Boat races are some of the most exciting moments of Kerala.

By Augustine Veliath

1. Kerala, the size of Switzerland, is one per cent of India’s land area. It houses four percent of India’s population.

2. Kerala is home to India’s most advanced society. 100% literate, the State has India’s highest density of Science and Technology personnel, highest Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI), highest life expectancy and the lowest infant mortality rate (IMR).

3. Though its IMR and Life Expectancy figures match Washington DC., in conventional economic terms it is a poor state – lagging behind the rest of India.

4. Over 90 per cent of people in Kerala own the land on which their home stands. Land ownership is limited to eight hectares per family.

5. According to the 2001 census there are 1058 females per 1000 males in Kerala as against 933 in India and 861 in Haryana.

6. Kerala underwent a dramatic demographic transition in the last century and it has been inching towards zero population growth.

7. More than 70 percent of primary school teachers in Kerala are women as compared to 25 percent in Uttar Pradesh.

8. The Christian Missions, the Nair Service Society, the Sree Narayana Trust and the Muslim Educational Society have a chain of colleges and schools under them.

9. Of its population 56 per cent are Hindu, 25 per cent are Muslims and 19.6 per cent are Christians. A small Jewish community of 22 people remains.

10. “God’s own country” is considered one of the ten paradises in the world. “Wedged between the Western Ghats on the East and the Arabian Sea on the West, the narrow strip of land known as Kerala is a destination of a lifetime,” says tourism literature. “The timeless beauty of the palm fringed beaches of Kovalam and Varkala, the majesty of the undulating hills of Munnar and Vagamon, the serenity of the pristine backwaters of Kumarakom & Kuttanad and the enchanting woods and forests of Thekkady and Silent Valley will have you bowled over. “

11. Ādi Śaṅkarācārya, the 8th century Indian philosopher who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, is perhaps the greatest Keralite ever. His teachings are based on the unity of the soul and Brahman, in which Brahman is viewed as without attributes. Jagad Guru Shankaracharya hailed from Kalady in Kerala. In a short life-span of thirty-two years, Sankaracharya travelled all over India, establishing monasteries, reforming worship procedures in temples, writing philosophical treatises, debating with leaders of other religious traditions and instructing students who flocked to him for spiritual guidance. His greatest achievement was discovering Bhagavad Gita (700 odd stanzas among the 200,000 stanzas in the great epic Maha Bharat

12. Statue of a Keralite, Sri Naryan Christaina Guru stands tall at two venues in Lucknow. He represents the best of the many social and religious movements in Kerala. Improvement of inter-caste relations, movement of Christian unity, Indianisation of the Church, Muslim reform movements and Land reforms in the state have made significant improvement in the social and cultural heritage.

13. In 1957 Kerala was the first state in the world to bring to power a communist government via democratic elections rather than revolution.

14. Coir (coconut fibre) accounts for 18 per cent of exports and supports 10 million people in Kerala.1 Major Exports include rubber, pepper, cardamom, ginger, coffee, tea, cashews.

15. An estimated 150,000 Keralites are working in the Gulf. Many are skilled technicians and medical staff.

16. From as early as 3000 BC, Kerala had established itself as the major spice trade centre of the world. A 3rd century-BC rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great attests to a Keralaputra. Kerala looms large in the accounts of classical writers of Greece and Rome. The anonymous author of the Periplus (1st century AD) and Ptolemy (2nd century AD) are the most outstanding classical writes who give information about Kerala. Later foreign writes like Sulaiman (9th Century AD), Masudi (10th century AD) Al Kazwini (13th century AD), Marco Polo (13th century), John of Monte Corvino (13th century), Friar Jordanus of Severic (14th century) Ibn Batuta (14th century), Ma Huan (15th century), Nicolo Conti (15th century) and Abdul Razzack (15th century) are some of the other foreign travellers of the early period who give interesting glimpses of trade and other aspects of Kerala.

17. Kerala is also known for its tradition of martial arts especially Kalaripayattu.

18. Contact with Europeans after the arrival of Vasco Da Gama in 1498 gave way to struggles between colonial and native interests.

19. The Jews first arrived in Kerala in 573 BC. The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings state that Thomas the Apostle visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 CE to proselytize amongst Kerala’s Jewish settlements and convert them to Christianity.

20. Muslim merchants led by Malik ibn Dinar settled in Kerala by the 8th century CE and introduced Islam. The first mosque built outside Arabia stands at Kodungalloor. This mosque was established during the life time of the Prophet.

21. Almost a fourth of India’s 10,000 plant species are found in the state. Among the almost 4,000 flowering plant species (1,272 of which are endemic to Kerala and 159 threatened) are 900 species of highly sought medicinal plants.

22. Kerala’s fauna are notable for their diversity and high rates of endemism: 102 species of mammals (56 of which are endemic), 476 species of birds, 202 species of freshwater fishes, 169 species of reptiles (139 of them endemic), and 89 species of amphibians (86 endemic). These are threatened by extensive habitat destruction, including soil erosion, landslides, salinization, and resource extraction.

23. The state treasury has suffered loss of thousands of millions of rupees thanks to the state staging over 100 hartals annually in recent times. A record total of 223 hartals were observed in 2006, resulting in a revenue loss of over Indian Rupee2000 crore.

24. The Cochin International Airport (COK) was the first Indian airport incorporated as a public limited company and is funded by nearly 10,000 Non Resident Indians from 30 countries.

25. Kerala is the world’s first “baby-friendly state” according to WHO and UNICEF because of its effective promotion of breast-feeding over formulas. For example, more than 95% of births take place in a hospital.