Information about Kerala
|Capital of Kerala||Thiruvananthapuram|
|Area||38,863 sq. km (15,005 square mile)|
|Number of Districts in Kerala||14|
|Population Growth Rate||+ 9.42% (Decadal)|
|Density of Population||819 persons per sq.km|
|Sex Ratio (Females per 1000 Males)||1058|
|Infant Mortality rate||16 per 1000 live births|
|Literacy in Kerala||Males||Females||Total|
|Lok Sabha Constituencies||20|
|Rajya Sabha seats||9|
|Major Religions||Hinduism, Christianity, Islam|
|Location of Kerala||8° 18' & 12° 48' north latitude and 74° 52' & 77° 24' east longitude.Kerala is located in the south west corner of India.|
|Rivers of Kerala||44 - (41 west-flowing and 3 east-flowing)|
|Kerala Climate||Southwest Monsoons ( June - September )
North east Monsoons ( October, November )
Winter ( December - February )
Summer ( March - May )
|Forest Area||11,125.59 sq.km|
|Major Agricultural Produce||Spices, Rubber, Coconut, beverages like coffee, tea|
|Official Bird||Hornbill (Vezhambal)|
|Official Flower||The Indian laburnum (Kanikkonna)|
|Official Tree||Coconut Palm|
|Tourist Attractions||Natural Beauty, Ayurveda Treatment and Ayurvedic Massage, Backwater cruises, Cultural diversity, Art forms, Snake-boat races etc...|
|Universities in Kerala||
|Demographic data about Kerala provided are based on India Census 2001|
Kerala, also known as Keralam is a state located in the south-west region of India on the Malabar coast. It was formed on 1 November 1956 per the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi) with a population of 3.33 crore (33.3 million), it is bordered by Karnataka to the north and north-east, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Arabian Sea to the west. Thiruvananthapuram is the state capital among the 14 districts; other major cities include Kochi and Kozhikode.
The region had been a prominent spice exporter from 3000 BCE to 3rd century. The Chera Dynasty was the first powerful kingdom based in Kerala, though it frequently struggled against attacks by the neighbouring Cholas and Pandyas. During the Chera period Kerala remained an international spice trading center. Later, in the 15th century, the lucrative spice trade attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and eventually paved the way for the European colonisation of the whole of India. After independence, Travancore and Cochin joined the Republic of India and Travancore-Cochin was given the status of a state. Later, the state was formed in 1956 by merging the Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara.
At a population of 33,388,000 in 2011, the state has the lowest population growth rate; 3.44% and a density of 819 persons per km2. Kerala has the highest Human Development Index (HDI) in the country with 0.790 according to the Human Development Report 2011. It also has the highest literacy rate; 93.91%, the highest life expectancy; 74 years and the lowest sex ratio; 923 men per 1000 women among the Indian states. A survey in 2005 by Transparency International ranked it as the least corrupt state in the country. Kerala has witnessed significant emigration of its people, especially to the Persian Gulf countries during the Kerala Gulf boom, and its economy depends significantly on remittances from a large Malayali expatriate community. Hinduism is practised by the over half of the population, followed by Islam and Christianity, while majority of over 96% people speak Malayalam. It is considered as the "cleanest state in India", however, the morbidity rate is highest in the state at 118. Culture of the state which traces its roots from 3rd century CE is a synthesis of Aryan and Dravidian cultures, developed and mixed for centuries, under influences from other parts of India and abroad.
Production of pepper and natural rubber constitute prominent output in the total national output, as well as in the agricultural sector, coconut, tea, coffee, cashew, spices are important. As the state has 590 km of coastal belt, around 1.1 million people of the state are dependent on the fishery industry which contribute to 3% income of the state. With 145,704 kilometres (90,536 mi) of roads, the state constitutes 4.2% of total India's roadways. Waterways are also used as means of transportation while there are also three existing and two proposed international airports. The state has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine different languages; mainly English and Malayalam. Kerala is an tourist destination: the backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism, and tropical greenery are among its major attractions. National Geographic's Traveler magazine named Kerala as one of the "ten paradises of the world" and "50 must-see destinations of a lifetime"; Travel + Leisure listed it as "one of the 100 great trips for the 21st century".
The name Kerala takes the form Keralam in Malayalam, the main language of the state. Two thousand years ago, one of three states in the region was called Cheralam in Classical Tamil. K. M. George, a leading native Malayali linguist and historian of the language, has confirmed the widespread belief that Chera and Kera are variants of the same word. A 3rd-century BCE rock inscription by north Indian emperor Asoka the Great refers to the local ruler as Keralaputra (Sanskrit for "son of Kerala"; or "son of Chera[s]", with some semantic connection to coconuts). The Graeco-Roman trade map Periplus Maris Erythraei refers to this Keralaputra as Celobotra.
Prehistorical archaeological findings include dolmens of the Neolithic era in the Marayur area. They are locally known as "muniyara", derived from muni (hermit or sage) and ara (dolmen). Rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves (in Wayanad) are thought to date from the early to late Neolithic eras around 5000 BCE. Archaeological studies have identified many Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic sites in Kerala. The studies point to the indigenous development of the ancient Kerala society and its culture beginning from the Paleolithic age, and its continuity through Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic ages. However, foreign cultural contacts have assisted this cultural formation. The studies suggest possible relationship with Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.
Ancient religious texts
Parasurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna to part the seas and reveal Kerala.
According to Hindu mythology, the land of Kerala was recovered from the sea by Parasurama, an avatar of Vishnu; hence Kerala is also called Parasurama Kshetram (The Land of Parasurama). Parasurama was an axe-wielding warrior sage. He threw his axe across the sea, and the water receded as far as it reached. According to legend this new area of land extended from Gokarna to Kanyakumari. Consensus among more scientific geographers agrees that a substantial portion of this area was indeed under the sea in ancient times. The legend later expanded, and found literary expression in the 17th or 18th century with Keralolpathi, which traces the origin of aspects of early Kerala society, such as land tenure and administration, to the story of Parasurama. However, another much earlier Puranic character associated with Kerala is Mahabali, an Asura and a prototypical king of justice, who ruled the earth from Kerala. He won the war against the Devas, driving them into exile. The Devas pleaded before Lord Vishnu, who took his fifth incarnation as Vamana and pushed Mahabali down to Patala (the netherworld) to placate the Devas. There is a belief that, once a year during the Onam festival, Mahabali returns to Kerala.
However, the Matsya Purana, which is among the oldest of the 18 Puranas, makes the Malaya Mountains of Kerala (and Tamil Nadu) the setting for the story of Lord Matsya, the first incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and King Manu, the first man and the king of the region. The earliest Sanskrit text to mention Kerala by name is the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rigveda. It is also mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two great Hindu
Agriculture in Kerala has passed through many changing phases. The major change occurred in the 1970s, when production of rice reduced due to increased availability of rice supply all over India and decreased availability of labour supply. Consequently, investment in rice production decreased and a major portion of the land was shifted for the cultivation of perennial tree crops and seasonal crops. Profitability of crops is reducing due to shortage of farm labourers, the high price of land and the uneconomic size of operational holding areas.
Kerala produces 97% of the national output of black pepper and accounts for 85% of the area under natural rubber in the country. Coconut, tea, coffee, cashew, and spices—including cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg—comprise a critical agricultural sector. The key agricultural staple is rice, with varieties grown in extensive paddy fields. Home gardens comprise a significant portion of the agricultural sector. Related animal husbandry is also important, and is touted by proponents as a means of alleviating rural poverty and unemployment among women, the marginalised, and the landless. The state government promotes these activity via educational campaigns and the development of new cattle breeds such as the Sunandini.
A fisherman in rural Kerala
With 590 km of coastal belt, 400,000 hectares of inland water resources and about 220,000 active fishermen, Kerala is one of the leading producers of fish in India. According to 2003–04 reports, about 1.1 million people earn their livelihood from fishing and allied activities such as drying, processing, packaging, exporting and transporting fisheries. The annual yield of the sector was estimated as 608,000 tons in 2003–04. This contributes to about 3% of the total economy of the state. In 2006, about 22% of the total Indian marine fishery yield was from the state. During the southwest monsoon, a suspended mud bank would be developed along the shore, which in turn leads to calm ocean water and hence peak output from the fishery industry. This phenomenon is locally called chakara. The fish landings consist of a large variety: pelagic species; 59%, demersal species; 23%, crustaceans and molluscs.
Main article: Roads in Kerala
KSRTC is the major agency providing long-haul public bus service in Kerala.
Kerala has 145,704 kilometres (90,536 mi) of roads; it accounts for 4.2% of India's total. This translates to about 4.62 kilometres (2.87 mi) of road per thousand population, compared to an average of 2.59 kilometres (1.61 mi) in the country. Roads in Kerala include 1,524 km of national highway; it is 2.6% of the nation's total, 4341.6 km of state highway and 18900 km of district roads. Most of Kerala's west coast is accessible through two national highways: NH 47 and NH 17, and the eastern side is accessible through various state highways. There is also a hill highway proposed, to make easy access to eastern hills. National Highway 17 with the longest stretch of 421 km connects Edapally to Panvel; it starts from Kochi and passes through Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod before entering Karnataka.
The Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining and expanding the state highways system and major district roads. The Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP), which includes the GIS-based Road Information and Management Project (RIMS), is responsible for maintaining and expanding the state highways in Kerala; it also oversees a few major district roads. Traffic in Kerala has been growing at a rate of 10–11% every year, resulting in high traffic and pressure on the roads. Road density is nearly four times the national average, reflecting the state's high population density. Kerala's annual total of road accidents is among the nation's highest. The accidents are mainly the result of the narrow roads and irresponsible driving. 
The Indian Railways' Southern Railway line runs through the state connecting most of the major towns and cities except those in the highland districts of Idukki and Wayanad. Major railway transport between Beypore–Tirur began on 12 March 1861, from Shoranur–Ernakulam in 1902, from Shenkottai–Punalur on 26 November 1904, from Nilambur-Shoranur in 1927, from Punalur–Thiruvananthapuram on 4 November 1931, from Ernakulam–Kottayam in 1956, from Kottayam–Kollam in 1958, from Thiruvananthapuram–Kanyakumari in 1979 and from Thrissur–Guruvayur in 1994.
The railway network in the state is controlled by three out of six divisions of Southern Railway; Trivandrum Railway Division, Palakkad Railway Division and Madurai Railway Division. Thrissur(TCR) is the busiest railway station in the state in number of trains arriving followed by Aluva (AWY) and Ernakulam Junction(ERS) and second busiest in the Southern Railway Zone after Chennai Central.Shornur Junction(SRR) is the largest platformed station of Kerala.  Kerala's major railway stations are Kannur(CAN), Kozhikode (CLT), Tirur(TIR), Shornur Junction(SRR), Palakkad Junction(PGT), Thrissur(TCR), Aluva(AWY), Ernakulam Town (North)(ERN), Ernakulam Junction (South)(ERS), Alappuzha(ALLP), Kottayam(KTYM), Tiruvalla (TRVL), Chengannur(CNGR), Kayamkulam Junction(KYJ),Kollam Junction(QLN)and Thiruvananthapuram Central(TVC).
Cochin International Airport (CIAL)
State Water Transport Department is the main agency providing inland water transport facilities.
Kerala has three major international airports; Trivandrum International Airport, Cochin International Airport and Calicut International Airport. Two international airports were proposed, at Kannur and Pathanamthitta as of 2008. The Cochin International Airport is the busiest and largest in the state, and was the first Indian airport to be incorporated as a public limited company; it was funded by nearly 10,000 non-resident Indians from 30 countries. Trivandrum International Airport was the first international airport in an Indian non-metro city.[
Inland water transport
As Kerala has numerous backwaters, waterways are used for commercial inland navigation. The transportation is mainly done with country craft and passenger vessels. There are 67 navigable rivers in the state. The total length of the inland waterways in the state is 1687 km. The main constraints to the expansion of inland navigation are lack of depth in the waterway caused by silting, lack of maintenance of navigation system and bank protection, accelerated growth of the water hyacinth, lack of modern inland craft terminals, and lack of a cargo handling system. A 205 km canal, National Waterway 3, runs between Kottapuram and Kollam.
Main article: Education in Kerala
Hardware training for students given by "IT@SCHOOL" project
The University of Kerala's administrative building in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics flourished between the 14th and 16th centuries. In attempting to solve astronomical problems, the Kerala school independently created a number of important mathematics concepts including results—series expansion for trigonometric functions. Following the instructions of the Wood's despatch of 1854, both the princely states, Travancore and Cochin, launched mass education drives with the support from different agencies mainly based on castes and communities and introduced a system of grant-in-aid to attract more private initiatives. The efforts by leaders, Narayana Guru and Ayyankali, towards the socially discriminated castes in the state, with the help of community-based organisations like Nair Service Society, SNDP, Muslim Mahajana Sabha, Yoga Kshema Sabha (of Nambudiris) and different congregations of Christian churches, led to developement in the mass education of Kerala.
In 1991, Kerala became the first state in India to be recognised as a completely literate state, though the effective literacy rate at that time was only 90%. As of 2007, the net enrolment in elementary education was almost 100 per cent and was almost balanced among different sexes, social groups and regions, unlike other states of India. The state topped the Education Development Index (EDI) among 21 major states in India in the year 2006–2007. According to the first Economic Census, conducted in 1977, 99.7% of the villages in Kerala had a primary school within 2 km, 98.6% had a middle school within 2 km and 96.7% had a high school or higher secondary school within 5 km.
The educational system prevailing in the state schooling is for 10 years, which are streamlined into lower primary, upper primary and secondary school stages with a 4+3+3 pattern. After 10 years of secondary schooling, students typically enroll in Higher Secondary Schooling in one of the three major streams—liberal arts, commerce or science. Upon completing the required coursework, students can enroll in general or professional under-graduate (UG) programmes. The majority of the public schools are affiliated with the Kerala State Education Board. Other familiar educational boards are the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), and the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). English is the language of instruction in most self-financing schools, while government and government-aided schools offer English or Malayalam. Though the education cost is generally considered low in Kerala, according to the 61st round of the National Sample Survey (2004–2005), per capita spending on education by the rural households in Kerala was reported to be INR41 for Kerala, more than twice the national average. The survey also revealed that the rural-urban difference in the household expenditure on education was much less in Kerala than in the rest of India.
Universities in Kerala are Kannur University, Mahatma Gandhi University, University of Calicut, National University of Advanced Legal Studies, University of Kerala, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala Agricultural University, and Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit. Premiere educational institutions in Kerala are the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode (one of the thirteen Indian Institutes of Management), the National Institute of Technology Calicut (NITC), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Thiruvananthapuram and the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST).
Kathakali Performance Close-up
A Kathakali artist
During Onam, Kerala's biggest celebration, Keralites create pookkalam (floral carpet) designs in front of their houses.
Thrissur Pooram festival
Thrissur Pooram festival
A mohiniattam performance
The annual snake boat race is performed during Onam Celebrations on the Pamba River
Main article: Culture of Kerala
The culture of Kerala is composite and cosmopolitan in nature and it's an integral part of Indian culture. It has been elaborated through centuries of contact with neighboring and overseas cultures. However, the geographical insularity of Kerala from the rest of the country has resulted in development of a distinctive lifestyle, art, architecture, language, literature and social institutions. There are around 10,000 festivals celebrated in the state. The Malayalam calendar, a solar calendar started from 825 CE in Kerala, finds common usage in planning agricultural and religious activities.
Main article: Arts of Kerala
Kerala is home to a number of performance arts. These include five classical dance forms: Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Koodiyattom, Thullal and Krishnanattam, originated and developed in the temple theatres during the classical period under the patronage of royal houses. Kerala natanam, Kaliyattam, Theyyam, Koothu and Padayani are other dance forms associated with the temple culture of the region. Some traditional dance forms such as Margamkali, Parichamuttu and Chavittu nadakom are popular among the Christians, while Oppana and Duffmuttu are popular among the Muslims of the state.
Development of classical music in Kerala is attributed to the contributions it received from the traditional performance arts associated with the temple culture of Kerala. Development of the indigenous classical music form, Sopana Sangeetham, illustrates the rich contribution that temple culture has made to the arts of Kerala. Carnatic music dominates Keralite traditional music. This was the result of Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma's popularisation of the genre in the 19th century. Raga-based renditions known as sopanam accompany kathakali performances. Melam; including the paandi and panchari variants, is a more percussive style of music: it is performed at Kshetram-centered festivals using the chenda. Panchavadyam is a different form of percussion ensemble, in which artists use five types of percussion instrument. Kerala's visual arts range from traditional murals to the works of Raja Ravi Varma, the state's most renowned painter. Most of the castes and communities in Kerala have rich collections of folk songs and ballads associated with a variety of themes; Vadakkan Pattukal (Northern Ballads), Thekkan pattukal (Southern Ballads), Vanchi pattukal (Boat Songs), Mappila Pattukal (Muslim songs) and Pallipattukal (Church songs) are a few of them.
Main article: Cuisine of Kerala
Kerala cuisine has a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared using fish, poultry and meat. Culinary spices have been cultivated in Kerala for millennia and they are characteristic of its cuisine. Rice is a dominant staple that is eaten at all times of day. Breakfast dishes are frequently based on the rice preparations idli, puttu Idiyappam, or pulse-based vada or tapioca. These may be accompanied by chutney, kadala, payasam, payar pappadam, Appam, egg masala and fish curry. Lunch dishes include rice and curry along with rasam, pulisherry and sambar. Sadhya is a vegetarian dish, often served on a banana leaf and followed with a cup of payasam. Popular snacks include banana chips, yam crisps, tapioca chips, unniyappam and kuzhalappam. Non-vegetarian dishes, including those with beef and pork, are popular in the state. Sea food specialities include karimeen, prawn, shrimp and other crustacean dishes.
Malayalam literature is medieval in origin and includes such figures as the 14th-century Niranam poets (Madhava Panikkar, Sankara Panikkar and Rama Panikkar), and the 17th-century poet Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan, whose works mark the dawn of both modern Malayalam language and poetry. Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar and Kerala Varma Valiakoi Thampuran are noted for their contribution to Malayalam prose. The "triumvirate of poets" (Kavithrayam): Kumaran Asan, Vallathol Narayana Menon, and Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer, are recognised for moving Keralite poetry away from archaic sophistry and metaphysics, and towards a more lyrical mode.
In the second half of the 20th century, Jnanpith winning poets and writers like G. Sankara Kurup, S. K. Pottekkatt, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, M. T. Vasudevan Nair and O. N. V. Kurup had made valuable contributions to the modern Malayalam literature. Later, writers like O. V. Vijayan, Kamaladas, M. Mukundan, Arundhati Roy, had gained international recognition.
Elephants have been an integral part of culture of the state. Kerala is home to the largest domesticated population of elephant in India—about 700 Indian elephants, owned by temples as well as individuals. These elephants are mainly employed for the processions and displays associated with festivals celebrated all around the state. About 10,000 festivals are celebrated in the state annually and some animal lovers have sometimes raised concerns regarding the overwork of domesticated elephants. In Malayalam literature, elephants are referred to as the 'sons of the sahya. The elephant is the state animal of Kerala and is featured on the emblem of the Government of Kerala.
Main article: Media in Kerala
The media, telecommunications, broadcasting and cable services are regulated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The National Family Health Survey – 3, conducted in 2007, ranked Kerala as a state with the highest media exposure in India. Dozens of newspapers are published in Kerala, in nine major languages, but principally Malayalam and English. Most widely circulating Malayalam-language newspapers are Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Madhyamam, Deshabhimani, Mangalam, Kerala Kaumudi, Chandrika, Thejas, Janayugam, Janmaboomi, Deepika and Siraj Daily. Major Malayalam periodicals include Mathrubhumi, India Today Malayalam, Madhyamam Weekly, Grihalakshmi, Vanitha, Dhanam, Chithrabhumi, and Bhashaposhini.
Doordarshan is the state-owned television broadcaster. Multi system operators provide a mix of Malayalam, English and international channels via cable television. Some of the popular Malayalam television channels are Asianet, Surya TV, Kiran TV, Mazhavil Manorama, Manorama News, Indiavision, Kairali TV, Kairali WE, Kairali People, Yes Indiavision, Asianet News, Asianet Plus, Amrita TV, Reporter, Jaihind, Jeevan TV, and Media One TV. Television serials, reality shows and the Internet have become major sources of entertainment and information for the people of Kerala. A Malayalam version of Google News was launched in September 2008. A sizeable "people's science" movement has taken root in the state, and such activities as writers' cooperatives are becoming increasingly common.:2 BSNL, Reliance Infocomm, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Tata Docomo and Aircel are the major cell phone service providers in the state. Broadband Internet services are widely available throughout the state; some of the major ISPs are BSNL, Asianet Satellite communications, Reliance Communications, Airtel and VSNL. According to the Telecom Regulatory Commission of India (TRAI) report, as of January 2012 the total number of wireless phone subscribers in Kerala is about 34.3 million and the wireline subscriber base is at 3.2 million, accounting for the telephone density of 107.77. Unlike in many other States, the urban-rural divide is not visible in Kerala with respect to mobile phone penetration.
Malayalam films carved a niche for themselves in the Indian film industry with the presentation of social themes. Directors from Kerala, like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, John Abraham, and G. Aravindan, have made a considerable contribution to the Indian parallel cinema. Kerala has also given birth to numerous actors, such as Bharath Gopi, Prem Nazir, Mammotty, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Murali, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Cochin Haneefa, Thilakan and Nedumudi Venu. Late Malayalam actor Prem Nazir holds the world record for having acted as the protagonist of over 720 movies. Since 1980s, actors Mammootty and Mohanlal have dominated the movie industry; Mammootty has won three national awards while Mohanlal has two to his credit.
Main article: Sports in Kerala
A kalaripayattu practitioner.
By 21st century, almost all of the native sports and games from Kerala have either disappeared or become just an art form performed during local festivals; including Poorakkali, Padayani, Thalappandukali, Onathallu, Parichamuttukali, Velakali, Kilithattukali etc. However, Kalaripayattu, regarded as "the mother of all martial arts in the world", as an exception was practised as indigenous martial sport. Another traditional sport of Kerala is the boat race, especially the race of Snake boats.
Cricket and football become popular sports in the state; both were introduced in Malabar during the British colonial period in the 19th century. Cricketers, like Tinu Yohannan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Abey Kuruvilla, found places in the national cricket team. However, the Kerala cricket team had never won or performed well at the Ranji Trophy. A cricket club from Kerala, the Kochi Tuskers, played in the Indian Premier League's third season. However, the team was disbanded after the season because of conflict of interests among its franchises. Kerala had also accomplished in the national football, and had also produced many notable footballers, like I. M. Vijayan, C. V. Pappachan, V. P. Sathyan, and Jo Paul Ancheri. The Kerala state football team had won the Santhosh Trophy five times; in 1973, 1992, 1993, 2001 and 2004. They were also the runner-ups for seven times, a record they share with the state team of Goa.
Among the prominent athletes hailing from the state, P. T. Usha, Shiny Wilson and M.D. Valsamma are both Padma Shri as well as Arjuna Award winners while K. M. Beenamol and Anju Bobby George are Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna as well as Arjuna Award winners. T. C. Yohannan, Suresh Babu, Sinimol Paulose, Angel Mary Joseph, Mercy Kuttan, K. Saramma, K. C. Rosakutty and Padmini Selvan are the other Arjuna Award winners from Kerala. Volleyball is another popular sport and is often played on makeshift courts on sandy beaches along the coast. Jimmy George was a notable Indian volleyball player, rated in his prime as among the world's ten best players. Other popular sports include badminton, basketball and kabaddi.
Its culture and traditions, coupled with its varied demographics, have made Kerala one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. National Geographic's Traveller magazine names Kerala as one of the "ten paradises of the world" and "50 must see destinations of a lifetime". Travel and Leisure names Kerala as "One of the 100 great trips for the 21st century". Kerala's beaches, backwaters, mountain ranges and wildlife sanctuaries are the major attractions for both domestic and international tourists. The city of Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourists in Kerala.
Until the early 1980s, Kerala was a relatively unknown destination to other states of the country. But in 1986 the government of Kerala declared tourism as an industry and it was the first state in India to do so. Marketing campaigns launched by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, the government agency that oversees tourism prospects of the state, resulted in the growth of the tourism industry. Many advertisements branded Kerala with a catchy tagline Kerala, God's Own Country. Today, Kerala tourism is a global brand and regarded as one of the destinations with highest recall. In 2006, Kerala attracted 8.5 million tourist arrivals, an increase of 23.68% over the previous year, making the state one of the fastest-growing destinations in the world. In 2011, tourist inflow to Kerala crossed the 10-million mark.
Ayurvedic tourism became very popular since the 1990s, and private agencies like Kottakkal Arya Vydyasala played a notable role in tandem with the initiatives of Tourism Department. Kerala is known for its ecotourism initiatives and in this segment it promotes mountaineering, trekking and bird-watching programmes in the Western Ghats as the major products. As of 2005, the state's tourism industry was a major contributor to the state's economy, which is currently growing at a rate of 13.31%. The revenue from tourism increased fivefold between 2001 and 2011 and crossed the INR190 billion mark in 2011. Moreover, the industry provides employment opportunity to approximately 1.2 million people.
The most popular tourist attractions in the state are beaches, backwaters and hill stations. Major beaches are at Kovalam, Varkala, Kappad, Muzhappilangad and Bekal. Popular hill stations are at Munnar, Wayanad, Wagamon, Peermade, Nelliampathi and Ponmudi. Kerala's ecotourism destinations include 12 wildlife sanctuaries and two national parks: Periyar Tiger Reserve, Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary, and Eravikulam National Park are the most popular among them. The "backwaters" are an extensive network of interlocking rivers (41 west-flowing rivers), lakes, and canals that center around Alleppey, Kumarakom, Kollam and Punnamada (where the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in August). Padmanabhapuram Palace and the Mattancherry Palace are two notable heritage sites. According to a survey conducted among foreign tourists, Elephants, fireworks display and huge crowd are the major attractions of Thrissur Pooram.