Friday, January 29, 2010
Kerala is a state in south India. It was created on November 1, 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act bringing together the areas where Malayalam is the dominant language. The state has an area of 38,863 sq km and is bordered by Karnataka to the north, Tamil Nadu to the south and the east and the Arabian sea towards the west. Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of Kerala. Kochi and Kozhikode are the other major cities.
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 Dravidian Villavar tribe which established the Chera Kingdom were Patriarchal in descendency. The Cheras collapsed after repeated attacks from the neighbouring Chola and Rashtrakuta kingdoms. Feudal Namboothiri Brahmin and Nair city-states subsequently gained control of the region. 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. Early contact with Europeans gave way to struggles between colonial and native interests. After independence, Kerala state was created in 1956 vfrom the former state of Travancore-Cochin, Malabar district of Madras State, and 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 91 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, starting with the Kerala Gulf boom, and is uniquely dependent on remittances from its large Malayali expatriate community.
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 November 1, 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 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 Kerala for centuries.
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 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. The main pilgrim tourist spots of Kerala are Sabarimala Temple, Chettikulangara Temple, Vadakumnathan Temple, Guruvayoor Temple, Malayattor Church and Parumala Church.