Kerala (Malayalam: കേരളം; Kēraḷaṁ), is a state located in southwestern India. The state was created in 1956 on linguistc basis, bringing together those places where Malayalam formed the principal language. Kerala is famous for its sprawling backwaters and lush green vegetation. Kerala is generally referred to as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It boasts of a higher Human Development Index than most other states in India. Neighbouring states are Karnataka to the north and Tamil Nadu to the south and the east. The state is bordered by Arabian sea towards the west. Thiruvananthapuram, located at the southern tip of the state forms the capital while Kochi, Kozhikode, Kollam, Thrissur, Kottayam, Kannur, Alapuzha and Palakkad form other major trading and activity centres.
The state has a 91 percent literacy rate the highest in India. A survey conducted in 2005 by Transparency International ranked Kerala as the least corrupt state in the country. Kerala has witnessed significant migration of its people, especially to the Gulf countries, starting with the Kerala Gulf boom, and is uniquely dependent on remittances from its large Malayali expatriate community. Kerala has the lowest rate of population growth in India, with a fertility rate of 1.6 per parents.
The name Kerala has an uncertain etymology. Keralam may stem from an imperfect Malayalam portmanteau fusing kera ("coconut tree") and alam ("land" or "location"). Kerala may represent the Classical Tamil chera-alam ("declivity of a hill or a mountain slope" or chera alam ("Land of the Cheras").. Natives of Kerala, known as Malayalis or Keralites, refer to their land as Keralam.
It is known if the region was inhabited during Neolithic times. Kerala could have been Dravidian homeland for many thousand years. There is evidence of the emergence of prehistoric pottery and granite burial monuments in the form of megalithic tombs in the 10th century BC, which resemble their counterparts in Western Europe and other parts of Asia. These are thought to be produced by speakers of a proto-Tamil language The Edakkal Caves has one of the earliest examples of stone age writing. Kerala and Tamil Nadu once shared a common language, ethnicity and culture; this common area was known as Tamilakam.A 3rd-century-BC rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great attests to a Keralaputra
Around 1 BC the region was ruled by the Chera Dynasty, which traded with the Greeks, Romans and Arabs. The Tamil Chera dynasty, Ays and the Pandyan Kingdom were the traditional rulers of Kerala whose patriarchal dynasties ruled until the 14th century AD. Pliny the Elder who visited Kerala in the first century AC reported in his book Natural History (Pliny) that the Northern Kerala was ruled by the Chera Kings while the southern Kerala was ruled by Pandyan Kingdom who had the capital at Nelcynda with port at Porakkad (Ambalapuzha).
The ancient Cheras, whose mother tongue and court language was ancient Tamil, ruled Kerala from their capital at Vanchi. Cheras were constantly at war with the neighbouring Chola and Pandya kingdoms. A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils and associated with the second Chera empire, became linguistically separate under the Kulasekhara dynasty (c. 800–1102). But the Malayalam during Chera period was purely Dravidian. Perumal Thirumozhi written by Kulasekhara Azhwar himself is in classic Tamil. The Dravidian Villavar tribe which established the Chera Kingdom were Patriarchal in descendency. Ay kings ruled southern Kerala. The Later Chera Kingdom otherwise called the Kulasekhara dynasty was founded by King Kulasekhara Alwar who is considered as a Vaishnavaite saint. After the repeated attacks of Rashtrakutas in the end of first millennium the northernmost portions of Kerala. Later Chera dynasty came to an end weakened by the Rashtrakuta and Chola invaders.
The Aryan and Naga dominace after the fall of Chera Kingdom led to the inclusion of Northern Hindi like vocabulary spoken by them to Malayalam. KeralolpathiAhichatram in Uttarpradesh in the first millennium perhaps around 345 AD during Kadamba ruler MayuravarmasChera Dynasty in 1100s, Kerala became a conglomeration of warring chieftaincies, among which the most important were Calicut and Venad. mentions the migration of Aryans and Nagas from reign. After the end of Later
Tamil Royal dynasties were still dominant till 14th century. By the beginning of the 14th century, Ravi Varma Kulasekhara of Venad established a short-lived supremacy over southern India. Kulasekhara describes himself as of Chera (Villavar),Ai and Pandya lineage in his Poonamalle inscription in Tamil. His son Udaya Marthanda Varma was the last Tamil king with Patriarchal descnedency. He adopted two princesses, the Attingal and Kunnumel princesses from Northern kingdom, the Koalthiris.In the 14th century after the invasion of Malik Kafur all the Dravidian kingdoms of Kerala were replaced by Matriarchal dynasties closely resembling that of Tulunadus Bunt Naga dynasties. After the subjugation of all Tamil Dravidian kingdoms by Malik Kafur at 1309 AD most of the Tamil Kingdoms were replaced by Samanta Kshatriyas who perhaps migrated from Tulunadu.The Mabar(Malabar) kingdom or Madurai Sultanate was the supreme power in the same period.After 14th century many Naga customs such as Naga worship, Polyandry and Matriarchy which were hitherto unknown in the earlier Tamil period, were practised by the Samantha dynasties of Kerala between 14th to 20th centuries.The magnificent Dravidian architecture disappeared in Kerala replaced by architecture closely resembling Nepalese Newa architecture.The suppression of indigenous Dravidian peoples and their culture leading to the dominance of northern Nagas and Aryans of Ahichatra in Kerala in the following period.Partial nakedness became a norm in the same period even among the Royalty and Aristocracy.The Chera kings' dependence on trade meant that merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala. The west Asian-semitic Jewish, Christian, and Muslim immigrantsestablished Nasrani Mappila, Juda Mappila and Muslim Mappila communities. The Jews first arrived in Kerala in 573 BC The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings state that Thomas the Apostle visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 AD to proselytize amongst Kerala's Jewish settlements though controversy exists whether he visited Taxila the capital of Gondophares or Kerala or both.. Muslim merchants (Malik ibn Dinar) settled in Kerala by the 8th century AD and introduced Islam. After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in 1498, the Portuguese gained control of the lucrative pepper trade by subduing Keralite communities and commerce.
The Tabula Peutingeriana is the only known surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus. Kerala is seen at the eastern part of the then known world. In it, Muziris, temple of Augustus, Mountains that give birth to elephants (Sahya Parvatham or Western Ghats), are clearly marked.
Conflicts between Kozhikode (Calicut) and Kochi (Cochin) provided an opportunity for the Dutch to oust the Portuguese. In turn, the Dutch were ousted by Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family who routed them at the Battle of Colachel in 1741. In 1766, Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore invaded northern Kerala, capturing Kozhikode in the process. In the late 18th century, Tipu Sultan, Ali’s son and successor, launched campaigns against the expanding British East India Company, resulting in two of the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. He ultimately ceded Malabar District and South Kanara to the Company in the 1790s. The Company then forged tributary alliances with Kochi (1791) and Travancore (1795). Malabar and South Kanara became part of the Madras Presidency.
Kerala was comparatively peaceful under the British Raj; only sporadic revolts such as the 1946 Punnapra-Vayalar uprising and the Dewan of Travancore Velayudan Thampi Dalava, Kozhikode navarch Kunjali Marakkar, and Pazhassi Raja, among others, vied for greater autonomy or independence. Many actions, spurred by such leaders as Vaikunda Swami, Sree Narayana Guru and Chattampi Swamikal, instead protested such conditions as untouchability; notable was the 1924 Vaikom Satyagraham. In 1936, Chitra Thirunal Bala Rama Varma of Travancore issued the Temple Entry Proclamation that opened Hindu temples to all castes; Cochin and Malabar soon did likewise. The 1921 Moplah Rebellion involved Mappila Muslims rioting against Hindus and the British Raj.
After India gained its independence in 1947, Travancore and Cochin were merged to form Travancore-Cochin on 1 July 1949. On 1 January 1950 (Republic Day), Travancore-Cochin was recognised as a state. The Madras Presidency was organised to form Madras State several years prior, in 1947. Finally, the Government of India's 1 November 1956 States Reorganisation Act inaugurated the state of Kerala, incorporating Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks, which were merged with Tamil Nadu), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara. A new legislative assembly was also created, for which elections were first held in 1957. These resulted in a communist-led government through ballot—the world's first of its kind—headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Subsequent social reforms favoured tenants and labourers.
Vasco da Gama landed at Kozhikode (Calicut), on May 20,
Kerala is wedged between the Laccadive Sea and the Western Ghats. Lying between north latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and east longitudes 74°52' and 72°22',equatorial tropics. Kerala’s coast runs for some 580 km (360 miles), while the state itself varies between 35 and 120 km (22–75 miles) in width. Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands (rugged and cool mountainous terrain), the central midlands (rolling hills), and the western lowlands (coastal plains). Located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, Kerala lies near the centre of the Indian tectonic plate; as such, most of the state is subject to comparatively little seismic and volcanic activity.Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene Kerala is well within the humid geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala’s terrain.
Eastern Kerala consists of high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys immediately west of the Western Ghats' rain shadow. Forty one of Kerala’s west-flowing rivers, and three of its east-flowing ones originate in this region. The Western Ghats form a wall of mountains interrupted only near Palakkad, where the Palakkad Gap breaks through to provide access to the rest of India. The Western Ghats rises on average to 1,500 m (4920 ft) above sea level, while the highest peaks may reach to 2,500 m (8200 ft). Just west of the mountains lie the midland plains comprising central Kerala, dominated by rolling hills and valleys. Generally ranging between elevations of 250–1,000 m (820–3300 ft), the eastern portions of the Nilgiri and Palni Hills include such formations as Agastyamalai and Anamalai.
Kerala’s western coastal belt is relatively flat, and is criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries, and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters. Lake Vembanad—Kerala’s largest body of water—dominates the Backwaters; it lies between Alappuzha and Kochi and is more than 200 km² in area. Around 8% of India's waterways (measured by length) are found in Kerala. The most important of Kerala’s forty four rivers include the Periyar (244 km), the Bharathapuzha (209 km), the Pamba (176 km), the Chaliyar (169 km), the Kadalundipuzha (130 km), the Valapattanam (129 km) and the Achankovil (128 km). The average length of the rivers of Kerala is 64 km. Most of the remainder are small and entirely fed by monsoon rains. These conditions result in the nearly year-round water logging of such western regions as Kuttanad, 500 km² of which lies below sea level. As Kerala's rivers are small and lack deltas, they are more prone to environmental factors. Kerala's rivers face many problems, such as sand mining and pollution. The state experiences several natural hazards such landslides, floods, lightning and droughts. The state was also affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
With 120–140 rainy days per year, Kerala has a wet and maritime tropical climate influenced by the seasonal heavy rains of the southwest summer monsoon. In eastern Kerala, a drier tropical wet and dry climate prevails. Kerala's rainfall averages 3,107 mm annually. Some of Kerala's drier lowland regions average only 1,250 mm; the mountains of eastern Idukki district receive more than 5,000 mm of orographic precipitation, the highest in the state.
In summers, most of Kerala is prone to gale force winds, storm surges, cyclone-related torrential downpours, occasional droughts, and rises in sea levelThe mean daily temperatures range from 19.8 °C to 36.7 °C. Mean annual temperatures range from 25.0–27.5 °C in the coastal lowlands to 20.0–22.5 °C in the eastern highlands.
Flora and fauna
Much of Kerala's notable biodiversity is concentrated and protected in the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve in the eastern hills. Almost a fourth of India's 10,000 plant species are found in the state. Among the almost 4,000 flowering plant species (1,272 of which are endemic to Kerala and 159 threatened) are 900 species of highly sought medicinal plants.
Its 9,400 km² of forests include tropical wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests (lower and middle elevations—3,470 km²), tropical moist and dry deciduous forests (mid-elevations—4,100 km² and 100 km², respectively), and montane subtropical and temperate (shola) forests (highest elevations—100 km²). Altogether, 24% of Kerala is forested. Two of the world’s Ramsar Convention listed wetlands—Lake Sasthamkotta and the Vembanad-Kol wetlands—are in Kerala, as well as 1455.4 km² of the vast Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Subjected to extensive clearing for cultivation in the 20th century, much of the remaining forest cover is now protected from clearfelling. Kerala's fauna are notable for their diversity and high rates of endemism: 102 species of mammals (56 of which are endemic), 476 species of birds, 202 species of freshwater fishes, 169 species of reptiles (139 of them endemic), and 89 species of amphibians (86 endemic).These are threatened by extensive habitat destruction, including soil erosion, landslides, salinization, and resource extraction.
Kerala's fourteen districts are distributed among Kerala's six historical regions: North Malabar (Far-north Kerala), Malabar (northern Kerala), Kochi (central Kerala), Northern Travancore, Central Travancore (southern Kerala) and Southern Travancore (Far-south Kerala). Kerala's modern-day districts (listed in order from north to south) correspond to them as follows:
- North Malabar: Kasaragod, Kannur, Mananthavady Taluk of Wayanad, Vadakara Taluk of Kozhikode
- Malabar: Wayanad except Mananthavady Taluk, Kozhikode except Vadakara Taluk, Malappuram, a part of Palakkad and a part of Thrissur
- Kochi: A part of Ernakulam, Chittoor Taluk of Palakkad, and a part of Thrissur.
- Northern Travancore: Part of Ernakulam, and Idukki.
- Central Travancore: Southern part of Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and northern part of Kollam.
- Southern Travancore: Southern part of Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram.
Kerala's 14 revenue districts are subdivided into 62 taluks, 1453 revenue villages and 1007 Gram panchayats.
Mahé, a part of the Indian union territory of Puducherry (Pondicherry), is a coastal exclave surrounded by Kerala on all of its landward approaches. Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) is the state capital and most populous city. Kochi is the most populous urban agglomeration and the major port city in Kerala. Kozhikode, Kannur, Thrissur, Palakkad , and Kollam are the other major commercial centers of the state. Kannur district is the most urbanised district in Kerala, with more than 50% of its residents living in urban areas. The High Court of Kerala is located at Ernakulam. Kerala's districts, which serve as the administrative regions for taxation purposes, are further subdivided into 63 taluks; these have fiscal and administrative powers over settlements within their borders, including maintenance of local land records.
Kerala's culture is derived from both a Tamil-heritage region known as Tamilakam and southern coastal Karnataka. Later, Kerala's culture was elaborated upon through centuries of contact with neighboring and overseas cultures. Native performing arts include koodiyattom (a 2000 year old Sanskrit theatre tradition, officially recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity), kathakali—from katha ("story") and kali ("performance")—and its offshoot Kerala natanam, Kaliyattam -(North Malabar special), koothu (akin to stand-up comedy), mohiniaattam ("dance of the enchantress"), Theyyam, thullalpadayani. NS
Other forms of art are more religious or tribal in nature. These include chavittu nadakom, oppana (originally from Malabar), which combines dance, rhythmic hand clapping, and ishal vocalisations. However, many of these art forms largely play to tourists or at youth festivals, and are not as popular among most ordinary Keralites. These people look to more contemporary art and performance styles, including those employing mimicry and parody.
Kerala's music also has ancient roots. Carnatic music dominates Keralite traditional music. This was the result of Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma's popularisation of the genre in the 19th century. Raga-based renditions known as sopanam accompany kathakali performances. Melam (including the paandi and panchari variants) is a more percussive style of music; it is performed at Kshetram centered festivals using the chenda. Melam ensembles comprise up to 150 musicians, and performances may last up to four hours. Panchavadyam is a different form of percussion ensemble, in which up to 100 artists use five types of percussion instrument. Kerala has various styles of folk and tribal music. The popular music of Kerala is dominated by the filmi music of Indian cinema. Kerala's visual arts range from traditional murals to the works of Raja Ravi Varma, the state's most renowned painter.
Kerala has its own Malayalam calendar, which is used to plan agricultural and religious activities. Kerala's cuisine is typically served as a sadhya (feast) on green banana leaves. Such dishes as idli, payasam, pulisherry, puttucuddla, puzhukku, rasam, and sambar are typical. Keralites—both men and women alike—traditionally don flowing and unstitched garments. These include the mundu, a loose piece of cloth wrapped around men's waists. Women typically wear the sari, a long and elaborately wrapped banner of cloth, wearable in various styles. Presently the North Indian dresses such as Salwar Kameez has also become very popular amongst women in Kerala.
Elephants are an integral part of daily life in Kerala. These Indian elephants are loved, revered, groomed and given a prestigious place in the state's culture. They are often referred to as the 'sons of the sahya.' The ana (elephant) is the state animal of Kerala and is featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala.
The predominant language spoken in Kerala is Malayalam. Malayalam literature is medieval in origin and includes such figures as the 14th century Niranam poetsThunchaththu Ezhuthachan whose works mark the dawn of both modern Malayalam language and indigenous Keralite poetry. The "triumvirate of poets" (Kavithrayam), Kumaran Asan, Vallathol Narayana Menon, and Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer, are recognised for moving Keralite poetry away from archaic sophistry and metaphysics, and towards a more lyrical mode. (Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar), and the 17th century poet
In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith awardees like G. Sankara Kurup,