Kerala - God's own Country
The state of Kerala, which occupies the south-western corner of the Indian map, was created on 1st November, 1956, and is flanked by Karnataka in the north, Tamil Nadu in the east and south and the Arabian Sea in the west. Malayalam being the predominant language and its capital residing at Thiruvananthapuram, this state boasts of the highest literacy rate in the country and was also bestowed with the honor of being the least corrupt Indian state in 2005.
Etymologically, the word ‘Kerala’ could be interpreted in a number of different ways but for its natives, the Malayalis, the name of this land is ‘Keralam’. This word could either be a fusion of two Malayali words ‘kera’ meaning coconut tree and ‘alam’ meaning land or location, or could alternatively have originated from the phrase ‘chera alam’, the land of the Cheras. Its veracity as being a rich production ground for spices was established as early as 3000 BC when this land was referred to by Emperor Ashoka as Keralaputra. Although spice trade is still a major source of income for the state, over the years the focus has shifted to backwaters, greenery and Ayurvedic heritage as the main themes of marketing.
Sandwiched between the Lakshadweep Sea and the Western Ghats, Kerala experiences equatorial tropic climate implying 120 to 140 days of incessant downpour courtesy of the southwest summer monsoon. While the quantity of rainfall varies in accordance with the area, overall it could be described as featuring a wet and dry climate which is neither too hot in summers nor too cold in winters. The entire state could be segregated into three climatic regions based on its topography namely the cool mountainous regions occupying the east, the rolling hills playing the role of the central midlands and the coastal plains bringing up the west.
Being a southern-most Indian state, Kerala is particularly prone to seismic and volcanic activity due to its close proximity to the Indian tectonic plate, a fact validated by the presence of Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene geological formations dominating the skyline throughout the state. As the unbroken Western Ghats continue into the state, their link is broken in a place named Palakkad, wherein the Palakkad gap connects the state of Kerala with the rest of the country.
Although this chain of mountains lies in the rain shadow area, it gives birth to many of the main rivers of the state out of which 41 flow west into the Arabian Sea and 3 flow eastwards. Some of the well known rivers which serve as lifelines for the people of the state are the Periyar, Bharathapuzha, Pamba, Chaliyar and Valapattanam and these along with Lake Vembanad form an intricate network of interconnected canals, lakes and estuaries, popularly known as the backwaters. Majority of the rivers are seasonal in nature and depend on the monsoon rains, not to mention that they are extremely susceptible to natural as well as man made hazards, the former being floods, lightening and droughts and the latter being pollution and sand mining.
Historically, the state was divided into six regions and these have been re-arranged to form the fourteen districts of contemporary Kerala. These are further divided into 63 taluks which comprise of innumerable small villages and gram panchayats to complete the administrative set up. The only exception to this rule and governance is Mahe, which although surrounded by Kerala on all landward sides, belongs to the Indian Union Territory of Pondicherry.
While most of the inhabitants of the state are of Malayali descent, Jewish and Arab ancestry can also be traced thanks to the Jewish families which resided in the state till the twentieth century after which they migrated to Israel. Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are the predominant religions in this one of the exceptional states in India which boasts of a higher female population compared to that of males. All the main religions are further subdivided into their respective castes and sub-castes and preferences may oscillate between a matrilineal or patrilineal system as per the lineage. Over the years, Kerala has experienced a sizeable migration of its population to Gulf countries to the result that the state is dependent on its expatriate community for financial remittances.
Kerala is a land of eclectic cultures, having derived its heritage not only from its neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka but from the alien culture to which it has been exposed to due to trade practices. While Kathakali and Mohiniattam are two most widely recognized traditional dance forms hailing from this state, Koodiyattom as a performing art has been honored by UNESCO as an unparalleled expression of heritage and Margam Kali remains one of the ancient group dances belonging to the Syrian Christian sect of Kerala. Carnatic music bears the most seminal influence on the vocal arts and is ceremonially performed by Melam, a group of 150 musicians involved in a performance which might last for hours at a stretch. Alternatively, it is the filmy music which blares out of most of the roadside shops and stalls for the sake of entertainment. Likewise, Malayalam literature has also had a rich poetic history while during contemporary times it is the authors who have won international acclaim for the state.
Agricultural and religious activities are planned in accordance with the Malayalam calendar and a typical Kerala feast, known as sadhya, is served on banana leaves. Fish is an integral part of the menu as are dishes like idli, payasam, puttu, sambar, appams and iddiyappams. Due to the tropical climate, people feel comfortable in unstitched clothing, the men donning mundu and the women dressed in saris or salwar kameez.
Elephants are respected all over India but their reverence in Kerala is incomparable. Having accorded the status of state animal, the elephant or ana, as it is called in Malayalam, is considered as being the son of the ‘sahya’ and hence apart from featuring on the emblem of the Government, it forms an integral part of all aspects of daily life.
Such is the natural as well as man-made development of the state that it is often referred to as ‘God’s Own Country’. Having been blessed with uncountable natural resources within the narrow surface area that it has, the state is an embodiment of natural beauty which needs to be felt and apprehended in order to be enjoyed to the fullest.
(This article was submitted in www.ukessays.com by a student)