Kerala is a state on the tropical Malabar Coast of
southwestern India. To its east and northeast, Kerala borders Tamil
Nadu and Karnataka; to its west and south lie the Indian Ocean
islands of Lakshadweep and the Maldives, respectively. Kerala nearly
envelops Mahé, a coastal exclave of Pondicherry. Kerala is one of
four states that compose the linguistic-cultural region known as
South India. The principal spoken language is Malayalam, but other
languages are also spoken.
First settled in the 10th century BC by speakers of Proto-South
Dravidian, Kerala was influenced by the Mauryan Empire. Later, the
Cheran kingdom and feudal Namboothiri Brahminical city-states became
major powers in the region. Early contact with overseas lands
culminated in struggles between colonial and native powers. The
States Reorganisation Act of 1 November 1956 elevated Kerala to
Social reforms enacted in the late 19th century by Cochin and
Travancore were expanded upon by post-independence governments,
making Kerala among the Third World's longest-lived, healthiest,
most gender-equitable, and most literate regions. Though the state's
basic human development indices are roughly equivalent to those in
the developed world, the state is substantially more environmentally
sustainable than Europe and North America. Nevertheless, Kerala's
suicide, alcoholism, and unemployment rates rank among India's
highest. A survey conducted in 2005 by Transparency International
ranked Kerala as the least corrupt state in the country.
The widely disputed etymology of Kerala is a matter of conjecture.
In the prevailing theory, Kerala is an imperfect Malayalam
portmanteau that fuses kera ("coconut palm tree") and alam ("land"
or "location"). Another theory is that the name originated from the
phrase chera alam ("Land of the Chera"). Natives of Kerala, known as
Keralites or Malayalees, thus refer to their land as Keralam.
Kerala's tourism industry, among others, also use the phrase God's