Kerala God Own Country Essay

The National Geographic magazine has named Kerala as one of the ten Paradises Found in the world!

The Kerala State Tourism Department has rightly named our state The God's Own Country. Kerala means the land of coconuts. And boy! we do have coconuts, arecanuts and also nuts like me in abundance!

The state is gifted with greenery and water. There are lot of tourist spots. Kovalam is a well known beach; Thekkady is equally known for its wild life. For people who love silence, we've Silent Valley, which is the only forest where the insects don't make any sound. Want to be still closer to nature? Well, we've Wynad and Munnar in the Western Ghats.Or you prefer sea to mountains? Travel along the west coast of Kerala. Or just take a train ride from Kasargode to Trivandrum. If you can keep the count of bridges you cross, you don't have to worry about your memory power.

The language we use is Malayalam. If you speak English, you won't have any problem in Kerala. Many people speak Hindi and Tamil also. As the subject of quite a lot of jokes, you may find the pronounciation a bit hilarious. But that is quite common in any part of India! Our traditional dress is Mundu for men and a slightly longer version of the same for women. Now a days, it is very difficult to see such costumes. The changing times have resulted in people switching over to more easy to use stuff! Do visit our state. We are only too happy to welcome you.

Interesting Facts

According to your nationality, I guess you might be interested in the following facts about Kerala.

  • American
    1. First state in the world which elected a communist government.
    2. Medication is sponsored by the government.
    3. Lush green paddy(rice) fields and ultra-populated road-sides!
    4. The number of people wasting time on news papers. Reading news paper is a good habit, but unfortunately, our news papers are quite awful.
    5. Sea, sun and mountains so close to each other
  • British
    1. Ready availability of tea, and tea plantations.
    2. Extremely informal people.
    3. Curries of a different class all together.
  • French, German
    1. People immediately like you.
    2. A former French protectorate called Mahi(Mayyazhi)
    3. Hermann Gundert, from DeutscheLand gave Malayalam its first dictionary.
    4. Napoleon is revered here.

And for all, abundant natural beauty of the tropics.

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This article is about the Indian state of Kerala. For the genus of moth, see Kerala (moth). For the incident in Afghanistan, see Kerala massacre.

Kerala
Kēraḷam
State

A houseboat in the Kerala backwaters

Nickname(s): God's Own Country, Spice Garden of India, Land of Coconuts

Location of Kerala
Coordinates (Thiruvananthapuram): 8°30′N77°00′E / 8.5°N 77°E / 8.5; 77Coordinates: 8°30′N77°00′E / 8.5°N 77°E / 8.5; 77
Country India
Statehood1 November 1956
CapitalThiruvananthapuram
Districts14
Government
 • BodyGovernment of Kerala
 • GovernorP. Sathasivam[1]
 • Chief MinisterPinarayi Vijayan (CPI (M))
 • Chief SecretaryPaul Antony IAS[2]
 • Director General of PoliceLokanath BeheraIPS
 • LegislatureUnicameral (141 seats)
Area
 • Total38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi)
Area rank22nd
Highest elevation2,695 m (8,842 ft)
Lowest elevation−2.2 m (−7.2 ft)
Population (2011)[3]
 • Total33,387,677
 • Rank13th
 • Density860/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Keralite, Malayali
Time zoneIST (UTC+05:30)
ISO 3166 codeIN-KL
HDI 0.712 (High)[4]
HDI rank1st (2015)
Literacy93.9% (1st) (2011)
Official languageMalayalam[5]
Websitekerala.gov.in
140 elected, 1 nominated

Kerala (), called Keralam in Malayalam (where Kerala is the adjectival form), is a state in South India on the Malabar Coast. It was formed on 1 November 1956 following the States Reorganisation Act by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), it is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvananthapuram is the largest city in the state. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

The Chera Dynasty was the first prominent kingdom based in Kerala. The Ay kingdom in the deep south and the Ezhimala kingdom in the north formed the other kingdoms in the early years of the Common Era (CE or AD). The region had been a prominent spice exporter since 3000 BCE. The region's prominence in trade was noted in the works of Pliny as well as the Periplus around 100 CE. In the 15th century, the spice trade attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and paved the way for European colonisation of India. At the time of Indian independence movement in the early 20th century, there were two major princely states in Kerala-Travancore State and the Kingdom of Cochin. They united to form the state of Thiru-Kochi in 1949. The Malabar region, in the northern part of Kerala had been a part of the Madras province of British India, which later became a part of the Madras State post-independence. After the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, the modern-day state of Kerala was formed by merging the Malabar district of Madras State (excluding Gudalur taluk of Nilgiris district, Topslip, the Attappadi Forest east of Anakatti), the state of Thiru-Kochi (excluding four southern taluks of Kanyakumari district, Shenkottai and Tenkasi taluks), and the taluks of Kasaragod (now Kasaragod District) and South Kanara (Tulunad) which were a part of Madras State.

Kerala has the lowest positive population growth rate in India, 3.44%; the highest Human Development Index (HDI), 0.712 in 2015; the highest literacy rate, 93.91% in the 2011 census; the highest life expectancy, 77 years; and the highest sex ratio, 1,084 women per 1,000 men. The state has witnessed significant emigration, especially to Arab states of the Persian Gulf during the Gulf Boom of the 1970s and early 1980s, and its economy depends significantly on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community. Hinduism is practised by more than half of the population, followed by Islam and Christianity. The culture is a synthesis of Aryan, Dravidian, Arab, European cultures,[6] developed over millennia, under influences from other parts of India and abroad.

The production of pepper and natural rubber contributes significantly to the total national output. In the agricultural sector, coconut, tea, coffee, cashew and spices are important. The state's coastline extends for 595 kilometres (370 mi), and around 1.1 million people in the state are dependent on the fishery industry which contributes 3% to the state's income. The state has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine languages, mainly English and Malayalam. Kerala is one of the prominent tourist destinations of India, with backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism and tropical greenery as its major attractions.

Etymology[edit]

The name Kerala has an uncertain etymology. One popular theory derives Kerala from Kera ("coconut tree" in Malayalam) and alam ("land"); thus "land of coconuts",[7] which is a nickname for the state, used by locals, due to abundance of coconut trees.[8] The word Kerala is first recorded as Keralaputra in a 3rd-century BCE rock inscription left by the Maurya emperorAshoka (274–237 BCE), one of his edicts pertaining to welfare.[9] The inscription refers to the local ruler as Keralaputra (Sanskrit for "son of Kerala"); or "son of Chera[s]". This contradicts the theory that Kera is from "coconut tree".[10] At that time, one of three states in the region was called Cheralam in Classical Tamil: Chera and Kera are variants of the same word.[11] The word Cheral refers to the oldest known dynasty of Kerala kings and is derived from the Proto-Tamil-Malayalam word for "lake".[12]

The earliest Sanskrit text to mention Kerala is the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rigveda. Kerala is also mentioned in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two Hindu epics.[13] The Skanda Purana mentions the ecclesiastical office of the Thachudaya Kaimal who is referred to as Manikkam Keralar, synonymous with the deity of the Koodalmanikyam temple.[14][15]Keralam may stem from the Classical Tamilcherive-alam ("declivity of a hill or a mountain slope")[16] or chera alam ("Land of the Cheras"). The Greco-Roman trade map Periplus Maris Erythraei refers to Keralaputra as Celobotra.[17]

History[edit]

Main article: History of Kerala

Mythology[edit]

According to Hindu mythology, the lands of Kerala were recovered from the sea by the axe-wielding warrior sage Parasurama, the sixth avatar of Vishnu (hence, Kerala is also called Parasurama Kshetram ("The Land of Parasurama")[18]). Parasurama threw his axe across the sea, and the water receded as far as it reached. According to legend, this new area of land extended from Gokarna to Kanyakumari.[19] The land which rose from sea was filled with salt and unsuitable for habitation; so Parasurama invoked the Snake King Vasuki, who spat holy poison and converted the soil into fertile lush green land. Out of respect, Vasuki and all snakes were appointed as protectors and guardians of the land. The legend was later expanded, and found literary expression in the 17th or 18th century with Keralolpathi, which traces the origin of aspects of early Kerala society, such as land tenure and administration, to the story of Parasurama.[20] In medieval times Kuttuvan may have emulated the Parasurama tradition by throwing his spear into the sea to symbolise his lordship over it.[21]

Another much earlier Puranic character associated with Kerala is Mahabali, an Asura and a prototypical just king, who ruled the earth from Kerala. He won the war against the Devas, driving them into exile. The Devas pleaded before Lord Vishnu, who took his fifth incarnation as Vamana and pushed Mahabali down to Patala (the netherworld) to placate the Devas. There is a belief that, once a year during the Onam festival, Mahabali returns to Kerala.[22] The Matsya Purana, among the oldest of the 18 Puranas,[23][24] uses the Malaya Mountains of Kerala (and Tamil Nadu) as the setting for the story of Matsya, the first incarnation of Vishnu, and Manu, the first man and the king of the region.[25][26]

Pre-history[edit]

Main article: Pre-history of Kerala

A substantial portion of Kerala may have been under the sea in ancient times. Marine fossils have been found in an area near Changanacherry, thus supporting the hypothesis.[27] Pre-historical archaeological findings include dolmens of the Neolithic era in the Marayur area of the Idukki district. They are locally known as "muniyara", derived from muni (hermit or sage) and ara (dolmen).[28] Rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves, in Wayanad date back to the Neolithic era around 6000 BCE.[29][30] Archaeological studies have identified Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic sites in Kerala.[31] The studies point to the development of ancient Kerala society and its culture beginning from the Paleolithic Age, through the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic Ages.[32] Foreign cultural contacts have assisted this cultural formation;[33] historians suggest a possible relationship with Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.[34]

Ancient period[edit]

Kerala has been a major spice exporter since 3000 BCE, according to Sumerian records and it is still referred to as the "Garden of Spices" or as the "Spice Garden of India".[35][36] Kerala's spices attracted ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians to the Malabar Coast in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE. Phoenicians established trade with Kerala during this period.[37] The Land of Keralaputra was one of the four independent kingdoms in southern India during Ashoka's time, the others being Chola, Pandya, and Satiyaputra.[38] Scholars hold that Keralaputra is an alternate name of the Cheras, the first dominant dynasty based in Kerala.[39][40] These territories once shared a common language and culture, within an area known as Tamilakam.[41] Along with the Ay kingdom in the south and the Ezhimala kingdom in the north, the Cheras formed the ruling kingdoms of Kerala in the early years of the Common Era (CE). It is noted in Sangam literature that the Chera king Uthiyan Cheralathan ruled most of modern Kerala from his capital in Kuttanad,[44] and controlled the port of Muziris, but its southern tip was in the kingdom of Pandyas,[45] which had a trading port sometimes identified in ancient Western sources as Nelcynda (or Neacyndi) in Quilon.[46] The lesser known Ays and Mushikas kingdoms lay to the south and north of the Chera regions respectively.[47][48]

In the last centuries BCE the coast became important to the Greeks and Romans for its spices, especially black pepper. The Cheras had trading links with China, West Asia, Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire.[49] In foreign-trade circles the region was known as Male or Malabar.[50]Muziris, Berkarai, and Nelcynda were among the principal ports at that time.[51] The value of Rome's annual trade with the region was estimated at around 50,000,000 sesterces;[52] contemporary Sangam literature describes Roman ships coming to Muziris in Kerala, laden with gold to exchange for pepper. One of the earliest western traders to use the monsoon winds to reach Kerala was Eudoxus of Cyzicus, around 118 or 166 BCE, under the patronage of Ptolemy VIII, king of the HellenisticPtolemaic dynasty in Egypt. Roman establishments in the port cities of the region, such as a temple of Augustus and barracks for garrisoned Roman soldiers, are marked in the Tabula Peutingeriana; the only surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus.[53][54]

Merchants from West Asia and Southern Europe established coastal posts and settlements in Kerala.[55] The Israeli (Jewish) connection with Kerala started in 573 BCE.[56][57][58] Arabs also had trade links with Kerala, starting before the 4th century BCE, as Herodotus (484–413 BCE) noted that goods brought by Arabs from Kerala were sold to the Israelis [Hebrew (Jews)] at Eden.[51] Israelis intermarried with local (Cheras Dravidian) people, resulting in formation of the Mappila community.[59] In the 4th century, some Christians also migrated from Persia and joined the early Syrian Christian community who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.[60][61]Mappila (Semitic) was an honorific title that had been assigned to respected visitors from abroad; Israelite(Jewish), Syrian (Aramaic) Christian, and Muslim immigration account for later names of the respective communities: Juda Mappilas, Nasrani Mappilas, and Muslim Mappilas.[62][63] The earliest Saint Thomas Christian Churches,[64]Cheraman Juma Masjid (629 CE)—the first mosque of India[65]—and Paradesi Synagogue (1568 CE)—the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations[66]—were built in Kerala.[59]

Early medieval period[edit]

A second Chera Kingdom (c. 800–1102), also known as Kulasekhara dynasty of Mahodayapuram (present-day Kodungallur), was established by Kulasekhara Varman, which ruled over a territory comprising the whole of modern Kerala and a smaller part of modern Tamil Nadu. During the early part of the Kulasekara period, the southern region from Nagerkovil to Thiruvalla was ruled by Ay kings, who lost their power in the 10th century, making the region a part of the Kulasekara empire.[67][68] Under Kulasekhara rule, Kerala witnessed a developing period of art, literature, trade and the Bhakti movement of Hinduism.[69] A Keralite identity, distinct from the Tamils, became linguistically separate during this period around the seventh century.[70] For local administration, the empire was divided into provinces under the rule of Naduvazhis, with each province comprising a number of Desams under the control of chieftains, called as Desavazhis.[69]

The inhibitions, caused by a series of Chera-Chola wars in the 11th century, resulted in the decline of foreign trade in Kerala ports. In addition, Portuguese invasions in the 15th century caused two major religion Buddhism and Jainism to disappear from the land. It is known that the Menons in the Malabar region of Kerala were originally strong believers of Jainism. [71] The social system became fractured with divisions on caste lines.[72] Finally, the Kulasekhara dynasty was subjugated in 1102 by the combined attack of Later Pandyas and Later Cholas.[67] However, in the 14th century, Ravi Varma Kulashekhara (1299–1314) of the southern Venad kingdom was able to establish a short-lived supremacy over southern India. After his death, in the absence of a strong central power, the state was divided into thirty small warring principalities; the most powerful of them were the kingdom of Samuthiri in the north, Venad in the south and Kochi in the middle. In the 18th Century, Travancore King Sree Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma annexed all the kingdoms up to Northern Kerala through military conquests, resulting in the rise of Travancore to pre-eminence in Kerala. The Kochi ruler sued for peace with Anizham Thirunal and Malabar came under direct British rule until India became independent.[73][74]

Colonial era[edit]

The maritime spice trade monopoly in the Indian Ocean (Indu Maha Samundr) stayed with the Arabs during the High and Late Middle Ages. However, the dominance of Middle East traders was challenged in the European Age of Discovery. After Vasco Da Gama's arrival in KappadKozhikode in 1498, the Portuguese began to dominate eastern shipping, and the spice-trade in particular.[75][76][77] The Zamorin of Kozhikode permitted the new visitors to trade with his subjects such that Portuguese trade in Kozhikode prospered with the establishment of a factory and a fort. However, Portuguese attacks on Arab properties in his jurisdiction provoked the Zamorin and led to conflicts between them. The Portuguese took advantage of the rivalry between the Zamorin and the King of Kochi allied with Kochi. When Francisco de Almeida was appointed as Viceroy of Portuguese India in 1505, his headquarters was established at Fort Kochi (Fort Emmanuel) rather than in Kozhikode. During his reign, the Portuguese managed to dominate relations with Kochi and established a few fortresses on the Malabar Coast.[78] However, the Portuguese suffered setbacks from attacks by Zamorin forces; especially from naval attacks under the leadership Kozhikode admirals known as Kunjali Marakkars, which compelled them to seek a treaty. In 1571, the Portuguese were defeated by the Zamorin forces in the battle at Chaliyam fort.[79]

The Portuguese were ousted by the Dutch East India Company, who during the conflicts between the Kozhikode and the Kochi, gained control of the trade.[80] The Dutch in turn were weakened by constant battles with Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family, and were defeated at the Battle of Colachel in 1741.[81] An agreement, known as "Treaty of Mavelikkara", was signed by the Dutch and Travancore in 1753, according to which the Dutch were compelled to detach from all political involvement in the region.[82][83][84] Marthanda Varma annexed northern kingdoms through military conquests, resulting in the rise of Travancore to a position of preeminence in Kerala.[85]

In 1766, Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysoreinvaded northern Kerala.[86] His son and successor, Tipu Sultan, launched campaigns against the expanding British East India Company, resulting in two of the four Anglo-Mysore Wars.[87][88] Tipu ultimately ceded the Malabar District and South Kanara to the company in the 1790s; both were annexed to the Madras Presidency of British India in 1792.[89][90][91] The company forged tributary alliances with Kochi in 1791 and Travancore in 1795.[92] By the end of 18th century, the whole of Kerala fell under the control of the British, either administered directly or under suzerainty.[93] There were major revolts in Kerala during the independence movement in the 20th century; most notable among them is the 1921 Malabar Rebellion and the social struggles in Travancore. In the Malabar Rebellion, Mappila Muslims of Malabar rioted against Hindu zamindars and the British Raj.[94] Some social struggles against caste inequalities also erupted in the early decades of 20th century, leading to the 1936 Temple Entry Proclamation that opened Hindu temples in Travancore to all castes.[95]

Post-colonial period[edit]

After India was partitioned in 1947 into India and Pakistan, Travancore and Kochi, part of the Union of India were merged on 1 July 1949 to form Travancore-Cochin.[96] On 1 November 1956, the taluk of Kasargod in the South Kanara district of Madras, the Malabar district of Madras, and Travancore-Cochin, without four southern taluks (which joined Tamil Nadu), merged to form the state of Kerala under the States Reorganisation Act.[97][98] A Communist-led government under E. M. S. Namboodiripad resulted from the first elections for the new Kerala Legislative Assembly in 1957.[98] It was one of the earliest elected Communist governments, after Communist success in the 1945 elections in the Republic of San Marino.[99][100][101] His government helped distribute land and implement educational reforms.[102]

Geography[edit]

Main article: Geography of Kerala

The state is wedged between the Lakshadweep Sea and the Western Ghats. Lying between northern latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and eastern longitudes 74°52' and 77°22',[103] Kerala experiences the humid equatorial tropic climate. The state has a coast of 590 km (370 mi)[104] and the width of the state varies between 11 and 121 kilometres (7 and 75 mi).[105] Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands; rugged and cool mountainous terrain, the central mid-lands; rolling hills, and the western lowlands; coastal plains.[106]Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala's terrain.[107][108] A catastrophic flood in Kerala in 1341 CE drastically modified its terrain and consequently affected its history; it also created a natural harbour for spice transport.[109] The eastern region of Kerala consists of high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys immediately west of the Western Ghats' rain shadow.[106] 41 of Kerala's west-flowing rivers,[110] and 3 of its east-flowing ones originate in this region.[111][112] The Western Ghats form a wall of mountains interrupted only near Palakkad; hence also known Palghat, where the Palakkad Gap breaks.[113] The Western Ghats rise on average to 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) above sea level,[114] while the highest peaks reach around 2,500 metres (8,200 feet).[115]Anamudi in the Idukki district is the highest peak in south India, is at an elevation of 2,695 m (8,842 ft).[116]

Kerala's western coastal belt is relatively flat compared to the eastern region,[117] and is criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries,[118] and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters.[119] The state's largest lake Vembanad, dominates the backwaters; it lies between Alappuzha and Kochi and is about 200 km2 (77 sq mi) in area.[120] Around eight percent of India's waterways are found in Kerala.[121] Kerala's 44 rivers include the Periyar; 244 kilometres (152 mi), Bharathapuzha; 209 kilometres (130 mi), Pamba; 176 kilometres (109 mi), Chaliyar; 169 kilometres (105 mi), Kadalundipuzha; 130 kilometres (81 mi), Chalakudipuzha; 130 kilometres (81 mi), Valapattanam; 129 kilometres (80 mi) and the Achankovil River; 128 kilometres (80 mi). The average length of the rivers is 64 kilometres (40 mi). Many of the rivers are small and entirely fed by monsoon rain.[122] As Kerala's rivers are small and lacking in delta, they are more prone to environmental effects. The rivers face problems such as sand mining and pollution.[123] The state experiences several natural hazards like landslides, floods and droughts. The state was also affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.[124]

Climate[edit]

With around 120–140 rainy days per year,[125]:80 Kerala has a wet and maritime tropical climate influenced by the seasonal heavy rains of the southwest summer monsoon and northeast winter monsoon.[126] Around 65% of the rainfall occurs from June to August corresponding to the Southwest monsoon, and the rest from September to December corresponding to Northeast monsoon.[126] The moisture-laden winds of the Southwest monsoon, on reaching the southernmost point of the Indian Peninsula, because of its topography, divides into two branches; the "Arabian Sea Branch" and the "Bay of Bengal Branch".[127] The "Arabian Sea Branch" of the Southwest monsoon first hits the Western Ghats,[128] making Kerala the first state in India to receive rain from the Southwest monsoon.[129][130] The distribution of pressure patterns is reversed in the Northeast monsoon, during this season the cold winds from North India pick up moisture from the Bay of Bengal and precipitate it on the east coast of peninsular India.[131][132] In Kerala, the influence of the Northeast monsoon is seen in southern districts only.[133] Kerala's rainfall averages 2,923 mm (115 in) annually.[134] Some of Kerala's drier lowland regions average only 1,250 mm (49 in); the mountains of the eastern Idukki district receive more than 5,000 mm (197 in) of orographic precipitation: the highest in the state. In eastern Kerala, a drier tropical wet and dry climate prevails. During the summer, the state is prone to gale-force winds, storm surges, cyclone-related torrential downpours, occasional droughts, and rises in sea level.[135]:26, 46, 52 The mean daily temperature ranges from 19.8 °C to 36.7 °C.[136] Mean annual temperatures range from 25.0–27.5 °C in the coastal lowlands to 20.0–22.5 °C in the eastern highlands.[135]:65

Climate data for Kerala
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F)30
(86)
31
(88)
32
(90)
34
(93)
34
(93)
30
(86)
29
(84)
29
(84)
29
(84)
30
(86)
30
(86)
31
(88)
34
(93)
Average low °C (°F)22
(72)
23
(73)
24
(75)
25
(77)
25
(77)
24
(75)
23
(73)
23
(73)
23
(73)
23
(73)
23
(73)
22
(72)
22
(72)
Average rainfall mm (inches)8.7
(0.343)
14.7
(0.579)
30.4
(1.197)
109.5
(4.311)
239.8
(9.441)
649.8
(25.583)
726.1
(28.587)
419.5
(16.516)
244.2
(9.614)
292.3
(11.508)
150.9
(5.941)
37.5
(1.476)
2,923.4
(115.096)
Source: [134][136]

Flora and fauna[edit]

Main article: Flora and fauna of Kerala

Most of the biodiversity is concentrated and protected in the Western Ghats. Three quarters of the land area of Kerala was under thick forest up to 18th century.[139] As of 2004[update], over 25% of India's 15,000 plant species are in Kerala. Out of the 4,000 flowering plant species; 1,272 of which are endemic to Kerala, 900 are medicinal, and 159 are threatened.[140]:11 Its 9,400 km2 of forests include tropical wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests (lower and middle elevations—3,470 km2), tropical moist and dry deciduous forests (mid-elevations—4,100 km2 and 100 km2, respectively), and montane subtropical and temperate (shola) forests (highest elevations—100 km2). Altogether, 24% of Kerala is forested.[140]:12 Three of the world's Ramsar Convention listed wetlands—Lake Sasthamkotta, Ashtamudi Lake and the Vembanad-Kol wetlands—are in Kerala, as well as 1455.4 km2 of the vast Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Subjected to extensive clearing for cultivation in the 20th century,[141]:6–7 much of the remaining forest cover is now protected from clearfelling.[142] Eastern Kerala's windward mountains shelter tropical moist forests and tropical dry forests, which are common in the Western Ghats.[143][144] The world's oldest teak plantation 'Conolly's Plot' is in Nilambur.[145]

Kerala's fauna are notable for their diversity and high rates of endemism: it includes 118 species of mammals (1 endemic), 500 species of birds, 189 species of freshwater fish, 173 species of reptiles (10 of them endemic), and 151 species of amphibians (36 endemic).[146] These are threatened by extensive habitat destruction, including soil erosion, landslides, salinisation, and resource extraction. In the forests, sonokeling, Dalbergia latifolia, anjili, mullumurikku, Erythrina, and Cassia number among the more than 1,000 species of trees in Kerala. Other plants include bamboo, wild black pepper, wild cardamom, the calamusrattan palm, and aromatic vetiver grass, Vetiveria zizanioides.[140]:12Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, Nilgiri tahr, common palm civet, and grizzled giant squirrels are also found in the forests.[140]:12, 174–175 Reptiles include the king cobra, viper, python, and mugger crocodile. Kerala's birds include the Malabar trogon, the great hornbill, Kerala laughingthrush, darter and southern hill myna. In the lakes, wetlands, and waterways, fish such as kadu; stinging catfish and choottachi; orange chromide—Etroplus maculatus are found.[140]:163–165

Parasurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna (the Hindu God of water) to part the seas and reveal Kerala
Silk Road map. The spice trade was mainly along the water routes (blue).

Anamudi, on the right, as seen from the Munnar-Udumalpettai highway

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