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The land that arose from the sea

HEMJIT BHARATHAN

It is Kerala Day today. Time to cherish the goodness of this awesome land.



Pure, pristine and picturesque... God's own country.

KOCHI

November 1, 1956 witnessed the formation of Kerala State, when the Government of India decided to reorganise the States on a linguistic basis. Thus, Tamil speaking taluks were separated from the Travancore-Cochin region to be included in Madras State and the Malabar and Kasargode taluk of South Kannada merged with Travancore-Cochin to form the State of Kerala.

This lush tropical land of swaying coconut palms derived its name from kera meaning coconut in Malayalam. Kerala came to be called as God's Own Country as legend has it that this land was reclaimed from the deep blue ocean by the gods. For it is said that Parasuram, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, after a fierce and victorious battle with the Kshtriyas, prayed to the gods for a serene place to do penance. When the gods granted Parasuram his wish, he requested an area of 160 katam (a measure in those times) and flung his axe, over a wide arc out into the Arabian sea and from that point a stretch of land which is Kerala today emerged from the dripping blue waters.

160 katam would mean 38,863 sq.kms, for that forms the entire length and breadth of Kerala, which is sandwiched between towering mountains and the deep blue Arabian Sea. The land stretches to a length of 590 kms while its breadth varies from 32 to 120 kms. It represents only 1.18 per cent of the total area of India.

The legend of the land that arose from the sea gains ground for, in this State, the bond between man and water is striking. Kerala bounteously overflows with 44 rivers, big and small. The longest river is Bharathapuzha — 251 kms, followed by the Periyar river (228.5 kms) and the Pamba river (177 kms long). Many of these rivers originate in the Western Ghats and meanders over the breadth of Kerala to join the Arabian Sea. Some smaller rivers, which are only eight kms long, are monsoon fed and remain transparently shallow and glisten during summer. Apart from this, Kerala is lavishly endowed by the backwaters, which not only beautifies but is economically feasible. There are 34 backwaters in Kerala — the largest one being the Vembanad Lake, which is around 200 sq. kms. The deltas of the rivers interlink the backwaters providing excellent water transport facilities.

The long coastline and inland waters, apart from offering transport, pleasure trips, cruises and regattas, has set the transport industry in motion to float other projects. Public long distance ferry services between many parts of the State — from Cochin to Alleppey and Kozhikode — may soon be introduced to reduce road and rail congestion.

Besides, this land of beauty and abundance is filled with breathtaking lagoons, bayous, and hidden, unexplored creeks to intoxicate the senses. The stretching paddy fields and luxuriant vegetation in this highly fertile land also provide a luscious, green landscape. The long stretch of sandy beaches, resorts, boathouses and rejuvenating ayurvedic and yoga therapies keep the tourism department coffers overflowing, like the bounteous waters of this State.

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