An Ashokan edict dating back to third century refers to Kerala as the land of the Cheras, as have many other ancient Sanskrit texts including the Mahabharata. It has been an active spice and ivory trading centre since the early days. Trade flourished with the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and the Chinese. Direct trade with Europe was established with the arrival of Vasco da Gama in 1498. Gradually a trading centre was established in Cochin and trade expanded to include the French and the Dutch. Eventually, the British took over the region in 1792.
After India?s independence in 1947, the princely states of Travancore and Kochi merged to form the province of Travancore-Cochin in 1949. In 1956, Malabar district and Kasargod taluk of South Kanara district further merged with the existing province to form the state of Kerala, and in 1957, elected a communist government to power. The communist government introduced radical agrarian reforms, which helped change the prevailing social structure and to a large extent, is responsible for kerala?s equitable social order.