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Location of Kerala in India
Location of Kerala in India

Kerala is a state in south-western India. Most of Kerala's 3.18 crore (31.8 million) people are of Malayali ethnicity. Malayalis in turn number among southern India's Dravidian community. Additional ancestries derive from several centuries of contact with non-Indian lands, whereby thousands of people of Arab, Jewish, Portuguese, Dutch, British, and other non-Dravidian ethnicities settled in Kerala. Many of these immigrants intermarried with native Malayalees.[1][2]

Nevertheless, Malayalam is Kerala's official language and is spoken by at least 96% of Keralites; the next most common language is Tamil, spoken mainly by Tamil workers from Tamil Nadu. Tulu and Kannada is spoken in some parts of the northern districts of Kasaragod, adjoining Karnataka. In addition, Kerala is home to 321,000 indigenous tribal Adivasis (1.10% of the populace).[3] Some 63% of Adivasis reside in the eastern districts of Wayanad (where 35.82% are Adivasi), Palakkad (11.05%), and Idukki (15.66%).[4] These groups, including the Irulars, Kurumbars, and Mudugars,[5] speak their own native languages and experience hardships such as racial discrimination, economic exploitation, and poverty.[6][7][8]. Cholanaikkan tribe in Silent Valley National Park were contacted only in 1970s and they are the most isolated tribe. There were 64,008 Konkani speakers in Kerala in 1991.



Population density of Kerala
Kerala's districts, shaded by population density (inhabitants per km².

Kerala's districts, shaded by population density.
Source: (GOK 2001).

Kerala is home to 3.44% of India's people, and — at 819 persons per km² — its land is three times as densely settled as the rest of India. However, Kerala's population growth rate is far lower than the national average. Whereas Kerala's population more than doubled between 1951 and 1991 — adding 156 lakh (15.6 million) people to reach a total of 291 lakh (29.1 million) residents in 1991 — the population stood at less than 320 lakh (32 million) by 2001. Kerala's people are most densely settled in the coastal region, leaving the eastern hills and mountains comparatively sparsely populated.[9]


Religion in Kerala
Population of Kerala by religion.

The major religions followed in Kerala are Hinduism (56.2% — predominantly Ezhavas and Nairs), Islam (24.7% — Keralite Muslims from northern part of the state are also known as Mappilas), and Christianity (19.00%).[10] Kerala also had a tiny Jewish population until recently, said to date from 587 BC when they fled the occupation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.[11] The 2001 Indian census recorded only 51 Jews in Kerala. The synagogue in Kochi is the oldest in the Commonwealth of Nations. The state has many famous Temples, Mosques, and Churches. The oldest church in India is found in Palayoor, purportedly constructed in A.D.52 by St. Thomas. The oldest mosque in India is found in Kodungallur. Importantly, Kerala has one of the most secular (non-sectarian) populations in India. Nevertheless, there have been signs of increasing disruptive influences from religious extremist organisations.

Social development

Kerala ranks highest in India with respect to social development indices such as elimination of poverty, primary education and healthcare. This resulted from significant efforts begun in 1911 by the erstwhile Cochin and Travancore states to boost healthcare and education among the people. This central focus — unusual in India — was then maintained after Kerala's post-independence inauguration as a state.[12] Thus, Kerala has the highest literacy rate in India of 91% (2001)[13]; and life expectancy is now the highest in India. However, the same is true of Kerala's unemployment and suicide rates. As per the 2001 census, Kerala is the only state in India with a female-to-male ratio higher than 0.99. The ratio for Kerala is 1.058 — 1058 females per 1000 males — while the national figure is 0.933.[14] It is also the only state in India to have sub-replacement fertility. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) designated Kerala the world's first "baby-friendly state" via its "Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative". The state is also known for Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine — this traditional expertise is currently drawing increasing numbers of medical tourists. However, drawbacks to this situation includes the population's steady aging — indeed, 11.2% of Keralites are age 60 or over.[12]

Kerala's unusual socioeconomic and demographic situation was summarized by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben:[15]

Kerala, a state in India, is a bizarre anomaly among developing nations, a place that offers real hope for the future of the Third World. Though not much larger than Maryland, Kerala has a population as big as California's and a per capita annual income of less than $300. But its infant mortality rate is very low, its literacy rate among the highest on Earth, and its birthrate below America's and falling faster. Kerala's residents live nearly as long as Americans or Europeans. Though mostly a land of paddy-covered plains, statistically Kerala stands out as the Mount Everest of social development; there's truly no place like it.[15]

Additional demographic information





31,841,374 (2001 Census)
Males : 15,471,420
Females : 16,369,955

Ethnic groups

The great majority of residents of Kerala are Malayali, but there are many smaller ethnic groups. There is no dominant religion.

Muslims - 24.70% (2001 Census)
Ezhavas - 22.91%
Nairs - 14.41%[16]
Syrian Christians (Including Syrian Catholic, Syro-Malankara, Jacobite, Orthodox, Marthomite & Chaldean) - 12.25%[17]
Latin Christians - 4.28%[18]
Pulaya - 3.27%[19]
Brahmins - 1.59%[20]
Hindu Tribals - 1.07%[21]
Cheruman - 0.99%[22]
Kuravar - 0.84%[23]
Christian Tribals - 0.07%[24]
Christian Nadar - 1.04%[25]
Other Christian - 1.35%[26]
Other SC - 4.71%[27]
Kammala - 0.3%[28]
Ambalavasi - 0.2%[29]
Others (Dheevara.etc) - 6.00%

Age structure

0-6 years: 3,793,146 or 11.91% (male 1,935,027/female 1,858,119)
0-14 years: 30.69%
15-64 years: 63.87%
65 years and over:5.44% (1991 Cen)

Median age

Year :1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Total:19.28 19.39 21.81 24.36 28.87

Population growth rate

0.87% (1998 est.)

Birth rate

17.1 births/1,000 population (1994-2001 est.) [1]

Birth Rate was 17.1 in 1994-2001 (20.3 in 1984-1990 & 25.0 in 1974-1980) . Pathanamthitta (14.5 in 1994-2001, 17.2 in 1984-1990 & NA in 1974-1980) had the lowest TBR and Malappuram(22.4, 29.5 & 33.6) had the highest TBR.

District TBR 1974-1980 TBR 1984-1990 TBR 1994-2001 TFR 1974-1980 TFR 1984-1990 TFR 1994-2001
Trivandrum 22.8 19.6 16.4 2.3 1.8 1.6
Kollam 23.3 18.5 16.2 2.7 1.8 1.6
Alappuzha 21.0 16.7 15.2 2.3 1.6 1.5
Pathanamthitta n.a 17.2 14.5 n.a 1.7 1.5
Kottayam 20.1 16.6 15.6 2.4 1.7 1.6
Idukki 26.7 19.8 17.0 2.9 1.8 1.6
Ernakulam 21.4 16.9 15.7 2.4 1.6 1.5
Thrissur 22.2 18.7 16.1 2.5 1.9 1.6
Palakkad 22.5 18.8 17.3 3.4 2.4 1.8
Malappuram 33.6 29.5 22.4 4.3 3.4 2.4
Kozhikode 26.3 20.5 17.4 3.0 2.0 1.7
Wayanad 31.4 23.4 19.5 3.8 2.3 2.0
Kannur 28.8 20.5 16.6 3.5 2.1 1.7
Kasaragod n.a 24.4 18.9 2.5 n.a 1.9
Kerala 25.0 20.3 17.1 2.9 2.0 1.7

Death rate

6.4 deaths/1,000 population (1998)

Net migration rate

(-)3.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1991 est.)

Of the emigrants from Kerala, 42.2% were Muslims, 36.6% were Hindus and 21.2% were Christians in 1992-93. The most preferred destination was USA (37.8%), followed by UAE (25.9%), Other Gulf countries (13.0%), Oman (11.8%), Other Countries (7.5%) and Saudi Arabia(3.8%). [2]

Sex ratio

Total Population : 1058 Females/1000 Males
Age 0-6 : 987 Females/1000 Males

Infant mortality rate

Total: 14.1 deaths/1,000 live births (1997-1999)

Maternal mortality rate

Total: 1.3 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth

Total population: 73.4 years (1993-1995)
Male: 70.2 years
Female: 76.6 years

Total fertility rate

1.70 children born/woman (2001 Cen)

In 1991, Kerala had the lowest TFR(Children born per women) in the whole of India. Hindus had a TFR of 1.66, Christians had 1.78 and Muslims had 2.97. In 2000, the TFR was 1.73 with Muslims having 2.28, Nairs having a TFR of 1.47 and Syrian Christians having TFR of 1.55. TFR for Scheduled Castes was 1.52 in 1997-98 and 1.37 in 1992-93. The lowest Fertility rate recorded anywhere in India is TFR of 1.17 for Vettuvan caste in Kerala. [3]


HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.32% (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA

See also



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