Malabar, a district of British India, in the province of Madras, on the W. doast, between lat. 10° and 12° 20' N.; area, 6,262 sq. m.; pop. in 1871, 2,274,463, of whom about 24,000 were Christians. It is bounded N. by the district of South Canara, S. by Cochin, W. by the Indian ocean, and E. by the Western Ghauts, which are here 4,000 ft. and upward in height. Between these and the sea the country lies, extending about 150 m. along the coast, with an average breadth of 40 m. With trifling exceptions, a low sandy strip, from 1 to 3 m. broad, runs along the shore, and is covered with a continuous and luxuriant grove of co-coanut trees, to the cultivation and care of which the natives give the greatest attention. Behind this tract, hills of inconsiderable height come down from the mountain chain which forms the E. boundary. Between these hills there are valleys of extreme fertility, being the receptacle of the soil washed in the course of ages by the heavy rains from the surrounding eminences. The hills have level, or rather perfectly horizontal summits of naked rock, which is a peculiar characteristic of the face of the country. Many of them have steep sides, which are not unfrequently formed into terraces and cultivated.
All the country that borders on the Ghauts is covered with forests and dense jungle, belts and detached portions of which in places stretch to within a few miles of the sea. Malabar is watered by innumerable short streams. The chief river is the Beypoor, which is with its tributaries navigable for boats of considerable size for about 30 m. inland; next to this is the Ponany river, which is longer, but shallower. Several inlets run along a short distance from the shore parallel to the coast, receive the mountain streams, and communicate with the ocean by shallow channels, and are navigable for small boats for nearly the whole length of the province. It is on the banks of the rivers and of these inlets, in the valleys, and along the coast, that the inhabitants reside. The climate is generally healthful, though in the interior jungle fever is prevalent at certain seasons. The hot season is from February to May, the wet from May to October, and the cool during the remainder of the year. The thermometer seldom rises above 90° in the shade, and rarely falls below 70°. During the wet season very heavy rain falls along the coast, increasing toward the interior; the average rainfall throughout the district is more than 75 inches per annum, and at Cana-nore it is 123 inches. - The principal vegetable productions of Malabar are pepper, cocoa-nuts, ginger, coffee, hemp, cardamoms, betel nuts, turmeric, arrowroot, sapan wood, sandal wood, timber of different sorts, and various gums and resins.
Besides teak, 120 other kinds of valuable timber have been enumerated in a report upon the forests of Malabar. Since 1843 large plantations of teak have been made. Cardamoms are produced from the forest land on the face of the mountains which bound the province, at the height of from 2,000 to 4,000 ft. above the sea, growing spontaneously after the felling and burning of the trees. Pepper, which is the principal commercial product, and is styled the money of Malabar, is chiefly cultivated in the northern part, in the neighborhood of Tellichery, and thrives especially in the moist valleys of the Ghauts. The trailing plant from which it is produced requires but slight care, the cultivator having little more to do than collect the produce. The culture of coffee was introduced by British planters, on estates situated on the slopes of the mountains, some 2,000 ft. above the sea. The proprietary system of land revenue prevails, under which a percentage of the rent goes to the landlords and the rest to the government. Pvice is grown throughout the province, but not in sufficient quantities for internal consumption. The cultivation of ginger, since its exportation to Europe began, has been carried on with great vigor.
Iron is obtained from laterite in many places, and gold in small quantities is found in the mountain streams. Large herds of elephants and buffaloes frequent the interior forests. There are some tigers and numerous leopards, deer of various kinds, elk, bears, hogs, porcupines, squirrels, and monkeys. There are small bullocks, which, together with buffaloes, are used in tilling the ground; in the level tracts elephants are employed to drag timber to the rivers, to be floated to the coast. There are but few horses, and traffic is either carried on by water or upon men's shoulders, as in China - The population of Malabar is made up of Hindoos, Mohammedans, and Christians. There are a few Jews, both white and black, who are principally settled in the southern part of the district. The Brahmans, the highest class of Hindoos, arc here called Namburis; to limit the numbers of their race, they prevent the younger sons from marrying. There is another caste of Brahmans called Puttar, who are much more numerous. The next in rank are the Nairs, who are of 11 castes, of various ranks and professions, but all pretend to be born soldiers.
Their habits and manners are marked by some strange peculiarities, among which may be mentioned the want of that penurious disposition natural to other Hindoos, and their utter disuse of marriage. A girl on reaching the age of puberty forms any connection she thinks fit; and the children, who have no claim upon their natural father, become the heirs of her brothers. The Tiars, or Theans, are considered next in rank to the Nairs, and are engaged in various occupations, but principally in cultivating the ground. The Poliars, or Chermars, are a numerous class, who, before the British interfered in their behalf, were held in slavery, and bought and sold separately or along with the land. The Niadis are the lowest specimens of all, and are outcasts considered so impure that even a Chermar would be defiled by their touch. They wander about in companies of 10 or 12, keeping at a little distance from the roads, and upon seeing a traveller set up a cry for assistance. They refuse all labor, subsist upon roots and any food however loathsome, and live in wretched huts built in secluded spots.
The Chermars and Niadis are supposed to be the descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, and are much smaller in stature and darker in complexion than the Brahmans, Nairs, or Tiars. who are all of good height and well formed. with remarkably handsome features and olive-colored complexion. The native Mussulmans, denominated Mapilas, form about one fourth of the population. They are descended from Hindoo mothers bv Arab fathers, who settled in Malabar about the 7th or 8th century, and are exceedingly fanatical and treacherous. There are some Syrian Christians toward the S. boundary of the province, who consider themselves descendants of converts made by the apostle St. Thomas in the 1st century (see CHRISTIANS of St. Thomas); and also a few thousand converts to Christianity and descendants of the Portuguese, who reside chiefly in the neighborhood of their ancient settlements.
The Hindoo population of Malabar are not prone to congregate in towns and villages, but for the most part live in separate houses, neatly built and kept scrupulously clean, throughout the countrv. The towns owe their origin entirely to foreign settlers, and the chief are Calicut, Palghat, Tellichery, Cananore, Mahe (which is a French colony), and Ponany. At Bevpoor, 7 m. S. of Calicut, where the river of the same name falls into the sea, is the terminus of a railway connecting Madras with the coast of Malabar. The attempts of the English to manufacture iron here have not been successful. Many ships have been built at Bevpoor, for the construction of which the forests situated on the hanks of the river sup-ply teak timber of a darker color and better de'seription than is found elsewhere, and of very large size. It was at Bevpoor, and not at Calicut as generally supposed, that the first European navigator, Vasco da Gama, landed in 1498. At that time the Portuguese established themselves in Malabar, and the Dutch made some settlements there in 1GG3. The exports of Malabar amount in value to about $3,000,000 per annum.
They consist chiefly of eocoanuts and cocoanut oil, coir rope, arrack, betel nuts, coarse cotton cloth, pepper, ginger, cardamoms, camphor, coffee, kino, and various gums and resins The imports do not amount to more than one third of the value of the exports. - The name Malabar is supposed to be a corruption of the Indian malayalam, signifying skirting the hills, and the original Sanskrit name is said to have been Kevala. It is supposed that the country was conquered in very early times by a king from the opposite side of the mountains, and that the Nairs came at the same time as a military body. They took every opportunity to aggrandize themselves, and continued to rule the country till llyder Ali invaded it in 1703. llyder subdued the country, plundered it almost to exhaustion, and expelled all the rajahs except such as conciliated him by immediate submission. His son Tippoo Sahib proposed to the Hindoos to embrace the Mohammedan faith, and followed up his proposition by levying large contributions on his infidel subjects, and forcibly circumcising many of the Brahmans, Nairs, and others.
On the breaking out of the war between Tippoo and the British in 1790, the refractory Nairs, many of whom had fled to the forest to escape his persecution, joined the latter and succeeded in driving him from the country. With some slight disturbances, Malabar has sine,, remained a portion of British India. It was incorporated with the Madras presidency in 1803, and since then the population has more than quadrupled, and the country is steadily advancing.