Kerala is a state in the south-western part of India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act bringing together the areas where Malayalam was the dominant language.
The state has an area of 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi) and is bordered by Karnataka to the north, Tamil Nadu to the south and the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. The major cities in Kerala are Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. Kerala is also known for its many small towns that are scattered across the state, thus creating a higher density of population.
Flanked on the western coast by the Arabian Sea, Kerala has a long coastline of 580 km (360.39 miles); all of which is virtually dotted with sandy beaches.
Kovalam beach near Thiruvananthapuram was among the first beaches in Kerala to attract tourists. Rediscovered by back-packers and tan-seekers in the sixties and followed by hordes of hippies in the seventies, Kovalam is today the most visited tourist destination in the state.
Other popularly visited beaches in the state include those at Alappuzha Beach,Nattika beach[Thrissur], Vadanappilly beach[Thrissur], Cherai Beach, Kappad, Kovalam, Marari beach, Fort Kochi and Varkala. The Muzhappilangad Beach beach at Kannur is the only drive-in beach in India
The backwaters in Kerala are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast). Kettuvallam (Kerala houseboats) in the backwaters are one of the prominent tourist attractions in Kerala. Alleppey, known as the "Venice of the East" has a large network of canals that meander through the town. The Vallam Kali (the Snake Boat Race) held every year in August is a major sporting attraction.
The backwater network includes five large lakes (including Ashtamudi Kayal and Vembanad Kayal) linked by 1500 km of canals, both manmade and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually the entire length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range.
Eastern Kerala consists of land encroached upon by the Western Ghats; the region thus includes high mountains, gorges, and deep-cut valleys. The wildest lands are covered with dense forests, while other regions lie under tea and coffee plantations (established mainly in the 19th and 20th centuries) or other forms of cultivation. The Western Ghats rises on average to 1500 m elevation above sea level. Certain peaks may reach to 2500 m. Popular hill stations in the region include Devikulam, Munnar, Nelliyampathi, Peermade, Ponmudi, Vagamon, Wayanad and Kottanchery Hills.
Most of Kerala, whose native habitat consists of wet evergreen rainforests at lower elevations and highland deciduous and semi-evergreen forests in the east, is subject to a humid tropical climate. however, significant variations in terrain and elevation have resulted in a land whose biodiversity registers as among the world’s most significant. Most of Kerala's significantly biodiverse tracts of wilderness lie in the evergreen forests of its easternmost districts.
Kerala also hosts two of the world’s Ramsar Convention-listed wetlands: Lake Sasthamkotta and the Vembanad-Kol wetlands are noted as being wetlands of international importance. There are also numerous protected conservation areas, including 1455.4 km² of the vast Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
In turn, the forests play host to such major fauna as Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), Leopard (Panthera pardus), and Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius), and Grizzled Giant Squirrel (Ratufa macroura).More remote preserves, including Silent Valley National Park in the Kundali Hills, harbor endangered species such as Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus), Indian Sloth Bear (Melursus (Ursus) ursinus ursinus), and Gaur (the so-called "Indian Bison" — Bos gaurus). More common species include Indian Porcupine (Hystrix indica), Chital (Axis axis), Sambar (Cervus unicolor), Gray Langur, Flying Squirrel, Swamp Lynx (Felis chaus kutas), Boar (Sus scrofa), a variety of catarrhine Old World monkey species, Gray Wolf (Canis lupus), Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus).
Many reptiles, such as king cobra, viper, python, various turtles and crocodiles are to be found in Kerala — again, disproportionately in the east. Kerala's avifauna include endemics like the Sri Lanka Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger), Oriental Bay Owl, large frugivores like the Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) and Indian Grey Hornbill, as well as the more widespread birds such as Peafowl, Indian Cormorant, Jungle and Hill Myna, Oriental Darter, Black-hooded Oriole, Greater Racket-tailed and Black Drongoes, bulbul (Pycnonotidae), species of Kingfisher and Woodpecker, Jungle Fowl, Alexandrine Parakeet, and assorted ducks and migratory birds. Additionally, freshwater fish such as kadu (stinging catfish — Heteropneustes fossilis) and brackishwater species such as Choottachi (orange chromide — Etroplus maculatus; valued as an aquarium specimen) also are native to Kerala's lakes and waterways.
Medical tourism, promoted by traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda and Siddha are widely popular in the state, and draws increasing numbers of tourists. A combination of many factors has led to the increase in popularity of medical tourism: high costs of healthcare in industrialised nations, ease and affordability of international travel, improving technology and standards of care.
However, rampant recent growth in this sector has made the government apprehensive. The government is now considering introduction of a grading system which would grade hospitals and clinics, thus helping tourists in selecting one for their treatments.
Kerala's culture is mainly Dravidian in origin, deriving from a greater Tamil-heritage region known as Tamilakam. Later, Kerala's culture was elaborated on through centuries of contact with overseas cultures. Native performing arts include koodiyattom, kathakali – from katha ("story") and kali ("play") – and its offshoot Kerala natanam, koothu (akin to stand-up comedy), mohiniaattam ("dance of the enchantress"), thullal, padayani, and theyyam. Other arts are more religion- and tribal-themed.
These include chavittu nadakom, oppana (originally from Malabar), which combines dance, rhythmic hand clapping, and ishal vocalisations. However, many of these artforms largely play to tourists or at youth festivals, and are not as popular among most ordinary Keralites. These people look to more contemporary art and performance styles, including those employing mimicry and parody. Additionally, a substantial Malayalam film industry effectively competes against both Bollywood and Hollywood.