Ancient World

King Herod

King Herod might have been just another footnote in the history of Judaea if it were not for the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was born in his kingdom.



To Antipater from Idumea, which was south of Judea, and Cyprus, the daughter of an Arabian Sheik, was born Herod in 73 BCE. To this he owed some of his conflicts. Since Antipater was from Idumea, the Jews considered him an outsider although he worshipped the Jewish God. Since they considered a person Jewish only if he had a Jewish mother, Herod’s mother being an Arab didn’t help matters although like his father, Herod was a practicing Jew.

Meanwhile, after the death of the Hasmonean Queen, Alexandra Salome who ruled over Judea, a bloody civil war was initiated by her sons Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. Judaea suffered. Hyrcanus won the struggle with the intervention of the Roman general Pompey and Antipater, who supported Hyrcanus, became the real power behind the throne.
Yet another civil war erupted, this time in Rome between Pompey and Julius Caesar in which Hyrcanus supported the latter. In 47 BCE, Caesar appointed Antipater a regent and granted Roman citizenship.
In 44 BCE, Caesar was murdered, bringing to power his nephew Octavian and his second-in-command Mark Antony.

Even as Brutus and Cassius, Caesar’s murderers, fled, Judaea had to pay thousands of kilos of silver. In the subsequent troubles, Antipater was killed. Herod in turn killed the murderers with the help of Rome.

When Hyrcanus’ nephew tried to usurp the throne in 43 BCE, Herod defeated him. He then divorced his wife Doris and sending her and their son away, he married Hyrcanus’ daughter Mariamne. With this alliance, he enhanced his claim to the throne.
With Octavian and Mark Antony defeating Caesar’s murderers at Philippi, Antipater was on the losing side, but Herod convinced Mark Antony that his father had been forced to take their side. Convinced of this, Mark Antony awarded the title Tetrarch of Galilee to Herod, indicating that he was the leader of a vassal kingdom. Hyrcanus was the Jewish leader, but only in name.
But, the Jews resented the appointment since Herod was not considered a Jew. They sided with the Parthians in the latter’s war against Romans. Hyrcanus was taken prisoner and Antigonus became king. Phasael committed suicide.

With the help of Rome, the Parthians were driven away and Herod came to Jerusalem with Roman legions, defeating Antigonus. Herod now became the ruler of Judaea.

To stabilise his position, he brought Hyrcanus, who was now an old man, back from the Parthians in Babylon, giving his reign the appearance of legitimacy.
King Herod embarked on an extensive building programme, leaving behind the new walls of Jerusalem and the citadel guarding its temple.
He minted coins in his name, and kept the Romans in good humour. While he tried to please Mark Antony in the east and Octavian in the West, civil broke out between the two leaders in 31 BCE in which Herod sided with Mark Antony who was defeated.


To secure his position, he had his father-in-law and the old king Hyrcanus executed. He then met Octavian, spoke to him frankly about his loyalty to Mark Antony, ending with the promise to be loyal to the Roman Empire.
Octavian who wanted Herod as an ally if he were to pursue Mark Antony, accepted Herod’s rule, adding Judaea and Samaria to the latter’s kingdom. Meanwhile Mark Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide and Octavian became the first Roman emperor and called himself Augustus. He rewarded Herod with Jericho and Gaza.

Herodian Architecture
King Herod’s most famous project was the reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 19 BCE. This would come to be known as the Second Temple of Jerusalem or Herod’s Temple. The temple itself was built in a year and a half, and construction on the outer builders continued for decades. Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD. The Wailing Wall of Jerusalem is part of the four walls, which were built to create a flat platform called the Temple Mount. The temple itself was constructed over this.
Innovations in architecture and construction techniques are found in the constructions during King Herod’s reign, such as the use of the Jewish ritual bath as a frigidarium in the bathhouses in Herod’s palaces. His innovations in combining palace and fortress in Jerusalem, Herodium, Masada and Caesarea Maritima, and military architecture were followed during later periods.
He built great cities with notable constructions, including a new market, amphitheatre and a fortress in Jerusalem. Most of Herod’s structures were built over Hasmonean buildings.
The port of Caesarea was his achievement, and was built along the Greek plan with a market, an aqueduct, government offices, baths, and temples. Protected by wave-breaking structures and its piers made from hydraulic concrete that hardens underwater, the port was an engineering marvel.

End of Herod’s Reign
Herod continued to add land to his country, built a strong bureaucracy and enhanced economic development.
The different factions hated him for different reasons, but for economic reasons alone, he gave cause for dislike with his high taxation and had to resort to violence to ensure order and paying of levies.
Terror ruled the end of his reign. Herod fell ill and became increasingly erratic. When two teachers and their pupils removed the golden eagle from the Temple’s entrance, all of them were burned alive.
It is believed that a cancer-like gangrene afflicted Herod towards the end. His mental stability became questionable. He had Mariamne and her family killed. He disinherited his first son, Antipater and had him killed. He executed his sons Aristobulus and Antipater. After his death in 4 BCE, in the Herodion fortress which he had built and the Roman emperor divided Herod’s kingdom among the latter’s sons, Herod Antipas, Philip and Archelaus.
Herod had ruled Judaea between 37 and 4 BCE.

Feast of the Holy Innocents
According to the Gospel of Mathew, when the Magi go to Judaea in search of the newborn who would be the king of Jews, Herod asks them to let him know when they find him. The magi though, return another way after they find Jesus.

Emperor Ashoka

Fierce emperor-turned-promoter of peace, Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Empire is known through the rock edicts and pillars that he had erected across the Indian sub-continent



Although it cannot be proven beyond doubt, it is believed that Ashoka was crowned Emperor after he had his 99 half-brothers killed, leaving only Tissa alive. It is only in 269 BCE that he was crowned Emperor, four years after he ascended the throne. Over the next eight years, Ashoka expanded his empire.

Ashoka’s Reign
Ashoka was a fierce emperor, and some texts describe him as cruel. All that changed with the Kalinga War. Ashoka’s edicts describe the remorse he felt after the Kalinga War when he saw the more than hundred thousand deaths in the war, and the suffering of families of the deceased. He turned to Buddhism, promoting peace within his empire and sending emissaries to spread the religion to distant regions.
Ashoka is believed to have had five wives, Devi, Karuvaki, Asandhimitra, Padmavati and Tishyarakshita. Mahendra and Sangha Mitra who went on a Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka were Devi’s offspring.
Ashoka declared that dharma is the practice of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, mercy, benevolence, non-violence and being considerate towards others. He dissuaded extravagance, being acquisitive, and causing injury to animals.
He respected all religions while directing them to respect other religions, and not to criticise others’ viewpoints vehemently. On his periodic tours, he spoke of dharma and tried to relieve his people’s sufferings. His officers were required to do the same, and to be impartial in giving justice. Ashoka founded hospitals for humans and animals, planting trees alongside roads, digging wells, and building rest houses. He issued orders to prevent cruelty towards animals.

Ashoka’s chief consort Asandhimitra was childless. His youngest wife Tishyarakshita is believed to have blinded his son Kunala (son of Padmavati). Her intent was to have him killed, but the killers spared his life and Kunala became a wandering singer along with his wife Kanchanmala. Hearing of this, Ashoka condemned Tishyaraksha to death.
Ashoka’s end came in 232 BCE. His grandson Dasharatha is believed to have succeeded him to the throne. In 185 BCE, the last Mauryan Emperor, Brihadratha was assassinated by his Commander-in-Chief, Pushyamitra Shunga, who founded the Shunga dynasty and ruled over a part of the Mauryan Empire.
Emperor Ashoka is probably the most famous Mauryan Emperor, not just for expanding the empire, but also for turning from a fierce ruler to a peaceful one. He expanded the empire from Afghanistan to Bangladesh and from the Himalayas to the south, leaving just the southern region out of his control. Grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the empire, Ashoka ruled with Pataliputra (Patna) as his capital..

Also known by the names Devanampriya, (Beloved of the Gods), and Priyadarsin (He who regards everyone with affection), Ashoka lived up to these names after the Kalinga War.

Kalinga War
Kalinga, which constitutes present-day Odisha and northern part of coastal Andhra Pradesh, stood autonomous, defying Mauryan rule. Ashoka waged a war against the kingdom during the eighth year of his rule, annexing it in a bloody battle. The war which saw deaths estimated anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000, including war casualties and those who succumbed to death during deportation, brought change in the Emperor’s heart and Ashoka embraced Buddhism.
Ashoka Chakra
The Ashoka Chakra on the Ashoka Pillar in Sarnath is a famous symbol from the emperor’s time. It is a representation of the Buddhist Wheel of Dharma, or Dharmachakra. Twelve spokes of the wheel stand for the 12 causes of suffering. The other 12 spokes represent the principle of cause and effect. The 12 causes of suffering are avidya (ignorance), sanskara (mind’s conditioning), vijnana (consciousness), namarupa (name and form), sadayatana (six senses), sparsa (contact), vedana (sensation), trishna (thirst), upadana (grasping), bhava (being), jati (to be born), jaramarana (old age and death).
The remaining 12 deal with reversing these links so that with awareness of mind, we reach a stage of no cause and no effect. The Ashoka Chakra in the Indian flag comes from this Chakra.
Ashoka Chakra is also India’s highest peacetime military decoration. It is awarded to people who have acted with valour, courage and self-sacrifice away from the battlefield.
Ashoka Pillars
Ashoka Pillars are stone columns, which were erected by the emperor across the sub-continent. Ten pillars with inscriptions survive today. The inscriptions are in Prakrit written in the Brahmi script. Between forty and fifty feet in height, their weight is estimated at fifty tons. The stone came from Chunar, south of Varanasi.
Ashoka Mudra (Lion Capital of Ashoka)
Ashoka Mudra is a sculpture with four lions facing the four directions. Placed atop the Ashoka Pillar in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, it has been shifted to the Sarnath Museum, while the pillar stands in its original location.
It has been adopted as India’s national emblem. The four lions stand on a short cylindrical stone, which carries sculptures of four animals, symbolising the stages of Lord Buddha’s life:
Elephant: Queen Maya’s dream of a white elephant entering her womb
Bull: Signifies desire when Buddha was a prince
Galloping Horse: Departure from life in the palace
Lion: Buddha’s accomplishments.
The four animals are separated by chariot wheels over a bell-shaped lotus. The entire sculpture was carved out of a single block of polished sandstone. It is said that the mudra was crowned by a Dharmachakra, the Ashoka Chakra.
Ashoka’s Legacy
The stupas of Sanchi, Sarnath are well-known. The Mahabodhi temple and Nalanda Mahavihara in Bihar, as well as Takshasila in Pakistan too are famous. Ashoka is also credited with more stupas in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Pakistan.

His name Ashoka means one without sorrow.
In addition to the second century compilations, Ashokavadana, which is part of Divyavadana, and Mahavamsa, a Sri Lankan compilation, his rock pillars, edicts and monuments tell us about him.
While there is no dispute that his father was Bindusara, some texts state that his mother was Subhadrangi, and others state that she was Janapadakalyani. Ashoka grew with his many half-brothers under royal military upbringing.

From Prince to Emperor
After suppressing a revolt during his father’s time, Ashoka became the Governor of the Malwa capital, Ujjain. Although Bindusara wanted Prince Susima, his elder son to succeed to the Mauryan throne, his ministers, with Radhagupta playing a strong role, supported Ashoka’s bid for the throne. Ashoka then made Radhagupta his minister.

UNESCO tag yet Ahmedabad needs to do more

Debashish Nayak, Director, Centre for Heritage Management of Ahmedabad University has been working for over two decades as advisor to the Heritage Programme of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) for revitalisation of the ‘Historic Walled City.’ An architect with over two decades of experience in managing urban conservation issues of ‘historic cities’ in both India and abroad, he is also the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award for “Enterprising Conservation of Heritage Properties” from West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. Talking to
Urban Vaastu, he opens his heart about the lack of awareness among the people and government bodies in preserving our priceless architectural heritage for coming generations

What has been the response to your short-term management programmes from professionals in heritage organisations and craftsmen?
We began with programmes like “the heritage walk for 5 days” which is a good way to introduce a person to the city. If you don’t know the city you can’t do good or bad with it. So knowing your city comes first. And then there’s another 5-day programme called Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) for government officials aimed at promoting case-writing on heritage management issues. With funding from European Union and Spain we did a heritage management start-up. This programme lasts 30 months. Short term courses are crucial for students doing masters.

Can you tell us about your two-year Master of Management Studies (Heritage Management) course?
Master’s Programme in Heritage Management is one of its kind in India. It emphasises on critical understanding of heritage, and holistic management approach to heritage sector. The curriculum includes a diverse range of heritage sectors spanning tangible and intangible, cultural and natural, historic and contemporary/living with emphasis on management. A unique programme with lectures, seminars, discussion, group work and field-learning culminating in thesis.
Designed for four semesters, we had 15 enrollments in the first year. Then it came to 12. People do come for interview and are more interested in job prospects. But heritage management is a subject of passion. When heritage conservation started in NID and IIM, nobody was interested in studying management. We spread awareness among the companies about the programmes.

How many such courses do you offer every year?
Short courses and management. We also do projects. No expansion plans yet. Public discussions and debates are welcome and age is no bar. We have students from 24 to 60 and a 60-year-old student is punctual.


Designed for four semesters, we had 15 enrollments in the first year. Then it came to 12. People do come for interview and are more interested in job prospects. But heritage management is a subject of passion.


Does the word ‘heritage’ attract lot of students these days?
Not yet. They are curious and do ask questions. Prefer short term courses but the attraction is still missing. Though response is picking up not on enrollment side.

Do you also get foreign students, especially from the developing world?
No. A few inquiries came from Egypt and Bangladesh but for short-term courses and not for management. With our fees low compared to the US and Europe, there is hope that enrollment will go up. Our focus now is on Indian students learning about heritage.

Centre for Heritage Management is involved in bringing institutions and corporates together for ‘mission heritage’ activities in India. Are there any recent initiatives?
Funding from Europe and Spain has helped in creating some awareness. Take for example the “National Heritage Areas” in the US. These are community-led conservation and development. National Heritage Areas are places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form, nationally important landscapes. Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large live-in landscapes. It is a multi-disciplinary project and we should collaborate with many universities around the world. In India, we collaborated with Gujarat Ecology Constitution, Dehradun Wildlife Institute, in Calcutta, Khamir in Kutch. There are 253 cities recognized as world heritage. Ahmedabad is the first city in India to be named as “world heritage city.” Now there is clamour for more cities to be named as “world heritage city.”

Does the centre have close ties with similar institutions elsewhere in the world? Which are these institutions and what kind of collaboration you have with them?
We collaborated with many institutions. From universities outside India to those in the country. Our programmes range from student exchange, faculties exchange and experience exchange.

You advise many Indian city bodies on heritage programmes. Any major achievement because of these interactions?

We are working in Lucknow for UP tourism and Punjab tourism. We renovated and repaired many havelis in historic places. I am advising many cities in India, and if they call us to promote, I will visit and guide them. We worked hard to make Ahmedabad a world heritage city. But there’s no proper awareness among people or government bodies.

UNESCO recently declared Ahmedabad as World heritage city. What will be its impact?
The impact is so high that people have started using the phrase “Oh, you live in world heritage city.” It made an impact in India and Asia and in economy terms it is thumbs up. People now know more about the city and those working in this sector see their work recognized. Trade has increased. It also means understanding the importance of preserving heritage monuments.

Are you satisfied with the way conservation is being done for over two-dozen ASI-protected monuments in Ahmedabad?
Lot needs to be done. At least they are protected. More than 42 monuments are there and strict laws are needed to safeguard them. It’s a slow progress yet work goes on.
Most ancient structures in India are deteriorating rapidly. What is the solution? Can a replica be made to keep the heritage intact?
Depends on situation to situation. Not every monument is deteriorating. Pollution is a threat and dedicated groups are conserving our heritage. There are plenty of monuments & heritage buildings. All need proper care.

Chandragupta Maurya

Born in a humble family, Chandragupta Maurya rose to build the largest empire on the Indian sub-continent with a prosperous economy and a powerful army under the shrewd guidance of Chanakya


Once Chanakya, who would later write the Arthasastra, had arrived from Takshashila at the court of the powerful Nanda rulers on the Gangetic plains. Insulted by King Dhana Nanda, Chanakya swore revenge and was leaving in fury when young Chandragupta sought to meet him. It was this chance meeting that led to one of the greatest partnerships of all times and the creation of the Mauryan Empire.
Known to the Greeks as Sandrokottos or Androkottos, Chandragupta’s reign is known for its prosperous economy and was driven by Chanakya’s shrewd grasp of statecraft and economics. With a strong central administration from Pataliputra, Chandragupta ruled over nearly the entire Indian sub-continent through an organised, efficient structure. The focus was on building economic prosperity, connectivity by land, diplomacy and a powerful army that was in permanent readiness. Religions thrived, with Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivika living along with Hinduism.

It was the end of Alexander the Great’s conquests. When his armies refused to cross


the River Beas and move eastward into the Indian sub-continent, Alexander chose not to wage war against the powerful Magadha kingdom of the Nandas. Leaving his troops west of the River Indus, he returned to Babylon in 323 BC. It is said that a young Chandragupta had met Alexander, but that held no significance in the Mauryan’s rise.
In 323 BC, it had been a year since Alexander’s retreat. Under Chanakya’s shrewd guidance, Chandragupta formed a small army of his own and through alliances with local rulers, defeated the Greek-ruled cities in the region. By 322-321 BC, he began rising in prominence.
To the East were the powerful Nandas who had been ruling the region since 345 BC. In preparation for a war against the professional Nanda army, Chandragupta, under Chanakya’s guidance, formed more alliances and strengthened his army.
After forming an alliance with Parvataka, a ruler in the Himalayan region, his march towards Magadha on the Gangetic plains began.
After an initial rebuff at the hands of the Nandas, the capital Pataliputra fell into Chandragupta’s hands, ending the Nanda dynasty. With the Gangetic plain under his rule, Chandragupta may have formed alliances with the Kings of Rajputana on the west and Kalinga in the south.
According to Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador’s records, Chandragupta’s army would number at least 400,000 when he gained full control, compared to the 200,000-foot troops of the Nandas.
Meanwhile Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC. Chandragupta looked towards the west. Alternately assassinating or defeating the governors that Alexander had left behind, Chandragupta expanded his empire into the northwest.

Alexander’s Macedonian general, Seleucus I Nicator had established the Seleucid kingdom in 312 BC with Babylon as his capital.


A powerful ruler, he had conquered almost all of Alexander’s Asian empire, including Bactria and Indus. This brought him into conflict with Chandragupta.
Seleucus crossed the Indus and the two armies battled each other. Soon, the two kings arrived at peace through a marital alliance in which Chandragupta married a Seleucid princess. Not only did he have peace with Seleucus, he had also annexed some of the latter’s provinces. In return, he sent 500 elephants to Seleucus which enabled the latter to win the Battle of Ipsus in which he, in alliance with others, defeated the Macedonian Greek rulers. At this point, the Greek ambassador Megasthenes arrived in Chandragupta’s court.
Chandragupta turned his eye south of the Vindhyas, conquering the Deccan Plateau. At its peak, Chandragupta’s Empire extended over almost the entire Indian subcontinent.

Chanakya’s Arthasastra, which is known for his shrewd principles of administration and economics, was implemented in governing the Empire. Chandragupta ruled with the aid of a ministerial council, the ministers themselves were called amatya. The empire was structured into janapadas, that is, territories and regional centres which were protected by forts. The royal treasury funded the state functioning as well as the army.


Paying heed to Chanakya’s wisdom, Chandragupta had many reservoirs and networks built, facilitating irrigation which in turn ensured reliable food supplies to his citizens and to the army. In fact, his officials were given the duty of ensuring regional prosperity through agriculture. His irrigation works were so well-planned that 400 years later these works, built by Chandragupta and strengthened by Ashoka, continued to function, and were repaired and enlarged by later rulers.
Economics and safety took precedence over arts and architecture, and there is no conclusive evidence that archaeological findings of artefacts dating back to the period can be credited to Chandragupta Maurya.
Chandragupta’s Death
Chandragupta renounced his throne in 298 BC and went to the south with the Jain teacher Bhadrabahu, leaving his son Bindusara as the emperor. Ashoka would rise to the throne after Bindusara.
Chandragupta lived in Shravanabelagola and eventually, followed the Jain practice of fasting to his death in 297 BC.

Humble Origin
Chandragupta’s birth is unrecorded. It is quite possible that Greek sources are authentic in their narrative that Chandragupta did not come from a warrior background. Jain and Buddhist sources, which were written centuries later, stated that he was from noble lineage, at the least from a village chief.
The most likely event is that Kautilya, whose real name was Chanakya and who originated from the north-western region, had trained Chandragupta at Takshashila.
Stable Economy
The Mauryan economy was very developed for its time. The existence of a stable centralized government and the unity of the sub-continent made by the emperor resulted in an advanced trade. Land routes were built to transport goods with roads suitable for the movement of carts. The Empire was no longer dependant on the trickle of movement through mules or on water transport. In fact, a 1000-mile highway connected Pataliputra to Takshashila. Others connected the capital to Kapilavastu, Kalsi, Sasaram, Kalinga, Andhra and Karnataka. With this, Chandragupta achieved not only extensive trade, but also rapid movement of his army.
State-owned weapon-manufacturing centres were another of Chanakya’s ideas. Chanakya’s principle was that prosperity is necessary to pursue Dhamma, that is, morality. He also states in his Arthasastra that diplomacy must prevail over war and if that is not possible, an army that is always ready has to be maintained.

History of Kerala

Known today as the Spice Garden of India, Kerala had prominent trading posts with the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Arabs, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.


Kerala has a history of being an important exporter of spices since 3000 BCE. The name Keralaputra is mentioned on Emperor Ashoka’s rock inscriptions of 3rd century BCE, referring to the Cheras who had ruled over Kerala, and is the first known reference to the name Kerala.
The Rig Veda’s Aitareya Aranyaka is the earliest Sanskrit work to mention Kerala. It is also mentioned in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Skanda Purana. Katyayana in 4th century BC and Patanjali in 2nd century BC too refer to the region. Greco-Roman trade maps refer to Keralaputra as Celobotra.


Marine fossils found near Changanacherry have led to the conclusion that Kerala may have been under the sea in the ancient past. Evidence of pre-history, that is, the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Stone Ages, has been found in Kerala.

Dolmens, which are, large vertical stones supporting a horizontal stone were found in Idukki. Although archaeologists do not know their purpose, what they do know is that these date from the Neolithic age, that is, the New Stone Age which began about 10,200 BC and ended between 4500 and 2000 BC.

Locally, they are called muniyara, from muni which stands for sage and ara, meaning dolmen. Rock engravings in Wayanad’s Edakkal caves too date back to 6000 BCE. It is also possible that Kerala had interacted with the Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.


Trade and Settlements
Sumerian records show that Kerala was a prominent exporter by 3000 BC, interacting with the Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Arabs and Phoenicians. By the time the world entered the Christian Era, Greeks and Romans too were trading for Kerala’s spices. In addition, the Cheras who ruled over Kerala were trading with China and West Asia.
marayoordolmenSangam literature speaks of Roman exchange of gold for pepper. According to Pliny the Elder, with favourable South West monsoon winds, Kerala could be reached from the Red Sea ports in 40 days. Muziris, also known as Muciri, Mahodayapuram or Makotai was a flourishing sea port at the mouth of the River Periyar, and was later submerged by the sea. Nelcynda and Berkarai were two other Kerala sea ports.
At the time, Kerala was known to foreign regions as Malabar and some of these visitors established coastal settlements here. Some married local women, forming the Mappila communities, with Muslim, Syrian Christian and Jewish settlers.
The Cochin Jews believe that they are descendants of those who had fled Jerusalem’s destruction during the first century AD. The Saint Thomas Christians trace their ancestry to converts by Saint Thomas, one of Christ’s 12 disciples.

Dynasties of Kerala
edakkal_stone_age_carvingThe Early Cheras are believed to have ruled from 4th century BCE to 5th century CE over large parts of current-day Kerala, and Coimbatore and Salem districts. They were contemporaries to the Chola, Pandya, Tamiraparani and Satiyaputra. The Chera capital was Vanchi, which was either Vanchimutur or near Muziris.
Buddhism and Jainism had reached Kerala by the Christian Era. During the Sangam period, between 4th century BC and 2nd century AD, Brahmins settled in central Kerala and the Nambudiri community emerged.
The Ay dynasty had ruled from the 3rd century BC to 1200 CE from Nagercoil to Thiruvilla with Kollam as their capital. Weakened by Pandyan attacks during the 7th and 8th centuries, they declined. The Ay kingdom, particularly Venad, had been a buffer between the Cheras and the Pandyas and the weakened Ay dynasty became part of the Second Chera kingdom.
The Kulasekharas were also known as the Second Cheras, Later Cheras or Perumals and ruled between the 8th and the 12th centuries.

It is during their reign that Kerala emerged distinct from Tamils. Nair leaders ruled over provinces under the ruler.
Wars between the Cheras and the Cholas during the 11th century led to the decline of foreign trade and Buddhism and Jainism disappeared from the region. Caste divisions hardened into divisive lines. Chola invasions destroyed Kollam in the 11th century and Mahodayapuram fell during a subsequent battle, causing the Chera ruler Rama Varma Kulasekhara to shift his capital to Kollam. Hence, it is believed that he, the last emperor of the Chera dynastry may have founded the Venad royal house.
The Later Pandyas and Later Cholas gained control although Ravi Varma Kulasekhara regained control briefly during the 14th century. His death led to the rise of the Nair leaders in Samuthiri, Venad and Kochi.
Thrippapur and Chirava, which were branches of the Ay dynasty, merged into the Venad family during the latter half of the 12th century with the former having authority over the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, among others. Travancore was developed by Maharaja Marthanda Varma who belonged to the Thrippapurs, by expanding Venad during the 18th century.

Colonial Powers
vascodagamaWith Vasco Da Gama’s arrival in Kozhikode, began a period of Portuguese trade dominance. During the 16th century, they established a factory and fort in the kingdom of Kozhikode which belonged to the Samuthiris. But, the Portuguese fell out with the Maharaja and were defeated.
During the 18th century, the French began controlling Mahe. After being captured by the Brisith twice, it was handed back to the French.
The Dutch weren’t far behind. During the 17th and 18th centuries, they defeated the Portuguese, but they themselves were weakened by battles with King Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family and the Travancore king gained greater power.
During the 18th century, Hyder Ali took control of Kozhikode. But, his son, Tipu Sultan was forced to cede control over Malabar district and South Kanara to the British during the late 18th century. The British turned Cochin and Travancore into princely states, and Malabar and South Kanara became part of the Madras Presidency.
Uprisings against the British continued through the 19th and 20th centuries. When India achieved independence, the Travancore and Cochin kingdoms joined the nation. On 1st November 1956, Kerala was formed, bringing together large parts of these two kingdoms and Malabar district.

History of Iceland

Icelands are Norse origin stock and Iceland is 7th richest in the world on per capita GDP and also boasts of world’s oldest parliament



Iceland’s history goes back to the 8th or the 9th century when Celic monks are believed to have arrived on the island. Subsequently, Naddod, a Norwegian-Faroese Viking is credited with discovering Iceland. Later, when the Swede Garoar Svavarsson was driven to Iceland by a storm, he circumnavigated the land, establishing it as an island.
In 871, Ingolfr Arnarson, a chieftain arrived from Norway with his wife and brother, and established the first permanent settlement in Reykjavik. Later, Norwegians and Scandinavians arrived with their slaves, who were largely Irish or Scottish, and by 930, settlement was complete.
Iceland has no standing army and has a coast guard who takes care of its defence. With a population of over 300,000, it is sparsely populated and is home to active volcanoes.

In 930, the Althing, the Icelandic parliament was established with legislative and judicial powers over the Icelandic commonwealth, making it the world’s oldest parliament.

During this period, the region experienced the medieval warm period and when Erik Thorvaldsson, also known as Erik the Red, was banished from Iceland for three years, he spent them on Greenland.
He later established a permanent settlement there with other settlers.
Meanwhile, under pressure from the King of Norway, Christianity was adopted in Iceland by the end of the

10th century and it co-existed with Norse paganism. It was only in 1117 that slavery was abolished.
During the 13th century, Iceland came under the Norwegian crown since Iceland’s commonwealth could no longer deal with the now stronger chieftains. From Norway, control over Iceland passed to the Kalmar Union of Norway, Denmark and Sweden during the late 14th-early 15th century and Iceland came under Danish control.

Iceland is a land of active volcanoes since it is located on the mid-Atlantic Ridge and is also located over a hot spot. Thirteen of its 30 active volcanic systems have erupted since permanent settlements began on the island. Over the past 500 years alone, its volcanoes have spewed one-third of the entire lava output of the world.
Mount Hekla which was dormant for 250 years, erupted in 1104, covering half of Iceland with material composed of ash, cinders and volcanic blocks, causing devastation. Over the centuries, Hekla continued to erupt.
Volcanic fissures in Laki erupted in 1783, leading to the death of over 50 per cent of the livestock over the years and one fourth of the population due to famine.
Black death caused by the bubonic plague which had hit Europe during the 14th century reached Iceland in the early 15th century, killing half its population between 1402 and 1404. It hit again in 1494, killing half the population this time too. In 1707, small pox killed a quarter of the population.
Lutheranism was imposed on Iceland by the King of Denmark during the 16th century and it continues to be the primary religion on the island. A period of decline followed during the 17th and 18th centuries with Denmark granting Danish merchants monopoly on trade with Iceland.
The trade restrictions, combined with volcanic eruptions, disease, deforestation, infertile soil and raids by pirates who also abducted the Icelandic people into slavery led to the island’s decline. Iceland became one of Europe’s poorest nations, relying largely on fishing.
In 1787, Danish trade monopoly ceased, yet it was only in 1855 that Denmark granted Iceland the right to free trade.
Although Denmark and Norway separated in the early 19th century as a result of the Napoleonic wars, Iceland continued under Denmark’s rule. Climate turned colder and over 20 per cent of Icelandic people emigrated to North America. Towards the middle of the century, the independence movement gained momentum under Jon Sigurosson and Iceland gained limited home rule by the end of the century, moving towards greater power by the early 20th century.

Although Denmark recognised Iceland’s sovereignty, it continued to handle foreign policy matters and Danish embassies functioned as Iceland’s embassies too. Iceland, like Denmark remained neutral during the second world war until Germany occupied Denmark.

At this juncture, Iceland took control of its foreign affairs. Britain invaded Iceland, violating Iceland’s neutrality and passed its control to United States in 1941.
Two years after Iceland became a republic in 1944, the allied forces left the island.
But troops of the United States returned when riots erupted on Iceland’s joining the NATO, once again leaving the island in 2006.

In 2008, Iceland suffered a financial crisis and its three largest banks collapsed. By 2011, the nation stabilised and driven by a strong rise in tourism, it rebounded to the pre-financial crisis levels. Based on different estimates, tourism constitutes anywhere between 5 and 10 per cent of Icelandic GDP.
In 2016, tourists constituted 4.5 times the island’s population, bringing in nearly 30 per cent of the nation’s export revenue. Industrialisation and liberalisation led to substantial development and the nation’s per capita GDP ranked 7th in the world in 2016.
Iceland depends heavily on the fishing industry and fisheries constitute 40 per cent of exports which is more than 12 per cent of Icelandic GDP. Hence, Iceland is sensitive to fish products.

The first Cod war broke out between United Kingdom and Iceland when the latter expanded its fishing zone from 4 to 12 nautical miles. It lasted from 1958 to 1961 and ended after they came to an agreement.
The second Cod war arose in 1972 when Iceland extended its fishing zone to 50 nautical miles. This dispute was resolved in 1973.
The third Cod war broke out between the two nations in 1975 when the United Nations Conference of the Law on the Sea supported a 100-nautical mile limit to territorial waters and Iceland extended its limit to 200 nautical miles.
An agreement was reached in 1976 when NATO mediated between the two nations.