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This article is about Indian state of Kerala. For the genus of moth, see Kerala (moth).
State of India
Coat of arms of Kerala
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): God's Own Country, Spice Garden of India, Land of Coconut Trees
Location of Kerala (marked in red) in India
Location of Kerala (marked in red) in India
Map of Kerala
Map of Kerala
Coordinates (Thiruvananthapuram): 8°30′27″N 76°58′23″E / 8.5074°N 76.973°E / 8.5074; 76.973Coordinates: 8°30′27″N 76°58′23″E / 8.5074°N 76.973°E / 8.5074; 76.973
Country India
Region South India
Formation 1 July 1949
Renamed 1 November 1956
Capital City Thiruvananthapuram
Districts 14
 • Body Government of Kerala
 • Governor P. Sathasivam[1]
 • Chief Minister Oommen Chandy (INC)
 • Legislature Unicameral (141* seats)
 • Parliamentary constituency 20
 • High Court Kerala High Court Kochi
 • Total 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi)
Area rank 22nd
Highest elevation 2,695 m (8,842 ft)
Lowest elevation -2.2 m (−7.2 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 33,387,677[2]
 • Rank 13th
Demonym(s) Keralite, Malayali
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
ISO 3166 code IN-KL
HDI Increase 0.790[3] (high)
HDI rank 1st (2011)
Literacy 93.91% (1st) (2011)
Official languages Malayalam, English
^* 140 elected, 1 nominated

Kerala (/ˈkɛrələ/), historically known as Keralam, is a state in South India on the Malabar coast. It was created on 1 November 1956 following the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), it is bordered by Karnataka to the north and north east, 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 state by population and is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken and official language of the state.

The region was a prominent spice exporter from 3000 BCE. The Chera Dynasty was the first prominent kingdom based in Kerala, though it frequently struggled against attacks from the neighbouring Cholas and Pandyas. In the 15th century, the spice trade attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and paved the way for the European colonisation of India. After independence, Travancore and Cochin joined the Republic of India and Travancore-Cochin was given the status of a state. Kerala state was formed in 1956 by merging the Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara.

Kerala has the lowest positive population growth rate in India; 3.44%, highest Human Development Index (HDI); 0.790 in 2011, the highest literacy rate; 93.91%, the highest life expectancy; 77 years and the highest sex ratio; 1,084 women per 1000 men. The state has witnessed significant emigration, especially to the Gulf states 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 and Dravidian cultures, developed over millennia, under influences from other parts of India and abroad.

The production of pepper and natural rubber contributes a 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% of the state's income. The state has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine different languages; mainly English and Malayalam. Kerala is an important tourist destination, with backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism and tropical greenery its major attractions.


The name Kerala has an uncertain etymology. "Keralam" may stem from the Classical Tamil cherive-alam ("declivity of a hill or a mountain slope") or chera alam ("Land of the Cheras"). While "Kerala" may represent an imperfect Malayalam portmanteau fusing kera ("coconut palm tree") and alam ("land" or "location").[4] "Kerala" can also be derived from the word "Cheral" that refers to the oldest known dynasty of Kerala kings. The word "Cheral" is derived from the Proto-Tamil-Malayalam word for "lake".[5]

The earliest Sanskrit text to mention Kerala is the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rigveda. It is also mentioned in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two Hindu epics.[6] The word Kerala is first recorded (as Keralaputra, meaning Cherathala makan or Cheraman) in a 3rd-century BCE rock inscription (Rock Edict 2) left by the Maurya emperor Ashoka (274–237 BCE).[7] The inscription refers to the local ruler as Keralaputra (Sanskrit for "son of Kerala"); or "son of Chera[s]". This contradicts a popular theory that its etymology derives "Kerala" from "Kera" (coconut tree in Malayalam).[8] 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.[9] The Graeco-Roman trade map Periplus Maris Erythraei refers to Keralaputra as Celobotra.[10]


Main article: History of Kerala


Parasurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna (the Hindu God of water) to part the seas and reveal Kerala

Dahsavthar stories of Hindu mythology were linked to Kerala by Aryan settlers from north. According to them, the lands of Kerala were recovered from the sea by the axe-wielding warrior sage Parasurama, 6th avatar of 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.[11] The consensus among scientific geographers is that a substantial portion of this area was under the sea in ancient times.[12] 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.[13] In medieval times Kuttuvan may have emulated the Parasurama tradition by throwing his spear into the sea to symbolize his lordship over it.[14]

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.[15] The Matsya Purana, among the oldest of the 18 Puranas,[16][17] uses the Malaya Mountains of Kerala (and Tamil Nadu) as the setting for the story of Lord Matsya, the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and King Manu, the first man and the king of the region.[18][19]


Main article: Pre-history of Kerala
A dolmen erected by Neolithic people in Marayur

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).[20] Rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves, in Wayanad are thought to date from the Neolithic era around 6000 BCE.[21][22] Archaeological studies have identified many Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic sites in Kerala.[23] 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.[24] Foreign cultural contacts have assisted this cultural formation;[25] historians suggest a possible relationship with Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.[26]

Ancient period[edit]

Silk Road map. The spice trade was mainly along the water routes (blue).

Kerala was a major spice exporter from 3000 BCE, according to Sumerian records and it is still referred to as the "Garden of Spices" or as the "Spice Garden of India".[27][28] Kerala's spices attracted ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians to the Malabar Coast in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE. Arabs and Phoenicians established trade with Kerala during this period.[29] 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.[30] Scholars hold that Keralaputra is an alternate name of the Cheras, the first dominant dynasty based in Kerala.[31][32] These territories once shared a common language and culture, within an area known as Tamilakam.[33] While the Cheras ruled most of modern Kerala, its southern tip was in the kingdom of Pandyas,[34] which had a trading port sometimes identified in ancient Western sources as Nelcynda (or Neacyndi).[35] Later, the region fell under the control of the Pandyas, Cheras, and Cholas. Ays and Mushikas were two other dynasties of ancient Kerala, whose kingdoms lay to the south and north of Cheras respectively.[36][37]

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. In foreign-trade circles the region was known as Male or Malabar.[38] Muziris, Berkarai, and Nelcynda were among the principal ports at that time.[39] The value of Rome's annual trade with the region was estimated at around 50,000,000 sesterces;[40] 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. Various 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.[41][42]

Merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala.[43] The Jewish connection with Kerala started in 573 BCE.[44][45][46] 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 Jews at Eden.[39] They intermarried with local people, resulting in formation of the Muslim Mappila community.[47] 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.[48][49] Mappila was an honorific title that had been assigned to respected visitors from abroad; Jewish, Syrian Christian, and Muslim immigration account for later names of the respective communities: Juda Mappilas, Nasrani Mappilas, and Muslim Mappilas.[50][51] According to the legends of these communities, the earliest churches,[52] mosque,[53] and synagogue (1568 CE)[54] in India were built in Kerala.[47]

Early medieval period[edit]

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, 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.[55][56] Under Kulasekhara rule, Kerala witnessed a developing period of art, literature, trade and the Bhakti movement of Hinduism.[57] A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils, became linguistically separate during this period.[58] 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.[57]

The inhibitions, caused by a series of Chera-Chola wars in the 11th century, resulted in the decline of foreign trade in Kerala ports. Buddhism and Jainism disappeared from the land.[59] The social system became fractured with divisions on caste lines.[60] Finally, the Kulasekhara dynasty was subjugated in 1102 by the combined attack of Later Pandyas and Later Cholas.[55] 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.[61][62]

Colonial era[edit]

The path Vasco da Gama took to reach India (black line)

The maritime spice trade monopoly in the Indian Ocean stayed with Arabs during the High and Late Middle Ages. However, the dominance of Middle East traders was challenged in the European Age of Discovery during which the spice trade, particularly in black pepper, became an influential activity for European traders.[63] Around the 15th century, the Portuguese began to dominate eastern shipping, and the spice-trade in particular, culminating in Vasco Da Gama's arrival in Kappad Kozhikode in 1498.[64][65] 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 and 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.[66] 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.[67]

The Portuguese were ousted by the Dutch East India Company, who during the conflicts between the Kozhikode and the Kochi, gained control of the trade.[68] The Dutch in turn were weakened by constant battles with Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family, and were defeated at the Battle of Colachel in 1741.[69] An agreement, known as "Treaty of Mavelikkara", was signed by the Dutch and Travancore in 1753, according to which the Dutch were compelled to detach from all political involvement in the region.[70][71][72] Marthanda Varma annexed many northern kingdoms through military conquests, resulting in the rise of Travancore to a position of preeminence in Kerala.[73]

In 1766, Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore invaded northern Kerala.[74] His son and successor, Tipu Sultan, launched campaigns against the expanding British East India Company, resulting in two of the four Anglo-Mysore Wars.[75][76] Tipu ultimately ceded the Malabar District and South Kanara to the Company in the 1790s; both were annexed to the Madras Presidency of British India in 1792.[77][78][79] The Company forged tributary alliances with Kochi in 1791 and Travancore in 1795.[80] By the end of 18th century, the whole of Kerala fell under the control of the British, either administered directly or under suzerainty.[81] There were major revolts in Kerala during the independence movement in the 20th century; most notable among them is the 1921 Malabar Rebellion and the many social struggles in Travancore. In the Malabar Rebellion, Mappila Muslims of Malabar rioted against Hindu zamindars and the British Raj.[82] Some social struggles against caste inequalities also erupted in the early decades of 20th century, leading to the 1936 Temple Entry Proclamation that opened Hindu temples in Travancore to all castes.[83]

Post colonial period[edit]

After British India was partitioned in 1947 into India and Pakistan, Travancore and Kochi, part of the Union of India were merged on 1 July 1949 to form Travancore-Cochin.[84] On 1 November 1956, the taluk of Kasargod in the South Kanara district of Madras, the Malabar district of Madras, and Travancore-Cochin, without four southern taluks (which joined Tamil Nadu), merged to form the state of Kerala under the States Reorganisation Act.[85][86] A Communist-led government under E. M. S. Namboodiripad resulted from the first elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly in 1957.[86] It was one of the earliest elected Communist governments, after Communist success in the 1945 elections in the Republic of San Marino.[87][88][89]


Main article: Geography of Kerala
Vembanad, the largest lake in Kerala

The state is wedged between the Lakshadweep Sea and the Western Ghats. Lying between northern latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and eastern longitudes 74°52' and 77°22',[90] Kerala experiences the humid equatorial tropic climate. The state has a coast of 590 km (370 mi)[91] and the width of the state varies between 11 and 121 kilometres (7 and 75 mi).[92] Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands; rugged and cool mountainous terrain, the central mid-lands; rolling hills, and the western lowlands; coastal plains.[93] The state is located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent and lies near the centre of the Indian tectonic plate; hence, it is subject to comparatively low seismic and volcanic activity.[94] Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala's terrain.[95][96] A catastrophic flood in Kerala in 1341 CE drastically modified its terrain and consequently affected its history; it also created a natural harbor for spice transport.[97] The eastern region of Kerala consists of high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys immediately west of the Western Ghats' rain shadow.[93] 41 of Kerala's west-flowing rivers,[98] and 3 of its east-flowing ones originate in this region.[99][100] The Western Ghats form a wall of mountains interrupted only near Palakkad; hence also known Palghat, where the Palakkad Gap breaks.[101] The Western Ghats rise on average to 1,500 m (4920 ft) above sea level,[102] while the highest peaks reach around 2,500 m (8200 ft).[103] Anamudi, the highest peak in south India, is at an elevation of 2,695 metres (8,842 ft).[104]

Kerala's western coastal belt is relatively flat compared to the eastern region,[105] and is criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries,[106] and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters.[107] The state's largest lake Vembanad, dominates the backwaters; it lies between Alappuzha and Kochi and is about 200 km2 (77 sq mi) in area.[108] Around eight percent of India's waterways are found in Kerala.[109] Kerala's forty-four rivers include the Periyar; 244 km, Bharathapuzha; 209 km, Pamba; 176 km, Chaliyar; 169 km, Kadalundipuzha; 130 km, Chalakudipuzha; 130 km, Valapattanam; 129 km and the Achankovil River; 128 km. The average length of the rivers is 64 km. Many of the rivers are small and entirely fed by monsoon rain.[110] As Kerala's rivers are small and lacking in delta, they are more prone to environmental effects. The rivers face problems such as sand mining and pollution.[111] The state experiences several natural hazards like landslides, floods and droughts. The state was also affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.[112]


With around 120–140 rainy days per year,[113]:80 Kerala has a wet and maritime tropical climate influenced by the seasonal heavy rains of the southwest summer monsoon and northeast winter monsoon.[114] Around 65% of the rainfall occurs from June to August corresponding to the Southwest monsoon, and the rest from September to December corresponding to Northeast monsoon.[114] The moisture-laden winds of the Southwest monsoon, on reaching the southernmost point of the Indian Peninsula, because of its topography, divides into two branches; the "Arabian Sea Branch" and the "Bay of Bengal Branch".[115] The "Arabian Sea Branch" of the Southwest monsoon first hits the Western Ghats,[116] making Kerala the first state in India to receive rain from the Southwest monsoon.[117][118] The distribution of pressure patterns is reversed in the Northeast monsoon, during this season the cold winds from North India pick up moisture from the Bay of Bengal and precipitate it on the east coast of peninsular India.[119][120] In Kerala, the influence of the Northeast monsoon is seen in southern districts only.[121] Kerala's rainfall averages 2,923 mm (115 in) annually.[122] Some of Kerala's drier lowland regions average only 1,250 mm (49 in); the mountains of the eastern Idukki district receive more than 5,000 mm (197 in) of orographic precipitation: the highest in the state. In eastern Kerala, a drier tropical wet and dry climate prevails. During the summer, the state is prone to gale force winds, storm surges, cyclone-related torrential downpours, occasional droughts, and rises in sea level.[123]:26, 46, 52 The mean daily temperature ranges from 19.8 °C to 36.7 °C.[124] Mean annual temperatures range from 25.0–27.5 °C in the coastal lowlands to 20.0–22.5 °C in the eastern highlands.[123]:65

Climate data for Kerala
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 28.0
Average low °C (°F) 22
Average rainfall mm (inches) 8.7
Source: [122][124]

Flora and fauna[edit]

State symbols of Kerala[125][126]
Animal Guruvayoor Kesavan Statue.jpg Indian elephant
Bird വേഴാമ്പൽ-ബന്നാർക്കട്ട-പാർക്ക്.JPG Great hornbill
Fish Karimean.jpg Pearl spot
Flower Konnamaram.JPG Golden shower tree flower
Tree Coconut tree climbing DSCN0345.jpg Coconut tree
Brahminy kite, commonly known as Krishnapparunthu in the local language of Kerala
A common lime butterfly (Papilio demoleus) in Kadavoor

Most of the biodiversity is concentrated and protected in the Western Ghats. Three quarters of the land area of Kerala was under thick forest up to 18th century.[127] Currently, over 25% of India's 15,000 plant species are in Kerala. Out of the 4,000 flowering plant species; 1,272 of which are endemic to Kerala, 900 are medicinal, and 159 are threatened.[128]:11 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.[128]:12 Three of the world's Ramsar Convention listed wetlandsLake Sasthamkotta, Ashtamudi Lake 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,[129]:6–7 much of the remaining forest cover is now protected from clearfelling.[130] Eastern Kerala's windward mountains shelter tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests, which are common in the Western Ghats.[131][132] The world's oldest teak plantation 'Conolly's Plot' is in Nilambur.[133]

Kerala's fauna are notable for their diversity and high rates of endemism: it includes 102 species of mammals (56 of which are endemic), 476 species of birds, 202 species of freshwater fish, 169 species of reptiles (139 of them endemic), and 89 species of amphibians (86 endemic).[134] These are threatened by extensive habitat destruction, including soil erosion, landslides, salinisation, and resource extraction. In the forests, sonokeling, Dalbergia latifolia, 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, and aromatic vetiver grass, Vetiveria zizanioides.[128]:12 Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, Nilgiri tahr, common palm civet, and grizzled giant squirrels are also found in the forests.[128]:12, 174–175 Reptiles include the king cobra, viper, python, and mugger crocodile. Kerala's birds include the Malabar trogon, the great hornbill, Kerala laughingthrush, darter and southern hill myna. In the lakes, wetlands, and waterways, fish such as kadu; stinging catfish and choottachi; orange chromide—Etroplus maculatus are found.[128]:163–165


Population density of Kerala

The state's 14 districts are distributed among six regions: North Malabar (far-north Kerala), South Malabar (northern Kerala), Kochi (central Kerala), Northern Travancore, Central Travancore (southern Kerala) and Southern Travancore (far-south Kerala). The districts which serve as administrative regions for taxation purposes are further subdivided into 75 taluks, which have fiscal and administrative powers over settlements within their borders, including maintenance of local land records. Kerala's taluks are further sub-divided into 1,453 revenue villages.[135] Since the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India, the local government institutions function as the third tier of government, which constitutes 14 District Panchayats, 152 Block Panchayats, 978 Grama Panchayats, 60 Municipalities, six Corporations and one Township.[136] Mahé, a part of the Indian union territory of Puducherry,[137] though 647 kilometres (402 mi) away from it,[138] is a coastal exclave surrounded by Kerala on all of its landward approaches. The Kannur District surrounds Mahé on three sides with the Kozhikode District on the fourth.[139]

There are six Municipal corporations in Kerala that govern Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Kollam, Thrissur and Kannur.[140] The Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation is the largest corporation in Kerala while Kochi metropolitan area named Greater Cochin or Kochi UA is the largest urban agglomeration.[141] According to a survey by economics research firm Indicus Analytivs, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Thrissur and Kannur are among the "best cities in India to live"; the survey used parameters such as health, education, environment, safety, public facilities and entertainment to rank the cities.[142]

Government and administration[edit]

A working day view of Kerala High Court in Kochi

Kerala hosts two major political alliances: the United Democratic Front (India) (UDF); led by the Indian National Congress and the Left Democratic Front (Kerala) (LDF); led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)). At present, the UDF is the ruling coalition; Oommen Chandy of the Indian National Congress is the Chief Minister, while V.S. Achuthanandan of the LDF is the Leader of Opposition. Strikes, protests and marches are ubiquitous in Kerala because of the comparatively strong presence of labour unions.[143][144] According to the Constitution of India, Kerala has a parliamentary system of representative democracy; universal suffrage is granted to residents.[145] The government is organised into the three branches:

  1. Legislature: 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 the Speaker's absence, by the Deputy Speaker. The state has 140 assembly constituencies.[146] The state elects 20 and 9 members for representation in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha respectively.[147]
  2. Executive: The Governor of Kerala is the constitutional head of state, and is appointed by the President of India.[148] P Sathasivam is the Governor of Kerala.[149] 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 head of the majority party in the Legislative Assembly is appointed to the post by the Governor.[148] The Council of Ministers has its members appointed by the Governor, taking the advice of the Chief Minister.[148] Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs.[150]
  3. Judiciary: The judiciary consists of the Kerala High Court and a system of lower courts.[151] The High Court, located in Kochi,[152] has a Chief Justice along with 23 permanent and seven additional pro tempore justices as of 2012.[153] The high court also hears cases from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.[154][155]

The local government bodies; Panchayat, Municipalities and Corporations have existed in Kerala since 1959, however, the major initiative to decentralise the governance was started in 1993, conforming to the constitutional amendments of central government in this direction.[156] With the enactment of Kerala Panchayati Raj Act and Kerala Municipality Act in 1994, the state implemented various reforms in local self-governance.[157] The Kerala Panchayati Raj Act envisages a 3-tier system of local government with Gram panchayat, Block panchayat and District Panchayat forming a hierarchy.[158] The acts ensure a clear demarcation of power among these institutions.[156] However, the Kerala Municipality Act envisages a single-tier system for urban areas, with the institution of municipality designed to par with the Gram panchayat of the former system. Substantial administrative, legal and financial powers are delegated to these bodies to ensure efficient decentralisation.[159] As per the present norms, the state government devolves about 40 per cent of the state plan outlay to the local government.[160]


Main article: Economy of Kerala

After independence, the state was managed as a democratic socialist welfare economy. From the 1990s, liberalisation of the mixed economy allowed onerous Licence Raj restrictions against capitalism and foreign direct investment to be lightened, leading to economic expansion and an increase in employment. In the fiscal year 2007–2008, the nominal gross state domestic product (GSDP) was 1624 billion (US$25 billion). GSDP growth; 9.2% in 2004–2005 and 7.4% in 2003–2004 had been high compared to an average of 2.3% annually in the 1980s and between 5.1%[161]:8 and 5.99%[162] in the 1990s.[161]:8 The state recorded 8.93% growth in enterprises from 1998 to 2005, higher than the national rate of 4.80%.[163] The Human Development Index rating of Kerala is the highest in India at 0.790.[164] The "Kerala phenomenon" or "Kerala model of development" of very high human development and in comparison low economic development has resulted from a strong service sector.[123]:48[165]:1

Kerala's economy depends on emigrants working in foreign countries, mainly in the Gulf states, and remittances annually contribute more than a fifth of GSDP.[166] In 2008, the Gulf countries together had a Keralite population of more than 2.5 million, who sent home annually a sum of US$6.81 billion, which is the highest among Indian states and more than 15.13% of remittances to India in 2008.[167] In 2012, Kerala still received the highest remittances of all states: $11.3 billion, which was nearly 16% of the $71 billion remittances to the country.[168] In 2015, NRI deposits in Kerala have soared to over Rs 1 lakh crore, amounting to one-sixth of all the money deposited in NRI accounts, which comes to about Rs 7 lakh crores ($115 billion).[169] However, a study commissioned by the Kerala State Planning Board, suggested that the state look for other reliable sources of income, instead of relying on remittances to finance its expenditure.[170] According to a study done in 2013, Kerala loses about Rs 17,500 crores every year, through the sizable population of migrant labourers in Kerala,[171]

The tertiary sector comprises services such as transport, storage, communications, tourism, banking, insurance and real estate. In 2011–2012, it contributed 63.22% of the state's GDP, agriculture and allied sectors contributed 15.73%, while manufacturing, construction and utilities contributed 21.05%.[172] Nearly half of Kerala's people depend on agriculture alone for income.[173] Around 600 varieties[128]:5 of rice which is Kerala's most used staple food and cereal crop[174]:5 are harvested from 3105.21 km2; a decline from 5883.4 km2 in 1990.[174]:5 688,859 tonnes of rice are produced per year.[175] Other key crops include coconut; 899,198 ha, tea, coffee; 23% of Indian production,[176]:13 or 57,000 tonnes,[176]: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 as of a 1999–2000 estimate; 222 fishing villages are strung along the 590 km coast. Another 113 fishing villages dot the hinterland. Kerala's coastal belt of Karunagappally is known for high background radiation from thorium-containing monazite sand. In some coastal panchayats, median outdoor radiation levels are more than 4 mGy/yr and, in certain locations on the coast, it is as high as 70 mGy/yr.[177]

Rural women processing coir threads

Traditional industries manufacturing items; coir, handlooms, and handicrafts employ around one million people.[178] Kerala supplies 60% of the total global produce of white coir fibre. India's first coir factory was set up in Alleppey in 1859–60.[179] The Central Coir Research Institute was established in 1959 in Alleppy. As per the 2006–2007 census by SIDBI, there are 1,468,104 micro, small and medium enterprises in Kerala employing 3,031,272 people.[180][181] The KSIDC has promoted more than 650 medium and large manufacturing firms in Kerala, creating employment for 72,500 people.[182] A mining sector of 0.3% of GSDP involves extraction of ilmenite, kaolin, bauxite, silica, quartz, rutile, zircon, and sillimanite.[175] Other major sectors are tourism, manufacturing, home gardens, animal husbandry and business process outsourcing. As of March 2002, Kerala's banking sector comprised 3341 local branches: each branch served 10,000 people, lower than the national average of 16,000; the state has the third-highest bank penetration among Indian states.[183] On 1 October 2011, Kerala became the first state in the country to have at least one banking facility in every village.[184] Unemployment in 2007 was estimated at 9.4%;[185] chronic issues are underemployment, low employability of youth, and a low female labor participation rate of only 13.5%,[186]:5, 13 as is the practice of Nokku kooli, "wages for looking on".[187] By 1999–2000, the rural and urban poverty rates dropped to 10.0% and 9.6% respectively.[188]

Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram is the largest IT employer in Kerala and employs around 35,000 people. It was the first technology park in India[189][190] and with the inauguration of the Thejaswini complex on 22 February 2007, Technopark became the largest IT Park in India.[191] Software giants like Infosys, Oracle, Tata Consultancy Services, Capgemini, HCL, UST Global, Nest, Suntec and IBS have offices in the state. Thiruvananthapuram is also the "IT Hub of Kerala" and accounts for around 80% of the software exports.[192] The Grand Kerala Shopping Festival (GKSF) claimed to be "Asia's largest shopping festival" was started in the year 2007.[193]

The state's budget of 2012–2013 was 481.42 billion.[194] The state government's tax revenues (excluding the shares from Union tax pool) amounted to 217.22 billion in 2010–2011; up from 176.25 billion in 2009–2010. Its non-tax revenues (excluding the shares from Union tax pool) of the Government of Kerala reached 19,308 million in 2010–2011.[194] However, Kerala's high ratio of taxation to GSDP has not alleviated chronic budget deficits and unsustainable levels of government debt, which have impacted social services.[195] A record total of 223 hartals were observed in 2006, resulting in a revenue loss of over 20 billion ( 20 billion).[196] Kerala's 10% rise in GDP is 3% more than the national GDP. In 2013, capital expenditure rose 30% compared to the national average of 5%, owners of two-wheelers rose by 35% compared to the national rate of 15%, and the teacher-pupil ratio rose 50% from 2:100 to 4:100.[197]


Coconut palms can be found all over Kerala
A typical paddy field in Kerala

Agriculture in Kerala has passed through many phases. The major change occurred in the 1970s when production of rice fell due to increased availability of rice all over India and decreased availability of labour.[198] Consequently, investment in rice production decreased and a major portion of the land shifted to the cultivation of perennial tree crops and seasonal crops.[199][200] Profitability of crops fellfarea due to shortage of farm labour, the high price of land and the uneconomic size of operational holdings.[201]

Kerala produces 97% of the national output of black pepper[202] and accounts for 85% of the natural rubber in the country.[203][204] Coconut, tea, coffee, cashew, and spices—including cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg are the main agricultural products.[205][206][207][208][209][210] The key agricultural staple is rice, with varieties grown in extensive paddy fields.[211] Home gardens made up a significant portion of the agricultural sector.[212] Related animal husbandry is touted by proponents as a means of alleviating rural poverty and unemployment among women, the marginalised, and the landless.[213][214] The state government promotes these activities via educational campaigns and the development of new cattle breeds such as the Sunandini.[215][216]

Though the contribution of agricultural sector to the state economy was on the decline in 2012–13, through the strength of the allied livestock sector, it has picked up from 7.03% (2011–12) to 7.2%. In the 2013–14 fiscal period, the contribution has been estimated at a high of 7.75%. The total growth of the farm sector has recorded a 4.39% increase in 2012–13, over a paltry 1.3% growth in the previous fiscal year. The agricultural sector has a share of 9.34% in the sectoral distribution of Gross State Domestic Product at Constant Price, while the secondary and tertiary sectors has contributed 23.94% and 66.72% respectively.[217]

Ill-effects due to the usage of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides has gradually contributed to preferences for organic products and home farming, and as a result the Kerala government plans to shift to fully organic cultivation by 2016.[218][219] is Kerala's first online open market for consumers/Farmers to connect directly with each other. It provides a platform or rather a virtual market for farmers and end consumers where the Farmers can display their crops, mention the quantity, specify the method of cultivation, expected price for the commodity and contact details. Farmers can post their products in any quantity ranging from 1 kg to 1 Ton which means even a person having a kitchen farm may find a buyer.[220]

Water filled paddy fields.


A fisherman in rural Kerala

With a 590 km of coastal belt,[221] 400,000 hectares of inland water resources[222] and approximately 220,000 active fishermen,[223] Kerala is one of the leading producers of fish in India.[224] According to 2003–04 reports, about 1.1 million people earn their livelihood from fishing and allied activities such as drying, processing, packaging, exporting and transporting fisheries. The annual yield of the sector was estimated as 608,000 tons in 2003–04.[225] This contributes to about 3% of the total economy of the state. In 2006, around 22% of the total Indian marine fishery yield was from Kerala.[226] During the southwest monsoon, a suspended mud bank develops along the shore, which in turn leads to calm ocean water, peaking the output of the fishing industry. This phenomenon is locally called chakara.[227][228] The waters provide a large variety of fish: pelagic species; 59%, demersal species; 23%, crustaceans, molluscs and others for 18%.[226]

Urban development[edit]

In November 2015, the Ministry of Urban Development selected seven cities of Kerala for a comprehensive development program known as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).[229] A package of 25 lakh (US$38,000) was declared for each of the cities to develop service level improvement plan (SLIP), a plan for better functioning of the local urban bodies in the cities of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode, and Palakkad.[230]



KSRTC is the major agency providing long-haul public bus service in South Kerala.

Kerala has 145,704 kilometres (90,536 mi) of roads; it accounts for 4.2% of India's total. This translates to about 4.62 kilometres (2.87 mi) of road per thousand population, compared to an average of 2.59 kilometres (1.61 mi) in the country. Roads in Kerala include 1,524 km of national highway; 2.6% of the nation's total, 4341.6 km of state highway and 18900 km of district roads.[231] Most of Kerala's west coast is accessible through two national highways: NH 47 and NH 17, and the eastern side is accessible through various state highways.[232] There is also a hill highway proposed, to provide access to the eastern hills.[233] National Highway 17, with the longest stretch of road (421 km) connects Edapally to Panvel; it starts from Kochi and passes through Kozhikode, Kannur, Kanhangad, Kasaragod and Uppala before entering Karnataka.[232] The Palakkad district is generally referred to as the Gateway of Kerala due to the presence of the Palakkad Gap, in the Western Ghats, which connects the Northern (Malabar) and Southern (Travancore) parts of Kerala to rest of India via road and rail. It has the state's largest check point, in Walayar, through which all major public and commercial transportation happens, to reach all other districts of Kerala.[234]

The Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining and expanding the state highways system and major district roads.[235] The Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP), which includes the GIS-based Road Information and Management Project (RIMS), is responsible for maintaining and expanding the state highways in Kerala; it also oversees a few major district roads.[236][237] Traffic in Kerala has been growing at a rate of 10–11% every year, resulting in high traffic and pressure on the roads. Traffic density is nearly four times the national average, reflecting the state's high population. Kerala's annual total of road accidents is among the nation's highest. The accidents are mainly the result of the narrow roads and irresponsible driving.[238] National Highways in Kerala are among the narrowest in the country and will remain so for the foreseeable future, as the state government has received an exemption that allows narrow national highways. In Kerala, highways are 45 meters wide. In other states National Highways are grade separated highways 60 meters wide with a minimum of four lanes, as well as 6 or 8 lane access-controlled expressways.[239][240] NHAI has threatened the Kerala state government that it will give high priority to other states in highway development as political commitment to better highways has been lacking,[241] and the state had the highest road accident rate in the country, with most fatal accidents taking place along the state's National Highways.[242]


The main Portico of the Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station

The Indian Railways' Southern Railway line runs through the state connecting most of the major towns and cities except those in the highland districts of Idukki and Wayanad.[243] The railway network in the state is controlled by two out of six divisions of the Southern Railway; Thiruvananthapuram Railway division and Palakkad Railway Division.[244] Thiruvananthapuram Central (TVC) is the busiest railway station in the state. Kerala's major railway stations are Thiruvananthapuram Central (TVC), Ernakulam Junction (South) (ERS), Kozhikode (CLT), Shornur Junction (SRR), Palakkad Junction (PGT), Kollam Junction (QLN), Kannur (CAN), Thrissur Railway Station (TCR), Ernakulam Town (North)(ERN) Alappuzha (ALLP), Kottayam (KTYM) Kayamkulam Junction (KYJ) and Chengannur (CNGR). Major railway transport between BeyporeTirur began on 12 March 1861, from Shoranur–Cochin Harbour section in 1902, from KollamShenkottai on 1 July 1904, KollamThiruvananthapuram on 4 January 1918, from Nilambur-Shoranur in 1927, from ErnakulamKottayam in 1956, from KottayamKollam in 1958, from Thiruvananthapuram–Kanyakumari in 1979 and from the Thrissur-Guruvayur Section in 1994.[245]


Trivandrum intl Airport T3

Kerala has three international airports; Trivandrum International Airport, Cochin International Airport and Calicut International Airport. Another international airport has been proposed, at Kannur.[246] Officials say that the Kannur International Airport will be completed in December 2015.[247][248] Kollam Airport, established under the Madras Presidency and closed before the inauguration of Trivandrum International Airport in the capital, was the first airport in Kerala.[249] Trivandrum International Airport, managed by the Airport Authority of India, is among the oldest existing airports in South India. Cochin International Airport is the busiest in the state and the seventh-busiest in the country. It was the first Indian airport to be incorporated as a public limited company; it was funded by nearly 10,000 non-resident Indians from 30 countries. Cochin Airport is the primary hub of Air India Express and the secondary hub of Air Asia India.[250]

Inland water transport[edit]

Junkar[clarification needed] service Fort Kochi

Kerala has numerous backwaters, which are used for commercial inland navigation. Transport services are mainly provided by country craft and passenger vessels.[200] There are 67 navigable rivers in the state while the total length of inland waterways is 1,687 kilometres (1,048 mi).[251] The main constraints to the expansion of inland navigation are; lack of depth in waterways caused by silting, lack of maintenance of navigation systems and bank protection, accelerated growth of the water hyacinth, lack of modern inland craft terminals, and lack of a cargo handling system.[200] A canal 205 kilometres (127 mi) long, National Waterway 3, runs between Kottapuram and Kollam.[252]


Circle frame.svg

Languages of Kerala in 2001[253]

  Malayalam (96.74%)
  Tamil (1.87%)
  Others (1.39%)

Kerala is home to 2.76% of India's population; 859 persons per km2, its land is nearly three times as densely settled as the rest of India, which is at a population density of 370 persons per km2.[257] As of 2011, Thiruvananthapuram is the most populous city in Kerala.[258] In the state, the rate of population growth is India's lowest, and the decadal growth of 4.9% in 2011 is less than one third of the all-India average of 17.64%.[257] 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 33.3 million by 2011.[257] Kerala's coastal regions are the most densely settled with population of 2022 persons per km2, 2.5 times the overall population density of the state, 859 persons per km2, leaving the eastern hills and mountains comparatively sparsely populated.[259] Around 31.8 million Keralites are predominantly Malayali.[257] The state's 321,000 indigenous tribal Adivasis, 1.10% of the population, are concentrated in the east.[260]:10–12 Malayalam, one of the classical languages in India, is Kerala's official language.[261] Tamil, Kannada, Tulu, Hindi, Bengali, Mahl and various Adivasi (tribal) languages are also spoken.[262][263][264][265][266] As of early 2013, there are close to 2.5 million (7.5% of the state population) migrant labourers in Kerala from other parts of India.[171]

List of Major cities in Kerala
No. City District Population

Kochi, India





Thrissur city

1 Thiruvananthapuram Thiruvananthapuram 796,084
2 Kochi Ernakulam 632,997
3 Kozhikode Kozhikode 550,921
4 Kollam Kollam 367,477
5 Thrissur Thrissur 315,596
6 Kannur Kannur 241,072
7 Malappuram Malappuram 101,334
Source: 2011 Census of India [258]
List of major cities in Kerala as per Ministry of Urban Development publication, 2011.


Circle frame.svg

Religion in Kerala (2011)[267]

  Hinduism (54.73%)
  Islam (26.56%)
  Christianity (18.38%)
  Other or none (0.32%)

In comparison with the rest of India, Kerala experiences relatively little sectarianism.[268] According to 2011 Census of India figures, 54.73% of Kerala's residents are Hindus, 26.56% are Muslims, 18.38% are Christians, and the remaining 0.32% follows another religion or no religion.[269] The major Hindu castes are Dalit, Ezhava,Arayan, Nadars, Nair,Thiyya Chettiar and Nambudiri. The rest of the Hindu castes, including those in the list of Other Backward Class (OBC), are minority communities.Hindus constitute the majority in all districts except Malappuram.[270] Islam arrived in Kerala through Arab traders in the 7th century AD.[271][272] Muslims of Kerala, generally referred to as Mappila, mostly follow the Shafi'i Madh'hab under Sunni Islam.[273] The major Muslim organisations are Sunni, Mujahid and Jama'at-e-Islami.[274]

Ancient Christian tradition says that Christianity reached the shores of Kerala in AD 52 with the arrival of Thomas the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ.[48][275][276][277] Saint Thomas Christians include Syro-Malabar Catholic,[278] Syro-Malankara Catholic,[279] Malankara Orthodox Syrian,[280] Jacobite Syrian,[281] Marthoma Syrian,[282] the Syrian Anglicans in the CSI[283] and several Pentecostal and evangelical[284] denominations. The origin of the Latin Catholic Christians in Kerala is the result of the missionary endeavours of the Portuguese Padroado in the 16th century.[285][286][287] Judaism reached Kerala in the 10th century BC during the time of King Solomon.[288] They are called Cochin Jews or Malabar Jews and are the oldest group of Jews in India.[44][289] There was a significant Jewish community which existed in Kerala until the 20th century, when most of them migrated to Israel.[290] The Paradesi Synagogue at Kochi is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth.[291] Jainism has a considerable following in the Wayanad district.[292][293]

Buddhism was dominant at the time of Ashoka the Great[294] but vanished by the 12th century CE.[295] Certain Hindu communities such as the Kshatriyas, Nairs, Tiyyas and the Muslims around North Malabar used to follow a traditional matrilineal system known as marumakkathayam,[296][297] although this practice ended in the years after Indian independence.[298] Other Muslims, Christians, and some Hindu castes such as the Namboothiris and the Ezhavas followed makkathayam, a patrilineal system.[299][300][301] Owing to the former matrilineal system, women in Kerala enjoy a high social status.[302] However, gender inequality among low caste men and women is reportedly higher compared to that in other castes.[303] :1


The democratic rise of the Communist Party of India in the state, culminating in the chief ministership of EMS Namboodiripad and his government helped to distribute land and implement educational reforms.[302] There is the tradition of matrilineal inheritance in Kerala, where the mother is the head of the household. As a result, women in Kerala have had a much higher standing and influence in the society. This was common among certain influential castes and is a factor in the value placed on daughters. Christian missionaries also influenced Malayali women in that they started schools for girls from poor families.[304] Opportunities for women such as education and gainful employment often translate into a lower birth rate, which in turn, make education and employment more likely to be accessible and more beneficial for women. This creates an upward spiral for both the women and children of the community that is passed on to future generations. According to the Human Development Report of 1996, Kerala's Gender Development Index was 597; higher than any other state of India. Many factors, such as high rates of female literacy, education, work participation and life expectancy, along with favourable female-to-male ratio, contributed to it.[305]

Kerala's female-to-male ratio of 1.084 is higher than that of the rest of India and is the only state where women outnumber men.[165]:2 While having the opportunities that education affords them, such as political participation, keeping up to date with current events, reading religious texts etc., these tools have still not translated into full, equal rights for the women of Kerala. There is a general attitude that women must be restricted for their own benefit. In the state, despite the social progress, gender still influences social mobility.[306][307][308]

Human Development Index[edit]

See also: Kerala Model

As of 2014, Kerala has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.790[3] which comes under the "high" category and it is the highest in the country and a consumption-based HDI of 0.920, which is better than that of many developed countries.[3] Comparatively higher spending by the government on primary level education, health care and the elimination of poverty from the 19th century onward has helped the state maintain an exceptionally high HDI;[309][310] the report was prepared by the central government's Institute of Applied Manpower Research.[311][312] However, the Human Development Report 2005, prepared by Centre for Development Studies envisages a virtuous phase of inclusive development for the state since the advancement in human development had already started aiding the economic development of the state.[309] Kerala, considered as being healthier than many states of the United States,[313] is a pioneer in implementing the Universal health care programme.[314] Kerala is also widely regarded as the cleanest and healthiest state in India.[315] According to a study commissioned by Lien Foundation, a Singapore-based philanthropic organisation, Kerala is considered to be the best place to die in India based on the state's provision of palliative care for patients with serious illnesses.[316]

According to the 2011 census, Kerala has the highest literacy rate (93.91) among Indian states.[317][318] The life expectancy in Kerala is 74 years, among the highest in India as of 2011.[319] Kerala's rural poverty rate fell from 59% (1973–1974) to 12% (1999–2010); the overall (urban and rural) rate fell 47% between the 1970s and 2000s against the 29% fall in overall poverty rate in India.[320] By 1999–2000, the rural and urban poverty rates dropped to 10.0% and 9.6% respectively.[188] These changes stem largely from efforts begun in the late 19th century by the kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore to boost social welfare.[321][322] This focus was maintained by Kerala's post-independence government.[123][164]:48 The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation designated Kerala the world's first "baby-friendly state" because of its effective promotion of breast-feeding over formulas.[323][324] Over 95% of Keralite births are hospital delivered and the state also has the lowest Infant mortality rate in the country. The third National Family Health Survey ranks Kerala first in "Institutional Delivery" with 100% births in medical facilities.[325] Ayurveda,[326]:13 siddha, and many endangered and endemic modes of traditional medicine, including kalari, marmachikitsa and vishavaidyam, are practised. Some occupational communities such as Kaniyar were known as native medicine men in relation to the practice of such streams of medical systems, apart from their traditional vocation.[327] These propagate via gurukula discipleship,[326]:5–6 and comprise a fusion of both medicinal and alternative treatments.[326]:15

Kerala has undergone a "demographic transition" characteristic of such developed nations as Canada, Japan, and Norway;.[165]:1 as 11.2% of people are over the age of 60,[164] and due to the low birthrate of 18 per 1,000.[328] In 1991, Kerala's total fertility rate (TFR) was the lowest in India. Hindus had a TFR of 1.66, Christians; 1.78, and Muslims; 2.97.[329] The sub-replacement fertility level and infant mortality rate are lower compared to those of other states; estimated from 12[123][328]:49 to 14[330]:5 deaths per 1,000 live births. The state also is regarded as the "least corrupt Indian state" according to the surveys conducted by Transparency International (2005)[331] and India Today (1997).[332] However, Kerala's morbidity rate is higher than that of any other Indian state—118 (rural) and 88 (urban) per 1,000 people. The corresponding figures for all India were 55 and 54 per 1,000 respectively as of 2004.[330]:5 Kerala's 13.3% prevalence of low birth weight is higher than that of many first world nations.[328] Outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid among the more than 50% of people who rely on 3 million water wells is an issue worsened by the lack of sewers.[333]:5–7 Kerala has the lowest homicide rate among Indian states, with 1.1 per 100,000 in 2011.[334] In respect of female empowerment, some negative factors such as higher suicide rate, lower share of earned income, child marriage,[335] complaints of sexual harassment and limited freedom are reported.[305]

In 2015, Kerala had the highest conviction rate of any state, over 77%.[336] Kerala has the lowest proportion of homeless people in rural India - 0.04%,[337] and the state is attempting to reach the goal of becoming the first "Zero Homeless State", in addition to its acclaimed "Zero landless project", with private organisations and the expatriate Malayali community funding many projects for building homes for the homeless.[338] The state was also among the lowest in the India State Hunger Index next only to Punjab. In 2015 Kerala became the first "complete digital state" by implementing various e-governance initiatives.[339]


The University of Kerala's administrative building in Thiruvananthapuram
Hardware training for students given by "IT@SCHOOL" project
Main article: Education in Kerala

The Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics flourished between the 14th and 16th centuries. In attempting to solve astronomical problems, the Kerala school independently created a number of important mathematics concepts, including series expansion for trigonometric functions.[340][341] Following the instructions of the Wood's despatch of 1854, both the princely states, Travancore and Cochin, launched mass education drives with support from different agencies mainly based on castes and communities and introduced a system of grant-in-aid to attract more private initiatives.[342] The efforts by leaders, Vaikunda Swami, Narayana Guru and Ayyankali, towards aiding the socially discriminated castes in the state, with the help of community-based organisations like Nair Service Society, SNDP, Muslim Mahajana Sabha, Yoga Kshema Sabha (of Nambudiris) and different congregations of Christian churches, led to the development of mass education in Kerala.[342]

In 1991, Kerala became the first state in India to be recognised as a completely literate state, though the effective literacy rate at that time was only 90%.[343] As of 2007, the net enrollment in elementary education was almost 100% and was almost balanced among different sexes, social groups and regions, unlike other states in India.[344] The state topped the Education Development Index (EDI) among 21 major states in India in the year 2006–2007.[345] According to the first Economic Census, conducted in 1977, 99.7% of the villages in Kerala had a primary school within 2 km, 98.6% had a middle school within 2 km and 96.7% had a high school or higher secondary school within 5 km.[346] According to the 2011 census, Kerala has 93.91% literacy compared to the national literacy rate of 74.04%.[318]

The educational system prevailing in the state's schools is made up of 10 years, which are streamlined into lower primary, upper primary and secondary school stages with a 4+3+3 pattern.[344] After 10 years of schooling, students typically enroll in Higher Secondary Schooling in one of the three major streams—liberal arts, commerce or science.[347] Upon completing the required coursework, students can enroll in general or professional under-graduate (UG) programmes. The majority of public schools are affiliated with the Kerala State Education Board. Other educational boards are the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), and the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). English is the language of instruction in most self-financing schools, while government and government-aided schools offer English or Malayalam.[347] Though the cost of education is generally considered low in Kerala,[348] according to the 61st round of the National Sample Survey (2004–2005), per capita spending on education by the rural households was reported to be 41 for Kerala, more than twice the national average. The survey also revealed that the rural-urban difference in household expenditure on education was much less in Kerala than in the rest of India.[349]


Main article: Culture of Kerala
Kathakali Performance Close-up
A Kathakali artist
During Onam, Kerala's biggest celebration, Keralites create pookkalam (floral carpet) designs in front of their houses.
Thrissur Pooram festival
A mohiniattam performance
Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, 17-century poet
Onam Sadya
Fish Moilee Kerala Style (KeralaFish Molly)
The annual snake boat race is performed during Onam Celebrations on the Pamba River
View of a huge nandi from Nooranad Padanilam Sivarathri, Mavelikkara

The culture of Kerala is composite and cosmopolitan in nature and it is an integral part of Indian culture.[6] It is synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures,[350] defined by its antiquity and the organic continuity sustained by the Malayali people.[351] It has been elaborated through centuries of contact with neighboring and overseas cultures.[352] However, the geographical insularity of Kerala from the rest of the country has resulted in the development of a distinctive lifestyle, art, architecture, language, literature and social institutions.[6] There are around 10,000 festivals celebrated in the state.[353] The Malayalam calendar, a solar calendar started from 825 CE in Kerala,[354] finds common usage in planning agricultural and religious activities.[355]


Main article: Onam

Onam is a harvest festival celebrated by the people of Kerala and is a reminiscent of the state's agrarian past.[356][357] It is also the State festival of Kerala[358] with public holidays for four days from Onam Eve (Uthradom) to the fourth Onam Day.[359] Onam falls in the Malayalam month of Chingam (August–September)[360] and marks the commemoration of the Vamana avatara of Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of King Mahabali.[361] It is one of the festivals celebrated with various cultural elements such as Vallam Kali,[362] Pulikali,[363] Pookkalam,[364] Thumbi Thullal[365] and Onavillu.[366]

Temple Festivals[edit]

Many of the temples in Kerala have unique traditions and most hold festivals on specific days of the year.[367] A common characteristic of these festivals is the hoisting of a holy flag which is brought down on the final day of the festival after immersing the deity.[368] Some festivals include Poorams, the best known of these being the Thrissur Pooram.[369] Other known festivals are Makaravilakku,[370] Nenmara Vallangi Vela[371] and Utsavam.[372] Temples that can afford it will usually involve at least one richly caparisoned elephant as part of the festivities. The idol of the God in the temple is taken out on a procession around the countryside atop this elephant. When the procession visits homes around the temple, people will usually present rice, coconuts, and other offerings to the God.[373] Processions often include traditional music such as Panchari melam or Panchavadyam.[374]


Main article: Arts of Kerala

Kerala is home to a number of performance arts. These include five classical dance forms: Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Koodiyattom, Thullal and Krishnanattam, which originated and developed in the temple theatres during the classical period under the patronage of royal houses.[375] Kerala natanam, Thirayattam, Kaliyattam, Theyyam, Koothu and Padayani are other dance forms associated with the temple culture of the region.[376] Some traditional dance forms such as Margamkali and Parichamuttukali are popular among the Syrian Christians and Chavittu nadakom is popular among the Latin Christians,[377][378] while Oppana and Duffmuttu are popular among the Muslims of the state.[379]


The development of classical music in Kerala is attributed to the contributions it received from the traditional performance arts associated with the temple culture of Kerala.[380] The development of the indigenous classical music form, Sopana Sangeetham, illustrates the rich contribution that temple culture has made to the arts of Kerala.[380] Carnatic music dominates Keralite traditional music. This was the result of Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma's popularisation of the genre in the 19th century.[352] Raga-based renditions known as sopanam accompany kathakali performances.[381] Melam; including the paandi and panchari variants, is a more percussive style of music:[382] it is performed at Kshetram-centered festivals using the chenda. Panchavadyam is a different form of percussion ensemble, in which artists use five types of percussion instrument.[382] Kerala's visual arts range from traditional murals to the works of Raja Ravi Varma, the state's most renowned painter.[380] Most of the castes and communities in Kerala have rich collections of folk songs and ballads associated with a variety of themes; Vadakkan Pattukal (Northern Ballads), Thekkan pattukal (Southern Ballads), Vanchi pattukal (Boat Songs), Mappila Pattukal (Muslim songs) and Pallipattukal (Church songs) are a few of them.[383]


Main article: Cinema of Kerala

Malayalam films carved a niche for themselves in the Indian film industry with the presentation of social themes.[384][385] Directors from Kerala, like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, John Abraham, P. Padmarajan, G. Aravindan and Shaji N Karun have made a considerable contribution to the Indian parallel cinema. Kerala has also given birth to numerous actors, such as Satyan, Prem Nazir, Jayan, Adoor Bhasi, Bharath Gopi, Mammootty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Sreenivasan, Jayaram, Murali, Dileep, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Thilakan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Nedumudi Venu, KPAC Lalitha. Late Malayalam actor Prem Nazir holds the world record for having acted as the protagonist of over 720 movies.[386] Since the 1980s, actors Mammootty and Mohanlal have dominated the movie industry; Mammootty has won three National Awards for best actor while Mohanlal has two to his credit.[387] Malayalam Cinema has produced a few more notable personalities such as K.J. Yesudas,[388] K.S. Chitra,[389] Vayalar Rama Varma, M.T. Vasudevan Nair and O.N.V. Kurup,[390] the last two mentioned being recipients of Jnanpith award, the highest literary award in India.[391]


Main article: Malayalam Literature

Malayalam literature starts from the late medieval period and includes such notable writers as the 14th-century Niranam poets (Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar),[392][393] and the 17th-century poet Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan, whose works mark the dawn of both the modern Malayalam language and its poetry.[394] Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar and Kerala Varma Valiakoi Thampuran are noted for their contribution to Malayalam prose.[395][396][397] 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.[398][399][400] In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith winning poets and writers like G. Sankara Kurup, S. K. Pottekkatt, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, M. T. Vasudevan Nair and O. N. V. Kurup had made valuable contributions to the modern Malayalam literature.[401][402][403][404][405] Later, writers like O. V. Vijayan, Kamaladas, M. Mukundan, Arundhati Roy, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, have gained international recognition.[406][407][408][409]


Main article: Cuisine of Kerala

Kerala cuisine has a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared using fish, poultry and meat. Culinary spices have been cultivated in Kerala for millennia and they are characteristic of its cuisine.[410] Rice is a dominant staple that is eaten at all times of day.[411] Breakfast dishes are frequently based on the rice preparations idli, puttu, Idiyappam, or pulse-based vada or tapioca.[412] These may be accompanied by chutney, kadala, payasam, payar pappadam, Appam, chicken curry, beef fry, egg masala and fish curry.[206] Lunch dishes include rice and curry along with rasam, pulisherry and sambar.[413] Sadhya is a vegetarian meal, that is served on a banana leaf and followed with a cup of payasam.[414] Popular snacks include banana chips, yam crisps, tapioca chips, unniyappam and kuzhalappam.[415][416][417] Sea food specialities include karimeen, prawn, shrimp and other crustacean dishes.[418]


Elephants at Munnar.

Elephants have been an integral part of the culture of the state. Kerala is home to the largest domesticated population of elephants in India—about 700 Indian elephants, owned by temples as well as individuals.[419] These elephants are mainly employed for the processions and displays associated with festivals celebrated all around the state. About 10,000 festivals are celebrated in the state annually and some animal lovers have sometimes raised concerns regarding the overwork of domesticated elephants.[353] In Malayalam literature, elephants are referred to as the 'sons of the sahya.[420] The elephant is the state animal of Kerala and is featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala.[135]


Main article: Media in Kerala

The media, telecommunications, broadcasting and cable services are regulated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).[421] The National Family Health Survey – 3, conducted in 2007, ranked Kerala as the state with the highest media exposure in India. Dozens of newspapers are published in Kerala, in nine major languages,[422] but principally Malayalam and English.[423] The most widely circulated Malayalam-language newspapers are Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Madhyamam, Deshabhimani, Mangalam, Kerala Kaumudi, Chandrika, Thejas, Janayugam, Janmabhumi, Deepika and Siraj Daily. Major Malayalam periodicals include Mathrubhumi, India Today Malayalam, Madhyamam Weekly, Grihalakshmi, Vanitha, Dhanam, Chithrabhumi, and Bhashaposhini. The Hindu is the most read English language newspaper in the state, followed by The New Indian Express.[424] Other dailies include Deccan Chronicle, The Times of India, DNA, The Economic Times, and The Financial Express.

Doordarshan is the state-owned television broadcaster. Multi system operators provide a mix of Malayalam, English and international channels via cable television. Some of the popular Malayalam television channels are Asianet, Surya TV, Kiran TV, Mazhavil Manorama, Manorama News, Indiavision, Kairali TV, Kairali WE, Kairali People, Yes Indiavision, Asianet News, Asianet Plus, Asianet Movies, Amrita TV, Reporter, Jaihind, Jeevan TV, Mathrubhumi News, Kaumudi, Shalom TV, and Media One TV. Television serials, reality shows and the Internet have become major sources of entertainment and information for the people of Kerala. A Malayalam version of Google News was launched in September 2008.[425] A sizeable "people's science" movement has taken root in the state, and such activities as writers' cooperatives are becoming increasingly common.[165][426]:2 BSNL, Reliance Infocomm, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Tata Docomo and Aircel are the major cell phone service providers.[427] Broadband Internet services are widely available throughout the state; some of the major ISPs are BSNL, Asianet Satellite communications, Reliance Communications, Airtel and VSNL. According to a TRAI report, as of January 2012 the total number of wireless phone subscribers in Kerala is about 34.3 million and the wireline subscriber base is at 3.2 million, accounting for the telephone density of 107.77.[427] Unlike in many other states, the urban-rural divide is not visible in Kerala with respect to mobile phone penetration.[428]


Main article: Sports in Kerala
A kalaripayattu practitioner

By the 21st century, almost all of the native sports and games from Kerala have either disappeared or become just an art form performed during local festivals; including Poorakkali, Padayani, Thalappandukali, Onathallu, Parichamuttukali, Velakali, and Kilithattukali.[429] However, Kalaripayattu, regarded as "the mother of all martial arts in the world", is an exception and is practised as the indigenous martial sport.[430] Another traditional sport of Kerala is the boat race, especially the race of Snake boats.[429]

Cricket and football became popular in the state; both were introduced in Malabar during the British colonial period in the 19th century. Cricketers, like Tinu Yohannan, Abey Kuruvilla, Sreesanth and Sanju Samson , found places in the national cricket team. However, the Kerala cricket team has never won or performed well at the Ranji Trophy.[429] A cricket club from Kerala, the Kochi Tuskers, played in the Indian Premier League's fourth season. However, the team was disbanded after the season because of conflicts of interest among its franchises.[431] Football is one of the most widely played and watched sports with huge support for club and district level matches. In the Indian Super League the official team of Kerala is the Kerala Blasters. Kerala is one of the major footballing states in India along with West Bengal and Goa and has produced national players like I. M. Vijayan, C. V. Pappachan, V. P. Sathyan, Jo Paul Ancheri, and Pappachen Pradeep.[432][433] The Kerala state football team has won the Santhosh Trophy five times; in 1973, 1992, 1993, 2001 and 2004. They were also the runners-up eight times.[434]

Among the prominent athletes hailing from the state are P. T. Usha, Shiny Wilson and M.D. Valsamma, all three of whom are recipients of the Padma Shri as well as Arjuna Award, while K. M. Beenamol and Anju Bobby George are Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award winners. T. C. Yohannan, Suresh Babu, Sinimol Paulose, Angel Mary Joseph, Mercy Kuttan, K. Saramma, K. C. Rosakutty and Padmini Selvan are the other Arjuna Award winners from Kerala.[429][435] Volleyball is another popular sport and is often played on makeshift courts on sandy beaches along the coast.[436] Jimmy George was a notable Indian volleyball player, rated in his prime as among the world's ten best players.[437] Other popular sports include badminton, basketball and kabaddi.[438]


Munnar, a hill station and a hamlet in Kerala
Sunset at Varkala Beach
Main article: Tourism in Kerala

Kerala's culture and traditions, coupled with its varied demographics, have made the state one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. In 2012, National Geographic's Traveller magazine named Kerala as one of the "ten paradises of the world"[439][440] and "50 must see destinations of a lifetime".[441] Travel and Leisure also described Kerala as "One of the 100 great trips for the 21st century".[439][442] In 2012, it overtook the Taj Mahal to be the number one travel destination in Google's search trends for India.[443] Kerala's beaches, backwaters, lakes, mountain ranges, waterfalls, and wildlife sanctuaries are major attractions for both domestic and international tourists. The city of Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourists in Kerala.[444][445] The region also has many ancient ports, palaces and religious institutions, including churches—from the 1st century CE, founded by Thomas the Apostle, the first mosque of India, which existed even before the death of Muhammad and the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations.[446]

Until the early 1980s, Kerala was a relatively unknown destination compared to other states in the country.[447] In 1986 the government of Kerala declared tourism an important industry and it was the first state in India to do so.[448] Marketing campaigns launched by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, the government agency that oversees the tourism prospects of the state, resulted in the growth of the tourism industry.[449] Many advertisements branded Kerala with the tagline Kerala, God's Own Country.[449] Kerala tourism is a global brand and regarded as one of the destinations with highest recall.[449] In 2006, Kerala attracted 8.5 million tourists, an increase of 23.68% over the previous year, making the state one of the fastest-growing popular destinations in the world.[450] In 2011, tourist inflow to Kerala crossed the 10-million mark.[451]

Ayurvedic tourism has become very popular since the 1990s, and private agencies have played a notable role in tandem with the initiatives of the Tourism Department.[447] Kerala is known for its ecotourism initiatives which include mountaineering, trekking and bird-watching programmes in the Western Ghats as the major activities.[452] As of 2005, the state's tourism industry was a major contributor to the state's economy, growing at the rate of 13.31%.[453] The revenue from tourism increased five-fold between 2001 and 2011 and crossed the 190 billion mark in 2011. Moreover, the industry provides employment to approximately 1.2 million people.[451]

Asia's largest, and the world's third largest, Naval Academy-Ezhimala Naval Academy-at Kannur is in Kerala. Idukki arch dam, the world's second, and Asia's first arch dam is in Kerala. The most popular tourist attractions in the state are beaches, backwaters and hill stations. The major beaches are at Kovalam, Varkala, Fort Kochi, Cherai, Payyambalam, Kappad, Muzhappilangad (South India's only drive-in beach), Bekal, and Gavi. Popular hill stations are at Munnar, Wayanad, Wagamon, Peermade, Paithalmala, Nelliampathi and Ponmudi.[454] Munnar is 4500 feet above sea level and is known for tea plantations, and a variety of flora and fauna.[455] Kerala's ecotourism destinations include 12 wildlife sanctuaries and two national parks: Periyar Tiger Reserve, Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary, Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Eravikulam National Park, and Silent Valley National Park are the most popular among them.[456] The "backwaters" are an extensive network of interlocking rivers (41 west-flowing rivers), lakes, and canals that center around Alleppey, Kumarakom and Punnamada (where the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in August). Padmanabhapuram Palace and the Mattancherry Palace are two notable heritage sites. "Elephants, firework displays and huge crowds" are the major attractions of Thrissur Pooram.[457]

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