INTRODUCTION TO KERALA STUDIES

Volume 1

UNIT 1. INTRODUCING KERALA

1.1 The Kerala Roots- An Introspection, Shashi Tharoor

The article is a personal narrative traversing through the Malayali roots of the author. It seeks to unravel the unique and exceptional features of Kerala through a journey into his own life trajectories. The author attempts to look at the Kerala heritage through the kaleidoscope of his experiences as a Malayali who was born and brought up outside Kerala and whose only experience of village Kerala had been visiting this land with his parents during vacations. This self- reflexive narrative will definitely open up the vistas of the richness and uniqueness of their ancestral land to the young generation of non-Keralite Malayalis and help rediscover their roots. The author introspects that as he grew older, he came to appreciate the magic of Kerala -- its beauty, which is apparent to the most casual tourist, and also its ethos, which takes greater engagement to uncover.

1.2 Kerala for an Educated Traveler , Sunny Luke & Lacey Cooper

Kerala is an educated traveler’s hotspot, offering opportunities for education on the richness of “God’s Own Country.” The uniqueness of Kerala lies in its geography, history, biological wealth, cuisines, literacy, people, culture, arts and festivals. But for an educated traveler, Kerala is more than these elements, it is about the factors that influence Kerala’s uniqueness. In this chapter, we are highlighting the miracles of Kerala that will open the tourist’s mind to achieve personal experiences while traveling throughout Kerala. This introductory but the stand alone chapter introduces Kerala to the uninitiated.

1.3 Geographical Specialties and Natural Diversity of Kerala , Sabina C.A & Abin Varghese

The rich biota, pronounced landscape diversity, varied climatic zones and distinct natural resource regions of Kerala is the direct result of its geography. This chapter introduces the multifarious geographical features of Kerala which include physiography, climate, soil types, rivers, backwaters, beaches, islands, national parks and wild life sanctuaries. This stand alone chapter on the geographical features of Kerala can be considered as a foundation chapter for students interested in learning tropical biodiversity, cultural history, political economy, agrarian movements and land use of a geographically isolated territory in the South Western part of India.

UNIT 2. HISTORY AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE

2.1. Kerala through Ages – Pre-history to 1498, M.C.Vasisht

Kerala has been through the ages an integral part of the Indian subcontinent. The most important archaeological remains related to the pre- history of Kerala are the megalithic monuments seen all over the state. The most accepted chronology of megalithic culture is between 500 BC - 200 BC. The historic period of Kerala begins with the composition of Tamil anthologies, popularly known as Sangam literature. The early centuries of the Christian era was also marked Kerala’s commercial contacts with the Roman Empire. The migration and establishment of Brahmin settlements was the major factor which contributed to the emergence of full fledged agrarian settlements in Kerala. The political outcome of the establishment of Brahmin settlements was the origin of Kingdom of the Perumals. It was a loose knit political structure marked by the presence of the Chera Perumals and Naduvazhis. It was during the period of the Perumals that Kerala became a separate political entity. The fall of the Perumals contributed to the emergence of de-centralized political units in Kerala. The medieval period of Kerala history is also known for the flourishing long distance sea trade with West Asia and China. The landing of Vasco Da Gama at Calicut in May 1498 marked the beginning of a new epoch in the history of Kerala. It led to the exploitation of the resources of the land by European colonial powers. The article sketches the history of Kerala, from megalithic period to the beginning of colonization.

2.2. Modern History of Kerala: Democratization and Subnationalist Efforts, T.P. Sankarankutty Nair

The article examines some of the social issues at stake in the 19th and first half of 20th centuries and thereby delineates the major events and happenings that contributed to the making of the modern history of Kerala. Redefining Periyar Valley Culture as the central point wherein the unique history and culture of the modern Kerala developed, the article traverses through the early democratization and subnationalist processes during the period of the Travancore kings and their Diwans, and later through the social reforms facilitated by the caste groups and community organizations. The article submits that caste proved to be a potent factor throughout, and unlike the rest of India, the social reform movements in Kerala was initiated by castes, sub-castes or religious groups. It argues that caste factor can be eliminated only when each group gets a fair share in all walks of life depending on numerical superiority and strength.

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