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Kerala

Kerala (or Keralam) is a state in India.

Kerala
CapitalThiruvananthapuram
Area 38,863 km2
Population
 - Total (2001)
 - Density

31,838,619
819/kmē
Date of formationNovember 1, 1956
Latitude
Longitude
8°18'N to 12°48'N
74°52E to 72°22'E
Width
Length
35-120 km
580 km

Land: It occupies a narrow strip of India's south-western coast. It's bounded by the Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghats in the east. Many places in Kerala are major tourist attractions -- destinations range from beaches to hill stations, within a few hours of each other. Central Kerala's backwaters (inlets of the sea connected by canals) are also mainly tourist attractions.

The states of Karnataka in the north and Tamil Nadu in the east are Kerala's immediate neighbours. A part of the union territory of Pondicherry also shares a land border with Kerala.

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) is the capital of the state. Other important cities are: Kochi, Kottayam and Kozhikode. Alleppey, a town with picturesque canals, backwaters and lagoons, was described as the "Venice of the East" by Marco Polo.

People: More than 95% of the people in Kerala speak Malayalam.

The major religions followed in Kerala are Hinduism (57%), Islam (23%), and Christianity (19%). Kerala also has a tiny Jewish population, said to date from 587 BC when they fled the occupation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The state has many famous temples, churches, and mosques. The synagogue in Kochi is the only one in India.

Kerala has a rich cultural tradition. In addition to the classical dance forms Kathakali and Mohiniyaattam[?], which are native to the region, Kerala has numerous folk and classical art forms, and a rich literary tradition. Kerala is known for Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine. Kerala has a traditional calendar of its own. In Kerala, like in many other parts of India, a strict caste system used to be in force. Despite the eforts of reformers and the government, caste prejudices still exist.

The main Keralite festival is Onam[?], which is native to the state.

Kerala ranks highest in India with respect to "social development parameters" such as primary education and healthcare. This is mainly due to government policies, which makes these services available free of cost for Keralaites who would not otherwise have access to them. Literacy in Kerala, at 97%, is the highest among Indian states.

Economy: However, Kerala's emphasis on social welfare also resulted in slow economic progress. Kerala possesses few major industries, and it's per capita GDP is lower than the nation's average of 360 USD per year(1998). Remittances from Keralites working abroad, mainly in the Middle East, make up over 60% of the state's GDP.

Agriculture is the most important economic activty. Coconut, tea and rubber are grown extensively. Coir (Coconut fiber), cashew, and spice production are also important.

Tourism, too, plays an important role in state's economy.

History

People have lived in the region now known as Kerala since ancient times. Regional identity developed in the 1300's AD with the development of the Malayalam language.

Vasco da Gama's voyage to Kerala from Portugal in 1498 was largely motivated by Portuguese determination to break the Kerala Muslims' control over the trade between local spice producers and the Middle East. He established India's first Portuguese fortress at Cochin (Kochi) in 1503 and from there, taking advantage of rivalry existing between the royal families of Calicut[?] and Cochin, managed to destroy the monopoly. The dispute between Calicut and Cochin, however, provided an opportunity for the Dutch to come in and finally expel the Portuguese from their forts. The British moved into the area in the form of the British East India Company and were firmly established in Kerala by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Tipu Sultan attempted to encroach on British-held territory in 1792, but he was defeated and the British remained in control until independence.

The Portuguese were surprised to discover, when they arrived in Kerala 500 years ago, that Christianity was already established. The history of that community dates back to the arrival in 52 AD of St. Thomas the Apostle, and to the establishing of a Christian community by a contingent of Syrian Christians who arrived in 192 AD via Baghdad.

Modern day Kerala was created in 1956 from Malabar[?], which had been part of the Madras Presidency, and from Travancore and Cochin. The latter two were princely states which had been ruled by maharajas, both being somewhat unique among their kind in that they had concerned themselves with the education and provision of basic services to the residents of their territories.

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