Kasaragod, the northernmost district of Kerala State is a land of forts. Large number of forts, big and small like Bekal, Chandragiri, Hosdurg, Kumbala, Panayal, Kundamkuzhi, Bandaduka etc. reveal the historical importance of this land. Bekal Fort remains the largest and best-preserved fort in kerala. History and legend are interwoven together in Bekal, particularly regarding its antiquity.
During the Perumal age Bekal was a part of Mahodayapuram. The Kodavalam Inscription (Pullur-Kodavalam) of Bhaskara Ravi II (the king of Mahodayapuram) illustrate the undisputed political sway of Mahodayapuram over this region. Following the political decline of Mahodayapuram Perumals by the 12th century AD, North Kerala including Bekal came under the sovereignty of Kolathunadu. The maritime importance of Bekal increased much under kolathiries and it became an important port town of Thulunadu.
The Battle of Thalikkottai in 1565 led to the decline of the mighty Vijayanagara empire and many feudatory chieftains rose in political prominence including the Keladi Nayaks(Ikkeri Nayaks). The Nayaks realized the political and economic importance of Thulunadu (Kasaragod District) and attacked and annexed this part of the country. Bekal served as a nucleus in establishing the domination of Nayaks in Malabar. The economic importance of the port town prompted the Nayaks to fortify Bekal subsequently. Hiriya Venkatappa initiated the construction of the fort and it was completed during the period of Sivappa Nayak. The speedy completion of the port was aimed at the defence of the fort from overseas attack and to strengthen their attack on Malabar. Chandragiri fort near Kasaragod was also constructed during this period.
Somashekhara Nayak captured Manjeswar and Thaliparamba and built a fort at Kanhangad Hosdurga [new fort]. The other forts found in Kasaragod are constructed on the coastal region and on the route to Madikkeri. It is believed that the ‘Kotteyar’ community found in Bekal, Panayal and other places in Kasaragod were brought to this land by the Nayaks to build and defend the forts. There was a prolonged struggle between the Kolathiries and Nayaks to recapture and maintain their hold over this area. These unending battles came to an end with the rise of Haider Ali who conquered and defeated the Nayaks. Subsequently Bekal fell into the hands of Mysore Sulthans.
Bekal served as an important military station of Tipu Sultan when he led the great military expedition to capture Malabar. The coins and other artifacts unearthed by the archaeological excavation conducted recently at Bekal fort is a manifestation of the strong presence of the Mysore Sultans. The martyrdom of Tipu Sultan who died fighting against the British in 1799 saw the end of Mysorean control and subsequently the fort came under the English East India Company.
During the region of the Company Bekal became the headquarters of the newly organized Bekal Taluk of South Canara District in Bombay Presidency. South Canara became a part of the Madras Presidency in 1862 and Kasaragod Taluk was set up in the place of Bekal Taluk. Gradually the political and economic importance of Bekal and its port declined considerably. Kasaragod became part of Kerala with the state reorganization in 1956.