Kerala forms—along with the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana—the dravidic world; the cultural space of the languages of the Dravidic family.
With the exception of a small isolated dravian bag in Pakistan and minimal redoubts in central India, twenty Dravian languages are spoken in southern India.
The main ones are telegu (81 million), Tamil (70 million), Kannada (44 million) and Malayalam (33 million).
Malayalam is Kerala’s own language, since with the creation of the state, in 1956, a certain linguistic homogeneity was sought. In addition, there are Tamil-speaking minorities in the state (and bilingual areas, such as the “Palakkad Pass”, which links Tamil Nadu and Kerala). These two languages are very close to each other (such as Catalan and Spanish, for example) and come from a common substrate that forked towards the 13th century.
Arts and knowledge of antiquity
Kerala is culturally distinct from other areas of India by having managed to guard some arts and knowledge of great antiquity. It is in Kerala that the bulk of knowledge of traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) and associated pharmacopoeia was preserved. For various reasons, in the colonial context, India was “forgetting” some of its traditional knowledge. In Kerala, on the other hand, Ayurvedic medicine remained; and today it is one of the most flourishing industries in the state and receives hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world who come to its clinics, spas and centers.
Kerala is also known for having maintained a tradition of martial arts (very linked to traditional medicine): kalaripayattu. It is one of the oldest martial arts in the world (practiced by men and women in gymnasiums called kalaris). The traditional occupation of the Panicker or Panikkar was precisely that of masters of these warrior arts.
Music, theatre and architecture
It is also in southern India that the traditions of carnatic music (classical music genre as appreciated as the Indostani of northern India) have been maintained.
The kathakali theatre and dance is also much loved. It is always inspired by themes of classical epics. All these scenic and musical arts can be learned from one of India’s most iconic university schools: Kalamandalam, near Thrissur.
Also fascinating is the Dravidic architecture, which can be seen in Hindu temples such as those of the capital, Thirvunanthapuram. In the ernakulam/Kochi conurbation, the country’s true cultural dynamo, you can attend the prestigious contemporary art biennacon.