for his construction of the great Sri Padmanabha Temple of Trivandrum, Dharma Raja is commemorated by the Nedumcotta of Central Kerala (the Great Mall) built to prevent the Mysorean invasion -- it was the Dutch-General D'Lannoy who supervised the construction of the Great Mall.  The great poets, Kunjan Nambiar and Unnai Harrier, lived during the time of Dharma Raja.  When the Raja passed away in 1798 after a long reign of forty years, he was seventy-four years old; his subjects bestowed on him the affectionate title Kizhavan Raja (the Old Man King). The following successors of Dharma Raja continued the policy of enlightened administration under the guidance of British Residents;  Bala Rama Varma (1798-1810), Rami Gouri Lakshmi Bai (1810-1815), Gouri Parvati Bai (1815-1829), the scholar-composer-polyglot Svati Tirunal (1829-1847), Sri Mulam Tirunal (1885-1924), and Sri Chitra Tirunal (1931-1949).


Nothing much is known about the Cochin royal house (Perumpadappu Swarupam) until the arrival of the Portuguese in the fifteenth century.  The Cochin ruler claims to be a descendant of the Kulasekharas.  The only important ruler of Cochin was Saktan Tampuran (1790-1805) who introduced the system of central administration with the advice of the British Resident Colonel Munro.


The Zamorins (Samutiri)  of Calicut are descendants from the Ernad Utaiyavar and are supposed to have received land and a broken sword (otimaval) from the Cheraman Perumal.  The kingdom of Calicut came to be known as Nediyirippu Swarupam after the original house of the Eradis.  Under the patronage of the Zamorins, Calicut became an important sea-port and trade from the fourteenth century.  The Arabs and the Chinese were the major trading partners of Calicut.  With revenues -from trade, the Zamorins embarked on the path of aggressive expansion by conquering and annexing the principalities of Beypore, Parappanad, Vettat, Valluvanad, Nilambur, Manjeri, and Malappuram. Finally, the reigning Zamorin victoriously marched into Tirunavai and assumed the role of patron (Rakshapurusha) of the Pan-Kerala Meet (Mamankam).  The later history of Calicut is characterized by constant conflicts with Cochin and by interferences from foreign powers like the British.  On May 21, 1800, the British, after crushing the opposition of the Zaniorins and Pazhassi Raja, annexed Malabar to the Province of Madras.  During the period 1836-1856, the Malabar District had reported twenty-two bloody Muslim Mappila riots in which the poor Muslim tenants murdered many cruel Hindu Janmis (landlords) and burned Hindu temples.  The riots came to an end with increasing opportuni-ties of employment for the unemployed and with land reform acts which pro-vided protection for poor tenants from unjust eviction.




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