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Influence of Geography on Kerala

  • Kerala comprises of a narrow coastal strip lying between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea.

  • This geographical position has helped to ensure its political and cultural isolation of Kerala from the rest of India.

  • It also facilitated extensive contacts with foreign countries.

Natural Divisions of Kerala

  • Kerala can be divided into three natural divisions:

    1. Highland (മലനാട്)

    2. Midland (ഇടനാട്)

    3. Lowland (തീരപ്രദേശം)


  • The Western Ghats on the eastern side of the state constitute the highland.

  • It is covered by thick forests in its upper ranges.

  • In the lower ranges, the forests are interspersed with plantations.


  • The lowland stretches along the coastal plain on the western side of the state.

  • The soil in this region is sandy.

  • Paddy and coconut are extensively cultivated in this region


  • It is sand-witched between the highland and the lowland.

  • Laterite soil predominates in this region.

  • The important crops are: paddy, tapioca, spices, cashew, etc.

Impact of Geographical Position

  • The Western Ghats on the eastern side gave immunity from political events in north- India.

  • Kerala never felt the impacts of numerous foreign invasions that took place in north- India.

  • It took longer time for Brahmanism, Buddhism and Jainism from the north to penetrate to Kerala.

  • As a result, Kerala was able to evolve its own social institutions like; Marumakkathayam (matrilineal system of inheritance), polyandry, etc.

  • Kerala could also evolve its own distinctive styles of art and architecture like; Kathakali, Chakiar Koothu, Ottam Thullal, etc.

Impacts of Mountains and Hills

  • Western Ghat- acted as a guarding wall against attacks from the east.

  • Ezhimala- was the seat of Ezhimala kingdom.

  • Puralimala- played an important role in Pazhassi revolts.

  • Some of the important pilgrim centres are on hill tops or on their valleys. Eg:

    • Tirunelli temple in the valley of Brahmagiri peak

    • Sabarimala Temple

    • St. Thomas Church on Malayattur hill

  • The Portuguese were cut off by the Western Ghats from rest of the peninsular India. Thus they were prevented from building up a permanent empire in India.

Impacts of Gaps and Passes

  • Passes facilitated interstate trade and travel.

  • In the ancient period, Romans used Palghat pass for commerce.

  • North- east monsoon reaches to kerala through Palghat pass and gives rains in Kerala.

  • Palakkad is known as the rice-bowl of Kerala largely due to the rainfall in the north-east monsoon season.

  • Chola kings invaded Kerala through Palghat pass. Similarly, the Chera kings invaded 'Kongu nadu' (Coimbatore region) through this pass.

  • In the 18th century, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan invaded Kerala through Palghat pass.

  • Cultural exchange-

    • A number of Jains, Tamil Brahmins, etc. migrated to Kerala through Palghat pass.

    • The customs and manners of people in Palakkad is a mix of Tamil and Kerala cultures.

    • The festivals and folk arts in Palakkad (eg: Rathotsavam, Pavakuthu, Kongan Padai) have the influence of the Tamil.

  • Periya pass & Thamarasseri pass-: connect between Wynad and Mysore. They served as route of Mysorean invasions.

  • Aruvaimozhi pass-: connects between Trivandrum and Tirunelveli. Tamil powers invaded southern Travancore through this pass.

  • Several rivers passes through the mountain gaps and helps the economy.

Impact of the Sea

  • Kerala coast attracted foreign traders from Europe and Asia.

  • Kerala had some important ports.

  • Examples of ancient ports: Muziris, Tyndis, Barace, Nelcynda

  • India was exposed to the invading European forces by the Kerala coast.

  • The religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam came to Kerala by sea.

Impact of Rivers

  • Several places of historical and cultural importance are located on river banks.

    • Tirunavai, where 'Mamankam' was held , is situated on the banks of the Bharathapuzha.

    • Aluva, where 'Sivarathri' festival is held, is on the banks of Periyar.

    • On the river of Pamba are located such places of religious importance as Aranmula, Maramon and Edathwa.

    • Mortal remains of the national leaders (Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri) were immersed in Bharathapuzha.

    • Kaladi, the birthplace of Shankaracharya, is situated on the banks of Periyar.

  • Some rivers have importance in the political and military history of the state.

    • The floods in the river Periyar in 1341, choked the mouth of the Kodungallur harbour and made it useless for trade purpose.

    • The flood in 1341 brought into existence the island of Vaipin from the sea. 'Puthuvaipu Era' commencing in 1341 commemorates this event.

    • It was the flood in Periyar that prevented Tipu Sultan in 1789 from attacking Travancore.

  • The important industrial centres like Punalur, Kallai, Valapatanam, Aluva, etc. are on river banks.

  • Several Hydro-electric and irrigation projects depend on rivers.

Impact of the Climate

  • The High Ranges have a cool and bracing climate throughout the year.

  • The plains are very hot in the summer.

  • The state gets rains from both the south-west monsoon and north-east monsoon.

  • The discovery of the south-west monsoon by Hippalus facilitated the direct sea voyage from the Persian Gulf to Muziris.

  • The wars were stopped on the outbreak of the monsoons. The wars were continued after the end of the monsoons.

  • The monsoon has caused floods which prevented military operations. Eg: The flood in Periyar in 1789 prevented Tipu Sultan from attacking Travancore.

Impact of Flora and Fauna

  • In ancient Kerala, many animals and birds ( elephant, peacock, monkey) were exported to foreign countries.

  • Ivory was also a valuable export.

  • Spices such as pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger were exported to countries of Asia and Europe.

  • It was the demand for pepper, that brought European powers to Kerala which led to the European domination over India.

  • Teak-wood was in much demand in the foreign markets. They were used for the manufacture of ships.

  • Kerala was famous for its mineral resources. Kautilya's Arthasastra refers to the river Churni (Periyar) as one of the places where pearls could be found.

  • the ancient Romans carried pearls and diamonds from Kerala in exchange for their gold.



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