To know Kerala you need to understand her unique geographical layout that made her what she is.
As on the map, Kerala is a strip of a state on the south- western edge of the Indian peninsula, just 650 km long and 120km at its widest. This land, sandwiched between the Arabian Sea to the west and a tropical mountain range to its east, is from where the monsoon starts (the rainy season for the rest of the Indian sub-continent).
Forty-four mountain rivers further cut up this tropical strip into fertile river deltas (that’s a river every 15 km) making Kerala a lush, wet and explosively fertile bit of real estate, distinctly different from the rest of India and the world.
This unique biosphere has given rise to such rare and unique herbs, spices, fruits and animals that it altered World History. For centuries Kerala was the most sought after destination worldwide being the birthplace of Pepper at a time when pepper was far more valuable than gold. Her liberal and intelligent rulers welcomed trade settlers and set up seaports from the days of King Solomon. Incidentally, the entire American continent was discovered by the western world in its frenzied quest for a direct sea route to Kerala ! That explains why Native Americans are mistakenly called Red Indians to this day.
As descendants of settlers from the Middle East, China, Europe and Africa since centuries mingled with the local populace, it gave rise to a multi-cultural mix that reflects in the everyday life here, even to this day. Here are some interesting facts: -
- King Solomon and Cleopatra is said to have picked up their spices, elephants and timber from here.
- Christianity hit Kerala within years of Jesus's death on the cross.
- Among the worlds first Christians were Keralites, a good 400 years before Europeans embraced it.
- Arabic settlers were here even before the advent of Islam !
- Hindus, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Jains, Buddists and others have lived here since the last 2000 years and more, in great harmony.
- Many Portugese and Chinese words have been assimilated into Malayalam - the native language of Kerala
- Chinese fishing nets are still in vogue here.
- Kerala is also the first state in the world to have an elected Communist government that sincerely and effectively brought about sweeping land reforms and free education for all.
To quote Bill McKibben - National Geographic Traveler
" In the mornings, from nearly anywhere in Kerala, you can hear loud music from the Hindu temples, wailing muezzins at the mosques, and church bells ringing at the cathedrals. Religious tolerance is just one reason for Kerala's success. The state government has affected sweeping land reforms and spends almost half of its budget on health and education. A heritage of female-headed households means women have always been equal participants here”
“This small state in India, though not much larger than Maryland, has a population as big as California's. But its infant mortality rate is low, its literacy rate among the highest on Earth, and its birthrate below America's and falling faster. Kerala's citizens live nearly as long as Americans or Europeans. Though mostly a land of paddy-covered plains, statistically Kerala stands out as the Mount Everest of social development; there's truly no place like it.”
Kerala is thus a tightly packaged holiday destination with a range like no other.Beaches, lagoons, mountains and tropical forests packed in just 150 km. Add to it a heady cultural cocktail of its educated peoples and their vibrant cultures to give you an experience you are not likely to forget.
Aspects of Kerala to seek out and savour are :-
- Beaches and back waters - house boats, placid lakes, fresh water fishing, Chinese fishing nets, beaches, fisher folks, sea food & .....boat races! Check out if you can be here during the boat races- 40 to 30m long boats powered by a 120 oarsmen each!
- Mountain range sights - water falls, lakes, spice plantations, teak, tea and coffee estates in the mountains
- Wild life - Elephants, Tigers, leopards, snakes, monkeys, bison, deer and so on in a tropical forest setting!
- Plains - nutmeg trees, coconut trees, jack fruits, pine apples, paddy, etc. utensils of Terracotta, Bamboo and wood
- Ayurveda - an ancient system of healing that relied on the multitude of herbs unique to Kerala
- Festivals at Temple, old Churches, Mosques, etc.
- Vibrant dance and art forms of Kerala, her unique architecture, attire and jewellery
- Kerala is clean. Even the poor bathe daily.
- Her unique cuisine - dont forget a sadhya
- (traditional feast on a plantain leaf)
For more details about Kerala http://www.keralatourism.org/