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Kerala - കേരളം
Coat of arms of Kerala.svg
status State
Capital Thiruvananthapuram
founding July 1, 1949
(as Travancore-Cochin )
November 1, 1956
(new boundary drawn and renamed Kerala)
surface 38,863 km²
Residents 33,387,677 (2011)
Population density 859 inhabitants per km²
languages Malayalam
governor Arif Mohammad Khan
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan ( CPM )
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Houseboat, Vembanad Lake

Kerala ( Malayalam കേരളം Kēraḷam ) is a state on the Malabar Coast in southwest India with an area of ​​38,863 km² and about 33.4 million inhabitants (2011 census). The capital is Thiruvananthapuram , the former Trivandrum.

The population density is 859 inhabitants per km². This makes the state one of the most densely populated regions in India. With regard to the social development indicators ( literacy , social status of women, economic development, control of population growth), Kerala ranks among the top Indian states.

The state of Kerala was created in 1956 after the language borders of Malayalam. The name Kerala literally means "land of coconut palms". It is derived from the Malayalam words kera for coconut palm , which are actually found in large numbers all over the region, and alam for land.


Position and extent

Kerala topographic map
Nelliampathi Mountains in the Western Ghats

Kerala borders on the state of Karnataka in the north , in the east it is shielded by the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu and in the west bordered by the Arabian Sea . Mahé, which belongs to the Union Territory of Puducherry, is an exclave in the north of the state. Kerala occupies almost the entire Malabar coast . The total length of the coast is around 590 kilometers.


The partly still densely forested Western Ghats in the east rise an average of 1500 meters. The highest point in the state and the entire Western Ghats is the 2695 meter high Anamudi . The mountains descend to the west over a hilly landscape to the fertile coastal plain of the Arabian Sea, at most 120 kilometers wide. The waterways, lakes and lagoons of the backwaters extend over the central section of the coast, between Kochi and Kollam . Their largest body of water is the Vembanadsee south of Kochi. Almost all rivers have their source in the Western Ghats. Kerala's longest river is the Periyar .


The climate is tropical with little temperature fluctuations during the year and is strongly influenced by the monsoons . The southwest monsoon usually starts in Kerala at the beginning of June and brings abundant rainfall until October. Almost all of the annual rainfall, which ranges from 1250 mm in the lowlands to 5000 mm in the mountains, falls during the monsoon season. From October to May it is dry, but the humidity is high all year round. In 2001, a red rain hit Kerala .



A sign pointing to Malayalam in Kasaragod

Linguistically, Kerala is a very homogeneous state. The main language Malayalam is spoken by 97 percent of the population. It serves as the only official language of the state. The largest minority are the Tamil speakers , who mainly live in the Palakkad and Idukki districts . In the northernmost district of Kasaragod , Tulu is spoken by around 125,000 people . Around 70,000 Konkani speakers also live along the coast . Koraga is the mother tongue of several thousand tribesmen in the north. English is widely used as an educational and business language.

Languages ​​in Kerala (2011)
language speaker proportion of
Malayalam 32.413.213 97.0%
Tamil 502.516 1.5%
Others 490.332 1.5%
total 33,406,061 100%


Cheraman Friday Mosque in Kodungallur
Church in Kadamattom

In religious terms, Kerala is mixed. Hindus make up the majority of the population with 55 percent (2011 census), but their share is significantly lower than the national average, where it is around 80 percent. The proportion of Muslims (27 percent) and Christians (18 percent) is well above the overall Indian average (14 percent and 2 percent, respectively). The different faiths have been represented in Kerala for many centuries and co-exist largely peacefully.

The Islam was not like in Kerala in northern India by Central Asian conqueror but much earlier by Arab introduced dealer. The Cheraman Friday Mosque in Kodungallur is said to have been built in 629 - during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. Today Kerala is one of the Indian states with the highest Muslim population. Islam is particularly well represented in northern Kerala. In the Malappuram district , Muslims even make up the majority of the population.

With over six million Christians, Kerala is home to the largest Christian population of any Indian state. The highest proportion of the Christian population is in the districts of central Cerala ( Kottayam , Ernakulam etc.), where around 40 percent of the population are Christian. The Christians of Kerala are above all Thomas Christians who trace their origins back to the Apostle Thomas . They are divided into different denominations: followers of the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Churches united with Rome , ie the Syro-Malabars , the Syro-Malankars and the Latin Church (Western Church), form the majority; there are also Indian Orthodox ( Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church ), Syrian Orthodox and Anglican Christians, and a small minority of Protestants . The Thomas Christians of the various schools are firmly integrated into the social order. They are seen as converted Brahmins , do not proselytize and form one of the upper classes or castes in Kerala. In contrast, the members of the Latin Church and the Protestant mission churches are mostly low-caste or caste-free converts.

Until the 20th century there was a significant Jewish population in Kerala , the so-called Cochin Jews . According to their own tradition, these have been resident in Kerala since the destruction of the temple in the 1st century, but at the latest since the early Middle Ages. Almost all Cochin Jews have emigrated there since the founding of Israel .

Religions in Kerala (2011)
religion Relatives proportion of
Hinduism 18,282,492 54.7%
Islam 8,873,472 26.6%
Christianity 6,141,269 18.4%
Others 108,828 0.3%
total 33,406,061 100%


Of all the states of India, Kerala has the highest literacy rate with 93.9 percent (men: 96.0 percent, women: 92.0 percent) . The overall Indian average, on the other hand, is only 74.0 percent (as of the 2011 census). According to the annual education report of the NGO Pratham , over 60% of students in Kerala attended private schools in 2012. At 94.4%, the attendance rate in elementary schools was one of the highest among India's states, and the trend was still increasing compared to 2009. 92% of schools in Kerala meet the requirements of the Right to Education Act on the student-teacher ratio (in the whole of India it is only 43%). The proportion of schools in which there was at least one classroom per teacher and of students who had basic numeracy skills in the 5th grade increased between 2009 and 2012 - contrary to the trend across India.

There are seven universities in Kerala , the Kerala University in Thiruvananthapuram, the Cochin University of Science and Technology in Kochi, the Kannur University , the Calicut University in Kozhikode, the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam , the Kerala Agricultural University in Thrissur and the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in Kalady.

Settlement structure

Thiruvananthapuram is the largest city in Kerala

The settlement structure of Kerala is very different from most other areas of India. Instead of clearly delimited localities with surrounding undeveloped areas, extensive scattered settlements prevail here . Accordingly, cities and villages are often difficult to delimit. This is also reflected in the official statistics. According to the 2011 census, there are 520 cities and 1018 villages in Kerala. Of the cities, however, only 59 are statutory cities; H. Cities in the legal sense. The remaining 461 are “ censorship cities ”, i. H. Villages that are statistically counted as cities based on certain demographic criteria. At the previous 2001 census, Kerala had 60 statutory cities and only 99 censored cities, compared to 1,364 villages. The difference in the statistical definition of cities and villages also explains the jump in the proportion of the urban population from 26 percent in 2001 to 48 percent in 2011. The urbanization rate is one of the highest in India and is well above the national average of 31 percent.

The largest city in Kerala is the capital Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in the south of the state, with around 752,000 inhabitants (2011 census), followed by Kochi (Cochin) in central Generala, which has around 602,000 inhabitants. The largest city in northern Kerala is Kozhikode (Calicut) with around 432,000 inhabitants. Other important cities are Kollam (Quilon, population 350,000) and Alappuzha (Alleppey, population 174,000) in the south as well as Thrissur (Trichur, population 316,000) and Palakkad (Palghat, population 131,000) in central Generala. Compared to the rest of India, the population of the largest cities in Kerala is rather small. Due to the special features mentioned in the state's settlement structure, the urban agglomerations often extend far beyond the actual city limits. According to the 2011 census, there are seven agglomerations in Kerala with more than one million inhabitants, namely Kochi (2.1 million), Kozhikode (2.0 million), Thrissur (1.9 million), Malappuram (1.7 million), Thiruvananthapuram (1.7 million), Kannur (1.6 million) and Kollam (1.1 million).

Population development

Census population of Kerala since the first Indian census in 1951. Due to a lower birth rate than in other Indian states and constant emigration, especially to the Arab Gulf states, Kerala had only moderate population growth in the 2011 census (+ 4.59% compared to 2001 ).

Census year population
1951 13,549,000
1961 16,904,560
1971 21,347,300
1981 25,453,680
1991 29,098,523
2001 31,839,000
2011 33,387,677


Early history

Legend has it that a man named Parashurama , an incarnation of Vishnu , who was looking for a settlement for his warriors, was granted land from the sea by the gods. However, he had to throw his ax from a mountain in what is now northern Kerala. Where his ax landed, the sea turned into land and the part between the mountains and the sea became what is now Kerala.

So much for the legend, but little is really known about Kerala's early history. Much is unsecured or only passed down in legends and myths. The apostle Thomas is said to have landed in Muziris (today Kodungallur ) - the ancient port city, which the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder also mentioned in the 1st century AD - and brought Christianity to Kerala. It is more likely, however, that it was imported from Syria by Christian merchants . Christian communities have only been documented since the 4th century. After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, there is alleged to have been a mass immigration of Jews to Muziris. It is possible that there were Jews on the Malabar coast before that.

The fact is that Kerala was probably settled later than other regions of India due to the originally dense jungle areas. Contacts with the highly developed north Indian empire of the Maurya, however, pushed the development forward quickly. Buddhism and Jainism spread in Kerala at that time. The region gained importance through trade with Phenicia , Egypt , Babylon , Arabia , China and the Roman Empire .

Sangam Era and First Chera Empire (until approx. 400 AD)

Only with the Tamil Sangam era (approx. 300 BC to 200 AD) can reliable statements be made about Kerala's history. At that time the kingdom of the Mooshika kings existed in the north of Kerala, named Ezhimala after its capital. In the extreme south, from Cape Komorin to Thiruvananthapuram , for example , the Ays ruled. The central Malabar coast was controlled by the Cheras , a dynasty originally ruling in Tamil Nadu, which was already mentioned in inscriptions from the time of Ashoka . They were the most powerful rulers of the region and fought numerous wars against other Tamil dynasties such as the Cholas and the Pandyas . Their capital was Vanchi, the exact location of which is still controversial to this day.

"Dark Age" (approx. 400–800)

After the end of the Sangam era, the Cheras were able to maintain for some time, but were by 400 from the from the Deccan coming Kalabhras destroyed. Little is known about their rule over the next four centuries, which is why one speaks of the “Dark Ages” or “Kalabhra Interregnum”. At the end of the 8th century, the Kalabhras were defeated by the Pallavas , Chalukyas , Pandyas and Rashtrakutas .

Second Chera Empire (800–1102)

In the year 800, immediately after the fall of the Kalabhras, the Cheras under King Kulasekhara (800-820) succeeded in restoring their power. The Malayalam era (Kolla Varsham) begins with the founding of Kollam 825 . The greatest king of the Second Chera Empire is Sthanu Ravi Varman, under whose rule (844-885) sea trade flourished like never before. The arrival of the Arab merchant Sulaiman 851, who established Islam on the Malabar coast, also fell under his reign. After Sthanu Ravi Varman's death, old enmities with the Cholas flared up again and lasted until the end of the empire. During the reign of the last Chera king Rama Varma Kulasekhara (1090-1102), the Cholas took the capital Mahodyapuram (the former Muziris). With his death, his empire also perished.

Medieval kingdoms until the arrival of the Europeans (1102–1498)

Several independent kingdoms rose from the ashes of the Chera Empire. The most important were Venad (later Travancore ), Nediyirippu Swarupam under the rule of the Zamorines of Calicut (now Kozhikode ) and Perumpadappu Swarupam ( Cochin ). There was also a bewildering number of small states.

Venad's first important ruler was Udaya Marthanda Varma (1175–1195). The capital Quilon (now Kollam) developed into a wealthy port city and was visited by Marco Polo in 1275 . However, the state reached its zenith under Ravi Varma Kulasekhara (1299-1314). After that, the importance of Venad gradually faded. The state only regained importance as a travancore in the 18th century.

Nediyirippu Swarupam, especially its capital Calicut , achieved great prosperity through maritime trade with Arabia and China. The Zamorine (literally: "Lords of the Sea") enlarged their empire considerably by conquering many small states. Eventually they rose to become the undisputed rulers of the northern Malabar coast. It was only through the interference of European colonial powers that their power began to decline.

Not much is known about the history from Perumpadappu Swarupam or Cochin to the arrival of the Europeans. Similar to Calicut and Quilon, however, it was able to maintain itself thanks to the profitable sea trade. In the 15th century there were increasing conflicts with the expanding Zamorines of Calicut.

Colonial period (1498–1947)

Portuguese colonial rule (1498–1663)

Vasco da Gama landing near Calicut 1498 (watercolor, around 1880)

The Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama landed on May 20, 1498 after the first successful circumnavigation of Africa on the beach of Kappad , about 30 km north of Calicut. At first he was warmly received by the Zamorin. However, when da Gama tried to usurp the spice monopoly of the Arabs living in Calicut, the Zamorin denied him the trade privileges he had hoped for. Da Gama then turned to the Raja of Cochin, concluded an alliance with him and in 1503 had the first European fort built on Indian soil in Cochin. In this way Cochin and Calicut became embroiled in the war between the Portuguese and the Arabs, which soon broke out. Taking advantage of the hostility between the two kingdoms, Portugal managed to break the Arabs' monopoly on spices. In 1506 Afonso de Albuquerque became governor of all Portuguese possessions in India. He temporarily made peace with the Zamorin, which his successors broke again. Portugal's influence manifested itself in many areas of life, fashion, architecture, the introduction of certain types of cultivation such as cashew nuts and tobacco , but also in religious intolerance and fanaticism.

Dutch colonial rule (17th and 18th centuries)

The incompetence and corruption of Albuquerque's successors as well as the political and economic weakness of the Portuguese motherland in the late 16th century led to the slow decline of Portuguese power in Kerala. In addition, there was the growing influence of the emerging sea power Netherlands . In 1603 Admiral Steven van der Hagen landed in Calicut at the behest of the Dutch East India Company and concluded the first treaties with the Zamorin, who wanted to expel the Portuguese from his empire. Further contracts followed. The Dutch built fortresses at Purakkad, Kayakulum, Quilon and Travancore . In 1662 they succeeded in driving the Portuguese out of Cranganore (now Kodungallur ) and in 1663 they finally conquered Cochin. With this, Portugal lost its last base in Kerala and the Netherlands became the determining political force. The decline began with the unexpected rise of Travancore from 1729 and the invasion by Mysore .

Travancore (1729-1947)

Marthanda Varma inherited the pathetic remains of the once mighty Venad in 1729. However, he conquered numerous smaller principalities and united them to form an empire called Travancore . In the Battle of Colachel (1741) he even managed to defeat the Dutch. In 1753 they signed a peace treaty. His nephew Rama Varma, who succeeded him to the throne in 1758, proved to be an equally capable ruler. His reign lasted until 1798. Travancore came under British influence only when it was threatened by Mysore in 1791. Travancore was only able to defend itself through a request for help from the British, but in return had to accept the appointment of a resident. From then on it was de facto a British protectorate, but was formally able to maintain its independence until India became independent in 1947.

Invasions by Mysore (1764–1792)

Hyder Ali , the ruler of Mysore , who had grown stronger in the fight against British colonialism in the 18th century , turned his attention to Kerala in 1764. Two years later he managed to take Calicut . In 1773 he again waged war on the Malabar coast and conquered Trichur (today Thrissur ). Hyder Ali's successor, Tipu Sultan , penetrated south of Kerala from 1790 to 1792. British troops quickly put an end to his expansion of power.

British colonial rule (17th century – 1947)

The English signed the first trade agreement with the Zamorin of Calicut in 1615. 20 years later they were given permission to call at all Portuguese ports in Kerala for their trade. Calicut came increasingly under their influence and became English in 1664 after Portugal left the colonial power in Kerala. At first there was great competition from the Dutch, but with the end of Dutch influence through the Mysore invasions, the British were able to establish themselves as the leading European power in Kerala. In 1795 Travancore became practically a protectorate, and Cochin also became a British sphere of influence. With the incorporation of Malabar into the Madras Presidency in 1800, colonial rule in Kerala was finally secured. It was not until the 1920s that there was again significant resistance in the context of the Indian independence movement. Of particular note are the Moplah uprising of 1921 and the Punnapra Vayalar revolt of 1946.

Kerala in independent India (since 1947)

A CPI (M) campaign vehicle in Ernakulam, Kerala (2004)

Two years after India gained independence in 1947, the princely states of Travancore and Cochin formed the Travancore-Cochin Federation on July 1, 1949 and joined India. This became a federal state on January 1, 1950 (B-state, see History of India ). By the States Reorganization Act on November 1, 1956, the boundaries of the Indian states were redrawn according to the language borders. Most of Travancore-Cochin united with the Malabar district of the state of Madras to form the state of Kerala, whose borders now largely coincide with the language borders of Malayalam . The extreme south of Travancore came as the district of Kanyakumari to the state of Madras (since 1969 Tamil Nadu).

The first general election in Kerala took place in 1957. The Communist Party of India (CPI) emerged victorious from them. For the first time, the Congress party lost an election in independent India, and at the same time, for the first time in history, a communist party was able to win free and democratic elections. But unrest brought down the cabinet of Chief Minister EM Sankaran Namboodiripad after only two years. Since then, the communists and the Congress Party have effectively alternated as government power in almost every election. Today there are two major political alliances in Kerala: the United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the Congress Party, and the Left Democratic Front (LDF), led by the CPM . The incumbent Chief Minister of Kerala has been Pinarayi Vijayan from the CPM since May 25, 2016 . The conservative Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has its political focus in the “Hindu Belt” in northern India, has not played a major political role so far. In the last elections there were violent clashes between the BJP and communists and their sub-organizations, which also resulted in several deaths.


Parliament building in Thiruvananthapuram
Distribution of seats after the
2016 general election
CPI (M) 58
INC 22nd
CPI 19th
IUML 18th
KC (M) 6th
JD (S) 3
KC (J) 1
KC (B) 1
KC (S) 1
Independent 6th
Anglo-Indians 1
total 141

Political system

The Kerala Legislature consists of a unicameral parliament , the Kerala Legislative Assembly or Kerala Niyamasabha . The parliament has 141 members, 140 of which are elected by direct vote every five years . Twelve seats are reserved for members of disadvantaged castes ( Scheduled Castes ) and two for members of the indigenous tribal population ( Scheduled Tribes ) . One MP is appointed by the governor to represent the Anglo-Indian minority. The parliament has its seat in Thiruvananthapuram . The governance rests with the Chief Minister , who puts together the cabinet. He is appointed by the governor , who in turn is appointed to his office by the Indian president. The governor is the formal head of Kerala, but has more representative tasks. At least he can dissolve parliament at the request of the Chief Minister. The highest court of justice in the state, and at the same time in the Union territory of Lakshadweep , is the Kerala High Court , based in Ernakulam . Its most important task is to monitor and enforce compliance with fundamental rights. In addition, as an independent body, it is responsible for settling disputes in elections or on the jurisdiction of lower courts.


In terms of party politics, Kerala has been dominated by the parties of the center-left spectrum since independence. Since 1962 - with the exception of brief phases of the President's rule - the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Indian National Congress have alternated at the top of the government. Hindu nationalist parties that focus on the Hindi language belt of northern India have never had a chance in elections. A special feature of Kerala is the longstanding existence of a Muslim regional party, the Indian Union Muslim League , which has been continuously represented in parliament since the 1950s. There is also the Kerala Congress , which emerged in the 1960s as a local split from the Congress party and is particularly elected by the Christian minority, but is not a religious party. The Kerala Congress has seen many spinoffs over the years. The split-off factions were usually named after their respective party leaders, e.g. B. Kerala Congress (Mani) , Kerala Congress (Joseph) etc. The largest Kerala Congress faction is the Kerala Congress (Mani) . The last election on May 16, 2016 resulted in a victory for the Left Alliance over the previously ruling Congress Party.

According to a survey by Transparency International India from 2005, Kerala is by far the least corrupt state in India. In all eleven public service sectors examined, corruption was the least perceived here.

Administrative division

Kerala is divided into 14 districts (population and density according to the 2011 census).

Districts of Kerala
District Administrative headquarters surface Population
1 Alappuzha Alappuzha 000000000001415.00000000001,415 km² 000000002127789.00000000002,127,789 000000000001504.00000000001,504 inhabitants / km²
2 Ernakulam Kochi 000000000003063.00000000003,063 km² 000000003282388.00000000003,282,388 000000000001072.00000000001,072 inhabitants / km²
3 Idukki Painavu 000000000004356.00000000004,356 km² 000000001108974.00000000001,108,974 000000000000255.0000000000255 people / km²
4th Kannur Kannur 000000000002961.00000000002,961 km² 000000002523003.00000000002,523,003 000000000000852.0000000000852 inhabitants / km²
5 Kasaragod Kasaragod 000000000001989.00000000001,989 km² 000000001307375.00000000001,307,375 000000000000657.0000000000657 inhabitants / km²
6th Kollam Kollam 000000000002483.00000000002,483 km² 000000002635375.00000000002,635,375 000000000001061.00000000001,061 inhabitants / km²
7th Kottayam Kottayam 000000000002206.00000000002,206 km² 000000001974551.00000000001,974,551 000000000000895.0000000000895 inhabitants / km²
8th Kozhikode Kozhikode 000000000002345.00000000002,345 km² 000000003086293.00000000003,086,293 000000000001316.00000000001,316 inhabitants / km²
9 Malappuram Malappuram 000000000003554.00000000003,554 km² 000000004112920.00000000004,112,920 000000000001157.00000000001,157 inhabitants / km²
10 Palakkad Palakkad 000000000004482.00000000004,482 km² 000000002809934.00000000002,809,934 000000000000627.0000000000627 inhabitants / km²
11 Pathanamthitta Pathanamthitta 000000000002652.00000000002,652 km² 000000001197412.00000000001,197,412 000000000000452.0000000000452 inhabitants / km²
12 Thiruvananthapuram Thiruvananthapuram 000000000002189.00000000002,189 km² 000000003301427.00000000003,301,427 000000000001508.00000000001,508 inhabitants / km²
13 Thrissure Thrissure 000000000003027.00000000003,027 km² 000000003121200.00000000003,121,200 000000000001031.00000000001,031 inhabitants / km²
14th Wayanad Kalpetta 000000000002130.00000000002,130 km² 000000000817420.0000000000817.420 000000000000384.0000000000384 inhabitants / km²


Economic sectors

Agriculture / primary sector

Tea plantation in Kerala

Agriculture and fishing remain the backbone of the economy. About 86% of the area of ​​Kerala is used for agriculture. The main crops are rice , coconuts (45% of the total Indian harvest), rubber (92%), betel nuts (24%), cashew nuts , tea , coffee , cocoa (63%) and various spices , especially pepper (97%). Most of these products are exported or processed industrially.

Since the focus of agricultural production is on commercial produce, Kerala has to get around 60% of its grain needs from imports from other states.

The fishery is also heavily oriented towards export. Important fish products are sardines , shrimp , lobster , squid and tuna .

Mining plays only a subordinate role, as Kerala has hardly any mineral resources worth mentioning.


The industry is comparatively weaker than in many other parts of the country, not least because of the extremely strong unions . It only contributes around ten percent to the gross domestic product . Kerala also lags behind other states in terms of industrial growth. The Keralesian industry is essentially limited to the processing of agricultural products such as rubber, coconut and cashew nuts as well as the textile industry (cotton yarn and fabrics, knitted clothing, woolen fabrics). Small-scale businesses predominate in these branches. Only in the Kochi - Ernakulam agglomeration , the most important industrial center, are more capital-intensive areas such as the chemical and IT industries located to a significant extent . However, the latter only develops gradually.

Services and tourism

In contrast, the service sector , which generates almost three quarters of the gross domestic product, achieves high economic growth rates . Tourism in particular is gaining in importance and now accounts for more than six percent of GDP.


Kerala's per capita income (2011/12: 83,725 rupees ) is more than a third above the Indian average (2011/12: 60,972 rupees). Drastic cases of poverty as in other parts of India ( slums, etc.) are hardly to be found in Kerala, as consistent agrarian reform and job creation measures have been carried out here over the past decades . At 12 percent, Kerala has the second lowest poverty rate among the Indian states (after Himachal Pradesh ). The education and health systems are also well developed compared to other states. Average life expectancy between 2010 and 2014 was 74.9 years, well above the Indian average of 67.9 years. The infant mortality rate in Kerala is 12 (per 1,000 live births), the lowest in India. At the same time, Kerala is also the state with the lowest birth rate (15.2 per year and 1000 inhabitants). The Human Development Index (HDI) in Kerala was 0.79 in 2007/08 (on a scale from 0 to 1), well above the national average, which is also considered to be high on a global scale. Kerala is the Indian state with the highest consumption expenditure per capita (1835 rupees per month in the country, 2413 rupees in the cities), of which only a comparatively small part is spent on food (46% and 40% respectively).

Due to the low level of industry, Kerala has one of the highest unemployment rates in India (7.3% in the cities, 7.5% in the country), so there are many well-educated Keralese who look in vain for work at home. employed abroad, especially in the Gulf States . Remittances from overseas Keralese to their families contribute significantly to the relatively high standard of living in Kerala.

The position of women in Kerala society is good by Indian standards. The demographic ratio of women is 1084 per 1000 men versus 940 per 1000 men across India. This suggests that no newborn girls are killed here immediately after birth. In the rest of India, this is often done in order to save the high dowry - often in the form of gold jewelry - which the woman has to get from her parents when she marries. The illiteracy rate among women is also unusually low at 8.0 percent (India: 34.5 percent; as of 2011 census). As in the rest of the country, social life is determined almost exclusively by men.

The American anthropologist Richard W. Franke and the sociologist Barbara H. Chasin have spoken of the "Kerala model" of development in scientific publications since the 1990s. As early as 1999, environmental activist Bill McKibben described the Kerala model as a “bizarre anomaly among developing countries” that offered “real hope for the development of the Third World”. Social indicators such as infant mortality, literacy, birth rate and life expectancy would be almost at the level of the “First World”, despite a much lower per capita income.

With a score of 0.770, Kerala ranks first among the 29 states of India in the Human Development Index in 2015 . The level of development was roughly on a par with countries like Georgia and Turkey .



Due to the high population density, the road network of Kerala is much more dense than in other Indian states. Kerala is the only state in India to have all localities connected to the road network. There are eight so-called national highways with a total length of 1524 km. In total, Kerala has around 140,000 kilometers of roads (as of 2003).


As everywhere in India, the railroad plays an important role. The Southern Railway operates the broad-gauge main line along the west coast as well as the main line branching off in Shoranur , which leads via Coimbatore to Chennai . Until the opening of the Konkan Railway (1999), this main line was the only rail link with northern India. In addition, the Southern Railway also operates the meter-gauge railway line from Kollam via Virudhunagar to Chennai. The total length of all railway lines is 1200 km.


There are four airports in Kerala: Thiruvananthapuram International Airport ( IATA code: TRV), Cochin International Airport (IATA code: COK) in Kochi , the (new) Kannur International Airport (IATA code: CNN) and Kozhikode International Airport (IATA code: CCJ).


The widely ramified waterways of the backwaters in the districts of Kasaragod, Kannur, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Kollam are also of great importance as transport routes .


The port of Kochi is one of the largest in India. Over 14 million tons were handled there in 2004/2005. There are also several smaller seaports on the coast of Kerala.

Power supply

Three quarters of the electricity is generated from hydropower, the rest almost exclusively in thermal power plants. However, Kerala is unable to meet its electricity needs from its own production, so power outages are the order of the day.

Telephone network

Kerala also has the densest telephone network in India.


Kerala's rich cultural heritage is very different from that of northern India. Although Kerala is ethnically more uniform than the neighboring regions, the strong mix of faiths and the relationships with the Middle East , China and Europe that have existed for thousands of years through sea trade have resulted in a great cultural diversity and many regional peculiarities. The Kerala Folklore Museum in Kochi is an important site for documenting the cultural heritage of Kerala .


Since Malayalam split off from Tamil as an independent language quite late , the literature of this language is relatively younger than that of many other Indian, especially Dravidian , languages. The earliest poems in this language were folk songs and ballads. The oldest known prose work from the 12th century has been preserved, a commentary on Arthashastra in northern India . The earliest "classic" is probably the Ramacharitam , a poetic version of the Sanskrit epic Ramayana , which was written around 1200 .

Noteworthy, however, are Kerala's contributions to early Tamil literature. The cilappatikaram , for example , which is one of the most outstanding epics of classical tamilla literature, dates from the 2nd century BC. From the pen of a Keralesian prince.

Important works in Kerala were also created in the classical language of North India, Sanskrit . Worth mentioning in this context is Adi Shankara , who made outstanding contributions to Hindu philosophy in the early 9th century .

After a less creative phase at the beginning of the British colonial era, which nevertheless resulted in numerous translations of English works into Malayalam, Malayalam literature finally experienced a rebirth at the end of the 19th century. Under the influence of Western ways of thinking, new genres emerged which, for example, increasingly dealt with social issues. Some of the most outstanding modern writers and poets in Kerala include: a. Anand , Basheer , Mukundan , Edasseri Govindan Nair , MT Vasudevan Nair and Vijayan . The author Arundhati Roy is best known abroad .


The Carnatic music with the corresponding instruments , which is widespread throughout South India, is characteristic of the classical music of Kerala . Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma , the descendant of the Travancore royal family, has excelled as a singer and vina player. With Sopana Sangeetham , an independent form of temple music has developed in Kerala. Many forms of classical music are inextricably linked with dances and dance dramas that have a long and rich tradition in Kerala. As in all of India, modern pop music is dominated by film music.

Dance and theater

Kathakali dancers

Dances were and are an integral part of Kerala's culture. What is striking is the frequent mixing of dance and theater forms, which led to the development of dance dramas.

Kerala's most famous dance is undoubtedly Kathakali , which is considered to be one of the oldest dance forms in South India and in Kerala almost enjoys the status of a national dance. It combines music and dance with drama, pantomime and religious-mythological themes, mostly episodes from one of the great Hindu epics. Characteristic is the elaborate costumes and masking of the exclusively male actors. The strictly regulated, traditional performance of the Kathakali requires the dancers to be extremely concentrated and disciplined and is therefore very difficult to learn. Kathakali is usually performed at temple festivals, but more recently it has also been performed more and more for tourists interested in culture. The modern dance Kerala Natanam was developed from the Kathakali .

In addition to Kathakali, Kerala has an astonishing number of other classical dances. Theyyam is a ritual dance common in northern Kerala. Like Kathakali, it is only danced by men and elaborate costumes and masks play an important role. Kutiyattam , which is a more than 2000 year old temple dance and also impresses with magnificent masks and stylized gestures, has been protected by UNESCO as a "masterpiece of mankind". The Kuttu dances (Kuthu) of the Chakyar and Nangyar castes are other dances that are traditionally performed at temple festivals. Thullal was once very popular among workers and lower castes for its simplicity and wit. The slow, graceful individual dance Mohiniyattam is performed by women. Thiruvathirakali is a group dance for women.

Dances also play an important role among Muslims and Christians. This is how girls dance oppana while preparing a Muslim bride for the wedding . The Christian music drama Chavittunatakam was created during the times of the Portuguese colonial rule and therefore shows the influences of European mystery games .


The cinema is an important genre in Kerala with a high degree of popularity and mass effectiveness. Even if not as popular as the Bollywood productions, the Malayalam cinema is nonetheless firmly established and has a place in Indian film that should not be underestimated . Compared to Bollywood productions, the Malayalam film is considered more profound. The stories are also much more differentiated and the characters are presented in a more complex way. However, since the late 1990s, the Malayalam film has suffered a decline in productions and visitor numbers due to the emergence of new entertainment media such as cable TV and DVD , but also black copies . The most renowned Kerala filmmakers include director Adoor Gopalakrishnan and actors Mammootty and Mohan Lal . These two prominent players have been successful in the film business for more than 20 years.

Visual arts

The oldest wall paintings from the 9th century in Hindu temples bear witness to the long tradition of painting in Kerala. It was mainly religiously inspired until the 19th century. Raja Ravi Varmas are famous for depictions of gods, goddesses and South Indian women, influenced by European realism . In the modern art of India artists from Kerala are rather poorly represented.

Martial arts

The martial art Kalarippayat , which originated in Kerala, is divided into a northern and a southern style, of which the northern one is practiced in Kerala, the southern one in Tamil Nadu . It is one of the oldest and most famous Indian martial arts. Presumably it was not exposed to any external influences, which allowed it to retain its particularly original form. Today, Kalarippayat is mainly practiced in rural areas of Kerala.

Card game

The card game 56 or 28 is very popular in Kerala.

Tourism & Sights

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi
Houseboat on the backwaters

Kerala has become a very significant vacation destination for both foreign and local vacationers. In 2003 the country was visited by 5.9 million Indian and 295,000 foreign guests.

One reason for the attractiveness of Kerala as a tourist destination is its scenic beauty. The lagoons, lakes and canals of the backwaters are particularly popular. The Periyar National Park in the Western Ghats is one of the most visited nature reserves in India. The Eravikulam National Park or the scenic mountain towns of Munnar and Ponmudi are also worth a visit. Foreign tourists are also attracted by the numerous beautiful beaches, such as B. Kovalam or Varkala , attracted.

Another reason is the fascinating mix of different cultures. You can feel this especially in the old port city of Kochi . But other cities such as Thiruvananthapuram , Thrissur , Alappuzha and Kollam also have interesting sights to offer. The Palace of Padmanabhapuram near Thiruvananthapuram is considered one of the highlights of Keralite architecture .

The official tourism slogan of Kerala is “God's Own Country” and was copied from the Americans , who have long liked to call their country that.



  • Martin and Thomas Barkemeier: Kerala with Mumbai and Madurai. Reise Know-How Verlag, Bielefeld 2001, ISBN 3-8317-1004-X .
  • Renate Haass, KD Christof: Dance of the Gods - ritual and dance theater in Kerala. Röll, Dettelbach, ISBN 3-89754-114-9 .
  • KABANI - the other direction (Ed.): Fair on the road in Kerala / India - A travel guide. Christina Kamp, Sumesh Mangalassery (Red.), Thiruvananthapuram 2007, ISBN 978-3-9522623-1-3 .
  • Jose Punnamparambil, Christina Kamp (ed.): Three blind people describe the elephant. Kerala tells. Short stories and poems from the Malayalam . Horlemann-Verlag, 2006, ISBN 978-3-89502-223-4 .

Web links

Commons : Kerala  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on January 27, 2006 .

Coordinates: 10 ° 0 '  N , 77 ° 0'  E