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Culture Of Kerala

Culture of Kerala is diverse and a subtle blend of different ethnic and religious groups. Kerala was ruled by many foreign rulers in the past and this also has an impact on the rich culture of the state. The culture of Kerala sprouted as a combination of Aryan and Dravidian influences. The Dravidians, the ancient rulers of 'God's Own Country', had left a great cultural legacy, whose reflections are still very much evident in the customs and heritage of this fascinating land. In the later ages, the culture was expanded by the contact with the neighbouring regions and overseas cultures, which also gave it more vibrancy.

Religion Groups In Kerala

The state of Kerala with the passage of time has witnessed many changes in the rule. Down the chapters of history one would find the presence of the Stone Age, the early dynasties of Pandyan and Cheras and the influence of the Portuguese, Dutch, British and the Muslims. The impact of the Jew and Jain was also felt in the rich history of the state. Predominately the majority of the people are Hindus but there is also presence of other religion groups (such as Muslims and Christians) in Kerala. Perhaps, this is what makes Kerala a colorful state. All these religions have their own tradition and customs. Further, some aspects of the culture have also got blended with each other. According to Kerala 2001 census report the total numbers of Hindus were 17,883,449, Muslims - 7,863,842, Christians - 6,057,427, Jains - 4,528, Buddhist - 2,027, Sikh - 2,762 and other communities - 2,256.

Kerala culture encompasses music, dance, literature and even martial arts. With the passage of time some of the elements got transformed while other remained in their old state.

  1. Dance - There are many dance forms in the state and forms an integral part of the society. This form of art are not only restricted to the Hindu society but also find a place among the Muslims and Christian religion groups. What is more interesting about them is the way they are performed. The colorful costumes, bright make up and the ornaments worn by the performers make the dances of Kerala a visual delight. Some of the popular forms of dance are Kathakali, Theyyam, Mohiniattam, Thiruvathirakali, Oppana and Margamkali. The state of Kerala also holds dance festivals namely, Nishigandhi Dance Festival and Dharani Dance Festival every year.
  2. Martial Arts - The oldest form of martial art is believed to have originated from the state of Kerala only. Kalarippayattu, the most popular art of combat is said to be around 3000 years old. The Chinese fighting style is also believed to be influence by this art. Parisa Kali, Valeru, Njaninmel Kali, Velakanni, Onathallu, Parichamuttakali, Adithada and Kunderu are the other forms of ancient martial arts, which are still practiced in the state. The martial art forms have undergone many changes with the flow of time. Kalarippayattu was once a forbidden art during the British regime. Later, after many years it got reinstated and at present it is one of the popular styles of combat.
  3. Sports - Moving out of the martial arts, Kerala also participates in a number of sports. Football is one of the major games that are played here and because of this there are many football clubs in and around Kerala. Boat race also forms an important activity for the people of the state. Many boat races are organized on the backwaters of Kerala every year which includes Nehru Trophy Boat Race. Few other sports played in the state are badminton, cricket and tennis.
  4. Literature - Another important aspect of culture of Kerala is the literature of the state. Many old works have been the foundation of the modern Malayalam. Dating back to 14th century poets like Madhava Panikkar, Rama Panikkar and Sankara Panikkar holds major place in the history of Malayalam literature. A major contribution also took place during 1970-1990 to take the culture beyond the boundaries of the state. Some of the notable litrary contributors during that time era were CV Sriraman, Perumbatavam Sreedharan, M Krishnan Nair, P. Bhaskaran, Arundhati Roy and OV Vijayan. In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith awardees like S. K. Pottekkatta, G. Sankara Kurup and M. T. Vasudevan Nair have enriched the Malayalam literature.
  5. Music - The traditional music of Kerala is Sopanam, which is also used as a background score during Kathakali performance. The influence of carnatic music, south Indian music, started from 19th century when king of Travancore Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma popularized it. Other than Sopanam, Melam is widely performed in the temples across the state during the temple festivals. The classical music in Kerala is based on raag-taal. The traditional folk songs are sung on the social occasions such as childbirth and marriages. There are also some devotional songs such as Maripattu and Ayyappanpattu that are rendered along with playing of the string and wind instruments. All of these colors the culture of Kerala with rich and vibrant hues.
  6. Handicrafts - Kerala is renowned for its carvings in rosewood and sandalwood. The sandalwood items, handlooms, metal work and woodcraft of Kerala are very popular. The state boasts its rich style of oil paintings. The use of henna to paint the body parts such as hands and feet gives unique identity to the state. Kerala also boasts of its singular art form of floor paintings and drawings also known as Kalamezhuthu.
  7. Festivals - Culture of Kerala is incomplete without talking about the festivals celebrated with dance, music and passion. Kerala is also referred as the land of festivals. The people in Kerala are very social and the festivals are marked by the family get-together, joy and excitement. The festivals cover almost every month of the calendar and are worth experiencing. Onam is one of the major festivals of the Kerala state. Often people visit the state during this time of the year to witness the vivid colors alongwith the boat race and many other activities. Some of the popular Hindu festivals are Maha Shivratri, Navaratri, Vishu and Deepavali. Vettukad Festival and Pattambi Nercha are Christian and Muslim festivals respectively. Few other celebrations of kerala are Vishu, Attukal Pongala Festival, Payippad Jelotsavam, Machattu Mamangam, Thrikarthiaka and Guruvayoor Aanaottam.

Population of Kerala

Kerala as we have been talking about is smeared with people from different communities and religions. The Kerala state accounts for around 3 percent of the whole population of the country. There are around 321,000 tribal people in the region as well. Majority of the population in Kerala speaks Malayalam while the other spoken languages are Tulu, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada and languages of the tribal. However, there are many English speaking communities in Kerala as well. According to the 2001 census, the state has attained a literacy rate of 90.86 %, which is highest in the country. The total population of the state is around 33 million. The life expectancy rate in Kerala is also high as compared to the other regions of the country. The treatment and other health care facilities in the state are world class and the population is equally benefited from it. The ancient medicinal system of Ayurveda also achieved its pinnacle of growth in Kerala, and this ancient practice is still carried out in Kerala with great authenticity. Further, the region has also undergone the demographic transition. The low birth rate and the aging population have resulted in this transition. Kerala has a low growth rate of the population in 1991 the population was 29.1 million whereas by 2001 it has only moved to 33 million. The state also has the best sex ratio as per the census of 2011.

Ethnic Groups Prevalant in Kerala

The state of Kerala is believed to have Hindu, Malayali, Tulu, Tamil, Kannada, Telegu, Konkani, Marathi, Gujarati and Sikh existance throughout its history. Nevertheless, people of other ethnic groups also prevailed in Kerala and some of them also settled here. Syrian, Jewish and Arab left a mark in the ethnicity of the region. Further, people from the other regions of India also settled in this state.

Last Updated On: 2011/08/24


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syam mohan

Posted on 2011-11-11in literature ezhuthachan and in Jnanpith g .sankara kurup may be included


Posted on 2011-10-02I want to know about , past and present situation and culture of kerala people . . .