Kannur or Cannanore as it was called by the British is a northern district of Kerala. It shares its boundaries with the Kasargod District of Kerala on the North and the Kozhikode District of Kerala in the south. To the east is the State of Karnataka and to the west is the Arabian Sea.
There is no evidence of the Paleolithic man having lived in this region. Nevertheless, rock-cut caves and Megalithic burial sites of the Neolithic age have come to light in certain parts of the district. The Thaliparamba-Kannur-Thalassery area abounds in rock cut caves, dolments, burial stone circles and menhirs, all of Megalithic burial order. It can be assumed that the first batch of Aryan immigrants into the State entered the district through the Tuluva region.
Mooshaka Kings and Kolathiris
Early in the ninth century AD, the Cheras re-established their political supremacy in Kerala under Kulasekhara Varman. This second line of Chera emperors ruled till 1102 AD with their capital at Mahodayapuram. The bulk of the area, comprising of the present Kannur district, seems to have been included in this empire. A separate line of rulers known as the Mooshaka kings held sway over Chirakkal and Kasaragod areas (Kolathunad) with their capital near Mount Eli. It is not clear whether this line of rulers were attached to Mahodayapuram or whether they ruled as an independent line of kings in their own right. By the 14th century AD, the old Mooshaka kingdom had come to be known as Kolathunad and the rulers known as Kolathiris and had come into prominence in north Kerala.
The Kolathiris were a power to reckon with at the time of the arrival of the Portuguese towards the end of the 15th century. They were political and commercial rivals of the Zamorins of Kozhikode. During the medieval age, several Arab scholars visited the west coast. Baliapatam, Srikantapuram, Dharmadom, Bekal and Mount Eli (Ezhimala) are some of the places which figure prominently in their travelogues.
Vasco Da Gama
Though Vasco Da Gama, the famous Portuguese navigator, did not visit Kannur on his way to Kozhikode in May 1498, he established contacts with the Kolathiri ruler. His ships which had left Kozhikode on August 29, 1498 were contacted by the boats sent by the Kolathiri and Gama was invited to visit the palace. The aim of the Kolathiri was to gain wealth and power with the help of the Portuguese, the same way the Zamorin had acquired with the help of the Arabs. In winning the alliance of the Kolathiri, Vasco Da Gama, in turn, had successfully exploited the jealousies of the native princes and won for the Portuguese a virtual monopoly of the pepper trade.
Francisco De Almedia was sent from Portugal with specific instructions to erect forts at strategic points. He started constructing the Kannur Fort in 1505 and it was named St. Angelo. On March 16, 1506, the Portuguese effectively intercepted an armada of Turks and Arabs, whom the Zamorin had launched against Kannur. The Portuguese navy under Lorenzo Almedia engaged the Zamorin's fleet in battle and the Portuguese ships won a decisive victory. This naval victory resulted in the establishment of Portuguese naval supremacy in the Indian seas.
An important political development which took place at this juncture was the alliance between the Kolathiri and the Zamorin who were till then sworn enemies. The Zamorin was able to convince the Kolathiri of the real motives of the Portuguese in India and the perils inherent in his policy of befriending them.
The Portuguese followed a policy of religious persecution and forcible conversion. They therefore clashed with most of the native princes and chieftains.
In 1558, the Kolathiri came openly into the field against the Portuguese by providing active support to the Kunhjali Marrikkar of Kozhikode. The Kolathiri and the Zamorin fought a common war against the Portuguese and they besieged the fort of St. Angelo at Kannur,in 1564. But the Portuguese continued to maintain a precarious foothold at Kannur till 1663 when the fort was captured by the Dutch in February that year.
Arrival of the English East India Company
The English East India Company got its first foothold in the district towards the closing years of the 17th century, when it acquired a site at Thalassery for the erection of a fort and a factory. The disintegration of the Kolathiri's dominion started in the latter half of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century following dissensions in the royal family by the extensive surrender of territory to consorts of the ruling members.
In spite of the many difficulties it had to face in the initial stages, the trade of the English East India Company prospered during the latter part of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century, by their liberal trade policies. Further, unlike the Portuguese, they refused to interfere in the religious and caste affairs of the local population.
In 1725, the French captured Mayyazhi and renamed it as Mahe in honour of the French captain Francois Mahe De Labourdonnais. The most important episode in the political history of north Kerala in the second half of the 18th century is the conquest of Mysore by Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan. Haidar Ali conquered Malabar in 1773. In January 1788, Tipu Sultan descended on Kerala with a large army and founded a new capital at Feroke for his Malabar province.
The treaties of Srirangapatanam, signed on 22nd February and 18th March, 1792, formally ceded Malabar to the British. The British entered into agreements with the Rajas of Chirakkal, Kottayam and Kadathanand and all of them acknowledged the full sovereignty of the Company over their respective territories. The British Government divided the province of Malabar into two administrative divisions - the Northern and Southern, presided over by a Superintendent each at Thalassery and Cherpulasseri, under the general control of the Supervisor and Chief Magistrate of the province of Malabar who had his headquarters at Kozhikode.
While the British were busy with the political settlement of the district, a serious revolt was headed by Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja of the Padinjare Kovilakom of the Kottayam family. The potent cause of the revolt was the unpopular revenue policy followed by the East India Company in Malabar. He stopped all collections of revenue in Kottayam. The Raja further threatened to cut down all the pepper vines if the Company's officers persisted in revenue collection. In April 1796, a determined effort was made by the British to capture the Raja in his own palace at Pazhassi. This was in vain.
On December 18, the British Commissioner issued a proclamation forbidding the people to assemble or to assist the Pazhassi Raja and warning them that if they did so, they would be considered as irreconcilable enemies of the Company and that their property would be confiscated. On December 30, a futile attempt was made to reconcile the differences between the Raja and the Company.
On eighth January 1797, Pazhassi Raja's men launched daring attack on the havildar's guard stationed at Pazhassi and the whole party except one man was killed. In the battle fought on three successive days, 9th, 10th and 11th March 1797, the detachment made by the Company forces was overpowered by the swords, spears, bows and arrows of Pazhassi Raja's men. As the situation was full of perils, a reconciliation with the Pazhassi Raja became a matter of political expediency. While South Canara and other parts of South India were being brought under British imperial control, following the fall Srirangapatanum (1799), Pazhassi Raja raised the standard of revolt a second time and shook for a while the very foundations of British power.
Colonel Stevenson's efforts early in 1801 cut off the Pazhassi Raja from his adherents in South Malabar and by May the British troops had made much headway and with every port both above and below the ghats in British hands and the whole country disarmed, the Pazhassi Raja became a wanderer in the jungles accompanied by his wife and immediate attendants. On 24th May, 1804, Colonel Macleod issued a proclamation warning the people that they would be treated as rebels if they failed to furnish information about rebel movements and if they helped the Pazhassi troops with arms, ammunition or provisions. Finally the proclamation of June 16 offered rewards for the apprehension of Pazhassi Raja, two other members of his family and his principal lieutenants and declared their estates and properties confiscated from that date.
On first November, Baber took direct charge of the operations and on 30th November, 1805 he surrounded and shot the Raja dead in an operation on the banks of a nullah. The Raja's body was cremated with customary honours. With the death of Pazhassi Raja, the resistance movement in north Kerala came to an end.
Kannur district has played an important role in all the political movements of recent times. The Indian National Congress, which was founded in 1885, captured the attention of the people of this district from its very inception. A district committee came into existence in Malabar in 1908. A branch of the All India Home Rule League, Founded by Dr. Annie Beasant, functioned in Thalassery during this period and among its active workers was V.K. Krishna Menon.
The decision of the Nagpur Congress to give up constitutional methods of agitation and resort to Non-Violent Non Co-operation as a means of achieving Swaraj, led to widespread boycott of foreign goods, courts of law and educational institutions in Kannur.
Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Shaukat Ali toured the district to carry the message of the Non Co-operation and Khilaphat Movements. The Khilaphat movement coincided with the famous Malabar Rebellion of 1921 which was put down by the British with an iron hand.
Kannur district came into the lime light of Kerala politics in May 1928, when the fourth All Kerala Political Conference was held at Payyannur under the auspices of the Kerala Provincial Congress. This conference was presided over by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The Payyannur conference passed a resolution requesting the Indian National Congress to adopt 'Complete Independence' instead of "Swaraj" as its goal at the annual session which was scheduled to take place at Calcutta during that year.
Payyannur was the main venue of the Salt Sathyagraha in Malabar. On 13th April , a batch of Congress volunteers under the leadership of K. Kelappan started on foot from Kozhikode to the beaches of Payyannur and broke the salt laws there on April 21. The Satyagraha camp at Payyannur was raided and the campers were beaten up. There were widespread demonstrations in Kannur, Thalassery and other parts of the district and a number of Congress workers were arrested. The district was always in the forefront in Civil Disobedience Movements and all along Congress workers broke salt laws and picked foreign good dealers and liquor shops.
The period following the withdrawal of the Civil Disobedience Movement witnessed the emergence of a radical wing in the Kerala Provincial Congress. Some of the radical elements in the Kerala Provincial congress organised a Kerala unit of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934 and functioned as a separate group within the Provincial Congress. The leadership of this group was in the hands of persons like P. Krishna Pillai, AK Gopalan and EMS Namboothiripad. An extremist group of Nationalist Muslims also emerged within the Congress during this period under the leadership of Muhammad Abdur Rahiman. The Congress Socialists and the Nationalist Muslims made common cause against the Ghandhian group known as the Right Wing which was led by such leaders as K. Kelappan, C.K. Govindan Nair and KA Damodara Menon.
A notable development in the politics of Malabar during the thirties was the rise of the Muslim League as a distinct political party. It was the Muslim leaders of Kannur and Thalassery who played the lead role in forming this organisation.
The leftist elements in the Kerala Provincial Congress were also active in the politics of Malabar in the late thirties. They took active part in organising the workers, peasants, students and teachers of Kannur district under their banner. In the election held to the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee in January 1939, in the highest suffered a severe setback. Muhammed Abdur Rahiman was elected as the president of the K.P.C.C. and E.M.S. Namboothiripad as its general secretary. Towards the end of the same year, a branch of the Indian Communist Party was formally founded in Malabar. The Congress Socialist Party workers joined the Communist Party block.
Kannur is normally humid and hot most of the year around. But during November to February the weather in Kannur is agreeable and it is the recommended season for the tourists. For those interested in the monsoons, June to August would be ideal for feeling the fury of the rains in Kannur.
During the months of April and May, the mean daily maximum temperature is about 35 °C. Temperature is low in December and January and the minimum temperature is about 20 °C. On certain days the night temperature may go down to 16 °C , although this is extremely rare. The annual average rainfall is 3438 mm and more than 80% of it occurs during the period of South-West monsoon. The rainfall during July is very heavy and the district receives 68% of the annual rainfall during this season