Kerala, a state in Southern India is known as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It is a narrow strip of coastal territory that slopes down the Western Ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation, and reaches to the Arabian sea. Kerala borders the states of Tamil Nadu to the east and Karnataka to the north. It is also known for its backwaters, mountains, coconuts, spices and art forms like Kathakali and Mohini Attam. It is the most literate state in India, and a land of diverse religions, where you can find Hindu temples, mosques, churches, and even synagogues. With world class tourist sporting options, ayurvedic spas and treatments, eco-tourism initiatives, a large number of visit options ranging from beautiful high altitude blue mountains to pristine rain forests to golden sun-sand beaches and an enormous range of accommodation, Kerala has much to offer the visitor.
Kerala, regionally referred to as Keralam (കേരളം), is a state in the south-west region of India on the Malabar coast. It was formed on 1 November 1956 as per the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi) it is bordered by Karnataka to the north and north east, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 census, Kerala is the twelfth largest state by population and is divided into 14 districts. Malayalam (മലയാളം) is the most widely spoken and official language of the state. The state capital is Thiruvananthapuram, other major cities include Kochi, Kozhikode, Kollam and Thrissur.
The region was a prominent spice exporter from 3000 BCE to 3rd century. The Chera Dynasty was the first powerful kingdom based in Kerala, though it frequently struggled against attacks from the neighbouring Cholas and Pandyas. During the Chera period Kerala remained an international spice trading center. Later, in the 15th century, the lucrative spice trade attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and eventually paved the way for the European colonisation of the whole of India. After independence, Travancore and Cochin joined the Republic of India and Travancore-Cochin was given the status of a state. Later, the state was formed in 1956 by merging the Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara.
Kerala is the state with the lowest positive population growth rate in India (3.44%) and has a density of 819 people per km2. The state has the highest Human Development Index (HDI) (0.790) in the country according to the Human Development Report 2011.It also has the highest literacy rate (93.91%), the highest life expectancy (74 years) and the highest sex ratio (as defined by number of women per 1000 men: 1,083 women per 1000 men) among all Indian states. Kerala has the lowest homicide rate among Indian states, for 2011 it was 1.1 per 100,000. A survey in 2005 by Transparency International ranked it as the least corrupt state in the country. Kerala has witnessed significant emigration of its people, especially to the Persian Gulf countries during the Kerala Gulf boom during the 1970s and early 1980s, and its economy depends significantly on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community. Hinduism is practised by more than half of the population, followed by Islam and Christianity. Malayalam is the major spoken language. The culture of the state traces its roots from 3rd century CE. It is a synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures, developed over centuries under influences from other parts of India and abroad.
Production of pepper and natural rubber contributes to a significant portion of the total national output. In the agricultural sector, coconut, tea, coffee, cashew and spices are important. The state’s coastline extends for 590 kilometres (370 mi), and around 1.1 million people of the state are dependent on the fishery industry which contributes 3% of the state’s income. The state’s 145,704 kilometres (90,536 mi) of roads, constitute 4.2% of all Indian roadways. There are three existing and two proposed international airports. Waterways are also used as a means of transportation. The state has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine different languages; mainly English and Malayalam. Kerala is an important tourist destination, with backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism, and tropical greenery among its major attractions.
Large parts of Kerala were not subject to direct British rule. Malabar was a district of Madras Presidency under direct British rule, but Tiruvithamkoor (Travancore) and Kochi (Cochin) regions were autonomous kingdoms ruled by Maharajas during the period of the British rule in India, and were known for their progressive attitude which resulted in various welfare reforms, particularly in the areas of education and health care.
Kerala was the place in India where European colonization first started. The Portuguese were the first to discover a direct sea route between Lisbon and Kozhikode in Kerala, and this marked the beginning of European colonisation in the country. Soon the Dutch, French, Italians and British were all lured by the wealth of spices and silk, and came with the intention of forming colonies. The defeat of the Dutch by the Travancore Army at the Battle of Colachel, and the decline of Portuguese Empire and French problems in Europe, resulted in the British gaining the full influence in country, and the annexation of the Malabar region into the British Madras Presidency.
However, the Kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore remained independent with little interference from the British, and they were staunch allies. After the independence of India, the Kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin choose to accede into the Indian Union, and were later merged into a single State of Travancore-Cochin. With the linguistic reorganisation of States, the Malayalam-speaking regions of Malabar and Travancore-Cochin were integrated into the State of Kerala on November 1st 1956. This realised a united Kerala, a dream held since the partition of the ancient Kerala Empire of Cheras in the eighth century. Today, people in Kerala live a largely traditional lifestyle, and much of the rich culture and heritage of the region is well-preserved.
November 1st is celebrated as Keralappiravi (Birth of Kerala) Day (also observed as Malayalam Divasam or Malayalam Day).