Kerala kĕr´ələ [key], state (2001 provisional pop. 31,838,619), 15,003 sq mi (38,858 sq km), SW India, on the Arabian Sea. Thiruvananthapuram is the capital. A wet tropical climate and coastal lowlands support cultivation of rice, coconuts, tapioca, and spices; the interior hills produce rubber, coffee, and tea. Tourism is economically important. A densely populated state, Kerala was created in 1956 from the Malayalam-speaking former princely states of Cochin and Travancore and Malayalam-speaking areas formerly in Madras state (now Tamil Nadu). About 60% of the population is Hindu; Christians and Muslims each make up about 20% of the remaining inhabitants. Although Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India, it has suffered from economic underdevelopment and unemployment. In 1957, India's first Communist-led state administration was elected in Kerala. Maoist Naxalite groups have been active in the state. Kerala takes its name from the ancient Tamil kingdom of Kerala (Chera), which traded with the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. Some coastal areas of Kerala were hard-hit by the Dec., 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami. The state is governed by a chief minister responsible to an elected unicameral legislature and by a governor appointed by the president of India.
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