Three and a half years ago, I journeyed to Kerala to experience “God’s Own Country” for myself. I’d heard about Alleppey’s incredible backwaters, the adventures in Wayanad and beautiful hills for trekking in Munnar. A chance to try the best desserts in Kerala excited me. The beauty of India’s southern state was even better than expected, but it was the “human-scape” that impressed me even more.
“Human-scape” of Kerala over landscape
India is as vast and varied as you might expect from a country with more than 1.3 billion residents. Throughout the 29 states and seven union territories, there are many languages spoken and many different values systems. Among the 34.8 million Keralites, I noticed a few values that make the people of Kerala special.
In Kerala, the land is three times more densely settled than the rest of the country. It seems that it would be easy for education to fall by the wayside, but in January of 2016, Kerala became the first Indian state to achieve 100% primary education. This comes after a 1991 declaration that the entire state achieved literacy.
An article by The Christian Science Monitor states that many believe this culture of literacy dates to “to the Hindu rulers of the 19th century. The Queen of Trivandrum issued a royal decree in 1817 that said, ‘The state should defray the entire cost of the education of its people in order that there might be no backwardness in the spread of enlightenment.’”
Her legacy of literacy lives on.
Kerala is about the size of Maryland, which makes travel within the state relatively short and easy. If you want to travel even more quickly, though, air travel is the way to go. Cochin International Airport is the seventh busiest airport in India and welcomes more than 10 million passengers on a yearly basis. And they do it all on solar power.
I was blown away by the first solar-powered airport in the world and impressed by the innovative and forward thinking people of Kerala who made it happen in 2015.
Prior to visiting Kerala, I assumed it would look like the rest of the country in terms of religion, with most practicing Hinduism. While most Keralites are Hindu, the state boasts a greater variance in religion than the rest of the country. And although there are large numbers of Hindus, Muslims and Christians, the residents co-exist harmoniously with one another.
Kerala has a long legacy with the Christian faith. Christian roots date back to St. Thomas, apostle of Jesus. He arrived to share the Good News in 52AD and the Christian tradition remains strong today.
Kerala’s history with Judaism may be even longer. Some accounts say that Jews persecuted by the Romans arrived before St. Thomas. In Kochi, you can visit the Jewish Town and ancient synagogue, built in 1568, which is the oldest in India.
In a world where religions are constantly clashing, what I saw in Kerala was a great example of co-existence.
I’m from Texas and thought southern hospitality provided the best sort of welcome in the world. And then I visited Kerala. From the first stop at a hotel to the last, each venue went out of their way to make us feel special.
I drank from more coconuts in my two weeks in Kerala than I had in my almost 30-years prior. And I loved taking part in a Tilaka ceremony. As an expression of honor and welcome, a dot of fragrant paste made from sandalwood was placed on my forehead.
The traditional dances left me with wide eyes and a giant smile. And the chai wallah pouring streams of the hot, sweet and spicy tea from above his head into a tiny glass left me in awe.
At Pranavam Homestay, our hosts welcomed me as family and Rema’s home cooking brought tears to my eyes. (It was SO spicy and SO good!)
My visit to Kerala was transformed by the people I met. And my time was enhanced by the innovation of the residents to make this state an unexpected breath of fresh air. I hope you will have chance to experience it for yourself someday soon!
Kerala Tourism sponsored this post. All opinions are my own and I’ll never recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!
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