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Tourism in Kerala

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The official logo of Kerala Tourism
An evening view of Ponnani Lighthouse beach

Kerala, a state situated on the tropical Malabar Coast of southwestern India, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Named as one of the ten paradises of the world by National Geographic Traveler,[1] Kerala is famous especially for its ecotourism initiatives and beautiful backwaters.[2] Its unique culture and traditions, coupled with its varied demography, have made Kerala one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Growing at a rate of 13.31%, the tourism industry is a major contributor to the state's economy.[3]

Until the early 1980s, Kerala was a relatively unknown destination, with most tourism circuits concentrated around the north of the country. Aggressive marketing campaigns launched by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation—the government agency that oversees tourism prospects of the state—laid the foundation for the growth of the tourism industry. In the decades that followed, Kerala Tourism was able to transform itself into one of the niche holiday destinations in India. The tag line Kerala – God's Own Country was adopted in its tourism promotions and became a global superbrand. Kerala is regarded as one of the destinations with the highest brand recall.[4] In 2010, Kerala attracted 660,000 foreign tourist arrivals.[5]

Kerala is a popular destination for both domestic as well as foreign tourists. Kerala is well known for its beaches, backwaters in Alappuzha and Kollam, mountain ranges and wildlife sanctuaries. Other popular attractions in the state include the beaches at Kovalam, Muzhappilangad, Bekal and Kappad; backwater tourism and lake resorts around Ashtamudi Lake, Kollam; hill stations and resorts at Munnar, Wayanad, Nelliampathi, Vagamon and Ponmudi; and national parks and wildlife sanctuaries at Wayanad, Periyar, Parambikulam, Silent Valley National Park and Eravikulam National Park. The "backwaters" region—an extensive network of interlocking rivers, lakes, and canals that centre on Vembanad Lake, also see heavy tourist traffic. Heritage sites, such as the Padmanabhapuram Palace, Hill Palace, and Mattancherry Palace, are also visited. To further promote tourism in Kerala, the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival was started by the Government of Kerala in 2007.[6] Since then it has been held every year during the December–January period.

The state's tourism agenda promotes ecologically sustained tourism, which focuses on the local culture, wilderness adventures, volunteering and personal growth of the local population. Efforts are taken to minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment and enhance the cultural integrity of local people.

The state has also made deep inroads into MICE Tourism mainly centered at Kochi.[7]

Historical context[edit]

Resorts dot the lengths and breadths of Kerala.

Since its incorporation as a state, Kerala's economy largely operated under welfare-based democratic socialist principles. This mode of development, though it resulted in a high Human Development Index and standard of living among the people, led to an economic stagnation in the 1980s (growth rate are 2.3% annually).[8] This apparent paradox—high human development and low economic development—led to a large number of educated unemployed seeking jobs overseas, especially in the Gulf countries. Due to a large number of expatriates, many travel operators and agencies set up shop in the state to facilitate their travel needs. However, the trends soon reciprocated, with the travel agencies noticing the undermined potential of the state as a tourist destination. The first travel agency in Kerala, Kerala Travels, was founded by Col G.V. Raja of the Travancore royal family along with P.G.C. Pillai.

By 1986, tourism had gained an industry status. Kerala Tourism subsequently adopted the tagline God's Own Country in its advertisement campaigns. Aggressive promotion in print and electronic media was able to invite a sizable investment in the hospitality industry. By the early 2000s, tourism had grown into a full-fledged, multi-billion-dollar industry in the state. The state was able to carve a niche for itself in the world tourism industry, thus becoming one of the places with the "highest brand recall".[9] In 2003, Kerala, a hitherto unknown tourism destination, became the fastest-growing tourism destination in the world.[10]

Today, growing at a rate of 13.31%, Kerala is one of the most visited tourism destinations in India.[3][11]

Major attractions[edit]

Beaches[edit]

Flanked on the western coast by the Arabian Sea, Kerala one of the long coastline of 580 km (360 mi); all of which is virtually dotted with sandy beaches.

Boating at Biyyam Lake near Ponnani

Kovalam beach near Thiruvananthapuram was among the first beaches in Kerala to attract tourists. Rediscovered by back-packers and tan-seekers in the 1960s and followed by hordes of hippies in the 1970s, Kovalam is today the most visited beaches in the state.[12][13][14]

Other popularly visited beaches[15] in the state include those at Kappad, Alappuzha, Kozhikode[16] Beach, Marari Beach (Mararikulam, Alappuzha), Nattika (Thrissur), Vadanappilly beach (Thrissur), Cherai Beach, Ponnani beach, Bekal, Kappad Beypore beach, Marari beach, Fort Kochi, and Varkala. The Muzhappilangad Beach at Kannur and Thikkodi Beach at Kozhikode are the only two drive-in beach in India. Marari beach was rated as one of the world's top five Hammock Beaches by the National Geographic survey and has been cited[17] in the international press. Payambalam beach is one of the most beautiful beach in Kerala situated in Kannur. Other beaches in Kannur include Baby beach, Meenkunnu Beach, Azhikode Beach, Madaiparra Beach, Chootath Beach, Mermaid Beach.

Backwaters[edit]

The backwaters in Kerala are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast). Houseboat or Kettuvallam rides in backwaters are a major tourist attraction in kerala. Backwater tourism is centered mostly around[18] of Kerala like Alleppey, Kumarakom, Ashtamudi Lake, Kollam, Ponnani, Kavvayi Backwaters, and Bekal. Boat races held during festival seasons are also a major tourist attraction in the backwater regions.

The backwater network includes large lakes such as the Ashtamudi Lake, the largest among them, linked by 1500 km of canals, both man-made and natural and fed by several rivers, and extending virtually the entire length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range.

Backwaters in Kerala for honeymoon and family holidays are quite popular. You may sort some of the best Kerala backwaters tour packages after reading about Kerala backwaters' reviews available on various websites.[19]

Hill stations[edit]

Munnar Hillscape
Sithar Kundu View Point at Nelliyampathy, Palakkad Dist. Kerala, South India

Eastern Kerala consists of land encroached upon by the Western Ghats; the region thus includes high mountains, gorges, and deep-cut valleys. The wildest lands are covered with dense forests, while other regions lie under tea and coffee plantations (established mainly in the 19th and 20th centuries) or other forms of cultivation.

The Western Ghats rise an average to 1500 m elevation above sea level. Some of the popular hill stations in the region are Munnar, Vagamon, Paithalmala, Wayanad, Nelliyampathi, Nilambur, Elapeedika, Peermade, Thekkady and Ponmudi.

Kurumbalakotta Hill in Wayand is becoming a great tourist attraction now.

Wildlife[edit]

Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad is home to the largest population of lion-tailed macaque. They are among the world's rarest and most threatened primates.
Athirappilly Falls at Thrissur. Wildlife of Kerala is mainly concentrated in the forests of Western Ghats

Most of Kerala, whose native habitat consists of wet evergreen rainforests at lower elevations and highland deciduous and semi-evergreen forests in the east, is subject to a humid tropical climate. However, significant variations in terrain and elevation have resulted in a land whose biodiversity registers as among the world's most significant. Most of Kerala's significantly biodiverse tracts of wilderness lie in the evergreen forests of its easternmost districts. Kerala also hosts two of the world's Ramsar Convention-listed wetlands: Lake Sasthamkotta and the Vembanad-Kol wetlands are noted as being wetlands of international importance. There are also numerous protected conservation areas, including 1455.4 km2 of the vast Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. In turn, the forests play host to such major fauna as Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), leopard (Panthera pardus), Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius), and grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura).[20] More remote preserves, including Silent Valley National Park in the Kundali Hills, harbour endangered species such as the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus), Indian sloth bear (Melursus (Ursus) ursinus ursinus), and gaur (the so-called "Indian bison"—Bos gaurus). More common species include Indian porcupine (Hystrix indica), chital (Axis axis), sambar (Cervus unicolor), gray langur, flying squirrel, swamp lynx (Felis chaus kutas), boar (Sus scrofa), a variety of catarrhine Old World monkey species, gray wolf (Canis lupus), and common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). Many reptiles, such as king cobra, viper, python, various turtles and crocodiles are to be found in Kerala—again, disproportionately in the east. Kerala's avifauna include endemics like the Sri Lanka frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger), Oriental bay owl, large frugivores like the great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) and Indian grey hornbill, as well as the more widespread birds such as peafowl, Indian cormorant, jungle and hill myna, Oriental darter, black-hooded oriole, greater racket-tailed and black drongoes, bulbul (Pycnonotidae), species of kingfisher and woodpecker, jungle fowl, Alexandrine parakeet, and assorted ducks and migratory birds. Additionally, freshwater fish such as kadu (stinging catfishHeteropneustes fossilis) and brackishwater species such as Choottachi (orange chromideEtroplus maculatus, valued as an aquarium specimen) also are native to Kerala's lakes and waterways.

Historical monuments[edit]

Panoramic view from inside Bekal Fort, the largest fort in Kerala.

Historical monuments in Kerala include palaces, forts, and religious institutions.[21] Notable forts include Bekal Fort, St.Angelo Fort, Arikady fort, Chandragiri fort, Hosdurg Fort, Palakkad Fort, Thalassery Fort, Fortaleza da São Tomé, Fort Kochi, St Thomas Fort, and Anchuthengu Fort.[21] Notable palaces include Padmanabhapuram Palace, Kanakakkunnu Palace, Kowdiar Palace, Mattancherry Palace, Arakkal Palace, Shakthan Thampuran Palace etc.[21] The Malabar Coast is also home to some of the oldest temples, oldest mosques, oldest churches, and oldest synagogues in South Asia.[21] The historic trading food streets in Kerala include the S. M. Street (Sweetmeat street) at Kozhikode. Mappila Bay harbour at Kannur is home to both fort and palace.[21] Thalassery Cuisine, a traditional style of cuisine originated in Northern Kerala due to its historical trade relations, also attracts tourists.[21]

Events[edit]

Festivals[edit]

Shashti
Thirayattam (kuttychathan) an ethnic ritual performing art form in Kerala State, India

The major festival in Kerala is Onam. Kerala has a number of religious festivals. Thrissur Pooram, Attukal Pongala, Beema Palli Uroos, and Chettikulangara Bharani are the major temple festivals in Kerala. The Thrissur Pooram is conducted at the Vadakumnathan temple, Thrissur. The Chettikulangara Bharani is another major attraction. The festival is conducted at the Chettikulangara temple near Mavelikkara. The Sivarathri is also an important festival in Kerala. This festival is mainly celebrated in Aluva Temple and Padanilam Parabrahma Temple. Padanilam Temple is situated in Alappuzha district of Kerala, about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) from Mavelikkara town. Parumala Perunnal, Manarkadu Perunnal are the major festivals of Christians. Muslims also have many important festivals. Annual festival Thirayattam is conducted Sacred groves and village shrine of the south Malabar region (Kozhikode and Malappuram districts) in Kerala. "Thirayattam" is a vibrant Ethnic performing art. it is an admixture of dance, drama, songs, instrumental music, facial and body makeup, satire, martial art and ritualistic function, composed in a harmonizing manner.[22]

Kochi-Muziris Biennale[edit]

Kerala is also known for the many events conducted by the Ministry of Tourism for tourist attractions. Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the first Biennale in India was conducted in Kochi from 12 December 2012 till 13 March 2013. The government contributed about 12-150  million on the event.[23] An International Coir Fest is conducted annually that is aimed at developing the coir industry of Kerala and tourism.

Ayurveda[edit]

Medical tourism, promoted by traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda and Siddha, is widely popular in the state, and draws increasing numbers of tourists. A combination of many factors has led to the increase in popularity of medical tourism: high costs of healthcare in industrialised nations, ease and affordability of international travel, improving technology and standards of care.

However, the rampant recent growth in this sector has made the government apprehensive. The government is now considering the introduction of a grading system that would grade hospitals and clinics, thus helping tourists in selecting one for their treatments.[24]

Culture[edit]

Face of a Kathakali artist (Kathi Vesham)
Vishnu Moorthy Theyyam in Naduvilathu Kottam near Payyannur, Kannur.
The Padayani - Annual Ritual Performance of Kadammanitta & Thazhoor Bhagavathy Temple at Vazhamuttom near Pathanamthitta

Kerala's culture is mainly Hindu in origin, deriving from a greater Tamil-heritage region known as Tamilakam. Later, Kerala's culture was elaborated on through centuries of contact with overseas cultures.[25] Native performing arts include koodiyattom, kathakali—from katha ("story") and kali ("play")—and its offshoot Kerala Natanam, koothu (akin to stand-up comedy), mohiniaattam ("dance of the enchantress"), thullal, padayani, thirayattam, and theyyam. Other arts are more religion- and tribal-themed. These include chavittu nadakom, oppana (originally from Malabar), which combines dance, rhythmic hand clapping, and ishal vocalisations. However, many of these art forms largely play to tourists or at youth festivals, and are not as popular among most ordinary Keralites, who look to more contemporary art and performance styles, including those employing mimicry and parody. Additionally, a substantial Malayalam film industry effectively competes against both Bollywood and Hollywood.

Several ancient ritualised arts are Keralite in origin; these include kalaripayattu (kalari ("place", "threshing floor", or "battlefield") and payattu ("exercise" or "practice")). Among the world's oldest martial arts, oral tradition attributes kalaripayattu's emergence to Parasurama. Other ritual arts includeThirayattam, theyyam, poorakkali and Kuthiyottam. Thirayattam is a ritual performing folk art form of South Malabar region in Kerala.This vibrant art form blend of dance, music, theatre, satire, facial and body-painting, masking, martial art and ritualistic function. Thirayattam is enacted in courtyards of "Kaavukal" (sacred groves) and village shrines.

Kuthiyottam is a ritualistic symbolic representation of human bali (homicide). Folklore exponents see this art form, with enchanting well–structured choreography and songs, as one among the rare Adi Dravida folklore traditions still preserved and practised in Central Kerala in accordance with the true tradition and environment. Typical to the Adi Dravida folk dances and songs, the movements and formations of dancers (clad in white thorthu and banyan) choreographed in Kuthiyottam are quick, peaks at a particular point and ends abruptly. The traditional songs also start in a stylish slow pace, then gain momentum and end abruptly.

Kuthiyotta Kalaris', run by Kuthiyotta Ashans (Teachers or leaders), train the group to perform the dances and songs. Normally, the training starts about one to two months before the season. Boys between 8 and 14 years are taught Kuthiyottam, a ritual dance in the house amidst a big social gathering before the portrait of the deity. Early in the morning on Bharani, after the feast and other rituals, the boys whose bodies are coiled with silver wires, one end of which is tied around his neck and an arecanut fixed on the tip of a knife held high over his head, are taken in procession to the temple with the accompaniment of beating of drums, music, ornamental umbrellas, and other classical folk art forms, and richly caparisoned elephants.

All through the way to the temple tender coconut water will be continually poured on his body. After the circumambulation the boys stands at a position facing the Sreekovil (Sanctum Sanctorum) and begins to dance. This ceremony ends with dragging the coil pierced to the skin whereby a few drops of blood comes out.

On this day just after midday the residents of the locality bring huge decorated effigies of Bhima panchalia, Hanuman and extremely beautiful tall chariots in wheeled platforms, and after having darshan the parties take up their respective position in the paddy fields lying east of the temple.

During the night, the image of Devi will be carried in procession to the effigies stationed in the paddy fields. On the next day these structures will be taken back. A big bazaar is also held at Chetikulangara as part of this festival. Kuthiyottam is the main vazipadu of the Chettikulangara temple, Mavelikkara.

In respect of Fine Arts, the State has an abounding tradition of both ancient and contemporary art and artists. The traditional Kerala murals are found in ancient temples, churches and palaces across the State. These paintings, mostly dating to between the 9th to 12th centuries AD, display a distinct style, and a colour code which is predominantly ochre and green.

Like the rest of India, religious diversity is very prominent in Kerala. The principal religions are Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam; Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Buddhism have smaller followings. The state's historic ties with the rest of the world have resulted in the state having many famous temples, churches, and mosques notably 8 of the world's oldest churches—from the 1st century CE, founded by Thomas the Apostle when he reached Indian shores, the first mosque of India, which existed even before the death of the prophet Muhammad and the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Recognising the potential of tourism in the diversity of religious faiths, related festivals and structures, the tourism department launched a "Pilgrimage tourism" project.[26][27] Major pilgrim tourism attractions include Guruvayur, Sabarimala, Malayatoor, Paradesi Synagogue, St. Mary's Forane (Martha Mariam) Church Kuravilangad built in 105 A.D, Attukal Pongala (which has the Guinness record for being the largest gathering of women in the planet), and Chettikulangara Bharani.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

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  1. ^ "Kerala Tourism: Paradises in the world". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 4 September 2004. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  2. ^ "Tourism beckons". The Hindu. 11 May 2004. Archived from the original on 4 September 2004. Retrieved 9 August 2006.
  3. ^ a b "Tourist statistics for Kerala" (PDF). Tourism Statistics and lpu. Kerala Tourism Development Corporation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 July 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2006.
  4. ^ "Kerala Tourism – Superbrand". Superbrand status of Kerala Tourism brand. Government of Kerala. Archived from the original on 12 July 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2006.
  5. ^ "Andhra Pradesh top tourist destination: Tourism Ministry". Financialexpress.com. 18 July 2011. Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  6. ^ "Shopping festival begins". The Hindu. 2 December 2007.
  7. ^ Narayanan, Chitra. "Kerala goes into MICE mission mode". @businessline. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  8. ^ Mohindra 2003, p. 8.
  9. ^ Kerala Tourism - Branding a Tourist Destination Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Kerala is the world's fastest-growing tourism destination says Renuka Choudhry. Domain-b.com (17 August 2004).
  11. ^ NDTV - God's own country: Govt launches campaign to pull tourists Archived 17 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Ayub, Akber (ed), Kerala: Maps & More, Coastal Circuit, 2006 edition 2007 reprint, pp. 96-112, Stark World Publishing, Bangalore, ISBN 81-902505-2-3
  13. ^ Govind, M.Harish. "Ramparts by the Arabian Sea". Magazine. The Hindu, 19 June 2005. Archived from the original on 20 January 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  14. ^ MINUTES OF THE WORKSHOP ON RESPONSIBLE TOURISM FOR KOVALAM Archived 3 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Best Beaches of Kerala". irisholidays.com. 14 February 2015.
  16. ^ "Kozhikode Beach", Wikipedia, 24 July 2019, retrieved 2 August 2019
  17. ^ Cuskelly, Claudia (22 January 2017). "New era in Indian getaways: Recharge your batteries with THIS safe-haven holiday to Kerala". Express.co.uk. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  18. ^ Kerala Tourist Places
  19. ^ "7 Best Kerala Backwaters You Should Explore - Travel News India". travelnewsindia.com. 21 February 2017.
  20. ^ (Sreedharan 2004, p. 12).
  21. ^ a b c d e f Sreedhara Menon, A. (2007). Kerala Charitram (2007 ed.). Kottayam: DC Books. ISBN 978-8126415885.
  22. ^ "Thirayattam" (folklore Text- Malayalam, moorkkanad peethambaran), State Institute of language, Kerala ISBN 978-81-200-4294-0
  23. ^ "Kochi becomes Biennale city". The Hindu. 13 December 2012.
  24. ^ Accreditation Of Hospitals To Promote Top Medical Tourism Destination In India Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Bhagyalekshmy 2004, pp. 6–7.
  26. ^ Incredible Kerala. Business-standard.com.
  27. ^ Jumbo tourism: Guruvayur temple to woo visitors Archived 13 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]