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.