How did communism affect life in Kerala

Because Kerala is "God’s own country"

Kerala - marketed by the Indian tourism industry as "God’s own country" - is located in the extreme south of the west coast of India and means "land of coconut palms". The landscape of the state, which stretches along the southwest coast, is so beautiful that the slogan hardly seems exaggerated. Everywhere you feel like you are in a blooming garden. Coconut palms line the coasts and waterways, and most of the spices come from here.

The climate is tropical and warm with little temperature fluctuations over the year. The monsoons dominate the weather between June and October, and during this time it rains heavily. The rest of the year it is mostly dry, apart from the high humidity all year round.

Kerala consists of a narrow strip of coast that stretches along the Arabian Sea and is only 120 kilometers at its widest point. Inland there is hilly land that extends to the wooded mountain ranges of the Western Ghats.

Larger tea plantations were created in the high areas. Together with the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, along with Assam, Darjeeling and the Kangra region at the foot of the Himalayas, is one of the most important growing areas for (black) tea in India. On the slopes of the hills and mountains of the Western Ghats, he finds enough nutrients and the right mix of sun and monsoon rain to thrive. In addition to the spices and the booming tourism with its Ayurveda clinics, tea production is an important source of income. As elsewhere in India, tea cultivation in Kerala goes back to British rule. Of course, the British didn't want to forego their tea time here either. Similar to the north, "hill stations" such as Munnar emerged in Kerala, which are usually found mainly in the Indian Himalayas - for example in Dharamsala. These places were also able to withstand the extreme temperatures in the dry season. There are still extensive forest areas in Kerala that are home to many wild animals. Large areas have been designated as nature reserves.

Today tourism plays an increasingly important role. Six million Indians from other states visit Kerala each year, and the number of foreign visitors is skyrocketing too, with a number of great beaches attracting visitors.

Another reason for the increasing tourism is that the southern part of the subcontinent is much easier to travel to than the often hectic north. The infrastructure is better and it is much cleaner and more organized than in the north. But Kerala is a special case for other reasons as well. Although the Hindus are in the majority here with 55%, Muslims (27%; Islam came to Kerala with the Arab traders) and Christians (18%) make up a large proportion of the population of Kerala. With over six million Christians living in Kerala, more than any other state. Aside from the Kannur region in the north of the state, religious conflicts are rare in Kerala.

Although Kerala is one of the most densely populated states, you won't find any slums. With a 94% literacy rate, it offers good educational opportunities for its citizens. The overall average for India is 20 percentage points lower. This is ensured by around 12,000 schools (over 60% private schools), over 100 colleges and seven universities. Women are also far less disadvantaged than is the case in most other regions of India. As a result, they also exude a completely different self-confidence. In contrast to much of India, the number of women outnumber men, suggesting that unlike much of India, abortion of female fetuses is not widespread.

Infant mortality has fallen sharply and life expectancy is ten years higher than the Indian average! Even corruption does not play a major role in Kerala.

In 1956 the state was established within its current borders, the decisive factor was the language border of Malayallam, which is spoken by almost 97% of the population. It belongs to the Dravidian languages, is related to Tamil, strongly influenced by Sanskrit and also has its own script.

In the first free elections in 1957, the Communist Party won there. To this day, it is the government in Kerala, alternating with the Congress Party. This ensured that the land reforms, for which the majority of the Indian rural population is waiting in vain, were carried out there. Most of the farmers in Kerala own their own piece of land. This security meant that population growth in the state could be stopped and is now stagnating, similar to that in Western Europe. At the same time, a strong culture of strikes developed in Kerala with strong unions, and the residents there love political and philosophical disputes. The prosperity of Kerala is also ensured by the fact that many find work in the Gulf States and a large part of those who earn there are sent home. The reason for this is also the fact that there is hardly any industry, which leads to a slightly higher unemployment rate than the national average.

The early history of Kerala goes back at least 3,000 years. From the ancient port city of Muziris, the early Chera are said to have engaged in brisk trade with Egypt, Babylonia, the Assyrians and later the Romans (described by Claudius Ptolomew and Pliny the Elder, among others) and Phoenicians. Later the Chinese and Arabs became the main trading partners of the rulers of Kerala.

It was also here that the first Christians of Syrian descent settled on Indian soil. Whether the apostle Thomas actually got there as early as 52 AD is very controversial. The first Christian communities are documented from the 4th century AD.

What is certain is that Jews found asylum in Kerala after the fall of Jerusalem. They formed a fruitful symbiosis with the traditional dealers and ensured that there was a lot of tolerance on site (and still exists today). However, there are few Jews left in Kerala today. After Israel was founded, most of them emigrated to the "Promised Land".

In the 11th century, after the fall of the late Chera Empire, individual kingdoms emerged, the three most important of which were Zamorin (now Calicut) in the north, Cochin (now Kochi) in the center, and Venad (now Kollam) in the south of Kerala, which were in Rivalry. Reports about the noble spices from the Malabar coast made the rounds again in Europe, with pepper, cardamom, cloves and vanilla being particularly popular. The spices were weighed in gold.

In 1498 Vasco da Gama landed on the coast, but the Arabs and Zamorin sensed danger for their trade and forbade the Portuguese to settle. On the other hand, they met open ears with their rival in Cochin and were allowed to set up a trading post. In 1503, Fort Cochin was the first European fortress to be built in India. In 1524 Vasco da Gama died in Cochin on his third trip to India. In the 16th century, the Portuguese conquered a large part of the Indian west coast and thus controlled the extremely lucrative trade. In 1602 the Dutch landed in Calicut, in 1663 they took Cochinchina and expelled the Portuguese from Kerala.

In 1741 the Dutch were defeated by the Kingdom of Travancore. But Travancore came under pressure from the Kingdom of Mysore as early as 1764. The ruler of Travancore asked for help from the British who had occupied Calicut after the Portuguese defeat in 1664. But the price Travancore paid was independence. Until independence, the princes of Travancore represented the interests of the British colonial power.

There are also a number of special features to discover in Kerala, such as martial arts Kalarippayat, which is one of the oldest martial arts in Asia. The movements are similar to those of classical Indian dance. At the same time, the fighters also work as village doctors for Ayurveda and are proficient in yoga. Sometimes two Kalarippayat fighters competed against each other to represent a battle between two dynasties and to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

That too Kathakali- Dance drama is a specialty of Kerala and has been performed since the 17th century. It originated from even older temple dances that are 2,000 years old. With masks, costumes and make-up, the dancers recreate classic myths. The ritual theater Teyyam is a similar tradition in which Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti are worshiped. In some traditions only brahmins are allowed to cast the roles. Even more exciting is the tradition in which Dalits transform themselves into temporary gods with the help of make-up, heavy masks and deep trance. The same people, who are hardly respected in everyday life, are gods even for the Brahmins during the performances. Here, too, similar to Holi, there is a complete reversal of everyday life.

On my trip to Kerala I was able to experience how better education, more equality and land reforms, for which a large part of the Indian population is still desperately waiting to finally escape their (debt) bondage, can give impulses for a future worth living in . What I find particularly exciting about the development is that Kerala has made it this way without any major industries worth mentioning. For me it is a model that gives hope for India and the whole of the so-called Third World.


Because the backwaters are a unique one
Ecosystem are


The backwaters are a landscape that decisively shapes the Malabar coast of Kerala and its hinterland between Cochin in the north and Kollam in the south. It is an extensive network of waterways with a total length of 1,500 kilometers, which consists of natural watercourses (44 rivers that mainly flow into the sea), man-made canals, 29 larger lakes and lagoons. They have always been important traffic and transport routes.

The channels are broken by tiny palm islands.

The ecosystem was once characterized by wet and mangrove forests. Man has developed an amphibious garden landscape from this by cutting down many forest areas and turning them into arable land, on which mainly rice, rubber, coconut palms, banana trees, pepper, curry leaves, chilli, ginger, cinnamon as well as cashew nuts, mango and papaya thrive.

Fishing plays an important role, as does fish and shrimp farming. There are also shell collectors and shrimp hunters. The people who have settled here mostly live in wooden huts on the edge of the waterways.

There are a few traditional Chinese fishing nets. They are fixed, and the trapezoidal nets are lowered from wooden arms and later brought in again with a catch. They were introduced into Kerala by traders of the Emperor of China, Kublai Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan.

Tourism plays the biggest role for the backwaters today. The traditional barges (Kettuvallam) with a length of about 15 meters have been converted into houseboats with superstructures since the early 1990s. A real boom developed from this, so that there are over 1,000 houseboats today.

Especially on the most important connections there is a lot of crowding during the high season between October and March, and it is worthwhile to switch to other routes. A tour with the houseboats is not cheap anyway, it is one of the relatively expensive offers in Indian tourism. It is therefore worth joining forces with other travelers in advance. After all, you get a lot on offer: The wooden structures are refined with beautiful carvings, the furniture is carved from rattan or precious tropical wood and the Kerala cuisine is delicate. Another special feature is that many constructions get by completely without metal nails.

The greatest highlight, however, remains the landscape, a world of green and blue in which cormorants, kingfishers and cranes feel at home. The cicadas provide the right background noise, the crocodiles are now considered extinct.

Also Shikaras (Stake boats that vaguely resemble Venetian gondolas) are common.

This is reminiscent of the Dal Lake in Kashmir, which was probably also a model for tourist use.

Inexpensive alternatives to the houseboats are offered by the regular ferries, which are very cheap and also offer an insight into the unique ecosystem. Since the middle of the 19th century, the ecosystem has shrunk to a third of its area, which is mainly due to the drainage for agriculture and the disappearance of forests, which were previously able to store water better.

An excursion into the network of waterways leads to a green jungle paradise that seems almost unreal because of its perfection.

Because Ayurveda is one of the oldest
Healing arts of humanity is


The Ayurveda is one of the oldest philosophies and healing arts of mankind. It describes the "knowledge of long life". The main goal is a life in harmony with the laws of the cosmos and the unity of body and mind.

Indian philosophy is based on a cyclical notion in which light and dark ages alternate. According to this idea, there was a "golden age" in the pre-Vedic period, while we are currently in the Kaliyug, the »dark age«.

When people began to subjugate nature and unilaterally renounce coexistence, the first diseases are said to have broken out, and the Rishis India, Masters experienced in meditation and yoga, who have been awarded visionary and magical abilities, gathered in the Himalayas for advice. Through joint meditation they brought Indra, the king of the gods, to reveal the knowledge of immortality to them - Indra sent Dhanvantari to earth as the king's son in Kashi and with him the knowledge of Ayurveda.

The origin of Ayurveda is even more central to the myth of the "whisking of the ocean of milk", which you already got to know in the chapter on the Kumbh Mela. The "doctor of the gods" Dhanvantari carried the jug with the exile Amrita out of the ocean of milk. The "nectar of immortality" also symbolizes the goal of Ayurveda, a long (from a mythological point of view, infinite) life.

Charaka, who is said to have lived around 78 AD, was the first known Ayurveda doctor and wrote the Charaka-Samhita script, in which he laid down the basics of Ayurveda. About 200 years later, knowledge of the Sushruta-Samhita was expanded.

The reign of Emperor Ashoka played a special role in the spread of Ayurveda knowledge. Wealthy families built hospitals, and doctors and nurses were retrained in the old knowledge. It was then that the first urban health system came into being. The poor, orphans, widows, childless elderly, sick and disabled people were cared for here. What a contrast to today's India, where the health system is extremely precarious and often only the rich can afford adequate medical care!

Healing knowledge also became a tool for the Buddhist monks, and with their proselytizing the healing art spread all over India and other countries in Asia. Finally, that which emerged in the 7th century AD united Astangahrdaya the knowledge of the time from India, China and Tibet.

Ayurveda theory and practice were unchallenged in India until the 19th century. Only then was western medicine spread by the British. Today in India both systems coexist and are often combined. Conversely, western medicine is also increasingly integrating knowledge and elements from Ayurveda.

According to the concept of Ayurveda philosophy, the universe consists of five "root forms of matter" (Pancha Bhoota). These elements are fire, wind, earth, water, ether. Man is an image of the universe and consists of the same matter. From this three derive Doshas from: pita bread (Heat / fire), Kapha (Earth / water) and Vata (Air / ether). The distribution of the elements varies, each individual has its own constitution (Prakriti) born. It depends on the constitution of the parents as well as the time of birth and other factors.

The aim of Ayurveda is to achieve this individual ideal state again when the doshas are out of balance. Therefore, the determination of the individual balance is at the beginning of the treatment. Ayurveda focuses on the causes of the imbalance and not on symptom treatment.

The main reasons for an illness are toxins, stress, poor nutrition and lack of exercise, which lead to stiffening of the muscles, sleep disorders and fatigue and mental and physical overload.

Despite the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda and the right diet for the respective type, modern diseases of civilization such as diabetes, heart and circulatory diseases, obesity and cancer are on the rise in India. The middle class in particular likes to frequent fast-food chains and enjoy sugary drinks, the rest is taken care of by the lack of exercise (even smaller distances are reluctantly covered by many on foot) and the new office jobs. At home, household chores are often done by maids. Ayurveda is perfect for these new clinical pictures.

Ayurveda cures are also particularly effective against rheumatism, arthritis, partial paralysis, back pain, circulatory problems, migraines, insomnia or psoriasis. Others hope for a "rejuvenation" or take regular preventive measures. Such a treatment is ideal even after burnout. Unfortunately, in the West, Ayurveda is often misunderstood as cosmetics, wellness or a mere trend that is only gaining ground in the spa area.

Ayurveda, on the other hand, only makes sense in an individual combination of different therapies over a few weeks. It often takes place in a clinic and begins with an intestinal irrigation that is supposed to cleanse the body of toxins. It is important to have a regular daily routine that starts early in the morning. At the beginning, the focus is on detoxification. The oil rubs should improve the flow of energy and help the body to remove waste products. Diet is also particularly important (Annayoga - »real food«), which is individually tailored to the respective patient. The digestion is of particular importance. Meat, sugar, white flour and alcohol or drugs are taboo, tomatoes, potatoes and mushrooms are also not used and spices are only used very sparingly. Distractions from television, books and computers should also be avoided.

Part of the treatment is the environment, which differs as much as possible from the patient's everyday life and which the patient should be as intensely involved in. As a rule, the sexes are strictly separated during treatment.

The massages with heated oil and essences are particularly pleasant for the patient. Classical Indian music often plays in the background. The combination creates a deep relaxation that is healing in itself. The hot oils also promote sweating. In addition to the classic Ayurvedic body massage, there are special deep massages, reflexology on hands and feet or head massages.

If the back pain is severe, the patient can also be massaged with the soles of the feet. The masseur hangs on a rope from the ceiling and can thus ideally dose the pressure on the patient. In the ShirodharaTreatment, medicinal oils are poured onto the forehead, which is particularly helpful for stress disorders, insomnia and headaches or migraines. Pizhichil is a medicinal oil bath - the oils are put together according to the doshas. This stimulates the blood circulation and the nervous system. At Nasyam Oils, herbal juices, and medicated powders are mixed and given through the nose to treat headaches, frontal and sinus infections. There are also special neck and spine treatments available. A good doctor discusses an individual therapy plan with the patient at the beginning.

Herbs play another central role in Ayurveda for internal use. They thrive in the climate of Kerala, the country of origin of Ayurveda. Many others come from the slopes of the Himalayas. In Kerala in particular, Ayurveda pharmacies are widespread and only offer herbal remedies. Herbal mixtures are put together here according to age-old recipes.

The Ayurveda course is extremely complex and, like the Indian medical course, takes five and a half years. A two-year undergraduate degree must be completed beforehand, followed by a year of recognition after graduation. Ayurveda is taught at 250 universities, but the places are extremely competitive. There are just 3,000 places for every 200,000 applicants. Both conventional medicine and Ayurvedic content are now taught intensively during the course, and the language of instruction is classical Sanskrit in addition to English.

Due to the relative proximity to Goa with its dropouts, the medicine from Kerala also became increasingly known in the West. In Goa, Ayurveda doctors operate small therapy facilities that offer massages, oil treatments and nutritional advice. However, there are significant differences in quality. From first-class healers to nasty tourist traps, there is a wide range of offers.

One should be careful to understand Ayurveda as a "panacea", but it is a good foundation for a life in harmony and balance. In fact, you can see the difference after an Ayurveda cure at first glance - many patients look ten years younger after a course of several weeks.


Special thanks for the permission to use your pictures goes to my colleagues from the travel despatches:


Eva Grossert (Hidden Gem)

Gitti Müller (comeback with backpack)

Morten Hübbe and Rochssare Neromand-Soma

Morten & Rochssare also published an article about the backwaters on the travel dispatches:

With the houseboat through the backwaters of Kerala


There are of course many other reasons to love southern India in the book. Here is a selection:


  • Because Bombay offers a glimpse into India's future
  • Because India is blessed with 7000 kilometers of coastline
  • Because Goa has become a place of longing for the hippies
  • Because the ruined city of Hampi is located in a bizarre rocky landscape
  • Because rituals that are thousands of years old are alive in Madurai
  • Because the influence of the chola reached as far as Southeast Asia
  • Because the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are unique island archipelagos


“111 reasons to love India” was published by Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag in Berlin and has 336 pages. Premium paperback with two colored picture parts

Already previously appeared on the travel dispatches: