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Zamorins and The Political Culture of Medieval Kerala

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Item Code: BAG816
Author: V.V. Haridas
Language: English
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9788125061281
Pages: 382
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 570 gm
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Book Description
About the book

The Zamorin-ruler of the kingdom of Kolikkötu in modern-day Kerala-left an indelible mark on world history when he welcomed Vasco da Gama in 1498. But a few centuries earlier, the Zamorin was only a local chief, heading a few villages. How did he become an independent ruler after the disintegration of the Ceras in the twelfth century? How did the Zamorin come to be recognised and legitimised as the 'king'?.

This story of the creation of an image of royalty is the focus of Zamorins and the Political Culture of Medieval Kerala. Relying on the archival richness of a large collection of unpublished palm leaf manuscripts called Granthavari, documents of the political and royal establishments of the time, this book reconstructs the days of the Zamorin. It carefully details the power and authority he claimed and actually wielded, and the various methods through which he sought to legitimise it-elaborate rituals, patronage of temples and scholarship, propagation of art and culture, etc.

While the great past was always remembered, the Zamorin's 'little kingdom' depended on the existence, interaction and interdependence of various nodes of power-the royalty, royal functionaries, locality chiefs, local magnates and temple authorities. This book argues that studying these nodes of power, which related themselves to the Zamorin's court and among themselves through elaborate customs and rituals, is vital to analysing the state structure in late medieval Kerala.

Complete with a foreword by Kesavan Veluthat, this book convincingly argues for the 'little kingdom' model to analyse the pre-modern state in Calicut. Scholars and students of historiography and history, especially of medieval Indian culture and society, will find it immensely useful.


This book is a result of my research carried out since 1998 Tunder the guidance of Professor Kesavan Veluthat. I submitted my PhD thesis in 2003 to the Department of History, Mangalore University and subsequently revised it to the present form. The history of medieval Kerala rarely found mention in any general textbook on Indian history. The polity and society of late medieval Kerala have not been studied in any detailed manner. This lacuna may be due to multiple reasons-lack or inaccessibility of sources being primary. Though south Indian history had come to the fore by the 1970s on account of the intervention of foreign scholars such as Burton Stein, medieval Kerala still remains beyond the purview of the scholarly world.

The present study is an attempt to discuss the political culture of medieval Kerala particularly in the kingdom of Kolikkö?u. The post-Cera period witnessed the emergence of the small kingdoms of Kolattunatu, Kolikkötu, Cochin and Venatu. There were many locality chiefs within these kingdoms. European powers also played a major part in the history of Kerala during the latter part of this period. The role of the kingdom of Kolikkö?u was crucial to the history of medieval Kerala. The Zamorin, its ruler, received wide attention from the world of historical scholarship at an international level after the beginning of the so-called Vasco da Gama epoch. In spite of this international interest, it is surprising that there have not been many studies regarding the polity that played host to Vasco da Gama. It was in 1938 that K. V. Krishna Ayyar wrote the first monograph on the history of the Zamorins, prior to which the manual of the Malabar district by William Logan was the only detailed study. Unfortunately, even after seven-and- a-half decades of its publication, Krishna Ayyar's work on the Zamorins remains the only one worth mentioning in English. A few other works were published in Malayalam; but they have not contributed much qualitatively to the received wisdom.


I feel somewhat proud and extremely pleased to present this book of Dr V. V. Haridas on the Zamorins of Calicut before the scholarly world. My pride is for a very personal reason: Haridas has been a very dear student of mine. When he came to Mangalore University, where I was teaching in the beginning of this century, with a first class first in MA (History) from the University of Calicut, my own alma mater, I saw in him the potential to make a disciplined researcher in history. It was a pleasure to 'guide' him-whatever that meant in this case where I was more learning than teaching. His hard labour and unconventional, innovative thinking have paid rich dividends-reason enough for any 'teacher' to feel proud.

And my pleasure is both personal and professional. Historiography in India has broken new ground in that it has recognised the importance of regional history, particularly in the post-Independence period. This development has complemented what has been happening at a subcontinental level where conceptual exercises have taken the discipline to new heights. The fortunes of individual regions in this regard have been varied, owing to many factors. Certain areas and periods in the history of Kerala have shared in this good fortune in a big way.

The book in your hands relates itself to a relatively less- researched area and period in the history of Kerala. There exists great clarity in relation to the period before the twelfth century; so also, the modern period is somewhat clearly illumined both by varied sources and persuasive researches. In relation to what went between these two, however, there has hardly been any serious research. The problem is worse confounded in relation to the areas to the north, what was the British district of Malabar. What K. V. Krishna Ayyar had written about eight decades ago in relation to the history of the Zamorins of Calicut, for example, has not been improved upon. This meticulously researched monograph fills in that gap in a substantial and competent manner.

The greatest strength of the monograph, be it stated at the outset, is its archival richness. Haridas has made systematic use of the fabulously rich material contained in the several volumes of granthavari or palm-leaf manuscripts-documents of the political and royal establishments of the Zamorins of Calicut-for the first time. Just for having brought these documents to light, the labours of the scholar, which include gaining access to these documents and acquiring the necessary epigraphical and linguistic skills to read and interpret them, deserve commendation.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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