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Kerala is a state on the tropical Malabar Coast of southwestern India. To its east and northeast, Kerala borders Tamil Nadu and Karnataka; to its west and south lie the Indian Ocean islands of Lakshadweep and the Maldives, respectively. Kerala nearly envelops Mahé, a coastal enclave of Pondicherry. Kerala is one of four states that compose the linguistic-cultural region known as South India. The principal spoken language is Malayalam, but other languages are also spoken.

First settled in the 10th century BC by speakers of Proto-South Dravidian, Kerala was influenced by the Mauryan Empire. Later, the Cheran kingdom and feudal Namboothiri Brahminical city-states became major powers in the region.[1] Early contact with overseas lands culminated in struggles between colonial and native powers. The States Reorganisation Act of 1 November 1956 elevated Kerala to statehood.

Social reforms enacted in the late 19th century by Cochin and Travancore were expanded upon by post-independence governments, making Kerala among the Third World's longest-lived, healthiest, most gender-equitable, and most literate regions.[2] Though the state's basic human development indices are roughly equivalent to those in the developed world, the state is substantially more environmentally sustainable than Europe and North America.[3][4] Nevertheless, Kerala's suicide, alcoholism, and unemployment rates rank among India's highest.[5] A survey conducted in 2005 by Transparency International ranked Kerala as the least corrupt state in the country.[6]

The widely disputed etymology of Kerala is a matter of conjecture. In the prevailing theory, Kerala is an imperfect Malayalam portmanteau that fuses kera ("coconut palm tree") and alam ("land" or "location").[7] Another theory is that the name originated from the phrase chera alam ("Land of the Chera").[8] Natives of Kerala, known as Keralites or Malayalees, thus refer to their land as Keralam. Kerala's tourism industry, among others, also use the phrase God's Own Country.[9]


According to a legend, Parasurama, an avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of Kerala arose and was reclaimed from the waters.[10] During Neolithic times, humans largely avoided Kerala's rainforests and wetlands. There is evidence of the emergence of prehistoric pottery and granite burial monuments in the 10th century BC that resemble their counterparts in Western Europe and the rest of Asia. These were produced by speakers of a proto-Tamil language.[11] Thus, Kerala and Tamil Nadu once shared a common language, ethnicity and culture; this common area was known as Tamilakam. Kerala became a linguistically separate region by the early 14th century. The ancient Cherans, whose mother tongue and court language was Tamil, ruled Kerala from their capital at Vanchi and was the first major recorded kingdom. Allied with the Pallavas, they continually warred against the neighbouring Chola and Pandya kingdoms. A Keralite identity—distinct from the Tamils and associated with the second Chera empire—and the development of Malayalam evolved between the 8th and 14th centuries. In written records, Kerala was first mentioned in the Sanskrit epic Aitareya Aranyaka. Later, figures such as Katyayana, Patanjali, Pliny the Elder, and the unknown author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea displayed familiarity with Kerala.[12]

(PD) Photo: Cyril Thomas
Muniyaras (Keralite dolmens or megalithic tombs) in Marayoor, erected by Neolithic tribesmen.

The Chera kings' dependence on trade meant that merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala.[13][14] Many, especially Jews and Christians, escaped persecution and established the Nasrani Mappila and Muslim Mappila communities.[15] According to several scholars, the Jews first arrived in Kerala in 573 BC.[16][17] 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.[18][19] However, the first verifiable migration of Jewish-Nasrani families to Kerala is of the arrival of Knai Thoma in 345 AD.Template:Cref[20] Muslim merchants (Malik ibn Dinar) settled in Kerala by the 8th century AD. After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in 1498, the Portuguese gained control of the lucrative pepper trade by subduing Keralite communities and commerce.[21][22]

Conflicts between the cities of Kozhikode (Calicut) and Kochi (Cochin) provided an opportunity for the Dutch to oust the Portuguese. In turn, the Dutch were ousted at the 1741 Battle of Colachel by Marthanda Varma of Travancore (Thiruvathaamkoor). Hyder Ali, heading the Mysore, conquered northern Kerala, capturing Kozhikode in 1766. In the late 18th century, Tipu Sultan, Ali’s son and successor, launched campaigns against the expanding British East India Company; these resulted 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.[23]

Kerala saw comparatively little defiance of the British Raj. Nevertheless, several rebellions occurred, including the 1946 Punnapra-Vayalar revolt,[24] and leaders like Velayudan Thampi Dalava, Kunjali Marakkar, and Pazhassi Raja earned their place in history and folklore. Many actions, spurred by such leaders as 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 battling Hindus and the British Raj.[25]

After India gained its independence in 1947, Travancore and Cochin were merged to form Travancore-Cochin on July 1, 1949. On January 1, 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 November 1, 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.[26] A new legislative assembly was also created, for which elections were first held in 1957. These resulted in a communist-led government—one of the world's earliest—headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad.[26][27] Subsequent social reforms favoured tenants and labourers.[28][29] As a result, living standards, education, and life expectancy improved dramatically.


For more information, see: Geography of Kerala.

Kerala’s 38,863 km² landmass (1.18% of India) is wedged between the Arabian Sea to the west and the Western Ghats—identified as one of the world's twenty-five biodiversity hotspots[30]—to the east. Lying between north latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and east longitudes 74°52' and 72°22',[31] Kerala is well within the humid 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 geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala’s terrain.

Eastern Kerala lies immediately west of the Western Ghats's rain shadow; it consists of high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys. 41 of Kerala’s west-flowing rivers, and 3 of its east-flowing ones originate in this region. Here, 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 composing central Kerala; rolling hills and valleys dominate.[31] 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.[32] 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) 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.[31] 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, including summer droughts, the building of large dams, sand mining, and pollution.


For more information, see: Climate of Kerala.

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.[33] 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 level and storm activity resulting from global warming.[34][35][36] Kerala’s maximum daily temperature averages 36.7 °C; the minimum is 19.8 °C.[31] Mean annual temperatures range from 25.0–27.5 °C in the coastal lowlands to 20.0–22.5 °C in the highlands.[37]

Flora and fauna

For more information, see: Flora and fauna of Kerala.

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.[38][39]

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.[40] Two of the world’s Ramsar Convention listed wetlandsLake 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,[41] much of Kerala's 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).[39] These are threatened by extensive habitat destruction, including soil erosion, landslides, salinization, and resource extraction.[42]

Eastern Kerala’s windward mountains shelter tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests, which are common in the Western Ghats. Here, sonokeling (Indian rosewood), anjili, mullumurikku (Erythrina), and Cassia number among the more than 1,000 species of trees in Kerala. Other plants include bamboo, wild black pepper, wild cardamom, the calamus rattan palm (a type of climbing palm), and aromatic vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides).[40] Living among them are such fauna as Asian Elephant, Bengal Tiger, Leopard (Panthera pardus), Nilgiri Tahr, Common Palm Civet, and Grizzled Giant Squirrel.[40][43] Reptiles include the king cobra, viper, python, and crocodile. Kerala's birds are legion—Peafowl, the Great Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill, Indian Cormorant, and Jungle Myna are several emblematic species. In lakes, wetlands, and waterways, fish such as kadu (stinging catfish and Choottachi (Orange chromide—Etroplus maculatus; valued as an aquarium specimen) are found.[44]


For more information, see: Districts of Kerala.

Kerala's fourteen districts are distributed among Kerala's three historical regions: Malabar (northern Kerala), Kochi (central Kerala), and Travancore (southern Kerala). Kerala's modern-day districts (listed in order from north to south) correspond to them as follows:

For more information, see: Corporations, Municipalities and Taluks of Kerala.

Moreover, Kerala's 14 revenue districts are further divided 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.[45] Kochi is the most populous urban agglomeration[46] and the major port city in Kerala. Kozhikode and Thrissur are the other major commercial centres of the state. The High Court of Kerala is 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.


(GNU) Photo: Rajith Mohan
The Legislative Assembly Building, Trivandrum.

Like other Indian states and most Commonwealth countries, Kerala is governed through a parliamentary system of representative democracy; universal suffrage is granted to state residents. There are three branches of government. The unicameral legislature, known as the legislative assembly, comprises elected members and special office bearers (the Speaker and Deputy Speaker) elected by assemblymen. Assembly meetings are presided over by the Speaker. The Assembly is presided over by the Deputy Speaker whenever the Speaker is absent. Kerala has 140 Assembly constituencies. The state sends 20 members to the Lok Sabha and 9 to the Rajya Sabha, the Indian Parliament's upper house.

Like other Indian states, the constitutional head of state is the Governor of Kerala, who is appointed by the President of India. The executive authority is headed by the Chief Minister of Kerala, who is the de facto head of state and is vested with most of the executive powers; the Legislative Assembly's majority party leader is appointed to this position by the Governor. The Council of Ministers, which answers to the Legislative Assembly, has its members appointed by the Governor; the appointments receive input from the Chief Minister.

The judiciary comprises the Kerala High Court (including a Chief Justice combined with 26 permanent and two additional (pro tempore) justices) and a system of lower courts. The High Court of Kerala is the highest court for the state; it also decides cases from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs.

The state's 2005–2006 budget was 219 billion INR. The state government's tax revenues (excluding the shares from Union tax pool) amounted to 111,248 million INR in 2005, up from 63,599 million in 2000. Its non-tax revenues (excluding the shares from Union tax pool) of the Government of Kerala as assessed by the Indian Finance Commissions reached 10,809 million INR in 2005, nearly double the 6,847 million INR revenues of 2000. However, Kerala's high ratio of taxation to gross state domestic product (GSDP) has not alleviated chronic budget deficits and unsustainable levels of government debt, impacting social services.


Kerala hosts two major political alliances: the United Democratic Front (UDF—led by the Indian National Congress) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF—led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M))). At present, the LDF is the ruling coalition in government; V.S. Achuthanandan of the CPI(M) is the Chief Minister of Kerala and Oommen Chandy of the UDF is the Chief Opposition leader.

Kerala is one of the few regions in the world where communist parties are democratically elected in a parliamentary democracy. Compared with most other Indians, Keralites are well versed and keen participants in the political process; many elections are decided by razor-thin margins of victory. Strikes, protests, rallies, and marches are ubiquitous.


(CC) Photo: Christopher Soghoian
Tea gardens near Munnar, Idukki district.

Since its incorporation as a state, Kerala's economy largely operated under welfare based democratic socialist principles. In recent years, the state has liberalized its increasingly mixed economy, allowing greater participation by the free market and foreign direct investment. Kerala's nominal gross domestic product (as of 2004–2005) is an estimated 894519 million INR, while recent GDP growth (9.2% in 2004–2005 and 7.4% in 2003–2004) has been robust compared to historical averages (2.3% annually in the 1980s and between 5.1% and 5.99% in the 1990s). Nevertheless, relatively few major corporations and manufacturing plants choose to operate in Kerala. This is mitigated by remittances sent home by overseas Keralites, which contributes around 20% of state GDP. Kerala's per capita GDP of 11,819 INR is significantly higher than the all India average, although it still lies far below the world average. Additionally, Kerala's Human Development Index and standard of living statistics are the nation's best. This apparent paradox—high human development and low economic development—is often dubbed the Kerala phenomenon or the Kerala model of development, and arises mainly from Kerala's strong service sector.

The service sector (including tourism, public administration, banking and finance, transportation, and communications—63.8% of statewide GDP in 2002–2003) along with the agricultural and fishing industries (together 17.2% of GDP) dominate Kerala's economy. Nearly half of Kerala's people are dependent on agriculture alone for income. Some 600 varieties of rice (Kerala's most important staple food and cereal crop) are harvested from 3105.21 km² (a decline from 5883.4 km² in 1990) of paddy fields; 688,859 tonnes are produced per annum. Other key crops include coconut (899,198 ha), tea, coffee (23% of Indian production, or 57,000 tonnes), rubber, cashews, and spices—including pepper, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Around 1.050 million fishermen haul an annual catch of 668,000 tonnes (1999–2000 estimate); 222 fishing villages are strung along the 590 km coast. Another 113 fishing villages dot the hinterland.

Traditional industries manufacturing such items as coir, handlooms, and handicrafts employ around one million people. Around 180,000 small-scale industries employ around 909,859 Keralites; 511 medium and large scale manufacturing firms are located in Kerala. A small mining sector (0.3% of GDP) involves extraction of ilmenite, kaolin, bauxite, silica, quartz, rutile, zircon, and sillimanite. Home gardens and animal husbandry also provide work for hundreds of thousands of people. Other major sectors are tourism, manufacturing, and business process outsourcing. Kerala's unemployment rate is variously estimated at 19.2% and 20.77%, although underemployment of those classified as "employed", low employability of many job-seeking youths, and a mere 13.5% female participation rate are significant problems. Estimates of the statewide poverty rate range from 12.71% to as high as 36%.


Kerala has 145,704 kilometers (90,539 mi) of roads (4.2% of India's total). This translates to about 4.62 kilometers (2.87 mi) of road per thousand population, compared to an all India average of 2.59 kilometers (1.61 mi). Virtually all of Kerala's villages are connected by road. Traffic in Kerala has been growing at a rate of 10–11% every year, resulting in high traffic and pressure on the roads. Kerala's road density is nearly four times the national average, reflecting the state's high population density. Kerala's annual total of road accidents is among the nation's highest.

India's national highway network includes a Kerala-wide total of 1,524 kilometers (947 mi), which is 2.6% of the national total. There are eight designated national highways in the state. The Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP), which includes the GIS-based Road Information and Management Project (RIMS), is responsible for maintaining and expanding the 1,600 kilometers (994 mi) of roadways that compose the state highways system; it also oversees major district roads. Most of Kerala's west coast is accessible through two national highways, NH 47, and NH 17.

The state has major international airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode that link the state with the rest of the nation and the world. The Cochin International Airport at Kochi is the first international airport in India that was built without Central Government funds, and is also the country's first publicly owned airport. The backwaters traversing the state are an important mode of inland navigation. The Indian Railways' Southern Railway line runs throughout the state, connecting all major towns and cities except those in the highland districts of Idukki and Wayanad. Kerala's major railway stations are Trivandrum Central, Kollam Junction, Ernakulam Junction, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Shoranur Junction, and Palakkad.


Kerala-girl-left.jpg Kerala-mundu.JPG
(GNU) Photo: Rajesh Kakkanatt
Left: A Malayali woman wearing a sari
Right: A Malayalee man wearing a Mundu with a shirt

The 31.8 million of Kerala’s compound population is predominantly of Malayali Dravidian ethnicity, while the rest is mostly made up of Indo-Aryan, Jewish, and Arab elements in both culture and ancestry (both of which are usually mixed). Kerala is also home to 321,000 indigenous tribal Adivasis (1.10% of the populace), who are mostly concentrated in the eastern districts. Malayalam is Kerala's official language; Tamil and various Adivasi languages are also spoken by ethnic minorities.

Kerala is home to 3.44% of India's people; at 819 persons per km², its land is three times as densely settled as the rest of India. Kerala's rate of population growth is India's lowest,and Kerala's decadal growth (9.42% in 2001) is less than half the all-India average of 21.34%. Whereas Kerala's population more than doubled between 1951 and 1991 by adding 15.6 million people to reach 29.1 million residents in 1991, the population stood at less than 32 million by 2001. Kerala's coastal regions are the most densely settled, leaving the eastern hills and mountains comparatively sparsely populated.

Women compose 51.42% of the population. Kerala's principal religions are Hinduism (56.1%), Islam (24.7%), and Christianity (19%). Remnants of a once substantial Cochin Jewish population also practice Judaism. In comparison with the rest of India, Kerala experiences relatively little sectarianism.

Kerala's society is less patriarchical than the rest of the Third World. Gender relations are among the most equitable in India and the Third World, despite discrepancies among low caste men and women. Certain Hindu communities (such as the Nairs), Travancore Ezhavas and the Muslims around Kannur used to follow a traditional matrilineal system known as marumakkathayam, although this practice ended in the years after Indian independence. Other Muslims, Christians, and some Hindu castes such as the Namboothiris and the Ezhavas follow makkathayam, a patrilineal system.

Kerala's human development indices — elimination of poverty, primary level education, and health care — are among the best in India. Kerala has the second highest literacy rate (89.9%) among Indian states after Mizoram and life expectancy (73 years) is among the highest in India. Literacy is 88% among females and 94% among males according to the 2001 census. Kerala's rural poverty rate fell from 69% (1970–1971) to 19% (1993–1994); the overall (urban and rural) rate fell 36% between the 1970s and 1980s. By 1999–2000, the rural and urban poverty rates dropped to 10.0% and 9.6% respectively. These changes stem largely from efforts begun in the late 19th century by the kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore to boost social welfare. This focus was maintained by Kerala's post-independence government.


Kerala's healthcare system has garnered international acclaim. UNICEF and the World Health Organization designating Kerala the world's first "baby-friendly state". Representative of this condition, more than 95% of Keralite births are hospital–delivered. Aside from ayurveda (both elite and popular forms), siddha, and unani, many endangered and endemic modes of traditional medicine, including kalari, marmachikitsa, and vishavaidyam, are practiced. These propagate via gurukula discipleship, and comprise a fusion of both medicinal and supernatural treatments, and are partly responsible for drawing increasing numbers of medical tourists.

A steadily aging population (11.2% of Keralites are over age 60) and low birthrate (18 per 1,000) make Kerala one of the few regions of the Third World to have undergone the "demographic transition" characteristic of such developed nations as Canada, Japan, and Norway. In 1991, Kerala's TFR (children born per women) was the lowest in India. Hindus had a TFR of 1.66, Christians 1.78, and Muslims 2.97.

Kerala's female-to-male ratio (1.058) is significantly higher than that of the rest of India. The same is true of its sub-replacement fertility level and infant mortality rate (estimated at 12 deaths per 1,000 live births). However, Kerala's morbidity rate is higher than that of any other Indian state—118 (rural Keralites) and 88 (urban) per 1,000 people. The corresponding all India figures are 55 and 54 per 1,000, respectively. Kerala's 13.3% prevalence of low birth weight is substantially higher than that of First World nations. Outbreaks of water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid, among the more than 50% of Keralites who rely on some 3 million water wells is another problem, which is worsened by the widespread lack of sewers.


(CC) Photo: Thorsten Vieth
Children lining up for school in Kochi.

Schools and colleges in Kerala are either run by the government or by private trusts and individuals. The schools are each affiliated with either the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or the Kerala State Education Board. English is the medium of instruction in most private schools; though government run schools offer both English and Malayalam. After completing their secondary education, which involves ten years of schooling, students typically enroll at Higher Secondary School in one of the three streams — liberal arts, commerce or science. Upon completing the required coursework, the student can enroll in general or professional degree programmes.

Thiruvananthapuram is one of the state's major academic hubs; it hosts the University of Kerala. The city also has several professional education colleges, including fifteen engineering colleges, three medical colleges, three Ayurveda colleges, two colleges of homeopathy, six other medical colleges, and several law colleges. Trivandrum Medical College, Kerala's premier health institute, is also one of the finest in the country. It is being upgraded to the status of an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The College of Engineering, Trivandrum is one of the prominent engineering institutions in the country. The Asian School of Business and IIITM-K are two of the other premier management study institutions in the city, both situated inside Technopark. The Indian Institute of Space Technology, the unique and first of its kind in India, is situated in the state capital.

Kochi is another major educational hub. The Cochin University of Science and Technology (also known as "Cochin University") is situated in the city. Most of the city's colleges offering tertiary education are affiliated either with the Mahatma Gandhi University or Cochin University. Other national educational institutes in Kochi include the Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training, the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, the National Institute of Oceanography and the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

Thrissur can be called as the Educational Capital of Kerala as Coimbatore to Tamil Nadu. Kerala Agricultural University is situated in this city. Three Medical Colleges, The Government Engineering College, Govt. Law College, Ayurveda College, Govt.Fine Arts College, College of Co-operation & Banking and Management, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, College of Horticulture, College of Forestry etc make the name "Educational Capital" more meaningful. There are a lot of famous colleges like St.Thomas College, Sri Kerala Varma College, St.Mary's College, Vimala College etc. Thrissur is also a main center of coaching for the entrance examinations for engineering and medicine.

Kottayam also acts as a main educational hub. According to the 1991 census, Kottayam District of Kerala is the first district to achieve highest literacy rate in the whole of India. Mahatma Gandhi University, CMS College (the first institution to start English education in Southern India), Medical College, Kottayam, and the Labour India Educational Research Center are some of the important educational institutions in the district.

Kozhikode is home to two of the premier educational institutions in the country; the IIMK, one of the seven Indian Institutes of Management, and the only National Institute of Technology in Kerala, the NITC.


(CC) Photo: Thorsten Vieth
a kathakali artist.

Kerala's culture is a blend of Dravidian and Aryan influences, deriving from both a greater 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, kathakali—from katha ("story") and kali ("performance")—and its offshoot Kerala natanam, koothu (akin to stand-up comedy), mohiniaattam ("dance of the enchantress"), thullal, padayani, and theyyam.

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 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.

Language and literature

The predominant spoken language in Kerala is Malayalam, most of whose speakers live in Kerala.

Malayalam literature is ancient in origin, and includes such figures as the 14th century Niranam poets (Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar), and the 17th century poet Thunchaththu 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.

In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith awardees like G. Sankara Kurup, S. K. Pottekkatt, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai and M. T. Vasudevan Nair have made valuable contributions to the Malayalam literature. Later, such Keralite writers as O. V. Vijayan, Kamaladas, M. Mukundan, and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, whose 1996 semi-autobiographical bestseller The God of Small Things is set in the Kottayam town of Ayemenem, have gained international recognition.


(CC) Photo: Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin
Printed Malayalam text magnified by spectacles.

Dozens of newspapers are published from Kerala, one of the most literate states in India; they are printed in nine major languages. The principal languages of publication are Malayalam and English. The most widely circulating Malayalam-language newspapers include Mathrubhumi, Malayala Manorama, Deepika, Kerala Kaumudi, and Desabhimani. Among major Malayalam periodicals are India Today Malayalam, Chithrabhumi, Kanyaka, and Bhashaposhini.

Doordarshan is the state-owned television broadcaster. Multi system operators provide a mix of Malayalam, English, and international channels via cable television. Manorama News (MM TV) and Asianet are among the Malayalam-language channels that compete with the major national channels. All India Radio, the national radio service, reaches much of Kerala via its Thiruvananthapuram "A" Malayalam-language broadcaster. BSNL, Reliance Infocomm, Tata Indicom, Hutch and Airtel compete to provide cellular phone services. Broadband Internet is available in most of the towns and cities and is provided by different agencies like the state-run Kerala Telecommunications (which is run by BSNL) and by other private companies like Asianet Satellite communications, VSNL. Dial-up access is provided throughout the state by BSNL and other providers.

A substantial Malayalam film industry effectively competes against both Bollywood and Hollywood. Television (especially "mega serials" and cartoons) and the Internet have affected Keralite culture. Yet Keralites maintain high rates of newspaper and magazine subscriptions; 50% spend an average of about seven hours a week reading novels and other books. A sizeable "people's science" movement has taken root in the state, and such activities as writers' cooperatives are becoming increasingly common.


Several ancient ritualised arts are Keralite in origin. These include kalaripayattukalari ("place", "threshing floor", or "battlefield") and payattu ("exercise" or "practice"). Among the world's oldest martial arts, oral tradition attributes kalaripayattu's emergence to Parasurama. Other ritual arts include theyyam and poorakkali. However, larger numbers of Keralites follow sports such as cricket, kabaddi, soccer, and badminton. Dozens of large stadiums, including Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and Thiruvananthapuram's Chandrashekaran Nair Stadium, attest to the mass appeal of such sports among Keralites.

Kerala has been the athletics powerhouse of India for decades. Several Keralite athletes have attained world-class status, including P. T. Usha, Suresh Babu, Shiny Wilson, K. M. Beenamol, M. D. Valsamma and Anju Bobby George.

Soccer is the most popular sport in the state. Some notable football stars from Kerala include I. M. Vijayan and V. P. Sathyan. Volleyball, another popular sport, is often played on makeshift courts on sandy beaches along the coast. Jimmy George, born in Peravoor, Kannur, was arguably the most successful volleyball player ever to represent India. At his prime he was regarded as among the world's ten best players.

Cricket, which is the most-followed sport in the rest of India and South Asia, is less popular in Kerala. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who was born in Kothamangalam and often referred to as simply "Sreesanth", is a controversial right-arm fast-medium-pace bowler and a right-handed tail-ender batsman whose actions were pivotal in sealing, among other games, the 2007 ICC World Twenty20. Among less successful Keralite cricketers is Tinu Yohannan, son of Olympic long jumper T. C. Yohannan.


(CC) Photo: Sandip Bhattacharya
Kovalam Beach, Trivandrum

Kerala, situated on the lush and tropical Malabar Coast, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Named as one of the "ten paradises of the world" and "50 places of a lifetime" by the National Geographic Traveler magazine, Kerala is especially known for its ecotourism initiatives. Its unique culture and traditions, coupled with its varied demographics, has made Kerala one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Growing at a rate of 13.31%, the state's tourism industry is a major contributor to the state's economy.

Until the early 1980s, Kerala was a relatively unknown destination; most tourist circuits focused on North India. Aggressive marketing campaigns launched by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, the government agency that oversees tourism prospects of the state, laid the foundation for the growth of the tourism industry. In the decades that followed, Kerala's tourism industry was able to transform the state into one of the niche holiday destinations in India. The tagline God's Own Country has been widely used in Kerala's tourism promotions and soon became synonymous with the state. In 2006, Kerala attracted 8.5 million tourist arrivals, an increase of 23.68% over the previous year, making the state one of the fastest-growing destinations in the world.

Popular attractions in the state include the beaches at Kovalam, Cherai and Varkala; the hill stations of Munnar, Nelliampathi, Ponmudi and Wayanad; and national parks and wildlife sanctuaries at Periyar and Eravikulam National Park. The "backwaters" region, which comprises an extensive network of interlocking rivers, lakes, and canals that centre on Alleppey, Kumarakom, and Punnamada (where the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in August), also see heavy tourist traffic. Heritage sites, such as the Padmanabhapuram Palace and the Mattancherry Palace, are also visited. Cities such as Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are popular centres for their shopping and traditional theatrical performances. During early summer, the Thrissur Pooram is conducted, attracting foreign tourists who are largely drawn by the festival's elephants and celebrants.


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