Lifestyle Elements in Kerala

The features of the lifestyle in Kerala described in the pages of this section are the earlier, unique, styles of life. It has been replaced by a modern lifestyle that is a mix of western, traditional and other styles.

Some Features of Kerala Lifestyle

In this land of rivers, ponds and lakes, cleanliness was a habit. People bathed not just once a day, but in the mornings and evenings. You also washed your feet (or at least wiped them on the door mat) before entering a house.

There was a general preference for white clothes, which were washed daily. However, the clothing style differed based on religion, caste and location. Hindus, Christians and Muslims had their own styles. Upper and lower caste Hindus wore different types of clothes.

Typically, the dress consisted of a moondoo (a piece of cotton cloth 6 feet long and 4 feet wide). Women wore a blouse while men went bare-bodied in the hot climate (or put a 4ftx2ft loosely woven cotton towel around the shoulders). When working in the fields, men often wore the 4ftx2ft cloth in place of the moondoo.

The color and style of the clothes typically differed from community to community.

Marriages occurred only between persons belonging to the same community. Inter-religious and inter-caste marriages were a rarity. Even now, this situation is changing only very slowly.

Agriculture was the major occupation in this fertile land. Brahmins and some other communities attended to temple rituals - an important task in earlier times. Then there were the fishermen, salt-makers, weavers, iron smiths, potters, oil-extractors, washermen, barbers and a few other specialists.

From early times, Kerala offered a conducive environment for different religions to prosper. Christiantiy and Islam reached Kerala almost during the lifetimes of Christ and Mohamed. While Buddhism and Jainism also prospered in early times, they got absorbed into the Hindu community later.

Art and literature evoked much interest and had good patronage. Even today, Kerala is prominent in these fields with a number of well-known artists and writers. The performing art, Kathakali, has an international reputation.

We would look at different aspects of lifestyle in Kerala in separate articles.