The very name Kerala literally translated means ‘The land of Coconuts’. Kerala’s terrain is covered with coconut palms from one end to the other. The state is a dazzling vision in green with its coconut groves, tropical forests, mangrove forests et al. The amazing green canopy that cover the entire state and the temperate climate makes Kerala one of the most sought after destinations in India. This small state is abundant in shola forests, eco hotspots, sandalwood forests, evergreen forests, dense mangroves, deciduous forests, reserve forests and grasslands which support a large diversity of flora and fauna. Kerala is also famous for the exotic spices and fruits cultivated in the state. Tea, Coffee, Cocoa, Vanilla, Cardamom, Rubber, Pepper et cetera are cultivated extensively in the High Ranges. Kerala is truly a land painted in green.
Kerala is famous for its beautiful backwater system. There is a labyrinthine network of backwater system covering Kasargod, Kozhikkode, Malappuram, Kochi, Trivandrum, Kollam, Kumarakom, Kottayam, Kuttanad and Aleppey. It covers 1500 km of canals with 38 rivers and 5 lakes, from one end of the state to the other. A cruise along the palm fringed emerald backwaters of Kerala in a houseboat is a must-try to make your holiday experience a truly indelible one.
Rent a houseboat and watch the surreal charms of this tropical heaven unfold before your very eyes as you go cruising along the mystic waters. Spectacular sights of countryside, water lilies, lush paddy fields, coconut groves, temples, churches, Chinese fishing nets et al, are sure to stay etched in your mind forever. These backwaters support a unique water-based life-style which could only be experienced with a cruise in a houseboat.
Kerala has a 600 km long shoreline with some of the finest beaches of India. The palm fringed tropical beaches are one of the prime attractions of the state. There are numerous options for a tourist to choose from, some of the most preferred ones are listed below.
Kovalam Beach: This is one of the best naturally sheltered beaches of the world. The beach has been a favorite tourist spot since the advent of 20th century.
Shanghumugham Beach: This beautiful beach is close to Trivandrum airport and the Veli Tourist Village. The beach is an ideal spot for enjoying a quite evening watching the sun-set. The beach is easily accessible from the city of Trivandrum.
Varkala Beach: The sea-side town of Varkala is famous for its spectacular beach dotted with sand cliffs and mineral water springs. The place is also a major site of Hindu pilgrimage.
Alappuzha Beach: This beach is a popular spot to enjoy sand and surf in Alappuzha. The wooden pier that extends out into the sea is over 140 years old, a reminder of the old-glory of this port city.
Cherai Beach: The beautiful beach at Vypeen has emerged as a popular beach destination in the recent times. The gorgeous golden sand beach has the azure Arabian Sea on one side and emerald backwaters on the other. The unique combination of sea and backwaters with lush coconut groves in the backdrop makes it a picture-post card beach destination. The sea here is ideal for swimming and enjoying water sports.
Fort Kochi Beach: This beach is dotted with colonial buildings and the ruins of the first European fort, Fort Immanuel, built by the Portuguese in 1503 A.D. The ruins of the fort lie far into the sea with old laterite walls emerging with the tides. Much of the ruins are buried under the sea as it intruded further inland over the centuries.
Bakel Beach: This idyllic beach lies next to the 300 year old Bakel Fort – the largest and best preserved fort in Kerala. The beach is now developed into a major tourist destination by the tourist department. Breathtaking views of the beach could be had from the fort.
For the adventure and nature enthusiast there is ample scope in Kerala. Trekking is an ideal way to enliven your spirit and simultaneously enjoy the tropical beauty of Kerala. The majestic Western Ghats towering 500 to 2700 meters bordering the eastern side of the state is a haven for trekking and adventure activities. All along the Western Ghats there are different spots ideal for trekking. An array of options awaits a traveler - tropical forests, grass lands, wildlife sanctuaries, hills et al. Some of the most frequented ones are Munnar, Silent Valley, Agastyakoodam, Chembra peak, Wagamon, Pythal Mala et cetera.
» Elephant Rides
Elephants are considered sacred in many Asian cultures. They are venerated and held as harbingers of good luck and prosperity. In India, the elephant headed god Ganesha is worshipped and adored by the Hindus. Temple festivals in Kerala use caparisoned elephants to carry the deity during processions. There are ample venues to enjoy elephant rides in Kerala. Routine elephant rides are organized by the Forest Department of Kerala through the lush tropical forests in Thekkady. This is one of the finest and safest ways to enjoy the wilderness of the area. A little out of the way approach would be to offer a mahout couple of bucks and take a ride on his elephant – though some may not agree most would budge.
Ayurveda, a comprehensive healing system originated in India in the ancient times. Rig Veda and Atharva Veda dating back to 5000 B.C are the earliest documented works mentioning health and diseases. Comprehensive Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita and Susrutha Samhita were penned by ancient sages in 1000 B.C with elaborate details on healthy living, preventive measures, therapies and injury treatments. They cover a wider spectrum including physical, mental, spiritual and social welfare aspects of human beings.
The ancient Ayurvedic system has been fine tuned to perfection in the state of Kerala. The state is now synonymous with wellness - widely acclaimed as ‘The Land of Ayurveda”. There are a variety of holistic packages on the offer to rejuvenate your body and soul. There are also ample opportunities to learn this ancient art of healing.
» Classical Art Forms
Kathakali: Kathakali is a ritualistic art-form that traces its origins to medieval Kerala. Kathakali takes its form by combining several elements - the ancient martial arts system of Kalaripayattu, the classical Sanskrit theatre of Koodiyattam and several other folk ritual dramas. In Kathakali, ancient stories of Indian mythology come alive with a combination of dance, acting, graceful hand-facial movements (mudras) and traditional music. The vibrant make-up done with natural colors, the peculiar costumes and the soothing music make Kathakali quite distinct from other forms of ritualistic art-forms in Asia.
In the 17th century, Kathakali grew in popularity among the Warrier and the priestly castes of Kerala. Traditionally the performers are all men from the Warrier castes, trained in the martial art form of Kalaripayattu. The female roles played by men highlight the feminine grace (sukumara) with a subtle masculine vigor through rich costumes, elaborate paste masks, make-up and delicate dance styles. Each character has a specific color for make-up, costume and paste mask to reveal the type of character the artist is portraying. A trip to Kerala is incomplete without feasting your senses on this colorful extravaganza.
Koodiyattam: Koodiyattam, the Sanskrit drama of Kerala, is considered at least 2000 years old. The drama performance, claimed to be the oldest existing classical theatre-form of the world, has been officially conferred with the title of - ‘Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO. Koodiyattam traces its origins way back to the ancient times when Kerala was ruled by Kulasekhara Varma Cheraman Perumal, who wrote “Attaprakaram’ a code for Koodiyattam.
Traditionally the privilege for performing Koodiyattam is bestowed upon the temple castes - Chakyar men and Nambiar women. The performances are held only in temples as an offering to the deity. Most traditional temples in Kerala have an adjoining pavilion called the Koothambalam where Koodiyattam is staged. Elaborate costumes and vibrant colors make it a truly spectacular affair.
Mohiniattam: Mohiniattam, literally translated means ‘dance of the enchantress’. Mohini - the enchantress is a mythological character believed to be an assumed form of Lord Vishnu. The dance form is characterized by graceful and lyrical body movements. The first reference of the art form is found in the 16th century. Swathi Thirunal, the 19th century king of Travancore revived the art form by giving it a more contemporary appeal. The white and gold costume, the unique hairstyle and the elegant movements all add to the grace and charm of the dance form. Mohiniattam is truly a celebration of sensuality and grace.
Theyyam: Theyyam is one of the ancient ritualistic dance forms that originated in the Malabar region of Kerala. Bizarre costumes, huge headgears, vibrant body painting and energy-packed performance sets Theyyam apart from the other dance forms of Kerala. Theyyam dances are performed in front of village shrines in the midst a lot of clamor and electrifying atmosphere. The performers dressed as ancient deities give a high energy dance performance to the tunes of pulsating traditional music.
One can actually sense the raw untamed energy in the air that lends the performance an atmosphere of deeper mysticism. The energetic music, the gaudy attire, the repressed energy all work in tandem to make Theyyam one of the most scintillating temple dance forms. Many Theyyams sport burning torches attached to their attire, 15 feet tall head-gears decorated with tender palm leaves, demonic painted faces, huge fangs, traditional weapons et cetera. Some Theyyam cults offer blood oblations to please Mother goddess.
» Martial Arts
Kalarippayattu: Kalaripayattu is an ancient form of martial art system originated in Kerala. It is considered to be the mother of all marital art forms. The Chinese Shaolin Kung-Fu traces its origins to Kalaripayattu. Bodhi Dharma, a Buddhist monk from India and the father of Kung-Fu, was a trained Kalaripayattu master who taught the monks at the Shaolin temple this ancient art form. Kalaripayattu is still a surviving martial art form taught in Kalaris (schools where Kalaripayattu is taught) across Kerala.
The origin of Kalaripayattu is shrouded in mystery with little details surviving from the ancient times. Kalaripayattu is said to have its roots in the traditions of Dhanur Veda and Vishnu Purana. The training is based on an elaborate system of body control exercises, Ayurvedic medical treatments, rigorous combat training, vital point discipline and spiritual & mental training. Kalaripayattu is more than just a self-defense martial art form - it’s a discipline and a way of life demanding a life-long dedication and passion.