Travel

God’s own country – Kerala Tour Places

God’s own country - Kerala Tour Places

Very aptly captured by Kereal Tourism video – “God’s own country” a tag line used by state tourism. It is beautiful, breathtaking; there is an abundance of nature’s gifts, amazing eastern highlands, rugged and cool mountain terrains, western lowlands and coastal plains. It has thick forest cover, plenty of flowering and medicinal plants, beautiful backwaters, backwaters, diverse flora and fauna, rich history and culture. God’s own country is the tag line used by Kerala tourism. it was used originally for the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland and later for Australia, New Zealand, and few other countries. Unfortunately, nowadays it is more in news for political violence, hacking opponent’s heads and limbs, forcible religious conversions and even entry of religious terror groups like ISIS.  This tag line should surely be changed now.

History of Kerala

kozhikode beach

It is believed that the word Kerala is derived from the word “Kera” which is coconut in Malayalam, as it is the land where coconut is found in abundance. It is also probable that the name is derived from Cheralam; the land of the most famous ruling dynasty of Kerala “The Cheras”, between 1st and 5th century AD. It is also believed that Kerala was recovered from the sea by sage “Parasuram” the 6th avatar of Vishnu, hence called “Parasurama Kshetram”. Cheras was one of the four kingdoms of southern India in the time of Ashoka; others being Chola, Pandy, and Satiyaputra.  Kerala spices were famous from time immemorial and attracted traders from Babylonia, Egypt Greeks, and Romans in 3rd and 2nd BCE.  It is believed that Christianity reached Kerala in AD 52 with the arrival of Saint Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus. Judaism reached Kerala in 10th century BC during the time of Solomon. Islam was introduced early and Cheraman Jumuáh Masjid in Thrissur is believed to be the first mosque in India built in 629 AD. The story is quite interesting as the legend says Cheraman Perumal (Chera kings) witnessed a miracle “splitting of the moon” performed by Islamic Prophet Muhammad. In conversation with Arab merchants, king learned about Muhammad and traveled to Arabia to meet the Prophet and gifted him ginger pickles. Greatly impressed by Prophet Muhammad he converted to Islam. King sent a companion back to Kerala and converted the Buddhist temple to a mosque. Although more than fifty percent of the population is believed to be Hindu followed by Muslims and Christians yet state affairs are dominated by political parties related to the Church and Mosque.

Read in detail about Kerala City Tour

kozhikode beach

Kerala Tour Places – Kozhikode

My area of interest was Calicut or Kozhikode in North Kerala. It is usually not in the common tourist itinerary which usually starts from Ernakulum and ends at Trivandrum passing through hills of Munnar, forests of Periyar reserves, backwaters of Alappuzha and Kollam ending at the beaches of Trivandrum.  Europeans discovered India first landing at Kozhikode in 1498 AD, but somehow Indian tourists do not visit the place much. Even many of my Keralite co-workers in the hospital hardly have any idea of the place. English called it Calicut which is derived from Kalikat, the Malayalam word for local Mappila community. Kozhikode comes from Koliykode which itself is derived from Koyilkotai meaning a fortified palace (Koyil – palace, Kotai- fortified). Kozhi in Malayalam also means rooster so a cheeky name of Calicut is The Cock Fort. City of Spices was synonymous with Kozhikode in its earlier period.

History of Kozhikode

kozhikode beach

Zamorins ruled the area in 12th century A.D. and offered full freedom and security for trade. Last Cheraman Perumal was Rama Varma Kulasekhara. His governor Mana Vikrama became the Zamorin later. It traded mainly in black pepper and cardamom with Arabs, Jews, and Chinese. Marco Polo visited the area in 1293-1294. Ibn Battuta (A.D. 1342-47) described it as a preferred port for traders.  It was known aa s city of truth due to honesty and fair trade, while many other ports were famous for piracy and plunder. Chinese sailor Ma Huan (1403 AD) has described the opulence of the city and has mentioned 20 to 30 mosques built by benevolent Zamorin to cater to the needs of Muslim traders. Vasco de Gama opened the trade route for Europeans by landing at Kappad beach on May 20, 1498. There is some confusion regarding the place of landing of Vasco de Gama as he probably landed at Panthalayini near Kollam in Kozhikode district because there was no proper port at there and it doesn’t have it even now. The government has even installed a memorial stone at Kappad beach. With the arrival of Portuguese peace of Calicut was very much disturbed resulting in frequents fights between Europeans and Arabs. Vasco de Gama returned again in 1502 and attacked Zamorin killing the Muslims in Calicut.  He also made friends with the king of Kochi. There were periods of peace but hostilities again erupted when Portuguese tried to assassinate Zamorin. Portuguese built a fort in Chaliyam (at river Bypore), a nearby village and established superiority on Indian waters and kept on harassing Zamorin and the fort appeared like a pistol on Zamorin’ s head. Zamorin defeated Portuguese and recaptured the fort in 1571. There were reconciliation and Zamorin donated land to build a church. Dutch arrived in the scene in 1663 and completely threw out Portuguese. In 1766 Hyder Ali captured Calicut. Zamorin dispatched his family members to Ponnani, blew up his palace and committed self-immolation.  In 1783 tyrant Tipu Sultan captured Kozhikode and persecuted Hindu population, destroying temples and authorizing forcible conversions to Islam. Calicut was attacked by Nairs under Raja Ravi Varma. Third Mysore War (1790-1792) resulted in rule by Britishers and Zamorin family were reduced to pensioners. Kerala became one of the states of Indian Union on 1 November 1956. This amazing Kozhikode history was enough to generate interest in this North Kerala city.

kozhikode beach

We reached Calicut from Coimbatore after paying obeisance to Adiyogi Shiva. Our driver was a bit tricky. There was a language problem but more than that he appeared very lazy. I wanted to take some sunset pictures before checking in our hotel. He had other ideas and drove very slowly finishing his day after leaving us at the hotel. Fortunately, hotel staff was helpful and provided us their car to go to Kozhikode beach.

Unfortunately, it was a weekend and all the roads to the beach were chocked. Somehow with some brisk walking carrying my Camera load, we reached the beach. Sun didn’t wait for us and had disappeared in the Arabian Sea. Beach was overcrowded with locals and was very dirty. There was not much to do in poor light; frustrated and cursing our driver we were on our way back to the hotel.   There was a procession on the road with some drummers drumming and dancing, ladies carrying Diyas and few people dressed as Gods and Goddesses.  Language handicapped driver just said “Saar, some Devi Puja”. We immediately got down and it was a pleasant surprise. Their people were dressed as Lord Shiva, Parvati, Saraswati, and Murugan. The language was a barrier but Camera lens dissolved that barrier and they were happy to be photographed. Next day morning appeared a better organized day as we had Mr. K. Mohan, a very experienced guide with us.

Much more to cover in the next blog on God’s own country – Kerala Tour Places!

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