Kerala is a state in the southwestern India. Kerala borders Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the Arabian Sea, the Western Ghats and the Indian Ocean. The principal spoken language is Malayalam. Kerala ranks 21st by area and 12th by population nationwide.
Kerala is the Third World's longest-lived, healthiest, most gender-equitable, and most literate regions. Though the state's basic human development indices are roughly equivalent to those in the developed world, the state is substantially more environmentally sustainable than Europe and North America. Nevertheless, Kerala's suicide, alcoholism, and unemployment rates rank among India's highest. A survey conducted in 2005 by Transparency International ranked Kerala as the least corrupt state in the country.
The widely disputed etymology of Kerala is a matter of conjecture. In the prevailing theory, Kerala is an imperfect Malayalam portmanteau that fuses kera ("coconut palm tree") and alam ("land" or "location").Another theory is that the name originated from the phrase chera alam ("Land of the Chera"). Natives of Kerala, known as Keralites or Malayalees or Mallus, thus refer to their land as Keralam.
According to a legend, Parasurama, an avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the Indian Ocean. As a result, the land of Kerala arose and was reclaimed from the waters. During Neolithic times, humans largely avoided Kerala's rainforests and wetlands. There is evidence of the emergence of pre-historic pottery and granite burial monuments in the 10th century BC that resemble their counterparts in Western Europe and the rest of Asia. These were produced by speakers of a proto-Tamil language. Thus, Kerala and Tamil Nadu once shared a common language, ethnicity and culture; this common area was known as Tamilakam. Kerala became a linguistically separate region by the early 14th century. The ancient Cherans, whose mother tongue and court language was Tamil, ruled Kerala from their capital at Vanchi and was the first major recorded kingdom. Allied with the Pallavas, they continually warred against the neighboring Chola and Pandya kingdoms. A Keralite identity - distinct from the Tamils and associated with the second Chera empire - and the development of Malayalam evolved between the 8th and 14th centuries. In written records, Kerala was first mentioned in the Sanskrit epic Aitareya Aranyaka. Later, figures such as Katyayana, Patanjali, Pliny the Elder, and the unknown author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea displayed familiarity with Kerala.
The Chera kings' dependence on trade meant that merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala.Many, especially Jews and Christians, escaped persecution and established the Nasrani Mappila and Muslim Mappila communities. According to several scholars, the Jews first arrived in Kerala in 573 BC.The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings state that Thomas the Apostle visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 AD to proselytize amongst Kerala's Jewish settlements. However, the first verifiable migration of Jewish-Nasrani families to Kerala is of the arrival of Knai Thoma in 345 AD. Muslim merchants (Malik ibn Dinar) settled in Kerala by the 8th century AD. After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in 1498, the Portuguese gained control of the lucrative pepper trade by subduing Keralite communities and commerce.
Conflicts between the cities of Kozhikode (Calicut) and Kochi (Cochin) provided an opportunity for the Dutch to oust the Portuguese. In turn, the Dutch were ousted at the 1741 Battle of Colachel by Marthanda Varma of Travancore (Thiruvathaamkoor). Hyder Ali, heading the Mysore, conquered northern Kerala, capturing Kozhikode in 1766. In the late 18th century, Tipu Sultan, Ali's son and successor, launched campaigns against the expanding British East India Company; these resulted in two of the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. He ultimately ceded Malabar District and South Kanara to the Company in the 1790s. The Company then forged tributary alliances with Kochi (1791) and Travancore (1795). Malabar and South Kanara became part of the Madras Presidency.
Kerala saw comparatively little defiance of the British Raj. Nevertheless, several rebellions occurred, including the 1946 Punnapra-Vayalar revolt, and leaders like Veluthampi Dalava, Kunjali Marakkar, and Pazhassi Raja earned their place in history and folklore. Many actions, spurred by such leaders as Sree Narayana Guru and Chattampi Swamikal, instead protested such conditions as untouchable; 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; Cochin and Malabar soon did likewise. The 1921 Moplah Rebellion involved Mappila Muslims rioting against Hindus and the British Raj.
After India gained its independence in 1947, Travancore and Cochin were merged to form Travancore-Cochin on July 1, 1949. On January 1, 1950 (Republic Day), Travancore-Cochin was recognized as a state. The Madras Presidency was organized to form Madras State several years prior, in 1947. Finally, the Government of India's November 1, 1956 States Reorganization Act inaugurated the state of Kerala, incorporating Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks, which were merged with Tamil Nadu), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara. A new legislative assembly was also created, for which elections were first held in 1957. These resulted in a communist-led government through ballet - The world's first of its kind - headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Subsequent social reforms favored tenants and laborers. As a result, living standards, education, and life expectancy improved dramatically.
Kerala's fourteen districts are distributed among Kerala's three historical regions: Malabar (northern Kerala), Kochi (central Kerala), and Travancore (southern Kerala). Kerala's modern-day districts (listed in order from north to south) correspond to them as follows:
Malabar: Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad
Kochi: Thrissur, Ernakulam
Travancore: Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala's 14 revenue districts are further divided into 62 taluks, 1453 revenue villages and 1007 Gram panchayats.
Mahe, a part of the Indian union territory of Puducherry (Pondicherry), is a coastal exclave surrounded by Kerala on all of its landward approaches. Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) is the state capital and most populous city. Kochi is the most populous urban agglomeration and the major port city in Kerala. Kozhikode and Thrissur are the other major commercial centers of the state. The High Court of Kerala is at Ernakulam.
Kerala's culture is derived from both a greater Tamil-heritage region known as Tamilakam and southern coastal Karnataka. Later, Kerala's culture was elaborated upon through centuries of contact with neighboring and overseas cultures. Native performing arts include koodiyattom, kathakali - from katha ("story") and kali ("performance")- and its offshoot Kerala natanam, koothu (akin to stand-up comedy), mohiniaattam ("dance of the enchantress"), thullal, padayani, and theyyam.
Other forms of art are more religious or tribal in nature. These include chavittu nadakom, oppana (originally from Malabar), which combines dance, rhythmic hand clapping, and ishal vocalizations. However, many of these art forms largely play to tourists or at youth festivals, and are not as popular among most ordinary Keralites. These people look to more contemporary art and performance styles, including those employing mimicry and parody.
Kerala's music also has ancient roots. Carnatic music dominates Keralite traditional music. This was the result of Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma's popularization of the genre in the 19th century. Raga-based renditions known as sopanam accompany kathakali performances. Melam (including the paandi and panchari variants) is a more percussive style of music; it is performed at hindu temple centered festivals using the chenda. Melam ensembles comprise up to 150 musicians, and performances may last up to four hours. Panchavadyam is a different form of percussion ensemble, in which up to 100 artists use five types of percussion instrument. Kerala has various styles of folk and tribal music. The popular music of Kerala is dominated by the filmi music of Indian cinema. Kerala's visual arts range from traditional murals to the works of Raja Ravi Varma, the state's most renowned painter.
Kerala has its own Malayalam calendar, which is used to plan agricultural and religious activities. Kerala's cuisine is typically served as a sadhya on green banana leaves. Such dishes as idli, payasam, pulisherry, puttucuddla, puzhukku, rasam, and sambar are typical. Keralites traditionally don flowing and unstitched garments. These include the mundu, a loose piece of cloth wrapped around men's waists. Women typically wear the sari, a long and elaborately wrapped banner of cloth, wearable in various styles.
More on Kerala at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerala