Kerala is a state on the tropical Malabar Coast of southwestern India. To its east and northeast, Kerala borders Tamil Nadu and Karnataka; to its west and south lie the Indian Ocean islands of Lakshadweep and the Maldives, respectively. Kerala nearly envelops Mahe, a coastal exclave of Pondicherry. Kerala is one of four states that compose the linguistic-cultural region known as South India. The principal spoken language is Malayalam, but other languages are also spoken. Kerala ranks 21st by area (about the size of the Netherlands) and 12th by population nationwide.The States Reorganization Act of 1 November 1956 elevated Kerala to statehood.
Kerala’s 38,863 km² landmass (1.18% of India) is wedged between the Arabian Sea to the west and the Western Ghats – identified as one of the world’s twenty-five biodiversity hotspots – to the east. Lying between north latitudes 8°18′ and 12°48′ and east longitudes 74°52′ and 72°22′, Kerala is well within the humid equatorial tropics. Kerala’s coast runs for some 580 km (360 miles), while the state itself varies between 35 and 120 km (22 – 75 miles) in width. Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands (rugged and cool mountainous terrain), the central midlands (rolling hills), and the western lowlands (coastal plains). Located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, Kerala lies near the centre of the Indian tectonic plate; as such, most of the state is subject to comparatively little seismic and volcanic activity. Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala’s terrain.
Eastern Kerala lies immediately west of the Western Ghats’s rain shadow; it consists of high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys. 41 of Kerala’s west-flowing rivers, and 3 of its east-flowing ones originate in this region. Here, the Western Ghats form a wall of mountains interrupted only near Palakkad, where the Palakkad Gap breaks through to provide access to the rest of India. The Western Ghats rises on average to 1,500 m (4920 ft) above sea level, while the highest peaks may reach to 2,500 m (8200 ft). Just west of the mountains lie the midland plains composing central Kerala; rolling hills and valleys dominate. Generally ranging between elevations of 250 – 1,000 m (820 – 3300 ft), the eastern portions of the Nilgiri and Palni Hills include such formations as Agastyamalai and Anamalai.
Kerala’s western coastal belt is relatively flat, and is criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries, and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters. Lake Vembanad – Kerala’s largest body of water – dominates the Backwaters; it lies between Alappuzha and Kochi and is more than 200 km² in area. Around 8% of India’s waterways (measured by length) are found in Kerala. The most important of Kerala’s forty four rivers include the Periyar (244 km), the Bharathapuzha (209 km), the Pamba (176 km), the Chaliyar (169 km), the Kadalundipuzha (130 km) and the Achankovil (128 km). The average length of the rivers of Kerala is 64 km. Most of the remainder are small and entirely fed by monsoon rains.These conditions result in the nearly year-round water logging of such western regions as Kuttanad, 500 km² of which lies below sea level. As Kerala’s rivers are small and lack deltas, they are more prone to environmental factors. Kerala’s rivers face many problems, including summer droughts, the building of large dams, sand mining, and pollution.
Kerala’s fourteen districts are distributed among Kerala’s three historical regions: Malabar (northern Kerala), Kochi (central Kerala), and Travancore (southern Kerala). Kerala’s modern-day districts (listed in order from north to south) correspond to them as follows:
* Malabar: Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad
* Kochi: Thrissur, Ernakulam
* Travancore: Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala is well known for its deposits of excellent quality china clay and beach sands containing valuable minerals like ilmenite, rutile, sillimanite, zircon, garnet, leucoxene and monazite.The state is the principal producer of kaolin, limeshell and sillimanite. State accounts country’s 92% leucoxene, 70% zircon, 35% ilmenite, 27% rutile and 24% china clay resources.
Important mineral occurrences in the State are bauxite in Kannur, Kasargod, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts; china clay in Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Kannur, Kasargod, Kollam, Kottayam, Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur districts; limestone in Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Kannur, Kollam, Kottayam, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Thrissur districts; quartz/silicasand in Alappuzha, Thirivananthapuram and Wayanad districts; sillimanite in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts; and titanium minerals in Kasargod, Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts; and zircon in Kollam district.
Other minerals that occur in the state are fireclay in Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Kannur and Kollam districts; garnet in Kollam district; gold in Malappuram and Palakkad districts; granite in Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram districts; graphite in Ernakulam, Idukki, Kollam, Kottayam and Thiruvanathapuram districts; iron ore (magnetite) in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts; Kyanite in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts; lignite in Alappuzha, Kollam and Kannur districts, magnesite in Palakkad district and steatite in Kannur and Wayanad districts.