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 Tamilnadu and 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 therapies.
Tourist 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.