The history of Kerala goes back more than several millennia. Stone age carving in Edakkal Caves had pictorial writings believed to be dating to at least 5000 BC, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilization or settlement in this region. From as early as 3000 BC, Kerala had established itself as a major spice trade center. Kerala had direct contact across the Arabian Sea with all the major Red Sea ports and the Mediterranean ports as well as extending to ports in the Far East.The spice trade between Kerala and much of the world was one of the main drivers of the world economy. For much of history, ports in Kerala were the busiest (Muziris) among all trade and travel routes in the history of the world.
A 3rd-century-BC rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great attests to a Keralaputra. Around 1 BC the region was ruled by the Chera Dynasty, which traded with the Greeks, Romans and Arabs. The Tamil Chera dynasty, Ays and the Pandyan Empire were the traditional rulers of Kerala whose patriarchal dynasties ruled until the 14th century. The Cheras collapsed after repeated attacks from the neighboring Chola Empire and Rashtrakuta Empire. In the 8th century Adi Shankara was born in central Kerala, who travelled extensively across the Indian subcontinent, establishing institutions of Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Feudal Namboothiri Brahmin and Nair city-states subsequently gained control of the region.
Contact with Europeans after the arrival of Vasco Da Gama in 1498 gave way to struggles between colonial and native interests. In 1795, the area was under British dominion. After independence, the state of Kerala was created in 1956 from the former state of Travancore-Cochin, the Malabar district of Madras State, and the Kasaragod taluk of Dakshina Kannada.
There are myths concerning the origin of Kerala. One such myth is the creation of Kerala by Parasurama, a warrior sage. The Brahminical myth proclaims that Parasurama, an Avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of Kerala arose and was reclaimed from the waters.
He was the sixth of the ten avatars (incarnation) of Vishnu. The word Parasu means 'axe' in Sanskrit and therefore the name Parasurama means 'Ram with Axe'. The aim of his birth was to deliver the world from the arrogant oppression of the ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. He killed all the male Kshatriyas on earth and filled five lakes with their blood. After destroying the Kshatriya kings, he approached assembly of learned men to find a way of penitence for his sins. He was advised that, to save his soul from damnation, he must hand over the lands he had conquered to the Brahmins. He did as they advised and sat in meditation at Gokarnam. There, Varuna -the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi - Goddess of Earth blessed him. From Gokarnam he reached Kanyakumari and threw his axe northward across the ocean. The place where the axe landed was Kerala. It was 160 katam (an old measure) of land lying between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari. Puranas say that it was Parasuram who planted the 64 Brahmin families in Kerala, whom he brought down from the north in order to expiate his slaughter of the Kshatriyas. According to the puranas, Kerala is also known as Parasurama Kshetram, i.e., 'The Land of Parasurama', as the land was reclaimed from sea by him.
This legend, however, may be a Brahmin appropriation of an earlier Chera legend where a Chera King, Velkezhu Kuttavan, otherwise known a Chen Kuttuvan flings his spear into the sea to claim land from it. The myth of Parashurama is debatable as the legendary king Mahabali, under whose rule Kerala was the land of prosperity and happiness, was granted rule over netherworld (Patalam) by Vamana the avatar of Vishnu, who actually comes before the avatar of Parashurama according to the avatar stories of Hindu mythology. There is however a counter-point to this line of argument, because as per the 'Vishupuranam' Mahabali was ruler of the entire World (there is no mention of a place called Kerala) and eyed to capture the abode of the Devas when Vishnu incarnated as 'Vamana' and banished him. Also it is not necessary for one Avatara to end before the other one begins. Parasurama also appears along with Sri Rama in the Ramayana as well as the Mahabharata,as a Guru for Karna.
Tourism in Kerala
Kerala, a state situated on the tropical Malabar Coast of southwestern India, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Named as one of the ten paradises of the world by the National Geographic Traveler, Kerala is famous especially for its ecotourism initiatives. Its unique culture and traditions, coupled with its varied demography, has made Kerala one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Growing at a rate of 13.31%, the tourism industry is a major contributor to the state's economy.
Until the early 1980s, Kerala was a relatively unknown destination, with most tourism circuits concentrated around the north of the country. Aggressive marketing campaigns launched by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation—the government agency that oversees tourism prospects of the state—laid the foundation for the growth of the tourism industry. In the decades that followed, Kerala Tourism was able to transform itself into one of the niche holiday destinations in India. The tag line Kerala- God's Own Country was adopted in its tourism promotions and became a global superbrand. Kerala is regarded as one of the destinations with the highest brand recall. In 2010, Kerala attracted 0.66 million foreign tourist arrivals.
Kerala is an established tourist destination for both Indians and non-Indians alike. Kerala is popular for her beaches, backwaters, mountain ranges and wildlife sanctuaries. The city of Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourists in Kerala. Other popular attractions in the state include the beaches at Kovalam, Cherai and Varkala; backwater tourism and lake resorts around Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom and Alapuzha; hill stations and resorts at Munnar, Wayanad, Nelliampathi, Vagamon and Ponmudi; and national parks and wildlife sanctuaries at Periyar and Eravikulam National Park. The "backwaters" region—an extensive network of interlocking rivers, lakes, and canals that centre on Alleppey, Kumarakom, and Punnamada—also see heavy tourist traffic. Heritage sites, such as the Padmanabhapuram Palace, Hill Palace, Mattancherry Palace are also visited. The city of Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Kerala.
The state's tourism agenda promotes ecologically sustained tourism, which focuses on the local culture, wilderness adventures, volunteering and personal growth of the local population. Efforts are taken to minimise the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people.