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Kerala, the land of rivers and backwaters is a green strip of land, in the South West corner of Indian peninsula. Kerala is a state with full literacy, Higher Health care and lower mortality ratio. In Kerala you experience freshness and touch of mother earth every where. No wonder keralites call their State "God's Own Country".
Geographical Kerala is located in the southwestern tip of the Indian peninsula and extends between the latitude 10°00 North and longitude 76°25 East. Kerala is bound by the Arabian Sea on the west, Karnataka on the North and Northeast, and Tamil Nadu on the east.
The Malabar Coast of India is the site of Kerala location. Geographical Kerala is a part of the coastal belt with the hill ranges known as the Western Ghats running along the length of Kerala. Rain bearing clouds of the South west monsoon bring heavy rainfall to geographical Kerala during the months May to September. Tropical rainfall occurs often during the year. Geographical Kerala is a tropical region, with weather being pleasant for most of the year. Humidity increases during the monsoon season. Kerala location gives it its unique climatic and geographic features.
Kerala has a coastal belt with sandy beaches and palm lined shores. The seaside Kerala location, makes it a pleasant holiday destination, with sunny beaches and serene backwaters. The hill ranges of Kerala have hill stations, wildlife sanctuaries, tea estates and spice plantations. Geographical Kerala exhibits diversity in climate within the compact Kerala location on the Malabar Coast of India.
The name Kerala is now widely explained today as the "the land of coconuts", derived from Malayalam word "kera" which means coconut. But history shows that Ashokan edits dating back to 273-236 BC had mentioned Keralaputra (the land of the sons of Cheras) and it is from this that the name has originated.
Not much is known about the history of this region of the period after the Ashokan edicts, except the fact that there was extensive trading with the Romans from this region. Chera was the first large empire that took roots in this state, and continued to use Tamil till 7th century as their administrative language. This shows the influence and power that Tamils exerted over this region. Cheras established a wide network of trade links not only with Indian businessmen, but also with countries outside ranging from Sumatra to Cordoba. The Chera power declined in the 10th century AD, after Cholas, the rulers of Tamil Nadu, were successful in overthrowing the dynasty.
After the decline of Cholas in the 11th century, gradually political power in the state went into the hands of the Zamorin of Calicut. In 1496, Vasco da Gama became the first European to find a route to India through sea and started a long-time fight for the power in this region between the Portuguese, British, and Dutch. This fight marginalized the local powers, though the Zamorin made a fight back in the early 17th century when they gained the external support from the Dutch and British in return for trading rights from Kerala.
For a brief period in the middle of 18th century AD, Travancore, with the help of petty kingdoms, tried to control the political power of Kerala. Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan also tried to annexe the areas south of Travancore, but could not fulfil their dream as they were attacked by the British from the east and had to withdraw. The local chieftains in Kerala looked up to the British to save them from the wrath of Tipu and consequently the British took control of the forts previously held by Tipu. After Tipu's first defeat by the British, the Seringpatnam Treaty brought all the captured parts of Kerala directly under the British and Travancore and Kochi became princely states under the British.
As in the case of rest of South India, majority of the people of this state are also Dravidians. Hinduism is the principal religion with considerable percentages of Muslims and Christians. Christianity has a long history in this state, as it is believed that the first missionary from Europe landed on the coast of Kerala in the first millennium.
Kerala has hundred percent literacy and this has resulted in high health care and health awareness among the people. Here child mortality is lowest among Indian states and is comparable to those of developed countries.
The women in the state enjoys high social status mainly due to the historical matrilineal system where by property etc are transferred to females. Higher education and equal opportunities have further strengthened women's status in kerala's society
Kerala also known as the ' God's Own Country' boast of physical and natural attributes that attract a lot of tourists every year from India as well as abroad. Besides the physical beauty, Kerala has a rich cultural heritage, which fascinates the tourists a lot. The art and culture of Kerala portrays various dance forms and martial arts performed with the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music. All these art forms are performed during some celebration or festivity.
Bharata Natyam is the oldest form of classical dance in India. Origin of this style of dance can be traced to the Natya Sastra written around 4000 BC by sage Bharatha. Known as the 'Poetry in Motion', this dance form was originally known as 'dasi attam,' a temple dance performed by young women called 'devadasis.' Bharata Natyam is most commonly performed by women rarely by men. Strict guidelines are laid down describing every single aspect of the dance form including the attributes required to be an accomplished dancer.
Chakyarkoothu, also called koothu, is one of the oldest classical theatre arts of Kerala. It is a solo dance usually performed in the koothambalam of temples to the accompaniment of the mizhavu and elathalam. The performance starts with the invocation of the presiding deity of the temple. The narration of the story, generally picked from the Epics, is portrayed with the thandava dance movements, gestures and facial expression according to the guidelines given in the Natya Sastra. Koothu is marked for the presence of comic element, which adds to its dramatic character. The costume worn during the performance is colorful and unconventional with an unusual headgear.
Kathakakli is the classical dance drama of Kerala based on the guidelines laid in the Natya Sastra. This elaborate art form is usually begins in the evenings and continues till dawn. It is an inherent part of all temple and cultural festivals in Kerala. The costumes and makeup are ornamental, colorful and elaborate so that the gestures and expressions of the performer are easily seen and understood. The performers do not speak or sing but enact the story through hand gestures, graceful body movements and facial expressions especially of the eyes. The themes of this dance form are from rich and vibrant mythology of Indian culture. Music is an essential feature of Kathakali and two vocalists are there who sing to the beats of a chengila (gong), elathalam (small cymbals), chenda and maddalam.
Mohiniyattam is a classical solo dance style, which is a blend of the grace and elegance of Bharata Natyam with the strength and force of Kathakali to build a mood of sringara or romance. The dance is usually performed on specially made stages during the temple festivals. The costume for the dance is the traditional white mundu and melmundu of Kerala and with the hairs gathered up at one side of the head and adorned with jasmine flowers in the traditional style.
Kalampattu or Kalamezhuthu Pattu is a folk art form that is practiced in the northern parts of Kerala. More than 600 years old art form, it is performed by a group of five to fifteen people in the Bhadrakali and Ayyappa temples. The ritual is performed around the Kolam, which is an elaborate picture usually of Bhadrakali drawn on the floor with the use five colors. The dance is performed in the light of temple torches continue all through the night. A series of songs or kalampattu are sung to the accompaniment of nanthuni and elathalams.
Kaliyoottu is an eight daylong folk ritual, which depicts the combat between goddess Durga and the demon Darika. The ritual is performed at various stages and the climax of the play is called Paranettu. This ritual is performed on a specially constructed 100 feet high stage on the eighth day.
Kavadiyattam is a ritualistic dance form performed by a group of devotees wearing bright yellow or saffron costumes with ash smeared all over the body. The dance depicts Kavads carrying kavadis on their shoulders. The beats of instruments like udukku and chenda and the nadaswaram are integral part of the kavadi procession. It is usually performed in the Subramanya temples.
Kalaripayattu is the complete system of martial arts of Kerala. It is considered as one of the oldest and most scientific martial arts in the world. The training of Kalaripayattu aims at the perfect co-ordination of body and mind and the traditional training in a Kalari include specialization in the indigenous medical practices too. Kalaris are also centers of religious worship.
Velkali is one of the most detailed and dramatic martial folk arts of Kerala and is usually performed within the temple premises. It is called thirumumbil vela when performed before the deity and kulathilvela when performed near the temple pond. Fifty or more performers dressed in the traditional attire of soldiers, bearing colorful shields and swords or long canes, dance in war like rhythm in perfect beat of the thakil, suddha maddalam, elathalam, kuzhal and trumpets. A few fighting techniques of Kalaripayattu are also presented in the course of the performance.
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