Related Links Police in Travancore State , Police in Cochin State , Police in Malabar , Police in Travancore-Cochin State


The Latin word “Politia”, the Greek word “Polis”,the Spanish word “Policia”and the French word “Police” sound more or less similar in pronunciation. The word Police is derived from all these words, which mean citizenship, government, capital and city. The rulers in the different ages sought the service of a group of people in order to keep law and order, to prevent crimes, to find out criminals, to execute punishment, to ensure law, discipline and morality, and to provide security among the subjects. In a broad sense such caretakers evolved into Police force in later ages.

The origin of the Police

Social life was the first civilized development made by the ancient man who wandered about aimlessly like animals. He realized that social life had several advantages. Social life gave him the courage to hunt the animals down, to protect him from their attack and to control the nature to a large extent. Nevertheless his animal instincts and his desire to lead a free life of his own were not swept out in the social flow. He had to control himself as he realized that his own individual actions  might cause problems to the well being of others. Consequently he began to exercise his conscience in controlling his instincts. This ‘conscience’ may be referred to as the first Police.           

The next stage in the development of social life was the formation of tribal units. The laws applicable for a small social life were found unsuitable to meet the vastness of the tribal life. Thus in addition to the Police, there needed other controlling authorities. The present day Legislature, Executive and Judiciary evolved out of these circumstances. The Police realized their aims in the well-being and the prosperity of the public, the society, and the tribal unit.

When the concept of the state emerged, the Police shouldered more responsibility and meaningfulness. Preventing criminal instincts, maintaining the unity and security of the society, striving for the upliftment of the state etc became the ultimate aims of the Police. The Legislature, The Executive, and the Judiciary are the three functions of the Government. The Government should not only plan and execute welfare activities to the people but also see to it that the laws framed for that purpose are obeyed strictly. Those who violate the laws or act against them should be prevented. Otherwise it will affect the very existence of the Government. The Police help the Government considerably in this regard. Thus Police became an instrument to protect the fundamental, financial, cultural, political, and penal rights of the people and to uphold the pride and dignity of the nation.


The police in India is as old as the nation herself. Its origin may be traced to the feudal obligation of the land owners to maintain, by means of underpaid and disorderly rabble the semblance of order on their estates. The   indigenous system of police, based upon the responsibility of the landholders or the village communities were gradually modified by the progressive intervention of the state. A popular belief is that the Indian Police System is a creation of the British rule in India but a study of the ancient Indian history shows the origin and development of the law enforcement institutions since the Vedic period. Kautilya, who established an elaborate system of policing and laid down several grades of bureaucracy, could rightly be called the father of the modern concept of police.

The police as a department had become a well established administrative institution during the Maurya Empire. With the passage of time, the responsibility of the police widened and different organizations had to be necessarily created in order to effectively implement the law and enforce order, and bring the criminals to justice. Principles of internal security, the moral and ethical responsibilities of the king and the system of policing developed in ancient towns and villages were effectively followed and improved by the successive Hindu kings.

Ancient India saw police as an instrument under the kings. There were ministers or important individuals who were vested with police functions. With the advent of the Mughals, policing became a subsidiary aspect of the conqueror’s strategic, military and revenue requirements. The age-old community based policing was largely replaced with a mercenary and exotic group of people with official patronage. Even then, community policing, either through the medium of the landlords or through the village level panchayats and analogous bodies persisted to a certain extent.

During the Mughal period some kind of organized patterns set into the police system. The extract from the edict framed by Abul Fazal, Minister of the Emperor Akbar, shows that the Mughal system of Police followed closely on the lines of the indigenous system in the country. The system of mutual security is almost identical with that which existed in England in Anglo-Saxon times

The Thane in the time of King Alfred was required to produce the offender or in order to satisfy the claim, so in India the zamindar was bound to apprehend all disturbers of the public and to restore the stolen property or make good its value. Under the large zamindars were a number of subordinate tenure-holders, all of whom were required. This village responsibility was enforced through the headman, who was always assisted by one or more village watchmen. The latter were the real executive Police of the country.

 However there were glaring differences between the systems of policing from one state to another, which were noticed by the British. Realizing the need for a unified policing system in India, the British by a process of experimentation evolved the existing pattern of Police, modeled on the pattern of the army. The Police personnel were utilized mainly for quelling disturbances by the civil population. This system was the basis for the formation and functioning of all police systems in India.

The first hundred years of British rule in India saw a number of remarkable changes in the system of criminal justice administration. With the East India Company’s interference in the country’s administration, laws were revised to suit the imperial needs. Warren Hastings suggested the first major amendments in 1772, when he prepared a detailed note indicating the remedial measures necessary to maintain law and order in Bengal. His report was later amended from time to time but the basic features are still discernible.

The British contribution was to put the system of policing on a professional footing and to bring about a large measure of uniformity in its laws, procedures and practices. The Present Policing System in the country is based on the Police Act, 1861. Report of The First Police Commission, appointed on 17th August 1860, contained detailed guidelines for the desired system of police in India. The Second Police Commission (1902-1903) went into details of the organizational structure of police at the district level, functioning of the railway police and the river police, recruitment, training and pay structure of different subordinate ranks of police.

Prior to Independence, superior police officers belonged to the Indian (Imperial) Police appointed by the Secretary of State on the basis of competitive examination. The first open competition for the service was held in England in June 1893 and the top ten candidates were appointed as probationers of the Indian Police. It is not possible to pinpoint a date on which it could positively be claimed that the Indian Police came into being. However, in 1907 the Secretary of State’s officers were directed to wear the letters "IP" on their epaulettes to distinguish them from the other officers not recruited by the Secretary of State. In this sense, 1907 could be regarded as the starting point for the Indian Police.

After Independence, this service was replaced with the present day Indian Police Service (I.P.S.) in 1948 .The Indian Police Service is All India service.Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel, The first Home Minister of India was responsible for formation of the Indian Civil Service.Throughout the Indian State , the Indian Police Service Officers are the leaders of the various State Police Forces as well as the Paramilitary Forces .


This brief survey traces the contours of development and progress of Kerala Police over several centuries and delineates the social, political, economic, cultural and religious factors, which contributed to the evolution of the Police system in Kerala. The history of ancient Kerala is shrouded in mystery and a historical dawn is visible only with the arrival of the Chera Empire and the Sanga Kala works. The aboriginal tribes and the Adivasi population of Kerala, with their nomadic life style must not have a police set up as such. But one interesting thing to note is that the word “Kolkaran” which in the later period denoted a post equivalent to the constables was actually used for the servant of the Pulaya Chieftains, who enforced law and order in his area of administration. This “Kolkaran” or one who carried the “Kole” (a stick) represented the authority, which was also used as a measuring rod in settling boundary disputes.

During Ancient Ages

The Chera dynasty  was one of the ancient  dynasties that ruled Southern India from ancient times until around the fifteenth century CE. The Early Cheras ruled over the Malabar coast, Coimbatore, Karur and Salem Districts in South India,  When the Chera Empire was at its peak, we have no mention of the police system in the land. Protection from robbery was given by armed sentinels posted on the highways. . In his book “Culture of Ancient Cheras”, Manicka Vasagam Pillai states that watchman posted on the highways protected the travelers and caravans of merchants. The interesting fact was that the sentinels were given a belt to ring while they patrolled and a ladder to inspect areas on the roof where it was possible for the thieves to hide. In the ancient book “Madurai” also we get glimpses of the police men on duty.           

The literary works of the Sangam period (200 BCE to 200 CE ), namely Akamkrithikal, Pathittipattu and Chilappathikaram, depict the ancient policing system.  In “Pathittupattu”, stanza 81 describes the sentry in detail. The police men helped the regular armed forces in the case of mutiny. The sentinels were given a fixed area to patrolling and hence were very effective. The “Akam Krithikal” and “Pathittupattu” describe those sentries who used to guard the forts also. The poet says that they are capable of catching robbers who can fly like “marut” or wind.

In Sanga Kala, the work “Chilappathikaram” by Ilanko Adikal gives the court scene and a detailed account of investigation of cases by a special group of police at that time. Ilanko Adikal being the Chera Prince, must be reflecting the Police set up in Chera Empire, while he gives vent to his image of Police investigation in his poetical work.

During Medieval ages

During the last part of the Chera Empire and the rule of the Perumal till the time of Cheraman Perumal the literary works point out peace and prosperity in the country. We come across many words like ‘kaval’ which meant guard in a village who looks after law and order. ‘Kaval pura’ meant the prison. In the king’s court we come across a guard known as ‘kanchuki’ which means one who had a ‘kanchukam’ or uniform. They were posted in all places of the palace including the armoury.Police officers with fixed orders are known as ‘harikaran’ and officers who attended the court duties are known as ‘soudillam’.derived from ‘Souvidillam’ or palace.

The body guards and police men who accompany the King were known as ‘Vetradharanmar’ which means one who carries a cane with him. The armed guards of the gates were known as ‘dwarpalakas’ and the personal assistant of the King was known as ‘Pratihara’or ‘Darsaka’.The secret service section consisted of ‘Apasarpaka’, ‘Gudapurusha’, ‘Chara etc.But irrespective of the times, the king with the help of efficient Police service maintained law and order and the people were happy with the way Kings administered the country. The legend of Onam which the Keralites remember with great gratitude , signals the banishment of the native ruler ‘Mahabali’ and  the coming of Aryan immigration in the form of ‘Vamana’. The period  of Mahabali  like the Rama Rajya was devoid of  theft, murder and other problems of law and order.

From the Advent of Aryans till the coming of Europians

In the 8th century we come across the disintegration of the Perumal Administration and the setting of the anarchy. Adi Sankaracharya could still make his missionary journeys throughout the area accompanied by armed guards. In the great Sanskrit drama ‘Ascharya Choodamani’ by Sakti Bhadran, we get a glimpse of how the king exterminates the armed bands who even try to assault the kings. The trade route from Tamil Nadu to Kodumon in Kerala through the hill town of the Nilakkal still continued to be full of merchants’ caravans who traded in pearls, diamonds and gold of Kodumun and Chandanappally. They show the efficient system of guarding the highways and inns on the way.

The century war between the Cholas and Cheras which ended in 1102 AD destroyed the peace of the state and lawlessness prevailed. The Kulasekhara Empire which is praised as the Golden era of the Kerala history again gave us a good Police system which ensured peace and maintained law and order. The feudal system, which existed in ancient Kerala, gave way to a new structure under the Cheras, comprising Thara, Desom and Nadu ruled by Madampi, Desavazhi and Naduvazhi respectively. They were entrusted with the job of law enforcement, including awarding of punishment. The said rulers awarded stringent punishments even for trivial offences and hence there was substantial decline in crime rate.

Foreign travelers who visited Kerala during the13th century had admired the structure of the Police- Judicial system, which existed during that period. In 1314 the Chola invasion with the assistance of Muslims and Paraya contigent destroyed the trade routes and sowed the seeds of anarchy. Hundreds of petty states mushroomed into existence and the Police requirement was entirely different for each of them.

In the Northern Kingdoms we see a set of Police known as ‘ Velkar’ who went in to the forest and guarded those areas. In the Chempakassery administration in Ambalappuzha and other areas we come across naval patrol in the lakes and backwaters of Kuttanad . In the legend of ‘Kayamkulam Kochunni’ we see how this Police party harasses the pirates in the lakes and captures them. In the area of Cochin Rajas we see how the port which was considered to be the Queen of the Arabian sea  ,was well guarded by the Police men posted on the shores. In the Malabar region where feudalism had set in, the chieftains known as ‘Naduvazhi’ and ‘Desavazhi’ became the local law enforcing agency and established a Police net work with the help of ‘Pramanis'.

Francis Day in his Land of the Perumals’ draws a good picture of Malabar in ancient days. K.P.Padmanabha Menon in the history of Cochin Kingdom describes the police system in Cochin. The dark ages of Kerala doesn’t give us any indication of the system prevalent at that time. It may be surmised that due to the disintegration of mighty empires and the constant raids by marauders across the Western Ghutt , the law and order was at its nadir. In 1347, Sheik Iben Batuta of Tangirs who visited Malabar says in his account “They put a thief to death for stealing a single nut or even a grain of seed of any fruit. Hence thieves are unknown among them”. Abdul Razzak who visited Malabar in 1442 A.D comments that the security and justice were firmly established in the city. Vasthema is full of praise for the honesty of the merchants from Kerala. The French man Pyrad De Laval, who came to Calicut in 1607 is really astonished at the high level of administration of justice and says that justice is well administered and is awarded to all gratuitously. Duarte Barbose who spent 16 years in Malabar also certifies that the system of administration of law and order is efficient. In the ancient book ‘Smartha Vicharams’ we get an interesting account of trial by caste tribunals. One of the members of the panchayat which conducts the trial is ‘Purakoyama’. He  is the Chief interrogator with a drawn sword .He is also the representative of the local Raja .

The police system which attracted the admiration of foreign authors should have been efficient and praise worthy. The dread of punishment was really one of the factors which prevented crime. Codified laws with democratic spirit had not originated at this time. The first such code is Nepolian’s Code of 1804 in the aftermath of the French Revolution in 1789. Certain customs like a creditor making a circle over the debtor and forcing him to pay the debt immediately like the modern ‘Gherao’ show the high sense of respect for the law. This is mentioned by Al Idris in his memoirs. The punishment was severe. It included barbaric system of putting one’s hand in hot oil, impaling on the stakes, drowning in lakes, putting in to the cages of leopards, beating on ‘Mukkali’ or a stand with three legs, confiscation of property, cutting of limbs or other organs, breaking of heads by the stamping of elephants etc. In the story of Pazhassy Raja, we find that he had a good network of communication and was able to maintain law and order in the territory

Muslim Influence

During the 16th and 17th centuries ,after the southern empires collapsed, the King of Kerala including Travancore paid a tribute known as ‘Peish Cush’ to the Navab of Karnatik and the system of administration copied many things from the Muslim administration especially that which descended from the Mughals. Thus we have ‘Cot Wall’, a superintendent of bazaars, ‘Darogas’, a corps of officers created for the conduct of police duties and ‘Tahasildars’, who was the head of police and the revenue department of the taluk. The most important police officer in a unit of administration was ‘Aminadar’, who became  prominent in the later years. It is interesting to note that the word ‘Aminadar’, which came from the Arabic word ‘Ameen’ means safety. The word ‘Tahsil’ comes from ‘Hasala’which means to collect and the words ‘Cot Wall’ and ‘Daroga’, ‘Thandar’ and ‘Thana’ are directly taken from Mughal administration. The ancient system of police with the help of Adikaris (Village revenue officer), Provethikarans or Manikarans, Kariakkar, Chevaka, Chandrakaran, Madambimar, Mudelpre, Tayadri, Vicharippukar or Torakars, Tiyamazhavans etc continued in different forms in various parts of the state. Any how in the beginning of the 19th century, the police system had almost come into shape and it was in this state of affairs that the British penetrated in the administration of the state.


Home, History , Archives, Gallery, Battalions, Traffic, Janamaithri , Credits , Site Map , Guest Book , From the News Desk