Bucolic backwaters belie a complex history

Cranganore is analogous to the South Indian port of Muziris. The ancient history of this urban center is ill-defined for lack of written records.

Muziris may have been one of the wealthiest entrepots in the world at its peak economy in the twelfth-to-fourteenth centuries. It thrived as a transshipment hub for Asia and Europe.

Other than the fact that it was on the Malabar Coast of India, the exact site of Muziris is a matter of lingering debate. Shards of ancient Chinese pottery and assorted Roman coins have been found near the modern-day city of Kodungallur. This dig is likely the lost port.

Cranganore is the anglicized name for Kodungallur. The area was overseen by the Portuguese and then the Dutch during the colonial period. It was firmly in the hands of the Kingdom of Travancore by 1790. The British presence here may have been less pronounced than it was elsewhere in India.

Cranganore was an important port-of-call for centuries

Ships of the Dutch East India Company at Cranganoor (1708)

To the surprise of most outside observers, the Malabar Coast has deep ties to all Abrahamic faiths. Both Muslim and Christian traditions heavily influence contemporary culture; there was a sizeable Jewish population until the mid-twentieth century. That legacy mixes with the dominant Hindu faith. Across the region, historical temples, synagogues, churches, and mosques are familiar sites.

Kodungallur today has a modest population of about 35,000; the nearby metropolis of Kochi is better known. Tranquility belies a complex history.

Banner image show typical landscape on the Malabar Coast. Credit: Kaetana at Can Stock Photo Inc.