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MALABAR, a district of British India, in the Madras Presidency. Geographically the name is sometimes extended to the entire western coast of the peninsula. Properly it should apply to the strip below the Ghāts, which is inhabited by people speaking the Malayalam language, a branch of the Dravidian stock, who form a peculiar race, with castes, customs and traditions of their own. It would thus be coextensive with the old kingdom of Chera, including the modern states of Travancore and Cochin, and part of Kanara. In 1901 the total number of persons speaking Malayalam in all India was 6,029,304.

The district of Malabar extends for 145 m. along the coast, running inland to the Ghāts with a breadth varying from 70 to 25 m. The administrative headquarters are at Calicut. Area, 5795 sq. m. Malabar is singularly diversified in its configuration; from the eastward, the great range of the Western Ghāts, only interrupted by the Palghāt gap, looks down on a country broken by long spurs, extensive ravines, dense forests and tangled jungle. To the westward, gentler slopes and downs, and gradually widening valleys closely cultivated, succeed the forest uplands, till, nearer the seaboard, the low laterite table-lands shelve into rice plains and backwaters fringed with coco-nut palms. The coast runs in a south-easterly direction, and forms a few headlands and small bays, with a natural harbour in the south at Cochin. In the south there is considerable extent of table-land. The mountains of the Western Ghāts run almost parallel to the coast, and vary from 3000 to 7000 ft. in height. One of the most characteristic features of Malabar is an all but continuous chain of lagoons or backwaters lying parallel to the coast, which have been formed by the action of the waves and shore currents in obstructing the waters of the rivers. Connected by artificial canals, they form a cheap means of transit; and a large local trade is carried on by inland navigation. Fishing and fishcuring is an important industry. The forests are extensive and of great value, but they are almost entirely private property. The few tracts which are conserved have come into government hands by escheat or by contract. Wild animals include the elephant, tiger, panther, bison, sambhar, spotted deer, Nīlgiri ibex, and bear. The population in 1901 was 2,800,555, showing an increase of 5.6% in the decade.

The staple crop is rice, the next most important product being coco-nuts. Coffee is grown chiefly in the upland tract known as the Wynaad, where there are also a few acres under tea. The Madras railway crosses the district and has been extended from Calicut to Cannanore along the coast. There are eleven seaports, of which the principal are Calicut, Tellicherry, Cannanore and Cochin. The principal exports are coffee, coco-nut products and timber. There are factories for cleaning coffee, pressing coir and making matting, making tiles, sawing timber and weaving cotton.

See Malabar District Gazetteer (Madras, 1908).