Chinese fishing nets (Cheena vala) of Fort Kochi (Fort Cochin)
The Chinese fishing nets (Cheena vala) of Fort Kochi (Fort Cochin) in the City of Kochi (Cochin), in the Indian State of Kerala, are fixed land installations for an unusual form of fishing — shore operated lift nets. Huge mechanical contrivances hold out horizontal nets of 20 m or more across. Each structure is at least 10 m high and comprises a cantilever with an outstretched net suspended over the sea and large stones suspended from ropes as counterweights at the other end. Each installation is operated by a team of up to six fishermen.
The system is sufficiently balanced that the weight of a man walking along the main beam is sufficient to cause the net to descend into the sea. The net is left for a short time, possibly just a few minutes, before it is raised by pulling on ropes. The catch is usually modest: a few fish and crustaceans — these may be sold to passers by within minutes.
The system of counterweights is most ingenious. Rocks, each 30 cm or so in diameter are suspended from ropes of different lengths. As the net is raised, some of the rocks one-by-one come to rest on a platform thereby keeping everything in balance.
Each installation has a limited operating depth. Consequently, an individual net cannot be continually operated in tidal waters. Different installations will be operated depending on the state of the tide.
It is received wisdom that the nets are Chinese in origin. This is not as improbable as the 5,000 km distance from China might suggest — Kochi is a very important centre for the spice trade attracting traders from far and wide. Some suppose that the nets were introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He.
The Chinese fishing nets have become a very popular tourist attraction, their size and elegant construction is very photogenic and the slow rhythm of their operation is quite hypnotic. In addition, catches can be purchased individually and need be taken only a short distance to a street entrepreneur who will cook it.
Kochi Malayalam: കൊച്ചി, formerly known as Cochin
Kochi Malayalam: കൊച്ചി, formerly known as Cochin, is a city in the Indian state of Kerala. The city is one of the principal seaports of the country and is located in the district of Ernakulam, about 220 kilometres (137 mi) north of the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. It has an estimated population of 600,000, with an extended metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, making it the largest urban agglomeration and the second largest city in Kerala after the capital.
In 1102 CE, Kochi became the seat of the Kingdom of Cochin, a princely state which traces its lineage to the Kulasekhara empire. Heralded as the Queen of Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the Arabian Sea coast since the 14th century. Ancient travellers and tradesmen referred to Kochi in their writings, variously alluding to it as Cocym, Cochym, Cochin, and Cochi. Occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, Kochi was the site of the first European colonial settlement in India. It remained the capital of Portuguese India until 1530, when they opted for Goa as their capital. The city was later occupied by the Dutch, the Mysore and the British. Kochi was the first princely state to willingly join the Indian Union, when India gained independence in 1947.
Kochi entered a period of economic growth after 2000, leading to a spurt in the city's development. A growing centre of information technology, tourism and international trade, Kochi is the commercial hub of Kerala, and one of the fastest growing second-tier metros in India. Like other large cities in the developing world, Kochi continues to struggle with urbanisation problems such as traffic congestion and environmental degradation.
Successive waves of migration over the course of several millennia have made Kochi a cultural melting pot. Despite the risk of overdevelopment, the city retains its distinct colonial heritage and a blend of tradition and modernity.
Cheena vala (Chinese fishing nets).
Theories regarding the etymology of the name 'Kochi' are disputed. One suggests that the city's modern name is derived from the Malayalam word koch azhi, meaning 'small lagoon'. Another version mentions the name as derivative of the Sanskrit word Go shree which means 'prosperous with cows'. Certain ancient texts refer to the city Balapuri (Sanskrit for 'small town'), which became Cochin in course of time. According to some accounts, traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan gave Cochin the name of their homeland. Yet another theory is that Kochi is derived from the word Kaci meaning 'harbour'. Accounts by Italian explorers Nicolo Conti (15th century), and Fra Paoline in the 17th century say that it was called Kochchi, named after the river connecting the backwaters to the sea.
After the arrival of the Portuguese, and later the British, the name Cochin stuck as the official appellation. The city reverted to a closer anglicisation of its original Malayalam name, Kochi, in 1996. However, it is still widely referred to as Cochin, with the city corporation retaining its name as Corporation of Cochin.
Kochi was the centre of Indian spice trade for many centuries, and was known to the Yavanas (Greeks) as well as Romans, Jews, Arabs, and Chinese since ancient times. Kochi rose to significance as a trading centre after the port at Kodungallur (Cranganore) was destroyed by massive flooding of the river Periyar in 1341. The earliest documented references to Kochi occur in books written by Chinese voyager Ma Huan during his visit to Kochi in the 15th century as part of Admiral Zheng He's treasure fleet. There are also references to Kochi in accounts written by Italian traveller Niccolò Da Conti, who visited Kochi in 1440.
The Kingdom of Kochi came into existence in 1102, after the fall of the Kulasekhara empire. The King of Kochi had authority over the region encompassing the present city of Kochi and adjoining areas. The reign was hereditary, and the family that ruled over Kochi was known as the Cochin Royal Family (Perumpadappu Swaroopam in the local vernacular). The mainland Kochi remained the capital of the princely state since the 18th century. However, during much of this time, the kingdom was under foreign rule, and the King often only had titular privileges.
Fort Kochi in Kochi was the first European colonial settlement in India. From 1503 to 1663, Fort Kochi was ruled by Portugal. This Portuguese period was a harrowing time for the Jews living in the region, as the Inquisition was active in Portuguese India. Kochi hosted the grave of Vasco da Gama, the first European explorer to set sail for India, who was buried at St. Francis Church until his remains were returned to Portugal in 1539. The Portuguese rule was followed by that of the Dutch, who had allied with the Zamorins in order to conquer Kochi. By 1773, the Mysore King Hyder Ali extended his conquest in the Malabar region to Kochi forcing it to become a tributary of Mysore. The hereditary Prime Ministership of Kochi held by the Paliath Achans came to an end during this period.
Meanwhile, the Dutch, fearing an outbreak of war on the United Provinces signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 with the United Kingdom, under which Kochi was ceded to the United Kingdom in exchange for the island of Bangka. However, there are evidences of English habitation in the region even prior to the signing of the treaty. In 1866, Fort Kochi became a municipality, and its first Municipal Council election was conducted in 1883. The Maharaja of Cochin, who ruled under the British, in 1896 initiated local administration by forming town councils in Mattancherry and Ernakulam. In 1925, Kochi legislative assembly was constituted due to public pressure on the state.
Towards the early 20th century, trade at the port had increased substantially, and the need to develop the port was greatly felt. Harbour engineer Robert Bristow was brought to Kochi in 1920 under the direction of Lord Willingdon, then the Governor of Madras. In a span of 21 years, he transformed Kochi as one of the safest harbours in the peninsula, where ships berthed alongside the newly reclaimed inner harbour equipped with a long array of steam cranes.
In 1947, when India gained independence from the British colonial rule, Cochin was the first princely state to join the Indian Union willingly. In 1949, Travancore-Cochin state came into being with the merger of Cochin and Travancore. The King of Travancore was the Rajpramukh of the Travancore-Cochin Union from 1949 to 1956. Travancore-Cochin, was in turn merged with the Malabar district of the Madras State. Finally, the Government of India's States Reorganisation Act (1956) inaugurated a new state — Kerala — incorporating Travancore-Cochin (excluding the four southern Taluks which were merged with Tamil Nadu), Malabar District, and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara. On 9 July 1960, the Mattancherry council passed a resolution—which was forwarded to the government—requesting the formation of a municipal corporation by combining the existing municipalities of Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, and Ernakulam. The government appointed a commission to study the feasibility of the suggested merger. Based on its report, the Kerala Legislative Assembly approved the corporation's formation. On 1 November 1967, exactly eleven years since the establishment of the state of Kerala, the corporation of Cochin came into existence. The merger leading to the establishment of the corporation, was between the municipalities of Ernakulam, Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, along with that of the Willingdon Island, four panchayats (Palluruthy, Vennala, Vyttila and Edappally), and the small islands of Gundu and Ramanthuruth.
Kochi witnessed economic stagnation in the years following India's independence. The city's economic recovery gathered momentum after economic reforms in India introduced by the central government in the mid-1990s. Since 2000, the service sector has revitalised the city’s stagnant economy. The establishment of several industrial parks based on Information technology (IT) and other port based infrastructure triggered a construction and realty boom in the city. Over the years, Kochi has witnessed rapid commercialisation, and has today grown into the commercial capital of Kerala.
See also: Kingdom of Cochin and Cochin Royal Family
Geography and climate
Kochi is located on the southwest coast of India at 9°58′N 76°13′E / 9.967°N 76.217°E, spanning an area of 94.88 square kilometres (36.63 sq mi). The city is situated at the northern end of a peninsula, about 19 kilometres (12 mi) long and less than one mile (1.6 km) wide. To the west lies the Arabian Sea, and to the east are estuaries drained by perennial rivers originating in the Western Ghats. Much of Kochi lies at sea level, with a coastline of 48 km.
The current metropolitan limits of Kochi include the mainland Ernakulam, old Kochi, the suburbs of Edapally, Kalamassery and Kakkanad to the northeast; Tripunithura to the south east; and a group of islands closely scattered in the Vembanad Lake. Most of these islands are very small, varying in extent from six square kilometre to less than a square kilometre (1,500 to less than 250 acres).
Soil consists of sediments such as alluvium, teri's, brown sands etc. Hydromorphic saline soils are also found in the areas surrounding the backwaters. Predominant rock types found here are Archaean-basic dykes, Charnockites and Gneisses. An ecologically sensitive area, the Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary is located in the central part of the city. It has a wide range of mangrove species and is nesting ground for a vast variety of migratory birds. Certain species of dolphins are also present in the backwaters.
Kochi's proximity to the equator along with its coastal location results in little seasonal temperature variation, with moderate to high levels of humidity. Annual temperatures range between 20 to 35 °C (68–95 °F) with the record high being 34 °C (96 °F), and record low 17 °C (63 °F). From June through September, the south-west monsoon brings in heavy rains as Kochi lies on the windward side of the Western Ghats. From October to December, Kochi receives light rain from the northwest monsoon, as it lies on the leeward side. Average annual rainfall is 274 cm (108 in), with an annual average of 132 rainy days.
The city is administered by the Kochi Corporation, headed by a mayor. For administrative purposes, the city is divided into 70 wards, from which the members of the corporation council are elected for a period of five years. Earlier; Fort Cochin, Mattancherry and Ernakulam were the three Municipalities in Cochin area, which was later merged to form the Cochin Corporation. The Corporation has its headquarters in Ernakulam, and zonal offices at Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Palluruthy, Edappally, Vaduthala and Vyttila. The general administration of the city is handled by the Personnel Department and the Council Section. Other departments include that of town planning, health, engineering, revenue and accounts. The corporation is also responsible for waste disposal, sewage management and the supply of potable water, sourced from the Periyar River. Electricity is provided by the Kerala State Electricity Board.
The Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) is the government agency overseeing the development of Kochi. The Kochi City Police is headed by a Police Commissioner, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. It comprises the traffic police, Narcotics Cell, Armed Reserve Camps, District Crime Records Bureau, Senior citizen's Cell, and a Women's Cell. It operates 19 police stations functioning under the Home Ministry of State Government. An anti-corruption branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation also operates out of the city. Kochi is the seat of the High Court of Kerala, the highest judicial body in the state.
Kochi contributes five seats to the State Assembly, and a seat to the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the Indian Parliament.
Kochi is the economic capital of Kerala by volume of trade; though, unlike other leading South Indian cities, Kochi has been slow to industrialise. In recent years the city has witnessed heavy investment, thus making it one of the fastest-growing second-tier metro cities in India. Sales tax income generated in the Kochi metropolitan area contributes heavily to state revenue. The economy of the city can be classified as a business economy with emphasis on the service sector. Major business sectors include gold and textile retailing, seafood and spices exports, information technology (IT), tourism, health services, banking, shipbuilding, and the fishing industry. The economy is mostly dependent on trade and retail activities. As in most of Kerala, remittances from non-resident Indians (NRI)s is a major source of income. The city also houses Kerala's only bourse—the Cochin Stock Exchange.
Kochi is a major destination for IT and ITES companies, ranked by NASSCOM as the second-most attractive city in India for IT-based services. Availability of cheap bandwidth through undersea cables and lower operational costs compared to other major cities in India, has been to its advantage. Various technology and industrial campuses including the government promoted InfoPark, Cochin Special Economic Zone and KINFRA Export Promotion Industrial Park operate in the outskirts of the city. Several new industrial campuses for research, trade and development in biotechnology, electronic hardware and information technology are in various stages of construction in the suburbs of the city. Prominent among them are the Sobha Hi-tech city at Maradu and the SmartCity at Kakkanad, which on completion, would rank among the largest such ventures in the country. The 9 Special Economic Zones in the outskirts of the city, sanctioned in private sector by the Government of Kerala recently, is expected to boost the IT investment in the area. The Kochi International Trade and Exhibition Centre which is proposed at Kalamasserry, a suburb of Kochi, would rank among the tallest buildings in India at 500 meters (100 floors) upon completion. The Cochin International Airport is also in the process of setting up an aerotropolis at Nedumbasserry.
Eloor, situated 17 kilometres (10.5 mi) north of the city, is the largest industrial belt in Kerala, with more than 250 industries manufacturing a range of products including chemical and petrochemical products, pesticides, rare earth elements, rubber processing chemicals, fertilisers, zinc and chromium compounds, and leather products.
Kochi is the headquarters of the Southern Naval Command, the primary training centre of the Indian Navy. The Cochin Shipyard in Kochi is the largest shipbuilding facility in India. The Cochin fishing harbour, located at Thoppumpady is a major fishing port in the state and supplies fish to local and export markets. To further tap the potential of the all-season deep-water harbour at Kochi, an international cruise terminal and several marinas are being constructed.
Exports and allied activities are also important contributors to the city's economy. The Cochin Port currently handles export and import of container cargo at its terminal at Willingdon Island. A new international container transshipment terminal—the first in the country—is being commissioned at Vallarpadam, which is expected to be a major transshipment port in India. Kochi's historical reliance on trade continues into modern times, as the city is a major exporter of spices and is home to the International Pepper Exchange, where black pepper is globally traded. The Spices Board of India is also headquartered in Kochi.
Kochi also has an oil refinery—the Kochi Refineries (BPCL) at Ambalamugal. Central Government establishments like the Coconut Development Board, the Coir Board and the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) have head offices located in the city.
Public transport in the city is largely dependent on private buses. Taxis and auto rickshaws (called autos) are available for hire throughout the day. Narrow roads and the mix of vastly differing types of vehicles have made traffic congestion a problem in the city. A metro rapid transit service, intended to considerably ease congestion, is currently awaiting sanction of Union govt.
Because it is one of the safest harbours in the Indian Ocean, Kochi ranks among India's major seaports. The port, administered by a statutory autonomous body known as the Cochin Port Trust, offers facilities for bunkering, handling cargo and passenger ships and storage accommodation. It also operates passenger ships to Colombo and Lakshadweep. Boat services operated by Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation, the State Water Transport Department, and of private ownership are available from various boat jetties in the city. The junkar ferry for the transshipment of vehicles and passengers between the islands are operated between Ernakulam and Vypin, and between Vypin and Fort Kochi. However, with the construction of the Goshree bridges (which links Kochi's islands), ferry transport has become less essential.
The Cochin International Airport, which is about 25 kilometres (15 mi) north of the city, handles both domestic and international flights. It is the largest airport of Kerala, and one of the busiest in India. It is the first international airport in India to be built without Central Government funds. An airport run by the Navy also operates in the city. A third airport, for use by the Indian Coast Guard, is under construction in the suburbs.
There is no intra-city rail transport system in Kochi. The inter-city rail transport system in the city is administered by the Southern Railway Zone of the Indian Railways. There are two main railway stations—the Ernakulam Junction and the Ernakulam Town (locally known as the 'South' and 'North' railway stations respectively). The railway line connecting these two stations cuts the city longitudinally in two, with two narrow bridges connecting the two halves.
As of 2007, Kochi had a population of 1,519,000 with a density of 6489 persons per square kilometre. Scheduled castes and tribes comprise 14% of the city's population. The female-to-male ratio is 1,024:1,000, significantly higher than the all-India average of 933:1,000. Kochi's literacy rate is 94%. The female literacy rate lags that of males by 1.1%, amongst the lowest such gaps in India.
Kochi's major religions are Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam; Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Buddhism have smaller followings. Though 51% practise Hinduism, Christianity's large following (35%) makes Kochi a city with one of the largest Christian populations in India.
Slums next to high-rise commercial buildings in Kaloor, Kochi. Hundreds of people, mostly comprising migrant labourers who come to the city seeking job prospects, reside in such shabby areas.
The majority of residents are Malayalis; however, there are significant ethnic minority communities including Tamils, Gujaratis, Jews, Sikkimese, Anglo-Indians, Konkanis, and Tuluvas. Malayalam is the main language of communication and medium of instruction, although English is more commonly used in business circles. Tamil and Hindi are widely understood—albeit rarely spoken.
Like other fast-growing cities in the developing world, Kochi suffers from major urbanisation problems, poor sanitation, and unemployment. However, a survey conducted in 2007 by a private agency considered Kochi to be the best city to live in India.
The city registered an increase of 9.7 percentage points in its unemployment rate from 14.8% in 1998 to 24.5% in 2003. Shortage of potable water is a major concern in the city. The situation is aggravated by the threat posed by pollution in industrial areas. The city also has a growing slum-dwelling population. The government has plans to make the city slum-free by 2016. Kochi has a high suicide rate with 32 suicides per lakh, which is three times higher than the national average of 11.2 per lakh. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Kochi has one of highest rates of crime in India—498.6, against the national average of 287.3. However, a survey conducted by The Week, found Kochi to be the safest city in India for women.
As a result of successive waves of migration over the course of several centuries, the population of the city is a mix of people from all parts of Kerala and most of India. The pan-Indian nature is highlighted by the substantial presence of various ethnic communities from different parts of the country. Kochi has a diverse, multicultural, and secular community consisting of Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists among other denominations, all living in peaceful co-existence. The city once had a large Jewish community, known as the Malabar Yehuden—and now increasingly as Cochin Jews—that figured prominently in Kochi's business and economic strata. The Syro-Malabar Church, one of the 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches, has its seat at Ernakulam. Prominent places of worship include the St. Mary's Cathedral and the St. Antony's Shrine at Kaloor. Appropriate to its multi-ethnic composition, Kochi celebrates traditional Kerala festivals like Onam and Vishu along with North Indian Hindu festivals like Holi and Diwali with great fervour. Christian and Islamic festivals like Christmas, Easter, Eid ul-Fitr and Milad-e-sherif are also celebrated. A merry making fest called the Cochin Carnival is celebrated at Fort Kochi during the last ten days of December.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi is one of the largest multi-use stadiums in India
The residents of Kochi are known as Kochiites; they are an important part of the South Indian culture. However, the city's culture is rapidly evolving with Kochiites generally becoming more cosmopolitan in their outlook. The people are also increasingly fashion-conscious, often deviating from the traditional Kerala wear to western clothing.
Kochiites generally partake of Keralite cuisine, which is generally characterised by an abundance of coconut and spices. Other South Indian cuisines, as well as Chinese and North Indian cuisines are popular. Fast food culture is also very prominent.
Kochi was home to some of the most influential figures in Malayalam literature, including Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, Kesari Balakrishna Pillai, G. Sankara Kurup, and Vyloppilli Sreedhara Menon. Prominent social reformers such as Sahodaran Ayyappan and Pandit Karuppan also are from Kochi.
The Maharajas of Kochi (then Cochin) were scholars who knew the epics and encouraged the arts. The paintings at the Hill Palace and the Dutch Palace are testimony to their love.
Kochiites are known for their enthusiasm in sports, especially cricket and football. The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi is one of the largest multi-use stadiums in India with International Class Lighting for Day and Night Matches. The Regional Sports Centre is an important centre of sporting activity in the city.
Schools and colleges in the city are either run by the government or by private trusts and individuals. The schools are each affiliated with either the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or the Kerala State Education Board. English is the medium of instruction in most private schools; though government run schools offer both English and Malayalam. After completing their secondary education, which involves ten years of schooling, students typically enrol at Higher Secondary School in one of the three streams—Arts, Commerce or Science. Upon completing the required coursework, the student can enroll in general or professional degree programmes.
The Cochin University is situated in the city. Most of the colleges offering tertiary education are affiliated either with the Mahatma Gandhi University or the Cochin University. Other national educational institutes include the Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training, the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, the National Institute of Oceanography and the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.
Major Malayalam newspapers published in Kochi include Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Deshabhimani, Deepika, Kerala Kaumudi, Madhyamam and Veekshanam. Popular English newspapers include The Hindu, The New Indian Express and The Pioneer. A number of evening papers are also published from the city. Newspapers in other regional languages like Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu are also available.
Being the seat of the Cochin Stock Exchange, a number of financial publications are also published in the city. These include The Economic Times, Business Line, The Business Standard and The Financial Express. Prominent magazines and religious publications like the Sathyadeepam, The Week and Vanitha are also published from the city. Television stations in Kochi include Asianet Cable Vision, Indiavision, Kairali TV, Jeevan TV, Amrita TV, and Manorama News. Satellite television services are available through Doordarshan Direct Plus, Dish TV and Tata Sky. There are five FM radio stations in Kochi, of which two are operated by the All India Radio. Private satellite radios such as WorldSpace, are also available. There are over ten cinema halls that screen movies in Malayalam, Tamil, English and Hindi. A film festival, known as the Cochin International Film Festival (CIFF), is held in the city every year.
Kochi has the highest density of telephones in India. Telephony services are provided by various players like Aircel, Airtel, Idea cellular, Vodafone, Reliance Infocomm, Tata Indicom and the state owned BSNL.
Kerala കേരളം? Kēralam
Kerala (Malayalam: കേരളം?; Kēralam) is a state located in southwestern India. Neighbouring states include Karnataka to the north and Tamil Nadu to the south and east; to the west is the Arabian Sea. Besides the state capital Thiruvananthapuram,the other major cities in Kerala are Kochi, Kozhikode, Thrissur and Kollam. The principal spoken language is Malayalam.
A 3rd-century-BC rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great attests to a Keralaputra. Around 1 BC the region was ruled by the Chera Dynasty, which traded with the Greeks, Romans, and Arabs. In the 1st century AD Jewish immigrants arrived, and it is believed that St. Thomas the Apostle visited Kerala in the same century. Feudal Nair and Namboothiri Brahmin city-states subsequently gained control of the region. Early contact with Europeans gave way to struggles between colonial and native interests. On 1 November 1956 the States Reorganisation Act elevated Kerala to statehood.
The state is known for achievements such as a 91% literacy rate, among the highest in India. A survey conducted in 2005 by Transparency International ranked Kerala as the least corrupt state in the country. Kerala is uniquely dependent on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community based mainly in Persian Gulf countries.
Kerala has an uncertain etymology. Keralam may stem from the Classical Tamil chera-alam ('declivity of a hill or a mountain slope') or chera alam ('Land of the Cheras').:2 Kerala may represent an imperfect Malayalam portmanteau fusing kera ('coconut palm tree') and alam ('land' or 'location').:122 Natives of Kerala, known as Malayalis or Keralites, refer to their land as Keralam.
A 3rd-century-BC Asokan rock inscription mentioning a 'Keralaputra' is the earliest surviving attestation to Kerala. In written records, Kerala was mentioned in the Sanskrit epic Aitareya Aranyaka. Katyayana, Patanjali, Pliny the Elder, and the unknown author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea displayed familiarity with Kerala. In the last centuries BC, the region became famous among the Greeks and Romans for its spices, particularly black pepper.
It is not certain if the region was inhabited during Neolithic times. However, there is evidence of the emergence of prehistoric pottery and granite burial monuments in the form of megalithic tombs in the 10th century BC; they resemble their counterparts in Western Europe and other parts of Asia. These are thought to be produced by speakers of a proto-Tamil language. Kerala and Tamil Nadu once shared a common language, ethnicity and culture; this common area was known as Tamilakam.
Parasurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna to part the seas and reveal Kerala.
According to legend, Kerala was an Asura-ruled kingdom under Mahabali. Onam, the state-wide festival of Kerala, is dedicated to Maveli's memory. Another legend has Parasurama, an avatar of Mahavishnu, throwing his battle axe into the sea; from those waters, Kerala arose.
The ancient Cheras, whose mother tongue and court language was ancient Tamil, ruled Kerala from their capital at Vanchi. They were constantly at war with the neighbouring Chola and Pandya kingdoms. A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils and associated with the second Chera empire, became linguistically separate under the Kulasekhara dynasty (c. 800–1102). By the beginning of the 14th century, Ravi Varma Kulasekhara of Venad established a short-lived supremacy over southern India. After his death, Kerala became a conglomeration of warring chieftaincies, among which the most important were Calicut in the north and Venad in the south.
The Chera kings' dependence on trade meant that merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala. The west Asian-semitic Jewish, Christian, and Muslim immigrants established Nasrani Mappila, Juda Mappila and Muslim Mappila communities. 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 Knanai Thoma in 345 AD. Muslim merchants (Malik ibn Dinar) settled in Kerala by the 8th century AD and introduced Islam. After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in 1498, the Portuguese gained control of the lucrative pepper trade by subduing Keralite communities and commerce.
Vasco da Gama lands at Calicut (now Kozhikode), May 20, 1498.
Conflicts between Kozhikode (Calicut) and Kochi (Cochin) provided an opportunity for the Dutch to oust the Portuguese. In turn, the Dutch were ousted by Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family who routed them at the Battle of Colachel in 1741. In 1766, Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore invaded northern Kerala, capturing Kozhikode in the process. 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 Velayudan Thampi Dalava, Kunjali Marakkar, and Pazhassi Raja earned their place in history and folklore. Many actions, spurred by such leaders as Vaikunda Swami, Sree Narayana Guru and Chattampi Swamikal, instead protested such conditions as untouchability; 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 1 July 1949. On 1 January 1950 (Republic Day), Travancore-Cochin was recognised as a state. The Madras Presidency was organised to form Madras State several years prior, in 1947. Finally, the Government of India's 1 November 1956 States Reorganisation 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 ballot—the world's first of its kind—headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Subsequent social reforms favoured tenants and labourers.:22–23, 43–44
Landscape near Thekkady, Iddukki.
A small mountain stream in the Nelliampathi mountains.
Main article: Geography of Kerala
Kerala is wedged between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats. Lying between north latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and east longitudes 74°52' and 72°22', Kerala is well within the humid equatorial tropics. Kerala’s coast runs for some 580 km (360 miles), while the state itself varies between 35 and 120 km (22–75 miles) in width. Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands (rugged and cool mountainous terrain), the central midlands (rolling hills), and the western lowlands (coastal plains). Located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, Kerala lies near the centre of the Indian tectonic plate; as such, most of the state is subject to comparatively little seismic and volcanic activity. Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala’s terrain.
Topographic map of Kerala.
Eastern Kerala consists of high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys immediately west of the Western Ghats' rain shadow. Forty one of Kerala’s west-flowing rivers, and three of its east-flowing ones originate in this region. The Western Ghats form a wall of mountains interrupted only near Palakkad, where the Palakkad Gap breaks through to provide access to the rest of India. The Western Ghats rises on average to 1,500 m (4920 ft) above sea level, while the highest peaks may reach to 2,500 m (8200 ft). Just west of the mountains lie the midland plains comprising central Kerala, dominated by rolling hills and valleys. Generally ranging between elevations of 250–1,000 m (820–3300 ft), the eastern portions of the Nilgiri and Palni Hills include such formations as Agastyamalai and Anamalai.
Kerala’s western coastal belt is relatively flat, and is criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries, and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters. Lake Vembanad—Kerala’s largest body of water—dominates the Backwaters; it lies between Alappuzha and Kochi and is more than 200 km² in area. Around 8% of India's waterways (measured by length) are found in Kerala. The most important of Kerala’s forty four rivers include the Periyar (244 km), the Bharathapuzha (209 km), the Pamba (176 km), the Chaliyar (169 km), the Kadalundipuzha (130 km) and the Achankovil (128 km). The average length of the rivers of Kerala is 64 km. Most of the remainder are small and entirely fed by monsoon rains. These conditions result in the nearly year-round water logging of such western regions as Kuttanad, 500 km² of which lies below sea level. As Kerala's rivers are small and lack deltas, they are more prone to environmental factors. Kerala's rivers face many problems, including summer droughts, the building of large dams, sand mining, and pollution.
With 120–140 rainy days per year, Kerala has a wet and maritime tropical climate influenced by the seasonal heavy rains of the southwest summer monsoon.:80 In eastern Kerala, a drier tropical wet and dry climate prevails. Kerala's rainfall averages 3,107 mm annually. Some of Kerala's drier lowland regions average only 1,250 mm; the mountains of eastern Idukki district receive more than 5,000 mm of orographic precipitation, the highest in the state.
In summers, most of Kerala is prone to gale force winds, storm surges, cyclone-related torrential downpours, occasional droughts, and rises in sea level and storm activity resulting from global warming.:26, 46, 52 Daily average high 36.7 °C; low 19.8 °C. Mean annual temperatures range from 25.0–27.5 °C in the coastal lowlands to 20.0–22.5 °C in the eastern highlands.:65
Flora and fauna
Much of Kerala's notable biodiversity is concentrated and protected in the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve in the eastern hills. Almost a fourth of India's 10,000 plant species are found in the state. Among the almost 4,000 flowering plant species (1,272 of which are endemic to Kerala and 159 threatened) are 900 species of highly sought medicinal plants.
Its 9,400 km² of forests include tropical wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests (lower and middle elevations—3,470 km²), tropical moist and dry deciduous forests (mid-elevations—4,100 km² and 100 km², respectively), and montane subtropical and temperate (shola) forests (highest elevations—100 km²). Altogether, 24% of Kerala is forested. Two of the world’s Ramsar Convention listed wetlands—Lake Sasthamkotta and the Vembanad-Kol wetlands—are in Kerala, as well as 1455.4 km² of the vast Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Subjected to extensive clearing for cultivation in the 20th century, much of the remaining forest cover is now protected from clearfelling. Kerala's fauna are notable for their diversity and high rates of endemism: 102 species of mammals (56 of which are endemic), 476 species of birds, 202 species of freshwater fishes, 169 species of reptiles (139 of them endemic), and 89 species of amphibians (86 endemic). These are threatened by extensive habitat destruction, including soil erosion, landslides, salinization, and resource extraction.
Eastern Kerala’s windward mountains shelter tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests, which are common in the Western Ghats. Here, sonokeling (Indian rosewood), anjili, mullumurikku (Erythrina), and Cassia number among the more than 1,000 species of trees in Kerala. Other plants include bamboo, wild black pepper, wild cardamom, the calamus rattan palm (a type of climbing palm), and aromatic vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides). Living among them are such fauna as Asian Elephant, Bengal Tiger, Leopard (Panthera pardus), Nilgiri Tahr, Common Palm Civet, and Grizzled Giant Squirrel. Reptiles include the king cobra, viper, python, and crocodile. Kerala's birds are legion—Peafowl, the Great Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill, Indian Cormorant, and Jungle Myna are several emblematic species. In lakes, wetlands, and waterways, fish such as kadu (stinging catfish and Choottachi (Orange chromide—Etroplus maculatus; valued as an aquarium specimen) are found.
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:
Population density map of Kerala graded from darkest shading (most dense) to lightest (least dense).
* Malabar: Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad
* Kochi: Thrissur, Ernakulam
* Travancore: Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala comprises the regions of Central Travancore, Chera Nadu, Kuttanad, Malabar, Onattukara, Travancore, Valluvanadu, and Venad. Kerala's 14 revenue districts are subdivided into 62 taluks, 1453 revenue villages and 1007 Gram panchayats.
Mahé, 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, Thrissur, and Kannur are the other major commercial centers of the state. The High Court of Kerala is located at Ernakulam. Kerala's districts, which serve as the administrative regions for taxation purposes, are further subdivided into 63 taluks; these have fiscal and administrative powers over settlements within their borders, including maintenance of local land records.
Largest cities in Kerala
(2001 Census of India estimate)
Rank: City\Town: District: Population:
01: Thiruvananthapuram: Thiruvananthapuram: 744,983
02: Kochi: Ernakulam: 595,575
03: Kozhikode: Kozhikode: 436,556
04: Kollam: Kollam: 361,029
05: Thrissur: Thrissur: 317,526
06: Alappuzha: Alappuzha: 187,495
07: Palakkad: Palakkad: 130,767
08: Thalassery: Kannur: 99,387
09: Ponnani: Malappuram: 87,495
10: Manjeri: Malappuram: 83,707
Kerala is governed via a parliamentary system of representative democracy; universal suffrage is granted to state residents. There are three branches of government. The unicameral legislature, the Kerala Legislative Assembly, comprises elected members and special office bearers (the Speaker and Deputy Speaker) elected by the members from among themselves. Assembly meetings are presided over by the Speaker and in his absence by the Deputy Speaker. Kerala has 140 Assembly constituencies. The state sends 20 members to the Lok Sabha and 9 to the Rajya Sabha, the Indian Parliament's upper house.
The Legislative Assembly Building in Trivandrum.
The Governor of Kerala is the constitutional head of state, and is appointed by the President of India. The executive authority is headed by the Chief Minister of Kerala, who is the de facto head of state and is vested with extensive executive powers; the Legislative Assembly's majority party leader is appointed to this position by the Governor. The Council of Ministers, which answers to the Legislative Assembly, has its members appointed by the Governor on advice of the Chief Minister.
The judiciary comprises the Kerala High Court (including a Chief Justice combined with 26 permanent and two additional (pro tempore) justices) and a system of lower courts. The High Court of Kerala is the apex court for the state; it also hears cases from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs.
The state's 2005–2006 budget was 219 billion INR. The state government's tax revenues (excluding the shares from Union tax pool) amounted to 111,248 million INR in 2005, up from 63,599 million in 2000. Its non-tax revenues (excluding the shares from Union tax pool) of the Government of Kerala as assessed by the Indian Finance Commissions reached 10,809 million INR in 2005, nearly double the 6,847 million INR revenues of 2000. However, Kerala's high ratio of taxation to gross state domestic product (GSDP) has not alleviated chronic budget deficits and unsustainable levels of government debt, impacting social services.
Kerala hosts two major political alliances: the Left Democratic Front (LDF—led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and the United Democratic Front (UDF—led by the Indian National Congress). At present, the LDF is the ruling coalition in government; V.S. Achuthanandan of the CPI(M) is the Chief Minister of Kerala and Oommen Chandy of the UDF is the Chief Opposition leader.
Compared with most other Indians, Keralites are well versed and keen participants in the political process. Strikes, protests, rallies, and marches are ubiquitous.
Since independence, Kerala was managed as a democratic socialist welfare economy. Since the 1990s, liberalisation of the mixed economy allowed onerous Licence Raj restrictions against the free market and foreign direct investment to be lightened, leading to economic expansion and job creation. In fiscal year 2004–2005, nominal gross state domestic product (GSDP) was Rs 89,451.99 crore (US$ 17.94 billion). Recent GSDP growth (9.2% in 2004–2005 and 7.4% in 2003–2004) has been robust compared to historical averages (2.3% annually in the 1980s and between 5.1%:8 and 5.99% in the 1990s).:8 The state clocked 8.93% growth in enterprises from 1998 to 2005 compared with 4.80% nationally. Relatively few such enterprises are major corporations or manufacturers.:49 Per-capita GSDP is Rs. 11,819 (US$ 237.09), above the Indian average and far below the world average.:8 Kerala's Human Development Index rating is the highest in India. This apparently paradoxical 'Kerala phenomenon' or 'Kerala model of development' of high human and low economic development results from the strong service sector.:48:1 Kerala's economy depends on emigrants working in foreign countries (mainly in the Gulf countries such as Dubai or Bahrain) and remittances annually contribute more than a fifth of GSDP.
The service sector (including tourism, public administration, banking and finance, transportation, and communications—63.8% of GSDP in 2002–2003) and the agricultural and fishing industries (together 17.2% of GSDP) dominate the economy. Nearly half of Kerala's people are dependent on agriculture alone for income. Some 600 varieties:5 of rice (Kerala's most important staple food and cereal crop):5 are harvested from 3105.21 km² (a decline from 5883.4 km² in 1990):5 of paddy fields; 688,859 tonnes are produced per annum. Other key crops include coconut (899,198 ha), tea, coffee (23% of Indian production,:13 or 57,000 tonnes:6–7), rubber, cashews, and spices—including pepper, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Around 1.050 million fishermen haul an annual catch of 668,000 tonnes (1999–2000 estimate); 222 fishing villages are strung along the 590 km coast. Another 113 fishing villages dot the hinterland.
Traditional industries manufacturing such items as coir, handlooms, and handicrafts employ around one million people. Around 180,000 small-scale industries employ around 909,859 Keralites; 511 medium and large scale manufacturing firms are located in Kerala. A small mining sector (0.3% of GSDP) involves extraction of ilmenite, kaolin, bauxite, silica, quartz, rutile, zircon, and sillimanite. Home gardens and animal husbandry also provide work for hundreds of thousands of people. Other major sectors are tourism, manufacturing, and business process outsourcing. As of March 2002, Kerala's banking sector comprised 3341 local branches; each branch served 10,000 persons, lower than the national average of 16,000; the state has the third-highest bank penetration among Indian states. Unemployment in 2007 was estimated at 9.4%; underemployment, low employability of youths, and a 13.5% female participation rate are chronic issues.:5, 13 Poverty rate figures range from 12.71% to as high as 36%. More than 45,000 residents live in slum conditions.
The Syrian Orthodox Valia Palli (St. Mary’s Church) in Thazhathangadi, Kottayam. Built in 1550 AD, it hosts an 8th-century Persian cross and Sassanid Pahlavi inscriptions.
About 56% of Malayalis are Hindus, 24% are Muslims, 19% are Christians, and the rest 1% follow other religions . Hindus basically consists of castes Ezhavas, Nairs, Dalits and Kerala Brahmins. Christians are of different sections Roman Catholic,Jacobite, Syrian Christians and Protestants. Christianity is believed to have reached the shores of India after the arrival of St. Thomas, the apostle of Jesus Christ, in Kerala in AD 52. Islam arrived in Kerala with the first Arab traders who expanded, and then monopolized, the trade with West through Kozhikode. Later, many people converted to the new faith. Muslims in Kerala are also known as Moplah. These religious communities have lived together in peace and amicability, except for a few rare incidents.
The major pilgrimage centre for Hindus are located in Guruvayur, Sabarimala, Ettumanoor, Chottanikkara. Christians have numerous churches across the state; some significant churches are located Malayattoor, Attingal, Alappuzha, etc. There are mosques across the state; one famous mosque is located at Ponnani. Jews in Kerala live in the city of Kochi where they have a synagogue. Most members of the ancient Jewish community in Kerala emigrated to Israel.
There are considerable population of Jains in the Wayanad district bordering the Karnataka state.
Kerala has 145,704 kilometers (90,536 mi) of roads (4.2% of India's total). This translates to about 4.62 kilometers (2.87 mi) of road per thousand population, compared to an all India average of 2.59 kilometers (1.61 mi). Virtually all of Kerala's villages are connected by road. Traffic in Kerala has been growing at a rate of 10–11% every year, resulting in high traffic and pressure on the roads. Kerala's road density is nearly four times the national average, reflecting the state's high population density. Kerala's annual total of road accidents is among the nation's highest.
India's national highway network includes a Kerala-wide total of 1,524 kilometers (947 mi), which is 2.6% of the national total. There are eight designated national highways in the state. The Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP), which includes the GIS-based Road Information and Management Project (RIMS), is responsible for maintaining and expanding the 1,600 kilometers (994 mi) of roadways that compose the state highways system; it also oversees major district roads. Most of Kerala's west coast is accessible through two national highways, NH 47, and NH 17.
The state has three major international airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode, that link the state with the rest of the nation and the world. The Cochin International Airport was the first Indian airport incorporated as a public limited company and is funded by nearly 10,000 Non Resident Indians from 30 countries. A fourth international airport is proposed at Kannur.
The backwaters traversing the state are an important mode of inland navigation.National Waterway 3 traverse through the state. The Indian Railways' Southern Railway line runs throughout the state, connecting all major towns and cities except those in the highland districts of Idukki and Wayanad. Kerala's major railway stations are Trivandrum Central,, Kollam Junction, Ernakulam Junction, Thrissur Junction, Shoranur Junction, Palakkad, Kozhikode and Kannur.
Main article: Demographics of Kerala
Census: Pop.: %±
1961: 16,904,000: 24.8%
1971: 21,347,000: 26.3%
1981: 25,454,000: 19.2%
1991: 29,099,000: 14.3%
2001: 31,841,000: 9.4%
Est. 2006: 35,005,000: :17: 9.9%
Source: 2001 Census of India
The 31.8 million Keralites are predominantly of Malayali ethnicity, while the rest is mostly made up of Jewish and Arab elements in both culture and ancestry. Kerala's 321,000 indigenous tribal Adivasis, 1.10% of the population, are concentrated in the east.:10–12 Malayalam is Kerala's official language; Tamil and various Adivasi languages are also spoken by ethnic minorities.
Kerala is home to 3.44% of India's people; at 819 persons per km², its land is nearly three times as densely settled as the rest of India, which is at a population density of 325 persons per km². Kerala's rate of population growth is India's lowest, and Kerala's decadal growth (9.42% in 2001) is less than half the all-India average of 21.34%. Whereas Kerala's population more than doubled between 1951 and 1991 by adding 15.6 million people to reach 29.1 million residents in 1991, the population stood at less than 32 million by 2001. Kerala's coastal regions are the most densely settled, leaving the eastern hills and mountains comparatively sparsely populated.
Women compose 51.42% of the population.:26 Kerala's principal religions are Hinduism (56.2%%), Islam (24.70%), and Christianity (19.00%). Remnants of a once substantial Cochin Jewish population also practice Judaism. In comparison with the rest of India, Kerala experiences relatively little sectarianism.
Kerala's society is less patriarchal than the rest of the Third World.:18–19 Kerala government states gender relations are among the most equitable in India and the Third World, despite discrepancies among low caste men and women:1 Certain Hindu communities such as the Nairs, some Ezhavas and the Muslims around Kannur used to follow a traditional matrilineal system known as marumakkathayam, although this practice ended in the years after Indian independence. Other Muslims, Christians, and some Hindu castes such as the Namboothiris and the Ezhavas follow makkathayam, a patrilineal system. Owing to the former matrilineal system, women in Kerala enjoy a high social status.
Traditional dress of Kerala: a Malayali woman in a set-sari (tradition being wearing a mundum neriyathum) and a Malayalee man wearing a mundu with a shirt (tradition being not wearing a shirt).
Kerala's human development indices—elimination of poverty, primary level education, and health care—are among the best in India. According to a 2005-2006 national survey, Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates (89.9%) among Indian states and life expectancy (73 years) was among the highest in India in 2001. Kerala's rural poverty rate fell from 69% (1970–1971) to 19% (1993–1994); the overall (urban and rural) rate fell 36% between the 1970s and 1980s. By 1999–2000, the rural and urban poverty rates dropped to 10.0% and 9.6% respectively. These changes stem largely from efforts begun in the late 19th century by the kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore to boost social welfare. This focus was maintained by Kerala's post-independence government.
Kerala's healthcare system has garnered international acclaim. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization designated Kerala the world's first 'baby-friendly state'. For example, more than 95% of Keralite births are hospital-delivered.:6 Aside from ayurveda (both elite and popular forms),:13 siddha, and unani, many endangered and endemic modes of traditional medicine, including kalari, marmachikitsa,:17 and vishavaidyam, are practiced. These propagate via gurukula discipleship,:5–6 and comprise a fusion of both medicinal and supernatural treatments,:15 and are partly responsible for drawing increasing numbers of medical tourists.
A steadily aging population (11.2% of Keralites are over age 60) and low birthrate (18 per 1,000) make Kerala one of the few regions of the Third World to have undergone the 'demographic transition' characteristic of such developed nations as Canada, Japan, and Norway.:1 In 1991, Kerala's total fertility rate (children born per women) was the lowest in India. Hindus had a TFR of 1.66, Christians 1.78, and Muslims 2.97. Kerala's female-to-male ratio (1.058) is significantly higher than that of the rest of India.:2 The same is true of its sub-replacement fertility level and infant mortality rate (estimated at 12:49 to 14:5 deaths per 1,000 live births).
However, Kerala's morbidity rate is higher than that of any other Indian state—118 (rural Keralites) and 88 (urban) per 1,000 people. The corresponding all India figures are 55 and 54 per 1,000, respectively.:5 Kerala's 13.3% prevalence of low birth weight is substantially higher than that of First World nations. Outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid among the more than 50% of Keralites who rely on 3 million water wells is a problem worsened by the widespread lack of sewers.:5–7
The local dynastic precursors of modern-day Kerala sponsored sabha mathams that imparted Vedic knowledge. Apart from kalaris, which taught martial arts, there were village schools run by Ezhuthachans or Asans. The history of western-style education in Kerala can be traced to the establishment of numerous schools and colleges by Christian missionaries.
Schools and colleges are now largely run by the government, private trusts, or individuals. Each school is affiliated with either the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or the Kerala State Education Board. English is the language of instruction in most private schools, while government run schools offer English or Malayalam as medium. After 10 years of secondary schooling, students typically enroll at Higher Secondary School in one of the three streams—liberal arts, commerce or science. Upon completing the required coursework, students can enroll in general or professional degree programmes. Kerala topped the Education Development Index (EDI) among 21 major states in India in year 2006-2007. EDI is calculated using indicators such as access, infrastructure, teachers and outcome.
Thiruvananthapuram, one of the state's major academic hubs, hosts the University of Kerala and several professional education colleges, including 15 engineering colleges, three medical colleges, three Ayurveda colleges, two colleges of homeopathy, six other medical colleges, and several law colleges. Trivandrum Medical College, Kerala's premier health institute, one of the finest in the country, is being upgraded to the status of an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The College of Engineering, Trivandrum is one of the prominent engineering institutions in the state. The Asian School of Business and IIITM-K are two of the other premier management study institutions in the city, both situated inside Technopark. The Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, first of its kind in India, is situated in the state capital.
Kochi is another major educational hub. The Cochin University of Science and Technology (also known as 'Cochin University') is situated in the suburb of the city. Most of the city's colleges offering tertiary education are affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi University. Other national educational institutes in Kochi include the Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training, the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, the National Institute of Oceanography, Central Institute of Fisheries Technology and the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.The only College of Fisheries in the State is situated at Panangad, a suburban area of the City. The College comes under the Kerala Agricultural University.
The district of Thrissur holds some premier institutions in Kerala. Kerala Agricultural University is situated in this city. Thrissur Medical College, The Government Engineering College, Govt. Law College, Ayurveda College, Govt.Fine Arts College, College of Co-operation & Banking and Management, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, College of Horticulture, College of Forestry etc are situated in Thrissur. Thrissur is also a main center of coaching for the entrance examinations for engineering and medicine.
Kottayam also acts as a main educational hub. According to the 1991 census, Kottayam District of Kerala is the first district to achieve full literacy rate in the whole of India. Mahatma Gandhi University, CMS College(the first institution to start English education in Southern India), Medical College, Kottayam, and the Labour India Educational Research Center are some of the important educational institutions in the district.
Kozhikode is home to two of the premier educational institutions in the country; the IIMK, one of the seven Indian Institutes of Management., and the premier National Institute of Technology Calicut, the NITC. Calicut Medical College, the second medical college in Kerala is affiliated to the University of Calicut and serves 2/5 of the population of Kerala. Government Law College situated in outskirts of Calicut City is owned by the Government of Kerala and caters to the needs of the entire north Malabar region of Kerala. Pothanicad, a village in Ernakulam district is the first panchayath in India that achieved 100% literacy.
Kerala's culture is derived from both a 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 (a 2000 year old Sanskrit theatre tradition, officially recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity), 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 vocalisations. 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 popularisation 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 Kshetram 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—both men and women alike—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. Presently the North Indian dresses such as Salwar Kameez has also become very popular amongst women in Kerala.
The elephants are an integral part of the daily life in Kerala. These Indian elephants are loved, revered, groomed and given a prestigious place in the state's culture. Elephants in Kerala are often referred to as the 'sons of the sahya.' The elephant is the state animal of Kerala and is featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala.
The predominant spoken language in Kerala is Malayalam, most of whose speakers live in Kerala. Malayalam literature is ancient in origin, and includes such figures as the 14th century Niranam poets (Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar), and the 17th century poet Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan whose works mark the dawn of both modern Malayalam language and indigenous Keralite poetry. The 'triumvirate of poets' (Kavithrayam), Kumaran Asan, Vallathol Narayana Menon, and Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer, are recognised for moving Keralite poetry away from archaic sophistry and metaphysics, and towards a more lyrical mode.
In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith awardees like G. Sankara Kurup, S. K. Pottekkatt, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai and M. T. Vasudevan Nair have made valuable contributions to the Malayalam literature. Later, such Keralite writers as O. V. Vijayan, Kamaladas, M. Mukundan, and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, whose 1996 semi-autobiographical bestseller The God of Small Things is set in the Kottayam town of Ayemenem, have gained international recognition.
Dozens of newspapers are published in Kerala; they are printed in nine major languages. The principal languages of publication are Malayalam and English. The most widely circulating Malayalam-language newspapers include Mathrubhumi, Manorama, Deepika, Kerala Kaumudi,Madhyamam and Deshabhimani. Among major Malayalam periodicals are India Today Malayalam, Grihalakshmi, Veedu, Vanitha, Chithrabhumi, Kanyaka, and Bhashaposhini. A Malayalam version of Google News was launched in September 2008.
Doordarshan is the state-owned television broadcaster. Multi system operators provide a mix of Malayalam, English, and international channels via cable television.There are 17 malayalam channels which makes the countries maximum number in regional language.Asianet,Amrita TV,Surya TV and Kairali TV are among the Malayalam-language channels that compete with the major national channels. All India Radio, the national radio service, reaches much of Kerala via its Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur & Alappuzha, Malayalam-language broadcasters. BSNL, Reliance Infocomm, Tata Indicom, Vodafone and Airtel compete to provide cellular phone services. Broadband internet is available in most of the towns and cities and is provided by different agencies like the state-run Kerala Telecommunications (which is run by BSNL) and by other private companies like Asianet Satellite communications, VSNL. BSNL provides 2 Mbit/s and 8 Mbit/s broadband service in most of the cities.
A substantial Malayalam film industry effectively competes against both Bollywood and Hollywood. Prem Nazir has the Guinness world record for acting in the largest number of movies in a lead role(600). Mammootty and Mohanlal are superstars who have won several national awards. Television (especially 'mega serials' and cartoons) and the Internet have affected Keralite culture. Yet Keralites maintain high rates of newspaper and magazine subscriptions; 50% spend an average of about seven hours a week reading novels and other books. A sizeable 'people's science' movement has taken root in the state, and such activities as writers' cooperatives are becoming increasingly common.:2
Several ancient ritualised arts are Keralite in origin. These include kalaripayattu—kalari ('place', 'threshing floor', or 'battlefield') and payattu ('exercise' or 'practice'). Among the world's oldest martial arts, oral tradition attributes kalaripayattu's emergence to Parasurama. Other ritual arts include theyyam and poorakkali.
Football is the most popular sport in the state, some notable football stars from Kerala include I. M. Vijayan, V. P. Sathyan, and Jo Paul Ancheri. Cricket, which is the most-followed sport in the rest of India and South Asia, is less popular in Kerala. Other popular sports include Badminton, Volleyball, and Kabaddi. Kerala has a rich history of producing world class athletes, including P. T. Usha, T. C. Yohannan, Suresh Babu, Shiny Wilson, K. M. Beenamol, M. D. Valsamma and Anju Bobby George.
Volleyball, another popular sport, is often played on makeshift courts on sandy beaches along the coast. Jimmy George, born in Peravoor, Kannur, was a notable Indian volleyball player, regarded in his prime as among the world's ten best players.
It is from the 1990s that cricket started growing in popularity. The 21st century saw two Kerala Ranji Trophy players gain test selection. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, born in Kothamangalam, has represented India since 2005, and is the most successful cricketer from Kerala. Among less successful Keralite cricketers is Tinu Yohannan, son of Olympic long jumper T. C. Yohannan.
Dozens of large stadiums, including Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and Thiruvananthapuram's Chandrashekaran Nair Stadium, attest to the mass appeal of such sports among Keralites.
Kerala, situated on the lush and tropical Malabar Coast, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Named as one of the 'ten paradises of the world' and '50 places of a lifetime' by the National Geographic Traveler magazine, Kerala is especially known for its ecotourism initiatives. Its unique culture and traditions, coupled with its varied demographics, has made Kerala one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Growing at a rate of 13.31%, the state's tourism industry is a major contributor to the state's economy.
Until the early 1980s, Kerala was a relatively unknown destination; most tourist circuits focused on North India. Aggressive marketing campaigns launched by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, the government agency that oversees tourism prospects of the state, laid the foundation for the growth of the tourism industry. In the decades that followed, Kerala's tourism industry was able to transform the state into one of the niche holiday destinations in India. The tagline Kerala- God's Own Country, originally coined by Vipin Gopal, has been widely used in Kerala's tourism promotions and soon became synonymous with the state. In 2006, Kerala attracted 8.5 million tourist arrivals, an increase of 23.68% over the previous year, making the state one of the fastest-growing destinations in the world.
Popular attractions in the state include the beaches at Kovalam, Cherai and Varkala; the hill stations of Munnar, Nelliampathi, Ponmudi and Wayanad; and national parks and wildlife sanctuaries at Periyar and Eravikulam National Park. The 'backwaters' region, which comprises an extensive network of interlocking rivers, lakes, and canals that centre on Alleppey, Kollam, Kumarakom, and Punnamada (where the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in August), also see heavy tourist traffic. Heritage sites, such as the Padmanabhapuram Palace and the Mattancherry Palace, are also visited. Cities such as Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are popular centres for their shopping and traditional theatrical performances. During early summer, the Thrissur Pooram is conducted, attracting foreign tourists who are largely drawn by the festival's elephants and celebrants.
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