God's Own Country

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"God's Own Country" is a phrase meaning an area, region or country supposedly favoured by God, that was first used to describe the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland,[1] and has subsequently been used to refer to various places, including Kerala[2], Lancashire[3] and Yorkshire.

Term uses[edit]


Kerala tourism logo.

Kerala is a state in South India; the phrase was adopted by the tourism department of the state's government in the 1980s.

Kerala was historically known as Keralam and it is located on the Malabar Coast.  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".

According to the 17th century Malayalam work Keralolpathi, the lands of Kerala were recovered from the sea by the axe-wielding warrior sage Parasurama, the sixth avatar of God Vishnu (hence, Kerala is also called Parasurama Kshetram; 'The Land of Parasurama'). 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. The land which rose from sea was filled with salt and was unsuitable for habitation; so Parasurama invoked the Snake King Vasuki, who spat the 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.

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[disambiguation needed], driving them into exile. The Devas[disambiguation needed] pleaded before Lord Vishnu, who took his fifth incarnation as Vamana and pushed Mahabali down to the netherworld to placate the Devas[disambiguation needed]. Lord Vishnu, seeing the devotion of Mahabali, blessed him to be the Indra of the next Manvantara. There is a belief that, once a year during the Onam festival, Mahabali returns to Kerala.[4] It is said that God Vishnu is guarding Mahabali's Kingdom as a mark of respect for his virtues.[5]

The Matsya Purana among the oldest of the 18 Puranas[6][7] 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[disambiguation needed] and the king of the region.[8][9]

These Puranic accounts portray Kerala as “God’s own country” or the land favoured by God.[10]

The reference of "God's own country" to Kerala can also be traced to the event known as Thrippadidanam, by the then ruler Marthanda Varma, Maharaja of Travancore, whereby in 1749–50, the Maharaja decided to "donate" his realm to Sri Padmanabha (Lord Vishnu) and thereafter rule as the deity's "vicegerent[disambiguation needed]" (Sri Padmanabha Dasa).[11][12]

Kerala is gifted with one of the most diverse and exotic flora and fauna in the world. It is wedged between the Lakshadweep Sea and the Western Ghats. Western Ghats is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight "hottest hot-spots" of biological diversity in the world.[13][14] It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India.[15] It contains a large proportion of the country's flora and fauna, many of which are only found in India and nowhere else in the world.[16]

Kerala is also a land with diverse landscapes. The serene beaches like the Kovalam beach, cliff-beaches in Varkala, dense evergreen forests of Silent Valley National Park, Nilambur and Periyar, picturesque Athirappilly Waterfalls, the royal backwaters of Alappuzha (or Alleppey), the beautiful tea plantations of Munnar, and lush coffee, cocoa and vanilla plantations of Wyanad and other areas of Malabar make this place verily the God's abode.[17]

In addition to the Flora, there are varied species of exotic animals living here. Bathing animals like elephants at elephant spa in Guruvayur and bird watching are some activities that people do in Kerala to indulge with the fauna. With this gift of Flora and Fauna, it's no wonder that Kerala is termed as “God’s own country”.

Kerala is also famous for its Ayurvedic treatments, high mountains, gorges, and deep-cut valleys, lush and evergreen rain forests, coconut palms, white-sand beaches, backwaters, tropical greenery, rich cultural heritage and delectable food items.[18][19]

With almost 600 kilometres of Arabian Sea coastline, a labyrinth of lakes, lagoons and canals, elephant and tiger reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, rolling hills of tea, plantations of ginger, cardamom, coffee, cocoa and rice paddies as green as anything you'd find in Eden, Kerala certainly feels like a tropical paradise.

The Kerala tourism board's slogan, emblazoned everywhere, also alludes to the variety of faiths in the state: Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Jews have coexisted harmoniously for centuries as the mishmash of temples, towers, spires and synagogues attest. So if the search for the place on Earth most favoured by God is a numbers game, Kerala sure beats the other places vying for the tag of 'God's Own Country'.

Tamil Nadu[edit]

The Tamil Nadu region was ruled by several empires, including the three great empires – Chola, Chera, and Pandyan empires, which shape the region's cuisine, culture, and architecture. The British colonial rule during the modern period led to the emergence of Chennai, then known as Madras, as a world-class city. Modern-day Tamil Nadu was formed in 1956 after the reorganization of states on linguistic lines. The state is home to a number of historic buildings, multi-religious pilgrimage sites, hill stations, and three World Heritage sites.


When used in reference to England, "God's own country" refers to the legend that as a boy Jesus visited England with his great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea.[20] The event itself inspired the musical prelude to William Blake's Milton, the piece "And did those feet in ancient time", also known as "Jerusalem", which has become an unofficial anthem of England.[21] The poem asks did Jesus visit England in ancient times, and in so doing create the New Jerusalem, or heaven in England.[22]

Another first usage of the term by Edward du Bois was in a poem describing the English county of Surrey in 1839.[23] The phrase was also used in its more literal meaning to refer to Heaven, in a poem by Elizabeth Harcourt Rolls Mitchell in 1857.[24]

The phrase is also used to describe Yorkshire, England's largest county.[25][26][27] This is used interchangeably with "God's Own County".[28][29][30]

United States[edit]

The phrase later found sporadic use to describe several American regions. Most known is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was also used by the Confederate army to describe parts of Tennessee in the 1860s.[31] The phrase was also used to describe California in the 1860s,[32] and by Clement Laird Vallandigham to describe the land of the Mississippi plains.[33] None of these remain widely used to describe a region, though it is still occasionally used to describe the United States overall.[34][35]

During World War II, German Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels sarcastically mocked the US as "Aus Gottes eigenem Land" (From God's Own Country) in an essay that appeared in the German newspaper Das Reich on August 9, 1942.[36] Goebbels ridiculed America as a young land that lacked culture, education and history in contrast with Germany. In 1943, the Nazis published an anti-American, anti-semitic propaganda book written by Erwin Berghaus called "USA – nackt!: Bilddokumente aus Gottes eigenem Land" ("USA naked! Photo documents from God's own country") which also mockingly characterized the US with the phrase.[37][38] Several modern German newspapers such as Die Welt, Der Tagesspiegel and Die Zeit, have also used the phrase "Gottes eigenes Land" ("God's own country") to criticize American culture and society.[39][40][41]

New Zealand[edit]

The earliest recorded use of the phrase as applied to New Zealand was as the title of a poem about New Zealand written by Thomas Bracken.[42] It was published in a book of his poems in 1890, and again in 1893 in a book entitled Lays and Lyrics: God's Own Country and Other Poems.[43] God's Own Country as a phrase was often used and popularised by New Zealand's longest serving prime minister, Richard John Seddon. He last quoted it on 10 June 1906 when he sent a telegram to the Victorian premier, Thomas Bent, the day before leaving Sydney to return home to New Zealand. "Just leaving for God's own country," he wrote. He never made it, dying the next day on the ship Oswestry Grange.[44] Bracken's God's Own Country is less well known internationally than God Defend New Zealand, which he published in 1876. The latter poem, set to music by John Joseph Woods, was declared the country's national hymn in 1940, and made the second national anthem of New Zealand along with God Save the Queen in 1977.


In Australia, the phrase "God's own country" was often used to describe the country in the early 1900s, but it appears to have gradually fallen out of favour.[45] The phrase "God's Country" is often used to describe Queensland[46][47][48] and the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney[49]


The phrase "God's own country" was heard during the 1970s in Rhodesia (formerly Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe), where most people perceived the land as beautiful despite the ongoing Bush War of the time. Evidence of the phrase being used earlier in reference to Rhodesia is found in Chartered Millions: Rhodesia and the Challenge to the British Commonwealth by John Hobbis Harris, published 1920 by Swarthmore Press (refer to page 27). The phrase "Godzone" is distinctly different and was not used in Rhodesia.


  1. ^ "God's Own Cuntry, Godzone and Good Old New Zealand". Godzone.com. 2 November 2015.
  2. ^ "How Kerala became God's Own Country". The Hindu. 20 November 2008. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  3. ^ Folk, Cunning. "Lancashire, God's Country". YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  4. ^ Robin Rinehart (2004). Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice. ABC-CLIO. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-57607-905-8. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  5. ^ Vishnu Purana
  6. ^ Goldberg, Ellen (2002). The Lord who is Half Woman: Ardhanārīśvara in Indian and Feminist Perspective. SUNY Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-7914-5325-4. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  7. ^ Kemmerer, Lisa (2011). Animals and World Religions. Oxford University Press. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-19-991255-1. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
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  10. ^ {{S.C. Bhatt, Gopal K. Bhargava (2006) "Land and People of Indian States and Union Territories: Volume 14.", p.18
  11. ^ Chaitanya, Krishna (1983). A History Of Indian Painting : Pahari Traditions. Abhinav Publications. p. 88. GGKEY:Y12G5FWSUHB.
  12. ^ Aswathy Thirunal, Gauri Lakshmi Bai (1998). Sree Padmanabhaswamy Kshetram. Thiruvananthapuram: The State Institute Of Languages, Kerala. pp. 168–170, 179–180, 595–602. ISBN 978-81-7638-028-7.
  13. ^ Myers, Norman; Mittermeier, Russell A.; Mittermeier, Cristina G.; Da Fonseca, Gustavo A. B.; Kent, Jennifer (2000). "Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities". Nature. 403 (6772): 853–858. doi:10.1038/35002501.
  14. ^ "UN designates Western Ghats as world heritage site". Times of India.date=3 December 2019|access-date=3 December 2019}}
  15. ^ Migon, Piotr (12 May 2010). Geomorphological Landscapes of the World. Springer. p. 257. ISBN 978-90-481-3054-2.
  16. ^ A biodiversity hotspot
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  20. ^ "The strange myth about Jesus coming to England". 23 April 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  21. ^ "English national anthem: Is Jerusalem the hymn we've been looking for?". 9 March 2016.
  22. ^ "Analysis of Jerusalem by William Blake". 29 December 2015.
  23. ^ Hone, W. (ed) (1839) The year book, of daily recreation & information, p. 469.
  24. ^ Mitchell, E. H. R. "To The memory of J.C.S." in First Fruits: Poems, p. 79.
  25. ^ Ward, David (24 October 2007). "An ark park for God's own country". Guardian Unlimited. London. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  26. ^ Duncan, Hannah (10 August 2012). "Yorkshire back up to 12th in Olympic medal table after Nicola Adams's gold". Metro. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  27. ^ "Yorkshire 10th in Olympic medal table". Yahoo Eurosport. 6 August 2012. Archived from the original on 11 August 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
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  29. ^ "What's so special about Yorkshire?". BBC News. 1 August 2006.
  30. ^ Rushby, Kevin (3 September 2013). "Yorkshire - God's own country is the best place in Europe". the Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  31. ^ Loring, F. W., and Atkinson, C. F. (1869). Cotton culture and the South considered with reference to emigration, p. 71.
  32. ^ Annual report of the State Board of Agriculture, Volume 4, Missouri State Board of Agriculture 1869, p. 468.
  33. ^ Speeches, arguments, addresses, and letters of Clement L. Vallandigham 1864, p. 211.
  34. ^ For example, in the title of Stephen Bates' book God's Own Country: Power and Religion in the USA: Religion and Politics in the USA.
  35. ^ Christopher Hitchens (30 September 1998). "Rushdie: Free at last". salon.com. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  36. ^ Bytwerk, Randall. "Goebbels on the USA (1942)". research.calvin.edu. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  37. ^ Berghaus, Erwin (2 April 2018). "USA – nackt! Bilddokumente aus Gottes eigenem Land". Bischoff. Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via Open WorldCat.
  38. ^ "very rare 1943 anti-Semitic / anti-American Third Reich photo book". www.od43.com. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  39. ^ Stein, Hannes (15 July 2013). "Martin-Prozess: Die Rassismus-Frage in Obamas Amerika". Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via www.welt.de.
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  41. ^ Groß, Th (15 May 2003). "Musik: Wie gut, dass es das Böse gibt". Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via Die Zeit.
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  45. ^ "God's Own Country", A Word Picture of Australia
  46. ^ "Truly God's own country"". 27 June 1938. p. 5 – via Trove.
  47. ^ "Great driving holidays – Brisbane to Townsville (Qld)". DriveNow Blog. 27 March 2010.
  48. ^ Birchley, Delia (23 April 1986). "God's own country: the Johnstone Shire story". Bowen Hills, Qld.: Boolarong Publications – via Trove.
  49. ^ "The Australian Route Register". www.climb.org.au. Retrieved 2 April 2018.