Kerala

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Kerala, is a state located in southwestern India. The state was created in 1956 on linguistc basis, bringing together those places where Malayalam formed the principal language. Kerala is famous for its sprawling backwaters and lush green vegetation. Kerala is generally referred to as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It boasts of a higher Human Development Index than most other states in India. Neighbouring states are Karnataka to the north and Tamil Nadu to the south and the east. The state is bordered by Arabian sea towards the west. Thiruvananthapuram, located at the southern tip of the state forms the capital while Kochi, Kozhikode, Kollam, Thrissur, Kottayam, Kannur, Alapuzha, Manjeri and Palakkad form other major trading and activity centres.

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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”)[7] or chera alam (“Land of the Cheras”). Natives of Kerala, known as Malayalis or Keralites, refer to their land as Keralam

Districts

* Alappuzha (Alleppey)

* Ernakulam(Kochi)

* Idukki

* Kannur (Cannanore)

* Kollam (Quilon)

* Kasargod

* Kottayam

* Kozhikode (Calicut)

* Malappuram

* Palakkad (Palghat)

* Pathanamthitta

* Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)

* Thrissur (Trichur)

* Wayanad (Wynad)

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Cities

* Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) – the capital city of Kerala and the largest city in Kerala.

* Alapuzha (Allepy) – A network of canals criss-cross the city, leading to it being called ‘the Venice of the East’. The biggest boat race (the Nehru Trophy Boat Race) in India happens here every August

* Kochi (Cochin) – divided into Ft. Cochin and Ernakulam, the principal financial hub of Kerala and the port city.

* Kollam (Quilon) – The backwaters, and the former Portugese settlement at Tangasseri close by make Kollam an interesting place to visit

* Kottayam – The city that has the last word in rubber in India. Most interestingly, it is the centre of Kerala’s Syrian Christian community

* Kozhikode (Calicut) – where Vasco da Gamma landed for the first time in India. Third Largest City of Kerala

* Thrissur (Trichur) – known as the cultural capital of Kerala, also famous for jewellery shops.

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Other important Towns

* Angamaly The Big Town in Ernakulam District near to Many Pilgrimage and tourist attractions

* Muvattupuzha -the Main Town in Eastern part of Kochi(Ernakulam District).The Town where three Rivers Merge to form Muvattupuzha(Thriveni).Many Tourist attractions nearby.

Major Tourist destinations

* Kerala backwaters – stretching across central Kerala, a must-try experience

* Kovalam Beach – a popular beach near Trivandrum

* Kumarakom – bird sanctuary near Kottayam

* Munnar – One Of the most untouched hill stations in India

* Varkala Papanasam Beach – near Trivandrum, with a 2000-year-old temple

* Silent Valley National Park – rain forest

* Thekkady – Periyar Tiger Reserve

* Wayanad – Caves, waterfalls and pristine forests

* Bekal Fort – Fort in North Kerala, On the sea shore

Alapuzha – Backwater,kuttanadu, alapuzha beach,Marrari beach,Pathiramanal(midnight island), Thannermukkom ,Nehru trophy snake boat race(Augest 9th Saturday)House boat cruice Ayurveda.

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Religious destinations

* Sabarimala (in Pathanamthitta) – Hindu holy site. This is one of the most crowded places in India during the pilgrimage season from November to January. Also, temple authorities do not allow women into the temple grounds, supposedly to avoid tempting the deity.

* Guruvayoor – the Krishna temple here is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in Kerala

* Kalady – birthplace of Sri Adi Sankara, pioneering Advaita philosopher

* Chottanikkara – This is one of the famous piligrim centre of goddess Durga in south india.This temple is Ernakulam district and there is lots of busses from kochi.

* Mannarasala – Nagaraja Temple The most famous nagaraja temple in kerala.Naga aradhana(worship of snakes) chanting nature is one of the main feature of hindusm.

* Mullakkal – Mullakal Devi temle is in the heart of the backwater city of Alapuzha.Houseboat terminal is just ten minute walk from this Temple

* Cherthala – Karthyayani Temple is 10km from Thannermukkam backwater Resort(KTDC),is in the heart of Cherthala Town.2km from Railway station,no time from Ksrtc bus station

* Kanichukulangara – Kanichukulangara Devi Temple is famous as it is the centre of many social reforms in kerala is 17km from Alapuzha,6km from Cherthala.

* St Mary’s Church, Kudamaloor

There are some historic churches and mosques through-out Kerala.

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Understand

Myth has it that Kerala was created by Parasuraman (an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu) when he tossed his axe dripping with the blood of his mother, over the Western Ghats Mountain into the sea. He was asked to decapitate his mother by his father over an allegation of adultery. Parasurama chopped off his mother’s head and this pleased his father so much that he granted him any wish he wanted. He promptly asked for his mother to be brought back to life and it was granted. However Parasurama felt so bad after this that he tossed his favorite weapon to the sea and renounced violence once and for all. However the sea which is depicted as a Goddess didn’t want to receive the spooky axe and receded creating the land of Kerala.

Kerala is one of the few places in India that was not subject to direct British rule. Parts of Kerala, The Tiruvithamkoor (Travancore) and Kochi (Cochin) regions were ruled by local kings during the period of the British rule in India. People here live largely the same way they have lived traditionally and much of its rich culture and heritage is well-preserved.

Kerala has one of the oldest (some say, second oldest) functioning mosques in the world.

For thousands of years Buddhism was the most influential religion in Kerala. It was only in the 11th and 12th centuries that Brahmanism took hold in the state and Buddhism waned. Christianity, believed to have been brought over by the Apostle St. Thomas, and Judaism have also existed in Kerala for around a couple thousand years and as well. A strong, distinct Muslim culture in the North of Kerala also stands out. The local language (Malayalam), the cuisine, the practice of Ayurveda (a traditional health system), the widely prevalent use of traditional clothing, all reflect this diversity.

Political activism is one thing that separates Kerala from the rest of India. Trade Unions in Kerala can put the British or French Trade Unionists to shame. If you do visit Kerala, be prepared for general strikes to come without warning, and for it to lead to a complete shutdown of all infrastructure. The state has the dubious distinction of having more strikes called than any other state in India. On the other hand, residents of Kerala love political debate…be prepared to be drawn into one at the local bus stop or on board a train.

Kerala has a sizable number of atheists due to a strong Communist movement. While Hindus constitute about three fifth of the population, Muslims and Christians account for about one fifth each. Irrespective of religion, people are religious when compared to other cultures in India and communal and sectarian tensions are very minimal.

The state has an area of 38,864 km2 and is home to 33 million people. The main language spoken in the state is Malayalam. Other languages spoken, or understood, include English.

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Onam

Onam is the biggest festival in Kerala. Onam Festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug – Sep) and marks the homecoming of mythical King Mahabali. Onam festivities last for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam (floral carpets), the mammoth Onasadya (the festival feast), breathtaking Snake Boat Race and the exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam, Kerala’s harvest festival.

The festival is celebrated in memory of the mythical King Mahabali and his reign, during which perfect harmony and prosperity prevailed. The King Mahabali’s popularity was at its height and led to the envy of the Gods. This golden age ended when Vamana, the dwarf incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, expelled him from his throne to the netherworld. On account of his virtue, Mahabali was allowed to visit his subjects once a year, during Onam.

Onam

Weather

* Kerala has three distinct seasons. The Summer, Monsoon and Winter. March to late May is summer. It’s very hot and isn’t the best time to visit. Late May to mid October is the Monsoon or Rainy Season. Mid October to late February counts as Kerala’s rather mild winter.

* When in Kerala, carry an umbrella no matter what time of the year it is. You can be caught in a sudden shower in summer which will leave you drenched if you are unprepared. The Kerala sun coupled with the humidity can be unforgiving in the summer months.

Government

* Kerala is a state in the Union of India. The state has a cabinet of ministers headed by the Chief Minister. A Governor appointed by the Central Government of India has a titular role as head of State. Kerala’s governing body is called the Legislative Assembly and the law makers are called Members of the Legislative Assembly (shortened as MLA).

* The State of Kerala is divided into 14 districts and the districts are further divided into Taluks. Each district has a Central Government of India appointed District Collector to oversee administrative activities. Each Taluk is headed by a Tahsildhar. Again a Taluk is divided into Villages, which are the smallest revenue division.

Economy

* Kerala’s Growth rates are 9.2% in 2004–2005 and 7.4% in fiscal year 2003–2004.

* Most households have family members working somewhere outside Kerala, typically the Middle East. Their remittances make up for around 20% percentage of the economy.

* During recent years, Kerala has undergone an image makeover. There is now a growing IT and ITES industry, which in turn has led to a spurt in construction activity in big cities.

* Tourism is now a booming industry in Kerala, and accounts for a significant part of the State’s economy.

Why should you visit?

* Among the 10 must see destinations of the world identified by the National geographic magazine “traveler”, Kerala is known for its glorious sights and surprising sounds. Mesmerizing greenery, enchanting backwaters, verdant forests, vibrant wildlife, sun-kissed beaches, cascading waterfalls, scintillating valleys with abundant coconut and areca nut palm groves, unending rice fields and mist-capped mountains make Kerala a land of nonstop magic. A land like no other.Populated with the most advanced society in India, Kerala has a 100% literacy rate. Its physical quality of life index is the highest in the country and the culture of hospitality is well known.

* Kerala is wedged between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats Mountain range. The sun, the sand, the back water lagoons, the mountains and the culture is a unique combination that you won’t find anywhere else, when planning for a holiday.

* Due to its unique geography, Kerala gets rain for at least 8 months of the year and the forests are classified as ‘rain forests’ just like those in the Amazon. You’ll be spoiled by the number of opportunities to trek, camp and see wildlife.

* There are many back-water lakes along the coast making it an ideal location for water sports. Time your arrival for the ‘Vallam kali’, annual boat race.

* Take a trip in the Water Routes of Alappuzha, the Venice of the East

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Talk

The people of Kerala speak Malayalam (a palindrome when written in English). However, most educated people speak Hindi and English as well. As Malayalam is similar to Tamil, locals may understand spoken Tamil with some difficulty. Almost all bus routes and other important signs including name boards are written in Malayalam and some in English. Railways and other central government establishments also carry signs in Hindi.

Get in

By plane

There are three airports in Kerala, with flights to domestic and international destinations. The airports are at Kozhikode, Kochi(Nedumbasseri) and Thiruvananthapuram. The airports have several carriers operating international flights around the world. Most carriers offer connection flights to one of the airports in Kerala. Domestic destinations accessible by direct flights from these airports include Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Agatti, Hyderabad,Mangalore,Goa and Delhi.

By train

Indian Railways operates several trains to and from (and within) Kerala. Trains into Kerala start from all the neighbouring states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, etc. Long-haul direct train services from cities like Delhi and Mumbai are also available.

Be aware that trains are the most popular method of transport and almost all trains in Kerala originate or terminate in Thiruvananthapuram or Ernakulam and are usually heavily booked. Buy your tickets as early as possible.

By bus

Inter-state private and government buses operates between neighboring states. Usually the journey is performed in the night so that you can escape the heat of the day.

It is recommended that you consider booking long distance bus tickets on “Air Conditioned Volvo buses” operated by all operators as the quality of the other buses vary significantly.

Get around

Trains, buses and taxis provide the easiest way to get around Kerala. Trains are good for long distance travel, say from the north to the south.

Taxis are good but expensive way to get around for short distances. Do negotiate the price before you get into the taxi.

Buses are good for very short travel. Both government and private buses travel between and within cities. Buses within cities are very crowded and if you travel on them, please take care of your belongings (wallet, passport) as pickpockets are not rare.

Auto-rickshaws (also called auto) are another convenient mode of transport for very short travel – not too expensive and fast. By law the auto driver has to start a meter for every journey. However at times this law tends to be overlooked. It is wise to ask the driver, politely, to ensure he starts the meter at the start of your journey , to avoid unecessary arguments at the end of the trip. The best way not to get tricked would be to ask a helpful Samaritan how much it would cost to your destination and check it up with your driver before you get into the auto. Most of the larger railway stations and all the airports have “pre-paid” auto-rickshaw and/or taxi stands. Just tell them where you want to go and you will get a slip of paper with the destination and amount written on it. Pay only that amount of money and nothing more.

Do

Kerala is one of the few places which caters to all kinds of tourists. It has hill stations, virgin beaches, lazy backwaters, rain forests, historical and cultural destinations. If you are interested in culture, surely you should visit Thrissur (Trichur) the city of culture where you can visit different Hindu temples, churches especially St.Thomas church at Palayoor and the Mosque in Kodungallore, that is the first Mosque in India.

Eat

Kerala cuisine is distinctly different from food elsewhere in India. Rice is a staple here, unlike the wheat-eating north of India. Seafood is also a big part of the diet. Quite a large number of traditional dishes will have coconut paste in it. The oil used for cooking is also often coconut oil. Unlike much of India, beef is also popular in Kerala, particularly with the Muslim and Christian communities. Food in Kerala tends to include a variety of spices and there are a few fiery dishes.

One of the favourite for any connoisseur of food would be the sadhya served especially during festive occasion on a plaintain leaf.

It generally has up to 24 items served in it. The snap shown is just a sample sadhya. It usually includes olan(a dish of pumpkin), avial(an assorted mix of all vegetable) , injipulee (a ginger & tamarind flavoring), kaalan (made of yam and yogurt), thoran (deep fried vegetables sprinkled with grated coconut) etc. It includes payasam, a sweet dish made of jaggery or sugar along with rice, cereals, fruits etc.

Kerala cuisine varies with the regions. The southernmost parts serve the most traditional sadya (or so they believe). Central Kerala cuisine is enriched with non-vegetarian dishes of all kinds. In Northern Kerala cuisine, you can see the influence of Arabian cuisine on the food. Sea food is available all over. In regions bordering the backwaters and lakes, traditional cuisine includes fresh-water fish like Karimeen, Prawn, Shrimps, Kanava[Squid], and many other delicacies served along with ‘Kappa’[Tapioca] or rice.

The road connecting Alappuzha to Changanasery known as AC Road is a wonderful place for foodies as there are a plethora of ‘Toddy Shops’ which serve the fresh catch of the day from the nearby water bodies cooked deliciously along with Toddy, a type of liquor obtained from coconut/palm trees which is sour-sweet in taste. You will love the ambience, when you are sitting in a toddy shop in the middle of a water logged green field nibbling on spicy fish and sipping toddy.

Drink

* Water is usually safe to drink, but mineral water is available at almost all shops and is the safest bet.

* Fruit juices, tender coconut water, coffee and tea are available in even the smallest towns.

* Alcohol. Kerala tops in per capita alcohol consumption in India, despite the high rate of government taxation. You’ll find a bar in most hotels serving anything from ‘Kallu’ to Scotch Whisky. Alcohol consumption in public is frowned upon, and the bars in everything except the most expensive hotels tend to be seedy.

* Locally made toddy is tempting to try, but be aware that some people become sick due to bad Brews. If you do try it, make sure you stick to the license-made brew, and not local moonshine.

Respect

Visiting Religious Centers

Kerala is one of the places where multiple religions exist in great harmony. This is achieved by one respecting the customs and rituals of other religions. A visit to these shrines is necessary to understand the breadth of cultural influences in the state.

In some Hindu temples non-Hindus are not allowed enter the shrines. It is best to ask someone at the temple. Many are happy to let you in as long as the usual rules of the temple are observed. However, photography inside the temple is a strict no-no.

Also for male visitors at many places inside a temple, dress code is traditional mundu without a shirt – the no-shirt rule will be enforced even if the mundu rule is not. The best thing to do is to watch what others are doing and follow. You are also expected to take off your footwear outside the temple. Usually there are no locker facilities, cheap footwear is best.

For females any non exposed dress, preferably not shirts and trousers.

There are exceptions to these rules. For example everybody is welcome at Adhi Shankaracharya’s temple. At Shabarimala any male that has performed a set of pre-defined rituals is welcome, but females are not.

At a Muslim mosque females have some restrictions.

At Christian churches usually men sit to the left of the aisle and women to the right. Some of the more traditional churches don’t even have pews…you’ll have to stand.

The synagogue at Kochi is not open to non-Jews on Saturdays.

Stay safe

Kerala has its share of criminals. Pick pockets are quite common. Don’t trust your hotel cleaning staff with your costly belongings. Also women are advised not to walk in skimpy clothes like bikinis. It also isn’t safe for a woman to walk alone in the night.

Use bottled water and stay in decent hotels even if you have to shell out some extra money.

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District(s)         14

Established       1 November 1956

Capital             Thiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum)

Largest city       Thiruvananthapuram

Governor          R. S. Gavai

Chief Minister   V. S. Achuthanandan

Legislature (seats)         Unicameral (141‡)

Population

• Density          31,948,619 (12th) (2001[update])

• 819 /km2 (2,121 /sq mi)

Literacy            91[1]%

Language(s)      Malayalam

Time zone         IST (UTC+5:30)

Area     38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi)

ISO 3166-2     IN-KL

Kerala Portal: Kerala

Footnotes[show]

‡ 140 elected, 1 nominated

Website            kerala.gov.in