Kerala Overview

About Kerala

Referred as the “Spice Garden of India”, Kerala is a beautiful state with an excellent landscape of palm-lined beaches, thick jungles, plantation-covered hills, and enthralling rivers and lakes. It is considered to be one of the cleanest and the most peaceful parts of India, with the state remaining a major source of India's bananas, rubber, cardamoms, coconuts, cashews, and ginger.

The National Geographic Traveler has quoted Kerala as India’s most verdant state with one of the world’s 50 “must see” destinations. “The god who made Kerala had a green thumb”, true to the popular Malayali saying, Kerala’s rich resources have long attracted visitors from across the oceans. It is in fact here that the first seafarers set foot on Indian soil.

Legend has it that long before Vasco Da Gama discovered India, when he landed on the coast of Kerala, King Solomon's ships traded off the Malabar coast between 972 and 932 B.C., followed by the Phoenicians, Romans, Christians, Arabs, and Chinese. They all came to stock up on monkeys, tigers, parrots, timber, sandalwood, and ivory along with the abundance of spices. 

Kerala is sandwiched between the Lakshadweep Sea and the forested Western Ghats that define its border with Tamil Nadu to the east. In 1956, the state of Kerala was formed from the former princely states of Travancore, Kochi, and Malabar. Despite its high population density, Keralites have the country's highest life expectancy and the lowest infant mortality rates. As it was largely ruled by benevolent Maharajas who introduced social reforms emphasizing the provision of education and basic services, Kerala remains one of the most progressed and educated states in India. In those days, Kerala was more caste-divided than any other area. It was only in this region that untouchability was highly predominant. But today, it is one of the least caste-conscious and communally tranquil areas of India.

Kerala has a high percentage (22%) of Christians whose traditions go back to St. Thomas the Apostle. Another cultural rarity can be seen in the white Jews of Cochin. The first democratically elected Communist Party came to power in Kerala for the first time in the whole world.

The state capital is Thiruvananthapuram. Being a land of spices, realm of Ayurveda, heart-throbbing sceneries, exciting array of dances, Kerala is a microcosm of multi-religious India, co-habited by the Hindus, the Christians and the Muslims.

Malabar and Kerala

The word Malabar was first used by Al-Biruni (973-1048 A.D.). The Arab writers are believed to have derived Malabar from the word mala (hill) as mentioned by the Cosmas Indicopleustus of 6th century. He refers to the Kerala Coast as male and varam (country). The medieval Tamil writers called the land as malainadu meaning the land of hills.

The word Keralam is found in the Ashoka inscriptions of the third century B.C. It is formed from Chera (the Kera/Chera people) and alam (land) meaning "the land of Cheras."

The second rock-edict of Ashoka refers to "Keralaputra" along with the Cholas, Pandyas, and Satyaputra as the border kingdoms of the Maurya Empire.

In the first century A.D., the Roman historian Pliny refers Kerala as Caelobrothas and the author of Periplus of the Erithryan Sea mentions it as Cerobothra. The 2nd century geographer Ptolemy called Kerala as Kerobothro. 

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