history is closely linked with its commerce, which in turn was
wholly dependent until recent times on its spice trade. Kerala
was cele- brated as the Malabar Coast, known for its spices, and
travellers from around the world journeyed here to trade and to
gain control over this rich land. The first travellers were the
Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs and the Chinese, latter day traders
included the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British.
Almost all of them have left their imprint on this land in some
form or the other - architecture, cuisine, literature.
It is believed that the spice trade dates back three thousand
years. Certainly it was responsible for Vasco da Gama's quest
for the Indian subcontinent, and its discovery via a sea route.
Pepper still remains the king of Kerala's spices, but the state
also has a very rich produce in cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace,
ginger and turmeric, it has a rich cultivation of cashewnuts,
and is India's home state for coconut ! As in the past, the state
continues to be the spice capital of the world.
first known mention of KERALA occurs on one of the rock inscriptions
left by Asoka, emperor of INDIA , during the third century B.C.
It was then an independent kingdom known as KERALA Putra, which
was ruled by the powerful Chera dynasty until the 5th century
Isolated by land, the MALABAR coast was open to the ancient world
on all sides by sea and this explains the cosmopolitan aspect
of present-day KERALA . The Phoenicians came here to trade for
spices, ivory, and sandal wood. Biblical Ophir, visited by King
Solomon's ships about 1000 B.C. is believed to have been the village
Puvar south of TRIVANDRUM, the present capital of KERALA . They
were followed by traders from Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, Rome,
Arabia, and China. This was the period when Aryans migrated to
There were many Jews, some of whom are supposed to have fled here
when Nebuchadnezzar occupied Jerusalem in 587 B.C. For the native
Christians, European missionaries and other post-medieval colonizers
were late comers. Christianity in KERALA dates back from A.D.
52 when Apostle THOMAS arrived in KERALA (MALABAR Coast). St.
THOMAS was one of the twelve apostles or disciples of JESUS CHRIST
is the founder of the Christian Church in INDIA . He was assassinated
in MADRAS , where St. Thomas Mount and San Thomas Cathedral are
located. He was buried in MADRAS. Apostle Thomas established 7½
churches (seven and a half) in KERALA and converted many Brahmins
to Christianity. A group of 400 Christians came from Syria in
A.D. 345 under the leadership of Thomas of Cana.
Christians are commonly called as Syrian Christians. The local
Christians were quite a surprise to the Portuguse, who followed
VASCO DE GAMA . They told the newcomers that they had never heard
of the Pope and the native Christians were persecuted by the Portuguese.
It is to the credit of the Hindus, however, that neither Christian
nor Jew has ever suffered any persecution during 2000 years in
KERALA . KERALA has a unique record in INDIA for harmonious coexistence
of diverse religions.
Today in many places you can see temples, MUSLIM mosques, and
Christian Churches in close proximity and prayers are conducted
harmoniously. The first emigration of Jews to KERALA took place
in the 6th century B.C. There was a much bigger wave in the 1st
century A.D., when Jews fleeing Roman persecution in Jerusalem
came to Cranganore and settled there. A good example of the tolerance
of Hindu Kings can be seen in the Synagogue of Mattancheri.
copper plates have been presented to the Jewish community by King
Bhaskara Ravi Varma in the 11th century A.D. It awarded the village
of Anjuvanam shall be the hereditary possession of Joseph Rabbaan
and his descendants "so long as the world and moon exist". But
the Portuguse persecuted Jews and native Christians. Muslims rebelled
against the Portuguese intolerance.
Malayalees are proud of their cultural heritage. Hindus, Christians,
Muslims , all form part of the human tide flowing through KERALA
. They are good natured and famous for their hospitality. KERALA'S
cultural heritage contains elements of ancient Hindu culture that
have been enriched by the best in Sanskrit and has a prolific
literature. The year 1498 when VASCO DE GAMA landed at Calicut
marked the beginning of the era of foreign Intervention. The Dutch
preceded the Portuguese, although, their stay was short. The British
East INDIA Company had been on the MALABAR coast since 1684.