Kerala (photo: Michael J.L. La Civita)
Scattered throughout Kerala are churches and chapels of many styles. This Syro-Malabar church in the diocese of Kanjirapally features the traditional Syro-Malabar cross. It depicts the dove of the Holy Spirit descending upon the cross, which sprouts from a lotus flower, an ancient Indian symbol. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
The Syro-Malankara Church, which has its roots in the Syrian Orthodox Church, has retained most of its ancient traditions. The unique cross is one. (photo: Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
Fact Sheet: KERALA
State Capital: Trivandrum
Chief cities: Trivandrum, Calicut, Allepey, Ernakulam, Quilon, Trichur
Population: 30 million
Languages: Malayalam (language of the mountain peoples), English
State Government: India is a parliamentary democracy; Keralas elected state government is Marxist
Chief religions: Hindu (60%), Christian (20%), Muslim (20%)
Natural resources: Rubber, coffee, tea, cardamom, cashews, pepper and seafood
The Land and the People
Kerala, on the southwestern coast of India, is a lush, color-drenched land of sun and warmth, of temples, mosques and churches, of legends and traditions. St. Thomas the apostle arrived here in the year 52, Jews have lived here since the first century and Muslims claim that a mosque was built here in the lifetime of Mohammed. As Kerala lay midway along the spice route between Europe and China, the Roman observer Pliny called the ancient city of Muziris the first commercial center of India. In later centuries came the Portuguese, Dutch, French and English.
Keralas sandy coast runs 360 miles along the Arabian Sea, and rugged high ghats form a coastal range separating Kerala from Tamil Nadu.
It is one of the most crowded spots on the earth, squeezing a population larger than Californias into a tenth of the space. But Keralas villages are cleaner than almost any other part of India. Its villages are spread out. Each family lives on their own land unlike most Indian villages, which are dense. Health standards are high, and the birth rate is a third lower than the national average; the infant mortality rate is two thirds less and life expectancy is 14 years longer. In this state that spends 40 percent of its budget on education, virtually every child attends at least a few years of school, which is free through the 10th year. There are also more than 40 newspapers in the state, reflecting the fact that the people of Kerala are by far Indias most literate.
People could be said to be the states most valuable export. In 1988 Malayalis working in Arab nations in the Persian Gulf pumped 10 billion rupees ($840 million) into Keralas otherwise sluggish economy. Of course, their lives in that region were severerly affected by Iraqs invasion of Kuwait and its subsequent war with the United States and allied forces. There were an estimated 180,000 Indians working in Kuwait. More than 120,000 of them were from Kerala.