Tracing the history and evolution of Canara

The British East India Company declared the stretch of land between Karwar in the present Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka till Kanhangad in Kasargod district, Kerala, and including Lakshadweep islands as a separate district, namely Canara, in 1799. With the appointment of Major General Sir Thomas Munro as the first collector, the journey of the district as an administrative unit began. 

The district was under the administration of the East India Company till 1857, after which the British government took over. North Canara district was carved out of the stretch on April 16, 1862, and ‘handed over’ to the Bombay Presidency. The remaining area, South Canara, was made part of the Madras Presidency.

The British explained the shifting of North Canara as a means to run cotton trade at international level from Bombay, as the region was famous for its muslin cloth. However, historians cite the bifurcation as a result of the Sepoy Mutiny — the First War of Indian Independence and say that it was done as a measure to check the spread of the rebellion.

Since then, till we gained Independence in 1947, the area was under the administration of the British government. As per the States Reorganisation Act which required states to be reorganised along linguistic lines, Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada were added to Mysore state on November 1, 1956. 

However, Kasargod which had been a part of Dakshina Kannada till then was made a part of Kerala state. In 1997, Dakshina Kannada was again bifurcated, with the formation of Udupi district.

Over the last 220 years, Canara district that took birth with Mangaluru as its headquarters has been divided into four parts. Prior to the British era, the region was under the administration of the Alupas till the end of 14th century AD.

After the fall of the Alupas, it was a part of the Vijayanagara Empire. The district was also under the rule of the
Keladi kings.

In the 15th century, a factory was opened by the Portuguese in Dakshina Kannada for business. In 1763, Hyder Ali made Mangaluru a major port town and in 1799, after the death of Tipu Sultan, the British declared Canara a district.

Sir Thomas Munro, who took charge as the first collector of Canara, introduced revolutionary policies for land distribution and revenue collection. The administrators after him, however, implemented new revenue collection rules. By around 1830, following a financial crisis, the farmers in the region refused to pay tax. The British tried to force them into paying but had to withdraw and amend the land revenue system.

Dr Francis Buchanan, who came to the region in 1801, submitted a report on it. The Gazetteer of India has recorded that, earlier too, the region attracted people
like French traveller François Pirard (1600), Pietro della Valle (1633), Pietro Mandira (1636-37) and Jean de Thévenot (1664).

Elections after independence

The Mangalore Municipality was created in 1866 for administration purpose. The first election post-Independence in 1952 saw 11 members being elected to the Madras legislature, from Kundapur, Karkala (two seats), Brahmavar, Udupi, Puttur – A, Puttur – B, Panemangalore, Mangalore, Kasargod and Hosadurga.

For the two Lok Sabha seats — South Kanara (South) and South Kanara (North) — B Shiva Rao and Srinivas U Mallya were respectively elected in 1952.

Dakshina Kannada is now spread across 4,859 sq km. Through its long history, the district has made a name for itself in the fields of commerce, education, tourism, industry and banking.

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