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Origin of Kerala

20/06/2013

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The south-west Indian state of Kerala has several nicknames. The most famous is “God’s own country”, in the tourism business everybody says that the nickname is well deserved because this is such a beautiful place (it is, honestly, from North to South and West to East). Actually, it’s more related to some mythological stories about the creation of this land.

The most famous myth is “the retrieval of Kerala from the sea, by Parasurama, a warrior sage. The Brahminical myth proclaims that Parasurama, an Avatar of Mahavishnu, threw his battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of Kerala arose, and thus was reclaimed from the waters.

He was the sixth of the ten avatars (incarnation) of Vishnu. The word Parasu means ‘axe’ in Sanskrit and therefore the name Parasurama means ‘Ram with Axe’. The aim of his birth was to deliver the world from the arrogant oppression of the ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. He killed all the male Kshatriyas on earth and filled five lakes with their blood. After destroying the Kshatriya kings, he approached assembly of learned men to find a way of penitence for his sins. He was advised that, to save his soul from damnation, he must hand over the lands he had conquered to the Brahmins. He did as they advised and sat in meditation at Gokarnam. There, Varuna -the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi – Goddess of Earth blessed him. From Gokarnam he reached Kanyakumari and threw his axe northward across the ocean. The place where the axe landed was Kerala. It was 160 katam (an old measure) of land lying between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari. Puranas say that it was Parasuram who planted the 64 Brahmin families in Kerala, whom he brought down from the north in order to expiate his slaughter of the Kshatriyas. According to the puranas, Kerala is also known as Parasurama Kshetram, i.e., ‘The Land of Parasurama’, as the land was reclaimed from sea by him.” (Cf Wikipedia)

This myth echoes the geological creation of Kerala. At first, volcanic eruptions created the mountains, but then most Kerala itself is the result of huge and repeated landslides coming down the mountains, as if the giant axe had cut the side of the hill to create a new piece of land.

I had no plan for this little mythological/geological interlude… I actually wanted to write a post about coconut trees! Another Kerala’s nickname is “the land of coconut trees”, and the coconut tree is a really amazing kind of tree, so amazing that it will be worth another post… Until then, enjoy your life 😉

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2 Comments
  1. Beautiful story. Let’s hear more of them.

  2. Thanks. Many mythological stories about Kerala, hundreds in hinduism. I ll try to share more of them 😉

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