irst mentioned in a third century B.C. rock edict by Emperor Ashoka, Kerala became famous for its spices, especially pepper, among the Greeks and Romans. In the first five centuries of the Christian era it was part of Tamilakam and was under the Chera, Chola and Pandya dynasties. In the First century A.D. came the earliest Jewish immigrants and then the Syrian Orthodox Christians.
Till the Arab traders introduced Islam here in the 8th century the history of Kerala is unclear and hazy. The Kulasekhara dynasty between 800 A.D. and 1200 led to the emergence of Malayalam as a distinct language as well as the practice of Hinduism among a majority of the people.
During the 11th and 12the Centuries the Cogas ruled the area but after the short-lived conquests by Ravi Varma Kulasekhara of South India, warring chieftains took over, the most prominent ones being those of Calicut and Venad.
The arrival of Vasco da Gama in Calicut in1498 put an end to the Arab dominance of trade in the region. Though the Zamorin rulers of Calicut did thwart Portuguese attempts to establish sovereignty, it was the Dutch who ousted them in the next century.
Meanwhile Marhanda Varma ascended the throne at Venad in 1729 and demolished Dutch expansionist designs at the battle of Kolachel 12 years later. Varma modernised his army and expanded his state. His alliance with the weaker Cochin state against the Zamorins helped Cochin to survive. By the beginning of the nineteenth century all the three had become subjects of the expanding British Madras Presidency.
Two years after India became independent in 1947 Travancore and Cochin were united to form the Travancore-Cochin state and with the formation of the linguistic states Malabar also became part of the larger Kerala state.