Kerala’s Culture is a multifarious and sophisticated culture which came into being through a long historical process.
The Kerala culture attained its identity through the language, the life style, the art and literature, the rituals and festivals, the faith and the political consciousness, which makes it distinct from other Indian Cultures.
The language Malayalam was originated from Middle Tamil or Sen Tamil. It was considered as a local dilect of pure Tamil. Later elements of Sanskrit were added, and a language definitely different from Tamil was formed. Folk songs were the earliest form of literary works in Malayalam – for various occasions and subjects, such as harvest songs, love songs, sad songs and songs praising heroes and Gods. In due course, Malayalam language developed through poems and prose in literary forms.
The unique elements that influenced in the formation of Kerala culture was under the feudal system prevailed in Kerala. Wealth and power were in the hands of land owning class – the Brahmins. To consolidate their power, they developed the caste system. People were segregated to different societies based on caste, and each society developed its own life style, man-woman relationship, mode of succession, forms of worship, rituals, language, art, literature and dress-in. The roots of diverse Kerala culture lies in this discrimination.
Originally, the people of Kerala followed the Dravidian way of life and religious practice. In due course many indigenous religions and philosophical systems like Jainism and Buddhism came to Kerala. Later on, commercial contacts with foreign countries gave way to the introduction of world religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism in Kerala. The influence of these religions helped in shaping the complex culture of Kerala.
Keralas maritime trade with the Arabs, Phoenicians, Romans and the Chinese, and later on, the invasion of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British gave the Keralites an opportunity to acquaint with various cultures and accepting the best from all, and interlacing new customs and styles with the existing.It is visible in the field of music, dance, painting, architecture and sculptures.
Thus, Kerala has a rich culture heritage evolved through the generations, incorporating the diverse elements like the performing arts, music, literature, society, religions, rituals, traditions, festivals etc.