Kannur is the most urbanised district in Kerala, with more than 50% of its residents living in urban areas. Kannur has an urban population of 1,212,898, which is the second largest in Kerala after Ernakulam district.
Kannur District is known as the land of looms and lores, because of the loom industries functioning in the district and festivals held in temples. The district is a major centre of Theyyam, a ritual dance of northern Kerala, and small shrines known as kavus associated with the Theyyam dot the district. Kannur is also known for the relatively high level of political violence that occurs in the district, mainly involving CPI(M) activists against perceived rival political opposition and their supporters.
The district is set to have a new international airport, the fourth in Kerala.
There are many myths and legends behind the name Kannur. It is said to be a portmanteau derived from two Malayalam words, ‘Kannan’ (Krishna), a Hindu deity, and ‘Ur’ (place), making it the place of Lord Krishna. According to another version, Kannur is a derivation of ‘Kanathur’, an ancient village, the name of which survives even today as a ward in the municipality of Kannur.
In keeping with Kannur's association with the legend of Lord Krishna, it is worth mentioning that the deity of the Kadalayi Srikrishna Temple was originally installed in a shrine at Kadalayi Kotta in the southeastern part of the present Kannur town. It is also said that the ships of Solomon had anchored along the coasts of Kannur to collect timber for building the Temple of the Lord. Kannur also finds mention as Naura in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a Greek work of great antiquity.
The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama visited Kannur in 1498, and shortly thereafter it became a Portuguese settlement. The Portuguese built St. Angelo's Fort north of Kannur in 1505. In 1558, the Kolathiris came openly into the field against the Portuguese by providing active support to Kunjali Marakkars of Kozhikode. The Kolathiris and the Zamorins of Kozhikode fought a common war against Portuguese and the besieged Fort St. Angelo in 1564. In the mid-17th century control of Kannur passed to the Dutch from whom the British captured it in 1783.
The English East India Company got its first foothold in the district towards the closing years of the 17th century, when it acquired a site at Thalassery for the erection of a fort and a factory. In the latter half of the 18th century, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, rulers of Mysore, conquered much of the district and came into conflict with the British. In 1792, at the conclusion of the Third Anglo-Mysore War, the British took over Kannur and the surrounding region, which became the new Malabar District of British India's Madras Presidency.
The Khilafat movement Moplah Rebellion of 1921 was the uprising of Muslims against the British rule.
Payyannur was the main venue of the Salt Satyagraha, a major turning point in the Indian Freedom Movement, in Malabar. On April 13, a batch of Congress volunteers under the leadership of K. Kelappan started on foot from Kozhikkode to the beaches of Payyannur and broke the salt laws there on April 21. The Satyagraha camp at Payyannur was raided and the campers were beaten up. Uliyath Kadav[Payyanur] incident became a turning point in the history of freedom struggle in Kerala. Nandakumar Koroth in his 'History of Payyanur' wrote the impact of the salt satyagraha in the freedom movement of North Kerala. It thrilled the people and thousands were ready to join in the struggle for freedom. There were widespread demonstrations in Kannur, Thalassery and other parts of the district and a number of Congress workers were arrested. The period following the withdrawal of the Civil Disobedience Movement witnessed the emergence of a radical wing in the Kerala Provincial Congress. Some of the radical elements in the Kerala Provincial Congress organized a Kerala unit of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934 and functioned as a separate group within the Provincial Congress. The leadership of this group was in the hands of persons like P. Krishna Pillai, A.K. Gopalan and E. M. S. Namboodiripad. An extremist group of Nationalist Muslims also emerged within the Congress during this period under the leadership of Muhammad Abdur Rahiman. The Congress Socialists and the Nationalist Muslims made common cause against the Gandhian group known as the Right Wing which was led by such leaders as K. Kelappan, C.K. Govindan Nair and K.A. Damodara Menon.
A notable development in the politics of Malabar during the thirties was the rise of the Muslim League as a district political party. It was the Muslim leaders of Kannur and Thalassery who played the lead role in forming this organization. The leftist elements in the Kerala Provincial Congress were also active in the politics of Malabar in the late thirties. They took active part in organizing the workers, peasants, students and teachers of Kannur district under their banner. In the election held to the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee in January 1939, the Rightists suffered a severe set back. Muhammad Abdur Rahiman was elected as the president of the KPCC and E.M.S Namboodiripad as its general secretary. Towards the end of the same year, a branch of the Indian Communist Party was formally founded in Malabar. The Congress Socialist Party workers joined the Communist Party en bloc.
Though the War ended in 1945, famine continued to haunt the people. Karivellor, the northern most village of the present Kannur district, made a historic stride in the struggle against poverty and famine. The transporting of paddy from Karivellore to Chirakkal Kovilakom was blocked and distributed to the people of the village. The movement was led by peasant leaders like A.V. Kunhambu and K. Krishnan Master. One Kannan and Kunhambu became martyrs in the struggle when police opened fire.
During the month of December 1946, the people of Kavumbayi, an eastern village of the district, raised their demand for punam cultivation. A strong police contingent was sent to the spot. The peasants resisted the armed forces which led to the killing of five peasants in the firing. The rise of the organized working class in the industrial sector was another important phenomenon of the period that changed the course of the anti-imperialism movement. The struggle of Aron Mill workers in the year 1946 is noteworthy in this regard. Even after independence, the struggles of the peasantry formed an important part in the history of the state. They fought against landlords and their exploitation. Places like Thillankeri, Manayankunnu, Korom and Paddikkunnu are memorable in the annals of the peasant struggles in the post independence era. The All India Conference of Kisan Sabha, held at Kannur in 1953, resolved to initiate struggles for new tenancy legislations. The movement for Aikya Kerala (united Kerala) also got momentum during this period and all sections of the society rallied under the movement.
Communist Parties have a strong base in this district. It is estimated that that CPI(M) itself has more than 50% support. CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) governs five of six municipalities in Kannur district. Around 70% of the panchayats are also governed by LDF. The I.U.M.L is one of the strongest political party in Kannur. Muslim League rules about 15 panchayats and one municipality in the district. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has very minimal presence in the district.
During the months of April and May, the mean daily maximum temperature is about 35 °C. Temperature is low in December and January and the minimum temperature is about 20 °C. On certain days the night temperature may go down to 16 °C , although this is extremely rare. The annual average rainfall is 3438 mm and more than 80% of it occurs during the period of South-West monsoon. The rainfall during July is very heavy and the district receives 68% of the annual rainfall during this season.
Paddy occupies the largest area among annual crops. Under the high yielding variety programme, substantial increase in paddy production has been achieved, even though the percentage of area sown under paddy is decreasing year after year, due to conversion of paddy fields to other purposes. The average yield of paddy is recorded as 2146 kg. per hectare. Next to paddy, coconut is the most important crop in the district. Coconut is extensively grown throughout the district. An important cash crop grown in the district is cashewnut. The district plays a unique role in its cultivation and production. The vast stretches of suitable waste lands with low fertility status extends scope for expansion of cashew cultivation and its allied industries.
Among spices, pepper occupies an important place. Pepper is mostly grown as an intercrop with coconut, arecanut and various fruit trees. In the hilly areas of the district, the inter-cultivation is done with rubber and cashew. Rubber is the most important industrial cash crop among the plantation crops.
About 55% of the rubber cultivation of Kannur district is in Taliparamba taluk, followed by Thalassery and Kannur taluks. The yield of rubber per hectare varies from 2000 kg to 4000 kg.
Kannur district has had its industrial importance from very early days. Being blessed with a variety of factors such as good soil, salubrious climate, rich forests, enormous fishing potentials, minerals as well as infrastructural facilities like road, rail, inland water transport, etc., the district offers ample scope for the development of industries. Nevertheless, Kannur is an industrially backward district in the state. There are only one major and five mini industrial estates in the district. Keltron Complex, Mangattuparamba and Western India Plywood's, Valappattanam are the two major industries. The Western India Plywoods is one of the biggest wood based industrial complexes in South East Asia. The district has 12 medium-scale industries, most of which are either cotton textile or plywood manufacturing.
Textiles, beedi and coir are the important traditional industries in the district. About one lakh people depend on the textile industry for livelihood. The textile industry which accounts for 40% of all Small Scale Industrial (SSI) units in the district, was introduced in early 19th century by the German Basel Mission. The first ready-made garment unit in Kannur and the first hosiery unit in Kuthuparamba were started around the end of the 19th century. The beedi industry provides employment to about 50,000 people. Famous beedi co-operative ‘Dinesh Beedi’ is in Kannur district. The coir industry which uses traditional technology provides employment to about 11,000 workers.
There are 6934 small scale industrial units in the district. The district has 202 sick units which is about 9.3% of the sick units of the state. Only 4828 units are working now. 162 industrial societies and four power loom societies are also functioning here. Kannur, Thalassery, Payyannur, Taliparamba and Edakkad have been identified as growth centers, having potential for industrial development.
The West Coast road from Mahe to Talapady is the backbone of the road system in Kannur district. This is part of the National Highway(NH-17). Thalassery –Kodagu road and the Thalassery – Mysore road are the other important roads. The airports at Mangalore in Karnataka and Kozhikode are about 125 killometers away from Kannur.
Thalassery, Kannur and Azhikkal are the minor ports in the district. Kannur is an ancient port. The nearest all-weather sea port is Mangalore, presently in Karnataka state name. The inland water transport system connecting Perumba and Thaliparamba was constructed in 1766 by the Ali Raja of Kannur. This 3.8 km long canal is known as the Sultan's Canal. The west flowing rivers are used for navigation. The Kuppam river has 244 km of navigable length; Valappattanam, 55 km and Anjarakandi, 23 km.Kannur international airport is coming up at Mattanur,once operational Kannur international airport will be the largest airport in Kerala.
The high urban population of the district is due to the 45 towns in the district which is the highest toll in Kerala. Kannur district has 7 statutory towns namely Kannur, Kannur Cantonment, Thalassery, Payyannur, Thaliparamba, Kuthuparamba and Mattannur. In addition to this there are 38 census towns which are Ancharakandy, Azhikode North, Azhikode South, Chala, Chelora, Cheruthazham, Chirakkal, Chockli, Dharmadom, Elayavoor, Eranholi, Iriveri, Kadachira, Kadirur, Kalliasseri, Kanhirode, Kannadiparamba, Kannapuram, Kottayam-Malabar, Mavilayi, Munderi, Muzhappilangad, Narath, New Mahe, Paduvilayi, Pallikkunnu, Panniyannur, Panoor, Pappinisseri, Pathiriyad, Pattiom, Peralasseri, Peringathur, Pinarayi, Puzhathi, Thottada, Valapattanam, Varam.
Kannur district is very rich in vegetation. Natural vegetation, except in some coastal regions, consists of different types of forests. But, in spite of generally favourable climatic conditions, vegetation is not uniform. In restricted regions, with their own micro climate or special edaphic features, plant formations assume different characters. Thus, plant communities, ranging from psammophytes and mangroves to evergreen forests are seen in this district.
The coastal region is a comparatively narrow zone, characterised by secondary soil which is rather lose and sandy. The sterile sandy tract supports only a poor vegetation of the psammophyte type. Plants are few and mostly prostrate. Erect species are small and short. Owing to very poor water holding capacity of the soil, these plants are provided with special xerophytic adaptations. Another conspicuous feature of this area is the mangroove vegetation, found at the estuaries of rivers and backwaters, and often extending to the interior along their banks. Human interference has much changed the vegetation of the coastal region.
Major part of the district comes under midland region with numerous hills and dales and it presents an undulating surface gradually ascending and merging into the slopes of Western Ghats. Soil is secondary and lateritic with underlying rock of laterite or disintegrated gneiss. Typical flora of this area is deciduous forest consisting of a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees. Undergrowth consists of a variety of annuals and perennials.
The mountains are a continuation of the midland region, gradually ascending to the main ridge of the Western Ghats. Soil in the western slopes is a ferrugenous red, sandy loam. Vegetation over the whole area is of the forest type. Irregular distribution of teak, localised areas of bamboo dominance, change of good quality forest into open grass lands, etc are characteristic.
The Aralam Wildlife sanctuary is spread over 55 square kilometres of undulating forested highlands on the slopes of the Western Ghats. It was established in 1984. The headquarters of the sanctuary is near Iritty, a small town about 55 kilometres from Kannur. The sanctuary adjoins the Central state Farm at Aralam. Aralam wild life is situating in Muzhakkunnu panchayathu and Aralam panchayath. Muzhakkunnu is also a tourist spot.
The elevation varies from 50 m to 1145 m. The highest peak here Katti Betta rises to a majestic 1145 m above sea level. Covered with tropical and semi evergreen forests, the Aralam Sanctuary is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna endemic to the Western Ghats. Herds of deer, elephant, boar and bison are common sights. Leopards, jungle cats and various types of squirrels are also seen here. The proposed Ranipuram wildlife sanctuary of Kasaragod district also has similar flora and fauna as that of Aralam wildlife sanctuary
The beginning of western education in the district may be traced back to the middle of the 16th century. The first English school, known as the Basel German Mission English School, was started on 1st March 1856 at Thalassery. The Brennen School at Thalassery, the nucleus of the present Govt. Brennen College, was started in 1862 with the generous donation made by Mr. Brennen, Master Attendant at Thalassery.
Kannur University was established by the Act 22 of 1996 of Kerala Legislative Assembly. The University by the name “Malabar University” had come into existence even earlier by the promulgaton of an Ordinance by the Governor of Kerala, on 9th November 1995. The University was inaugurated on 2nd March 1996 by the Hon. Chief Minister of Kerala. The objective of the Kannur University Act 1996 is to establish in the state of Kerala a teaching, residential and affiliating University so as to provide for the development of higher education in Kasargod and Kannur revenue Districts and the Mananthavady Taluk of Wayanad district. Kannur University is unique in the sense that it is a multi-campus university with campuses located at various locations under its jurisdiction. The present Vice-Chancellor of Kannur University is
Dr. P. Chandramohan.
After independence, the football clubs helped spread the spirit of the game in Kannur. Spirited Youths, Lucky Star, Brothers Club and Gymkhana Club were popular and produced well known players like D'cruz, Soman, Dasan, etc. Sree Narayana College in Thottada was considered a nursery of sporstmen the most prominent of them being B Devananad who captained the college and later Calicut University (the college is now under Kannur University) to national universities title. Devananad later played for the Indian Youth team in Bangkok and several other tournaments to be picked by Tata Football team in Mumbai. He was the fullback when Kerala won its first Santosh Trophy title in 1973. Similarly Mani, the captain of the Santosh Trophy winning Kerala team was another well known player though he faded off the sports horizon.
In Hockey too, apart from the military team, there were good teams in Kannur and Thalassery. Cricket, ball-badminton, weightlifting, gymnastics, wrestling, volleyball, etc have been widely played in both urban and rural areas. Volleyball has been concentrated upon by youths in rural areas. Former Indian hockey goalkeeper Manuel Fredricks is from Kannur.
When Sports Divisions were started in schools in 1976 to tap talents, one of its divisions was started in the district. The Sports Division attached to Govt. Higher Secondary School, Kannur, produced international stars like P.T Usha and M.D. Valsamma in athletics. Leelamma Thomas and Moly Benedict in basketball and Anitha Retnam and Anandavalli in volleyball. The Police Maidan was the venue for M.D Valsamma and Mercy Mathew to practise athletics; P.K. Balachandran, V.P. Sathyan, D'cruz, Rajan, Ramanan, Sugunan, C.M. Chidanandan, B Devananad and George in football and Ford and Olympian Federicks in hockey. Westline & Leslie in cricket had their training at Fort Maidan. Kannur became famous in South India for ball badminton, when T.K. Ramakrishnan and Kumaran were playing. A.M. Bharathan created history in weight lifting in the early fifties. Nelliary Krishnan Nair, the first Malayalee to represent India(weightlifting) at the first Asian Games held at New Delhi in 1951 is from Kannur.
It is also believed that the game of cricket first found its way to Kannur, with the British,thus making it the birthplace of the game in India. A few years back, the district cricket association celebrated the 200th anniversary of the game in the district, in a function attended by eminent cricketers like Dilip Vengsarkar.
The evergreen volley ball player, who bought jump serve to india from Italy, was the contribution of kannur. People of Kannur and Italy still remembers his smashes he did by hanging in the air forming a curving backward posture.
Snake Park is a famous landmark in the district of Snake Park at Parassinikkadavu, en route from Kannur to Taliparamba, 2 km from National Highway(NH) 17. Here one gets to see a large genre of snakes and other small animals and there is even a live show, where trained personnel play and 'interact' with a variety of snakes, including cobras and vipers, and seek to quell mythical fears and superstitions about snakes. The Snake Park set up by the Visha Chikista Kendra at Pappinisseri, has been a centre of attraction to both foreign and domestic tourists. This Kendra(center) offers effective treatment for snake bites with almost 100% cure. This is the only place, perhaps where Ayurveda and Allopathy are effectively combined for curing snake bites. The snake park here houses about 150 varieties of snakes including the Spectacled Cobra, King Cobra, Russell's viper, Krait and various pit vipers. There is also a large collection of non-poisonous snakes including Pythons. A research laboratory to extract venom from snakes is proposed to be set up here. The park is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of snakes, many species of which are getting extinct gradually. It is located 16 km from Kannur. Parassinikkadavu is also noted for the famous Muthappan temple. This is the only temple in Kerala where a Theyyam performance is a daily ritual offering.
St. Angelo Fort, built in 1505 by Sir Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy of India, is situated near the sea coast and about 2 km from Kannur town. This fort has a legendary past. Having witnessed several wars for seizing the control of the fort, the British flag flew over it finally in 1790. Even now, it is in a fairly good state of preservation, and is a protected monument under Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). A painting of this fort and the fishing ferry behind the fort can be seen in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. St Angelo Fort is an important historical monument and tourist centre. Kerala Police has posted six Tourism Police Officers for protection and guidance to the tourists. Among them ,Sathyan Eddakkad has detailed knowledge about this fort and the surrounding places. He wrote and published a book in Malayalam named Vasco Da Gaamyum charithrathile kaanaappurangalum (Vasco Da Gama and the unknown pages of history) in which he describes the past and present of the Fort.
The fort, though not as large as the famous Bekal Fort in Kasargod, is a treat to the eyes with lush greenery and well maintained surroundings. The Payyambalam and Government guest house are some of the other famous land marks near the fort.
Sree Mookambika Temple is situated just 2 km from Kannur town and is just half kilometer from Kannur Central Jail. It is near to Krishna Menon Memorial Government Women College. This is one of the most prominent Mookambika temple after the one in Kolloor, Karnataka. The temple has been renovated recently and the annual "Ulsavam" attracts pilgrims from all over Kerala and Malayalis staying outside Kerala as well. Cherukunnu Annapoorneswari Temple
Parassinikkadavu Sree Muthappan Temple is situated 18 km away from Kannur on the banks of river Valapattanam. The temple is dedicated to Lord Muthappan, believed to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva. This is the only one temple in Kerala where the Folk art form of North Kerala 'Theyyam' is presented daily. Toddy and dried fish are the main offerings in this temple. Facility for boating is also available here. Parassinikkadavu Snake Park is situated near the temple.
The temple is regarded as one of the 108 ancient Shiva temples of Kerala. It has a prominent place amongst the numerous Shiva temples in south India. If any problem is encountered in temples of South India, the final solution is sought in this Temple through a prasna, a traditional method of astrological decision making. The prasna is conducted on a peedha (a raised platform) situated outside the temple.
The quadrangular sanctum has a two tiered pyramidal roof. In front of the sanctum is the namaskara mandapam. The temple has no kodi maram (flagstaff) which is a unique feature as other temples in Kerala do have one.
Ezhimala, the capital of the ancient Mooshika kings, is considered to be an ancient historical site. It is a conspicuous, isolated cluster of hills, forming a promontory, 38 km north of Kannur town. A flourishing sea port and centre of trade in ancient Kerala, it was one of the major battle fields of the Chola-Chera war of the 11th century. It is believed that Lord Buddha had visited Ezhimala. An old mosque, believed to contain the mortal remains of Shaikh Abdul Latif, a Muslim reformist, is also located here. The hill is noted for rare medicinal herbs. There is an old tower of great antiquity here, the Mount Deli Light House. It is maintained by the Indian Navy and is a restricted area. The beach sand is of a different texture and the sea is bluer than in other areas. At Ettikulam bay, one can enjoy watching dolphins. Bordered by sea on three sides, Ezhimala is set to occupy a prominent place in the Naval history of the country, subsequent to the proposal for commissioning the Naval Academy there.
The hillock of Madayipara, which carries several signs of historic relevance, is also a place important from a religious point of view. Here, a pond in the shape of a hand held mirror, connected to ancient Jewish settlers is another historic attraction. Similarly, a temple at this site, called Vadukunda Siva Temple and the adjoining lake, about an acre in extension form yet another attraction at Madayipara. The lake near the temple will not go dry even in hot summer months and remains a source of nourishment to life forms at Madayipara. The pooram festival of Madayi Kavu (kavu – family temples and those in the midst of thick vegetation) held at Madayipara has been responsible for much of its fame.
With regard to the bio-diversity of Madayipara, it has been found that the region contains about 300 flowering plants, about 30 varieties of grass, and several insect-eating plant species. Madayipara is also home to several --rare medicinal herbs, which are sought by people from near and far off places. Coming to avian life, Madayipara sustains about 100 species of butterflies and about 150 species of birds. Among the biggest butterflies in the world, the Atlas butterfly is a visitor to Madayipara.