Thalassery or Tellicherry is a commercial town in the Malabar Coast of Northern Kerala, Kannur district, bordered by the districts of Mahe (Pondicherry), Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kodagu. It is the second largest municipality of North Malabar in terms of population. The Europeans gave the town a nickname, The Paris of Kerala, as it was in close proximity to the sole French military base in Kerala in that era. Thalassery's history over the past 500 years had enormous significance in the development of Kerala. Thalassery municipality has a population just under 100,000. Possessing an area of 23.98 km2, Thalassery is located in the coast of Malabar region in Kannur district in Kerala. It is 22 km south of the district headquarters in Kannur town. Thalassery is situated in an altitude ranging from 2.5m to 30m above mean sea-level.
Thalassery municipality was formed on 1 November 1866 according to the Madras Act 10 of 1865 (Amendment of the Improvements in Towns act 1850) of the British Indian Empire, making it the second oldest municipality in the state. At that time the municipality was known as Thalassery Commission, and Thalassery was the capital of North Malabar. G. M. Ballard, the Malabar collector, was the first President of the municipal commission. Later a European barrister, A. F. Lamaral, became the first Chairman of Thalassery municipality. Thalassery grew into a prominent place during European rule, due to its strategic geographic location. Thalassery has played a significant historical, cultural, educational and commercial role in the history of India, especially during the colonial period. In 9 February 2014, Thalassery taluk was split in to two and Iritty taluk was formed. The north eastern hilly region of the former Thalassery Taluk such as Aralam, Ayyankunnu, Kottiyur, Kelakam is within the Iritty Taluk area.
Theyyam the ritual art forms are the apt depiction of the cultural heritage of North Malabar especially of ancient Kolathunad. Thalassery is one of the prominent center of Theyyam, it is known as 'Thira' or 'Kaliyattam' in the region. Theyyam are depiction of Shiva bhutaganas, Kali or her similes and other deities and cultural heroes are also worshiped as Theyyam. The drama is enacted based on ancient stories and the language used is 'Tottam pattu' a primitive form of Malayalam. Theyyam could be a reminiscent of the Buddhist influence in the region centuries ago. Theyyam is usually held from October to May every year. The colour of Theyyam is typically red, the painting on the face of Theyyam is undoubtedly an inexplicable wonder with immense artistic beauty. Velan one of the Theyyam is described in the Sangam literature 1500 years ago. It could have been a tribal ritual art which went to modifications due to the Buddhist and Brahminic revival of Hinduism. This art form is addressed as Kaliyattom North of Pazhayangadi Puzha, Kannur, as Theyyam to South of the river and as Tirayattom in places around Thalassery.
Thalassery is one of the prominent area of the martial art - Kalari payattu in Kerala Dharmapattanam(the current Dharmadam), Kadirur, Kadathanad(the current Vadakara), Kuthuparamba were home to the major Kalari payattu schools in the area in olden times. The English East India Company to establish their authority destroyed the traditional military character of the community of Malabar and Major Dow, the Commissioners of Malabar, took steps for the same.
Mysorean invaders destroyed the feudal set up, traditional institutions, landholding patterns and the supremacy of the local rulers, along with the power and prestige of the militia of Malabar. The disruption and disappearance of the Naduvazhi's and the Nayar gentry from the reign, enabled the Mysore rulers to set up a centralised system of administration in the territories, under their authority. The disappearance of the feudal set up, disrupted the social and political pattern, leading to the decline of the Kalari institution. On 20 February 1804, Robert Richards, the Principal Collector of Malabar, wrote to Lord William Bentinck, President and General-in Council, Fort. St. George, asking permission to take action against persons carrying arms, either imposing death penalty or deportation for life. Lord Bentinck issued an order on 22 April 1804, that those who concealed weapons or disobeyed the orders of the British against carrying arms, would be condemned to deportation for life. At the time of the Pazhassi rebellion, British soldiers raided each and every house of the rebels to confiscate their arms.
Thalassery is one of the major centres of vadakkan kalari. Kalari Payattu had a revival after a resurgence of public interest from Thalassery in 1920, the public protest was led by C V Narayanan Nair.