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River Valley Civilizations
calicut-magardician, keogh, perciavalle
Calicut was one of the most important cities in southwestern India. It was located on the coast of Malabar, which made it a port city. Being a city on the water, Calicut played a big role for the trade in the region it was located, Kerala, and India as well. Calicut was known for the spices that it had imported and exported. Through the years, Calicut went through several civil conflicts politically. However, an agreement was reached between the northern and southern parts of the city through cooperation and negotiation. Calicut had many types of religions in its boundaries such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Sikhism. Calicut, from the time period of 600-1450 CE played a prominent role in the region of Kerala through its interference in religion, politics and social aspects.
Politics played a very big part in the city of Calicut from 600-1450 C.E. There were political differences between the city and many changes in government that sometimes took a turn for the worst or for the better. There were two powers that ultimately ruled Calicut: in the north, the Ezhimala kings, and in the south, the Aay Rojas. From 500-800 C.E there was political instability throughout the city and there were many invasions coming from both the north and south. The fighting went on for years, but in 800 the southern part of Calicut finally reached a solid political standpoint among its people and stopped the invasions for good.
The Second Chera Empire was established in the ninth century and ruled until 1122 C.E. The Chera kingdoms had many confrontations with the Chola and Pandya kingdoms. Frequent wars with the two kingdoms weakened the Chera Empire and ultimately led to their destruction. After the fall of the Cheras, Kerala was divided into many different districts, which were called “Nadus.” Some of the Nadus were named Eranad and Polanad. The rulers of the Nadus were confined to small areas instead of large vast spaces. Eventually fighting broke out among the provincial rulers in order to gain more land and expand their kingdom. The ruler of Polanad, Porlarthris, controlled what will later be called Kozhikode.
Once a general of Aluddin Khilji, the Sulthan of Delhi, in 1310, and all the empires that followed patriarchy came to an end. The Samantha Kshatriya and Nair dynasties, who practiced Matriarchy and Naga worship, were established and maintained thereafter. Eranad (a Nadu), ruled by Eradis, was one of the kingdoms that had survived and flourished.
As political disputes continued to go on throughout Calicut, the social part was developing. The people of Calicut continued to live their lives according to their caste system as well as worship their religion. While Kerala was searching for a stable leader to hold together the region, Calicut was introduced to new religions, later making it a multi-faith and religious tolerant city.
During the first Chera Dynasty, which ruled southern India until the twelfth century, Cheras worshiped ‘Kottave’ the mother goddess. Eventually Hinduism developed forming beliefs in gods and goddesses, temples were also built most often to a local goddess or serpent and ancestral worship was common.
The Medieval period of Calicut was a melting pot of people from different regions that all co-existed as they continued to follow their traditional occupation. Some of these included potters, washer men, agricultural workers, merchants, astrologers, etc (Kozhikode, Wapedia).
The city of Calicut had based their caste system on the Hindu religion. In the Hindu religion there is a hierarchy that structures people by class or caste. The religious word for caste is “Varna.” Each Varna has certain duties or rights and its members can only work for occupations in that Varna. Based on Hinduism, they divided their people into separate castes to regulate society (Luce, 2007).
The highest caste was called Brahmans, which were priests, teachers, and judges. Their job was to spread knowledge and teaching. The next caste was the Ksatriyas or the warrior caste. These people dominated government and were rulers and aristocrats. Below this caste were Vaisyas who were landlords, traders, shopkeepers, artisans, and businessmen. The last caste in the hierarchy was the Sudras who were peasants who would serve the other three castes. They had no social or economic rights.
Below all of the castes were the outcasts or the untouchables. These people were considered “pollution” and had jobs that polluted the air. Their jobs involved tasks so far beneath that they were forced to work at night so they were not seen. They were not allowed to enter temples, schools, and water wells from which the higher castes drew water. Calicut used this caste system to control their social lives and determine their occupation (Walsh, 2007).
The area of Kerala, where Calicut is located, had always had tolerant people who welcomed a mixture or religions. Buddhism was among the earliest religions in Calicut, however, the Brahmins introduced the Hindu religious structure of life, which soon became their way to wealth and power. The caste structure in Calicut was stronger than anywhere in the country. Religiously, if you did not belong to a Varna, you were considered an o
utcast. However, the Muslims, who arrived in the 8th century AD, were too strong religiously and had military power to be affected by the Hindu system. The Muslims, as well as the Christians, even had a two-tier hierarchy. The Muslims hierarchy consisted of the Sharif Jat, or upper class converts, and the Ajlaf Jat, or the lower class converts. The Christians who arrived in the 3rd century from Syria were traders and were given a high status in the business area of Calicut. The Jews in Calicut were in the business community and had aristocratic rights such as elephant and car use. Jews had trade privileges and they would also have servants announce their arrival when they entered a street so that people of lower castes would clear the way. Another religion that entered Calicut was Sikhism, who rejected the caste system and was not given the same equal rights and respects as the other religions. All of these religions had a major influence in the melting pot of Calicut (Luce, 2007).
All these religions entered through missionaries and merchants. As they entered and mingled among the citizens, people exchanged beliefs and ideas. As missionaries
left, they also brought caste systems back with them. They were able to obtain popular items, like pepper, to bring back to their area. Through this, cities interacted more with each other through trade.
Calicut was known as one of the most important trade centers in India. Nediyirippu, or as the Europeans called him Zamorin, was the king of Calicut. He had a friendly approach to the traders, making more traders wanting to come back. Religious tolerance and good administration helped keep it this way, too. Calicut was a chief place for Arabs and the Chinese to meet. It was there that items from the west could go into the east and vice versa. It wasn't until much later that the French, English, and Dutch came into Calicut for trade opportunities. During medieval times, it was the key ingredient in pepper trade. However, they also traded coral, pearls, and precious jewels. The currency was fanam coins and silver coins. Fanam coins were made with 60% gold.
In 1498, a navigator from Portugal by the name of Vasco Da Gama discovered Calicut. Because of him, India found a place in history. He found a sea route to India, helping trade connections from Europe to India. This gave Portugal international control of marine trade. Calicut was also primary in encouraging trade relations with Kerala. Later on, Portuguese sailors built forts and cities along the Baypore River. This caused hostility between Calicut and Portugal, resulting in countless battles. As Zamorin's strength decreased, Portugal gained control over sea trade in Calicut. This was due to a treaty signed in 1540, but it didn't last long. By 1721, the Dutch had came in to help get rid of Portuguese. Yet by this time, they withdrew from their native battles in Kerala.
Calicut, from 600 to 1450 CE, had a prominent role in regional stability, trade, social structure, and the religious backgrounds in the region of Kerala. The northern and southern areas of Calicut went through many civil conflicts. However, through the years stability was reached by the use of negotiation and cooperation. Calicut had a caste system that consisted of five classes. Calicut was a city of a many religions that included Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism. Being an important trade center in Kerala, it was necessary in bringing items from the west into the east and vice versa. Besides the fact that Calicut was a small city in the region of Kerala, it had a major impact on these features.
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