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Search results for: All About Kerala & Kerala History - Spice Trade

Kerala's history is closely linked with its commerce, which in turn was wholly dependent until recent times on its spice trade. Kerala was celebrated 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.

Spice Trade.

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.

The 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 A.D.

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 KERALA .

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 .

He 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.


Burial Place of Vasco De Gama

Some 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.

Vaso Da Gama



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