Kerala (['keːɹəˌɭɐ] ; Malayalam: കേരളം?; Kēraḷaṁ) is a state on the Malabar Coast of southwestern India. To its east and northeast, Kerala borders Tamil Nadu and Karnataka respectively; to its west and south lie the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, with the islands of Lakshadweep and the Maldives, respectively. Kerala nearly envelopes Mahé, a coastal exclave of Pondicherry. Kerala is one of the four states of South India.
First settled in the 10th century BCE by speakers of Proto-South Dravidian, Kerala was influenced by the Mauryan Empire. Later, the Cheran kingdom and feudal Namboothiri Brahminical city-states became major powers in the region. Early contact with overseas lands culminated in struggles between colonial and native powers. The States Reorganisation Act of November 1, 1956, elevated Kerala to statehood. Social reforms enacted in the late 19th century by Cochin and Travancore were expanded upon by post-independence governments, making Kerala among the Third World's longest-lived, healthiest, most gender-equitable, and most literate regions. However, Kerala's suicide, alcoholism, and unemployment rates rank among India's highest. A survey conducted in 2005 by Transparency International ranked Kerala as the least corrupt state in the country.
The etymology of Kerala is widely disputed, and is a matter of conjecture. The prevailing theory is that Kerala is an imperfect Malayalam portmanteau that fuses kera ('coconut palm tree') and alam ('land' or 'location' or 'abode of'). Another theory is that the name originated from the phrase chera alam (Land of the Chera). Natives of Kerala—Keralites or Malayalees—thus refer to their land as Keralam. Kerala's tourism industry, among others, also use the phrase God's own country.