Hinduism Kerala Hinduism
by
George Pati
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0126

Introduction

Kerala, the southwesternmost state in peninsular India, is situated between the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, occupying a total area of 24,148 square miles, with a coastline of 360 miles. Kerala’s socioreligious and cultural matrix, an amalgam of native and foreign cultures and creeds, shapes its distinctive culture. Today, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam remain the major religious traditions of Kerala. This bibliographic essay offers sources that discuss Hindu traditions of Kerala, emphasizing the historical continuities of Hindu traditions based on local gods and goddesses, places, pilgrimages, temples, and rituals and performances, all of which express myriad aspects of the diversity and complexity of the tradition called Hinduism.

General Overviews

Studies on Hinduism in Kerala include beliefs and practices transmitted down from Vedic Brahmanism and ancient Dravidian beliefs, as well as devotional traditions of the medieval period. Bayi 2010 offers a remarkable introduction to Kerala culture from antiquity. Menon 2000–2002 covers topics of history of religion and economy, providing much recent bibliography, and Menon 1996 provides a comprehensive elucidation of life and culture of the people of Kerala. Pati 2009 considers various aspects of Hinduism as represented in Kerala.

  • Bayi, Aswathi Thirunal Gouri Lakshmi. Glimpses of Kerala Culture. New Delhi: Konark, 2010.

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    This volume offers a remarkable introduction to the different art forms and ancient culture of Kerala. It also gives insight into the purposes of Hindu life, and the origins and nature of various art forms and cultural aspects.

  • Menon, A. Sreedhara. Cultural Heritage of Kerala. 2d ed. Madras: S. Viswanathan, 1996.

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    Depicts a comprehensive picture of the life and culture of the people of Kerala, taking into consideration the evolution of Kerala culture in the general background of Indian culture. One of the advantages of this book is that it covers religious, artistic, social, economic, and political life and activity in Kerala. First edition published in 1978 (Cochin, India: East-West Publications).

  • Menon, T. Madhava, ed. A Handbook of Kerala. 2 vols. Thiruvanthapuram, India: International School of Dravidian Linguistics, 2000–2002.

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    Both these volumes cover the physiography, geography, and physical features of the state, its forests, fauna and flora, history, religion, and economy, and include much recent bibliography.

  • Pati, George. “Kerala.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism: Regions, Pilgrimage, and Deities. Vol. 1. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, 221–232. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2009.

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    Addresses how Hinduism is practiced in Kerala and gives attention to some historical background, sacred places and pilgrimages, and rituals and performances.

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