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The Culture Of Kerala: A Guide

At the southern tip of India lies the picturesque state of Kerala, known for its pristine beaches, lush greenery and unique culture. The culture of Kerala is a mix of customs, traditions and beliefs that have been passed down through generations, making it one of the most interesting places to visit in India. This guide will explore the culture of Kerala and provide an insight into the state’s rich cultural heritage.

History and Background

Kerala is believed to have been inhabited since prehistoric times and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions in India. For many centuries, the state was ruled by a succession of regional dynasties, including the Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras. Kerala experienced a period of great prosperity in the 16th century when the Portuguese and Dutch East India Companies established trading posts in the region. The 19th century marked the arrival of British rule in Kerala, which brought with it significant social and economic changes. Over the years, the culture of Kerala has been greatly influenced by its long history, with various religious and cultural influences from the different powers that have ruled the region.

Kerala is a vibrant mix of religions, cultures and traditions. The state is known for its diverse range of festivals, which include Hindu, Christian and Muslim celebrations. These festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm and provide visitors with a unique insight into the culture of Kerala.

Language

Malayalam is the official language of Kerala and is spoken by the majority of the population. It is a Dravidian language, with origins believed to date back to the Sangam period (3rd century BC to 3rd century AD). Malayalam is written using a unique script, known as Kolezhuthu, which is derived from the ancient Tamil script. English, Hindi and other languages are also spoken by a small proportion of the population.

Kerala is also home to a variety of dialects, including Tamil, Kannada, Tulu and Telugu. These dialects are used in different parts of the state, depending on the region and the local population. These dialects are an important part of the cultural heritage of Kerala and provide an insight into the state’s diverse range of cultures and traditions.

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Food and Cuisine

Kerala is renowned for its delicious cuisine, which is heavily influenced by its tropical climate and abundance of fresh ingredients. The cuisine of Kerala is characterized by its use of coconut, spices and seafood. Rice is the staple food of Kerala, and is served with a variety of curries and side dishes. Other popular dishes include idli, dosa and appam, which are made from fermented rice batter and served with a variety of chutneys and sambar.

Seafood is a popular part of the cuisine of Kerala, with fish, prawns and crab being widely consumed. The state is also known for its traditional snacks, such as banana chips, banana fritters and karimeen fry. The state is home to a variety of sweets, made from coconut, jaggery and other ingredients. These are usually served as part of religious ceremonies or to mark special occasions.

Kerala is also known for its traditional beverages, such as the popular tea-based drink, chai. The state is also home to a variety of alcoholic drinks, such as toddy, which is made from the sap of coconut palms. Other popular drinks include arrack and coconut wine.

Clothing

The traditional clothing of Kerala is known as mundu and mundum-neriyathum. This is a two-piece garment, consisting of a long skirt and a blouse. The mundu is usually white and is made from cotton or silk. The mundum-neriyathum is a set of two white pieces of cloth, which are draped over the shoulders and secured at the waist. This is the traditional attire of women in Kerala and is worn on special occasions.

Men in Kerala typically wear a lungi, which is a long, loose-fitting garment made from cotton or silk. The lungi is usually white or off-white in colour and is usually paired with a shirt or vest. The traditional footwear of Kerala is the jutti, which is a type of sandal made from leather. This is usually worn with the traditional attire.

Religion

Kerala is a culturally and religiously diverse state, with Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Jainism being the main religions. Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion in the state, with a majority of the population following the faith. Other religions, such as Islam, Christianity and Jainism, are also practiced by a minority of the population. Each of these religions has its own unique set of beliefs and customs, which are an important part of the culture of Kerala.

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Kerala is home to a variety of temples, churches and mosques, which are an important part of the state’s cultural heritage. These religious monuments are a source of great pride for the people of Kerala and are visited by thousands of pilgrims each year.

Dance and Music

Kerala is renowned for its traditional art forms, including classical dance and music. The most popular dance form in the state is Kathakali, which is a highly stylized dance-drama performance. Other popular dance forms include Mohiniyattam, Thullal and Theyyam. These traditional dance forms are usually performed during religious ceremonies or festivals.

Kerala is also home to a variety of traditional music forms, including Carnatic music and folk music. Carnatic music is a form of classical music, which is usually performed by a group of musicians. Folk music is a popular form of music in Kerala, and is usually performed by local musicians. This type of music is often accompanied by traditional instruments, such as the veena, mridangam and tabla.

Arts and Crafts

Kerala is known for its intricate and beautiful art and craft forms. The state is home to a variety of traditional crafts, such as wood carving, stone carving, pottery and metalwork. These crafts are usually produced by skilled artisans and are an important part of the state’s cultural heritage.

The state is also renowned for its vibrant and colourful murals, which depict scenes from Hindu mythology and other religious and cultural themes. These murals can be seen in temples, churches and other buildings throughout the state. Kerala is also known for its traditional woodwork, which includes the production of furniture and other decorative items.

Festivals and Celebrations

Kerala is known for its vibrant and colourful festivals, which are celebrated with great enthusiasm by the locals. Onam is the most important festival of Kerala, which is celebrated in honour of King Mahabali. This is a ten-day festival, which is celebrated with pookkalam (flower decorations), boat races, music and dance performances. Other popular festivals include Vishu, Christmas, Easter, Muharram and Diwali.

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Kerala is also home to a variety of temple festivals, which are celebrated with great enthusiasm by the local population. These festivals usually involve processions, music and dance performances. Many of these festivals are celebrated for days or weeks, and are an important part of the culture of Kerala.

Conclusion

Kerala is a beautiful and diverse state, with a rich cultural heritage. The culture of Kerala is a mix of various influences, including its long history, religious heritage and traditional arts and crafts. From its unique language to its delicious cuisine, Kerala is a fascinating place to explore and provides visitors with an insight into the state’s unique culture and traditions.

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