Kerala is a union state located in the south western part of India. With an Arabian sea coastline on the west, it is bordered on the north by Karnataka and by Tamil Nadu on the south and east. Major cities are Thiruvananthapuram (the capital), Kochi and Kozhikode. The principal spoken language is Malayalam but many other languages are also spoken.
Kerala is mentioned in the ancient epic Mahabharata (800 BC) at several instances as a tribe, as a region and as a kingdom. The first written mention of Kerala is seen in a 3rd-century-BC rock inscription by emperor Asoka the Great, where it is mentioned as Keralaputra. This region formed part of ancient Tamilakam and was ruled by the Cheras. They had extensive trade relations with the Greeks, Romans and Arabs. In the 1st century AD Jewish immigrants arrived, and it is believed that St. Thomas the Apostle visited Kerala in the same century. The Chera Kingdom and later the feudal Nair and Namboothiri Brahmin city-states became major powers in the region. Early contact with Europeans later gave way to struggles between colonial and native interests. The States Reorganisation Act of 1 November 1956 elevated Kerala to statehood.