KERALA – God’s Own Country
Referred as the “Spice Garden of India”, Kerala is a beautiful state with an excellent landscape of palm-lined beaches, thick jungles, plantation-covered hills, and enthralling rivers and lakes. It is considered to be one of the cleanest and the most peaceful parts of India, with the state remaining a major source of India's bananas, rubber, cardamoms, coconuts, cashews, and ginger.
The National Geographic Traveler has quoted Kerala as India’s most verdant state with one of the world’s 50 “must see” destinations. “The god who made Kerala had a green thumb”, true to the popular Malayali saying, Kerala’s rich resources have long attracted visitors from across the oceans. It is in fact here that the first seafarers set foot on Indian soil.
Legend has it that long before Vasco Da Gama discovered India, when he landed on the coast of Kerala, King Solomon's ships traded off the Malabar coast between 972 and 932 B.C., followed by the Phoenicians, Romans, Christians, Arabs, and Chinese. They all came to stock up on monkeys, tigers, parrots, timber, sandalwood, and ivory along with the abundance of spices.
Despite its high population density, Keralites have the country's highest life expectancy almost equal to western countries and the lowest infant mortality rates. As it was largely ruled by benevolent Kings who introduced social reforms emphasizing the provision of education and basic services, Kerala remains one of the most progressed and educated states in India. The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have given Kerala the title of "the world's first baby-friendly state". The award refers to Kerala's success in reducing infant death and disease by encouraging natural methods and by regulating baby foods, feeding bottles and plastic teats.
Kerala has a high percentage (22%) of Christians whose traditions go back to St. Thomas the Apostle. Another cultural rarity can be seen in the white Jews of Cochin.
Being a land of spices, realm of Ayurveda, heart-throbbing sceneries, exciting array of dances, Kerala is a microcosm of multi-religious India, co-habited by the Hindus, the Christians and the Muslims.
Everywhere around Kerala in southwest India there are signs emblazoned with the state motto: "God's Own Country" — and certainly no supreme deity could have chosen a better place to call home.
Kerala tops the human-development index in India, has a 95 percent literacy rate, is rated the least-corrupt state in India and has five of the nation's best cities to live in.
Unlike in the north of India where religion tends to be much more polarizing, here in the south there is a more laid-back tolerance, although Kerala is not free from incidents involving its Muslims (24 percent), Christians (19 percent) and Hindus (56 percent).
Kerala's coastal areas are flat and criss-crossed by brackish estuaries, lagoons and canals that constitute the Backwaters, where tourists often hire houseboats for lazy cruises into wetland areas ideal for birdwatching.
With all Kerala's natural attractions there is no compelling reason to visit any of the cities, but Fort Cochin is a charming colonial gem in which to happily wander back-alleys by many dilapidated houses and some impressive restorations.