The city of Calicut was one of the most important trading cities in Southern India. Calicut was located on the west coast of India, in a region called Kerala. In the 13th century, the city Calicut was founded by the King of Ernad. He fought for the land along the coast. With victory, he built a fort and continued to make the city more permanent. Because of its location on the Malabar coast, Calicut was a prime trading center. It was mainly known for its spice trade throughout the Indian Ocean Region. Since there was a lot of trading taking place, products as well as religions were being introduced to Calicut. Hinduism was the main religion practiced in Calicut, although Islam and Buddhism were also practiced later on.


Social History
Since Calicut was one of the main trading centers in India, many different religions were introduced to this city. These religions include Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. However, during the time period of 600-1450 CE, Hinduism was the most commonly practiced religion. Islam and Christianity were introduced later on. In Hinduism, the major Gods worshipped were Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma was known as the creater, Vishnu was the preserver and Shiva was known as the destroyer. The Hindus believed that the God Vishnu reincarnated himself several times in order to help people during difficult times. There are several other Gods and Goddesses besides Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma. Some Hindus worshipped all of them and some only worship the main ones. There are also many Hindus who worshipped Gods or Goddesses that were specific to their personal needs.
The Hindus in Calicut believed that a person’s fate is determined by their actions throughout their life. They believed in karma. This meant that if they completed good deeds in their lifetime, they would be rewarded with a better life in their next reincarnation. However, if they sinned they would be punished and would be reincarnated into a lower caste. Most people who sinned were reincarnated as animals because they were the lowest caste. The Hindus believed that this cycle of reincarnation would continue and you would be reborn over and over again.
The caste system in Calicut is based on the Hindu religion and its idea of reincarnation. In Calicut there were four main castes, also called Varnas. Each Varna was based on a person’s occupation and everyone in that group had specific rights and obligations. The highest Varna was known as Brahmans. This group consisted of mostly priests and people in the city who were well educated. The Brahmans were the only people who were allowed to read the Vedas, which were holy books in Hinduism. The role of the Brahmans was to spread their knowledge throughout the world by teaching. The Brahmans were superior over every other class.
The next caste was called Kshatria. The Kshatrias were the rulers and aristocrats in Calicut. These people held the highest positions in the government. The caste below the Kshatrias were the Vaisias. The members of this caste were the landlords and business men in Calicut. This included traders, artisans, shopkeepers, and any other skilled workers. The Vaisias were allowed to learn about the Vedas; however, they were expected to be respectful and remember their role in society. The final caste in Calicut was known as the Sudras. The Sudra class was mostly made up of peasants and servants. This class was one of the largest and contained the most members. The role of the Sudras was to serve and support the members of the other castes. The Sudras were the lowest caste and were viewed as inferior. Although the caste
system ends with the Sudras, there was also a group called the untouchables who ranked below them. The untouchables were viewed as outcastes and often worked in jobs that were unclean, such as cleaning the sewage. The members of the Brahman, Kshatria, and Vaisia castes were given social and economic rights, whereas the Sudras and untouchables were not.
As trading became more popular in Calicut, the caste system began to change. Since merchants were the people who were most involved in trade, they were moved up in the caste system. Merchants had an important job. They traded products, provided a large amount of money for the city, and spread Calicut’s religion to other areas. Because of their importance to society, merchants and manufacturers became their own caste and specialized merchants such as artisans were part of their subcaste.
Just like some Hindu castes were superior over others, the men in Calicut were superior over the women. Women in Calicut had very little rights. They were controlled by their fathers and later by their husbands. During this time period there were an increased number of marriages in Calicut. This was because merchants from West Asia would travel to Calicut for business and would marry the Calicut women who belonged to trading families. However, women were nothing without their husbands. Unmarried women had no place in society and were useless. This lead to a practice called Sati which was popular in Hinduism. Sati was when the women burned on her dead husband’s pyre. These women died with their husbands because without them they would have no rights at all.



Calicut (Economics)

Calicut was one of the main trading centers in India. It traded with both the Chinese and Arabs making it a great economic center. The city was also located on the Malabar Coast making it easier for people to travel there. This port became the most important trading post for peppers and other spices.
The pepper and spice trade flourished in Calicut because it was located in one of the main pepper growing regions. The Chinese and Arab merchants came for these spices since their countries started to develop a taste for India’s spices. This included onions, ginger, and turnips. Another product of Calicut was dyed silk. This allowed for domestic trade over silk instead of getting it from China. Calicut took products like bronze, iron, wax, gold, and wool for their goods. These are the main imports and exports of Calicut.
Since the trade was booming in the city a currency made of fanam coins was produced. The coins gradually became more valuable which gave Calicut a dominate economy, and the coins also became known farther out of Calicut’s boundaries. Since it started to become widely known the city was able to produce these coins to improve the economy. These coins also made trading much easier because people had faith in the coins since it was made of 60% gold and there were also sliver coins. Even today people always trust precious metals since their value doesn’t decline. These high valued coins helped Calicut make trade easier and improve the economy significantly.
In 1498 Vasco da Gama landed a little north of Calicut but soon found the city. Originally the king of Calicut, Zamorin, welcomed him and his Portuguese merchants. This improved trade even more since the Europeans now had a trading route to Calicut, which lead to the rest of India. The Europeans got a chance to enjoy Calicut’s honest people, and religious tolerance which allowed all people to trade there. But about 100 years later they set up trading post and dominated Calicut’s spice trade. This caused the Zamorin to ban permanent Portuguese settlements. This didn’t last long and Calicut became allies with the Dutch to stop them. This opportunity to trade with the Europeans helped Calicut but caused some issues as well.

Political
The political affairs were very important in the city of Calicut. Kerala, which is the region Calicut is located, went through many invasions from outsiders including the Kalabhars, Chalukyas, Pallavas and Pandyars. Although, there were two very powerful rulers that often dominated Calicut. They were the Northerners: Ezhimala Kings and the Southerners: Aay Rajas. Many battles were fought between the North and South and lasted for many years, but in 800, Aay Rajas from the south, reached peace with the people and they stopped invading.
Around 800 through 1122 Calicut became apart of the Second Chera Kingdom. Throughout this time the southern part of Kerala regained stability that they once had. The Cheras, which are also knows as Perumals, ruled this area until 1122 CE, when the kingdom fell. When the kingdom fell they were divided into many independent districts, which were called “Nadus”. Eranad and Poland were also considered Nadus. The rulers of Poland, Portarthris, controlled a large portion of the area, which later became Kozhikode. After the invasion of Malik Kafur, the Sulthan of Delhi brought all the Tamil dynasties such as the Chera dynasty, to an end.
During the 13th century CE, the Udaiyavar of Ernas, wanted to provide an outlet to the sea. To make this happen a war took place against the Polatthiri King. The Eradis won and conquered the area around Ponniankara. A result to winning the war, a fort was built at a place called Velapuram. As a result, the city of Kozhikode came into existence sometime in the 13th century CE. With the success in forming Kozhikode, the status of the Udaiyavar increased and he became known as Swami Nambiyathrir Thirumulpad.


Calicut was one of Indias most important cities. The city was mainly Hindu and caste decided the people's social status. Calicut's citizens were very kind in hope that they will receive a better caste, which made the city more welcoming. Spice tade fluorished in Calicut since it was located on the coast. This allowed for them to trade with Chinese and Arab merchents, and later on, Europeons. There were many fights over the kerala region until it finally reached stability. Calicut was a mainly Hindu city that went through economic prosperity during the second Chera kingdom.

References

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