Kerala (regionally referred to as Keralam) is a state in the south-west region of India on the Malabar coast. It is geo-politically bordered by Karnataka to the north and north-east, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Laccadive Sea to the west.
During the Chera period, Kerala remained an international spice trading centre. Later, in the 15th century, the lucrative spice trades attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and eventually paved the way for European colonisation. After independence, Travancore and Cochin joined the Republic of India, getting the status of a State, Later, the State of Kerala was formed in 1956 by merging Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks) with the Malabar district and the taluk of Kasargod in South Kanara.
The eastern region of Kerala consists of high mountains, gorges, deep-cut valleys immediately west of the Western ghat’s rain shadow. Its western coastal belt is relatively flat and is crisscrossed by brackish canals, lakes, estuaries and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters.
Kerala experiences a humid equatorial tropical climate. With around 120-140 rainy days per year, Kerala has a wet and maritime climate influenced by the seasonal heavy rains of the southwest summer monsoon and the northwest winter monsoon. Around 65% of the rainfall occurs from June to August corresponding to the southwest monsoon and the rest from September to December corresponding to the northeast monsoon. During summer, the State is prone to gale-force winds, storm-surges, cyclone-related torrential downpours, occasional droughts, and rises in sea level.
Kerala is the state with the lowest population growth rate (3.44%) and has a density of 819 people per km² in India. The State has the highest Human Development Index (HDI) in the country according to the Human Development Report 2011. It also has the highest literacy rate (93.91%), the highest life expectancy (74 years), and the highest sex ratio (1,083 women per 1,000 men) among all Indian States. Low birth rate and high literacy rate are often the twin hallmarks of the healthy advancement of society. As for religion, according to 2011 census, 56% of Kerala’s people are Hindus, 25% are Muslims, 19% are Christians including others.
Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the State is the largest city of Kerala, while Kochi, the most densely populated city, holds the second position. Kerala now 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. At present (as in 2013) the UDE is the ruling coalition in government. The State has 140 seats in the Legislative Assembly and elects 20 members in Lok Sabha and 9 members in Rajya Sabha.
Malayalam is the official language of the State. Malayalam literature starts from the late mediaeval period and includes such notable writers such as Panikkar poets, Kumaran Asan, V. N. Menon, S. P. Iyer. In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith winning poets and writers like G. S. Kurup, S. K. Pottekkatt, T. S. Pillai, V. Nair and N. V. Kurup had made valuable contributions to the modern Malayalam literature. Later, writers like O. V. Vijayan Kamaladas, M. Mukundan, Arundhati Roy had gained international recognition.
The culture of Kerala is composite and cosmopolitan in nature, and it is an integral part of Indian culture. It has been collaborated with neighbouring and overseas cultures too and thus has resulted in the development of a distinctive lifestyle, art, architecture and social institutions. Kerala is home of five classical dance forms—Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Koodiyattam, Thullal, and Krishnanattam, originated and developed in the temple culture of the region.
Development of classical music in Kerala is also attributed to the contributions from the traditional performance. The Grand Kerala Shopping Festival (GKSF) claimed to be Asia’s largest shopping festival since 2007.
After independence, Kerala has managed a socialist welfare economy based on small-scale industry and agriculture. Traditional industries include coir, handlooms and handicrafts that employ around one million people. Agriculture in Kerala has passed through many changing phases from rice crops to other seasonal crops and the cultivation of perennial tree and spice crops. The state now produces 97% of the national output of black pepper and 85% of natural rubber. Coconut, tea, coffee, cashew, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg are vital agricultural products of Kerala.
The State has a good transport system. Besides the roadways, the Indian Southern Railway lines run through the State connecting most of the major towns and cities. Cochin International Airport plays a vital role in air-ways.
By the 21st century, almost all of the native sports and games have either disappeared or become just an art form performed during local festivals. One such traditional sport of Kerala is the boat race, especially the race of Snake boats. Cricket and football are now popular in the State. P. T. Usha has become a famous athlete of the State.
The most popular tourist attractions in the State are beaches, backwaters and hill stations. Major beaches are at Kovalam, Varkala, Kappad and Bekal. Popular hill stations are at Munnar, Wayanad, Wagamon, Peermade and Ponmudi.