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Bekal Fort Beach, Kerala
Bekal Fort Beach, Kerala

Malabar is a region of southern India, lying between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, and comprising the northern half of the state of Kerala. Geographically the name is sometimes extended to the entire southwestern coast of the peninsula, called the Malabar Coast. Malabar is also used by ecologists to refer to the tropical moist forests of southwestern India.

Malabar Region

The Malabar region lies along the southwest coast of the Indian peninsula and forms the northern part of present-day Kerala state. Malayalam is the chief language of the region, and the ancestors of today's Dravidian population have inhabited the region for centuries. The region formed part of the ancient kingdom of Chera for centuries. It became part of the Hindu Vijayanagara empire in the 15th century. with the breakup of the empire in the mid-16th century, the region came under the rule of a number of local chieftains notably the Kolathiris of Kasargod, Zamorins of Calicut and the Valluvokonathiris of Walluvanad. The region came under British rule in the 18th century, during the Anglo-Mysore Wars.

At the conclusion of the Anglo-Mysore wars, the region was organized into a district of Madras Presidency. The British district included the present-day districts of Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram, and Palakkad. The administrative headquarters were at Calicut (Kozhikode). With India's independence, Madras presidency became Madras state, which was divided along linguistic lines on November 1, 1956, when Malabar district was merged with the Malalalam-speaking Kasaragod district immediately to the north and the state of Travancore-Cochin to the south to form the state of Kerala.

Malabar Coast

The Malabar Coast, in historical contexts, refers to India's southwest coast, lying on the narrow coastal plain of Karnataka and Kerala states between the Western Ghats range and the Arabian Sea. The coast runs from south of Goa to Cape Comorin on India's southern tip.

The Malabar Coast is also sometimes used as an all encompassing term for the entire Indian coast from the western coast of Konkan to the tip of the subcontinent at Cape Comorin. It is over 525 miles or 845 km long. It spans from the South - Western coast of Maharashtra and goes along the coastal region of Goa, through the entire western coast of Karnataka and Kerala and reaches till Kanyakumari. It is flanked by the Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghats on the east. The Southern part of this narrow coast is the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests.

The Malabar Coast features a number of historic port cities, notably Kozhikode (Calicut), Cochin, and Quilon, that have served as centers of the Indian Ocean trade for centuries. Because of their orientation to the sea and to maritime commerce, the Malabar coast cities feel very cosmopolitan, and hosted some of the first groups of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in India.

Geographically, the Malabar Coast, especially on its westward-facing mountain slopes, comprises the wettest region of southern India, as the Western Ghats intercept the moisture-laden monsoon rains.

Malabar rainforests

The term Malabar rainforests refers to one or more distinct ecoregions recognized by biogeographers:

  1. the Malabar Coast moist forests formerly occupied the coastal zone to the 250 meter elevation (but 95% of these forests no longer exist)
  2. the South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests grow at intermediate elevations
  3. the South Western Ghats montane rain forests cover the areas above 1000 meters elevation

The Monsooned Malabar blend of coffee bean comes from the area.

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