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KERALA

"GOD's own country". The whole world is His; but, this is HIS "country"!

Chinese fishing nets at CochinHouseboats on the backwaters

Kerala is a small state, tucked away in the south west corner of India. It represents only 1.18 percent of the total area of India but has 3.34% of the total population of the country. It is separated from the rest of the peninsula by natural geographic boundaries.

Kerala may be divided into three geographical regions (1) high land (2) mid land (3) low land.

The high lands slope down from the Western Ghats, which rise to an average height of 900m, with a number of peaks over 1,800 mtr in height. This is the area of major plantations like tea, coffee, rubber, cardamom and other species.

The mid land lies between the mountains and the low lands. It is made up of undulating hills and valleys. This is an area of intensive cultivation - cashew, coconut, areca nut, cassava, banana, rice, ginger, pepper, sugarcane and vegetables of different varieties are grown in this area.

The 'Western Ghats' with their rich primeval forests having a high degree of rainfall, form the eastern boundary and extend from the north to Kanyakumari in the south. The entire western border is caressed by the Arabian sea. Between these natural boundaries lies the narrow strip of land extending from Kasarkode in the north to Parasala in the south.

The south-west and north-east monsoons with their accompanying downpour keep the land soaked, for a period of five to six months in a year. The 'Anamudi' peak in the high ranges of Kottayam district rises to a height of 3,000 metres and represents the highest point in India, south of Himalayas. 'Agastyakutam' the southern most peak in the Ghats, is 2,044 metres. 'Ezhimala' is a rugged hill jutting into the sea in startling isolation on the Kannur coast. The range has many passes which have allowed a controlled interaction between Kerala, and the lands lying beyond the mountains. The 'Peranbadi Ghat' provides access to Coorg, the 'Periyar Ghat' to the Nilgiri district. The Palghat pass, 32 km broad, has played a bigger role in the alarums and excursions of history. In the south, the Bodinaikannur pass connects Devikulam and Munnar in Kerala with the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu. Other passes linking Kerala with Tamil Nadu are Thevaram, the Kambam, the Kumili and the Aramboly


Legends speak of Kerala as Parasuramakshetram, 'the land of Parasurama'. The land of Kerala is believed to be a gift of the Arabian Sea. Owing to its favourable location this land fostered trade and established contacts with Egypt, Assyria, Greeks, Romans and the Chinese. The Malayalam era 'Kollavarsha' is believed to have started in the 9th century A.D. During this period of internal strife in Kerala, Cheraman Perumal founded the Chera dynasty (9th century AD). In about 1498 the Portuguese came to Calicut and in 1502 to Kochi. Kerala was then divided into the Kingdoms of Malabar, Kochi and Travancore. In 1776, Malabar was under the rule of Hyder Ali. In 1792 Tipu Sultan ceded it to the British. While Malabar witnessed the direct rule of the British, Travancore and Kochi were princely states owing allegiance to the British. It was in 1949 that the three territories were integrated and in 1956 the state of Kerala was formed, and joined the Indian Union.


PEOPLE

Two to three thousand years ago, the life of the common people was not based on caste distinctions and prejudices. There was a broad division of the population on the basis of occupation, which was again based on the nature of the land they occupied. Kurinchi (mountain land ), Palai (arid land ), mullai (pastures), marutan (west land) and neytal (coastal land) were the divisions based on the nature of the land. The Kuravar (hunters) of Kurinchi, the maravar (fighting men) of Palai, the idayas (cowherds and shepherds ) of Mullai, the Uzhavas (agriculturists) of Marutam and the Paravas (fisher men) of the Neytal were all from the same race.

Most of these ancient tribes are of Negritto origin. The ancient Dravidian tribes following different occupations could be identified from their black colour. Kadars, the Muduvans and the Malayans belong to the early Dravidian race. The Kadars are said to be black, short and strongly built with flat nose and long black hair which they tie. They retain their primitive customs and manners.

The kadars, Ullatans, paniyans and malayans always kept themselves in hills and forests away from the later Aryan invaders. They live in groups and depended mostly on nature for all their needs. The religion of the Kadars was rude animism. They propitiated demons for sickness and calamities. Worship of Amman or Kali and Ayyan or Ayyappan was very common. Ancestor worship was also in vogue. They did a lot of dancing, singing and merry-making on festive occasions. The Malayas are taller than the Kadars, but they too have flat nose and thick lips.

Certain observances of pollution, are meticulously adhered to under strict discipline of the 'moopan' or head-man in religious and temporal matters. There is a belief which prevails among most of the hill tribes that if the pollution period for woman is not observed, the whole tribe will be exposed to disastrous consequences from the Maladaivangal or hill gods. They believe that the neglect of worship will lead to disease, failure of crop and other calamities. The touch of Malayan will pollute the Kadars and vice versa. Every tribe entertains such beliefs. The Parayan, Pulayan, Nayadi and Ullatan are all treated as Chandalas. But Nayadis are treated as superior to Ullatas. But no tribe will accept the superiority of the others!!


TOURISM

Kerala is the most densely populated state of India. High level education and health care has given Kerala an enviable reputation in India. The Hindus, Muslims and Christians live in a unique balance here.

In the Malayalam language, 'Kerala' means the 'land of coconuts'. Coconut trees dominate the coastal landscape.

Kerala is deeply affected by the monsoons, which start in June and last till September. The best season to visit Kerala is from October to February.


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