Formerly part of an area called ‘Tamilakam’, Kerala is a southern state on the west coast of India. Attributions like: ‘One of 10 Paradises in the World’ and ‘50 Places of a Lifetime’ bestowed by National Geographic Traveler Magazine are sufficient reasons to compel tourists from the nation and abroad to explore the abode of god – Kerela. Undoubtedly then, the state witnesses whopping 9 million visitors annually and is the fastest growing tourist attraction in the world.
The derivation of the term ‘Kerala’ has been explained in multiple ways. Kerala and Tamil Nadu once co-existed and shared many commons, including language, beliefs, practices and culture. Thus the name Kerala is thought to arise from the Tamil word ‘Chera alam’, meaning a steep mountain slope. Another theory advocates its origin from Malyalam language, ‘Kera alam’ meaning, ‘The Land of Coconut Trees’. Yet another theory explains that ‘Chera alam’ refers to the ‘Land of Cheras’. The origin of the state traces back to 1st century, when the land was ruled by Chera Kingdom. Legendary stories, on the contrary state that Kerala was ruled a Mahabali, a demon in whose commemoration, the festival of Onam is celebrated. Rulers of Chera Dynasty lost their kingdom to Kurukshetra Dynasty after which the state witnessed historical impacts due to Tipu Sultan, Portugal and Dutch invasions.
Much of Kerala’s tourist potential is enriched by geographical vantage and natures' beauty. Flanked by Western Ghats to the east and Arabian Sea coast to the west, the state is blessed with plenitude of rivers, landscapes, hilly ranges and forests. The seemingly endless 580 km long coast line and 44 rivers are the major charm of Kerala. Noteworthy water bodies include Periyar, Achankovil and Bharatapuzha rivers, 200 sq. km vast Vembanad backwaters and several other canals, estuaries and lakes. The great sailor, Vasco Da Gama discovered the sea route to Calicut in 1498 and a statue near the shore line pays tribute to the act. Kerala’s hill stations like Munnar, Wayanad and Ponmudi are dominated by elevations of Western Ghats, the highest point peaking 8200 ft. Art and culture are an inherent part of Keralite heritage; dance forms like koodiyatam (acknowledged as a masterpiece by UNESCO), mohiniaatam, kathakali, koothu, Kerela Natyam and Carnatic music have contributed greatly to appreciation of traditional Indian art. Also worth celebrating are, the unique Kerala cuisines comprising coconut-rich food, festivals of Onam, Thissur Puram (a reverence to elephants) and snake boat race held in Punnamada. Lastly, though the term ‘God’s Own Country’ was coined to boost the tourism potential of Kerala, today the entire nation and world seem to inherently recognize the land as Gods’ Abode.