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Thalassery (IPA: [θʌlʌsserɪ]), formerly Tellicherry,[2] is a commercial city[1] on the Malabar Coast in Kannur district, in the state of Kerala, India, bordered by the districts of Mahé (Pondicherry), Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kasaragod and Kodagu (Karnataka). Thalassery municipality has a population just under 100,000.[3] Thalassery has an area of 23.98 square kilometres (9.26 sq mi). It is 22 km south of the district headquarters in Kannur town. Thalassery is situated in an altitude ranging from 2.5m to 30m above mean sea-level.


Clockwise from top:Hermann Gundert Statue, Kalaripayattu Training, Muzhappilangad Beach, Thalassery fort, Theyyam, Spice Market, Cannons near Pier
Land of 3 C's-Circus, Cake and Cricket
Thalassery is located in Kerala
Location of Thalassery in Kerala
Thalassery is located in India
Thalassery (India)
Coordinates: 11°45′2.24″N 75°29′13.28″E / 11.7506222°N 75.4870222°E / 11.7506222; 75.4870222Coordinates: 11°45′2.24″N 75°29′13.28″E / 11.7506222°N 75.4870222°E / 11.7506222; 75.4870222
Country India
Municipality1 November 1866
Named forSpices (Tellicherry Pepper, Cinnamon)
 • BodyMunicipality
 • Municipality ChairmanC K Ramesan
 • Sub CollectorRohit Meena IAS
 • Assistant Superintendent of PoliceChaitra Teresa John IPS
 • Sitting MLAAdv A.N Shamseer
 • Total23.96 km2 (9.25 sq mi)
2.5 m-30 m
3 m (10 ft)
 • Total92,558
 • Density3,900/km2 (10,000/sq mi)
 • OfficialMalayalam, English
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)
670 1xx
Telephone code91 490
Vehicle registrationKL 58 –
Sex ratio1000:1125 /
Lok Sabha constituencyVatakara
Vidhan Sabha constituencyThalassery
Lok Sabha memberMullappally Ramachandran
Thalassery is located in the southern part of Kannur District

Thalassery municipality was formed on 1 November 1866 according to the Madras Act 10 of 1865 (Amendment of the Improvements in Towns act 1850)[4] of the British Indian Empire, making it the second oldest municipality in the state. At that time the municipality was known as Thalassery Commission, and Thalassery was the capital of North Malabar. G. M. Ballard, the Malabar collector, was the first President of the municipal commission. Later a European barrister, A. F. Lamaral, became the first Chairman of Thalassery municipality.[5] Thalassery grew into a prominent place during European rule, due to its strategic geographic location.[6] Thalassery has played a significant historical, cultural, educational and commercial role in the history of India, especially during the colonial period. On 9 February 2014, Thalassery taluk was split in two[7] and Iritty taluk was formed. The north eastern hilly region of the former Thalassery Taluk such as Peravoor, Aralam, Ayyankunnu, Kottiyoor, Kelakam is within the Iritty Taluk area.



Thalassery may have originated from the ancient Malayalam linguistic usage 'Thala' (Head) and 'cheri' (low lying settlement place), thus Thalassery or 'starting place of a settlement or head of a settlement'. It could also have emerged from Talakkathe cheri, a combination of 'Talakkate' (Upper or north) and 'Cheri' (Settlement). Thalassery could be a village, as it hosts ancient Shree Ramaswamy shrines dedicated/connected to Rama (Rama-Vaishnavite/ Smartha sects settlements in various villages in and around Thalassery such as Tiruvangad, Andaloor, Makreri, Peralassery, Edakkad, Taliparamba, Cheruthazham, Mavilayi, Kadalayi, Trichambaram, Thrikykunnu near Koothuparamba, Kannapuram etc... such a large number of shrines dedicated to or related to Rama in close vicinity is rare compared to other places in Kerala. The 1885 administration manual vol. 2 of the former Madras Presidency cites research in regional legends and folklore to indicate that the ancient name of Thalassery was Swetharanya pura.[6] The Upanishad Acharya Swethakethu is believed to have taken penance there and it is said that Shiva danced ananda thandava here. This is the stala purana of Tiruvangad Shree Ramaswamy Temple. Thalassery was also known as Tellicherry, the anglicised form of the Malayalam name Thalassery, during the European era and in the official documents until the end of 1990s, but the name Thalassery is now used officially.

It is suggested in the alternative that Thalassery is related to Thalassa (Greek: Θάλασσα), the Greek word for "sea", given the city's coastline, proximity to sea and history of traders visiting from as far afield as the Mediterranean. Also Thalassery is known for three C's : Cake, Cricket and Circus

Thalassery was a major town where the French military base in Kerala was located. Although the French abandoned Thalassery, moving their base to Mahé (5 km south of Thalassery) (named after the French administrator Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais) because spices could be easily transported to sea using canoes through Mahé river, the nickname remained.[citation needed]


Thalassery was a trade hub where Dutch, British, Portuguese Chinese, Arab, and Jewish traders had considerable influence in the spice market.

Vasco da Gama a painting- The trade alliance between Vasco da Gama and Kolathiri gave Portugal direct access to the spice trade market especially for pepper.
Thalassery Jagannath Temple, Kerala

The British established a trading post and built a factory at Tellicherry in 1694, having gained permission from Vadakkalankur, the prince regent of the Raja of Kolatunad. They had already been trading on the Malabar coast for much of that century, buying pepper from merchants, and had established a similar post at Travancore ten years earlier.[8]

Tellicherry Pepper- A Black pepper variety. This is a produce of Terre Exotique, France[9]
Jackfruit from Dharmadam
Veera Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma

After the annexation of Malabar, the British called upon Thalassery, the Royal families and other major Nair and Namboothiri feudal lords to return, but this was heavily opposed by some local rulers. Along with heavy taxation and laws that curbed free movement, the appeal resulted in multiple uprisings against the British with heavy casualties to British forces. Thousands of soldiers were killed, but the resistance was eventually defeated.

The British, Dutch and the Portuguese and Christian Missionaries contributed a lot into the field of education, sports, culture and many development of this region.


Thalassery is in Kannur district.[10] The town has Dharmadam Panchayat in the north, Eranjoli and Kodiyeri in the east New Mahé in the south and the Arabian Sea on the west. The palm-fringed terrain has a scenic coastline and features four rivers, canals and hills with orange-hued rock. One of the four rivers is the Mahé River (Mayyazhi river). During the British Raj, the Mahé River was nicknamed the English Channel, because it separated British-ruled Thalassery from French-ruled Mahé. Muzhappilangad Beach,[11] the sole beach where driving is possible in Kerala (with a 4 km long drivable area),[12] is located within 6 km from the town centre.

Aerial view of thalassery

Unlike southern Kerala, Thalassery region does not have lagoons (Kayal), although many rivers flow through the region. Thalassery however has a large area of mangroves, which is now being protected. The coast has no delta formation. The coastal plain is only a few kilometres in width and is bordered by highlands. The north of Thalassery is Dharmadam, an island area surrounded by two rivers and the sea. On the eastern side, hilly areas start from Kuthuparamba.[13][14]


As of 2011 India census,[15] Thalassery had a population of 92,558, making it Kerala's 8th largest city in population. Males constitute 47% of the population and females 53%. Thalassery has an average literacy rate of 86%, higher than the national average of 59.5%. Both male and female literacy are 86%. In Thalassery, 10% of the population is under 6 years of age. The Thalassery urban agglomeration consists of the Thalassery municipality and panchayaths of Eranholi, Kadirur, Dharmadam, Muzhappilangad, Pinarayi and New Mahe with a present population of around 300,000.

Hindus make up 61.37% of the population, Muslims 34.30% and Christians 3.64%.

Villages in Thalassery TalukEdit

Thalassery Taluk has 35 villages.

  • Cheruvanchery, Chokli, Dharmadam and Eranholi
  • Eruvatty, Kadirur, Kandankunnu and Kannavam
  • Keezhallur, Kodiyeri, Kolavallur and Kolayad
  • Koodali, Kottayam, Kuthuparamba and Mananthery
  • Mangattidam, Mokery, New Mahe and Paduvilayi
  • Panniyannur, Panoor, Pathiriyad and Pattanur
  • Pattiam, Peringalam, Peringathur and Pinarayi
  • Puthur, Shivapuram, Thalassery and Thiruvangad
  • Tholambra, Thripangothur and Vekkalam


The British had considerable impact on local culture. As an ancient trade center, the trading and business relations that existed with the Europeans and the Arabs brought people and ideas from many other lands. The Christian missionaries and the educational reforms they brought played an important role in transforming society.

"Mukathezhuthu"-The face painting of Theyyam, the religious ritual art form in Thalassery

The Government of Kerala has included Thalassery in its heritage city project. The project includes the preservation of historical structures.[16][17] Thalassery is called as the city of three Cs-Cake, Cricket and Circus as the first bakery in Kerala was established in the town, cricket was first played in India here.[18] [19]Thalassery biryani is popular as an ethnic brand. Thalassery Cuisine is popular around the world as a blend of Arabian, Persian, Indian and European styles of cooking.

Painting and sculpture exhibitions are frequently held at the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi art gallery in the town.


The first two Malayalam newspapers Rajyasamacharam (1847) and Paschimodayam (1847) were published from Thalassery by Herman Gundert, who was the editor of the journal and was a religious propagator from German Basal Evangelical Mission society(BEMS).[20] Rajyasamacharam started publishing from Illikkunnu, in Thalassery.


The first Malayalam short story Vasanavikriti was written by Vengayil Kunhiraman Nayanar in Thalassery. Indulekha, the first major Malayalam novel was published from Thalassery. Veenapoovu, the poem by Kumaran Asan was also published from Thalassery. Thinker and orator M N Vijayan spent a lifetime in Thalassery. Thalassery is also home to writer N Prabhakaran. Actor and screenwriter Sreenivasan hails from Thalassery.

William Logan was conversant in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. He is remembered for his 1887 guide to the Malabar District, popularly known as the Malabar Manual


Vishnu Pant Chhatre's Great Indian Circus, established in 1880 at Bombay was the first circus establishment in India. A tour of Thalassery led to the meeting of Chhatre with Keeleri Kunhikannan a martial arts trainer.[21] Keeleri Kunhikannan established the first dedicated circus school in India in 1901. He is known as "the father of Kerala Circus". A Circus Academy was inaugurated in Thalassery in 2010.[22] Some of the most known circus companies were started by people of Thalassery i.e, Gemini Circus, Great Bombay Circus, Rajkamal circus, Jumbo circus, and so on...


St. Joseph Cathedral

Thalassery is known for its biryani (in local dialect, biri-yaa-ni)[23][24] Unlike other biriyani cuisines Thalassery biryani uses Kaima/Jeerakasala rice instead of the usual basmati rice.[25] The influence of Arabian culture is evident in the dishes of the Muslim community.

Thalassery falooda is a regional variant of the Persian dessert. This is a cocktail of fruit salad, dry fruits such as blackcurrant, pista, cashew, almond(badam), rose milk and vanilla ice cream.

Thalassery has a special place in modern history of Kerala as the pioneer of the regional bakery industry, since the first bakery and biscuit factory was started by Mambally Bapu in 1880 and the western-style cakes were introduced in 1883.[26][27]

Putu kadala, pazhampori, kozhi-kkalu, adda, kinnathappam, kalathappam, pappadam-pazham, aval um poriyum kuzhakkal, muttamala, chatti and ari pathiri are other popular dishes.[28]Porridges such as mutaari kachiyatu (ragi porridge) are also popular.[28]

The trade of spices from the Malabar coast which began as 1500 BC is still an active business although most of the pepper export is currently from Vietnam. Tellicherry pepper[29] is still considered an important ingredient by chefs globally.


Theyyam is a ritual performance art form[30] that depict the cultural heritage of North Malabar, especially of ancient Kolathunad. Theyyam depicts Shiva bhutaganas, Kali and other deities and cultural heroes. The drama is enacted based on ancient stories and the language used is "Tottam pattu", a primitive form of Malayalam. Theyyam shows the Buddhist influence from centuries ago. Theyyam is usually held from October to May every year. The colour of Theyyam is typically red. Velan is described in the Sangam literature 500 CE. It could have been a tribal ritual art which evolved under Buddhism and the Brahminic revival of Hinduism. This art form is addressed as "Kaliyattom" North of Pazhayangadi Puzha, Kannur, as "Theyyam" South of the river and as "Tirayattom" around Thalassery.[31]

Kundadi Chamundi Theyyam
Vishnumoorthi or Chamundi Theyyam

Kalari payattuEdit

Inside of Kalari

Kalari payattu is a martial art practiced in Kerala Dharmapattanam (the current Dharmadam), Kadirur, Kadathanad (the current Vatakara) and Kuthuparamba. The British East India Company established their authority by destroying the traditional military character of the community of Malabar. The famous Kadirur Gurukkal from Vadakkan Pattukal hailed from Kadirur, which is about 10 km from Thalassery town centre.

The Mysorean invaders destroyed traditional institutions, landholding patterns and supremacy of local rulers, along with the power and prestige of the Malabar militia, leading to the decline of kalari.[32] On 20 February 1804, Robert Richards, the Principal Collector of Malabar, wrote to Lord William Bentinck, President and General-in Council, Fort St. George, asking permission to take action against persons carrying arms, either imposing the death penalty or deportation for life. Lord Bentinck issued an order on 22 April 1804 that those who concealed weapons or disobeyed the orders of the British against carrying arms would be deported. At the time of the Pazhassi rebellion, British soldiers raided rebel homes to confiscate their arms.[33][34]

Kadal palam

Thalassery is one of the major centres of Vadakkan kalari. Kalari payattu had a revival after a resurgence of public interest from Thalassery in 1920. A public protest was led by C V Narayanan Nair.[35]


Sree Jagannath Temple: Jagannath Temple was consecrated by Sree Narayana Guru in 1908 to abolish the social evil of caste system. The rituals at the temple are conducted by non-Brahmins. The temple is located about one kilometer south east from Thalassery city. The temple is reminiscent of Jagannath Temple, Puri. A statue of Sree Narayan Guru built in Italy was also installed in the temple complex in 1927 to recognize his efforts for the backward classes.

Garuda-hanuman with SriRama

Sree Andaloor Kavu:

The presiding deity is Rama, worshiped as a forest dweller as depicted in Araṇya Kāṇḍa, Kishkindha Kāṇḍa, Sundara Kāṇḍa and Yuddha Kāṇḍa of Ramayana. Lakshmana and Hanuman who accompanied Rama in his forest life are other deities worshiped there.

Odathil Palli or Odathil Mosque: Odathil Palli, a muslim mosque established over 200 years ago invites many tourists from around the world. The crown on the roof is made of gold. The mosque is maintained by keyi family.

Thalaserry Juma Masjid: This 1000-year-old mosque[36] was nucleus to the Islamic Renaissance that took place in the region. Though the original structure doesn't exist, it has been renovated newly in Indo-saracenic style. The mosque was constructed by Malik Dinar, an Arab trader who arrived in Kerala to spread Islam. The tomb of Kunjayan Musallyar, a major contributor to the Arabic-Malayalam literature, is also located here.

Thiruvangad Sree Ramaswami Temple:

The Thiruvangad Shree Ramaswamy Temple pond

Sree Ramaswami Temple is dedicated to Sree Rama, in Thiruvangad. It is one of the four important temples dedicated to Sree Rama in Kerala. (The other three are at Triprayar, Thiruvilluamala and Kadalur.)

St. Theresa's Cathedral, Mahe (Built in AD 1723):

The Shrine of St. Theresa of Avila at Mahe is one of the oldest Shrines in India and probably the oldest in Malabar.

St. Joseph Cathedral:

Syro-Malabar Catholic Church under Thalassery Archdioce, built in 1953.

Holy Rosary Church

Established in 1609

Muchilottu Bhagavathi Theyyam

St. Johns Anglican Church

The St. John's Anglican Church, near Thalassery Fort, was built by Mr Edward Brennan in 1869. He was the Master Attendant at Thalassery during the British rule. Though he provided the funds for the construction of the church, it was completed only after his death. His tomb is seen among those at the church cemetery.


ThalasseryMunicipal Stadium

Thalassery Stadium, located close to the sea, hosts Ranji Trophy cricket matches quite often. Lord Arthur Wellesley is believed to have introduced this game in Kerala in the 18th century for British soldiers garrisoned in the Tellichery Fort.[37] India's first cricket club, which was later named the Town Cricket Club, was formed in 1850 at Tellichery by Wellesley.[37][38][39] The Tellichery Cricket ground was the hub of cricket activities those days. An exhibition match was conducted in this ground to raise funds during the First World War.[37] English cricketer Colin Cowdrey's father was a tea planter in Thalassery, where he used to play cricket in the 1890s. Cowdrey played in Thalassery during the British regime.

Thalassery Cricket Ground celebrated its 200th birthday in 2002 by hosting a match between the former cricketers of India and Sri Lanka. In 2008 a new stadium only for cricket was inaugurated in Conor Vayal near Venus Junction in Thalassery, as a project of the Kerala Cricket Association.


The educational renaissance of Malabar started from Thalassery due to the influence of European missionaries. Government Brennen College, Thalassery, founded in 1862, is one of the oldest educational institutions in India.

Kannur University Thalassery Campus is located at Palayad, 6 km north of Thalassery.[40] The Basel Evangelic Mission Parsi High school is an English Medium school (established 1856) in Malabar. Dr. Hermann Gundert was a tutor there. Kaikose Ruderasha, a Parsi, donated funds to build the institute with the assistance of German missionaries.[41]

Government Brennen College was started b y Sir Edward Brennen in 1862 as a school. Other colleges in Thalassery include College of Engineering Thalassery, Govt Arts and Science College, Thalassery, Medical College, Anjarakandy, Co-operative College of Nursing, Nettur and Co-operative College of Physiotherapy and para-medical sciences, Nettur.

Other educational facilities include Sports Authority of India Centre, Nettur Technical Training Foundation, Kerala School of Fine Arts, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Government Brennen College of Teacher Education, IHRD College of Applied Science, BKJM School of Nursing, St Joseph's Higher Secondary School, Sacred Heart Girls High School, Basel Evangelical Mission Parsi High School MES Bava Residential School, Thiruvangad, Thiruvangad Girls Higher Secondary School, Madrasathul Mubaraka Higher Secondary School, Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Bright English Medium School, Chetamkinnu, Adiyodi Vakeel Smaraka Tagore Vidyapeetam, Nangarathe Peedika, Temple Gate and Government Brennen Higher Secondary School,Gopalapetta LP School.


Thalasserry Co-op Hospital

The economy is mainly dependent on the expatriates working in the Persian Gulf.Trade and commerce in Thalassery is mainly in wholesale traders, small scale industries and agriculture. The seaport no longer operates. Few industries operate in Thalassery majority of them in the two industrial estates one in Palayad the other near Chirakkara in Thalassery. International trade from Thalassery is now only a fraction of the colonial-era trade. Thalassery fishing harbor is a key sea food trade hub in the region. Major medical facilities include Malabar Cancer Centre, Moozhikkara, Government General Hospital, Tellicherry Cooperative Hospital Indira Gandhi Cooperative Hospital, Josgiri Hospital, Mission Hospital, Santhosh Hospital, Tely Hospital, Kay Paral Hospital, Shemi Hospital, Keerthi Hospital.


Thalassery Railway Station operates under the Palakkad Railway Division of the Southern Railway. It is a Class 'A' railway station. It is on the Shoranur - Mangalore line. No direct line connects Thalasery to Mysore, although a feasibility study for such a route was funded in 2013.[42][43]

Thalassery railway station

The town has four bus stations. New Bus Stand (1982) is the primary terminus. Inter-state buses to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Mysore operate from there. KSRTC bus depot is located at Konor Vayal. Passengers to Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram and Madurai depart from that station. KSRTC and private buses are available to Kodagu and Wayanad. Moffusil bus station is located near the New Bus stand. Town buses also originate from the Old bus stand on General Hospital Road.

The nearest airport is Kannur International Airport, about 24.5 km east. The nearest airport for Thalasserry will be Kannur International Airport, from December 9, 2018. [44]The airport is located at a distance of 24.5 km from the town.[45] Mangalore International Airport and Cochin International Airport could be alternate choices.

Kanyakumari-Mumbai NH-66 passes through Thalassery. Kozhikode is 66 km from Thalassery. Mangalore is 150 km from Thalassery. Thalassery Coorg Road is a major road linking Kerala to Kodagu district of Karnataka State. Interstate buses ply on this route in a frequency of one in an hour.[46]. The hill stations Virajpet in Kodagu and Mananthavady in Wayanad are 82 km away from the town.


The Thalassery carnival, the Beach fest in Muzhappilangad beach and Dharmadam beach are notable attractions.[47] The area's four rivers (Anjarakkandi, Dharmadam, Koduvally and Mahe) around Thalassery town and four beaches (Muzhappilangad, Dharmadam, Thalassery (2 beaches)) with more in Kannur also attract visitors. Muzhappilangad beach is a 5.5 km long beach in which it is possible to drive vehicles. This beach was listed as one of the top 10 drive in beaches in the world by BBC survey.

It is an important center of Kalari payattu and health tourism.[48] Other visitors come to experience Theyyam and explore the area's history, such as Tellicherry Fort.

Dharmadam Beach and Island
William Logan-The author of Malabar Manual
Overbury's Folly, Thalassery
driving at muzhappilangad beach
Muzhappilangad Beach

Thalassery Pier (Kadalpaalam), Overbury's Folly, Pazhassi Dam and Reservoir garden[49] and Malayala Kala Gramam, New Mahe,(7 km from Thalassery)[50][51] are other attractions

Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF)-Established by the Christian Missionaries of Switzerland

A shipwreck is visible near the Thalassery shore.[52]

Political violenceEdit

This area is an epicenter of political violence between RSS and Communists. Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been fighting in this area for supremacy for the last 50 years. Clashes in 2008 left seven people killed and many have been injured. The High Court of Kerala called this manslaughter a "compelling sport" and suggested permanent deployment of Central forces in the affected areas.[53]

Notable residentsEdit


Thalassery experiences a Tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification. The wet season starts in June as the South-west monsoon first hits the coastal Kerala and continues until the end of September. A brief pre-monsoon Mango showers interval occurs sometime during April. Precipitation from the North-East Monsoon sets in during the second half of October through November.

See alsoEdit


Climate data for Thalassery
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 32.2
Average low °C (°F) 22.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 3
Source #1: WWO[54]
Source #2:[55]


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Further readingEdit

  • Menon, A Sreedhara (1 January 2007). A Survey Of Kerala History. DC Books. ISBN 978-81-264-1578-6.
  • Renjith, Moorkoth, ed (2000). Thalassery Millennium Manual.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Skaria Zacharia, ed. Thalassery Rekhakal. Kottaym: DC Books.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Thalassery Arivukal K. M. Govi. Thalassery: Sanjayan Samskarika Vedi, 2011

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Kottayam Province of Chirakkal Kingdom
Tellicherry, Madras Presidency, British India
1 November 1866 according to the Madras Act 10 of 1865
(Amendment of the Improvements in Towns act 1850)
Succeeded by
Thalassery taluk, Kerala state, India
(States Reorganisation Act, 1956)