Kerala State

Introduction :

Kerala is a state in south-western India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganization Act bringing together the areas where Malayalam is the dominant language. The state has an area of 38,863 km2 and is bordered by Karnataka to the north, Tamil Nadu to the south and the east and the Arabian sea towards the west. Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of Kerala. Kochi and Kozhikode are other major cities.

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 Empire were the traditional rulers of Kerala whose patriarchal dynasties ruled until the 14th century. The Chera Kingdom were Patriarchal in descendency. The Cheras collapsed after repeated attacks from the neighboring Chola and Rashtrakuta kingdoms. Feudal Namboothiri Brahmin and Nair city-states subsequently gained control of the region. Kolla Varsham or Malayalam Era, which is assumed to have been established by King Udaya Marthanda Varma in 825 AD, serves as the official calendar of Kerala. Early contact with Europeans gave way to struggles between colonial and native interests. After independence, the state of Kerala was created in 1956 from the former state of Travancore-Cochin, the Malabar district of Madras State, and the Kasaragod taluk of Dakshina Kannada.

Kerala is a popular tourist destination famous for its backwaters, Ayurvedic treatments and tropical greenery. Kerala has a higher Human Development Index than all other states in India. The state has a literacy rate of 91 percent, 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 Persian Gulf countries, starting with the Kerala Gulf boom, and is uniquely dependent on remittances from its large Malayali expatriate.

History :

It is unknown if the region was inhabited during Neolithic times. Dolmens belonging to this period have been unearthed from Idukki district. The Edakkal Caves in Wayanad has inscriptions dating back to the stone age.

Kerala finds mention in the annuls of international trade from as early as 3000 BCE, having established itself as the major spice trade centre of the world and traded with the Sumer, and later with Greece and Rome. Kerala and Tamil Nadu once shared a common language, ethnicity and culture; this common area was known as Tamilakam. The first distinct reference to "Kerala" is from a 3rd-century-BCE rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great which attests to a Keralaputra.

According to legend, Parasurama, an avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea; and from those waters, Kerala arose. Parashurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna to part the seas and reveal Kerala.

During the first century BCE the region was ruled by the Chera Dynasty established by the Dravidian tribe Villavar, whose mother tongue and court language was the ancient Tamil. The capital of Cheras was Vanchi. The southern Kerala was ruled by the Pandyan Kingdom with their capital at Nelcynda. The merchants from China, West Asia and Roman Empire had trade links with Cheras. The Sangam literature from the period has descriptions of the Roman ships coming to Muziris, laden with gold as exchange for pepper. Kerala is represented as the eastern tip of the known world in Tabula Peutingeriana, the only known surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus. 192–195, 303–307 The west Asian-semitic Jewish, Christian, and Muslim immigrants established Nasrani Mappila, Juda Mappila and Muslim Mappila communities. The Jews first arrived in Kerala in 573 BCE. The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings state that Thomas the Apostle visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 CE to proselytize amongst Kerala's Jewish settlements, however this is widely disputed due to lack of credible historical evidence. Muslim merchants led by Malik ibn Dinar settled in Kerala by the 8th century CE and introduced Islam.

The Later Chera Kingdom (c. 800–1102), also called the Kulasekhara dynasty, was founded by Kulasekhara Alwar who is regarded as a Vaishnavaite saint. Ay kings ruled southern Kerala, but by the 10th century the Ay kingdom declined and became a part of the Chera Kingdom. A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils became linguistically separate during this period. The Kulasekhara dynasty came to an end by twelfth century, weakened due to the invasions by Pandyas and Cholas. In the absence of a strong central power, the state became divided under small principalities governed by feudal rulers. The kingdoms of Kochi, Venad and Kozhikode emerged powerful.

After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in Kozhikode in 1498, the Portuguese gained control of the lucrative pepper trade. In 1502, Gama signed a treaty for concession for trading rights with Samoothiri, the local ruler of Calicut over the objections of Arab merchants. On 25 March 1505, Francisco de Almeida was appointed the Viceroy of India with his headquarters at Kochi. In 1506, the Samoothiri's fleet was defeated in a sea battle in the Battle of Cannanore by the Portuguese. The Portuguese established forts at Kannur, Cochin and Kollam .

Dutch commander De Lannoy surrenders to Marthanda Varma at the Battle of Colachel. Depiction at Padmanabhapuram Palace The Dutch East India Company took advantage of the conflicts between Kozhikode and Kochi and ousted the Portuguese to gain control of the trade. However, the Dutch were defeated by Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family at the Battle of Colachel in 1741. In 1766, Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore invaded northern Kerala. 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 forged tributary alliances with Kochi in 1791 and Travancore in 1795. Malabar and South Kanara became part of the Madras Presidency. A nineteenth-century map of Madras Province in British India. Kerala was formed by merging Malabar, Cochin, Travancore and the South Kanara district 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; Malabar soon did likewise. But Cochin did not do the Temple entry proclamation (1948) until after India's independance. The 1921 Moplah Rebellion involved Mappila Muslims rioting against Zamindari system 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 in 1947. On 1 November 1956, the state of Kerala was formed by the States Reorganization Act merging the Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks, which were merged with Tamil Nadu), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara. Elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly were held in 1957; this resulted in the formation of a communist-led government headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Many Indians consider this the first democratically elected communist government in the world; however, both San Marino (in 1948) and Guyana (in 1953) had elected communists to power years earlier. Radical reforms introduced by the E. M. S. Namboodiripad government in favour of farmers and labourers helped change, to a great extent, the iniquitous social order that had prevailed in Kerala for centuries.

Geography And Climate :

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', Kerala experiences the humid equatorial tropic climate. The state has a coast of length 590 km (367 mi) and the width of the state varies between 35 and 120 km (22–75 miles). 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; hence, 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 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). Anamudi is the highest peak at an elevation of 2,695 metres (8,130 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 Agastyamala and Anamala.

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 km˛ 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).

Tourism :

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;[165] 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 Kerala- 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, Varkala, Kappad, Muzhappilangad and Bekal; 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, Kollam, 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. The main pilgrim tourist spots of Kerala are Sabarimala Temple, Chettikulangara Temple, Vadakumnathan Temple, Guruvayoor Temple, Malayattor Church and Parumala Church.