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Kerala is isolated from the deccan plateau by the mountanious belt of the Western Ghats, but with a long coastline open to foreign influences, Kerala has evolved a unique culture. It is a highly politicized region, but has a long tradition of religious amity. It is an educationally advanced state with its own language, Malayalam, and has the highest rate of literacy (100%) among Indian states.
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Women in Kerala enjoy a high social status, thanks perhaps to its historic matrilineal system. Art forms of Kerala range from Kalaripayattu, the martial art believed to be the origin of various other oriental ones, to Kathakali, one of the dance forms of Kerala considered to be amongst the oldest indian dance styles. The elegant snake boat races have always been the favorite of tourists visiting Kerala.Kathakali is a fascinating traditional Kerala danceform.
Enhancing the variety of life in the state are religious as well as secular festivals which abound in Kerala. They form an integral part of the cultural heritage of the state. Only during the months of June to August there are no rituals, ceremonies or festivals taking place. Although the non- hindus are not usually permitted to enter a temple and witness the most sacred rites, temples festivals are accessible to all. In central Kerala, the use of elephants brings a fairy tale quality to the festivals.
There can be few sights to beat to beat that of the 30 caparisoned tuskers bedecked with gold ornaments assembled in the precincts of Vadakkunthan temple on the day of the Trichurpooram at Trichur in April-May. From January 9 to 12 each year a procession of 101 exclusively decked elephants marches down the streets of Thissur and Alapuzza and ends at Thiruvanathapuram. The ceremonial feeding of elephants make a unique experience.
The Kerala village fair held between 14 to 23 January every year features recreated traditional houses, attire, food, crafts, etc., while the Nishagandhi dance festivals from 21 to 27 February brings together connoisseurs of five Indian classical dance forms to perform in an open air auditorium in Thiruvanathapuram.
The back water of Allapuza is the venue of the spectacular Nehru Trophy snake boat race on the second Saturday of August. It is excitement all around as magnificently decorated snake boats and Chandan Vallamms with raised stems resembling the hood of a cobra, each manned by over a hundred oarsmen, cut through the waters like wind.
Aranmula boat race is held on the last day of Onam festival at Aranmula where the Parthasarthy (Lord Krishna) was installed in the ancient Krishna temple, on this day called Uttirittathy. Held in August/ September, the actual day of the race depends on when Uttirittathy falls as per the local calender.
The People of Kerala also has considerable ethnic diversity. The Malayali majority belong to the Dravidian group (local race) of early Indian peoples. There is a small population of descendants of Indo-European migrants from the north. Certain hill tribes exhibit affinities with the Negrito peoples of Southeast Asia.
Most Keralites are Hindus, but there are also large Christian and Islamic, and lesser Jain and Jewish, minorities. The official language is Malayalam. A long contact with the outside world has led to an intriguing blend of cultures and given Keralites a cosmopolitan outlook