Rivers endure a civilization. Earlier, agriculture was the only means of mankind. Hence they inhabited around the rivers. Civilizations had its origin and evolution in the banks of the rivers as they bring prosperity, culture, values, wisdom, knowledge, devotion and spiritual heritage. Moreover survival of the mankind depends on the water supplied by the nature.
Kerala is blessed with a rich potential of water resources. There are 44 major rivers in Kerala with numerous tributaries. 41 rivers originates in the Western Ghats and flow towards west to the Arabian Sea. Three rivers flow eastwards, one to Karnataka and the others to Tamil Nadu.
The Rivers of Kerala had influenced the cultural, historical and economic development of the state. They are the source of domestic water supply, irrigation and power generations, they enhance the industrial and tourism sectors and provides means of transport. Rivers are an inspiration in Malayalam literature, they address the culture and finally a destination of the departed soul.
The history and culture of Kerala are largely associated with the Rivers or its basins. The famous ‘Mamankam Festival’ celebrated till the 18th century was held at Thirunavaya, situated in the banks of River Bharathapuzha. The mortal remains of famous personalities including the national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri were immersed in this river. Bharathapuzha had inspired and influenced famous writers like M.T.Vasudevan Nair, V.K.N, O.V.Vijayan, Lohithadas and the poet P.Kunjiraman Nair in their literary works.
The Booker Prize winning novel ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy was written in the backdrop of River Meenachil. The Suryakaladi Mana, mentioned in the acclaimed classic, Aithehyamala of Kottarathil Shankunni, is also situated in the banks of Meenachil River.
Kaladi, the birthplace of the Great Advaita Philosopher Sankaracharya, is located near the River Periyar. The famous Aluva Shivarathri is also held in the banks of this river. Similarly, all rivers have their contributions in the culture and history of Kerala.
Many of the places of religious importance in Kerala are also located near the Rivers.
The Rivers have a pivotal role in remoulding the political and military history of Kerala. The flood in River Periyar in AD1341 destroyed the Kodungalloor harbour, which gave way to the rise of Cochin harbour. Later it developed into a major harbour in the country. Further it is believed that the same flood brought into existence the ‘Vypin Island’ in Kochi.
In 1789, a flood in the same river prevented Tippu Sulthan from entering the South of Periyar River, to the Travancore State. Hence the contribution of Rivers in the development of Kerala is unique, and each having their own identity, culture, history and legend.