British colonizers named the town Cannanore though the original name may have been derived from a combination of the name of a local diety, ‘Kannan’ (Lord Krishna) and the vernacular ‘Ur’ (‘place’ or ‘region’).
With ancient forts, shrines and venerable cultural and educational institutions, Kannur has a remarkable history. Its picturesque landscapes and the social ethos of its people have been the cradle of many a colorful folk art form like Theyyam.
The harbor in Kannur is also believed by many scholars to be the ancient port of Naura, from whose shores King Solomon’s ships collected timber to build the great temple of Jerusalem. Well known to the Greeks, Romans and the Arabs, it was referred to by the celebrated traveler, Marco Polo, as a great emporium of the spice trade.
Three kilometers from Kannur town, beside the sea, the St. Angelo fort was built by the first Portuguese Viceroy of India, Dom Francisco de Almeida, in 1505 AD. A couple of years later, however, the fort was besieged by the local ruler in the siege of Cannanore (Kannur). But the Portuguese held firm and would rule over ‘Cananor’, as they spelt it, for another 158 years. The Dutch captured the fort in 1663 and they who gave the fort its current form. Later it was sold to the Arakkal royal family in 1772 from whom the British captured it in 1790 and used it as one of their major military stations on the Malabar Coast.
A secluded beach, very popular with Kannur’s residents – both, as a picnic spot and for a relaxed evening out, watching a gorgeous sunset at the end of a day.
Cinnamon Valley is reputedly the largest cinnamon plantation in Asia. Situated beside the Anjarakandy River, the plantation extends over 200 acres and is enclosed by dense forests set on the windy slopes of the Western Ghat mountains. Cinnamon is grown here along with coffee, tea, cloves, vanilla, pepper, cardamom and nutmeg.
The plantation was first developed by the East India Company in 1767 and today, the white pepper harvested here is very popular in Britain and other western countries. Visitors to the plantation may view cinnamon being processed and its oil being extracted in the plantation’s processing plant.
HANDLOOM WEAVING CENTER
Kannur district has forever been renowned for its handloom industry and generations of Kerala’s finest weavers hail from the area. However, it was a Christian Missionary Society from Switzerland, the Basel Mission that began organizing the industry and found markets for its produce in 1844. The Mission not only opened many weaving centers (which soon had a monopoly on khaki in the region) but also introduced modern looms and helped shift the scale of production from a cottage industry to a factory to obtain larger profits.
Even today the weaving center exports most of its products besides serving as a museum displaying the documented history and relics of the handloom and handicrafts industry besides providing a link between traditional workers and the larger world.
MUZHAPPILANGAD DRIVE IN BEACH
Asia’s largest drive-in beach, a 5km curved stretch of smooth packed sand, located between Kannur and Thalassery. The black rocks fringing the stretch of sand offer protection from the rushing waves of the ocean. The beach festival here celebrated in the month of April is one of the important tourist attractions in Kannur.
Besides the obvious charms of the beach, visitors may also sample delicious Malabari cuisine from the many eateries situated at one end of the beach. Adventure sports – paragliding, parasailing and microlite flights besides water sports, power boating or a simple catamaran rides are also on offer at the beach.
The display in the museum is confined to artefacts and heirlooms that belonged to the only Muslim royal family in Kerala, the Arakkals. The museum is in fact housed in a section of the Arakkalkettu, or, Arakkal Palace, the residence of the former Arakkal Ali Rajas. A part of what was once the durbar hall has been converted into a museum.
The Parassinikadavu Muthappan temple is located beside the Valapattanam river where the principal deity Muthappan is a manifestation of two mythical characters called Thiruvappana and Vellattam. Visitors will be interested to learn that this is one of the rare temples where the traditional Brahminical rituals are not observed, instead, they befit a non-Vedic deity to whom fish, meat and toddy are offered. The deity is worshiped through a ritual known as Muthappan Theyyam. Visitors to the temple will also have the opportunity to observe an enchanting albeit lesser known facet of Kerala’s temple culture.
Gundert Bungalow, Thalassery
Dr. Herman Gundert (1814-1893) was a revered German missionary, scholar and lexicographer who is revered for his compilations of a Malayalam grammar book and a Malayalam-English besides translating the Bible into Malayalam. Living and working primarily from this bungalow for 20 years from 1839, Gundert also contributed to the fields of history, geography and astronomy. Perched on a hill and overlooking a river and a spectacular landscape, the colonial bungalow, situated about 20 km from Thalassery town is today a popular heritage building.
The Tellicherry fort is an imposing structure with its massive walls, strong flanking bastions, secret tunnels to the sea and intricately carved huge doors. It was built in 1708 by the British East India Company to establish a stronghold on the Malabar Coast and it is believed that a mixture of quicklime, white of egg and sugar were used in the construction of this fort. The entrance cresting an enormous wall is a unique feature of the fort.