The greenery of Kerala is varied, including as it does tropical greenery of mountains in the east and village greenery of the country in the valleys. The greenery is home to millions of living things, from elephants to microscopic insects. Elephants, deer and tiger roam among the mountain forests while the mynah, koel, paradise fly catcher or an occasional parrot would be flying around the village greenery.
The one thing that a first-time visitor to Kerala notices is the abundance of greenery. If you land from the air during daytime, look down and you would find a green landscape, that is almost forest-like at places. As you travel by train, car or just walk around, you would notice tall green trees and innumerable kinds of plants everywhere.
The effect is particularly stunning during the rainy season, with the whole landscape glistening brilliantly green through a coat of water.
Kerala is a narrow stretch of land between a mountain range in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west. This narrow stretch, less than 600 kms in length, is watered by over 40 rivers. Two substantial monsoons replenish these rivers and the land among them.
The eastern mountain range (called western ghats - because it is 'west' to rest of India) is home to different kinds of forests - evergreen rain forests with dense foliage, timber forests with teak, rosewood and several other varieties of hardwood, tea and coffee plantations and man-made forests of eucalyptus.
The valleys towards the seaside on the west were once dominated with vast stretches of flat green paddy fields. The homesteads among them were full of trees and plants - mango, jackfruit, banana and innumerable others. Further west, along the coast, coconut gardens dominated.
Even though many paddy fields have been converted into residential plots (or brick-kilns), the green landscape is still dominant. Commercial consciousness is creating new greenery - beautifully laid out tourist villages and organic farms, for example.
The major festival of Kerala, Onam, is a festival of flowers. For ten days every year during August-September, a decorative pattern is created with flowers on the ground in front of the main door. Women wear small bundles of jasmine flowers in their hair. Certain flowers have a prominent place in temple rituals.
Elephants from the forests are tamed and brought down to the valleys for working in timber yards and for temple festivals. Some might even come visiting people's homes (pic right) as mentioned in a separate article on a temple festival.
However, it is milk animals like cows and goats, pets like cats and dogs, small animals like squirrels, and seasonal birds of different kinds that you are most likely to see as you tour the land. There are wildlife and bird sanctuaries for specialized tour experiences.
At one time, snakes were widespread. However, with the clearing of undergrowth and other snake habitats, their numbers are fewer these days. So are their main food, the frogs, whose legs are exported to developed countries as food delicacies.
In this tropical land, numerous insects thrive. Few cause any harm to people other than giving some irritating bites.
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