What strikes you most when
you first arrive is the seemingly endless green of paddy fields and palm trees,
the bright terracotta tiled sloping roofs of the houses, people dressed in
whites and the relaxed easy going atmosphere.
Lying at the south-western
tip of India, and the smallest of the four southern States, Kerala is about 560
kms long and only 120 kms at its widest. Its eastern boundary, shared with
Karnataka, is mountainous. From
there the land slopes westwards to the Arabian sea. Traversed by no less than
44 rivers, the State has cool, mist-filled highlands (avg alt 900 m), fertile
plains, dense tropical forests, palm-fringed beaches and a complex maze of
backwaters - all squeezed together in a mere 39000 sq km area. So beaches and backwaters,
wildlife sanctuaries and hill stations are all within easy reach.
While the highlands kept it sheltered from
invaders from the other parts of India, Kerala established strong trading links
with the Phoenicians, Arabs and Chinese many centuries before Vasco da Gama
landed near Calicut 500 years ago. Thus it developed its own distinctive
traditions and culture. The people speak Malayalam, which belongs to the same
family as Tamil spoken in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
The social progress
and achievements of the State fill every Indian's heart with pride. Women enjoy
complete parity with men. The infant mortality rate is very low. Hospitals and
health centres offer the most advanced facilities. Its telecom network extends
to every village. It has the distinction of having achieved total literacy.
Many eminent writers (including R.K.Narayan and the 1997 Booker prize winner
Arundhati Roy) and satiric cartoonists (Narayan's brother R.K.Laxman and Abu
Abraham, amongst others) belong to Kerala. It is arguably the most advanced
society in India.
Kerala has also made a significant contribution to the
cultural heritage of India. Kathakali, the masked dance theatre that
uses music, song and mime to enact stories, and its feminine counterpart
Mohiniyattam (the dance of the "enchantress") are its two most well
known classical dance forms. Kalaripayattu, the traditional martial
art of Kerala, is widely believed to be the forerunner of Kung-fu and other
east Asian martial arts.
India's natural system of medicine,
Ayurveda, 'the Science of Life', was developed centuries ago. Being
blessed with a tropical climate and fertile soil (ideal conditions for
cultivation of exotic plants and herbs), and sheltered from overland
interference, Kerala has been able to preserve and nurture this science.
Quality Ayurvedic treatment, including massage with herbal oils, is available
at many hotels and resorts at a fractic of what it costs in Europe and other
parts of the world. Giver its year-round greenery (which constantly purifies
the air), sunshine, beaches and placid backwaters, Kerala is a very popular
destination for health motivated travellers and those seeking rejuvenation
Thiruvananthapuram (Formerly Trivandrum) - Named
after Shri Anantha, the thousand-headed, divine serpent on which Lord Vishnu
reclines, the State capital is built on undulating terrain
of seven low coastal
hills. It has a distinctive ambience - a spacious layout where
the old and modern are surrounded by gently swaying coconut palms an majestic,
pagoda-roofed traditional buildings.
Tourists Places of Kerala -
Shri Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple, the dominating landmark of the city,
is a grand seven-storied structure decorated with countless intricate stone
carvings, both on the outside and inside.
Government Napier Art Museum houses an interesting range of exhibits of Kerala, Moghul and
Chinese art as well as a large collection of antiques. Shri Chitra Art
Gallery, situated in the same complex, is famous for the masterpieces
painted by Raja Ravi Varma, a 19th century member of Kerala's royal family.
The internationally renowned Kovalam
beach with its three
successive crescent-shaped beaches, fringed by lush coconut groves in a
sheltered bay, would be most peoples' idea of a tropical paradise. It is only
16 kms south of the city.
Veli Tourist Village on the Veli-Akkulam lagoon, just 8 kms north of the city, is a delightful waterfront
park with swimming and water sports.
Kochi (Cochin) - Kerala's commercial capital Kochi is renowned as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea'.
It has one of the finest natural harbours in the world from where Kerala's
spices have been exported for centuries. The descendants of the families who
sold ivory, gold, timber and peacocks to King Solomon are said to be still
living near the waterfront!
Kochi has a history of visitors who came,
saw and stayed on, leaving their imprint on the city and its people.
Christianity came to India through Kochi not long after the Crucifixion. The
oldest European settlement in India, that of the Portuguese, is Pallipuram
Fort in Vypeen Island, Kochi. The Chinese influence is seen in the old
tiled houses built in the pagoda style and giant Chinese fishing nets
that rim the shore particularly at the mouth of the harbour. The sight of these
fishing nets silhouetted against the glow of the setting'sun is
The oldest Jewish Synagogue in the Commonwealth,
built in 1568, is in the 2000 year old Jewtown area. Ancient scrolls of the Old
Testament and copper plates inscribed in the Hebrew script recording the
privileges granted by the rajas to the Jewish community can still be seen here.
Other places of interest in Kochi are the Mattanchery Palace, now a
museum, the Dutch Bolghatty Palace on Bolghatty Island, the St.
Francis Church, India's oldest European church where the tombstone of Vasco
da Gama can still be seen (his mortal remains buried here were transported to
Portugal after 14 years), and Kerala's first ever heritage museum, the Hill