Cleanliness is as much a part Malayali life as godliness
Kerala is unlike any other state in India, both for its
customs and the contradictions in the outlook of its people. While Marxims has
a greater hold here elsewhere in the country, it is many respects stubbornly
conservative. Its social structure consists of layers upon layers of caste and
Swami Vivekananda was so much bewildered by this that he
called Kerala a lunatic asylum. Until a generation ago not only unsociability
but also inapproachability was practiced. But contrast this with the freedom Malayali
women have enjoyed for centuries and the progress they have made in education
with cent per cent literacy.
Even the countryside in Kerala makes it different from the
rest of the country. Elsewhere, villages are defined by clusters of mud huts at
various intervals or agglomerations of houses belonging to various communities
in a prescribed pattern. But here it is difficult to make out where a village
begins or where it ends.
The people are admittedly poor. However, you, don’t come
across the squalor you find in, Maharasthra, Utter Pradesh or Bihar. You meet
very few unwashed men and women or children wearing unwashed clothes.
Cleanliness is as much a part of Malayali life as godliness-or godliness ness as
case may be.
Through the centuries, Kerala’s isolation from the rest of
India has been more political than cultural. This land did not come under sway
of any of the imperial dynasties like the Mayuras and the Guptas, or Panthas
and Mughals. But it has been exposed to all kinds of influences from the rest
of the country.
All cults of Hinduism –Siva, Vaishnava and Sakta- have been
practiced here. Both Buddishim and Jainsim have flourished in this land. While retaining
its Dravidian base, Kerala has been more `Aryanised’ than, say the neighboring
state of Tamil Nadu. Malayalam, whether derived from Tamil or from a proto-
Dravidain language, has been completely bastardized by Sanskrit. It is also
remarkable that this southernmost state of India –far from the centers where
play wrights like Kalidasa and Bhavadhuti flourished- is the only region in
India where the tradition of Sanskrit drama survives: it is enacted under the
name of Kootyattam. But look at its temples. They bear no resemblance to the
predomination styles o India, being more reminiscent of the architecture of
Nepal and China.