History and Geography
Kerala is in the extreme south-west of the Indian subcontinent. When the independent India amalgamated small states together Travancore and Cochin states were integrated to form Travancore-Cochin state on 1 July, 1949. However, Malabar remained under the Madras province. Under the State's reorganisation Act-1956, Travancore-Cochin state and Malabar were united to form Kerala State on 1 November, 1956. Kerala's culture has been an integral part of the mainstream of Indian culture. In between the high Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west, the width of the state varies from 35 km to 120 km. According to the geographical features, the State can be divided into hills, valleys, midland plains and costal belt. Kerala is rich in rivers and backwaters. 44 rivers (41 west flowing and 3 east flowing) cut across Kerala with their innumerable tributaries and benches. The backwaters form an attractive and economically valuable feature of Kerala.
Kerala is the home of many colourful festivals. Most of them have a religious fervour inspired by Hindu mythology. Onam is the most typical of Kerala festivals, which coincides with the harvest season. It is now celebrated on astronomical New Year Day. Navarathri is celebrated as Saraswathi Pooja in Kerala. Maha Shivarathri is celebrated on the banks of Periyar River as a spectacular festival, which is compared to Kumbhamela. The 41 days festival, which coincides with Makaravilakku in Sabarimala Ayyappan temple, attracts lakhs of people from India and abroad. The Vallamkali or boat race is typical of Kerala. All the boat festivals have a religious origin except Nehru Trophy Boat race conducted in the Punnamada Lake. Vadakkumnatha temple at Thrissur celebrates Pooram festivals in April every year with an impressive procession of caparisoned elephants and display of unparalleled pyrotechnics. Main Christian festivals are Christmas and Easter. Maramon convention, held every year on the Pumba riverbed, is the biggest gathering of Christians in Asia. The Muslims celebrate Milade Shareef, Ramzan fasting, Id ul Fitr and Bakr-id.
Tourism to Kerala is what apple growing is to Himachal Pradesh. Both these regions offer all the pre-conditions for sustained and successful growth of the respective activities. The factors stimulating a flourishing tourism sector include, scenic splendour, moderate climate, clean environment, friendly and peace loving people with high tolerance for cultural diversity and the potential for creating unique tourism products. Kerala has emerged as the most acclaimed tourist destination in the country. Beaches, warm weather, back waters, hill stations, water falls, wild life, Ayurveda, year round festivals and diverse flora and fauna make Kerala a unique destination for tourists. The Department of Tourism, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, District Tourism Promotion Council, Bakal Tourism Development Corporation, Local Government and Private Sector are the major players in the field. The thrust areas presently being looked into are for the development of village tourism, MICE tourism (meeting, incentives, conventions and events/ exhibitions/trade shows), heritage tourism, eco-tourism and medical tourism. Thenmala Eco-Tourism project features a tourist facilitation centre, shop court garden, plazas, picnic area, natural trail, rock climbing, river crossing amphi theatre, restaurant, suspension bridge, lotus pond, musical dancing fountain, sculpture garden, deer rehabilitation centre, boating, battery powered vehicles, etc.
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