Bounded on the east by the Western Ghats and the west by the Arabian Sea, Kerala is unique in the distinctiveness of their language, dress, culture and institutions. Dravidian culture has had a wide impact on the culture of the malayalees. Eons ago, the main rulers were the Cheras, Cholas and the Pandyas.

There were frequent clashes between the Cheras and the Pandyas and eventually the Cholas succeeded and ruled the whole of Kerala. Malayalam started flourishing during this period, which was greatly influenced by the prevailing Sanskrit language. This period also saw the beginning of Ayurveda. The influence of Adi Sankara who was born at Kalady in Kerala was the exponent of the Advaita Philosophy, revived the Brahminic Hinduism in the whole of India during this era.

Kerala is a melting pot where several ethnic and religious groups mingle. A good illustration of the religious tolerance or secularism is found in the heart of Kerala's capital, 'Thiruvananthapuram', where a Hindu temple, a mosque and a cathedral stand side by side. The ancient rulers of Kerala never practiced religious discrimination. Patronage was distributed not only to the Hindus, but also to the Christians, the Jews and the Muslims.

It has been an open field for the missionaries of all religions. St. Thomas who landed at Kodungallur was warmly welcomed. He converted several people including Brahmins into Christianity. 'Chronique de Seert' has references to the visit of David Dudi, the Bishop of Assyria between 295 and 300 AD, Thomas the Manichan in 277 AD and Thomas of Cana in the 8th century. In 644 AD, Malik bin Deenar arrived in Kerala to build mosques and spread Islam. He too was accorded a warm welcome.

With the advent of the British in the late 18th century, English language assumed importance. This brought about a tremendous impact upon the life and culture of the Keralites. In this respect, Kerala owes a great deal to the Christian Missionaries. They were careful not to disturb the Hindu community and easily blended into the Kerala culture.

Malayalam replaced Latin for Church services and candles were replaced for the traditional Kerala 'Nilavilakku'. They also wholeheartedly participated in the Hindu festivities. Thus they enriched Kerala's ethnic culture. The Muslims of Kerala are the descendents of the Arab traders who came to Kerala and married locally and finally settled down here.

Intermingling with the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British has resulted in the creation of a 'Eurasian' community. Most of them are Latin Christians and their culture is distinctly different from the traditional Kerala culture.

Each of the unique festivals brightens up the otherwise customary affairs of life. It is a reason to celebrate life and resembles eternal harmony. Filled with laughter, enthusiasm and excitement, festivals bring people of various religions and backgrounds together and take pleasure in the endowments of nature.

With ever so many fests all through the year to cherish, to get together and to rejoice, Keralites must be truly blessed. Every season wakes up to another delightful festival, which makes life more vivacious and cheerful.

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