Kerala’s culture evolved into its vibrant and colourful form, mainly due to the varied lifestyle patterns which it adopted from the numerous dynasties which ruled the land. It is the perfect blending of ancient Tamil-Dravidian and Arya- Indian culture and was deeply influenced by Arab countries, China, Portugal, Holland, Japan and British. The presence of Tamil and Sanskrit elements also paved the way to many unique customs, rituals and practises in state. Buddhist influence bought Ayurveda and Kalarippayattu to Kerala, the conventional medical treatment and traditional martial art for which Kerala is famous for. Even the Kerala architecture, which is typical of gabled and tiled roof in buildings and the excessive use of wood with slanting designs and flora designs, is deeply influenced by Tibetan and Chinese, mainly due to its seclusion from the rest of India. The culture of kerala is composite and cosmopolitan with significant contributions from Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Though most of the people belong to the Dravidian race, this cosmopolitan culture evolved the culture of kerala which is of religious tolerance and religious spirit.
Arts and Crafts
As any other South Indian state, Kerala is respected for its rich arts and crafts heritage which is perfect blending of Aryan and Dravidian Influences. The most elegant examples of craft forms in kerala are temple idols, crafted lamps, huge bells, multi-storeyed lamps in temples which are made by the craftsmen from Viswakarma community from various parts of Kerala. You also get to see coir and coconut shell and coir products, snake boat model and wooden carvings, especially of sandalwood and rosewood. A vast bulk of handicrafts which includes polished coconut ashtrays, flower vases, purses and carved wooden furniture. Kerala is also famous for granite statues and beautiful hanging metal lamps which include elephant lamps, horse lamps and bird lamps. Another popular item which an art collector might go crazy is the paintings of elephants.
Kerala is the birthplace of plenty of dance forms, the list which even become countless. The major dance forms in Kerala include classical dance forms like Kathakali, Mohini Attam and Ottanthullal, theatre forms like Koodiyattam, Chakyar koothu and Krishnattam, and ritualistic rites like Theyyam, Christian art forms like Chavittu Nadakam, Christian traditional art forms like Margam Kali, and Muslim dance forms like Oppana. Ritual dances like Patayani, Poothanum Thirayum, Mudiyettu, group art forms like kannyarkali and Thiruvathirakkali, ritual arts like Tholppavakkoothu, kalamezhuthu pattu, kavadiyattom and a mask dance which is played in some districts during the state festival of Onam known as Kummattikkali makes kerala rich in culture.
Kerala is home to plenty of music forms which include both orchestration and music. The temple music, Melam is immensely popular in the temple festivals of kerala and Sopanam, is the religious classical music, for which kerala is well-known for. The typical Mappila Songs, music of the local Muslim community made a profound influence on the music culture of Kerala. Its music history will not be complete without poems which influenced even the culture of the state. The world of Music in Kerala is so vast that it is the home land of Pulluvan Pattu which is a folk music, Kathakali music, Ottanthullal songs, church choir, and so on. You can also see Aksharashlokam which were common in temple platforms during festivals.
Literature forms the major aspect of Kerala’s culture. Plenty of old works laid the foundation for the strength and depth of Modern Malayalam. The history of Malayalam literature can be dated back to 14th century when poets like Madhava Panikkar, Rama Panikkar and Sankara Panikkar left a huge footmark in the history of Malayalam literature. A major turnaround took place from 1970-1990 when the language and literature crossed the border of states. There were plenty of notable contributions during that time through Perumbatavam Sreedharan, M Krishnan Nair, P. Bhaskaran, Arundhati Roy and OV Vijayan. The second half of 20th century witnessed Jnanapit Award being conferred upon S. K. Pottekkad, G. Sankara Kurup and M. T. Vasudevan Nair who enriched the Malayalam literature. Later, Book Prize winner Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God Of Small Things’, a semi-autobiographical bestseller was set in a town named Aymenam in Kerala which earned international recognition.
Kerala is filled with people belonging to diverse religions and communities. Most of the population speak Malayalam while the rest of the people speak Tulu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and tribal language. Apart from the native Keralites, Kerala also has numerous ethnic communities which include Tulu, Tamil, Kannada, Telegu Konkani, Marathi, Guajarati, Sikh and Jews.
The diversity in taste and aroma of food differs with each and every region in kerala. However, the land is known for its flavoursome dishes which are spicy, crispy and aromatic. Incorporating each and every blessing which grows in their land, every dish is prepared using coconut, chillies, curry leaves, mustard seed, asafoetida and tamarind. A costal land, Kerala is regarded as a paradise for fish food freaks. Apart from that, some of the major dishes include Avial, Olan, Rasam, and Appam, Appam, Puttu and Payasam, a sweet dish.
The diversity of kerala is explicit in its religion too. Though the predominant religion is Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, there are considerable amount of people belonging to Buddhism, Judaism and Jainism. The state is not only known for its temples, but also for its huge number of mosques, churches and synagogues, which are part and parcel of the culture of Kerala.
Fairs & Festivals
Like all other parts of India, Kerala is a home to numerous festivals, local traditions and religious events which are of high social importance. The most important festivals that are celebrated in Kerala are Vishu, Onam, Thrikarthika, Christmas, Easter, Bakrid, Eid ul-Fitr, Deepavali and so on. Other festivals which are of high social importance in Kerala are Aranmula Vallamkali boat race, Champakulam boat race, Nehru Trophy Boat race, Thrissur Pooram, Indira Gandhi Boat race and so on. Kerala also has plenty of temple festivals which are exclusively unique to the region, temples or churches.
Ayurveda, a medical treatment holds a prominent place in the culture and traditions of kerala. The Ayurveda Vaidyas of kerala (practitioners of Ayurveda) had answers to almost all diseases from which the people of kerala suffered. Being the only state in which this medical system is practised with complete dedication, kerala offer extensive options in Ayurvedic medical tourism which works wonders on your body as well as mind.
An indigenous form of martial arts, kalarippayattu is the pride of kerala. The name is derived from ‘Kalari’ (place) and ‘payattu’ (exercise). Deeply influenced by the Brahminical past and Ayurvedic medicine, kalarippayattu is making a strong comeback among Keralites and attracting worldwide attention.
Kerala’s rich cultural heritage is explicit in the diverse dance, arts and cuisines it presents in front of the world.