Kerala is a narrow fertile state on the south-western coast of India. Kerala is bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea and protected on the east by the Western Ghats. Blessed with lush tropical vegetation fed by two annual monsoons it is truly abundant in nature with sprawling plantations and paddy fields. Its unique geographical nature has kept it sheltered and allowed it’s many spectacularly rich cultural art forms, festivals and customs to thrive. It also has some of the country’s most exotic wildlife parks and bird sanctuaries. Sprawling plantations, Ayurvedic health holidays, fascinating art forms, spectacular festivals, verdant hills, not surprising, the Government of Kerala promotes it as ‘God’s own country.
An Ashokan edict dating back to third century refers to Kerala as the land of the Cheras, as have many other ancient Sanskrit texts including the Mahabharata. It has been an active spice and ivory trading centre since the early days. Trade flourished with the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and the Chinese. Direct trade with Europe was established with the arrival of Vasco da Gama in 1498. Gradually a trading centre was established in Cochin and trade expanded to include the French and the Dutch. Eventually, the British took over the region in 1792.
Present day Kerala has a population of about 30 million, the lowest infant mortality and highest life expectency in the country, and highest percentage of literacy. Malayalam is the official language though English is widely spoken.
One of the major reasons that make Kerala a popular holiday destination is its backwater stretch. The backwaters is made up of a network of more than 900 kms of brackish lagoons of interconnected waterways fed by 44 rivers, covering about half the state of Kerala. Man-made canals connect villages in most areas and the backwaters are used for local transport. Gliding down the tranquil waterways against a backdrop of coconut groves, weaving through typical Keralan villages, one can experience the soul of village life both in the water and on land. Walk around the traditional homes, ride a bullock cart, visit a temple, the local market or simply just get lost in the beauty of the countryside. Cruising the breathtaking backwaters is certainly the highlight of a visit to Kerala and definitely the best way to explore it. Renting a houseboat can be an expensive affair but worth every rupee and one of the most memorable experiences for travelers in India.
The biggest stretch of backwaters is the Vembanad Lake which flows through three districts and meets the sea at Kochi.
The backwaters supports rich vegetation, most of it being palm trees and pandanus, and unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs, mudskippers, otters and turtles, and water birds such as kingfishers, darters and cormorants.