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Monday, December 6, 2010

Kerala state and society:background information

Kerala state and society:background information

Kerala (Malayalam: കേരളം, Kēraam (help·info)) is a state in India. It is located on the south-western region of the country. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act bringing together the areas where Malayalam was the dominant language.

The state has an area of 38,863 km (15,005 sq mi) and is bordered by Karnataka to the north, Tamil Nadu to the south and the east and the Lakshadweep Sea towards the west. Thiruvananthapuram is the capital and largest city of Kerala. Kochi and Kozhikode are the other major cities. Kerala is also known for its many small towns that are scattered across the state, thus creating a higher density of population.

From as early as 3000 BC, Kerala had established itself as a major spice trade centre. A 3rd-century-BC rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great attests to a Keralaputra. Around 1 BC the region was ruled by the Chera Dynasty, which traded with the Greeks, Romans and Arabs. The Tamil Chera dynasty, Ays and the Pandyan Empire were the traditional rulers of Kerala whose patriarchal dynasties ruled until the 14th century. The Cheras collapsed after repeated attacks from the neighboring Chola and Rashtrakuta kingdoms. Feudal Namboothiri Brahmin and Nair city-states subsequently gained control of the region. Contact with Europeans after the arrival of Vasco Da Gama in 1498 gave way to struggles between colonial and native interests. By early 16th century, the Portuguese established their domination. They were defeated by the Dutch in 1663, who in turn were forced out of the land by the British East India Company in 1795, bringing the area under British dominion. After independence, the state of Kerala was created in 1956 from the former state of Travancore-Cochin, the Malabar district of Madras State, and the Kasaragod taluk of Dakshina Kannada.

Kerala is a popular tourist destination famous for its backwaters, Ayurvedic treatments and tropical greenery. Kerala has a higher Human Development Index than all other states in India. The state has a literacy rate of 94.59 percent, the highest in India. A survey conducted in 2005 by Transparency International ranked Kerala as the least corrupt state in the country. Kerala has witnessed significant migration of its people, especially to the Persian Gulf countries during the Kerala Gulf boom, and is heavily dependent on remittances from its large Malayali expatriate community.

Etymology

The name Kerala has an uncertain etymology. Keralam may stem from an imperfect Malayalam portmanteau fusing kera ("coconut tree") and alam ("land" or "location"). Kerala may represent the Classical Tamil chera-alam ("declivity of a hill or a mountain slope") or chera alam ("Land of the Cheras").Natives of Kerala, known as Malayalis, refer to their land as Keralam. Kerala has been referenced in puranas as created by Parashurama by throwing his axe into the sea. The Aitareya Aranyaka is the earliest Sanskrit work that specifically mentions Kerala. A 3rd-century-BC rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great references Kerala as Keralaputra.

History

It is not known if the region was inhabited during Neolithic times. Dolmens belonging to this period have been unearthed from Idukki district. The Edakkal Caves in Wayanad have inscriptions dating back to the stone age. A cave near the Edakkal Caves in Thovarimala Ezhuthupara, Wayanad district, known locally as "Ezhuthupara" also carries pre-historic carvings dating back many millennia.

According to legend, Parasurama, an avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea; and from those waters, Kerala arose. Parashurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna to part the seas and reveal Kerala.

Kerala finds mention in the annuls of international trade from as early as 3000 BC, having established itself as the major spice trade centre of the world and traded with Sumer. Kerala and Tamil Nadu once shared a common language and culture; this common area was known as Tamilakam.

During the first century BC the region was ruled by the Chera Dynasty established by the Dravidian tribe Villavar, whose mother tongue and court language was the ancient Tamil. The capital of Cheras was Vanchi. The southern Kerala was ruled by the Pandyan Kingdom with their capital at Nelcynda. The merchants from China, West Asia and Roman Empire had trade links with Cheras. The Sangam literature from the period has descriptions of the Roman ships coming to Muziris, laden with gold as exchange for pepper. Kerala is represented as the eastern tip of the known world in Tabula Peutingeriana, the only known surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus. The west Asian-semitic Jewish, Christian, and Muslim immigrants established Nasrani Mappila, Juda Mappila and Muslim Mappila communities. The Jews first arrived in Kerala in 573 BC. The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings state that Thomas the Apostle visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 CE to proselytize amongst Kerala's Jewish settlements and convert them to Christianity. However, the year of his arrival is widely disputed due to lack of credible historical evidence. Muslim merchants led by Malik ibn Dinar settled in Kerala by the 8th century CE and introduced Islam.

The Later Chera Kingdom (c. 800–1102), also called the Kulasekhara dynasty, was founded by Kulasekhara Varman who was also a Vaishnavaite saint. Ay kings ruled southern Kerala, but by the 10th century the Ay kingdom declined and became a part of the Chera Kingdom. A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils became linguistically separate during this period. The Kulasekhara dynasty came to an end by twelfth century, weakened due to the invasions by Pandyas and Cholas.[28] In the absence of a strong central power, the state became divided under small principalities governed by Nair Cheftains. The kingdoms of Kochi, Venad, Kolathiri and Kozhikode Samuthiri emerged powerful.

After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in Kappad Kozhikode in 1498, the Portuguese began to gain control of the lucrative pepper trade. On 25 March 1505, Francisco de Almeida was appointed the Viceroy of India with his headquarters at Kochi. The period from 1500 to 1571 saw constant battles by the Saamoothiri and his navarch Kunjali Marakkar against the Portuguese until the latter were defeated and their fort destroyed by the Zamorin's forces at Chaliyam. The fall of Chaliyam fort marked the beginning of the end for the Portuguese in the great game of the East. Elsewhere, the Portuguese had established forts at Kannur, Cochin and Kollam .

Dutch commander De Lannoy surrenders to Marthanda Varma at the Battle of Colachel. Depiction at Padmanabhapuram Palace .The Dutch East India Company like the Portuguese before them took advantage of the conflicts between Kozhikode and Kochi and ousted the Portuguese to gain control of the trade. However, the Dutch were weakened by constant battles with Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family, the most prominent of them the Battle of Colachel in 1741. The Dutch finally surrendered to the British on Oct 20, 1795 when the latter marched from Calicut as part of the larger Napoleonic Wars between Holland and England in Europe. In 1766, Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore invaded northern Kerala. In the late 18th century, Tipu Sultan, Ali’s son and successor, launched campaigns against the expanding British East India Company, resulting in two of the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. He ultimately ceded Malabar District and South Kanara to the Company in the 1790s. The Company forged tributary alliances with Kochi in 1791 and Travancore in 1795. Malabar and South Kanara became part of the Madras Presidency.

A nineteenth-century map of Madras Province in British India. Kerala was formed by merging Malabar, Cochin, Travancore and the South Kanara district .Kerala was comparatively peaceful under the British Raj; only sporadic revolts such as the 1946 Punnapra-Vayalar uprising and the 1921 Malabar Rebellion. The Dewan of Travancore Velayudan Thampi Dalava, and Pazhassi Raja, among others, vied for greater autonomy or independence. Many actions, spurred by such leaders as Vaikunda Swami, Sree Narayana Guru and Chattampi Swamikal, instead protested such conditions as untouchability; notable was the 1924 Vaikom Satyagraham. In 1936, Chitra Thirunal Bala Rama Varma of Travancore issued the Temple Entry Proclamation that opened Hindu temples to all castes; Malabar soon did likewise. But Cochin did not do the Temple entry proclamation (1948) until after India's independence. The 1921 Moplah Rebellion involved Mappila Muslims rioting against Hindu zamindars Zamindari system and the British Raj.[46] The Muslim rebel killed numerous Hindus and forcefully converted them.

After India gained its independence in 1947, Travancore and Cochin were merged to form Travancore-Cochin on 1 July 1949. On 1 January 1950 (Republic Day), Travancore-Cochin was recognised as a state. The Madras Presidency was organised to form Madras State in 1947. On 1 November 1956, the state of Kerala was formed by the States Reorganisation Act merging the Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks, which were merged with Tamil Nadu), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara. Elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly were held in 1957; this resulted in the formation of a communist-led government headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad. Many Indians consider this the first democratically elected communist government[48] in the world; however, both San Marino (in 1948) and Guyana (in 1953) had elected communists to power years earlier. Radical reforms introduced by the E. M. S. Namboodiripad government in favour of farmers and labourers helped change, to a great extent, the iniquitous social order that had prevailed in the land for a long time.

Geography and climate

Kerala is wedged between the Lakshadweep sea and the Western Ghats. Lying between north latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and east longitudes 74°52' and 77°22', Kerala experiences the humid equatorial tropic climate. The state has a coast of length 590 km (367 mi) and the width of the state varies between 35 and 120 km (22–75 miles). Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands (rugged and cool mountainous terrain), the central midlands (rolling hills), and the western lowlands (coastal plains). Located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, Kerala lies near the centre of the Indian tectonic plate; hence, most of the state is subject to comparatively little seismic and volcanic activity. Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala’s terrain.

Eastern Kerala consists of high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys immediately west of the Western Ghats' rain shadow. Forty-one of Kerala’s west-flowing rivers, and three of its east-flowing ones originate in this region. The Western Ghats form a wall of mountains interrupted only near Palakkad, where the Palakkad Gap breaks through to provide access to the rest of India. The Western Ghats rises on average to 1,500 m (4920 ft) above sea level, while the highest peaks may reach to 2,500 m (8200 ft). Anamudi is the highest peak at an elevation of 2,695 metres (8,130 ft). Just west of the mountains lie the midland plains comprising central Kerala, dominated by rolling hills and valleys.

Generally ranging between elevations of 250–1,000 m (820–3300 ft), the eastern portions of the Nilgiri and Palni Hills include such formations as Agastya Mala and Anamala. Kerala’s western coastal belt is relatively flat, and is criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries, and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters. Lake Vembanad—Kerala’s largest body of water—dominates the Backwaters; it lies between Alappuzha and Kochi and is more than 200 km² in area. Around 8% of India's waterways (measured by length) are found in Kerala. The most important of Kerala’s forty-four rivers include the Periyar (244 km), the Bharathapuzha (209 km), the Pamba (176 km), the Chaliyar (169 km), the Kadalundipuzha River (130 km), the Valapattanam (129 km) and the Achankovil (128 km). The average length of the rivers of Kerala is 64 km. Many of the rivers are small and entirely fed by monsoon rains. These conditions result in the nearly year-round water logging of such western regions as Kuttanad, 500 km² of which lies below sea level. As Kerala's rivers are small and lack deltas, they are more prone to environmental factors. The rivers also face problems such as sand mining and pollution.[54] The state experiences several natural hazards such as landslides, floods, lightning and droughts. The state was also affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

A catastrophic flood occurred in Kerala in 1341 AD that drastically modified the terrain and consequently affected the history. The flood resulted in changing the course of the river Periyar, recession of Arabian Sea by several miles downwards making the Kuttanad region cultivable, closure of the Muziris (Kodungalloor) harbour and creation of a new harbour at Kochi. With 120–140 rainy days per year, Kerala has a wet and maritime tropical climate influenced by the seasonal heavy rains of the southwest summer monsoon. In eastern Kerala, a drier tropical wet and dry climate prevails. Kerala's rainfall averages 3,107 mm annually. Some of Kerala's drier lowland regions average only 1,250 mm; the mountains of eastern Idukki district receive more than 5,000 mm of orographic precipitation, the highest in the state.

During summer, Kerala is prone to gale force winds, storm surges, cyclone-related torrential downpours, occasional droughts, and rises in sea level.[60]:26, 46, 52 The mean daily temperatures range from 19.8 °C to 36.7 °C.[49] Mean annual temperatures range from 25.0–27.5 °C in the coastal lowlands to 20.0–22.5 °C in the eastern highlands.

Flora and fauna

Much of Kerala's notable biodiversity is concentrated and protected in the Western Ghats. Almost a fourth of India's 10,000 plant species are found in the state. Among the almost 4,000 flowering plant species (1,272 of which are endemic to Kerala and 159 threatened) are 900 species of medicinal plants. Its 9,400 km² of forests include tropical wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests (lower and middle elevations—3,470 km), tropical moist and dry deciduous forests (mid-elevations—4,100 km² and 100 km, respectively), and montane subtropical and temperate (shola) forests (highest elevations—100 km). Altogether, 24% of Kerala is forested.[62]:12 Two of the world’s Ramsar Convention listed wetlandsLake Sasthamkotta and the Vembanad-Kol wetlands—are in Kerala, as well as 1455.4 km of the vast Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Subjected to extensive clearing for cultivation in the 20th century, much of the remaining forest cover is now protected from clearfelling. Kerala's fauna are notable for their diversity and high rates of endemism: 102 species of mammals (56 of which are endemic), 453 species of birds, 202 species of freshwater fishes, 169 species of reptiles (139 of them endemic), and 89 species of amphibians (86 endemic). These are threatened by extensive habitat destruction, including soil erosion, landslides, salinization, and resource extraction.

Eastern Kerala’s windward mountains shelter tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests, which are common in the Western Ghats. Here, 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 (a type of climbing palm), and aromatic vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides).[62]:12 Living among them are such fauna as Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus indicus), Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca), Nilgiri Tahr, Common Palm Civet, and Grizzled Giant Squirrel. Reptiles include the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), viper, python, and Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) . Kerala's birds are legion—Malabar Trogon, the Great Hornbill, Kerala Laughingthrush, Darter, and Southern Hill Myna are several emblematic species. In lakes, wetlands, and waterways, fish such as kadu (stinging catfish) and Choottachi (Orange chromide—Etroplus maculatus are found.

Subdivisions

Population density map of Kerala graded from darkest shading (most dense) to lightest (least dense) Kerala's fourteen districts are distributed among Kerala's six historical regions: North Malabar (Far-north Kerala), Malabar (northern Kerala), Kochi (central Kerala), Northern Travancore, Central Travancore (southern Kerala) and Southern Travancore (Far-south Kerala). Kerala's modern-day districts (listed in order from north to south) correspond to them as follows:

North Malabar: Kasaragod, Kannur, Mananthavady Taluk of Wayanad, Koyilandy and Vadakara Taluks of Kozhikode

Malabar: Wayanad except Mananthavady Taluk, Kozhikode except Vadakara and Koyilandy Taluks, Malappuram, Palakkad District except Chittoor Taluk and a part of Thrissur

Kochi: A part of Ernakulam, Chittoor Taluk of Palakkad, and a part of Thrissur.

Northern Travancore: Part of Ernakulam, and Idukki.

Central Travancore: Southern part of Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and northern part of Kollam.

Southern Travancore: Southern part of Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram.

(traditionally, Nanchinad in Kanyakumary, which is part of Tamilnadu)

Kerala's 14 districts, which serve as the administrative regions for taxation purposes, are further subdivided into 63 taluks; these have fiscal and administrative powers over settlements within their borders, including maintenance of local land records.Taluks of kerala are further divided into 1453 revenue villages and 1007 Gram panchayats. Mahé, a part of the Indian union territory of Puducherry (Pondicherry), is a coastal exclave surrounded by Kerala on all of its landward approaches.

Destinations of Kerala

Main destinations of Kerala include Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikkode, Munnar, Kovalam, Thekkadi, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Padanilam, Chettikulangara Devi Temple, Parumala, Malayattoor, Thrissur, Varkala, Kannur, Sabarimala.

Government

Government of Kerala is setup according to rules and regulations by Government of India. State is governed via a parliamentary system of representative democracy; universal suffrage is granted to state residents. There are three branches of government. 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 his absence by the Deputy Speaker. Kerala has 140 Assembly constituencies. The state sends 20 members to the Lok Sabha and 9 to the Rajya Sabha, the Indian Parliament's upper house.

The Governor of Kerala is the constitutional head of state, and is appointed by the President of India. The Governor has the power to summon and prorogue the Assembly or to dissolve the same. The Members of the Legislative Assembly are directly elected once in 5 years. 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 Legislative Assembly's majority party leader is appointed to this position by the Governor. The Council of Ministers, which answers to the Legislative Assembly, has its members appointed by the Governor on advice of the Chief Minister. Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs.

The judiciary comprises the Kerala High Court (Located at Ernakulam has a Chief Justice combined with 26 permanent and two additional (pro tempore) justices) as the apex court in the state and a system of lower courts. Kerala High Court also hears cases from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.

The state's 2005–2006 budget was 219 billion INR.[71] The state government's tax revenues (excluding the shares from Union tax pool) amounted to 111,248 million INR in 2005, up from 63,599 million in 2000. Its non-tax revenues (excluding the shares from Union tax pool) of the Government of Kerala as assessed by the Indian Finance Commissions reached 10,809 million INR in 2005, nearly double the 6,847 million INR revenues of 2000. However, Kerala's high ratio of taxation to gross state domestic product (GSDP) has not alleviated chronic budget deficits and unsustainable levels of government debt, impacting social services.

Kerala hosts two major political alliances: the United Democratic Front (UDF—led by the Indian National Congress)and the Left Democratic Front (LDF—led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)). At present, the LDF is the ruling coalition in government; V.S. Achuthanandan of the CPI(M) is the Chief Minister of Kerala and Oommen Chandy of the UDF is the Chief Opposition leader. Strikes, protests and marches are ubiquitous in Kerala due to the comparatively strong presence of labour unions.

Economy

Since independence, Kerala was managed as a democratic socialist welfare economy. Since 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 job creation. In fiscal year 2007-2008, nominal gross state domestic product (GSDP) was Indian rupee162,414.79 crore (US$ 36.87 billion). Recent GSDP growth (9.2% in 2004–2005 and 7.4% in 2003–2004) has been robust compared to historical averages (2.3% annually in the 1980s and between 5.1% and 5.99% in the 1990s). The state clocked 8.93% growth in enterprises from 1998 to 2005 compared with 4.80% nationally. Relatively few such enterprises are major corporations or manufacturers. Kerala's Human Development Index rating is the highest in India. This apparently paradoxical "Kerala phenomenon" or "Kerala model of development" of high human and low economic development results from the strong service sector. Kerala's economy depends on emigrants working in foreign countries (mainly in the Persian Gulf countries such as United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia) and remittances annually contribute more than a fifth of GSDP.

The service sector (including tourism, public administration, banking and finance, transportation, and communications—63.8% of GSDP in 2002–2003) and the agricultural and fishing industries (together 17.2% of GSDP) dominate the economy. Nearly half of Kerala's people are dependent on agriculture alone for income. Some 600 varieties of rice (Kerala's most important staple food and cereal crop) are harvested from 3105.21 km² (a decline from 5883.4 km² in 1990) of paddy fields; 688,859 tonnes are produced per annum. Other key crops include coconut (899,198 ha), tea, coffee (23% of Indian production, or 57,000 tonnes, rubber, cashews, and spices—including pepper, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Around 1.050 million fishermen haul an annual catch of 668,000 tonnes (1999–2000 estimate); 222 fishing villages are strung along the 590 km coast. Another 113 fishing villages dot the hinterland.

Traditional industries manufacturing such items as coir, handlooms, and handicrafts employ around one million people. Around 180,000 small-scale industries employ around 909,859 Keralites; 511 medium and large scale manufacturing firms are located in Kerala. A small mining sector (0.3% of GSDP) involves extraction of ilmenite, kaolin, bauxite, silica, quartz, rutile, zircon, and sillimanite. Home gardens and animal husbandry also provide work for hundreds of thousands of people. Other major sectors are tourism, manufacturing, and business process outsourcing. As of March 2002, Kerala's banking sector comprised 3341 local branches; each branch served 10,000 persons, lower than the national average of 16,000; the state has the third-highest bank penetration among Indian states. Unemployment in 2007 was estimated at 9.4%; underemployment, low employability of youths, and a 13.5% female participation rate are chronic issues. Poverty rate figures range from 12.71% to as high as 36%.[91] More than 45,000 residents live in slum conditions.

The state treasury has suffered loss of thousands of millions of rupees thanks to the state staging over 100 hartals annually in recent times. A record total of 223 hartals were observed in 2006, resulting in a revenue loss of over Indian rupee2000 crore.

Transport

Kerala has 145,704 kilometers (90,536 mi) of roads (4.2% of India's total). This translates to about 4.62 kilometers (2.87 mi) of road per thousand population, compared to an all India average of 2.59 kilometers (1.61 mi). Virtually all of Kerala's villages are connected by road. Traffic in Kerala has been growing at a rate of 10–11% every year, resulting in high traffic and pressure on the roads. Kerala's road density is nearly four times the national average, reflecting the state's high population density. Kerala's annual total of road accidents is among the nation's highest.[94] India's national highway network includes a Kerala-wide total of 1,524 kilometers (947 mi), which is 2.6% of the national total. There are eight designated national highways in the state. The Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP), which includes the GIS-based Road Information and Management Project (RIMS), is responsible for maintaining and expanding the 1,600 kilometers (994 mi) of roadways that compose the state highways system; it also oversees major district roads. Most of Kerala's west coast is accessible through two national highways, NH 47, and NH 17 and eastern hills are accessible through proposed Hill Highway (Kerala).

The state has three major international airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode, that link the state with the rest of the nation and the world. The Cochin International Airport (COK) was the first Indian airport incorporated as a public limited company and is funded by nearly 10,000 Non Resident Indians from 30 countries. A fourth international airport is proposed at Kannur. The backwaters traversing the state are an important mode of inland navigation. National Waterway 3 traverse through the state.

The Indian Railways' Southern Railway line runs throughout the state, connecting all major towns and cities except those in the highland districts of Idukki and Wayanad. Kerala's major railway stations are Alappuzha, Aluva, Chengannur, Ernakulam Junction, Ernakulam Town, Kannur, Kasaragod, Kollam Junction, Kottayam, Kozhikode, Palakkad Junction, Shornur Junction, Thalassery, Thrissur , Tirur, Thiruvananthapuram Central and Vadakara.

Demographics

The 31.8 million Keralites are predominantly of Malayali descent, while the rest is mostly made up of Jewish and Arab elements in both culture and ancestry. Kerala's 321,000 indigenous tribal Adivasis, 1.10% of the population, are concentrated in the east. Malayalam is Kerala's official language; Tamil, Tulu, Kannada and various Adivasi (Tribal) languages are also spoken by ethnic minorities especially in the south-western region.

Kerala is home to 3.44% of India's population; at 819 persons per km², its land is nearly three times as densely settled as the rest of India, which is at a population density of 325 persons per km². Kerala's rate of population growth is India's lowest, and Kerala's decadal growth(9.42% in 2001) is less than half the all-India average of 21.34%.[105] Whereas 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 less than 32 million by 2001. Kerala's coastal regions are the most densely settled, leaving the eastern hills and mountains comparatively sparsely populated.

Traditional dress of Kerala: a Malayali woman in a set-sari (tradition being wearing a mundum neriyathum) and a Malayali man wearing a mundu with a shirt (tradition being not wearing a shirt).

Females comprise 51.42% of the population; males form the remaining 48.58% of the population. Kerala's principal religions are Hinduism (56.2%), Islam (24.70%), and Christianity (19.00%). In comparison with the rest of India, Kerala experiences relatively little sectarianism.

According to 2001 Census of India figures, 56% of Kerala's residents are Hindus, 24% are Muslims, 19% are Christians, and the remaining 1% follows other religions.[107] The major Hindu castes are Nambudiri, Nairs, Ezhavas and Dalits. Notably, steps taken by many progressive and tolerant Hindu kings[109] over the years and movements like Narayana Guru’s movement for social reform and tolerance helped to establish Kerala as one of the most socially progressive states in India. The Abrahamic religions attest to Kerala's prominence as a major trade centre. Islam and Judaism arrived in Kerala through Arab traders. A significant Jewish community existed in Kerala until the 20th century when most of them migrated to Israel leaving only a handful of families.[111] The Paradesi Synagogue at Kochi is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. Christianity is believed to have reached the shores of Kerala in 52 AD with the arrival of St Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ The major Christian denominations are Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Protestant.

Religion in Kerala

Religion


Percent


Hinduism

56.2%

Islam

24.7%

Christianity

19.0%

Others

1.1%

Jainism has a considerable following in the Wayanad district. Buddhism was dominant at the time of Ashoka the Great but vanished by the 8th century AD.

Kerala has witnessed significant migration of its people, especially to the Persian Gulf countries, starting with the Kerala Gulf boom, and is uniquely dependent on remittances from its large Malayali expatriate community.

Kerala's society is less patriarchal than the rest of the Third World.[118]:18–19 Kerala government states gender relations are among the most equitable in India and the Third World[Need quotation to verify],[119] despite discrepancies among low caste men and women.[118]:1 Certain Hindu communities such as the Nairs, some Ezhavas and the Muslims around North Malabar used to follow a traditional matrilineal system known as marumakkathayam, although this practice ended in the years after Indian independence. Other Muslims, Christians, and some Hindu castes such as the Namboothiris and the Ezhavas follow makkathayam, a patrilineal system. Owing to the former matrilineal system, women in Kerala enjoy a high social status.

Kerala's human development indices— primary level education, health care and elimination of poverty—are among the best in India. According to a 2005-2006 national survey, Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates (90.92%) among Indian states[2] and life expectancy (73 years) was among the highest in India in 2001. Kerala's rural poverty rate fell from 69% (1970–1971) to 19% (1993–1994); the overall (urban and rural) rate fell 36% between the 1970s and 1980s. By 1999–2000, the rural and urban poverty rates dropped to 10.0% and 9.6% respectively. These changes stem largely from efforts begun in the late 19th century by the kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore to boost social welfare. This focus was maintained by Kerala's post-independence government.

Health

Kerala has the highest life expectency in the country which is nearly 75 years and 78 years respectively for males and females. The life expectency of Kerala is similar to developed nations in the world that shows the facilities for treatment and health. Kerala's healthcare system has garnered international acclaim. 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. For example, more than 95% of Keralite births are hospital-delivered. Aside from ayurveda (both elite and popular forms), siddha, and unani, many endangered and endemic modes of traditional medicine, including kalari, marmachikitsa, and vishavaidyam, are practiced. These propagate via gurukula discipleship, and comprise a fusion of both medicinal and supernatural treatments, and are partly responsible for drawing increasing numbers of medical tourists.

A steadily aging population (11.2% of Keralites are over age 60[80]) and low birthrate[130] (18 per 1,000) make Kerala one of the few regions in the developing world to have undergone the "demographic transition" characteristic of such developed nations as Canada, Japan, and Norway. In 1991, Kerala's total fertility rate (children born per women) was the lowest in India. Hindus had a TFR of 1.66, Christians 1.78, and Muslims 2.97. Kerala's female-to-male ratio (1.058) is significantly higher than that of the rest of India. sub-replacement fertility level and infant mortality rate is lower compared to other states (estimated at 12[60][131]:49 to 14[134]:5 deaths per 1,000 live births).

However, Kerala's morbidity rate is higher than that of any other Indian state—118 (rural Keralites) and 88 (urban) per 1,000 people. The corresponding all India figures are 55 and 54 per 1,000, respectively.[134]:5 Kerala's 13.3% prevalence of low birth weight is substantially higher than that of First World nations. Outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid among the more than 50% of Keralites who rely on 3 million water wells is a problem worsened by the widespread lack of sewers.

Education

Kerala has highest literacy among the states of India. State topped the Education Development Index (EDI) among 21 major states in India in year 2006-2007.

More than 94% of the rural population has access to primary school within 1 km, while 98% of population benefits one school within a distance of 2 km. An upper primary school within a distance of 3 km is available for more than 96% of the people, whose 98% benefit the facility for secondary education within 8 km.The access for rural students to higher educational institutions in cities is facilitated by widely subsidised transport fares.

Kerala's educational system has been developed by institutions owned or aided by the government.In the educational system prevailed in the state schooling is for 10 years which is subdivided into lower primary, upper primary and high school, After 10 years of secondary schooling, students typically enroll in Higher Secondary Schooling in one of the three major streams—liberal arts, commerce or science. Upon completing the required coursework, students can enroll in general or professional under graduate programmes.

Schools and colleges are run by the government, private trusts, or individuals. Many of the schools owned by private sector are aided by government. Most of the public schools are affiliated to Kerala State Education Board. Other familiar educational boards are Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or 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.

No fees(or a nominal fees) are required in schools run by or aided by government. Fees concerning the higher and technical education are very low; the ratio of recovery of government's revenue expenditure was 2.6% in 2006-2007.

However, the lacking of fees or low fees does not imply low educational cost, as the students incur other costs of several types (examination fees, special fees, material costs, clothing travelling, private tuition...). In fact, according to the 61st round of National Sample Survey (2004–2005), per capita spending on education by the rural households resulted to be more than twice the national average (Indian rupee 41 for Kerala, Indian rupee18 for India). Urban India spending, on the contrary, resulted to be greater than Kerala's (Indian rupee 74 for India, Indian rupee66 for Kerala). However, the survey reveals that the rural-urban difference in expenditure on education by households was much less in Kerala than in the rest of India.

The Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics is 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 results—series expansion for trigonometric functions.

The universities in kerala are Kannur University, Mahatma Gandhi University, University of Calicut,University of Kerala, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala Agricultural University,Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit. Premiere educational institutions in kerala are IIMK, one of the seven Indian Institutes of Management, National Institute of Technology Calicut (NITC), Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST)

Culture

Kerala's culture is derived from both a Tamil-heritage region known as Tamilakam and southern coastal Karnataka. Later, Kerala's culture was elaborated upon through centuries of contact with neighboring and overseas cultures. Native performing arts include koodiyattom (a 2000 year old Sanskrit theatre tradition, officially recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, kathakali—from katha ("story") and kali ("performance")—and its offshoot Kerala natanam, Kaliyattam -(North Malabar special), koothu (akin to stand-up comedy), mohiniaattam ("dance of the enchantress"), Theyyam, thullal NS padayani. Kathakali and Mohiniattam are widely recognized Indian Classical Dance traditions from Kerala.

Other forms of art are more religious or tribal in nature. These include chavittu nadakom, oppana (originally from Malabar), which combines dance, rhythmic hand clapping, and ishal vocalisations. Margam Kali is one of the ancient round group dance practiced by Syrian Christians of Kerala. However, many of these art forms are largely performed for tourists or at youth festivals, and are not as popular among most Keralites. Contemporary art and performance styles including those employing mimicry and parody are more popular.

Kerala's music also has ancient roots. Carnatic music dominates Keralite traditional music. This was the result of Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma's popularisation of the genre in the 19th century. Raga-based renditions known as sopanam accompany kathakali performances. Melam (including the paandi and panchari variants) is a more percussive style of music; it is performed at Kshetram centered festivals using the chenda. Melam ensembles comprise up to 150 musicians, and performances may last up to four hours. Panchavadyam is a different form of percussion ensemble, in which up to 100 artists use five types of percussion instrument. Kerala has various styles of folk and tribal music. The popular music of Kerala is dominated by the filmi music of Indian cinema. Kerala's visual arts range from traditional murals to the works of Raja Ravi Varma, the state's most renowned painter.

Kolla Varsham or Malayalam Era, which is assumed to have been established by King Udaya Marthanda Varma in 825 AD, serves as the official calendar of Kerala. The Malayalam calendar is used to plan agricultural and religious activities. Kerala's cuisine is typically served as a sadhya (feast) on green banana leaves. Such dishes as idli, payasam, pulisherry, puttukadala, or PuttuPayarPappadam, puzhukku, rasam, and sambar are typical. Keralites—both men and women alike—traditionally don flowing and unstitched garments. These include the mundu, a loose piece of cloth wrapped around men's waists. Women typically wear the sari, a long and elaborately wrapped banner of cloth, wearable in various styles. Presently, North Indian dresses such as Salwar kameez are also popular amongst women in Kerala.

Elephants are an integral part of daily life in Kerala. Indian elephants are loved, revered, groomed and given a prestigious place in the state's culture. They are often referred to as the 'sons of the sahya.' The ana (elephant) is the state animal of Kerala and is featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala.

The predominant language spoken in Kerala is Malayalam. Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar (1736–1799) is considered to be the father of modern Malayalam prose. He is the author of Varthamanapusthakam (1790), the first ever travelogue in an Indian language

Malayalam literature is medieval in origin and includes such figures as the 14th century Niranam poets (Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar), and the 17th century poet Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan whose works mark the dawn of both modern Malayalam language and indigenous Keralite poetry. 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.

In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith awardees like G. Sankara Kurup, S. K. Pottekkatt, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai and M. T. Vasudevan Nair have made valuable contributions to the Malayalam literature. Later, such Keralite writers as O. V. Vijayan, Kamaladas, M. Mukundan, and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, whose 1996 semi-autobiographical bestseller The God of Small Things is set in the Kottayam town of Ayemenem, have gained international recognition.

Malayalam cinema carved a niche for itself in the Indian film industry. It has been producing both parallel and mainstream cinema of great acclaim for years. Directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, John Abraham, G. Aravindan have been some of the great names in the Indian parallel cinema. Kerala has also given birth to numerous acclaimed actors such as Bharat Gopy, Prem Nazir, Mammotty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Murali and Oduvil Unnikrishnan.

Media

The National Family Health Survey - 3, conducted in 2007 ranked Kerala as state with the most media exposure in India. Dozens of newspapers are published in Kerala, in nine major languages,[148] but principally Malayalam and English. The most widely circulating Malayalam-language newspapers are Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Madhyamam, Mangalam,Chandrika, Deepika, Kerala Kaumudi and Deshabhimani. Major Malayalam periodicals include Mathrubhumi, India Today Malayalam, Madhyamam weekly,Grihalakshmi, Veedu, Vanitha, Chithrabhumi, Kanyaka and Bhashaposhiniand overtake automobile magazine.

Doordarshan is the state-owned television broadcaster. Multi system operators provide a mix of Malayalam, English and international channels via cable television. There are 17 Malayalam TV channels like Asianet, Indiavision, Surya TV, Kairali TV, Manorama News, Amrita TV and JaiHind TV broadcast along with the major national channels. All India Radio, the national radio service, reaches much of Kerala via its Thiruvananthapuram,Kochi, Thrissur, Alappuzha , Kozhikode and Kannur Malayalam-language broadcasts. Television programmes such as serials, reality shows and the Internet have become a major source of entertainment and information for the people in Kerala. A Malayalam version of Google News was launched in September 2008.[149] Regardless, Keralites maintain high rates of newspaper and magazine subscriptions. A sizeable "people's science" movement has taken root in the state, and such activities as writers' cooperatives are becoming increasingly common.

BSNL, Reliance Infocomm, Tata Docomo, Vodafone, Aircel, Idea and Airtel compete to provide cell phone services. Broadband internet is available in most of the towns and cities and is provided by different agencies like the state-run Kerala Telecommunications (which is run by BSNL) and by other private companies like Asianet Satellite communications, VSNL. BSNL provides broadband service in most of the cities.

Malayalam films are known for their realistic portrayal of characters and being socially oriented without giving a lot of importance to glitz and glamour. Movies produced in Hindi, Tamil and English (Hollywood) popular among Keralites. Late Malayalam actor Prem Nazir holds the world record for having acted as the protagonist of over 720 movies. Nowadays Malayalam movies are dominated mainly by two actors; Mohanlal and Mammootty who have been in the malayalam movie industry for over 25 years. They have won several National and State awards and are considered among the greatest actors in India

Sports

Sports in Kerala

Several ancient ritualised arts are Keralite in origin. These include kalaripayattukalari ("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 include theyyam and poorakkali.

Cricket and football are the most popular sports in the state. Two Kerala Ranji Trophy players gained test selection in recent years. Sreesanth, born in Kothamangalam, has represented India since 2005. Among other Keralite cricketers is Tinu Yohannan, son of Olympic long jumper T. C. Yohannan. Notable Kerala footballers include I. M. Vijayan, C. V. Pappachan, V. P. Sathyan, and Jo Paul Ancheri.

Other popular sports include badminton, volleyball and kabaddi. Among Kerala athletes are P. T. Usha, T. C. Yohannan, Suresh Babu, Shiny Wilson, K. M. Beenamol, M. D. Valsamma and Anju Bobby George. Volleyball is another popular sport and is often played on makeshift courts on sandy beaches along the coast. Jimmy George, born in Peravoor, Kannur, was a notable Indian volleyball player, rated in his prime as among the world's ten best players.

Tourism

Kerala, situated on the lush and tropical Malabar Coast, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Named as one of the "ten paradises of the world" and "50 places of a lifetime" by the National Geographic Traveler magazine, Kerala is especially known for its ecotourism initiatives. Its unique culture and traditions, coupled with its varied demographics, has made Kerala one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Growing at a rate of 13.31%, the state's tourism industry is a major contributor to the state's economy. Until the early 1980s, Kerala was a relatively unknown destination; most tourist circuits focused on North India. 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's tourism industry was able to transform the state into one of the niche holiday destinations in India. The tagline Kerala- God's Own Country has been widely used in Kerala's tourism promotions and soon became synonymous with the state. In 2006, Kerala attracted 8.5 million tourist arrivals, an increase of 23.68% over the previous year, making the state one of the fastest-growing destinations in the world.

Popular attractions in the state include the beaches at Kovalam, Cherai, Varkala, Kappad, Muzhappilangad and Bekal; the hill stations of Munnar, Nelliampathi, Ponmudi and Wayanad; and national parks and wildlife sanctuaries at Periyar, Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary and Eravikulam National Park. The "backwaters" region, which comprises an extensive network of interlocking rivers, lakes, and canals that centre on Alleppey, Kollam, Kumarakom, and Punnamada (where the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in August), also see heavy tourist traffic. Heritage sites, such as the Padmanabhapuram Palace and the Mattancherry Palace, are also visited. Cities such as Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are popular centres for their shopping and traditional theatrical performances. During early summer, the Thrissur Pooram is conducted, attracting foreign tourists who are largely drawn by the festival's elephants and celebrants.[168] The main pilgrim tourist spots of Kerala are Sabarimala Temple, Padmanabhaswamy Temple (Thiruvananthapuram), Padanilam Parabrahma Temple(Mavelikkara), Chettikulangara Temple, Vadakumnathan Temple, Guruvayoor Temple, Sarkara Devi Temple, Malayattor Church and Parumala Church.

Prepared by Biju P R,Assistant Professor in Political Science,Govt Brennen College,Thalassery

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