If God had to create a country for himself, what would it be like? It is quite obvious that it would be spellbindingly beautiful!? Would it have misty blue-mountains so high that you could almost touch the white clouds?, Striped with thin ribbons of pristine clear-mountain water streams flowing down the lush green slope, the tropic breeze carrying the moist fragrance of petrichor reminding the whole of flora and fauna that it rained someplace far, coupled with the faint scent of wild summer jasmine flowers. Perhaps it would also have spotted deer that hopped between tropic wild trees and lush grass field, massive and majestic herds of elephant and wild bison that moved like boulders, only gently. The piercing eyes of magnificent tigers watching over the flora and lion tailed macaques watching over the tigers seated atop a tree! Perhaps a place that is decorated by the extravagantly colored, melodic birds’ chirping, to whose tunes the God’s eyes would wake up to in the morning.. And the mist to blanket the mountains just so that they don’t feel cold at night, falling asleep to the rhythms of endless croaking of frogs and the sweet tropic lullaby of chirping crickets. The fresh pristine water from the mountains rendezvoused with the calmness of the mighty sea on a date at the backwaters.
If God had a country of his own, he would perhaps call it Kerala. The state of Kerala in India is characterized by its unique tropical evergreen forests of Western Ghats. Western Ghats, A not-so-tiny-strip of natural abundance that spans over 162,000sq km along the South-western coast of India is among the 8 hottest biodiversity hotspots of the world. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is home to over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insects species and 290 freshwater fish species. It is likely that many undiscovered species still live in the dense tropical rainforests of Western Ghats.
Originally called “Keralam” is most popularly derived from two Sanskrit words, “Kera” and “Alayam”. “Kera” meaning Coconuts and “Alayam” meaning abode – The land of Coconuts, standing true to the Indian heritage as being the birthplace of Coconuts. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Parashurama, the 6th Avatar(Mortal Incarnate) of one of the three holy deities, Lord Vishnu, threw his mighty axe into the sea claiming the land from the god of water – Varuna. According to legend, this claimed land stretched from modern day Gokarna (known for its pristine serial beaches) up until Kanyakumari, coincidentally where Western Ghats end (prominent point of mainland India in the south). The claimed land was way too saline for habitation, thus the Lord of Snakes – Vasuki was invoked, who spewed his holy venom and turned the barren, saline land into lush green fertile land! Snakes were thus handed the stewardship of the newly created land for protection and preservation. Even to-date, Snakes are considered holy and, are worshipped and well regarded across Kerala with special accordance given to snakes at almost every temple. As a matter of fact, Western Ghats are home to over 260 species of reptiles including The King Cobra – the longest venomous snake, which primarily feeds on other snakes – popularly believed to keep the population of snakes in check, just so that it don’t bother people (Thus the King, with the hood!).
What makes it even more fascinating about Kerala is its role in shaping the world itself – in its entirety. Kerala has been the home to some of the most priced commodities known to mankind – the spices, with spice trading dating back as early as 3000BC from its ports. According to the ancient Sumerian texts, Kerala was referred to as the “Garden of Spices” for its monopoly of being able to grow widest variety of Spices. Some of the most prominent and exotic tropical fruit crops were first cultivated by humans in this small strip of land. In the last centuries of BCE, Kerala had already become prominent spice trading region for Romans and Greeks. Up until the 16th century when the sole access of European Markets to Asia – Constantinople (Modern day Istanbul) fell at the might of Ottomon Turks, Europeans were forced to find alternative routes to re-establish connect with the ports of Kerala, India and its spices – setting the great age of naval-exploration in motion, that lead to discovering many untouched lands across the world, including Americas, Australia, Asia-Pacific islands, and even Antarctica., which was followed by the subsequent colonial age that drastically changed the face of the world.
Because of the versatile exposure to many cultures of the world thanks to trade, some of the ancient cultures of the world found their home in Kerala. The Israeli connection to Kerala dates back to 600BC, a sizeable population of Israelis lived in Kerala all throughout until the time when Israel was created recently; upon which most of the population migrated back to Israel as their dream of having a home country was realized. Thomas the Apostle (one of the 12 apostles of Jesus) travelled to Kerala with Persian traders in 50AD, and baptized several people, the descendents of whom live in Kerala even today and are known as St. Thomas Christians. Arab merchants also brought the message of Islam to the land, wherein a mosque which was built in 629AD stands even today. It is also the oldest mosque of India. Kerala also boasts of having the oldest Jewish Synagogue – Paradesi Synagogue (1568AD) in whole of Commonwealth nations. This has been described as a great testament of acceptability and, the extraordinary ability to tolerate and embrace cultures that were alien to its land. A testament that stands even to date – a sample of India’s own innate character of embracing people of differences.
Fast forward to present, Kerala is the most literate state of India with 94% literacy rate, it has the highest human development index of 0.712 in 2015 in India (wherein the life expectancy, per capita income and education is taken into consideration). HDI of Kerala is comparable to some of the current European countries. It has India’s highest life expectancy of 77 years! Its agricultural output of Spices, Coconuts, Tea, Coffee and Cashew contributes significantly to India’s GDP.
Kerala remains a testimony to what Humans can achieve with the abundant divine blessings of Mother Nature. Often called “God’s Own Country”; for its natural beauty, mind boggling bio-diversity, fascinating cultural heritage, its people and history that pre-dates humans themselves. One must witness it to believe it.
When God wanted a country for himself, he created Kerala.