Kerala is divided into 14 districts. They are Alappuzha (Alleppey), Ernakulam , Idukki , Kannur (Canannore) , Kasargod , Kollam (Quilon) , Kottayam , Kozhikode (Calicut) , Malappuram , Palakkad (Palghat) , Pathanamthitta , Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) , Thrissur (Trichur) and Wayanad (Wynad).
Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of the state.
Kovalam Beach - tourists and fishermen
More than 95% of the people in Kerala speak Malayalam.
The major religions followed in Kerala are Hinduism (57%), Islam (23%), and Christianity (19%). Kerala also has a tiny Jewish population, said to date from 587 BC when they fled the occupation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The state has many famous temples, churches, and mosques. The synagogue in Kochi is the oldest one in India.
In Kerala, as in many other parts of India, a strict caste system used to be in force. Despite the efforts of reformers and the government, caste prejudices still exist.
Kerala has a rich cultural tradition. In addition to the classical dance forms Koodiyattom (UNESCO Human Heritage Art), Kathakali and Mohiniyaattam, which are native to the region, Kerala has numerous folk and classical art forms and a rich literary tradition. The state is known for Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine. Kerala has a traditional calendar of its own.
Kerala has its own form of Martial arts, Kalaripayattu, which is probably the oldest martial art form in the world.
The main Keralite festival is Onam, which is native to the state. Another prominent festival is Vishu, the first day of the Malayali New Year.
Kerala ranks highest in India with respect to "social development parameters" such as primary education and healthcare. This is mainly due to government policies, which make these services available free of cost for Keralaites who would not otherwise have access to them. Literacy in Kerala, at higher than 90%, is the highest among Indian states.
However, Kerala's emphasis on social welfare also resulted in slow economic progress. Kerala possesses few major industries, and its per capita GDP is lower than the nation's average of 360 USD per year (1998). Remittances from Keralites working abroad, mainly in the Middle East, make up over 60% of the state's GDP.
Agriculture is the most important economic activity. Coconut, Tea and rubber are grown extensively. Coir (Coconut fiber), Cashew, and Spice are among the most important products.
Tourism, too, plays an important role in the state's economy. Kerala has great beaches (Kovalam , Varkala), Payyambalam Beach kannur,Muzhappilangad Drive In Beach Kannur serene hill stations, national parks (Thekady and Munnar) and beautiful inwaters Kumarakom. Kerala is a popular tourist destination both for domestic & foreign travellers.
People have lived in the region now known as Kerala since ancient times. Regional identity developed in the 1300's AD with the development of the Malayalam language.
Vasco da Gama's voyage to Kerala from Portugal in 1498 was largely motivated by Portuguese determination to break the Kerala Muslims' control over the trade between local spice producers and the Middle East. He established India's first Portuguese fortress at Cochin (Kochi) in 1503 and from there, taking advantage of rivalry existing between the royal families of Calicut and Cochin, managed to destroy 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 established in Kerala by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Tipu Sultan attempted to encroach on British-held territory in 1792, but he was defeated and the British remained in control until independence.
The Portuguese were surprised to discover, when they arrived in Kerala 500 years ago, that Christianity was already established. The history of that community dates back to the arrival in AD 52 of St. Thomas the Apostle, and to the establishing of a Christian community by a contingent of Syrian Christians who arrived in AD 192 via Baghdad. (See Saint Thomas Christians.)
Modern day Kerala was created in 1956 from Malabar, which had been part of the Madras Presidency, and from Travancore and Cochin. The latter 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 the residents of their territories.
Kerala gained the distinction, in 1957, of having the first democratically elected Communist government anywhere in the world. Kerala has a reputation as being the most left wing state in India, and over 80% of the vote at both State and National level, usually goes to Left Wing parties. These include Congress, various splinter groups from Congress, and various Communist Parties.