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Ancient Kerala History
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Historical Personalities


One of the most competent and popular Chief Ministers of Kerala.


A prominent leader of the oppressed classes. Born in 1863, he successfully organized educational and other rights for people of the lowest strata of society.

AYYAPPAN (Sahodaran Ayyappan)

A noted leader of the oppressed classes. He started the paper Sahodaran in 1921 and hence the name Sahodaran Ayyappan. He was a noted member of the ministries of Kochi from 1946 onwards till 1949. Died in 1968. The main arterial road from East into Kochi is today named after him


A German priest who later became a Sanskrit scholar and penned many notable Sanskrit books of high repute. Also produced the first Malayalam - Portuguese dictionary.


A traveller from Arabia circa 1000 AD, who first described Malabar in his writings. Talks about Buddhist influence in Kerala during his travels.


Portugese governor of Kerala from 1506. He is credited with expanding Portuguese power to the entire coast of Kerala, Goa and Malacca in the east by force of arms and shrewd alliances. He was an able administrator and brought in a semblance of law and order and sensible civil laws.


Legendary figure of 12th century AD. Hero in many Vadakkan Pattu or local chronicles. Reputedly man of great chivalry and bravery. His memory is revered in many parts of Kerala to this day.


Soon after Vasco de Gama returned to Portugal, Cabral sailed to Kerala with 33 ships and 1500 men. Cabral was noted for his treachery and cruelty. Soon the entire coast was a battle field and forced Cabral to seek the help of the Kochi Raja to fight
the Zamorin.


Freedom fighter and Chief minister of the state of Thirukochi in 1951


Ezhuthachan is considered as the ‘
Father of Modern Malayalam’. He has written a number of books. His ‘Adhyatma Ramayanam’ and ‘Mahabharatham, are the most important. These are independent translations from Sanskrit originals. Ezhuthachan is supposed to have lived some 550 years ago. He was born at Thunchan Parampu in Thrikkandiyoor in Malappuram district. His exact name is not known. It is generally believed that his name was


A priest from a small parish of Ramapuram, he undertook a journey to Rome in 1778. Thereafter he wrote the first ever Travelogue in Malayalam.


Herman Gundert, a German missionary is credited with having prepared and published the first Malayalam dictionary in 1872. A noted educationist and literary figure.


Another great traveler, from Africa, who wrote about the great port cities of Kerala - Caulum (Kollam), Calikooth (Kozhikode). There is no mention of Kochi in his memoirs.


A Dutch traveler to Kerala in 1664 wrote an exhaustive travelogue on Kerala.


This Arab merchant arrived at Kodungalloor in 345 AD and laid the foundations of the Syrian Christian of Kerala. The local Raja accorded him great honours and positions in credited with founding the Syrian Christian community of Kerala.


Kunjali Marakkar was the commander of the navy of the Zamorin of Calicut. The Portuguese came to India in 1498. They first established trade in Calicut. Even before this the Arabs were carrying on trade with Calicut. When the Portuguese attacked on Arab ship coming to Calicut the Zamorin was angry with them. The Zamorin decided to attack the Portuguese. Kunjali fought and defeated them in several battles. Kunjali was a great patriot.



A famed highwayman of Central Thiruvithamkoor in the early part of the 19th century. He is reported to have stolen from the rich and given to the poor. Legends about his exploits are part of the local folk lore. Died in jail in 1859.


A Gandhian who fought ceaselessly against all form of subjugation and oppression. Closely identified with the Vaikom satyagraha (temple entry for all castes).

A great Malayalam poet in the court of Marthanda Varma    

Ottan Thullal is a very popular art form of Kerala. Kunchan Nambiar is the founder of this art form. Nambiar was a learned man and a born poet. He was born at Killikkurrisimangalam near the Lakkidi railway station in Malabar. Later on he went to Ambalapuzha and lived in the court of the Raja there. It was here that Nambiar wrote his first Thullal kadha. He used to play ‘Mizhavu’ for Chkkyar koothu in the temple. Once he happened to doze while


The founder of the unified state of Thiruvithamkur in the 18th century. He conquered all the medium sized principalities upto Kochi and laid the foundations of a modern state. He employed people with known capabilities in the military, administration and education.


A able administrator and resident of Thiruvithamkoor in the early years of 19th century. Introduced very far reaching and sensible reforms.


One of the early Chief Ministers of Kerala in its formative years in 1960.


An eminent political figure of Kochi. He was the Chief Minister of Kochi in 1947 and 1955. He was also member of the Union Cabinet.

The Pazhassi raja led an insurrection against British rule in Malabar in 1797. The British took causalities in the beginning, but asserted themselves as the campaign wore on. By 1804 Pazhassi's revolt was all but suppressed. In 1805 he was killed in the forests of Wayanad. He is to this day revered as one of the greatest patriots of Kerala.


One of the Chief Ministers of Kerala after Independence.


Powerful Dewan of Thiruvithamkur state at Independence. It must be said that Sir CP (as he was popularly known) nursed ambitions of making Thiruvithamkur an independent country. However, a violent personal attack on him demoralised him and he went to self exile.


Sakthan Thampuran was the Raja of Cochin some 200 years ago. He become king when he was very young. He was a brave and able ruler. His real name was Rama Varma. He punished criminals and wrong doers mercilessly. Such people were afraid of him. He meted out justice without any mercy. So people called him Sakthan Thampuran.


One of the greatest social reformers of India and a contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi. His call for equality among people found a great following. His teachings have had a profound effect on the caste-ridden Kerala landscape and helped the state achieve great social progress when compared to the other states of India. Founded many ashrams, the most important being at Sivagiri near Kollam. He died in 1928.


Sree Sankara was one of the most illustrious son of Kerala. He was born in a poor Brahmin family at Kalady. His father was Sivaguru and mother Arya Devi. Sankaran lost his father when he was very young. So he was brought up by his mother. When he was a boy, Sankaran wanted to become a Sanyasin. But his mother would not allow him. One day while bathing in the Periyar a crocodile caught hold of his leg and began dragging him into the deep waters. His mother began to cry. Sankaran said that the crocodile would let him go if he was allowed to become Sanyasin. So his mother gave him permission. So Sankaran left home and travelled all over India. Even when a boy he had learned all the ‘Sastras’. He accepted Govindacharya as his spiritual Guru. He became the greatest scholar of his time. He originated the ‘Adwaidasiddhantha’. He had large number of disciples. He set up monasteries at Badrinath, Dwaraka and Sringeri. He died at the age of 32.


Swathi Thirunal was the king of Travancore from 1829 to 1848. He was heir to the throne even in his mother’s womb. So e was known as ‘
Garbasreeman’. His mother ruled the country till he attained majority. He learned many languages and become a scholar. He learned music and was a good musician. He was also a great composer of music. He was a great lover of arts and patronised artists. He was also a great administrator. It was he who began English Education in Travancore. It was during his time that law courts were first established in Travancore. The reign of Swathi Thirunal is often called the ‘Golden age of Kerala Music’. 


Another legendary warrior from North Kerala at the end of the 16th century. Highly stylised songs and stories of his valour and chivalry abound. He lived some 500 years ago. He was born in the family of ‘
Manikothy’ in Thacholi near Badakara. He was a brave warrior, merciless to enemies, but a friend of the helpless. Even the Zamorin of Calicut respected him. He defeated Mathiloor Gurukkal and killed him. But one of the Gurukkal’s disciple cheated and killed Othenan. His real name was Udayanakurup. He died at the young age of 32. He is praised about in Vadakkanpattu.


Legendary warrior figure , sister of Aromal Chekavar, mother of Aromalunny. The songs and chronicles have to this day kept the legend alive. She was born in the ‘Puthooram Veedu’ family. The famous warriors ‘
Aromal Chevakar’ and ‘Unnikannan’ were her brothers. Like her brothers Unniyarcha was also trained in the arts of war. She is praised in Vadakkanpattu. She is considered as a heroine and symbol of female ability.


The European merchant prince who opened up the East to European rule. Landed at Kozhikode in 1498 and established trading stations and in the end Portuguese rule over Kerala.


Velu Thampi led what is perhaps the most courageous rebellion against the British which started as a direct fall out of the British Resident Macauly's humiliating interference in the affairs of the Thiruvithamkur . Th e revolt started in 1808 . The Kundara Proclamation of 1809 was an open call to arms and thousands flocked to his banner. Initially, he was helped in his cause by the Dewan of Kochi, Paliath Achan, but in the later stages he fought a lonely campaign against the British. He was no match for the military might of the British Army and finally fled the state and reportedly committed suicide in March 1809. Most of Velu Thampi's followers were either hanged or imprisoned after the termination of hostilities. There would not be any insurrection on this scale for the rest of the British presence in Kerala.

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