Kerala, ‘the God’s Own Country’, one of the 50 “must see” destinations identified by the National Geographic Traveler, is the southernmost state in India. Endowed with unique geographical features having an equable climate, temperature varying between 170C to 340C round the year, serene beaches, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters, lush hill stations and exotic wildlife, waterfalls, sprawling plantations and paddy fields, it has enchanting art forms and historic and cultural monuments, and festivals.
Referred as the “Spice Garden of India”, Kerala is one of the cleanest and the most peaceful parts of India, with the state remaining a major source of India's pepper, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, clove, star alise, and cinnamon. The State is also has cultivation of cashew, bananas, rubber, cardamoms, coconuts, cashews, and ginger. It is in fact in Kerala 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.
In the landscape of human development, Kerala is forging ahead with the ‘Kerala Model of Development’, characterized by achieving relatively high level of human development with very low level of per capita income within a short period of time. It is well known for its achievements in total literacy, low infant mortality rate and high life expectancy.
It is interesting to note that ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize winning book is written in the background of her childhood experience of beautiful Kerala.
Thiruvananthapuram is the southernmost district of the coastal state of Kerala, in south India. It came into existence in the year 1957. The headquarters is the city of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) which is also the capital city of Kerala. Tourism has contributed heavily to the economy of Thiruvananthapuram. The entire tourism package of the state such as hill stations, back waters, beaches, lagoons, and wildlife sanctuaries are present in the district.
Foreign tourists flock to Thiruvananthapuram, a major destination for chartered flights to India for Medical tourism, as there are more than fifty recognised Ayurveda centres in and around the city. This is primarily due to Ayurveda's immense popularity in the West. Medical tourism is further promoted by world class modern medicine hospitals in the city. Recuperation facilities are available at five-star beach resorts and hill stations nearby.Another major tourist attraction here is the Kovalam beach located around 16 km from the city center.
Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, is a port city with one of the most beautiful natural harbours, has seen a colourful procession of cultures stroll across its streets down the ages. The Arabs, the Chinese, the Jews, the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British have all done their bit to make it the exotic cultural melting pot that is today. Besides architectural delights like the Jewish Synagogue, Dutch Cemetery and the Portuguese Churches, Kochi is a veritable treasure house of enchanting experiences. The centre of trade and commerce in Kerala, it is also a favourite shopping destination of bargain-seeding travelers.
Clockwise from top: Thrissur Pooram, Our Lady of Lourdes Syro-Malabar Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, Puli Kali, Vadakkunnathan Temple.
Thrissur originally Thirusivapperoor and previously known by its anglicised form as Trichur, is the fourth largest city, the third largest urban agglomeration in Kerala and the 20th largest in India.It is also the headquarters of the Thrissur District. The City is built around a 65-acre (26 ha) hillock called the Thekkinkadu Maidan which seats the Vadakkumnathan temple. Thrissur was once the capital of the Kingdom of Cochin. It is located 300 kilometres towards north-west of the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Thrissur is also known as the Cultural Capital of Kerala because of its cultural, spiritual and religious leanings throughout history. It houses the Kerala Sangeetha Nadaka Academy, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi and Kerala Sahitya Academy. The city hosts the Thrissur Pooram festival, the most colourful and spectacular temple festival in Kerala. The festival is held at the Thekkinkadu Maidan in April or May. Thrissur has a large number of well-known temples including the Vadakkumnathan temple, Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple and Paramekkavu temple, as well as two famous churches, the Our Lady of Lourdes Syro-Malabar Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral and the Our Lady of Dolours Syro-Malabar Catholic Basilica. The district is also home of one of the most holiest Hindu Vaishnava temples, the Guruvayur temple. Christianity, Islam and Judaism entered into the Indian subcontinent through the Thrissur District. The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings claim Thomas the Apostle to have set foot in Muziris near Thrissur 2,000 years ago. (AD 51-52) The country’s first mosque, Cheraman Juma Masjid, opened in AD 629. Thrissur has opened the gates for Arabs, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch and English.
The city has served as an incubator for many Malayali entrepreneurs, and is a major financial and commercial hub of Kerala. It flexes its economic muscle in India as the headquarters of three major scheduled banks, South Indian Bank Ltd, Catholic Syrian Bank and Dhanalakshmi Bank Ltd and a clutch of Chit funds. The city is also a big centre for shopping in Kerala for silks and gold jewellery. Thrissur attracts the largest number of domestic tourists in Kerala. Apart from being the cultural nerve centre of Kerala, it is also a major academic hub and is home to several educational institutions including the Kerala Kalamandalam, Jawahar Bal Bhavan Thrissur, Kerala Police Academy, Kerala Agricultural University, Kerala University of Medical and Allied Sciences, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA).