The Kerala Story: India’s Cultural & Environmental Jewel


Welcome to the land of coconut palms, backwaters, and Kathakali! Kerala is a state located in the southern part of India that is known for its natural beauty, cultural diversity, and progressive policies. 

It is often referred to as “God’s Own Country“, and for good reason. The state boasts a rich history spanning thousands of years and has left an indelible mark on Indian culture and economy. 

Brief Overview of Kerala’s History

Kerala’s history can be traced back to several centuries before Christ when it was ruled by various dynasties such as the Chera, Pandya, and Chola. These rulers brought about significant advances in art, literature, trade, and governance that have helped shape India’s cultural identity as we know it today. The state also played a pivotal role during the colonial period when it became a hotspot for international trade with Portuguese, Dutch, French and British traders vying for its lucrative spice trade routes. 

In 1947, India gained independence from Britain, following which Kerala was formed by merging several princely states under one entity. This new state took on the mantle of championing progressive policies such as land reforms and social welfare programs that inspire other states today. 

The Significance of Kerala in India’s Cultural and Economic Landscape

Kerala is not just another state in India but rather an epitome of cultural evolution that has taken place over time. Its contribution to the literature through works like “Ramacharitam” (14th century AD), “Adhyathma Ramayanam” (16th century AD), and “Mappila Ramayanam” (17th century AD) cannot be ignored. 

It has also given birth to several art forms like Kathakali (17th century AD), Mohiniyattam (16th century AD), and Kalaripayattu (12th century AD) that have gained worldwide recognition. Apart from its cultural significance, Kerala’s economy has also played a crucial role in shaping India’s economic landscape. 

Its abundant natural resources and strategic location made it a hub for international trade even before the colonial period. Today, Kerala is a major exporter of spices, coir, and handicrafts and has also emerged as a major player in the tourism industry. 

The Purpose of the Article – To Delve Deeper into the Lesser-known Aspects of Kerala

While Kerala is known for its backwaters, beaches, and food, several lesser-known aspects deserve attention. From its progressive healthcare policies to its efforts towards environmental conservation, there is more to Kerala than meets the eye. 

This article aims to shed light on these lesser-known aspects of Kerala so that readers can better understand this unique state. So saddle up and let us explore “The Kerala Story” together! 

The Land and Its People

Geographical features that make Kerala unique

Kerala’s geography is characterized by its lush greenery, backwaters, and long coastline. The Western Ghats mountain range runs through the state, home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. 

The state’s backwaters are a network of interconnected lagoons and lakes that run parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. This unique geographical feature attracts tourists worldwide who come to explore the serene waters on houseboats. 

A brief history of the people who have inhabited Kerala over the centuries

Kerala has a rich cultural history dating back thousands of years. In ancient times, the state was known as ‘Chera Nadu’ and was ruled by various dynasties like Cheras, Pandiyas, Cholas, and Zamorins. 

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Kerala in 1498 when Vasco Da Gama landed at Kozhikode. Over time, various other foreign powers, like Dutch and British, also established their presence in Kerala. 

The diverse communities that make up modern-day Kerala

Modern-day Kerala is a melting pot of different cultures, with four major communities – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Jews – living together peacefully. Each community has distinct customs and traditions rooted in their history. 

The Syrian Christians in Kerala trace their ancestry back to St Thomas, who arrived on the Malabar Coast in 52 AD while Muslim traders settled along the coast during ancient times. What makes Kerala truly unique is its diverse landscape which ranges from coastal plains to high-altitude mountains offering panoramic views. 

These geographical features have shaped its economy as a hub for spice trade history and an important centre for tourism today. The people of Kerala are known for their friendly nature, with hospitality being a key aspect of the state’s culture. 

This is evident in how tourists are treated, especially those who choose to stay in homestays, where they can experience the warmth and hospitality of local families. The diverse communities that makeup Kerala add another layer to its unique culture. 

The state is home to several religious festivals like Onam, Vishu, Eid ul-Fitr, Christmas, and Hanukkah, celebrated with great fanfare across communities. This inclusivity spirit makes Kerala stand out as a shining example of co-existence for the rest of the world to emulate. 

The Cultural Tapestry

Preserving Kerala’s Unique Art Forms and Festivals

When we think of Kerala’s culture, the first things that come to mind are its vibrant art forms and festivals. But what many people don’t realize is that these traditions are under threat. With the rise of globalization and the Westernization of Indian culture, traditional art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniyattam are struggling to survive. 

It’s up to us to protect these treasures. Kathakali is a classical dance form that originated around 400 years ago in Kerala. 

It combines elements of dance, drama, music, and ritual. Its elaborate costumes and makeup are a stunning sight to behold. 

Mohiniyattam is another traditional dance form that originated in Kerala, known for its graceful movements and expressive storytelling. Unfortunately, both Kathakali and Mohiniyattam are facing challenges today. 

Many young people in Kerala prefer Western dance styles like hip-hop or ballet over their cultural traditions. It’s up to us as a society to ensure these art forms continue thriving. 

Similarly, festivals like Onam and Vishu are unique to Kerala, but they, too, face challenges today. These festivals celebrate the state’s rich cultural heritage with colourful displays of flowers, food offerings, and traditional performances. 

But as modernization takes hold in Kerala, many people have started celebrating these festivals with less emphasis on tradition than shopping or partying. We must work towards preserving our cultural heritage by keeping our art forms alive from extinction and returning the original traditions associated with them by reviving them through community programs where children can learn about them. 

Kerala Cuisine: A Fusion Of Flavors

Kerala cuisine is a fusion of local ingredients with international influences from trade relationships over generations. The use of coconut oil instead of ghee (clarified butter) is one of the distinctive features of this cuisine. Kerala’s food is well-known for its fiery spices, fresh seafood, and coconut-based curries. 

But in recent years, Kerala cuisine has faced a challenge from fast food chains and Western-style restaurants. Many young people in Kerala are turning to burgers and pizzas instead of traditional dishes like appam with stew or puttu with kadala curry. 

We must support our local restaurants and chefs by celebrating our unique culinary heritage. Traditional dishes like thoran (vegetable stir-fry), aviyal (mixed vegetable curry), and meen polychaete (fish wrapped in banana leaves) are not only delicious but also a part of our identity as Keralites. 

By supporting our local food traditions, we can ensure that the flavours of Kerala continue to be enjoyed by future generations. We must preserve the essence of Kerala’s culture through its art forms, festivals and cuisine. 

To achieve this, we need to take deliberate actions such as ensuring that these cultural practices are taught in schools; organizing cultural events where young people can learn about these traditions; promoting local chefs and their cooking techniques; creating awareness about the threats to traditional culture and integrating it into modern society so that it doesn’t disappear as time goes by. By preserving our cultural heritage, we can keep alive what makes us truly unique as Keralites. 

The Economy

The Role of Agriculture in Shaping the State’s Economy

Kerala has always been an agrarian society with a significant emphasis on agriculture. The state’s fertile land and favourable climate allow it to grow various crops, including coconut, rubber, tea, and spices like pepper, cardamom and cloves. 

The agricultural sector contributes significantly to the state’s economy by providing employment opportunities for millions of rural people and generating substantial revenue for the government. However, over the decades, we have seen Kerala’s agricultural sector stagnate as farmers face challenges such as low productivity due to outdated farming practices, poor infrastructure and transportation facilities, which hindered marketing opportunities. 

It is high time that we focus on reviving this important sector through modern technology and innovation. With government support backed up by research institutions like Kerala Agriculture University (KAU), farmers could adopt more sustainable methods of farming that increase yields while reducing environmental degradation. 

The Rise of Tourism as a Major Industry in Recent Years

There is no doubt that tourism has become a major industry in Kerala over the last decade or so. Tourists flock from all over India and worldwide, drawn to its stunning beaches, backwaters network & luscious greenery. 

In many ways it is great for our economy – creating enormous job opportunities for thousands of young people in fields like hospitality management & tour guiding etc., Also in recent years eco-tourism took off here which encourages responsible travel making sure local cultures are respected whilst minimizing damage to the environment. However, tourism also brings unpleasant consequences that must be addressed sooner rather than later. 

One of these is overtourism, where tourist crowds lead to environmental degradation and rising prices leading to gentrification or commodification at the expense of existing residents’ interests. Another issue is seasonality; with vast crowds coming only during peak seasons, businesses often struggle during the off-season. 

It is high time that we focus on balancing tourism’s benefits and drawbacks. Rather than just increasing tourist inflow for short-term benefits, we need to create more sustainable models that ensure long-term growth and a fair balance between economic development and environmental responsibility. 

The Impact of Globalization on Traditional Industries

Globalization has brought many positive changes, but it also has its downsides. One of these is the impact on traditional industries in Kerala, like handicrafts, coir making or toddy tapping, which has been part of local culture for centuries. 

These age-old traditions have been disrupted by cheaper imports from countries like China or Bangladesh, which can produce similar goods at a fraction of the cost due to mass production techniques or lower wages. This influx of cheap goods has decreased demand and income for local artisans, leading to the closure of several tradition-dependent businesses. 

The government must step in to protect these industries as they are integral parts of not only Kerala’s culture but also often provide employment opportunities for rural populations who desperately need it. We must promote local products over imported ones by ensuring better marketing strategies & providing incentives through subsidies, etc., so traditional industries can sustainably thrive while preserving our rich cultural heritage. 

Education and Healthcare

A Beacon of Literacy and Quality Education for All

Regarding literacy rates in India, Kerala stands head and shoulders above the rest. With a literacy rate of over 96%, it is the highest in the country and higher than some developed nations. 

This achievement can be attributed to Kerala’s long-standing commitment to education, which is evident throughout its history. The focus on education has resulted in a highly educated populace that values knowledge and critical thinking. 

But it’s not just about high literacy rates; Kerala also provides quality education to all its citizens. The state government has made significant investments in education, resulting in a vast network of schools and colleges across the state. 

Even people from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to quality education through various scholarships and other initiatives. However, there is still work left to be done. 

Despite its achievements, Kerala still faces curriculum reform and teacher training challenges. These issues need urgent attention as they are essential for maintaining the high standards Kerala has set for itself. 

The Jewel in India’s Healthcare Crown

Kerala’s healthcare system is considered one of the best in India – and with good reason. The state prioritizes public health by providing access to affordable healthcare services. 

The government invests heavily in healthcare infrastructure, including hospitals, clinics, and medical colleges. It also enforces strict regulations on private hospitals and clinics to maintain quality standards. 

Kerala’s success can be attributed to its emphasis on preventive care over curative care, which focuses on promoting healthy lifestyles rather than treating diseases after they occur. This approach includes programs like vaccination drives, health camps to detect diseases early on, and public awareness campaigns about different health issues. 

However, like with any system, some flaws need addressing, such as shortages of doctors or long wait times for certain procedures. Nevertheless, Kerala’s commitment to healthcare sets a shining example for the rest of India and even the world. 

Environmental Conservation

The need for conservation

Kerala is blessed with a natural landscape that is unique and diverse. The state’s forests, rivers, and coastline have been vital resources for centuries. However, the impact of human activity has taken a toll on these resources over time. 

Kerala’s rapid industrialization has led to deforestation, pollution of rivers and lakes, and degradation of natural animal habitats. The state’s coastal areas are also at risk due to the rising sea levels caused by climate change. 

Efforts towards conservation

Despite the challenges posed by climate change and human activity, Kerala has taken significant steps towards environmental conservation. These efforts include initiatives to preserve forests and wildlife habitats, reduce plastic waste through campaigning and recycling programs, minimize industrial pollution through regulation enforcement, and promote sustainable tourism practices in ecologically-sensitive areas such as hill stations like Munnar or backwaters like Alleppey. 

The way forward

Kerala’s efforts towards environmental conservation must continue to be strengthened to ensure a sustainable future for the state’s residents and its ecosystem. This includes greater emphasis on renewable energy sources such as wind turbines or solar panels and investing in new technologies that can help reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector while promoting more public transport options. Above all else, though, we need an engaged citizenry committed to environmental stewardship: individuals willing to make lifestyle changes that support conservation initiatives, such as reducing their carbon footprint by using public transportation or cycling rather than driving alone everywhere they go. 


Kerala is more than just a beautiful state with rich cultural traditions; it is also home to some of India’s most innovative environmental policies to safeguard its natural resources for future generations. By taking decisive action towards conservation now, we can ensure our children inherit a healthy, sustainable and vibrant ecosystem. While there is still a long way to go in addressing environmental challenges, I am optimistic about the future as long as we work together towards a common goal of preservation for generations to come. 

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