Although Kerala had been existing from pre-historic times under various other names like Malabar, Malankara, Malayalam, Chera-nad, Cheralam, etc. it had not been a single political unit ever. The narrow strip of land, forming Kerala was divided into a number of small princely states till 1956, when various regions inhabited by Malayalam-speaking people, were unified.
Even though, people in this territory dreamed of a single, united political unit for a long time, realization of that dream was impossible in earlier centuries, as different dynasties and local war-lords and European empire-builders, kept the land divided. Boundaries of the princely states changed, as wars between them were frequent. Thus, Kerala, throughout its history had been a divided land till half-a-century ago.
Kerala being geographically isolated from the rest of India due to the long mountain range along its eastern border (The Western Ghats), had never become an integral part of any of the numerous empires and kingdoms which ruled the rest of India. Invaders like Hyder and Tipu Sulthan could not succeed in conquering the entire stretch of land and make it part of their empire. Cholas and Pandyas also could not keep Kerala under their power for long. Europeans also could possess only portions of Kerala, under them for limited periods. Thus, there never was a unified Kerala, as a political entity, in the long history of India, till unification in modern times.
When finally it happened, unification of Kerala was enforced. Travancore wanted to become an independent nation with sovereignty – a sovereign state, fully self – governing and independent in foreign affairs. Advocating an American model government, Travancore had declared independence unilaterally just before the British granted freedom to India. But, that dream of a separate country in the Indian sub – continent, did not become a reality. Other princely states in India also had to abandon their dreams similarly. Under the new set-up that was emerging in India, all princely states had to give up their claims to sovereignty and merge with the Indian Union.
So, under pressure, Travancore and Cochin princely states were unified in 1949. And it was made a state in the Republic of India on 26 January 1950. Still, only about half of Kerala was unified. The other half, called Malabar Revenue Division, continued to be part of Madras state, till re-organization of states on the basis of language, was carried out on 1 November 1956.
Formation of modern Kerala, on the basis of the language (Malayalam) spoken in the territory, was thus an enforced affair. Even though the privileged people in the old regimes tried to resist the unification and formation of Kerala, the majority of the people welcomed it.