While Kerala is popular for its natural beauty, it has no dearth of heritage monuments. Despite being a small state tucked away in the southern corner of India, it has witnessed a very dramatic history. It has endured territorial conflicts, foreign invasions, and colonization before it became a part of the independent India. So, just like any other region, the rulers and invaders created fortifications for their safety. While some of them could endure the test of time, many of them have crumbled. There are many forts in Kerala, and some of them are really very impressive. Here is the list of all the forts.
Note: At the end of the post there is a playlist which has videos of six famous forts of Kerala.
6 Existing Forts in Kerala
Spread over 40 acres, Bekal is the largest and the best-preserved fort in Kerala. Shivappa Nayaka of Nagar built this mighty fort in the 17th century. It is situated by the coast in the northern Kerala, 16 km from Kasargod. Its laterite ramparts, 39 m high, run along the headland and appear to be emerging out of the sea. One of the bastions is standing on a promontory in the sea. Beneath the fort there is a series of passages that connect the fort to the sea. Apart from a few isolated structures, nothing much has survived in the enclosed area of the fort. Haider Ali – father of Tipu Sultan – took over the fort in 1763. Eventually in 1792, British seized it from Tipu Sultan. ASI (Archaelogical Survey of India) manages this monument.
Location: Bekal Fort is 16 km south of Kasaragod.
Situated along the banks of Payaswini River, Chandragiri Fort is very close to the river mouth. Shivappa Nayaka, the founder of Bekal, is the man behind this fort. Set on a hillock, the fort encloses an area of about seven acres, and is 46 m above sea level. For a phase in the history Chandragiri Region was ruled by the Vijaynagara Rulers. With their fall in the 16th century, it was taken over by the family of Shivappa Nayaka. It is a treat to watch the river merging into the sea from the fort. This monument is protected by the State Archaelogy Department.
Location: Chandragiri is 7 km south of Kasaragod, and 10 km north of Bekal Fort.
Anchuthengu means five coconut trees, it was earlier called Anjengo. This fort is situated in the village called Anchuthengu, 12 km from the town of Varkala. British arrived here in 1684, and built this fort in 1696. They used it as a signalling station for the ships. This structure was the first permanent post of the British on the Malabar Coast. The fort is well-kept and encloses quite a huge area. There is a lighthouse nearby; you can climb up to enjoy the views. The English had also constructed a factory and a warehouse here which have completely vanished.
Location: Anchuthengu is 12 km south of Varkala.
Thalassery, previously called Tellicherry, is a coastal town in Kannur District. The British East India Company entered here in 1683, and began trading in pepper and cardamom. In 1708, they established a fort here. They built this square fort with the massive laterite blocks. This small fort has two secret tunnels; one of them leads into the sea. An old lighthouse still stands on the ramparts. It looks out towards the surf breaking on the reefs.
Location: Thalassery is 22 km south of Kannur.
Palakkad fort is also known as Hanuman Kotta and few people also call it Tipu’s Fort. Haider Ali – father of Tipu Sultan – established this fort in 1766. It is said that some sort of fortification existed over here before the construction of this fort. The present fort is a sombre granite structure, surrounded by a moat. A small bridge leads to the entrance. The control of the fort alternated between Hyder Ali’s family and the British; but finally it came under the latter. Once Zamorin’s troops had also captured it, they controlled it for a short while. Today this fort houses government offices, a sub-jail, and a small shrine.
Location: Palakkad is 68 km north-east of Thrissur.
St. Angelo Fort
Kannur, formerly called Cannanore, was an important maritime centre. Portuguese built St Angelo fort here in 1505 with the permission from Ali Rajas. The Dutch captured this fort in 1663 and in 1772 sold it back to the Ali Rajas. Around the end of the 18th century, it fell in the hands of British, who established a garrison here. This huge fort is made of laterite stones and overlooks the fishing harbour. It is surrounded on three sides by the sea. Situated in the cantonment area of Kannur, it is protected by ASI (Archaelogical Survey of India). Some time back ASI officials have unearthed a huge collection of cannon balls from this fort.
Location: St Angelo Fort is in Thrissur City.
2 Fortified Towns of Kerala That Have Merged Into Cities
East Fort (Thiruvananthapuram)
What was once the fortified capital of Travancore Royals is the southern part of today’s Thiruvananthapuram City. The popular ‘Sri Padmanabhswamy Temple’ was built in the centre of the fort. To the east of the temple is the popular Kuthira Malika (or Puthen Malika) Palace. Not much of the fortification has survived. East Fort is the name given to the eastern gate of the fort. This impressive gate still stands in its full glory.
Location: The fortified capital of Travancore is now part of Thiruvananthapuram City.
Fort Emmanuel (or Immanuel)
The Kochi Royals allowed Portuguese to build a fort near the harbour in 1503. They called it Fort Emmanuel. Today the fort is ruined but the area is called Fort Kochi; it is part of the Kochi City. They built the St. Francis church within the enclosed area. Later on, the fort was captured by the Dutch, and eventually it came under the control of the British.
Location: The area of Fort Emmanuel is now called Fort Kochi and is part of Kochi City.
6 Ruined Forts in Kerala
This fort was built by the Portuguese in the early 16th century. It is also known as Kodungallur Fort and is situated in the Kodungallur City in Thrissur District. Dutch took it over in 1661. Later on, it came in the hands of Tipu Sultan, who destroyed it. Today some of its remnants can be seen.
Somshekara Nayak of Ikkeri Dynasty had built this fort. All that remains of Hosdurg fort are a part of the wall and a bastion. Situated nearby is an ashram of Swami Nityananda. This ashram is in fact a collection of caves.
Nedumkotta was a fortification along the northern borders of Travancore State. It was meant to safeguard the state from the invasions of northern kingdoms, especially that of Haider Ali and Zamorins. It extended from Krishna Kotta on the west coast to the Annamalai Hills on the Western Ghats. Today this fortification is almost non-existent.
St Thomas is a ruined fort; it is also known as Tangasseri Fort. Situated 3 km west of Kollam, Tangasseri is a coastal town. Once it was a trading post and has been utilized by both Portuguese and Dutch. A very small portion of the structure has survived.
The ruins of Pallipuram fort can be found in the northern part of the Vypin Island in Ernakulam. Locally it is called Ayikkotta or Alikotta. This fort is said to be the oldest existing European Fort in India. It was built by the Portuguese in 1503 by using laterite, lime, and wood. The ruins lie unprotected and are surrounded by thick vegetation.
William Fort, also called Chettuva Fort, is now in ruins. It is situated in the Chettuva, a backwater village in Thrissur District. Dutch constructed this in the early 18th century and lost it to Zamorins, who eventually lost it to Tipu Sultan. Currently archaeological department of the state is carrying out conservation activities.
Here is the playlist with videos of the famous forts of Kerala:
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