Kerala brings to mind images of lakes, boats, beaches, tea plantations, wildlife, coconut trees, mountains, forests, rivers, delicious food, cities and villages. There cannot be just one reason to visit Kerala. There is something to attract everyone.
Kerala has many forts, palaces and historical monuments. Many of them are the result of foreign invasions and colonialism. There are forts along the Kerala coast, from Kasaragod to Thiruvanathapuram. Most of the forts are maintained in good condition. The largest of them is Bekal Fort which has been built on a hill above Bekal beach. The 300 year-old fort is spread over 40 acres
Kerala has 9,400 sq. km. of evergreen and rain forests. Kerala also hosts Vembanad and Sasthamkotta lakes which are considered wetlands of international importance. Kerala’s forests are home to elephants, tigers, leopards, gaur, Nilgiri Tahr, chital, sambar, sloth bear, gray langur, boar and many more. Kerala holds six national parks and thirteen wildlife sanctuaries.
Spirituality and Religion
Kerala is a secular state. Temples, churches and mosques co-exist peacefully. Among the famous temples in Kerala are Sabarimala, Padmanabha Swamy and Guruvayur temples. Built in 1503, St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi is the oldest European church in India. The Jewish Synagogue in Mattanchery was built way back in 1568 and is the oldest in India. Many famous mosques in Kerala draw devotees. Palayam Masjid (Thiruvananthapuram), Vavar Masjid (Erumely) and Mishkal Mosque (Kozhikode) are among the well-known.
Kerala cuisine is well-known for its diversity and quality. Seafood is popular and is usually served with rice. There is extensive utilisation of coconuts which are employed in grated or chopped form. Coconut milk is at times added to the gravies. The cooking medium customarily is coconut oil. The inclusion of green or red chilies could make the food spicy. A traditional Kerala vegetarian meal served on banana leaf is a must-try.
Locally cultivated organic vegetables are increasingly popular in Kerala. Fruits such as mango, jackfruit, papaya and pineapple can be consumed when in season. Tender coconut water is a refreshing drink.
Kerala has immense diversity in all walks of life. There are beaches along its coast with Arabian Sea. Mountains of the Western Ghats are on the east. There are bustling cities and tranquil villages. Different religions and cultures exist side by side. Although Malayalam is the state language, the dialect changes from region to region.
I shot the photo above on a visit to Fort Kochi. An ancient Chinese fishing net is being put to use while a modern container ship passes by at the harbour.
Kerala has a distinct architectural style. A notable feature of Kerala architecture is the long, steep sloping roof covered with red clay tiles. Stones, timber and clay are the commonly used construction materials. Vastu plays a key role in the location and design of the buildings. There are separate guiding principles for religious and domestic architecture.
Culture and Traditions
Kerala has a rich cultural heritage. Its diverse culture is influenced by the three main religions of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Kathakali and Mohiniattam are highly developed art forms. Kathakali is a 300-year-old dance form developed exclusively in Kerala. Koodiyattam has been recognised by UNESCO as Human Heritage Art.
Fairs and Festivals
Thrissur Pooram is celebrated at Thekinkadu grounds in Thrissur in the month of May. Kudamattam (changing of umbrallas) atop thirty caparisoned elephants is a spectacular sight.
Onam is the annual harvest festival of Kerala. Revelries continue for ten days, beginning with Atham day of the Malayalam month of Chingam.
Christmas is observed with much fervour by all communities in the state.
The quality of silks in Kerala is second to none. There is a tradition of silk production stretching back to several generations. Cotton is another material that is in abundance in all parts of the state.
Keralites are fond of gold. The jewellery designs are intricate and beautiful. Make sure that the jewellery you purchase bears BIS hallmark.
Kerala is famed for the production of spices: pepper, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. Tellicherry Pepper from Malabar is considered the best black pepper in the world for its aroma and taste.
A Spot for Everyone
Kerala offers something for every kind of traveler. If you want to relax on the beach, there are lovely beaches along the coast. If you would rather be up in the mountains, then the hill stations beckon. If you wish to go for adventure sports, there are many facilities. All you have to do is to pick and choose.