Kerala, cut off as it is from the rest of India by the Western Ghats, is noted for its rich culture, heritage and other distinctive characteristics. Keralites have the rare capability to imbibe and assimilate lofty ideals and principles wherever they find them. Religious tolerance, hospitality, cleanliness, simple life and broad outlook of the people have attracted many a foreigner to the State from time immemorial, besides her scenic beauty, pleasant climate and rich natural resources.
The important trading centres of Kerala had relations with Egypt, Asia Minor, China, Assyria, Babylonia, Greece, Rome, Malaya, Philippines, Java and Sumatra. The Kerala Kings and chieftains provided them with all possible assistance not only to carry on trade, but also to settle down here and propagate their religions. It is believed that the Apostle St. Thomas landed on Kerala in 51-54 AD St. Thomas established seven churches in the State in places like Palayar, Niranam and Thumboly. Cheraman Juma Masjid at Kodungalloor, the first Juma Masjid in India, was set up under the patronage of the Raja of Kodungalloor. Tradition has it that 10,000 Jews came to Kerala soon after destruction of their second temple in their homeland in 72 AD
There is an ancient Jain temple near the Palakad town. There are thus hundreds of instances of the Hindu rulers of the princely states of Kerala who made land and wealth available for the construction of churches and mosques. In some cases even temple buildings were given to establish institutions of other religions. Thousands of Namboodiris, the then caste-Hindus and even kings like Cheraman Perumal, changed their religions. Another notable feature is that there is no antagonism between one religion and another. Lord Ayyappa, an important deify of the Hindus, had close friendly relations with a Muslim, Vavar.
It is further to be noted that many churches and mosques in Kerala are situated adjacent to temples suggesting that communal harmony and religious tolerance are an essential part of Kerala’s culture and heritage. Even the responsibility for organising certain ceremonies and rituals of some of these institutions is vested with the local people belonging to other communities. Fairs and festivals of the places of worship are programmed in tune with the cultural background and heritage of Keralites. In short, ‘Keralisation’ of the festivals of different communities is the unique feature of Kerala life.