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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Calicut (कालीकट), also known as Kozhikode, is a city in Kerala, India and the headquarters of the Kozhikode district. The city lies about 360 km south west of Bangalore, 235 km south of Mangalore and 525 km south west of Chennai.



The exact origin of the name Kozhikode is uncertain. According to many sources, the name Kozhikode is derived from Koyil-kota (fort), meaning fortified palace.[1] The name also got corrupted into Kolikod, or its anglicized version Calicut.[2]

Arab merchants called it Qāliqūṭ.[3] Tamils called it Kallikkottai while for the Chinese it was Kalifo. In Kannada it was known as Kallikote.

Although the city's official name is Kozhikode, in English it is sometimes known by its anglicised version, Calicut.[4] The word calico, a fine variety of hand-woven cotton cloth that was exported from the port of Kozhikode, is thought to have been derived from Calicut.[5] It is the historical capital of Kerala as the history dates back to 1498 AD when Vasco da Gama landed in Kappad, near Calicut.[6]


Kozhikode is a town with a long recorded history. From time immemorial, the city has attracted travellers with its prosperity. It has traded in spices like black pepper and cardamom mainly with Arabs, Jews, Phoenicians, and Chinese for more than 500 years. As Kozhikode offered full freedom and security, the Arab and the Chinese merchants preferred it to all other ports. The globe-trotter Ibn Battuta (A.D. 1342–47) said, "We came next to Kalikut, one of the great ports of the district of Malabar, and in which merchants of all parts are found."

Kozhikode was the capital of Malabar during the time of Sri Samoothiri Maharajas, who ruled the region before the British took over. The city's first recorded contact with Europe was when Vasco da Gama landed at Kappad (18 km north) in May 1498, among the leaders of a trade mission from Portugal. He was received by his highness Sri Samoothiri Maharaja.

Early Kozhikode in foreign accounts: Accounts of the city and the conditions prevailing then can be gleaned from the chronicles of travellers who visited the port city.

Ibn Battuta (1342–1347), who visited six times, gives the earliest glimpses of life in the city. He describes Kozhikode as "one of the great ports of the district of Malabar" where "merchants of all parts of the world are found". The king of this place, he says, "shaves his chin just as the Haidari Fakeers of Rome do... The greater part of the Muslim merchants of this place are so wealthy that one of them can purchase the whole freightage of such vessels put here and fit out others like them".[7]

Ma Huan (1403 AD), the Chinese sailor part of the Imperial Chinese fleet under Cheng Ho (Zheng He)[23] lauds the city as a great emporium of trade frequented by merchants from around the world. He makes note of the 20 or 30 mosques built to cater to the religious needs of the Muslims, the unique system of calculation by the merchants using their fingers and toes (followed to this day) and the matrilineal system of succession.

Abdur Razzak (1442–43) the ambassador of Persian Emperor Sha-Rohk finds the city harbour perfectly secured and notices precious articles from several maritime countries especially from Abyssinia, Zirbad and Zanzibar.

The Italian Niccolò de' Conti (1445), perhaps the first Christian traveller who noticed Kozhikode, describes the city as abounding in pepper, lac, ginger, a larger kind of cinnamon, myrobalans and zedary. He calls it a noble emporium for all India, with a circumference of eight miles (13 km).

The Russian traveller Athanasius Nikitin or Afanasy Nikitin (1468–74) calls 'Calecut' a port for the whole Indian sea and describes it as having a "big bazaar."

The Samoothiri: Kozhikode and its suburbs formed part of the Polanad kingdom ruled by the Porlatiri.[8] The Eradis of Nediyirippu in Eranad wanted an outlet to the sea, to initiate trade and commerce with the distant lands.[9] and after fighting with the king Polatthiri for 48 years conquered the area around Panniankara. After this, Menokki became the ruler of Polanad and came to terms with the troops and people.[10] After this, the town of Kozhikode was founded close to the palace at Tali.[11] Then, the Eradis shifted their headquarters from Nediyirippu to Kozhikode. The Governor of Ernad built a fort at a place called Velapuram to safeguard his new interests. The fort most likely lent its name to Koyil Kotta the precursor to Kozhikode. Thus the city came into existence sometime in the 13th century CE. The status of Udaiyavar increased and he became known as Swami Nambiyathiri Thirumulpad, and eventually Samuri or Samoothiri. Europeans called him in a corrupt form as Zamorin.

According to K.V. Krishna Iyer, the rise of Kozhikode is at once a cause and a consequence of Samoothiri's ascendancy in Kerala. By the end of the century, Samoothiri was at the zenith of his powers with all princes and chieftains of Kerala north of Kochi acknowledging his suzerainty.[12]


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[13] ने लेख किया है ... कालीकट (AS, p.182) पूर्वी समुद्र तट पर प्राचीन बंदरगाह. 1498 ई. में पुर्तगालियों के जहाज का कप्तान वास्कोडिगामा पहले पहल इसी नगर में पहुंचा था. किंवदंती है कि कालीकट नाम कोल्लीकोंडे शब्द का रूपांतर है, जिसका अर्थ है कुक्कुट-दुर्ग. यहां के राजा ने अपने एक सरदार को इतनी दूर तक भूमि जागीर में दी थी जिसमें कुक्कुट का शब्द सुनाई दे सके. इसी भूमि पर जो किला बना उसे कोल्लीकोंडे नाम दिया गया.

External links


  1. Menon, A. Sreedhara (1965). Kerala District Gazetteers: Kozhikode - Gazetteer of India, Volume 5 of Kerala District Gazetteers, Kerala (India). Superintendent of Govt. Presses.
  2. Ayyar, K. V. Krishna (1938). The Zamorins of Calicut: From the Earliest Times Down to A.D. 1806. Publication Division, University of Calicut; University of Michigan
  3. Hermann Kulke, Dietmar Rothermund (2010). "18. Ibn Battuta: International Trade at the Malabar Coast". A History of India. Routledge. ISBN 9780415485432.
  4. M.G.S. Narayanan, Calicut: The City of Truth (2006) Calicut University Press, Kozhikode.
  5. Encyclopædia Britannica (2008). calico
  6. 1951-, Crowley, Roger, (2015). Conquerors : how Portugal forged the first global empire (First ed.). New York.
  7. Ibn Battuta, H. A. R. Gibb (1994). The Travels of Ibn Battuta A.D 1325-1354. IV. London.
  8. Sreedhara Menon.A, A Survey of Kerala History(1967), p.152. D.C.Books Kottayam
  9. Bhāratīya sthalanāma patrikā (page 44) published by Place Names Society of India
  10. Sewell, Robert (1884). Lists of inscriptions, and sketch of the dynasties of southern India. p. 197.
  11. K. V. Krishna Ayyar; University of Calicut. Publication Division (1938). The Samorins of Calicut: from the earliest times down to A.D. 1806. Publication Division, University of Calicut. p. 82. ISBN 978-81-7748-000-9. Retrieved 25 July 2011
  12. "History of Calicut".
  13. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.182