ABOUT KERALA India
God's Own Country Kerala enjoys unique geographic features that have made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Asia. An equable climate. A long shoreline with serene beaches. Tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters. Lush hill stations and exotic wildlife. waterfalls. Ayurvedic health holidays. Enchanting artforms. Magical festivals. Historic and cultural monuments. An exotic cuisine... All of which offer you a unique experience.
And what's more, every one of these charming destinations is only a two-hour drive from the other. India's most advanced society A hundred per cent literate people.
World-class health care systems. India's lowest infant mortality and highest life expectancy rates. The highest physical quality of life in India. Peaceful and pristine, Kerala is also India's cleanest state.
No prizes for guessing but severe reprimand for missing. It's Kerala, "the land of cheras" or the land of Kera or coconuts, instantly spellbinds the travel-veary visitors with its beautiful sea beaches and a landscape dominated by tall elegant coconut palms. The folklore's say, this land was created by Hindu god Parashurama, who gave up his blood thirsty ways and threw away his weapon - the axe. The axe from heaven landed in this part of India and formed the fertile Malabar Coast. Another tale goes like this : goddess Bhadrawati, who is the chief deity here, is said to have made the demon Darikan paying for his arrogance with his life. And when asked by Lord Shiva to select a place on earth and reside there as the protector of the place of the mankind, the goddess came to the land of Kerala.
CULTURE of Kerala India
Kerala has a rich and fascinating culture. With people from many communities and religions living in this small state along the west coast of South India, Kerala is a melting pot of cultural influences. Some of the major cultural events of Kerala are the Onam Festival, the Temple festival at Thrissur, the annual Snake Boat Races at Alleppey and the festivals of Id and Christmas. Depending on the time of year you can see some of these celebrations on tours of Kerala with Kerala Backwater.
Some of the performing arts of Kerala, which form a part of the culture of Kerala are Kathakali, Mohiniattam and Kalaripayattu. There are many folk dances and performance styles in Kerala which include Theyyam - known for its fearsome masks and the trance like state of the performer, Thiruvathirakali - a graceful dance by women during Onam and Kaikotikalli a dance performed by women to celebrate a wedding.
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS of Kerala India
The colorful mosaic of Kerala fairs and festivals is as diverse as the land, is an expression of the spirit of celebration, that is an essential part of the State. Observed with enthusiasm and gaiety, festivals are like gems, ornamenting the crown of Kerala tradition and culture. Round the year the fests keep Kerala life vibrant and interludes in the mundane affairs of life.
Every season turns up new festivals, each a true celebration of the bounties of nature. The festivals exhibits an eternal harmony of spirit. Packed with fun and excitement, festivals are occasions to clean and decorate houses, to get together with friends and relatives and to exchange gifts.
The 10 day Onam festival is kerala's most important festival, honouring King Mahabali, a mythological king of ancient Kerala, whose period was reckoned as the golden age in the history of the state. He was the embodiment of virtues, goodness, so was his regime which was marked by equality and harmony among people.
The most spectacular spectacle in the state. This festival was introduced by Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of erstwhile Kochi state. Celebrated in Medom (April-May) the festival parades the fulgent faces of Kerala culture. With every passing year Tthrissur Pooram, the temple festival, attracts large masses of devotees and spectators.
The famous snake boat carnival on the Pampa, held annually at Aranmula on the day of Uthrittathi asterism, in connection with the Onam festival is to commemorate the crossing of the river by Lord Krishna on that day. The deity is supposed to be in all the boats that take part in the carnival and all of them are expected to arrive a t their destination simultaneously.
Easter is the oldest Christian festival, as old as Christianity itself. The central tenet of Christianity is not the birth of Jesus, but his resurrection. Easter is derived from this paschal mystery and from the events of Good Friday.
The festival falls on the asterism Thiruvathira in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (December-January). On thiruvathira morning, devotees throng Shiva temples for an early worship which is reckoned as highly auspicious.
Tradition says thiruvathira is celebrating the death of Kamadeva, the mythological God of Love. According to another version, Thiruvathira is the birthday of Lord Shiva. The festival has similarities to adra darshan celebrated in Tamil Nadu.
Makaravillakku at Sabarimala
For centuries, Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta has been a major pilgrim centre attracting lakhs of devotees from all over India, more so from southern States. The presiding deity is Lord Ayyappa known as Dharma Sastha, a considered symbol of unity between Vaishnavites and Saivites. Darma Sastha is believed to have fulfilled his mission in life and rejoined his Supreme Self, enshrined at Sabarimala.
The Malayalam new year is celebrated by bursting crackers and going to temple.
ARTS AND DANCES
Bharata Natyam is the oldest form of classical dance in India. Origin of this style of dance can be traced to the Natya Sastra written around 4000 BC by sage Bharatha. Known as the 'Poetry in Motion', this dance form was originally known as 'dasi attam,' a temple dance performed by young women called 'devadasis.' Bharata Natyam is most commonly performed by women rarely by men.
Chakyarkoothu, also called koothu, is one of the oldest classical theatre arts of Kerala. It is a solo dance is usually performed in the koothambalam of temples to the accompaniment of the mizhavu and elathalam. The performance starts with the invocation of the presiding deity of the temple.
Kathakakli is the classical dance drama of Kerala based on the guidelines laid in the Natya Sastra. This elaborate art form is usually begins in the evenings and continues till dawn. It is an inherent part of all temple and cultural festivals in Kerala. The costumes and makeup are ornamental, colorful and elaborate so that the gestures and expressions of the performer are easily seen and understood.
Mohiniyattam is a classical solo dance style, which is a blend of the grace and elegance of Bharata Natyam with the strength and force of Kathakali to build a mood of sringara or romance. The dance is usually performed on specially made stages during the temple festivals.
Kalampattu or Kalamezhuthu Pattu
Kalampattu or Kalamezhuthu Pattu is a folk art form that is practiced in the northern parts of Kerala. More than 600 years old art form, it is performed by a group of five to fifteen people in the Bhadrakali and Ayyappa temples. The ritual is performed around the Kolam, which is an elaborate picture usually of Bhadrakali drawn on the floor with the use five colors.
Kaliyoottu is an eight daylong folk ritual, which depicts the combat between goddess Durga and the demon Darika. The ritual is performed at various stages and the climax of the play is called Paranettu. This ritual is performed on a specially constructed 100 feet high stage on the eighth day.
Kavadiyattam is a ritualistic dance form performed by a group of devotees wearing bright yellow or saffron costumes with ash smeared all over the body. The dance depicts Kavads carrying kavadis on their shoulders. The beats of instruments like udukku and chenda and the nadaswaram are integral part of the kavadi procession. It is usually performed in the Subramanya temples.
Velkali is one of the most detailed and dramatic martial folk arts of Kerala and is usually performed within the temple premises. It is called thirumumbil vela when performed before the deity and kulathilvela when performed near the temple pond.
BACKWATERS Destinations of KERALA
Kerala's backwaters is the most popular tourist Destination of Kerala. The palm-fringed, tranquil backwaters were once just the state's trade highways. Kerala is famous for its backwaters and lakes. They have dictated her history, shaped her present and promise a future by virtue of offering incomparable beauty and unique experiences.
The most interesting area in the backwaters is the Kuttanad region, called the rice bowl of Kerala. The area is probably the only place in the continent where farming is done below sea level, using a system of dykes and bunds.
The largest backwater stretch is the Vembanad Lake, which opens out into the sea at the Kochi port and flows through three districts-Alappuzha, Kottayam and Kochi. The Ashtamudi Lake has eight 'arms' covering a major portion of Kollam district in the south, and is the second largest lake in the state.
Alappuzha is one of the major centers for backwater boat trips. The intricate network of canals through this town has earned it the sobriquet "The Venice of the East". Small but long country boats are the taxies of the water. The coir workers present an interesting sight as they soak coconut fiber in pools, beat them and wind the strands on long spindles stretched between an endless lines of coconut trees.
Referred to as the Venice of the East, Alappuzha has always enjoyed a unique place in the maritime history of Kerala. Today, it is famous for its boat races, backwater holidays, beaches, marine products and coir industry.
A short distance from Thiruvananthapuram is the Veli Aakulam lagoon. Water sports, a floating restaurant, an amusement park, speedboats and other facilities make this spot a tourist attraction. The east end of the lake is flanked by two scenic hillocks.
A costal district of Kerala, Kollam is located 71 km from Trivandrum. One of the beautiful backwater district of Kerala, Kollam was once port of international spice trade. 30% of this historic town is covered by the renowned Ashtamudi Lake.
The charming old port city of Kollam on the banks of the Ashtamudi Lake is known as the center of the cashew industry. It is one of the oldest ports of the backwaters, with the ferry to Alappuzha taking more than 8 hours. A small village 12 kilometer west of Kottayam town.
Kumarakom is 14-acre bird sanctuary known for local varieties of water fowl, cuckoo, water ducks, and migrating Siberian storks. The best months to visit it are June-August. Just 80 kilometres from Cochin, this area has unique kettuvalloms (houseboats), boat racing, motorboat and water sport facilities. The houseboats, plied by local oarsmen, are simply furnished with a living room, bedroom with attached bath and a raised central deck for lazing on cushions while watching the world go by.
In north Kerala, the cool backwaters of Kozhikode lie waiting to be explored. This old commercial town attracts travelers for its history, wonderful backwaters and leisure sports.
Alumkadavu, in the town of Karunagapally hardly 20 kilometers north of Kollam, is where kettuvalloms are built. These huge, long and tapering barges were traditionally used to carry tones of goods, with a portion covered with bamboo and coir servicing as a rest room and kitchen for the crew. Gliding down the calm and serene backwaters in a kettuvallom.
Famous for its natural harbor, one of the best in the world, Kochi has earned the sobriquet "Queen of the Arabian Sea". All the islands that make up Kochi are well connected by ferry. The Chinese fishing nets, a method of fishing established in Kochi during the times of Kubla Khan line the waterfront.
AYURVEDA IN KERALA
Kerala's equable climate, natural abundance of forests (with a wealth of herbs and medicinal plants), and the cool monsoon season (June - November) are best suited for Ayurveda's curative and restorative packages. In fact, today, Kerala is the only State in India which practises this system of medicine with absolute dedication. Ayurveda evolved around 600 BC in India. This new system of medicine stressed on the prevention of body ailments in addition to curing them. Followed by the Dravidians and Aryans alike, Ayurveda has been practised ever since. Today, it's a unique, indispensable branch of medicine - a complete naturalistic system that depends on the diagnosis of your body's humours - vata, pitta and kapha - to achieve the right balance. Ayurveda believes in the treatment of not just the affected part, but the individual as a whole. Making it the natural way to refresh yourself, eliminate all toxic imbalances from the body and thus regain resistance and good health.
BEACHES IN KERALA
Most of India's finest beaches are in Kerala. For virtually its entire 900km in length, the Kerala coast is lined with sandy beaches, rocky promontories and coconut palms. Each year greater numbers of visitors arrive here in search of the tranquil, palm fringed beaches.
This Internationally renowed beach resort is a favourite haunt of tourists since 1930s. Kovalam consists of three adjacent crescent beaches. The southernmost, known as the Lighthouse Beach, is the most popular of the three.
Kerala is situated on the southwestern tip of the Indian mainland on the Arabian Sea. The state extends between the latitude 10?00 North and longitude 76?25 East. Kerala is bound by the Arabian Sea on the west, Karnataka on the north and northeast, and Tamil Nadu on the east.
According to the geographical features, the state can be divided into hills and valleys, midland plains and coastal belts. The hills of Kerala dot the Western Ghat from Ponmudi in the south to Munnar in the centre and Sultan's Bathery in the north. There is heavy rainfall in this region during the months between May and November. In the coastal belts of this state are situated world famous backwaters that are more or less main attraction of Kerala.
HOW TO REACH
There are three airports in the state-at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode. Thiruvananthapuram is also an international airport, connecting the state to many places in the Middle East.
There are around 200 railway stations in Kerala connecting most of the places in the state to places in the other parts of the country and inside the state. Long-distance express trains connect important places in the state to places outside the state like Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, and Calcutta.
An extensive network of metalled roads connects most of the places in the state. National highways 47, 17, and 49 connect the state with other parts of the country.
Inland water navigation systems are available in many districts. Boats are extensively used to connect many places within the state. The state has major airports at Kochi and Vizhinjam. The minor ports in the state are Neendakara, Azheekkala and Beypore.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The climate of the state, as in the most of the other part of India, is tropical. The summer comes to the state in April and continues for the next four months. The maximum temperature during this season is around 33?C. Monsoon touches the state in June and remains there till September though not much difference in temperature can be felt. Winter is from October to January and temperature drops a bit. The weather is never too chilly in Kerala.
Its kaleidoscope of fairy-tale palaces,lakes,temples,gardens and narrow lanes strewn with stalls,carry the flavor of a heroic past,epitomizing valour and chivalry. Their reflection in the placid waters of the Lake Pichhola is an enticing sight.
Earlier known as Trivandrum is sprawling over seven hills covered with English government buildings side-by-side local traditional wooden houses in this seaside capital city. What does Thiruvananthapuram offer you? True to its composite and cosmopolitan character, the capital city's attraction's run from museums, art galleries, temples and zoo's. With a seven stotreyed Gopuram, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the most famous site of the capital city.
A Kollam or Quilon is the most picturesque and absorbing of the backwaters town. It is an old sea port town on the Arabian coast, stands on the Ashtamudi lake. It is next to paradise for nature lovers. Being on the Kerala's one of the most historic ports, it was a stopover for Persians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs. A date with this town without staying overnight is like getting married but missing the honeymoon.
Colourful and charismatic Kottayam, slightly inland from the Malabar Coast is just 30km from Alleppey. In ancient period, it was stronghold of Syrian Christian sect (that exists in Kerala since AD 1907). It has very beautiful churches, most noted being Valiapatti Church, possessing a cross that is believed to have come from the original church founded by St. Thomas.
A trip to Kerala is not complete without getting to Thrissur, a pavan pilgrimage town. Set amidst paddy fields, coconut and pineapple plantations. If you visit Kerala during the period of April and early May do not miss the spectacle of pooram procession - Kerala's most famous temple festival. Also there is the famous temple of Lord Krishna known as Guruvayoor.
Malappuram figures prominently in history as the place which frequently questioned British authority. Most of the famous Mappilla revolts of Malabar occurred in areas now in Malappuram district. Malappuram lags behind the state's other districts in terms of standards of literacy and education, paradoxically, the district has contributed in no small measure to Kerala's cultural traditions. It has been a centre for Vedic learning and teaching. Celebrated Mappilla poets and the famous `oppana' dance of the Mappilla women originated here.
Palakkad or Palghat lies at the foot of the gigantic western ghats, on the border of Kerala and Tamilnadu. It is situated 80 Km. north east of trichur and 50 Km south west of Coimbatore. This district is desicribed as the granary of the state of Kerala. This district with mountains , forests and fertile valleys, rivers and mountain streams are rich in flora and fauna. There are many dams and irrigation projects such as Walayar, Malampuzha, Pothundy, Parambikulam, etc. in Palakkad.
Idukki, the unspoiled natural queen of Kerala is a tourist paradise. Idukki is the most gifted district of Kerala. About 1500 Sq.Km. of its area is reserved forest, much of which is home to a variety of flora and fauna. This forest area house wild life like, tigers, deer, Indian bisons and monkeys. Streams, valleys and hills combine to make Idukki an ideal year-round holiday destination.
Kochi or Cochin, the commercial hub of Kerala, is a town of great historical importance. It has a fine natural harbour around which the city has grown. Kochi is the famous port, trading between India and the rest of the world. Attracted by trade and its liberal laws, many foreigners have made this their home. After the fall of Jerusalem, Jewish refugees sought sanctuary in this lush trading post.
Kozhikode or Calicut was also Vasco da Gama's first halt in India. He set foot on the sands of Kappad beach, north of today's city, on 27 May 1498 A.D., a landing commerated by a small stone monument at the beach. Kozhikode is an important trading centre for timber and tiles, and hunting ground for that famous delicacy Kozhikode halwa. Just 15 minutes from the city centre is a place called Dolphin's Point,where one can see dolphins playing in the sea of an early morning.
Ernakulam is the main business and commercial town of Cochin. It has today come to represent a state of mind for the youth of Kerala. The destination of the adventurous and the ambitious. Today Ernakulam symbolizes the future of Kerala, as this City with a future paces ahead.The city's suburbs feature mostly residential colonies and small commercial enterprises.