Kerala (/?k?r?l?/) is a state in South India on the Malabar Coast. It was formed on 1 November 1956 following the States Reorganisation Act by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), it is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

The Chera Dynasty was the first prominent kingdom based in Kerala. The Ay kingdom in the deep south and the Ezhimala kingdom in the north formed the other kingdoms in the early years of the Common Era (CE or AD). The region had been a prominent spice exporter since 3000 BCE. The region’s prominence in trade was noted in the works of Pliny as well as the Periplus around 100 CE. In the 15th century, the spice trade attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and paved the way for European colonisation of India. At the time of Indian independence movement in the early 20th century, there were two major princely states in Kerala-Travancore State and the Kingdom of Cochin. They united to form the state of Thiru-Kochi in 1949. The Malabar region, in the northern part of Kerala had been a part of the Madras province of British India, which later became a part of the Madras State post-independence. After the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, the modern-day state of Kerala was formed by merging the Malabar district of Madras State (excluding Gudalur taluk of Nilgiris district, Topslip, the Attappadi Forest east of Anakatti), the state of Thiru-Kochi (excluding four southern taluks of Kanyakumari district, Shenkottai and Tenkasi taluks), and the taluks of Kasaragod (now Kasaragod District) and South Kanara (Tulunad) which were a part of Madras State.

Kerala has the lowest positive population growth rate in India, 3.44%; the highest Human Development Index (HDI), 0.712 in 2015; the highest literacy rate, 93.91% in the 2011 census; the highest life expectancy, 77 years; and the highest sex ratio, 1,084 women per 1,000 men. The state has witnessed significant emigration, especially to Arab states of the Persian Gulf during the Gulf Boom of the 1970s and early 1980s, and its economy depends significantly on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community. Hinduism is practised by more than half of the population, followed by Islam and Christianity. The culture is a synthesis of Aryan, Dravidian, Arab, and European cultures,10 developed over millennia, under influences from other parts of India and abroad.

The production of pepper and natural rubber contributes significantly to the total national output. In the agricultural sector, coconut, tea, coffee, cashew and spices are important. The state’s coastline extends for 595 kilometres (370 mi), and around 1.1 million people in the state are dependent on the fishery industry which contributes 3% to the state’s income. The state has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine languages, mainly English and Malayalam. Kerala is one of the prominent tourist destinations of India, with backwaters, hill stations, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism and tropical greenery as its major attractions.

1 Etymology
2 History
2.1 Mythology
2.2 Pre-history
2.3 Ancient period
2.4 Early medieval period
2.5 Colonial era
2.6 Post-colonial period
3 Geography
3.1 Climate
4 Flora and fauna
5 Subdivisions
6 Government and administration
7 Economy
7.1 Agriculture
7.2 Fisheries
8 Transport
8.1 Roads
8.2 Railways
8.3 Airports
8.4 Water transport
9 Demographics
9.1 Gender
9.2 Human Development Index
9.3 Healthcare
9.4 Religion
10 Education
11 Culture
11.1 Festivals
11.1.1 Onam
11.2 Dance
11.3 Music
11.4 Cinema
11.5 Literature
11.6 Cuisine
11.7 Elephants
12 Media
13 Sports
14 Tourism
15 See also
16 References
17 External links
The name Kerala has an uncertain etymology. One popular theory derives Kerala from Kera (“coconut tree” in Malayalam) and alam (“land”); thus “land of coconuts”,11 which is a nickname for the state, used by locals, due to abundance of coconut trees.12 The word Kerala is first recorded as Keralaputra in a 3rd-century BCE rock inscription left by the Maurya emperor Ashoka (274–237 BCE), one of his edicts pertaining to welfare.13 The inscription refers to the local ruler as Keralaputra (Sanskrit for “son of Kerala”); or “son of Cheras”. This contradicts the theory that Kera is from “coconut tree”.14 At that time, one of three states in the region was called Cheralam in Classical Tamil: Chera and Kera are variants of the same word.15 The word Cheral refers to the oldest known dynasty of Kerala kings and is derived from the Proto-Tamil-Malayalam word for “lake”.16

The earliest Sanskrit text to mention Kerala is the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rigveda. Kerala is also mentioned in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two Hindu epics.17 The Skanda Purana mentions the ecclesiastical office of the Thachudaya Kaimal who is referred to as Manikkam Keralar, synonymous with the deity of the Koodalmanikyam temple.1819 Keralam may stem from the Classical Tamil cherive-alam (“declivity of a hill or a mountain slope”)20 or chera alam (“Land of the Cheras”). The Greco-Roman trade map Periplus Maris Erythraei refers to Keralaputra as Celobotra.21

Main article: History of Kerala

Parasurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna (the Hindu God of water) to part the seas and reveal Kerala
According to Hindu mythology, the lands of Kerala were recovered from the sea by the axe-wielding warrior sage Parasurama, the sixth avatar of Vishnu (hence, Kerala is also called Parasurama Kshetram (“The Land of Parasurama”)22). Parasurama threw his axe across the sea, and the water receded as far as it reached. According to legend, this new area of land extended from Gokarna to Kanyakumari.23 The land which rose from sea was filled with salt and unsuitable for habitation; so Parasurama invoked the Snake King Vasuki, who spat holy poison and converted the soil into fertile lush green land. Out of respect, Vasuki and all snakes were appointed as protectors and guardians of the land. The legend was later expanded, and found literary expression in the 17th or 18th century with Keralolpathi, which traces the origin of aspects of early Kerala society, such as land tenure and administration, to the story of Parasurama.24 In medieval times Kuttuvan may have emulated the Parasurama tradition by throwing his spear into the sea to symbolise his lordship over it.25

Another much earlier Puranic character associated with Kerala is Mahabali, an Asura and a prototypical just king, who ruled the earth from Kerala. He won the war against the Devas, driving them into exile. The Devas pleaded before Lord Vishnu, who took his fifth incarnation as Vamana and pushed Mahabali down to Patala (the netherworld) to placate the Devas. There is a belief that, once a year during the Onam festival, Mahabali returns to Kerala.26 The Matsya Purana, among the oldest of the 18 Puranas,2728 uses the Malaya Mountains of Kerala (and Tamil Nadu) as the setting for the story of Matsya, the first incarnation of Vishnu, and Manu, the first man and the king of the region.2930

Main article: Pre-history of Kerala

A dolmen erected by Neolithic people in Marayur
A substantial portion of Kerala may have been under the sea in ancient times. Marine fossils have been found in an area near Changanacherry, thus supporting the hypothesis.31 Pre-historical archaeological findings include dolmens of the Neolithic era in the Marayur area of the Idukki district. They are locally known as “muniyara”, derived from muni (hermit or sage) and ara (dolmen).32 Rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves, in Wayanad date back to the Neolithic era around 6000 BCE.3334 Archaeological studies have identified Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic sites in Kerala.35 The studies point to the development of ancient Kerala society and its culture beginning from the Paleolithic Age, through the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic Ages.36 Foreign cultural contacts have assisted this cultural formation;37 historians suggest a possible relationship with Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.38

Ancient period
Kerala has been a major spice exporter since 3000 BCE, according to Sumerian records and it is still referred to as the “Garden of Spices” or as the “Spice Garden of India”.3940 Kerala’s spices attracted ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians to the Malabar Coast in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE. Phoenicians established trade with Kerala during this period.41 The Land of Keralaputra was one of the four independent kingdoms in southern India during Ashoka’s time, the others being Chola, Pandya, and Satiyaputra.42 Scholars hold that Keralaputra is an alternate name of the Cheras, the first dominant dynasty based in Kerala.4344 These territories once shared a common language and culture, within an area known as Tamilakam.45 Along with the Ay kingdom in the south and the Ezhimala kingdom in the north, the Cheras formed the ruling kingdoms of Kerala in the early years of the Common Era (CE).46 It is noted in Sangam literature that the Chera king Uthiyan Cheralathan ruled most of modern Kerala from his capital in Kuttanad,4748 and controlled the port of Muziris, but its southern tip was in the kingdom of Pandyas,49 which had a trading port sometimes identified in ancient Western sources as Nelcynda (or Neacyndi) in Quilon.50 The lesser known Ays and Mushikas kingdoms lay to the south and north of the Chera regions respectively.5152

Silk Road map. The spice trade was mainly along the water routes (blue).
In the last centuries BCE the coast became important to the Greeks and Romans for its spices, especially black pepper. The Cheras had trading links with China, West Asia, Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire.53 In foreign-trade circles the region was known as Male or Malabar.54 Muziris, Berkarai, and Nelcynda were among the principal ports at that time.55 The value of Rome’s annual trade with the region was estimated at around 50,000,000 sesterces;56 contemporary Sangam literature describes Roman ships coming to Muziris in Kerala, laden with gold to exchange for pepper. One of the earliest western traders to use the monsoon winds to reach Kerala was Eudoxus of Cyzicus, around 118 or 166 BCE, under the patronage of Ptolemy VIII, king of the Hellenistic Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. Roman establishments in the port cities of the region, such as a temple of Augustus and barracks for garrisoned Roman soldiers, are marked in the Tabula Peutingeriana; the only surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus.5758

Merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala.59 The Israeli (Jewish) connection with Kerala started in 573 BCE.606162 Arabs also had trade links with Kerala, starting before the 4th century BCE, as Herodotus (484–413 BCE) noted that goods brought by Arabs from Kerala were sold to the Israelis Hebrew (Jews) at Eden.55 Israelis intermarried with local (Cheras Dravidian) people, resulting in formation of the Mappila community.63 In the 4th century, some Christians also migrated from Persia and joined the early Syrian Christian community who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.6465 Mappila (Semitic) was an honorific title that had been assigned to respected visitors from abroad; Israelite(Jewish), Syrian (Aramaic) Christian, and Muslim immigration account for later names of the respective communities: Juda Mappilas, Nasrani Mappilas, and Muslim Mappilas.6667 The earliest Saint Thomas Christian Churches,68 Cheraman Juma Masjid (629 CE)—the first mosque of India69—and Paradesi Synagogue (1568 CE)—the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations70—were built in Kerala.63

Early medieval period

Tharisapalli plates granted to Saint Thomas Christians testify that merchant guilds and trade corporations played a very significant role in the economy and social life during the Kulasekhara period.
A second Chera Kingdom (c. 800–1102), also known as Kulasekhara dynasty of Mahodayapuram (present-day Kodungallur), was established by Kulasekhara Varman, which ruled over a territory comprising the whole of modern Kerala and a smaller part of modern Tamil Nadu. During the early part of the Kulasekara period, the southern region from Nagerkovil to Thiruvalla was ruled by Ay kings, who lost their power in the 10th century, making the region a part of the Kulasekara empire.7172 Under Kulasekhara rule, Kerala witnessed a developing period of art, literature, trade and the Bhakti movement of Hinduism.73 A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils, became linguistically separate during this period around the seventh century.74 For local administration, the empire was divided into provinces under the rule of Naduvazhis, with each province comprising a number of Desams under the control of chieftains, called as Desavazhis.73

The inhibitions, caused by a series of Chera-Chola wars in the 11th century, resulted in the decline of foreign trade in Kerala ports. In addition, Portuguese invasions in the 15th century caused two major religion Buddhism and Jainism to disappear from the land. It is known that the Menons in the Malabar region of Kerala were originally strong believers of Jainism.75 The social system became fractured with divisions on caste lines.76 Finally, the Kulasekhara dynasty was subjugated in 1102 by the combined attack of Later Pandyas and Later Cholas.71 However, in the 14th century, Ravi Varma Kulashekhara (1299–1314) of the southern Venad kingdom was able to establish a short-lived supremacy over southern India. After his death, in the absence of a strong central power, the state was divided into thirty small warring principalities; the most powerful of them were the kingdom of Samuthiri in the north, Venad in the south and Kochi in the middle. In the 18th Century, Travancore King Sree Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma annexed all the kingdoms up to Northern Kerala through military conquests, resulting in the rise of Travancore to pre-eminence in Kerala. The Kochi ruler sued for peace with Anizham Thirunal and Malabar came under direct British rule until India became independent.7778

Colonial era
The maritime spice trade monopoly in the Indian Ocean (Indu Maha Samundr) stayed with the Arabs during the High and Late Middle Ages. However, the dominance of Middle East traders was challenged in the European Age of Discovery. After Vasco Da Gama’s arrival in Kappad Kozhikode in 1498, the Portuguese began to dominate eastern shipping, and the spice-trade in particular.798081 The Zamorin of Kozhikode permitted the new visitors to trade with his subjects such that Portuguese trade in Kozhikode prospered with the establishment of a factory and a fort. However, Portuguese attacks on Arab properties in his jurisdiction provoked the Zamorin and led to conflicts between them. The Portuguese took advantage of the rivalry between the Zamorin and the King of Kochi allied with Kochi. When Francisco de Almeida was appointed as Viceroy of Portuguese India in 1505, his headquarters was established at Fort Kochi (Fort Emmanuel) rather than in Kozhikode. During his reign, the Portuguese managed to dominate relations with Kochi and established a few fortresses on the Malabar Coast.82 Fort St Angelo or St. Angelo Fort was built in 1505 by the Portuguese in Kannur. However, the Portuguese suffered setbacks from attacks by Zamorin forces; especially from naval attacks under the leadership Kozhikode admirals known as Kunjali Marakkars, which compelled them to seek a treaty. In 1571, the Portuguese were defeated by the Zamorin forces in the battle at Chaliyam fort.83