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The name of the state of Kerala has been taken from the word Keralaputra (land of the sons of Cheras), as mentioned in one of the Ashokan edicts dating back to 273-236 BC. There is not much known about the history of this region of the period after the Ashokan proclamation, except the fact that there was extensive trading with the Romans from this region.

Chera was the first large empire that took roots in this state, and continued to use Tamil till the 7th century as their administrative language. This shows the influence and power that Tamils exerted over this region. Cheras established a wide network of trade links not only with Indian businessmen, but also with countries outside ranging from Sumatra to Cordoba. The Chera power declined in the 10th century AD, after Cholas, the rulers of Tamil Nadu, were successful in overthrowing the dynasty.

After the decline of Cholas in the 11th century, gradually political power in the state went into the hands of the Zamorin of Calicut. In 1496, Vasco da Gama became the first European to find a route to India through sea and started a long-time fight for the power in this region between the Portuguese, British, and Dutch.

This fight marginalized the local powers, though the Zamorin made a fight back in the early 17th century when they gained the external support from the Dutch and British in return for trading rights from Kerala.

For a brief period in the middle of 18th century AD, Travancore, with the help of petty kingdoms, tried to control the political power of Kerala. Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan also tried to annexe the areas south of Travancore, but could not fulfil their dream as they were attacked by the British from the east and had to withdraw.

The local chieftains in Kerala looked up to the British to save them from the wrath of Tipu and consequently the British took control of the forts previously held by Tipu. After Tipu’s first defeat by the British, the Seringpatnam Treaty brought all the captured parts of Kerala directly under the British and Travancore and Kochi became princely states under the British.

Kerala became a separate state only in 1956 when new states on linguistic basis were created in India. Formerly it was a part of the Madras state and to carve out a new state the regions of Travancore, Cochin, and Malabar were added into one to be called Kerala.

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