South India


Kerala, a narrow ribbon of land nestled between the Arabian Sea and the Nilgiris foothills have been fabled by travellers since Antiquity. From luxuriant forests covering hillsides with a myriad tree species, rivers tumble down, carrying in their depth the mystery of this prosperous agricultural country. In the overpopulated and quasi-equatorial plains, paddy fields, banana and palm groves draw a lush green landscape.

In spite of the turbulent sea, numerous harbours on the coastline facilitate commercial and cultural exchanges with the whole world and were through centuries the seat of an intense activity. Romans exchanged their gold for pepper with which they loaded their ships, and Marco Polo described in his “Book of Marvels”, the extraordinary wealth of the country.

Till the end of the 13th century, the city of Kollam in South Kerala was the main business centre for the Chinese traders. Portuguese with Vasco de Gama and Dutch participated actively in the development of the maritime activities; the French whose influence was lesser, nevertheless settled a trading post in Mahe. They were supplanted by the English during the 18th century.

Philosophers, reformers, important poets were born here. In the 8th century AD, Adi Sankara taught the “non dual” doctrine known as Vedanta. Melputtur Narayana and Puntanam Namputiri‘s writings are considered today jewels of the Sanskrit religious literature.

Sri Narayana Guru, another reformer of the 20th century, determined to fight against the discriminatory practices of the caste system, reunited all the members of the discriminated communities under the same banner which advocated: “one caste, one religion and one god for man”.

Kerala was and is still an extraordinary mosaic where Moslems, Christians and Jews have coexisted peacefully for centuries and imbues its people with the idea of harmony and tolerance of which they are proud.