Kasaragod, a beautiful town hovering at the northern extreme of Kerala State, a land where history meshes with myths and legends, better known to the world outside for its Bekal Fort perched on a hillock. From time immemorial Kasaragod has been famous for its diversity in culture, history and language. The great diversity in the culture, history and language of this district is related to the geographical features of the place. The vast natural landscapes, beaches, tribal population and its folk arts and music compose a heaven out of this place that allures tourists from all over the world.
To its south is the Kannur District renowned for its ritual arts like Theyyam. Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka known for its Yakshagana dance forms the northern boundary. The mighty Western Ghats forms a wall along the eastern side. The western side is eternally caressed by the supple hands of Arabian Sea. Covering an area of 1992 km² the district is home to 1,203,342 people (according to 2001 census). There are two taluks in Kasaragod, namely Kasaragod and Hosdurg, and both are municipalities. Seventy-five villages and thirty-nine panchayats make this district which is further subdivided into six administrative segments called development blocks. These six development blocks are Manjeshwar, Kasaragod, Kanhangad, Nileshwar, Parappa and Karadukkal. Just like the thirteen other states of Kerala Kasaragod also has a high literacy rate. According to the 2001 census, Kasaragod had a population of 12, 03342. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. The average literacy rate of Kasaragod is 79%, which is higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 82%, and female literacy is 76%.
From time immemorial Kasaragod has been well-known to the world outside. But very few studies and researches are done regarding the history of Kasaragod. That few studies hail the diversity of this place. Being an important trade centre the place has lured travellers from different parts of the world especially the Arabs and Europeans. The pamphlets and descriptions written by these adventurous travellers about the cultural and economic diversity of Kasaragod are the only sources available to us. Between the 9th and 14th centuries the place was visited by many Arab travellers. The Arabs who frequented this place called it by the name Harkiwilla. In 1514 the Portuguese traveller Duarte Barbosa visited Kumbla, a place near Kasargod. The records made by this famous traveller stand testimony to the fact that rice was exported to Maldives from here. In his travelogue, written during the visit to kasaragod in 1800, Dr. Francis Buchanan, the family doctor of Arthur Wellesley, recorded information on places like Athiraparambu, Kavvai, Nileshwaram, Bekal, Chandragiri and Manjeshwaram. The political history of Kasaragod starts with the Tuluva kingdom. The Northernmost parts of Kasaragod District were once within the territory of the Tuluva kingdom. The central and southern parts were under the rule of Chirakkal (Mushika or Kolathiri) Royal Family of North Kerala. Bits and glimpses of the past are available to us in the form of stories and legends. Local legends of Kasaragod say that there were 32 Malayalam and 32 Tulu villages in this region. Kasaragod, for a long time, was part of the domain of the Kolathiri family. Even when the region was attacked by the Vijayanagara Empire it was under the rule of the Kolathiri Raja. Nileshwaram was one of his capitals. Popular belief is that the characters appearing in the ritualistic folk dance of Theyyam represent those who helped king Kolathiri fight against the attack of Vijayanagara Empire. By the 14th century the Vijayanagara Empire started declining. With the Battle of Talikota in 1565 the mighty Vijayanagara Empire disintegrated and the power was shifted to the hands of several feudatory chieftains. Many of them including the Keladi Nayakas (Ikkeri Nayakas) rose in political prominence. The Nayakas realized the political and economic importance of Tulunadu (which is the region comprising modern-day Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts along with the Northernmost part of Kasaragod District ) and attacked and annexed the region. Thus the power of administration was shifted to the hands of Ikkeri Nayakas. During this time Bekal became the center in establishing the dominance of the Nayakas in Malabar. Consequently the Nayakas realized the economic importance of the port town and there came a need to fortify the dominion from all kinds of attack. The Bekal port was strengthened with this aim. The construction was initiated by Hiriya Venkatappa Nayaka and it was completed during the period of Shivappa Nayaka. The work was done at great speed. It was also aimed at the defence of the fort from overseas attack. It also helped them in strengthening their attack on Malabar. The same period witnessed the construction of yet another famous fort called the Chandragiri fort near Kasargod.Though there are many versions of history regarding the construction of the Bekal fort it is believed that Shivappa Nayaka of Ikkeri dynasty built this fort. He took up the rule in 1645 and transferred the capital to Bednoor. The shift to Bednoor had given them another name – Bednoor Naiks. Both Chandragiri fort and Bekkal fort are considered to be part of a chain of forts constructed by Shivappa Nayaka for the defence of the kingdom. Another version ascribes the construction of the fort to Kolathiri Rajas from whom it was captured by Sivappa Nayaka. In 1763, Hyder Ali, the ruler of the kingdom of Mysore, conquered Bednoor. This included several ports of Malabar. Hyder Ali used these ports to establish a small navy. His intent was to capture the entire Kerala. His efforts to capture the Thalassey fort were not successful. Soon after this defeat Hyder Ali returned to Mysore and died there in 1782. He was followed by his son Tipu Sultan who continued the attack and conquered Malabar. As per the Sreerangapattanam treaty of 1792, Tippu surrendered Malabar except Tulunadu (Canara) to the British. The British had to wait till the death of Tipu to lay hands on this unique place. Finally in 1799 Tipu Sultan was killed in the fourth Mysore war and the British could capture Canara. On April 16, 1882 Bekal taluk was included in the Madras presidency and thus Kasargod taluk came into existence. A resolution was moved by Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar in 1913 on the floor of Madras Governor's Council demanding the merger of Kasargod taluk with the Malabar district. The resolution was withdrawn due to the strong opposition from the members from Karnataka. But the same demand was stressed once again in 1927 during a political convention held at Kozhikode. The convention passed a resolution demanding the same. The same year witnessed the birth of an organisation titled Malayalee Seva Sangham. The great efforts raised by eminent personalities like K.P.Keshava Menon finally found fruition in the merging of Kasaragod with Kerala following the reorganisation of states and formation of Kerala in November 1, 1956.The Etymology of the place – Facts and Legends There are ever so many interpretations and views on the derivation of the name Kasaragod. Legends and other oral stories throw light on these interpretations. Popular among them is the view that it is the combination of two Sanskrit words kaasaara (which means lake or pond) and kroda (which means a place where treasure is kept). Kasaragod is also a place where the kasaraka trees (Strychnos nux vomica or Kaanjiram or Kaaraskara) grow in abundance. Perhaps Kasaragod could have inherited the name from these trees. The large number of lakes and ponds in the coastal belt of the district and the thick flora consisting of innumerable varieties of trees and shrubs especially the kasaraka trees validate both interpretations.
As far as language is concerned Kasaragod occupies a unique position in the map of Kerala. There are as many as seven languages used actively by a considerable number of people in Kasaragod. Though the administrative language is Malayalam, Tulu, Beary bashe, Kannada, Marathi and Konkani are also spoken. Furthermore there are ever so many dialects and tribal languages that augment the cultural resplendence of Kasaragod. The version of Malayalam spoken here varies a lot from the standard Malayalam and is generally considered difficult for the people from southern Kerala. It is often referred to as Kasrod Malayalam. Unlike the other Dravidian languages it shows little influence of the Sanskrit language. Studies in this idiom have been useful in knowing the nature of evolution of the South Indian languages. Extensive usage of 'ny' sound, lack of or loss of Approximant consonants, presence of sound 'b' instead of 'v' are some of the salient features of Kasaragod Malayalam. In Kasaragod Malayalam words often end with aa whereas in standard Malayalam it ends with o. Generally pronouns are used during direct conversation. Compared to the standard Malayalam the Kasaragod Malayalam is very spontaneous and natural-sounding. The time taken to complete a sentence in Kasaragod Malayalam is nearly half that taken to complete the same sentence in the South Kerala dialect of Malayalam. Kasaragod Malayalam is deeply influenced and contains words from Tulu, Kannada, Arabic, Hindi, Tamil, etc. It has an advanced vocabulary that provides single word substitutes for expressions that are unavailable in standard Malayalam. The language is rapidly evolving and adds new words to it frequently.
Tulu Nadu, the land of tulu speaking people spreads over to parts of present Karnataka and Kerala. This region consists of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka and the northern parts of the Kasaragod district of Kerala up to Chandragiri River.Tuluva, the ethnic group adds up to the majority of the population in this region. The Tuluvas are mostly concentrated in the coastal areas. Konkanis who migrated from Goa, the smallest state in India are the next major ethnic group here. Tulu Nadu sprawls over an area of 8,441 km2 (3,259 sq mi) and is bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea and on the east by the Western Ghats.Tulu Nadu has a tropical climate and it experiences heavy rainfalls during the Monsoon season. Historically, Tulu Nadu consisted of two separate lands of Haiva and Tuluva, the two ethnic groups. This region was under the reign of Ballal Kings of Sullia. It is believed that the Bunt/ Nair and the Brahmin migration to Tulunadu might have happened during the lifetime of the Kadamba king Mayuravarma at 345 AD. During the reign of Madhvacharya in the 13th century, around eight monasteries (Mutts) were built in Udupi. Tulunad was the original homeland of the dynasty that established the Vijayanagar Empire based in eastern Karnataka. Until the 17th century Tulu Nadu was governed by feudatories of the Vijayanagara Empire. The longest reigning dynasty of Tulu Nadu was the Alupas and they were the feudatories of the prominent dynasties of Karnataka. Over the centuries, more ethnic groups migrated to Tulu Nadu. In this, the Konkanis and Goud Saraswat Brahmins were the major groups who arrived by the sea. In the 16th century after the arrival of Catholics to Tulu Nadu from Goa, various developmental changes occured as they built excellent educational institutions which contributed to the development of education in the region. The Muslim community of Tulu Nadu was basically Arab traders who married local women and settled there. After the British defeated Tipu Sultan in 1799, Tulu Nadu was attached to the Madras Presidency before being reverted to the state of Mysore. It was then named as Karnataka. Later the states were reorganized on linguistic basis in the 1956 and Kasargod became part of the newly formed Kerala state.Art Forms The Yakshagana, a night-long dance and drama performance practiced in Tulu Nadu is a popular art form with great fanfare. Yakshagana is a typical south Indian folk dance form said to have originated around 400 years ago in Karnataka state of India. It is similar to Kathakali of Kerala and has a strong classical background. The performance comprises of dance, music and spoken words with the themes based on Hindu epics like Mahabharatha and Ramayana. The costumes of the Yakshagana artistes are very attractive and different. LanguageSpoken by over three million people, Tulu is a Dravidian language of India. Most of its speakers are native to the districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in the west of the state of Karnataka and Kasargod district of northern Kerala. Other major languages in the area are Kannada and Konkani. The Tulu speakers are known as Tuluvas. The Tulu script is also known as the Tigalari script and it has resemblance with Malayalam script. EconomyTulu Nadu once depended on agriculture and fishing. The major crops grown in this region were rice, bengal gram, horse gram, vegetables and fruits. Plantation crops like coconut, areca nut, cocoa, cashew nut, and pepper are also grown. Tulu Nadu contributes the second highest revenue to Karnataka state after the city of Bangalore. This region has an international airport at Mangalore which is well connected to the rest of India and Middle Eastern countries. New Mangalore port (NMPT) is one of the major ports of India and located at Panambur, Mangalore.EducationTulu Nadu is one of the most prominent Educational centers on the western coast of India. There are more than hundred professional colleges in Tulu Nadu which represents the standard of education in this region. There are more than thousands of students from all over India and abroad studying in these institutions. Linguists have suggested that the word Tulu literally means water. In Tamil tuli means drop of water, and tulli means the same in Malayalam. Hence Tulu means the language of the waters. Tulu-speaking people can be found in the coastal region of modern Karnataka and parts of Northern Kerala. As per the Malayalam works like Keralolpathi and Sangam literature in Tamil, this region stretched from the Chandragiri river, now part of the Kasaragod district of Kerala, to Gokarna, now part of Karnataka state. The cities of Mangalore, Udupi and Kasaragod are the cultural centres of Tulu culture. During World War I, a large number of Tulu speaking people migrated from undivided South Canara district to other provinces (regions). The next set of emigration was during World War II and this time they settled in interior parts of Karnataka and coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh. Even today Tulu is widely spoken in the Dakshina Kannada, Udupi district and Uttara Kannada districts of Karnataka state and Kasaragod of Kerala. Efforts are also being made to include Tulu in the list of official languages of India.
16 kms south of the town on the National Highway, located on the shoreline of Pallikkara village of Kasaragod is a region of remarkable splendor called Bekal. Rama Nayak, a local Kannada writer observes that the name Bekal is derived from the word Baliakulam which means a big palace. The place is said to have been the seat of a big palace in the past. In the course of time the word term Baliakulam was changed to Bekulam and later to Bekal. Here was built a giant keyhole shaped fort which is the largest and best preserved fort in the whole of the Kerala– the Bekal Fort.Under the sovereignty of Kolathanadu Bekal became an important maritime centre and a crucial port town of Thulunadu, the name by which the old Kasaragod was known to the world. The extraordinary impact the place had on the political and economic realm of the region attracted many rulers and chieftains to this place. They successively attacked and annexed the region that brought them the power to control the political and economic dominion of the state. The economic importance of the port town prompted the Jeheri Nayak dynasty to fortify Bekal.
Established in the year 1970 by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the Central Plantation Crops and Research Institute (CPCRI), serves as a national forum for improving the genetic potential of plantation crops, to produce genetically superior planting materials for coconut, arecanut, spices and cashew. It was in 1916 that a coconut research station was established in Kasaragod by the Government of Madras. Subsequently it was taken over by the Indian Central Coconut Committee in 1948 and continued till 1970. The Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) was established in 1970 as one of the agricultural research institutes under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), by merging Central Coconut Research Station, Kasaragod, Central Coconut Research Station, Kayamkulam as well as CentralArecanut Research Station, Vittal and its five substations at Palode and Kannara (Kerala), Hirehalli (Karnataka), Mohitnagar (West Bengal) and Kahikuchi (Assam). The main priorities of the institute are the research and frontline aspects of coconut, areca nut, and cocoa. These are carried under five divisions viz, crop improvement, crop production, crop protection, physiology, biochemistry and post harvest technology and social sciences. The Institute has three Regional Stations – Kayamkulam (Kerala), Vittal (Karnataka) and Minicoy (Lakshadweep) and three Research Centres – Kahikuchi (Assam), Mohitnagar (West Bengal) and Kidu (Karnataka). The institute is equipped with well established research farms, well equipped laboratories at Headquarters, Regional Stations and Research Centres, besides a Library cum Documentation Centre at headquarters and Regional Stations. The Extension Section, Agricultural Technology Information Centre and Krishi Vigyan Kendras are the means by which the transfer of technology is facilitated. The CPCRI has released five coconut hybrids, eight high yielding coconut varieties, five high yielding Areca nut varieties, one Cocoa variety and four Cocoa hybrids to the farming community through its extensive research activities for commercial cultivation.
The rich cultural heritage of kasaragod is reflected in the range of art forms that took form in this region. The spectacular pageant of Theyyam the energy and vibrancy of Yakshgana, Kambala (buffallo race) and Cock fight all compose a symphonic melody out of this great land.