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Yakshi statue by Kanayi Kunjiraman at Malampuzha garden, Kerala

Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.

The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.

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A Malayali wearing a two-piece Mundu set made of kasavu fabric

Every part of South India changes colour on Onam and Vishu when Malayalis begin their celebrations. They cannot be missed for they decorate themselves in subtle shades of gold and white, and dot the streets in their traditional attire.

The white kerala saree, known as kasavu, has a rather interesting history. It grew to prominence when the Portuguese reached India, and began trade. Gold was exchanged for spices, and women began to incorporate gold into their sarees. The white part of the kasavu is believed to be inspired by the Greco-Roman one-piece, also known as 'toga' or 'palmyrene'.In Ravi Verma's paintings, the Malayali woman is visibly very similar to the European contemporary when she is decked in her adornments.

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Sabrimala Temple

Sabrimala Temple is a famous Hindu temple situated on a hilltop in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. The temple is surrounded by almost eighteen hills in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, one of the well-known reserves of India. The temple is said to be dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, who is the God of growth. From all around the world, the temple attracts Hindu pilgrims in the days of Mandalapooja in November-December, Makara Sankranti on January 14, Maha Vishuva Sankranti on April 14, and the first five days of each Malayalam month.

Origin of Sabrimala Temple

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Kalaripayattu artists practicing on the coast

The world of martial arts has been dominated by the Far Eastern nations, and words like kung fu and karate, immediately create a mental image of Asian men with long hair, white robes, and flexible bodies flying through the air. These arts, although completely assimilated by the Asian cultures, originated in India. Like Buddhism, which is the foundational religion that the principles of martial arts are derived from, the actual art form itself made its way from South India, where it was practiced for many years.

Kerala is known predominantly for coconuts, toddy, boats, and communism. It is also the house of Ayurveda, and Kalaripayattu. Kalaripayattu has become a dance form that is performed at festivals and in cultural programmes, but it began as a medieval fighting technique that was kept a secret among the warrior caste of Kerala, the Nairs.

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