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Kerala

Kerala is a state/Union Territory of India.

Kerala (or Keralam ) is one of the four states of South India. It is the most literate state in India with a literacy rate greater than 90%. It covers an area of 38,863 sq km. The State of Kerala was formed by joining three regions: Kingdom Thiruvithaamkoor (Travancore), Kingdom of Kochi(Cochin), and Malabar Province. Thiruvithaamkoor and Kochi, former princely states, were merged to form Thiru-Kochi on July 1, 1949. Malabar was merged with Thiru-Kochi to form the State of Kerala on November 1, 1956.

Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of the state. More than 95% of the people in Kerala speak Malayalam. The major religions followed in Kerala are Hinduism (58%), Islam (21%), and Christianity (21%). Kerala also has a tiny Jewish population, said to date from 587 BC when they fled the occupation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

Kerala occupies a narrow strip of India's southwestern coast. It is bounded by the Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghats in the east. Many places in Kerala have become tourist attractions. These vary from beaches to hill stations. Central Kerala's backwaters (inlets of the sea connected by canals) are major 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, Mahe, also shares a land border with Kerala.

Kerala gained the distinction, in 1957, of having the first democratically elected Communist government anywhere in the world. Kerala has a reputation as being one of the most left wing states in India. Today the political life of Kerala is dominated by two fronts, the United Democratic Front (led by the Indian National Congress) and the Left Democratic Front (led by CPI(M)).

Kerala has a rich tradition in Arts, both classical and folk. In addition to the classical uppercaste art forms like Koodiyattom (UNESCO Human Heritage Art), Kathakali, Mohiniyaattam and Ayappan Thiyatu, Kerala has numerous folk art forms performed by non-uppercastes in various regions of the state. Both classical and folk art forms have become artefacts of the past as contemporary art forms weave their own identity according to the contemporary needs. Mimicry and Parody are two of the most popular entertainments in Kerala now.

Kerala has an ancient solar calendar called as the Malayalam calendar which is used by various communities only for religious functions. Kerala has its own form of Martial arts, Kalaripayattu. Theyyam is the most outstanding ritual art of Northern part of Kerala known as North Malabar. Poorakkali is another popular ritual art in North Malabar.

Onam associated with the legend of Mahabali is declared the State festival, but Keralites celebrate many other religious and secular festivals.

People have lived in the region now known as Kerala since ancient times. Regional identity developed in the 14th century 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 in 1498, that Christianity was already established. According to legend, the history of christianity in Kerala dates back to the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle at Kodungallur in A.D. 52. A Christian-Jewish community was founded by a contingent of Syriac-Nasranis who arrived in 192 via Baghdad. The ancient Syrian-christians lived alongside the Cochin Jews. (see Saint Thomas Christians)

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.

Subdivisions of Kerala are Malabar Subdivision, Kochi Subdivision, and Travancore Subdivision.