Kerala is one of India’s 29 states and 7 union territories. Run by a communist Marxist party, its capital is Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and its largest city is Kochi.

It was established as a state in 1956, has a population of 33,406,061 and covers 38,863 km². Its official language is Malayalam and, fortunately for us, its other official language is English.

Kerala has the 12th largest economy in India, the highest literacy rate, lowest positive population rate, highest life expectancy (of 77) and highest sex ratio: 1,084 women to 1,000 men in the country.

With the Arabian Sea and the Lakshapweep Islands to the west, the state runs 595 km along India’s south west Malabar Coast. At its widest it is only 120 km.

Running north to south along Kerala’s eastern border are the Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri (Benevolent Mountains), which are older than the Himalayas. They influence the movement of the monsoon and contain a large proportion of the country’s flora and fauna. UNESCO has listed a total of 39 heritage spots all along the Western Ghats, of which Kerala takes credit for as many as 20 heritage sites, making the state an important eco sensitive destination.

Kerala’s rich cultural and artistic life has the three main religions living alongside each other gracefully and peacefully. There are temples, churches and mosques everywhere, and happy neighbours. Hinduism is practised by about half of its population, with a roughly equal proportion of Muslims and Christians making up the rest. Notably, Kerala has the highest media exposure in India, with newspapers in nine languages.

The majority of the population are dependent directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood. The main crops grown are rice, coconut, pepper, cashew, cassava, and plantation crops like rubber. It is an Agrarian economy. Cash crops, like coconuts, rubber, tea and coffee, pepper and cardamom, cashew, areca nut, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and the like, give the agriculture of Kerala a distinct flavour.

Coconuts are the principal source of earning in agriculture and nearly 70% of the total Indian output. Cashew is also an important cash crop. The state has facilities for converting raw cashew into the dried fruit, salted or plain. Alappuzha, one district of Kerala known as the ‘rice bowl of the state’, has a predominant position in the production of rice. The fishing industry is also very important.

Kerala has a lush tropical landscape, where it seems every sort of tropical fruit imaginable grows. Coconut palm-fringed beaches. Communities of fishermen with wooden canoes work the Arabian Sea. Plentiful rivers and backwaters, with their unique, basket weave houseboats. Beautiful, more temperate hills and mountains terraced to grow tea, pepper, rubber, coffee, rice and cardamom around historical hill stations.

Nature reserves where tigers may lurk alongside many strange and wonderful beasts such as the Malabar Giant Squirrel and Frog Mouthed Owl.

Vividly coloured clothing, buildings and vegetation. Ayurveda medicine and massage. Theatre and dance abound with the likes of Kathakali and Theyyams. Art is cherished with traditional and more modern art often influenced by the ancient temple art.

Kerala’s subtle cuisine is based on exotic fruit, coconuts, vegetables, seafood and spices.

Often called “God’s Own Country”, whether this is purely a tourism tag or because of the many religions living side by side with such tolerance or the beauty of the place or how legend says it was made, is not certain. It might be all of them. But Keralans are very proud of this title. And it fits this wonderful place, whatever your beliefs.

Kerala is colourful, busy, exciting and endlessly fascinating. Staring is a visitor’s favourite occupation here; very entertaining and calming.

An extraordinary and fabulous place to visit. You will find a serene, friendly people, who love to laugh, and are just waiting to meet you.