Did you know that Kerala is the greenest state in India? Paddy fields, coconut groves, tea plantations and lush jungle areas teeming with wildlife characterize the landscape. Many areas are surrounded by water: the backwaters, the Arabian sea and the artificial lakes of the dammed in rivers of the Western Ghats like Lake Periyar. There are beautiful long sand beaches where you may observe spectacular sunrises and sunsets over foaming breaking waves.
The people of Kerala are gracious, open-hearted and dignified. Kerala is the most prosperous state of India on many levels. Women enjoy a much higher status than elsewhere (perhaps due to the matri-lineal descent practiced there), whilst the literacy rate and the level of education are the highest in the country. The healthcare provisions are the best in India.
The social fabric is interesting as people of all creeds live together peacefully: Hindus, Muslims, Christians and (now very few) Jews. Altogether there are said to exist 330 million of deities, most of them are in fact nature deities, like snakes and other animals as well as trees, most of them are worhipped in rural shrines. Kerala is a modern state with very ancient cultural roots of which we may still appreciate the Dravidian temple architecture, a rich oral history and the traditions of music, dance, martial arts and special festivals.
There are wonderful Ayurvedic Spas everywhere where you may have your body almost pickled in a massage with medicinal herbal oils by highly profesional staff. Longer term treatments involving diet and lifestyle are also available and are often very reasonably priced.
Kerala is a feast for the senses: the sounds of temple drums, classical flute or violin music, muezzins calling for prayer, temple pujas and bhajans, Vishnu and Shiva mantras, women beating the dirt out of their washing in the backwaters, the smell of sensous perfumes, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli, rose…, a potpourri of the most exotic spices, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, mustard, black pepper, the sight of fishermen dressed in dhotis working the giant Chinese nets, street vendors opening coconuts to sell their water, fruit stalls, clothes stalls, lush backwater panoramas, migrant birds, Kathakali performances, the taste of the delicious spicy food based on fermented rice flour, lentils, coconut oil, chillies and spices, idlis, uttapams, dosas and sambar (ideal for vegans!)
Kerala is also the home of a leading modern day Indian saint: Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as Amma or the ‘hugging saint’. Her huge ashram was built on the spot where her humble family home used to be on a narrow land strip between the backwaters and the sea at Amritapuri. As a young girl Amma used to go into spontaneous trances of spiritual ecstasy that were confused with epileptic fits by her worried family. Amma is known to hug and console up to several thousand people per day. Her ashram can accommodate over 3000 people at any one time. Amma receives people from all nationalities and of all ages there and the high degree of organization of the ashram is fantastic thanks to the selfless seva of the devotees.
This and so much more encapsules the essence of Kerala, also known as ‘God’s own country’.