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Coconut Country

Most of us can recall the fable from our childhood in which a father gives his 3 sons a rupee each and asks them to fill the room up using that one rupee. The youngest child very cleverly buys a candle and some flowers with that amount and neatly places the candle amidst a decoration of flowers. He then lights up the candle and voila, the room gets filled with soft light emanating from the lighted candle. The child’s father becomes so happy and content with his son’s wit and presence of mind that he passes on all his fortune to the latter. Kerala is one such place which is synonymous to that clever young child. It embodies a unique, clever and attractive kind of persona which gets itself noticed every single time one thinks about popular travel destinations in India. Kerala is a small state in the southern part of India which has become one of the most important tourist destinations in the world of tourism today. In terms of numbers, Kerala is spread over 38,863 sq kms (13% of the total area of Maharashtra). Kerala is ranked 22 when it comes to its size on the national cartograph but when it comes to tourism this minuscule state is a giant in terms of its attractive features and popularity. It is one of the few states in India which is competing neck and neck with Rajasthan in the exciting domain of tourism. As per the data collected in the year 2011 it has been found out that approximately 13 lakh international tourists visited Rajasthan and about 7 lakh 25 thousand international tourists visited Kerala in the same year. Rajasthan is 10 times bigger in size compared to Kerala. In addition to that Rajasthan comprises of a host of ancient palaces, forts and temples but in spite of not having all these features, Kerala has managed to rise like a phoenix only by means of its natural beauty and its attractive culture and tradition. It has thus managed to imprint its existence on the global map in its own characteristic style. Kerala has changed for the better in these past few years owing to the growth spurt of tourism in the state which ultimately resulted in the creation of about 11.5 lakh jobs, a feat which is highly contrasting when compared to the draining of the local workforce to the middle Eastern countries in the search of jobs in the 70’s and 80’s.Today tourism has picked up to such a great extent in Kerala that its website is available in 10 Indian languages & 11 foreign languages! There has been a miraculous 11% hike in the number of tourists flocking to Kerala, all in a span of one year-2010 to 2011.So what is so special about Kerala that ‘National Geographic’ included it in the list of the top 10 paradises? Let’s take a peek.

Kerala has a rich history which goes back to ancient times. There are many theories as to how this land came to be known as Kerala. One comes across this name in Atreya Rishi’s Rigveda. The the name Kerala is derived from the words ‘Kera Alam’ which means ‘land of coconut palms’. So basically coconut trees have a huge role to play in the nomenclature of this place! One also comes across this word in King Ashoka’s manuscripts in which he describes himself as ‘keral Putra’. As per mythology, Parshuram (the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu) needed a place for performing a penance and so he removed a part of the sea and the land which resulted was the Kerala we know today. Another snippet from mythology is that Bali’s (Legendary devotee Prahlad’s grandson) kingdom was situated in Kerala. He had even defeated the Gods and so developed a massive ego with the laurels he had achieved. In order to strip him off his narcissism and overtly inflated ego Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as monkey and asked King Bali to hand over 3 footsteps of land. The first footstep was on the earth, the second enveloped the sky and the 3rd footstep sent King Bali to the nether world. At that time Sri Hari Vishnu also gave a boon to King Bali that once every year he will be able to visit his kingdom by travelling from the nether world to his kingdom. This day is celebrated as ‘Onam’ in Kerala. Apart from all these mythological stories, it has also been found out that Kerala was a popular exporter of spices since 3000 BC. The Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians & the Egyptians had business relations with Kerala. It has also been said that at one point in time the Romans used to send ships filled with gold in order to buy Kerala’s black pepper. In the 15th century Vasco Da Gama set foot in Calicut, which was a port in Kerala and from there onwards European rule became established in India. Kerala was officially declared a state post-independence in the year 1956.

Apart from a colorful past, Kerala is also blessed with rich geographical features. On one side is the 4000 to 8000 ft. high western ghat (the Sahyadri mountain range) and on the other side are the rippling waters of the Bay of Bengal. There are a total of 44 rivers in Kerala, 41 of them flow towards the west & the remaining 3 towards the east. The world famous backwaters of Kerala have been created from these rivers, their tributaries and reservoirs. Clever marketing of these backwaters has catapulted Kerala on the global tourism map. Kerala’s backwaters are spread across 900 kms and comprise of huge reservoirs which receive water from 38 rivers. The prime attraction of these backwaters are the traditional kettuvallam boat rides. Made primarily from bamboos, these boats were mainly used for the transportation of spices & rice. This journey lasts for 3 days, hence there are provisions for lodging & food on board. It is this very concept which was suitably modified and crafted for tourists so that they too could experience the backwaters in a very unique way. In addition to all these things, Kerala is also blessed with a variety of vegetation, 90% of which is medicinal in nature. In this way Ayurveda has become the added speciality of Kerala. Therefore there has been a steady increase in the number of spas offering Panchakarma and all other kinds of Ayurvedic treatments in Kerala. Another interesting fact about Kerala is that 45% of India’s coconut cultivation comes from Kerala. The coconut tree forms an integral part of the local people in Kerala who use it for a variety of purposes ranging from food preparation to construction of shelters. The coir rope production industry of Kerala is a very important part of its economy.60% of the white coir produced in world comes from Kerala. It also is at the forefront when it comes to the production of black peppee.97% of Indian black pepper comes from Kerala.

Located in the southern part of India, Kerala exhibits a mixture of Aryan & Dravidian cultures. In the same way foreign cultures too have interspersed into the cultural fabric of Kerala. From music to food, Kerala continues to impress tourists perennially. The ‘Kathakali’ is a 500 year old dance form which has its origins in Kerala. The music and dance forms of Kerala are connected with each other through the temples situated there. The Padmanabh temple of Thiruvananthapuram & the Guruvayur temple of Thrissur showcase a beautiful symphony of the dance & music during festivals celebrated here. The ultra-special feature of these festivals is the inclusion of elephants in the proceedings. A symbol of affluence, power and prosperity, the elephant is like an inseparable element of the life of the people in Kerala. The elephant is therefore the ‘State animal’ of this region. The Guruvayur temple has more than 60 elephants. A special palace has been built for those elephants. Apart from these domesticated elephants, the wild elephants residing in the Periyar sanctuary have also become a popular tourist attraction. This sanctuary initially received protection as a result of the efforts of the Maharaja of Travancore. Located in the Cardamom hill range animals like stripped tigers, elephants, deer, Nilgiri Langurs etc. and more than 250 varieties of birds are found in this jungle. While boating in Periyar’s huge reservoir many a times one gets to see these animals.

Kerala’s food culture is as interesting as its geography. Rice is a staple food item amongst the locals here. Sweet dishes are prepared from a sweetened form of rice in almost all households in Kerala. In addition to idlis, appams, puttu, paysam and rassam, Kerala also boasts of finger licking fish preparations. Delicious local fare spread attractively on the banana leaf makes one’s mouth water instantly even in luxury hotels situated here. Another exciting feature of Kerala is the snake boat race which takes place in Alleppey every year on the second Saturday in the month of August. This race is known as Vallam Kali. These boats look like hooded snakes and each of them carries about 64 rowers who sit in the centre, in a straight line one behind the other. This race was first inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the year 1952.In a way Panditji was responsible for the creation of this race as many people had turned up in their boats to see him when he visited Alleppey and after experiencing the thrill of riding in these boats, Panditji offered silver memorabilia to those who won the race. Don’t forget that Veena World has a 4 day boat race special Kerala tour!!

After delving into all these facts and features of Kerala, it automatically becomes a ‘must see’ destination for one and all. A place which receives tremendous praise from tourists who come from all over the world, Kerala has carved a niche of its own. After visiting all the popular tourist attraction of Kerala, we will then proceed towards Kanyakumari where we will get to see the Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Kanyakumari temple, Triveni Sangam & Gandhi Mandap. If you are unable to go for a 10 day long tour then you can always opt for Veena World’s Kerala Jewels tour which is an 8 day tour. You can select the ‘I-Fly’ option for both these tours in the form of an all-inclusive package (includes airfare).In addition to that there is also a 9 day I-Fly magic tour to Kerala. Apart from all these tours, there are even special tours for newlyweds & women-the honeymoon special and women’s special tours to Kerala. So stop thinking and get ready to experience Kerala with Veena World by your side. Let’s celebrate the festival of tourism with Veena World!!

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