Kannur district

Kannur (pronounced [kɐɳːuːr] (listen)), is one of the 14 districts along the west coast in the state of Kerala, India. The city of Kannur is the district headquarters and gives the district its name. The old name, Cannanore, is the anglicized form of the Malayalam name "Kannur". Kannur district is bounded by Kasaragod District to the north, Kozhikode district to the south, Mahé district to the southwest and Wayanad District to the southeast. To the east, the district is bounded by the Western Ghats, which forms the border with the state of Karnataka (Kodagu district). The Arabian Sea lies to the west. Paithalmala is the highest point in Kannur District (1,372m). Enclosed within the southern part of the district is the Mahé district of the Union Territory of Puducherry. The district was established in 1957.

Kannur district
Cannanore district
Vpra floating park boat walking path.jpg
Ptb kannur.jpg
Chatti pathiri.JPG
St. Angelo Fort, Kannur.JPG
Mappila bay.JPG
Crown of Kerala
Location in Kerala
Location in Kerala
Kannur district
Coordinates: 11°52′08″N 75°21′20″E / 11.8689°N 75.35546°E / 11.8689; 75.35546Coordinates: 11°52′08″N 75°21′20″E / 11.8689°N 75.35546°E / 11.8689; 75.35546
Country India
 • District CollectorT V Subhash. IAS
 • City Police CommissionerR Ilango, IPS[1]
 • Rural Superintendent of PoliceNavneet Sharma, IPS[2]
 • Total2,966 km2 (1,145 sq mi)
 • Rank5th
 • Total2,615,266
 • Density882/km2 (2,280/sq mi)
 • OfficialMalayalam, English
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)
ISO 3166 codeIN-KL-KNR, IN-KL
Vehicle registration
  • KL-13 Kannur
  • KL-58 Thalassery
  • KL-59 Taliparamba
  • KL-78 Iritty
  • KL-86 Payyanur
HDI (2005)Increase 0.783[4] ( High)
Sex ratio1090 /

Kannur Municipal Corporation is the sixth-largest urban local body in the state and Kannur Cantonment is the only Cantonment Board in Kerala. Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala is the Asia's largest, and the world's third-largest, naval academy.[5][6] Muzhappilangad beach is the longest Drive-In Beach in Asia and is featured among the top 6 best beaches for driving in the world in BBC article for Autos.[7][8] Kannur district is home to some forts which include St. Angelo Fort, and Tellicherry Fort. Thalassery town in the district is known for the Thalassery pepper.

Kannur is the sixth-most urbanised district in Kerala, with more than 50% of its residents living in urban areas. Kannur has an urban population of 1,640,986, which is the second largest in Kerala after Ernakulam district.[9][10] It was part of the Malabar District under the Madras province during the British Raj.


Following the formation of the state of Kerala in 1956, the erstwhile Malabar District was divided into three: Kannur District, Kozhikode district, and Palakkad district.

On 1 November 1980, the North Wayanad Taluk of Kannur district was separated to form Wayanad district. Again in 1984, Kasaragod and Hosdurg Taluks were separated to form Kasargod district.


Pre-history and Ancient Era

The earliest evidence of human habitation in the district are rock-cut caves and megalithic burial sites of the Neolithic age. The Taliparamba-Kannur-Thalassery area abounds in rock-cut caves, dolmens, burial stone circles and menhirs, all of megalith. Kannur was the seat of powerful kingdom based at Ezhimala in the Sangam period (1st–5th century CE). The ancient port of Naura, which is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea as a port somewhere north of Muziris is identified with Kannur.[11]

The kingdom of Ezhimala had jurisdiction over two Nadus - The coastal Poozhinadu and the hilly eastern Karkanadu. According to the works of Sangam literature, Poozhinadu consisted much of the coastal belt between Mangalore and Kozhikode.[12] Karkanadu consisted of Wayanad-Gudalur hilly region with parts of Kodagu (Coorg).[13] It is said that Nannan, the most renowned ruler of Ezhimala dynasty, took refuge at Wayanad hills in the 5th century CE when he was lost to Cheras, just before his execution in a battle, according to the Sangam works.[13]

Early Middle Ages

Ezhimala kingdom was succeeded by Mushika dynasty in the early medieval period, most possibly due to the migration of Tuluva Brahmins from Tulu Nadu. The Mushika-vamsha Mahakavya, written by Athula in the 11th century, throws light on the recorded past of the Mushika Royal Family up until that point.[14] The Indian anthropologist Ayinapalli Aiyappan states that a powerful and warlike clan of the Bunt community of Tulu Nadu was called Kola Bari and the Kolathiri Raja of Kolathunadu was a descendant of this clan.[15] The Kolathunadu (Kannur) Kingdom at the peak of its power, reportedly extended from Netravati River (Mangalore) in the north to Korapuzha (Kozhikode) in the south with Arabian Sea on the west and Kodagu hills on the eastern boundary, also including the isolated islands of Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea.[14]

An Old Malayalam inscription (Ramanthali inscriptions), dated to 1075 CE, mentioning king Kunda Alupa, the ruler of Alupa dynasty of Mangalore, can be found at Ezhimala (the former headquarters of Mushika dynasty) near Cannanore, Kerala.[16] The Arabic inscription on a copper slab within the Madayi Mosque in Kannur records its foundation year as 1124 CE.[17] In his book on travels (Il Milione), Marco Polo recounts his visit to the area in the mid 1290s. Other visitors included Faxian, the Buddhist pilgrim and Ibn Batuta, writer and historian of Tangiers.

Late Middle Ages

An old map of India in 1804. Note that only Thalassery, Kozhikode, and Kochi, are marked as cities within the present-day state of Kerala

Until the 16th century CE, the Kasargod town was known by the name Kanhirakode (may be by the meaning, 'The land of Kanhira Trees') in Malayalam.[18] The Kumbla dynasty, who swayed over the land of southern Tulu Nadu wedged between Chandragiri River and Netravati River (including present-day Taluks of Manjeshwar and Kasaragod) from Maipady Palace at Kumbla, had also been vassals to the Kolathunadu, before the Carnatic conquests of Vijayanagara Empire.[19] The Kumbla dynasty had a mixed lineage of Malayali Nairs and Tuluva Brahmins.[20] They also claimed their origin from Cheraman Perumals of Kerala.[20] Francis Buchanan-Hamilton states that the customs of Kumbla dynasty were similar to those of the contemporary Malayali kings, though Kumbla was considered as the southernmost region of Tulu Nadu.[20] Just like other contemporary kings of Kerala in the medieval period, The powerful Kolathu Raja also came under the influence of Zamorin later. The Kolathunadu in the late medieval period emerged into independent 10 principalities i.e., Kadathanadu (Vadakara), Randathara or Poyanad (Dharmadom), Kottayam (Thalassery), Nileshwaram, Iruvazhinadu (Panoor, Kurumbranad etc., under separate royal chieftains due to the outcome of internal dissensions.[21] The Nileshwaram dynasty on the northernmost part of Kolathiri dominion, were relatives to both Kolathunadu as well as the Zamorin of Calicut, in the early medieval period.[22]

Kolattiri Raja's minister Kuruppu's Arabic letter to Vasco da Gama (1524)

Colonial era

Kannur was an important trading center in the 12th century with active business connections with Persia and Arabia. The port at Kozhikode held the superior economic and political position in medieval Kerala coast, while Kannur, Kollam, and Kochi, were commercially important secondary ports, where the traders from various parts of the world would gather.[23] Kannur served as the British military headquarters on India's west coast until 1887. In conjunction with her sister city, Tellicherry, it was the third-largest city on the western coast of British India in the 18th century after Bombay and Karachi. The Arakkal kingdom had right over the city of Kannur and Laccadive Islands in the late medieval period.[24]

The Portuguese arrived at Kappad Kozhikode in 1498 during the Age of Discovery, thus opening a direct sea route from Europe to India.[25] The St. Angelo Fort at Kannur was built in 1505 by Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy of India. The Dutch captured the fort from the Portuguese in 1663. They modernized the fort and built the bastions Hollandia, Zeelandia, and Frieslandia that are the major features of the present structure. The original Portuguese fort was pulled down later. A painting of this fort and the fishing ferry behind it can be seen in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The Dutch sold the fort to the king Ali Raja of Arakkal in 1772. The British conquered it in 1790 and used it as one of their major military stations on the Malabar Coast.

During the 17th century, Kannur was the capital city of the only Muslim Sultanate in the Malabar region – Arakkal – who also ruled the Laccadive Islands in addition to the city of Kannur.[26] Arakkal Kingdom and Chirakkal kingdom were two vassal kingdoms based in the city of Kannur. The island of Dharmadom near Kannur, along with Thalassery, was ceded to the East India Company as early as 1734, which were claimed by all of the Kolattu Rajas, Kottayam Rajas, Mannanar[27] and Arakkal Bibi in the late medieval period, where the British initiated a factory and English settlement following the cession.[28][21] In 1761, the British captured Mahé, and the settlement was handed over to the ruler of Kadathanadu.[29] The British restored Mahé to the French as a part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris.[29] In 1779, the Anglo-French war broke out, resulting in the French loss of Mahé.[29] In 1783, the British agreed to restore to the French their settlements in India, and Mahé was handed over to the French in 1785.[29]

During the British Raj, Kannur was part of the Madras province in the Malabar District. Initially the British had to suffer local resistance against their rule under the leadership of Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, who had popular support in Thalassery-Wayanad region.[11] The municipalities of Kannur and Thalassery were formed on 1 November 1866 according to the Madras Act 10 of 1865 (Amendment of the Improvements in Towns act 1850)[30][31][32][33] of the British Indian Empire, along with the municipalities of Kozhikode, Palakkad, and Fort Kochi, making them the first modern municipalities in the modern state of Kerala.

Government and politics

Local bodies in Kannur district

Kannur district consists of two revenue subdivisions - Taliparamba and Thalassery.[35] For sake of rural administration, 71 Gram Panchayats are combined in 11 Blocks, which together form the Kannur District Panchayat.[36] For the sake of urban administration, Kannur Municipal Corporation and 9 municipal towns are there.[34]

For the representation of Kannur in Kerala Legislative Assembly, there are 11 assembly constituencies. These are included in three parliamentary constituencies, i.e., Kasaragod, Kannur, and Vatakara.[37] The district is further divided into 132 villages which together form 5 subdistricts.[38]

Political divisions

State legislature

Sl. No Constituency Member Party Alliance
6 Payyanur T. I. Madusoodhanan CPI(M)   LDF
7 Kalliasseri M. Vijin
8 Taliparamba M. V. Govindan
9 Irikkur Sajeev Joseph INC   UDF
10 Azhikode K. V. Sumesh CPI(M)   LDF
11 Kannur Kadannappalli Ramachandran Con (S)
12 Dharmadom Pinarayi Vijayan CPI(M)
13 Thalassery A. N. Shamseer
14 Kuthuparamba K. P. Mohanan
15 Mattanur K. K. Shailaja
16 Peravoor Sunny Joseph INC   UDF


Kasargod INC   UDF Rajmohan Unnithan
Kannur INC   UDF K. Sudhakaran
Vatakara INC   UDF K. Muraleedharan


Matool ferry
Taluks of Kannur
Payyambalam beach
Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.

According to the 2018 Statistics Report, Kannur district has a population of 2,615,266,[3] The district has a population density of 882 inhabitants per square kilometre (2,280/sq mi).[40] Its population growth rate over the decade 2001–2011 was 4.84%.[40] The 2011 Census of India gives the district a ranking of 170th in India (out of a total of 640).[40] Kannur has a sex ratio of 1133 females for every 1000 males,[40] the highest among any district in India, and a literacy rate of 95.10%. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes make up 3.30% and 1.64% of the population respectively.[40] Malayalam is the predominant language, spoken by 98.88% of the population. Small minorities speak Tamil, Hindi and Kannada, mainly in urban areas.[41]

The District has a population of 2,412,365 (2001 census). This was the most urbanised district in Kerala in 2001, but was pushed to 4th place after Ernakulam, Thrissur and Kozhikode in 2011.[42] About 50.35% of the population reside in the urban agglomerations. The total urban population of Kannur district is 1,640,986. This is the second largest urban population in Kerala after Ernakulam and is more than the population of a metro city.[43]

The high urban population is due to the 45 towns in the district which was the highest in Kerala as per 2001 census. 2011 census has Thrissur with 135 towns with Kannur having 67.[44] Kannur district has seven statutory towns: Kannur, Kannur Cantonment, Thalassery, Payyanur, Taliparamba, Kuthuparamba and Mattannur. In addition to this there are 60 including Ancharakandy, Azhikode North, Azhikode South, Chala, Chelora, Cherukunnu, Cheruthazham, Chirakkal, Chockli, Dharmadom, Elayavoor, Eranholi, Iriveri, Kadachira, Kadirur, Kalliasseri, Kanhirode, Kannadiparamba, Kannapuram, Kottayam-Malabar, Mayyil, Mavilayi, Munderi, Muzhappilangad, Narath, New Mahe, Paduvilayi, Pallikkunnu, Panniyannur, Panoor, Pappinisseri, Pathiriyad, Pattiom, Iritty, Peralasseri, Peringathur, Pinarayi, Puzhathi, Thottada, Valapattanam, Varam.[42]


Religions in Kannur district (2011)[45]
Religion Percent
Other or not stated
A Masjid at Payyanur

Hinduism is the majority religion of Kannur district. Muslims and Christians form a significant minority.[45]

Most of the Christians in Kannur district are descendants of Christians who migrated to Malabar in the 20th century.[46]



Kerala Folklore Academy, an autonomous centre for cultural affairs constituted by the Government of Kerala situated in Chirakkal, Kannur to promote and project the traditional art forms of Kerala.[47][48] The academy awards prizes and to notable artistes and experts in the field of folklore. The fellowships comprise 15000 each and citation. The folklore awards and book award carries 7500 and citation. The Gurupooja and Yuvaprathibha award winners will get 5000 each and citation.[49][50]


Theyyam of Kerala
Puliyoor Kali Theyyam at Mathamangalam

Theyyam is a popular ritual form of dance worship in North Malabar region of Kerala. Theyyam consisted of several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals, and customs. The performers of Theyyam belong to the lower caste community in ancient caste structure formed by Namboothiri brahmins in Kerala, and have an important position in Theyyam.[51] It is performed mainly by males, except the Devakoothu theyyam. The Devakoothu is the only Theyyam ritual performed by women. It is performed only on the Thekkumbad Kulom temple.[52]

There are 456 types of Theyyam, including Vettakkorumakan, Vishnumoorthy Theyyam, Muchilot Bhagavathi and Sree Muthappan.[53]

A Theyyam museum is planned to be built at Chanthappura in Kalliasseri of Kannur district in 2019.[54]


Madayi rock during February

Kannur Cuisine

Pathiri, a pancake made of rice flour, is one of the common breakfast dishes in Kannur
Kallummakkaya nirachathu or arikkadukka (mussels stuffed with rice)
Thalassery biryani with raita
Halwas are popular in Kannur and Thalassery

The Kannur cuisine depicts it culture and heritage. It is famous for Thalassery biriyani. The city of is also famous for Haluva called as Sweet Meat by Europeans due to the texture of the sweet. Another speciality is banana chips, which are made crisp and wafer-thin. Other popular dishes include seafood preparations (prawns, mussels, mackerel) . Vegetarian fare includes the sadya.

Kannur cuisine is a blend of traditional Kerala, Persian, Yemenese and Arab food culture.[55] This confluence of culinary cultures is best seen in the preparation of most dishes.[55] Kallummakkaya (mussels) curry, irachi puttu (irachi meaning meat), parottas (soft flatbread),[55] Pathiri (a type of rice pancake)[55] and ghee rice are some of the other specialties. The characteristic use of spices is the hallmark of the cuisine—black pepper, cardamom and clove are used profusely.

The Malabar version of biryani, popularly known as kuzhi mandi in Malayalam is another popular item, which has an influence from Yemen. Various varieties of biriyanis like Thalassery biriyani, and Kannur biriyani,[56] are prepared here.[55]

The snacks include unnakkaya (deep-fried, boiled ripe banana paste covering a mixture of cashew, raisins and sugar),[57] pazham nirachathu (ripe banana filled with coconut grating, molasses or sugar),[57] muttamala made of eggs,[55] chatti pathiri, a dessert made of flour, like a baked, layered chapati with rich filling, arikkadukka,[58] and more.[55]

Kuttiattoor Mango

Kuttiattoor mango is popular and traditional cultivar of Kuttiattoor and neighbouring panchayats of Kannur district. Kuttiattoor mango received Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the GI registry at Chennai. The distinctiveness of Kuttiattoor mango is aided by the combination of specific environmental conditions of the area of its cultivation and varietal characters. Even though it is popularly known as Kuttiattoor mango, it is also known as ‘Nambiar mānga’, ‘Kannapuram mānga’, ‘Kunjimangalam mānga’ and ‘Vadakkumbhagam mānga’ in small pockets of Kannur district.[59][60]

Notable people

See also


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Further reading

External links