In which region in India can you find the following features? White sandy beaches with a blue sea dotted by small islands? Beautiful beaches with hardly any tourists at all? Asia's longest driveable beach? A Subrahmanya temple with a beautiful stepwell? A mirror made with polished metal and no glass? History of Kerala's most influential Islamic dynasty? A school dedicated to folk music and dance?
Of course, the answer is in the title of the post itself. The coastal Kannur district in northern Kerala's Malabar region has all of the above as you will see in the remainder of this post.
Geography of Kannur district
Kannur district is on the west coast of India. So it has the same weather as India's major west coast cities, e.g. Mumbai, Kochi, Mangaluru, Panaji. The weather is humid and tropical. Winters are mild. But as with the entire west coast, Kannur district too is blessed with plenty of rain during the 4 months of monsoon from June to September. Besides there is a second wave of rain during October - November.
The layout of the district is also similar to the other west coast regions we have seen in other posts: Konkan in Maharashtra and Uttara Kannada in Karnataka for instance. The west of the district is bordered by the Arabian sea and the east is bordered by the western Ghat mountains. To the south of Kannur district is Thalassery and one of Puducherry's enclaves: Mahe. To the north of the district is Kasaragod district. The highways to the east of Kannur ascend sharply over the western Ghats and lead to the forests and lakes of Wayanad district.
People of Kannur
All the three major religions of Kerala, i.e. Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, can be seen in sizeable numbers in Kannur district. From our observations around the district, none of the three religions can actually be called a minority. This is because Kannur was one of the first districts (alongside Kozhikode) all around India to receive Arabic traders for spice trading and Christian missionaries for education and peace.
Kannur has a variety of occupations, but the major ones are agriculture and fishing. Industries based on the two take up more than half the share of the local revenue generated. Despite the beautiful things to see in Kannur, tourism is yet to catch up. This is true in all of north Kerala, also known as Malabar.
A common trend is Kannur is for youngsters to migrate to OPAC countries (Mallus refer to them as Gulf) like Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. They spend several years in these countries, earn a decent income and send money back home. During their visits from Gulf, they bring expensive gifts for their near and dear ones. One amusing thing to try with a Kannur youngster is to point towards any expensive thing they own and ask where they got it. "My uncle got this for me from Gulf", "My daddy bought this from Muscat", "My brother gifted me during his visit from Dubai", will be the most common answers.
The most spoken language in Kannur district is the state language Malayalam. Varying dialects are spoken in regional pockets such as Kavvayi island. English is also well-spoken due to education by Christian missionary schools. While Hindi isn't spoken very well in the interior areas of Kannur, the coastal areas, like Kannur city itself, are fairly comfortable with the language. But it's not a language that you would want to use for deep conversations with the locals.
Some history about Kannur
Kannur has seen two major dynasties come and go. The Muslim dynasty by the name of Arakkal, was famous for its influential Begums (queens), rather than Badshahs (kings). Kannur was also part of the Hindu Malabar kingdom, before it joined hands with the other two Malayalam speaking kingdoms - Kochi and Travancore - to form the unified state of Kerala.
The city and the district were called Cannanore by the British. The name continued to be used post independence, but was recently replaced by its original Malayalam name, Kannur. This happened when the state went on a renaming spree, reclaiming plenty of original names, i.e. Cochin - Kochi, Calicut - Kozhikode, Alwaye - Aluva, Alleppey - Alappuzha, Palghat - Palakkad, Quilon - Kollam. The name for the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, was reclaimed from Trivandrum several years ago.
Tourism in Kannur
Here is what we have to say about Kannur. Enjoy it while it LASTS. Right now, NONE of northern Kerala's hotspots, Kannur district included, has received the limelight that the 'typical tourist Kerala' has received. The websites, tourist packages and brochures focus on Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Alleppey house boats, Munnar and Thekkadi. Pilgrims focus on Sabari Malaa and Guruvayoor.
Everything to the north of Guruvayoor, i.e. Kozhikode, Kappad, Mahe (although in Kerala's landmass, it is part of Puducherry UT), Thalassery, Kannur, Wayanad, Palakkad, Kasaragod, Malappuram and Kotakkal Ayurveda are conveniently blindspotted by tourist packages. The tourists you will see around Kannur's beaches are local Malayalam people or a few foreigners who have got wind of the sparseness of Malabar.
Enjoy Malabar while you can. It is only a matter of time before tourism catches up. But what should you enjoy? Here goes.
Beautiful beaches with white sand, blue water and forested islands
Here are some of the beaches you should see.
Dharmadam: is the southern-most beach in Kannur district. It is on the geographical border of Thalassery and Kannur districts. The beach has views of small tree-lined islands off the coast. It is possible to use a local fishing boat to explore these islands.