Kerala history 1883-1971
A chronology of the main events and social facts

(Indicating historical landmarks in Kayar's narrative)

Thakazhi's saga, Kayar (1978) offers an appropriate framework to the modern and contemporary history of Travancore.

Rama Varma Vishakam Tirunal, Maharaja of Travancore (1880-1885), proclaims a Revenue Survey and Settlement, the implementation of which will mark the advent of a new era. Nagam Aiya, I, pp. 596-597: March 1883, meeting of the principal landholders of the country. Regulation III of 1058 ME, providing for the registration of titles to land, for the establishment and maintenance of boundary marks, and for the settlement of boundary disputes. 26 May 1883, Royal proclamation.

(Kayar's historical narrative begins in 1885)

Foundation of the Indian National Congress (Gandhi).
Rama Varma Mulam Tirunal ascends the throne of Travancore on the 19th of August 1885 (he will die in 1924). He keeps his predecessor's Dewan, who will carry on the Revenue Survey and Settlement decided in 1883.

Nagam Aiya, I, p. 608: "For the first year and a half of His Highness' rule, Mr. Ramiengar continued to be Dewan and vigourously carried on the Survey and Settlement work he had begun. In 1061 ME (1885-1886), two important Royal Proclamations were issued, one sketching out the general plan of the Revenue Survey and Settlement and laying down the principles and procedure to be observed in carrying out these operations, and the other providing for a searching enquiry being instituted into the condition of the holders of the Viruthi(*) or service-tenures and for the rearrangement of the service itself in consonance with the altered economic conditions of the country."

(*) virutti : Tax-free and rent-free land granted to Government servants, feudal tenure.

T. Rama Rao, who has been Dewan Peishkar of the Kottayam Division from 1878 to 1887, is appointed as Dewan of Travancore (1887-1892). He has been favouring the first land reclamation schemes in Kuttanad.

Nagam Aiya, III, p. 112: "Subsequent to 1062 ME (1886-1887) a series of very important original irrigation works had been completed by the Public Works Department, the more important of which were—(1) The Puthenvalikaray Reclamation Scheme, consisting of the construction of a pitched embankment [une digue avec une corniche] and a masonry sluice [une écluse] to keep back the brackish [saumâtre] water from entering a large area of valuable paddy cultivation. This was the first of the reclamation schemes carried out in North Travancore."

Sri Mulam Tirunal institutes the Legislative Council, which is comprised of eight members, six officials and two non-officials, all of them appointed by the Maharaja. (Modified in 1919 and then in 1921.)

Publication of Indulekha, the first Malayalam novel by O. Chandu Menon; and of L. J. Frohnmeyer, A Progressive Grammar of Malayalam for Europeans, Mangalore, Basel Mission Press, 1889.

from the 1890s onwards, a land of emigration
Jeffrey, p. 152: "Youths made their way to Ceylon to seek their fortunes from the 1830s and in growing numbers from the 1890s."

Foundation of the SNDP Yogam, the Sri Narayana Dharma Paripad Yogam.

In Travancore, the Nair Act of 1912 legalized sambandham among Nairs and allowed sub-family partition of Tarawad properties. Rules were framed for sharing the self-acquired property of individual members.

Jeffrey, p. 230: "Regulation I of 1088 ME recognized a public sambandham as a legal marriage, and gave wives and children of Nairs dying intestate the right to half of the husband's self-acquired property. A man could dispose of all his self-acquired property by making a will. A husband, moreover, was made the legal guardian."

Gandhi returns to India.

The Non-cooperation Movement, launched by Gandhi in 1920, spreads throughout India.

(Kayar's second half, from ch. 69 onwards:
Brahmins converted to Islam running away from Malabar)

Mappila Rebellion in Malabar
, one in a long line of uprisings of peasants, mostly Muslims, directed principally against Nambudiri landlords. Kumaran Asan (1873-1924) in Duravastha [Plight] (1923), a poem set against the backdrop [toile de fond] of the Mapilla Rebellion, connects the women's question to the caste question: a Nambudiri girl finds refuge in the home of a Pulaya (untouchable agricultural laborer). In the aftermath, the Malabar Tenancy Act of 1929 fixed fair rents and proscribed eviction of even tenant-at-will. In Travancore, a similar legislation was passed only in 1958 under the first communist government. (The Mappila Rebellion is recounted from afar in the beginning of the second half of Thakazhi's Kayar, from chap. 69 onwards which features Brahmins converted to Islam running away from Malabar.)

The "Travancore Labour Association" is formed in the coir factories of Alleppey.

Duravastha [Plight] by N. Kumaran Asan is published.

30 March 1924 to 23 November 1925
Vaikom Satyagraha in Travancore brings Gandhi to Kerala.
Vaikom Satyagraha, for the right of the untouchable Hindus to use the roads round the temple at Vaikom. Gandhi's intervention secured the victory.

Death of Mulam Tirunal, Maharaja of Travancore. The Travancore Nair (Amendment) Regulation virtually legislated away the matrilineal joint-family. It allowed individuals to inherit and transfer the landed properties of joint families. Every adult member of a tarawad shall be entitled to claim his or her share of the properties of the tarawad. A wife was made the legal heir of all her husband's self-acquired property.

Regency in Travancore under Senior Maharani (Setu Lakshmi Bai).

The Great Depression and the Revenue Settlement of 1929 made the life of the farmers, tenant cultivators and agricultural laborers miserable. Emigration to Malaysia (Kayar, chap. 98 ff.).

Malabar tenancy Act gives some rights to superior tenants.

Civil disobedience movement throughout India is especially strong in Malabar District.

First general strike of coir factory workers in Alleppey.

12 November 1936
The Temple Entry Proclamation in Travancore
allows temple entry to all Hindu communities. Sir C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar becomes Dewan of Travancore.

'Dyarchy' in Cochin — a minister responsible to the legislature.

Civil disobedience movement for responsible government in Travancore.

Census 1941: Travancore pop. 6.1 millions.
40% Lower-caste Hindus,
32% Christians,
21% Higher-caste Hindus,
7% Muslims.

Quit India Movement. In Kuttanad, food shortages, strikes in the paddy-fields, and foundation of the Karshaka Thozhilali Sangham (a farm workers' association).

Odayil ninnu [From the Gutter] by P. Kesava Dev is published.

Tappers' movement against government in Cochin.

The Punnapra and Vayalar communist uprising.

15 August 1947
Independence of India.
Cochin Maharaja institutes responsible government. C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar forced to flee from Travancore.

30 January 1948
Assassination of Gandhi.

Universal-suffrage elections in Travancore and Cochin — Congress wins overwhelmingly; Pattom Thanu Pillai first CM of Travancore but resigns in October; T. K. Narayana Pillai CM; Panampilli Govinda Menon briefly CM of Cochin, then E. Ikkanda Warriar.

State of Travancore-Cochin formed; Narayana Pillai CM.

Travancore-Cochin government falls; C. Kesavan becomes Congress CM.

Census 1951: First census after independence;
population of Kerala estimated at 13.6 million.

First Indian general elections; minority Congress government in Travancore-Cochin under A. J. John; You Made Me a Communist by Thoppil Bhasi first performed.

Governement falls; President's Rule; mid-term elections; Praja Socialist Party, under Pattom Thanu Pillai, forms minority government; School of Nursing opened in Medical College, Trivandrum.

Government falls; Congress under Panampilli Govinda Menon forms minority government.

Government falls; President's Rule. Creation of Kerala State, formed by uniting Malabar with Travancore-Cochin; Tamil speaking taluks of south Travancore joined to Madras state.

Second Indian general elections. Communists and allied independents win a majority in Kerala: Communists come in power. First Namboodiripad ministry: E. M. S. Namboodiripad becomes CM.

Agriculture Debt Relief Act and Kudiyan — kuṭiyan [tenant-at-will] — Compensation Act.

Communist government dismissed; President's Rule.

Mid-term elections won by anti-Communist alliance; Pattom Thanu Pillai becomes CM.

Census 1961 puts Kerala population at 16.9 million.

R. Sankar of Congress replaces Thanu Pillai as CM.

Weak Kerala Land reforms Act of anti-Communist coalition comes into force; government collapses; President's Rule; Communist Party of India splits and Communist Party of India (marxist) emerges

Mid-term elections fail to produce a party able to form a government; President's Rule.

Fourth national general elections; CPI(M)-led United front government formed by E. M. S. Namboodiripad as CM.

Kerala Land Reform (Amendment) Act passed; United Front government falls; C. Achutha Menon of CPI forms minority government.

1st January 1970
The Land Reforms (Amendment) Act
came into force, which revolutionalized land tenure in Kerala. The Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum was set up. President's rule, then a mid-term election, out of which Achutha Menon is able to form a CPI-led coalition with CPI(M) in bitter opposition

15 November 1970
First Naxalite attacks in Kerala.

(Kayar's historical narrative ends in 1971)

Last year of abundant monsoon
, before India was affected by drought from 1972 onwards. Congress joins Achutha Menon government.

Census 1971 puts Kerala population at 21.4 million.