The population of Kerala is 32 million strong, of which about 23 million live in the rural areas. Kerala has achieved 100% literacy level and was the first Indian state to do so. The people of Kerala are highly progressive in thought as it is evident from the fact that there is a healthy female/male ratio in the state. The people of Kerala still remain largely untouched by the social evils of female infanticide, as also sex selective abortions. Traditionally a matriarchal society, Kerala women enjoy many rights that their sisters in other parts of India do not have. The women here have a right to property, residence, education and also the right to choose their own life partners.
According to anthropologists, Keralites are essentially an ethnological museum. The original inhabitants of Kerala were the Dravidians who are the ancestors of the present day Keralites. The Aryans invaded the region and with this invasion there came about a mixture of races. The earliest known inhabitants were the Negritos or the people of Negroid race. They were generally hunter-gatherers and lived in the mountains and forests of the eastern regions of Kerala. Their descendants still continue to inhabit these mountains.
The Australoids who belonged to the Australian aborigine race were the next lot of people who made Kerala their home. They were farmers and they introduced the practice of cultivation of rice, vegetables and also made sugar from sugar cane. They brought with them the ritual of snake worship, which is even followed today in various parts of the state.
The Dravidians accepted and absorbed many of the religious beliefs, systems and rituals of the other races. They essentially believed in the worship of the Mother Goddess in all her myriad forms as the protector, avenger, destroyer, the one who bestows wealth and knowledge of arts. The Dravidians were dark skinned people. The Aryans, who came after them, were fair skinned and believed to be of a superior race. They were the ancestors of the Namboodiris or the Brahmins who are the priests in the temples.Today however, Kerala is a melting pot of various races, religions, as also ethnic groups. Most of the Keralites carry within their genes three racial strains of the Mundas, the Dravidians and the Aryans. The mountains and forests are still inhabited by tribal people who are known as Adivasis. These tribes include the Kadars, the Uralis, the Kanikkars, and the Paniyars to name just a few..
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