Kerala has a great culture that has been contributed by the people and different races. The history of Kerala can tell about the process of culture synthesis. Throughout the ages, Kerala has proved that it can respond to any challenges through its adaptation and combination of old traditions.
The people of Kerala have got an honor among those who have achieved Indian cultural heritage. The culture of Kerala is a part of Indian culture. Kerala’s culture has persisted due to the reasons of unity, continuity and universality. It gives importance to the human achievements in any fields like religion, philosophy, language, art, education and social organization. Even though Kerala is a small strip of land in terms of geographic location, it is possible for one to find a huge number of different parts of cultural heritage.
Called as ‘Malayalees’, Keralites are well educated and maintain a good status in society. Kerala is the first state in India to achieve 100% literacy! They are well aware of the significance of health and health care. The child mortality rate in Kerala is the lowest. Women enjoy high social status with higher education and good job opportunities.
Malayalam is the language of Kerala and it’s one among the 22 official languages in India. About 35 million people speak Malayalam. There are 170 newspapers, 235 weeklies and more than 550 monthly periodicles published in Malayalam! Malayalam newspaper is the most circulated regional language daily in India!
Kerala has different communities living together harmoniously. The predominant religions are Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. There are a number of temples, churches and mosques in the state. Hinduism- the oldest and the third largest religion in the world- is the main religion in Kerala. Nearly half of the population belongs to this religion. It’s believed that Islam set its foot in India through Kerala. In fact, Kerala has the oldest mosque in the country. It’s believed that apostle
St. Thomas visited Kerala in 52 AD and established 7 Churches, out of which 4 exists even today. Apart from these religions, there are a few belonging to Jainism and Judaism in the state.
In Hinduism marriages are conducted either at the bride’s residence or in auditoriums. ‘Nadaswaram’, a musical instrument will be played throughout the marriage ceremony. At the auspicious time called ‘Muhurtham’ the groom ties the ‘thali’ and garlands are exchanged between the bride and groom. After the ceremony there will be the feast called ‘sadya’. Christian marriages are conducted in churches as it’s globally. The priest conducts the wedding mass, rings are blessed and exchanged. Priest emphasises the importance of being loyal to each other throughout the life. In Muslims marriages are conducted by the Maulavi who reads from Quran. The agreement document is duly signed by the concerned parties and the feast is served.
The simple living of the Keralites is reflected in the way they dressed. The traditional dress of the men was mundu, a fabric wrapped around the waste and long enough to cover up to their feet. The dressing styles changed from one community to another.
Hindu men wore hand woven cotton cloth called mundu and sandal pastes on their chests and foreheads. While going out they covered the upper part of the body with a smaller cloth. But today many wear shirts and trouses.
Both men and women used to wear white mundu with gold (kasavu) borders on special occasions.
Men wore a shirt-like apparel with a Muslim style cap in addition to the mundu.
The mundu itself was worn in a different style from the Hindus.
Women wore full sleeve blouses made of embroiderd clothes, a special kind of mundu and a cloth to cover their heads.
Men wore mundu and sometimes a shirt-like apparel. Women wore ‘chattayum mundum’- a special kind of white blouse and mundu worn in a special way with pleats behind.
Modern Day Trends
The traditional styles have made way for the modern trends these days. Women of all communities wear saris or the North Indian style churidars.
Men mostly wear western style shirts and trousers which is more suited for the contemporary lifestyle and conditions.
But at home many men and women still resort to the traditional dresses because of the hot and humid climate.
Keralites consider cooking as an art and take it very seriously. But based on culture, community, region and religion the cuisines of Kerala and the methods of cooking differ.
Kerala is famous for spices and spicy food. Spices are well known for its preservative and antiseptic qualities. Hence the Kerala food is considered as healthy food. The taste of Kerala evolved over hundreds of years and it includes sweet, sour, bitter, salty, hot and spicy dishes. The traditional custom is to sit on the floor and eat food with their hands from a banana leaf instead of using plates and cutleries. Mealtimes are considered as the time for family members to get together and also to show their hospitality by serving good food to guests.
Kerala has a combination of vegetarian and non vegetarian food. Coconut is considered as a mandatory in Kerala, as it will be there in one form or the other in every dish. So is rice, the main course of food in the daily diet of Keralites. Breakfast, lunch or dinner some kind of rice preparation is almost a must for Keralites.
During festivals like Onam, Keralites prefer vegetarian food popularly known as ‘sadya’. Served on banana leaf there will be 14 to 16 vegetarian dishes including sambar, rasam, olan, kaalan, pachadi, kichadi, aviyal, payasam etc. etc.
Keralites begin the day with a pre-dawn glass of tea/coffee. Breakfast generally has either puttu, appam, idiappam, iddli, vada, dosa etc. along with side dishes like chutney, sambar, egg curry/roast, sauces etc. They also have banana pancakes, toast, omelettes, lassis, fruit shakes, espresso with freshly baked bread, fruit salads, honey, grated coconut and curd. Star hotels serve breakfast with a variety of dishes, both western and Indian.
Midday meals comprises boiled rice with moru (bitter milk) or curd or rasam and vegetable curries like pachadi, sambar, thoran, pappadam, pickles and chutneys.
Non vegetarians have non vegetarian dishes with meals or parottas, chappathis, pathiris, poories, biriyani etc. with non vegetarian side dishes.
Keralites prepare a host of homemade snacks from pineapples, jackfruits, mangoes, custard apples, bananas etc. Chips are made from banana, tapioca and jackfruit. Another favourite is ‘achappam’ the rice flour cookies of Kerala. These are served with coffee/tea in the evening. Kerala is also famous for a variety of sweets like halwa, avalose unda, unniappam, payasam etc. etc.