Welcome to Kerala
How would you describe a piece of emerald country which is a point of compulsive return for millions of sun, sand and backwater worshippers, coveted by the Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, the Portuguese and the English, but something that the Gods had claimed as their own eons back? Either by listing the wonders that are almost divine or by tracing a bit of mythology.
Legend has it that Parasurama, an avatar of the deity Vishnu, threw his axe across the Arabian sea, upon which it parted and revealed a utopia stretching from Gokarna to Kanyakumari, now known by many names including the local variant Keralam, the Greco-Roman title Celobotra and Parasurama Kshetram blessedly named after its mythological founding father.
As green or as blue as the eye can see in any direction, Kerala is blessed with God’s palette and this is not hyperbole. The reality of this wondrous state is not too far from lore. Honest hamlets, hill stations, Ayurveda retreats, wildlife preserves, cultural odysseys, spice capitals, energetic waterfalls, plantation home stays, magical festivals, and 100% literacy all happen when the towering Western Ghats, the industrious Arabian Sea, lagoons lakes and 44 rivers become the cradle of an ancient civilization that commercially dates back to earlier than 3000 BC and archaeologically even earlier. While you would be forgiven to think, this was a collection of places, when it’s actually just a single unique miracle. A heady tropical cocktail fit for divinity.
Rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves in Wayanad (North Kerala) are thought to date from the early to late Neolithic eras around 5000 BCE, home to an isolated culture of Proto-Dravidians, contemporary to the Harappan civilization. As per Sumerian records, Kerala was a major spice exporter as early as 3000 BC, drawing in the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians to the Muziris port, followed by the Arabs and Phoenicians. Each parley that left behind a distinct local imprint on culture, architecture, food and more. In the global trading circles this part of the world was called Malabar. In many parts of the world, the state is still known as the ‘Garden of Spices’.
Considered as one of the ten paradises of the world by National Geographic, this tiny sliver of a state is relentless at throwing up divine destinations – from the white cliffs of Varkala, the guiles of the Wynad, Tea estates of Munnar, the muse of Vasco Da Gama–Calicut, Tiger country at Periyar, the Venice of the East–Alleppey, the Ghats of Palakkad, and so on and so forth. With a globally connected, versatile culture capital like Kochi, impressive neighboring states and a reputation that simply grows stronger with time and thicker with fans, Kerala is best experienced in repeat editions and like slow food.
This is one journey, where going South simply and always means, getting the benchmarks up.