KERALA, or CHERA, the name of one of the three ancient Dravidian kingdoms of the Tamil country of southern India, the other two being the Chola and the Pandya. Its original territory comprised the country now contained in the Malabar district, with Travancore and Cochin, and later the country included in the Coimbatore district and a part of Salem. The boundaries, however, naturally varied much from time to time. The earliest references to this kingdom appear in the edicts of Asoka, where it is called Keralaputra (i.e. son of Kerala) , a name which in a slightly corrupt form is known to Pliny and the author of the Periplus. There is evidence of a lively trade carried on by sea with the Roman empire in the early centuries of the Christian era, but of the political history of the Kerala kingdom nothing is known beyond a list of rajas compiled from inscriptions, until in the 10th century the struggle began with the Cholas, by whom it was conquered and held till their overthrow by the Mahommedans in 1310. These in their turn were driven out by a Hindu confederation headed by the chiefs of Vijayanagar, and Kerala was absorbed in the Vijayanagar empire until its destruction by the Mahommedans in 1565. For about 80 years it seems to have preserved a precarious independence under the naiks of Madura, but in 1640 was conquered by the Adil Shah dynasty of Bijapur and in 1652 seized by the king of Mysore.
See V. A. Smith, Early Hist, of India, chap. xvi. (2nd ed., Oxford, 1908).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)