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Kerala (or 'Keralam') is a state in South India. It is known for being the most literate state in India, with a literacy rate greater than 90%. It is also the only state in India with a sex ratio of more than 990 females/1000 males (the ratio for Kerala is 1058 females/1000 males), according to the 2001 census.

Capital Thiruvananthapuram
Area 38,863 kmē
 - Total (2001)
 - Density

Sex ratio 1058 (2001)
Literacy rate (2001):
 - Total
 - Male
 - Female

Date of formation November 1, 1956
Latitude 8°18'N to 12°48'N
Longitude 74°52E to 72°22'E
Width 35 - 120 km
Length 580 km
Governor R. L. Bhatia
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy


The State of Kerala was formed by the amalgamation of three regions: the Kingdom of Thiruvithamcoore (Travancore), the Kingdom of Kochi (Cochin), and the Province of Malabar. Thiruvithaamcoore and Kochi, former princely states, were merged to form Thiru-Kochi on July 1, 1949. Malabar was merged with Thiru-Kochi to form the State of Kerala on November 1, 1956, based on the recommendations of the State Reorganisation Commission set up by the Government of India.

Kerala is divided into 14 districts. They are (from north to south) Kasargod, Kannur (Cannanore), Wayanad (Wynad), Kozhikode (Calicut), Malappuram, Palakkad (Palghat), Thrissur (Trichur), Ernakulam (Cochin), Idukki, Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Kollam (Quilon) and Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)

Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of the state. Kochi and Kozhikode are the other major cities in Keralam.


More than 95% of the people in Kerala speak Malayalam.

The major religions followed in Kerala are Hinduism (56%), Christianity (25%), and Islam (19%). Kerala also has a tiny Jewish population, said to date from 587 BC when they fled the occupation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The state has many famous temples, churches, and mosques. The synagogue in Kochi is the oldest in India.


Kovalam Beach - tourists and fishermen
Kovalam Beach - tourists and fishermen

Kerala occupies a narrow strip of India's southwestern coast. It is bounded by the Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghats on the east. The states of Karnataka in the north and Tamil Nadu in the east are Kerala's immediate neighbours. Mahe, a part of the union territory of Pondicherry, is an enclave within Kerala.


Kerala gained the distinction, in 1957, of having the first democratically elected Communist government anywhere in the world. Kerala has a reputation as being one of the most left-wing states in India. People of Kerala are very politically aware and are more active participants in the political process than those in the rest of the country.Today the political life of Kerala is dominated by two alliances, the United Democratic Front (led by the Indian National Congress) and the Left Democratic Front (led by CPI(M)). Currently UDF controls the government.

Following is the chronological list of Chief Ministers of Kerala


Kerala has a rich tradition in the arts, both classical and folk. In addition to the classical upper-caste art forms like Koodiyattom (UNESCO Human Heritage Art), Kathakali, Mohiniyaattam and Thullal , Kerala has several folk art forms performed by non-upper-castes in various regions of the state. The region also has a tradition of Christian and Muslim performing arts. Most of these art forms have become artefacts of the past showcased in tourism fares or youth festivals,as contemporary art forms weave their own identity according to changing needs. Mimicry and parody have gained considerable mass appeal in recent years. Though sometimes risque and often politically incorrect, these devices are used by artists to mock social luminaries. Malayalam Cinema is another mode of artistic expression, and films from Kerala are very distinct from films made in Bollywood or Hollywood.

Apart from such performing arts, Kerala has made its mark in Fine Arts as well. Modern Indian art scenario is blessed with the presence of Kerala. However these artists have not been successful in invoking mass appeal as other artforms do.

Social scene

 Mountain and Tea estates view
Munnar Mountain and Tea estates view

Kerala ranks highest in India with respect to social development indices such as primary education and healthcare. Kerala was declared the world's first "baby-friendly state" under WHO-UNICEF's Baby Friendly Hospital initiative. The state is known for Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine which has found a new market in the growing tourist industry.

The literacy rate in Kerala is the highest among Indian states, but so is the unemployment rate. Education and early influences of Arabs and Portuguese have also made Kerala one of the most secular states in India. Ironically, Kerala is also noted as the state with the highest suicide rate in India.

Kerala has an ancient solar calendar called the Malayalam calendar which is used by various communities primarily for religious functions. Kerala has its own form of martial art, kalarippayattu. Theyyam and Poorakkali are popular ritual arts of North Malabar, the northern part of Kerala.

Onam, associated with the legend of Mahabali is declared the state festival, but Keralites celebrate many other religious and secular festivals, including Eid-ul-Fitr, Easter, Deepavali and Vishu.


Kerala's economy can be best described as a socialistic welfare economy .

However, Kerala's emphasis on social welfare also resulted in slow economic progress. There are few major industries in Kerala, and the per capita GDP is lower than the national average of 360 USD per year (1998). Remittances from Keralites working abroad, mainly in the Middle East, make up over 60% of the state's GDP.

Agriculture is the most important economic activity. Coconut, tea and coffee are grown extensively, along with rubber, cashew and spices. Spices commonly cultivated in Kerala include pepper, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Much of Kerala's agriculture is in the form of home gardens.


Kerala is a popular tourist destination for both domestic and foreign travellers. Among the tourist attractions are great beaches (Kovalam and Varkala), serene hill stations (Ponmudi and Munnar), wildlife sanctuaries (Periyar and Eravikulam ) and beautiful Kerala Backwaters (Kumarakom and Punnamada ), as also the marvel of kerala building art revealed through Padmanabhapuram Palace, Padmanabhapuram. The tourism department of the state calls it God's Own Country. National Geographic Society described Kerala as one of the 50 must-see destinations of a lifetime. Kochi, the commercial capital of the state is known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea. Alapuzha, the first planned town in Kerala is called the Venice of the East. Tourism plays an important role in the state's economy.

Livestock sector

Livestock sector plays a vital role in the economy of Kerala. This sector has high potential for alleviating poverty and unemployment in rural areas. The majority of livestock owning farmers are either small and marginal or even landless. In view of its suitability for combining with crop subsector and its sustainability as a household enterprise with the active involvement of the farm women, livestock rearing is emerging as a very popular supplementary vocation in the small farm segment. Rural women play a significant role in the development of the livestock subsector and are involved in operations like feeding, milking, breeding, management, health care and running micro-enterprises. It is estimated that about 32 lakh (3.2 million) out of the total number of 55 lakh (5.5 million) households in Kerala are engaged in livestock rearing for supplementing their income. The homestead settlement pattern, the relatively high level of literacy particularly among women, the highly favourable agroclimatic conditions conducive for biomass production and the long tradition in livestock rearing are inherent strengths which the Kerala economy possesses in favour of livestock rearing.

Road Network

India has more than 3.3 million km of road network at present making it one of the largest in the world. Length of roads in Kerala is 145704 km (4.2 percent of that in India). Kerala has 4.62 km of road per thousand population, against the national figure of 2.59 km. Road network in Kerala has the distinction of achieving connectivity to all the villages in Kerala. But as the villages are relatively large compared to other states, the development has not ensured connectivity of all the habitats. Main arterial roads are built and maintained by the Kerala Public Works Department.

Traffic on the roads in Kerala has been growing at a rate of 10 to 11 percent every year, resulting in excessive pressure on the roads. Total road length in Kerala increased by 5 percent during 2003-2004. The road density in Kerala is nearly four times the national average, and is a reflection of the unique settlement patterns in the State.

National Highways form the prime arterial routes in India, spanning 58,112 km throughout the country and cater to about 45 percent of the total road transport demand. The National Highway network in Kerala is 1524 km, only 2.6 percent of the national total. There are eight National Highways in the State.

A major challenge has been taken by the state government for the upgradation and expansion of important roads to the standards prescribed by the Indian Road Congress for each category of road. Upgradation and maintenance of 1600 km of state highways and major district roads have been taken up under the Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP).


People have lived in the region now known as Kerala since ancient times. The Sanskrit epic Aitareya Aranyaka has the earliest specific mention of Kerala. Katyayana (4th century BC) and Patanjali (2nd century BC) show their acquaintance with the geography of Kerala. Pliny the Elder mentions Muziris (modern Kodungallur) as the first port in India (N.H. 6.26); slightly later in time, the unknown author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea notes that both Muziris and Nelkunda (modern Kottayam) are "now busy places".

The Chera dynasty ruled the area of Kerala from ancient times with Tamil as their court language. Allied with the Pallavas, they were continually at war with the neighbouring kingdoms of the Cholas and Pandyas. The Chera capital was Vanchi, whose exact location is still a matter of conjecture. Both Buddhism and Jainism reached Kerala at an early period, but would largely be supplanted by Hinduism via the bhakti movement. Meanwhile, Arab merchants founded Kerala's substantial Muslim community, the Mappilas, in the 8th century. A regional identity distinct from the Tamils developed in the 14th century with the development of the Malayalam language.

Vasco da Gama's voyage to Kerala from Portugal in 1498 was largely motivated by Portuguese determination to break the Kerala Muslims' control over the trade between local spice producers and the Middle East. He established India's first Portuguese fortress at Cochin (Kochi) in 1503 and from there, taking advantage of rivalry existing between the royal families of Calicut and Cochin, managed to destroy the monopoly. The dispute between Calicut and Cochin, however, provided an opportunity for the Dutch to come in and finally expel the Portuguese from their forts.

The Portuguese were surprised to discover, when they arrived in Kerala, that Christianity was already established. The history of Christianity in Kerala dates back to the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle at Kodungallur in A.D. 52. A Christian-Jewish community was founded by a contingent of Syriac-Nasranis who arrived in 192 via Baghdad.

The Dutch would, in turn, be routed by the Thiruvithamcoore ruler Marthanda Varma at the Battle of Kulachal in 1741. The British moved into the area in the form of the British East India Company and were firmly established in Kerala by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Tipu Sultan attempted to encroach on British-held territory in 1792, but was defeated and the British remained in control until independence.

Organised expressions of discontent with the British rule were relatively infrequent in Kerala. Uprisings of note include the Mappila Rebellion of 1921 and the Punnapra-Vayalar revolt of 1946. Mass protests were mainly directed at established social evils such as untouchability and unapproachability. The non-violent and largely peaceful Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924 was instrumental in securing entry to the public roads adjacent to the Vaikom temple for people belonging to backward castes. In 1936, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balaramavarma Maharaja, ruler of Thiruvithamcoore issued the Temple Entry Proclamation , declaring the temples of his kingdom open to all worshippers, irrespective of caste.

Modern Kerala was created in 1956 from Malabar, which had been part of the Madras Presidency, and from Travancore and Kochi. The latter two were princely states, somewhat unique among their kind in that they had concerned themselves with the education and provision of basic services to the residents of their territories.

Related Information

List of famous Keralites

External links

Last updated: 06-02-2005 04:01:59
Last updated: 09-02-2005 16:52:30