1.1 Race
1.2 Languages
1.3 Indian States
1.4 Union Territories
1.5 National Capital
2.1 Highlands
2.2 Midlands
2.3 Lowlands (Coastal Area)
3.1 Administration
3.2 Politics
3.3 Economy
3.4 Arts
3.5 Social scene
3.6 Caste System
3.7 Tourism
3.8 Just for Fun
7.1 Road
7.2 Rail
7.3 Air
10.1 Ritual
10.2 The Utsavam (Festival)
10.3 Gaja Mela (Elephant Pageant)




India is a sub-continent with over one billion people - one sixth of the world’s population - who speak more than a thousand languages and dialects. More than twenty political parties vie each other for political power in the world’s largest and perhaps boldest experiment in democracy. Self sufficient in grain production, India is the second largest producer of wheat and rice in the world. We are the first in milk production. Likewise, we are number one in remote sensing satellites.

Although India occupies only 2.4% of the world's land mass, it supports over 15% of the world's population; only China has a larger population. About 70% of the people live in more than 550,000 villages, and the remainder in more than 200 towns and cities.

1.1 Race
Ethnically the population consists: Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3%. A secular country with excellent religious harmony, Indian population mainly consists of Hindus 81.3%, Muslims 12%, Christians 2.3%, Sikhs 1.9%, and several other religions including Buddhist, Jain and Parsi 2.5%. Caste and language are major determinants of social and political organization in India today. Literacy: Male: 65.5%, Female: 37.7%.

1.2. Languages
India has a diverse list of spoken languages. Some 30 different languages and around 2,000 dialects have been identified. Hindi is the most widely spoken national language. English enjoys associate status, but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication. Indian census has listed 1652 languages as mother tongues spoken all over the country though only 18 languages are constitutionally recognised with official status, which are:

Assamese and Bodo (Assam), Bengali (Tripura and West Bengal), Dogri, Kashmiri, Urdu (Jammu and Kashmir), Gujarati (Gujarat, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu) , Hindi (Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh), Kannada (Karnataka), Konkani (Goa), Maithili (Bihar), Malayalam (Kerala and Lakshadweep), Manipuri (Manipur), Marathi (Maharashtra), Nepali (Sikkim), Oriya (Orissa), Punjabi (Punjab), Tamil (Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu), Telugu (Andhra Pradesh), Sanskrit, Santali and Sindhi.

Other popular languages of India (over five million speakers but no official status) are: Awadhi (a sub-variety of Hindi), Bhili (Bhil tribal), Bhojpuri (Bihar, considered a sub-variety of Hindi), Bundeli (a sub-variety of Hindi), Chhattisgarhi (Chhattisgarh, a sub-variety of Hindi), Gondi (Gond tribal), Haryanvi (Haryana, a sub-variety of Hindi), Hindustani (mixture of Hindi and Urdu largely spoken in the Northern parts of India), Kanauji (Uttar Pradesh, a sub-variety of Hindi), Kutchi (Kutch), Magadhi (language of southern Bihar, a sub-variety of Hindi), Marwari (Rajasthan, often considered a sub-variety of Hindi), Tulu (spoken by Tule people of Karnataka and Kerala).

1.3. Indian States
Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal (Total: 28 States).

1.4.Union Territories
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry (Total: 7 UT).

1.5. National Capital
New Delhi


Kerala – called the “God’s Own Country” - occupies a narrow strip of India's south-western coast, formed by the amalgamation of three regions: the States of Thiruvithamcore (Travancore), Kochi (Cochin), and the former Malayalam-speaking Malabar region of the Madras State (now Tamil Nadu). Thiruvithamcore and Kochi, former princely states, were merged to form Thiru-Kochi on July 1, 1949. Malabar was merged with Thiru-Kochi to form the present State of Kerala on November 1, 1956, based on the recommendations of the State Re-organisation Commission set up by the Government of India for the re-organisation of the Indian states on linguistic basis. The first two were princely states which had been ruled by Maharajas, both being somewhat unique among their kind in that they had concerned themselves with the education and provision of basic services to their subjects.

The name Keralam is derived from the word Kera, which means Coconut. It is surrounded by Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghats on the east. The states of Karnataka in the north and Tamil Nadu in the east are Kerala's immediate neighbours. Mahe, a part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry, is an enclave within Kerala.

Kerala has only 1.18 per cent of the total area of the country but houses 3.43% of the country's total population. It is 580 km (north to south); width varies from 120 to 35 km (east to west).

Geographically it may be divided into three regions:

2.1. Highlands
Slope down from the Western Ghats which rise to an average height of 900 m, with a number of peaks well over 1,800 m in height. This is the area of major plantations like tea, coffee, rubber, cardamom and other spices. Competitive in daily life, the people of Kerala lead the nation in education, health, and – some say – ambition. Some of the world’s highest tea plantations at 2,130 meters (7,000 feet) are found in Munnar in Kerala. The vitally important monsoon rains to the subcontinent reach first in Kerala. The Western Ghats, a coastal range, forms the eastern boundary of the narrow state.

2.2. Midlands
Lying between the mountains and the lowlands is made up of undulating hills and valleys. This is an area of intensive cultivation. Cashew, coconut, areca nut, cassava (tapioca), banana, rice, ginger, pepper, sugarcane and vegetables of myriad varieties are grown in this area.

2.3. Lowlands (Coastal Area)
Made up of river deltas, backwaters and the Arabian coast, is essentially a land of coconuts and rice. Fisheries and coir industry constitute the major industries of this area.

Kerala is a land of rivers and backwaters. Forty-four rivers (41 west-flowing and 3 east-flowing) criss-cross the state along with countless runlets. During summer, these monsoon-fed rivers turn into rivulets, especially in the upper parts of Kerala.

As the mountain-ranges to the north and the seas to the south have decisively influenced the history, culture and character of the people of India, so also the Western Ghats in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west have influenced the political, cultural and economic life of the people of Kerala.

According to the 2001 census figures, Kerala has a population of 318,38,619 with a density of 819/ km² in an area of 38,863 km². Backwaters are an attractive, economically valuable feature of Kerala. These include lakes and ocean inlets which stretch irregularly along the Kerala coast. The biggest among these backwaters is the Vembanad Lake, with an area of 200 sq km, which opens out into the Arabian Sea at Cochin port. The Periyar, Pamba, Manimala, Achenkovil, Meenachil and Moovattupuzha rivers drain into this lake. Other important backwaters are Veli, Kadhinamkulam, Anjengo (Anju Thengu), Edava, Nadayara, Paravoor and Ashtamudi. Highest Peak is Anamudi (2,694m) and longest river is Bharathapuzha (251km.)

Demand for pepper and other spices stimulated trade between southwest India and distant lands more than 2,000 years ago. Goods from south India had reached the Middle East as early as the third millennium B.C. But the discovery of the monsoon winds by Greek sailors about A.D. 45 made it possible for ships serving Rome to sail from the Horn of Africa to Kerala in only 40 days. This shifted the focus of the spice trade from north Indian ports to Muziri (Kodungalloor), which Pliny called the “first commercial center of India.” Because of these early contacts Kerala became the first destination in India for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, whose descendants have added a cosmopolitan flavour to the state’s 31 million people.

Kerala is one of the most crowded rural spots on earth. Stretching 580 kilometres (360 miles) along the Malabar Coast, it squeezes a population larger than California’s into a tenth of the space. Most of the people live along the coast, laced by 41 rivers and more than a thousand canals.

Kerala is a medley of faiths. The State has a unique record of harmonious co-existence of diverse religions. The majority of the Malayalis belong to the Hindu Community, which has absorbed Buddhists and Jains into its fold. According to the 2001 census Hindus constitute 58 per cent, while Christians and Muslims share 21 per cent each. The Christians belong broadly to the Orthodox Syrian, Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. The Orthodox Syrian Christians follow liturgies and traditions derived from Eastern Orthodox Church. The Catholicos of the East (Full Title: Catholicos of the Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas and Malankara Metropolitan) of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church leads one of India’s largest Christian communities. Kerala also has a tiny Jewish population said to date from 587 B.C. when they fled the occupation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Recently the colony has almost disappeared as young members have emigrated to Israel. Muslims claim to have a mosque founded during the life time of Muhammad. They lived in habitual amity with the rest of the population. The state has many famous temples, churches, and mosques. The synagogue in Kochi is the oldest in Asia.

The Malayalis are proud of who they are. They are not apologetic in the least about being Indian, not in the way some people at times see up north. The Keralites are the true Indians never conquered or put into submission by outsiders!

Kerala is far ahead of other Indian States in the matter of literacy and educational advancement. Devoted to education, the State spends 40 per cent of its budget on schools, giving every opportunity to students. There is no shortage of skilled workers. Thousands of qualified degree holders are produced every year by hundreds of its academic and technical institutions. This is the result of historical factors, such as the socio-religious activities of Christian missionaries and the progressive outlook of the former Rulers of Travancore and Cochin. As per the 2001 census, literacy rate in the State is 90.92 per cent: 94.2 per cent among males and 87.86 among females.

There are over 12,310 schools in the state (4490 Government Schools, 7305 Private Aided Schools and 515 Private Unaided Schools), of which 6,748 are Lower Primary (LP) Schools, 2,966 Upper Primary (UP) and 2,596 High Schools. With an average school enrolment rate of over 5.25 million and with an estimated number of 185,000 teachers the teacher-pupil ratio is 1:28. With introduction of the Plus-2 system and the de-linking of pre-degree courses from the colleges, at present there are 931 Higher Secondary Schools (417 Government and 506 Private aided and 8 unaided schools).

There are seven Universities and 286 Arts and Science Colleges in the state. Enrolment of students at the University level stood at 290,000 out of which girl students accounted 62.5 per cent. The teaching faculty had a total strength of 11,643. Technical education is imparted in 32 Engineering Colleges, 54 Polytechnics and 39 Technical High Schools.

With more than 90.92 per cent literacy rate, the unemployment rate in Kerala is also the highest among Indian states. Ironically, Kerala is also noted as the state with the highest suicide rate.

Sex ratio is another clear indicator of an enlightened social life in the State. While on national level India has 933 females for every 1000 males (2001 census), Kerala has the highest sex ratio with 1058 females for every 1000 males!

The Keralites are go-getters. They are outgoing, ambitious, and extraordinarily sceptical, who are the kinds of people willing to relocate, learn new languages – a well-educated, mobile group. They have taken the best of different cultures – Tamil, Karnataka, Arab, British, and Portuguese and used them to their advantage. Education and early influences of Arabs and Portuguese have made Kerala one of the most secular states in India.

More than 95% of the people speak MALAYALAM (read it from left to right and from right to left – the only language which can be read so - funny, nay!). The State Capital is Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum).


People lived in the region now known as Kerala since ancient times. Regional identity developed in the 14th century with the development of the Malayalam language. The Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama's voyage to Kerala was largely motivated by his determination to break the control of Muslims over the trade between local spice producers and the Middle East. He finally reached Calicut (Kozhikode), the principal market of trade for precious stones, pearls, and spices in those days, on May 20, 1498. The Portuguese were surprised to ascertain that Christianity existed in the land of their arrival for centuries (founded by Apostle St. Thomas who landed in Kodungalloor – Muziripattanam - in A.D. 52). Vasco da Gama erected India's first Portuguese fortress at Cochin (Kochi) in 1503 and, taking advantage of rivalry between the royal families of Calicut and Cochin, managed to establish the monopoly.

The dispute between Calicut and Cochin, however, provided an opportunity for the Dutch to come in and finally expel the Portuguese from their forts. The British moved into the area in the form of the British East India Company and were firmly set up in Kerala by the beginning of the eighteenth century. Tippu Sultan attempted to encroach on British-held territory in 1792, but was defeated and the British remained in control until independence.

3.1. Administration
Kerala is divided into 14 districts, namely: Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kollam (Quilon), Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha (Alleppey), Idukki, Ernakulam (Cochin, Kochi), Thrissur (Trichur), Palakkad (Palghat), Malappuram, Kozhikode (Calicut), Wayanad (Wynad), Kannur (Cannanore) and Kasargod (listed from south to north). They are further subdivided into 63 Tahsils and 1,452 Revenue Villages. The mountainous Idukki district is the largest in size and the coastal district Alappuzha the smallest.

The state is governed by a Chief Minister responsible to an elected unicameral legislature and by a Governor appointed by the President of India. The unicameral Legislative Assembly has 141 members, of which one member is nominated.

Local Bodies in Kerala are empowered to function as local development institutions of self government under the three-tier Panchayat Raj system in existence since October 2, 1995. Presently there are 991 Grama Panchayats (Village Councils), 152 Block Panchayats, 14 District Panchayats, 53 Municipalities and 5 Municipal Corporations (Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kochi, Thrissur and Kozhikode).

Kerala has made notable achievements in health care too. The Government Public Health Care Facilities consist of 143 hospitals comprising Medical College Hospitals, General Hospitals, District Hospitals, Tahsil Hospitals and other Speciality Hospitals, 944 Primary Health Centres, 105 Community Health Centres and 5,094 Sub Centres. In addition there are dozens of state of the art hospitals run by various church and charity organisations.

3.2. Politics
Kerala politics are complicated. The State was created on 1 November 1956 to unite people speaking Malayalam. But the people called Malayalis remain deeply divided. Caste and religious community are still the dominating factors. There are schools, banks, political parties, and who knows what else devoted exclusively to communal groups.

The people of Kerala are extremely politically conscious and are active participants in the political process than those in the rest of the country. In 1957, shortly after the state was created, Kerala surprised the world by electing a Communist Administration, the first in India (and in the world), which introduced land and education reforms. Later administrations followed this lead, passing more reforms, so that today hundreds of thousands of peasants own the small plots of land they cultivate. The Communist Party played an important role in organising the working class leading to their betterment.

Villages in Kerala are visibly cleaner and cities less slum-ridden than in almost any other part in India. Health standards are high. Compared with the national average, Kerala’s birth-rate is a third lower, infant mortality two-third less, life expectancy 14 years longer. Virtually every child attends at least a few years of grade school, which is free through the tenth year. All this is the legacy of enlightened Hindu rulers who encouraged European missionaries to spread learning among their subjects during the 19th century. The last king was H.R.H. Sree Chithira Thirunal Bala Rama Varma.

3.3. Economy
Kerala's economy can be best described as a socialistic welfare economy. National Geographic traveller essay (2001) by Anthony Weller calls Kerala “the State of Enlightenment”. However, the emphasis on social welfare also resulted in slow economic progress. Virtually having no major industries, its per capita GDP is lower than the national average of 360 US$. Remittances from expatriates working abroad make up over 60% of the State's GDP.

Agriculture is the most important economic activity. Coconut, tea and coffee are grown extensively, along with rubber, cashew and spices. Spices commonly cultivated in Kerala include pepper, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

It is no wonder, with its magnificent investment climate, penetration of infrastructure, quality of workforce and affluence, among others, the Confederation of Indian Industry chose Kerala as India’s No. 1 State in 2003. According to a former Chief Minister, Mr. A.K. Antony, “Kerala’s higher density of telephone connections, higher computer literacy, state-wide cable network and abundance of trained professionals are additional incentives, which attract industrial investment in the State”.

3.4. Arts
Kerala has a rich tradition of both classical and folk arts. In addition to the classical upper-caste art forms, like Koodiyattom (UNESCO Human Heritage Art), Kathakali, Mohiniyaattam and Ottan Thullal, Kerala has numerous folk art forms performed by non-upper-castes in various regions of the state. Mimicry and parody have gained considerable mass appeal in recent years. Though sometimes risky and often politically incorrect, these are used by artists to poke fun at social luminaries. Malayalam Cinema is another mode of creative expression, and films from Kerala are very distinct from films made in Bollywood or Hollywood.

3.5. Social scene
Kerala ranks highest in India with respect to social development indices such as primary education and healthcare. Kerala was declared the world's first "baby-friendly state" under WHO-UNICEF's “Baby Friendly Hospital” initiative. The state is known for its Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine which has found a new market in the growing tourist industry.

Kerala has an ancient solar calendar called the “Malayalam Era” (ME) Calendar which is used by various communities for religious functions. Kerala has its martial arts: Kalaripayattu and ritual arts of North Malabar Theyyam and Poorakkali are the most outstanding.

Onam, associated with the legend of King Mahabali, is a state festival; Keralites irrespective of caste and creed celebrate many other religious and secular festivals, including Eid-ul-Fitr, Easter, Deepavali and Vishnu.

3.6. Caste System
Kerala was not always what it is today - modern and social! It was in general, and more particularly the erstwhile princely state of Travancore (Thiruvithamcore), too notorious for its inhuman practice such as untouchability and unsociability. The Hindu society those days was stratified on the basis of the illusion of purity of jati (caste). This caused Swami Vivekananda’s reputed thundering more than a century ago during his visit to the State in 1892: “I have wandered into a lunatic asylum”.

The Swami was referring to the insane, sternly applied rules that governed the relationship between castes. Those were the days when the Ezhavas, the Cherumans and the Pulayans (all lower castes of Kerala) had to keep away from upper caste Brahmins by a considerable distance. During those days, the twin evils of untouchability and unapproachability stared at them throughout Kerala. In addition, their women folk were prohibited from covering their torso. The lower caste masses were also not allowed to enter the temples patronized by upper caste Brahmins, Ambalavasis and Nayars. This civic ostracizing which was being practised was forcing many of these caste people to convert to other religions. European Missionaries successfully utilized this chaotic condition prevailed in the state for their spiritual ends. But a majority stayed and fought back vigorously to move up the Hindu caste ladder. By 1939, at the beginning of World War II Travancore and Cochin would be spending up to 25 per cent of their annual budgets on schooling, which began to pay off later!

Today, over a century after Swami Vivekananda's visit, much has changed. Kerala is now a society whose educational levels shame those of northern India. Sadly, there is far too much that has not changed: the gaps created by caste and creed remain as deep as ever. Kerala still suffers from so many political groups and splinter parties, which make a living out of appealing to the narrow interests of one or the other section of society.

Kerala in many ways is an example of a state where caste is no more a barrier in the civic sense. This remarkable transformation was made possible by the strenuous efforts of many social reformers, which brought social amity among the people.

At the advice of Swami Vivekananda that any social reform movement to be acceptable and effective should have a spiritual luminary, Sree Narayana Guru had founded the Sree Narayana Guru Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam for the socio-political awakening in Kerala. The saintly Sree Narayana Guru was born in an untouchable community, who achieved Advaitic realization and emerged as the saviour of all backward communities in Kerala.

The greatest social reformer of modern Kerala, Sree Narayana Guru, had preached "One Caste, One Religion and One God for Mankind." SNDP Yogam is the social arm of the powerful Ezhava community, who were the first to be awakened by the teachings of Sree Narayana and to be inspired into a spirit of mass militancy to eradicate their social disabilities. Under Sree Narayana Guru, Kerala achieved unparalleled success in overcoming untouchability, without social friction or caste conflict. The foremost disciple of the Guru, poet Kumaran Asan was so fascinated by the Bengal renaissance and its two stalwarts, the saintly poet Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda, that he not only came to Calcutta for higher studies, but also started a journal in Malayalam called Vivekodayam after Vivekanda's name.

On some people calling him mad, the Swami said: "My friends, the whole world is a lunatic asylum: some are mad after worldly love, some after name, some after fame, some after money, some after salvation and going to heaven. In this big lunatic asylum I too am mad; I am mad after God. You are mad; so am I. I think my madness is after all the best."

On India Vivekananda predicted: “Brothers and sisters, the long night is at last drawing to a close. Miseries and sorrows are disappearing. Ours is a sacred country. She is gradually waking up, thanks to the fresh breeze all around. Her might no one can overcome."

"Are you prepared for all sacrifices for the sake of our motherland? If you are, then you can rid the land of poverty and ignorance. Do you know that millions of our countrymen are starving and miserable? Do you feel for them? Do you so much as shed a tear for them?"

"I loved my motherland dearly before I went to America and England. After my return, every particle of the dust of this land seems sacred to me."

3.7. Tourism
Kerala has great beaches, such as the one at Kovalam and Varkala; serene hill stations at Ponmudi and Munnar as well as national parks in Thekkady and beautiful backwaters at Kumarakom are destinations of international tourists, which earned it the name “God's Own Country.” The "National Geographic Traveller" in an assessment in the year 1999 identified 50 must-see places in the world. Two spots have been identified in India, one is the Taj Mahal and the other is Kerala.

3.8. Just for Fun
Malayalis, the people of Kerala, are famous for migrating to numerous places around the globe. This migratory trend has been illustrated in a well-known joke: When Neil Armstrong first landed on the moon, his exhilaration was momentary. To his surprise he discovered that a Malayali was already running there a chayakkada (tea shop)!

It is also common to refer Malayalis as pseudo educated and clean twice bath takers. There are other terms usually associated with Malayalis: Beedi (ciga), beard, lungi, Mundu, chaya (Tea), etc.


The district is the principal subdivision within the state; 28 States and 7 Union Territories span the length and breadth of the country, which comprise 626 districts. The District Collector, a Member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), is the principal official in the district. During the colonial period he was responsible for collecting revenue and maintaining law and order. In modern India his role is confined to heading the district revenue department and coordinating the efforts of other departments.
Districts are subdivided into taluks or tehsils. The Taluqdar or Tehsildar is the Chief of the taluq revenue department. He is assisted by Patwaris or Village Officers, who maintain the land records.
Panchayat Raj means village government at grass root level. The word is derived from the Sanskrit Panch, meaning five because such councils originally consisted of five members. It has three levels: Village, Block and District. At the village level, it is called a Panchayat. The number of members usually ranges from 7 to 31; occasionally, groups are larger, but they never have fewer than 7 members.
Opposition to the bill arose from those who feared that the transfer of authority from state governments to Panchayats was designed to reduce the power of state legislatures under opposition control and promote "greater centralization through decentralization" by enabling the central government to establish direct relations with Panchayats.
Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayat Raj, a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India's political system. His term for such a vision was "Gram Swaraj" (Village Self-Governance).

  The coastal district of Alappuzha, the smallest district in size, is known as the Venice of the East, which is one of the exotic backwater sites as well as a major commercial and industry center in Kerala. Between the stretches of Kollam-Alappuzha and Alappuzha-Kottayam lie some of the most fascinating visions of natural scenery in the world. Interlocked with lakes and canals, Alappuzha occupies a prominent place in the tourist map of Kerala. A singular characteristic of this part is the region called Kuttanadu. The "Granary of Kerala", Kuttanadu is one of the few regions in the world where farming is done below sea level.
The Vembanad Lake stretching up to Kochi, the rivers Achankovil, Manimala and Pamba and a network of canals in the district are used for inland navigation. Coir and coir products form a thriving industry. The exciting and unforgettable "Boat Cruises" between Alappuzha and Kollam offer intimate glimpses of backwater life and an unforgettable journey watching coir making, boat building, toddy tapping, fish farming and the rugged village life.
One of Kerala's most famous boat races is held at Punnamada Kayal. The Nehru Cup, inaugurated in 1952, is the largest snake boat race in the state. The climate of this small town is temperate and humid in general and relatively more pleasant in the winter season. The temperature ranges from 22°C to 35°C in summer and 20°C to 32°C during winter.
Alappuzha, the cradle of Communist Movement in the erstwhile State of Travancore, is sanctified by the blood of freedom fighters that had revolted against the despotic rule of Dewan (Prime Minister) C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer (widely known as C.P.). Punnapra near Alappuzha has gone down into history as the battle ground between the Communists and the erstwhile Travancore state police in the Punnapra-Vayalar Communist uprising in 1946. This chapter is written with blood in the history of the independence struggle of Travancore and India. The blood of the martyrs of Punnapra and Vayalar was shed to control the autocratic reign of C.P. and to begin the process of humanizing people, the people who were once no people! They were the people who sacrificed their lives against the cruel rule, inhuman laws, oppression and exploitation. This uprising is the most important of all, which took place in Travancore in the 20th century. A memorial to the martyrs stands testimony to the event at Kaithavana, 3 km from Alappuzha Town.
Note: C.P. is the man who wanted to keep Travancore out of the Indian Union and even named an Ambassador to the future Pakistan in 1946. Action of the Dewan aroused bitter controversy inside and outside the State. Travancore was again in the whirlpool of a political struggle and the Government resorted to series of repressive measures. One of the highlights of the struggle was a police firing at Pettah, Trivandrum, in which three persons including a student by name Rajendran were killed. A few days after the incident, an unsuccessful attempt was made on C.P's life as he was attending a programme at the Swathi Thirunal Academy of Music at Thiruvananthapuram (July 25, 1947). Immediately after this incident the Maharaja intimated Lord Mountbatten, the Governor-General, of his decision to accept the Instrument of Accession to the Indian Union. C.P. resigned his office on August 19, 1947 and fled the State in a hurry!

Kudassanad (മലയാളം: കുടശ്ശനാട്) is a typical village with beautiful and serene landscape. The natural world in its true spirits is seen here with evergreen nature and high hills with rubber plantations. It is the rice bowl of Palamel Panchayat; resplendent with green paddy fields, coconut groves and water fowl, Kudassanad comes under the jurisdiction of Mavelikara Taluk in Alappuzha District. Situated on the border between Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta districts, it is well connected by road to Pandalam to the north - Main Central (MC) Road (4 km) - and Nooranad to the south - Kayamkulam-Punalur (KP) Road (4 km): River Anchenkovil flows some five km north.
Kudassanad is situated on the threshold of Pandalam, where Lord Ayyappa, the Presiding Deity of Sabarimala grew up in the Palace of the King of Pandalam. Pilgrims to Sabarimala come to Pandalam Valiya Koickal Temple before proceeding to Sabarimala. The annual ceremony of carrying the “Sacred Ornament” (Thiruvabharanam) to adore the deity in Sabarimala is a great religious event, in which tens of thousands devotees participate.

Kudassanad forms part of the Mavelikara Parliamentary and Pandalam Assembly Constituencies. The legendary M.N. Govindan Nair, Thoppil Bhasi and K.C. George - all veterans of the Communist Movement, who stood in the forefront of the Vayalar-Punnapra struggle, have represented the constituencies in the 1950s and 1960s.
Kudassanad is self reliant in almost every field. It has modern infrastructure and state-of-the-art services: Anganvadi (Baby Care Centre), Government Lower Primary (LP) School, another LP School run by the Syro-Malankara Rite of the Catholic Church, one English medium school run by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, and one Higher Secondary School belonging to the Nair Service Society (NSS). The Panchayat Samskarika Nilayam (Cultural Centre) takes care of the intellectual needs of the people. The general health care is taken care of by Mar Baselios Mission Hospital and other private and homeopathy clinics as well as by other highly qualified medical practitioners. In addition to the Post Office, the region has several STD/ISD Booths. There are a number of regular government and private buses plying at regular frequent intervals to diverse directions. Daily evening markets, in addition to the two weekly markets on each Tuesday and Friday, attract people even from distant hamlets. Long before globalisation came to big towns, Kudassanad had Cable TV facilities!
The literacy rate of Kudassanad, having a population of over 5,000 is commendable. The mostly educated people, working abroad (Gulf Region, European Union, the U.S.A. and Canada) have brought fame and prosperity to the village, which has completely changed its facet, thus tenderly earning the nickname “mini-Gulf”. The population density is 1,144 per sq. Km. 70 per cent of the population owns land.
The natives, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, are proud of their famous centuries old (Thirumani Mangalam Mahadevar) Temple. Kudassanad is also sanctified by the presence of the ancient St. Stephen’s Orthodox Cathedral. Consecrated in 1873, rebuilt and renovated four times the church is situated on a hill-top visible from far and wide; the Church is adoringly and affectionately called the Valia Palli (Great Church). St. Thomas Catholic Church, consecrated in 1944 is another Church besides one Guru Mandiram:  These places of worship give Kudassanad the glare and glory of a secular township.
Kudassanad has a fairly good system of commercial and cooperative banking network. In an area of vast potentiality, a team of diligent individuals with vision working together brought in a new branch of The Catholic Syrian Bank Ltd. (CSB) to harness the vast financial resources of Kudassanad.

  7.1 Road
15 km from Chengannur via Kulanada-Pandalam; 15 km from Mavelikara via Vettiyar-Pandalam; 18 km from Kayamkulam via Kattanam-Nooranad

7.2 Rail
Well connected to major cities; nearest rail heads are Chengannur (30 km), Mavelikara and Kayamkulam.

7.3 Air
Nearest International Airports are Cochin International Airport (CIAL at Nedumbassery) to the north (130 km) and Trivandrum International Airport at Thiruvananthapuram (110 km) to the south.
  Paddy cultivation used to be an important occupation in Kudassanad; the crop growing starts at the outbreak of monsoon and ends in December when there is only one harvest in the year. Using highly developed seeds by scientific methods, there can be two or three harvest per year. The cultivation in odd times using these seeds are called "Punchakrishi" and the paddy field which is artificially irrigated for such purpose is called "Punchapadam".
The paddy cultivation cycle starts with making the seed ready for sowing. The seed is made ready by dipping it in water mixed with cow-dung and keeping it in the same wet sack for one day; the seeds sprout the next day. These seeds are then spread in the specially ploughed area called "Njattumkandam". Once the seeds are of enough growth, the rice seedlings ("Njaru") are transplanted to the paddy fields: This process is called "Njaru nadeel".
Unfortunately, Karingalipuncha, the main vast stretch of paddy fields, had been left mostly as fallow land for years. To increase the paddy production, it was necessary to improve the infrastructural facilities in the area. High input cost, low product price, non-availability of labourers, inadequate and inappropriate techniques to handle High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds, high susceptibility of HYVs to pests and diseases, inadequate institutional support, non-availability of inputs in time and lack of forecast are some of the major reasons for the decline of paddy cultivation.
Under the Kallada Irrigation Project (KIP), tributaries were constructed to release water to the Karingali Paddy Fields spreading over 1,500 acres in the upper Kuttanad region in times of drought; but as in every case, this noble attempt is scuttled by the lethargic, negligent, arrogant and unresponsive bureaucracy. Thus costly lives saving crops are damaged every year resulting in preventable hardships to the farmers. Even on occasion the water is released, the heavy silting of the canals due to lack of maintenance and clogging at different points have been affecting the free flow of water along various stretches of the canal leading to the Karingali paddy fields extending to the geographical jurisdiction of Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta revenue divisions, comprising Kudassanad, Karimuckam Cherickal, Poozhickad, and Ulavuckad. It may be mentioned here that Basmati cultivation had successfully been initiated at the Karingali paddy fields at the turn of the century.
In addition to rice, vegetables, tapioca, black pepper, cashew nuts, mangoes, ginger, pine apple, coconut trees, etc. are also cultivated. Milk collection and distribution centres are a great boon. A few families used to practise ducks and poultry farming. Brick manufacture is done on a small scale. Rice and flourmills take care of the work formerly performed by housewives.
  fallow farmland: left unploughed and unseeded during a growing season
  Paddy fields have undergone tremendous changes and were converted to other land uses like coconut, arecanut, cashew, pepper, rubber, mixed crops, banana, tapioca, vegetables, built up land etc. Main reasons for this paddy conversion in Kerala are:

• Labour problem: high labour costs and scarcity of labourers especially for reaping the harvest are the main labour problems.

• Low price of paddy, high cost of cultivation and high wage rate etc.

• Water logging problem: absence of proper bunds, which are most of the time, built temporarily and are ineffective in controlling water flow.
  The ancient Mahadevar Temple in Kudassanad is situated on the Padanilam-Kudassanad Road bordering the Karingali Paddy Fields, the granary of Palamel Panchayat. In olden times during the monsoon season flood water from River Achenkovil kissed the boundary walls of the temple, and the Chal (Lake) looked like a vast sea. The cape-like segment of land projecting to the west became an island during heavy monsoon and the few families living there had to make use of the country boats (Nadan Vallam) to come to the mainland for shopping and for children to go to school. Following the construction of check dams at Vettiyar and Iranikuzhi the flow of the river to the streams was effectively blocked.
The temple was very rich before the land reform and other measures started by the first ever Communist Regime in Kerala (5 April 1957-31 July 1959) confiscated the land properties.
Temples in Kerala are simple unlike the temples in the neighbouring states which are famous for its carvings and sculptures. In Kerala the Flag Post (Dwaja Sthambham) and Lamp Post (Deepa Sthambham) are given a great deal of importance. The height of the Flat Post also depends on how powerful the deity is! Sanctity of the temples is maintained well and most of the temples do follow a dress code.
The main deities are Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, Lord Mahavishnu, Lord Ayyappa and Ganapathi. This is one of the few temples, where you can find in the inner prakaram two separate Sreekovils for the deities.
  10.1. Ritual
  It is the part of the Hindu culture to worship trees: Worship of Tulasi and Aalmaram (Peepal Tree: Ficus religiosa) are two examples. The Puranas relate how once, when the demons defeated the Gods, Vishnu hid in the peepal tree. Thus according to the belief, spontaneous worship of Vishnu can be offered to a peepal tree without needing an image or temple. It is further believed that the tree houses the Triumvirate (Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva): The roots being Brahma, the trunk Vishnu and the leaves Shiva. The gods are said to hold their councils under the tree and so it is associated with spiritual understanding. To cut down a peepal is considered a sin equivalent to killing a Brahmin, one of the five deadly sins (Panchapataka).
It is considered propitious to worship the tree on Saturdays since Lakshmi is also believed to inhabit this day. Women ask the tree to bless them with a son tying red thread or red cloth around its trunk or on its branches. On Amavasya (New Moon), villagers perform a symbolic marriage between the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) and the peepal, which are usually grown near each other. Although this practice is not prescribed by any religious text, there are various beliefs on the significance of 'marrying' these trees. In one such belief, the fruit of the neem represents the Shiva linga and so, the male. The leaf of the peepal represents the yoni, the power of the female. The fruit of the neem is placed on a peepal leaf to depict the Shiva linga, which symbolises creation through sexual union, and so the two trees are 'married'.
Devotees worship the peepal tree by going around it to get the full effect of the oxygen and the positive energy. The oxygen layer is very close to the leaves of the tree and as these leaves shake at the slightest breeze, it passes the energy more effectively.

Goddess Parvati is regarded as the power and divine consort of Lord Shiva - the Destroyer. Like her consort Shiva, Goddess Parvati is said to have both mild and terrible aspects. Goddess Parvati is known by different names like Lalita, Uma, Gauri, Kali, Durga, Haimavati etc. Two of her fierce but very powerful forms are Durga (Goddess beyond reach) and Kali (Goddess of Destruction). As the Mother of the Universe, Parvati is known as Amba and Ambika, which means 'Mother'. As Lalita, she represents the aspect of beauty.
The first visible structures in most temples are the prakarams through which a devotee walks into the temple. Depending on the size of a temple, there may be several prakarams with each smaller prakaram enclosed within a larger prakaram. A devotee must walk through several of these prakarams before reaching the sanctum-sanctorum.

  10.2. The Utsavam (Festival)
  In the last century, the temple Puja (to pray and adore the deities) was conducted by an elderly devout Tantri , who was acknowledged and esteemed by all communities.
The temple complex includes an Anakkottil (Elephant House for ceremonial elephants during religious rites), a pond, and a few banyan trees (Ficus Benghalensis). It has also arrangements, including Community Hall, for Hindu wedding.
The temple festivals in which elephants are taken in procession attract people from far and near. The harmony of the festival is manifested in the fact people belonging to other religions contribute to it financially.
Bhagavatha Sapthaham (reading and explanation of Bhagavatham over a period of seven days with a definite time schedule by a scholar), is held during the month of January. Prasada Oottu (free meal) is an unforgettable feat as well as food for the body and the mind. The main Festival ends with Arattu on the last day.
Note: Kuchelan or Sudama as known in Indian mythology is an epitome of friendship. Legend has it that the poor friend of Lord Krishna visited his childhood friend to seek help but after being bowled over by the Lord's hospitality returns home without informing Krishna of his plight. But on his return home, he finds prosperity in his house and realised that the Lord had come to his rescue.
  10.3. Gaja Mela (Elephant Pageant)
  The significant procession begins after dusk when the temple deity is taken out and brought to the Anakkottil (elephant shed). Elephants are indispensable for festivals; no celebration is complete without a Gaja Mela.
The elephant has been revered like divinity and accorded the privilege of escorting the numerous gods and goddesses in the festival. These are the best occasions to watch the majestic tuskers in all their caparisoned splendour. Colourfully ornamented elephants line up on the temple premises with Nettippattom (the glittering ornament, crafted in gold by skilful artisans, that adorns the forehead of the elephant). With mahouts atop them, holding high tinselled silk Parasols (Muthukuda) and swaying white tufts (Venchamaram) and peacock feather fans (Aalavattom) to the rhythm of the temple orchestra.
An elephant pageant is usually accompanied by the Panchavadyam (the traditional five instrument musical ensemble). There are five instruments: Three percussion (Maddalam, Edakka, Thimila), one metal (Elathalam) and one air-column (Kombu). Much like Chenda Melam, Panchavadyam too is characterised by a pyramid-like rhythmic structure -- with a constantly increasing tempo coupled with a proportional decrease in the number of beats in cycles.
Pandi Melam is an orchestra of percussion instruments, trumpet and Cymbals which adds the essential rhythm and charm to the elephant procession. This procession called Seeveli, often referred to as ceremonial procession of devotees, and is a devotional rite performed in temples lasting 2-3 hours. It is a fantastic spectacle with people swaying to the rhythm of the percussion instruments. The main feature of Seeveli is the three circumambulations by the Priest carrying the deity on his head. The festival ends with colourful display of fireworks and a feast subsequently to all the devotees.
Many rituals are held as part of the festival, including Para Nirakkal (filling up of a large measuring vessel with fresh paddy), which symbolizes fertility and prosperity.
In temples, the light gets dimmer as a devotee moves through each prakaram and towards the sanctum sanctorum. There the only bright light is the one surrounding the deity; it symbolises that for a truly liberated individual, the only guiding light is the light that comes from within – true knowledge.
Ancient Hindu scholars recognised that symbols and symbolism are more effective in communicating rich messages than speeches or discourses. For example, telling a simple individual that "God is within you" or "Aham Brahmasmi", is unlikely to convey the great concept to the individual.
  Thantri or Tantri is the Vedic head priest of Hindu temples in Kerala and Karnataka.
A kind of holy bath given to the festival images of the deities, when they are immersed in water on the final day of the annual festival in Kerala
Circumambulation of temples or deity images is an integral part of Hindu ritual. In Islam, circumambulation is performed around the Kaaba in Mecca, in a counter-clockwise direction. In Christianity, the circumambulation of Jericho in the Book of Joshua, while not an act of worship, is the inspiration for combining it with the circling of the Kaaba in Chrislam. In the Catholic Church, a priest sometimes circumambulates an altar while censing it with a Thurible. In the Church the priest circumambulates the altar while censing it with a Thurible.

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