There are many myths and legends associated with the name Kannur. It is believed to be a portmanteau derived from two Malayalam words, ‘Kannan’ (Krishna, a Hindu deity), and ‘Uuru’ (place), the Land of Lord Krishna. During the British Raj, the city was known by its anglicized name Cannanore, the Portuguese version of its ancient name, ‘Kannanore’.
Kannur was an important trading center in the 12th century, with active business connections with Persia and Arabia. It served as the British military headquarters on India’s west coast until 1887. In conjunction with its sister city, Tellicherry, it was the third-largest city on the western coast of British India in the 18th century after Bombay and Karachi.
The modern town is referred to as Kannur Town. Kannur, as a district and surrounding areas, were mostly ruled by the famous Kolathiri rajas (kings). When the state of Kerala was formed the district took the name Kannur since the administrative offices were established here. Before that, Kannur was under the Chirakkal Taluk of Madras state under British rule.
The St. Angelo Fort was built in 1505 by Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy of India. The Dutch captured the fort from the Portuguese in 1663. They modernised the fort and built the bastions Hollandia, Zeelandia, and Frieslandia that are the major features of the present structure. During the 17th century, Kannur was the capital city of the only Muslim Sultanate in Kerala, known as Arakkal. Then the British conquered it in 1790 and used it as one of their major military stations on the Malabar Coast. During the British Raj, Kannur was part of the Madras province in the North Malabar District. The guerrilla war by Pazhassi Raja, the ruler of Kottayam province, against the British had a huge impact on the history of Kannur.
Today, Kannur retains its strategic military importance in India and is one of the 62 military cantonments in the country and headquarters of the Defence Security Corps.
With a landscape as resplendent as its cultural and historical attractions, Kannur is every leisure seeker’s haven. Soak in a sunset from a quaint fishing harbour that serves as an idyllic vantage spot for uninterrupted views of the Lakshadweep Sea, choose from one of many endless stretches of beach each captivating in its own right and behold the intricacies of the Theyyam ritual on the banks of the Valapatnam river. No two visits to Kannur are ever the same so whether its adventurous thrills, relaxation, or cultural stimulation you’re after, be prepared to be spoiled for choice.