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a people in southern India and the main population of Kerala, numbering more than 20 million (1970, estimate). They speak Malayalam. Approximately 60 percent are Hindus, and the rest are Christians and Muslims; ancient cults of local goddesses, ancestors, and sacred serpents are also widespread. A people with an ancient, highly developed culture, the Malayalis had their own system of government before the Common Era, the kingdom of Chera, or Kerala. In the course of several centuries the territory inhabited by the Malayalis was repeatedly divided into feudal principalities and partially or entirely incorporated into the large south Indian kingdoms. Fragmentation was intensified by the Portuguese, Dutch, and later English colonialists between the 16th and 20th centuries. Only in 1956 were the Malayalis reunited in a single state. The chief occupations are the cultivation of rice and coconut palms, fruit growing, fishing, maritime trade, and various handicrafts.
REFERENCESNarody luzhnoi Azii. Moscow, 1963.
Krishna Iyer, L. A. Kerala and Her People. Palghat, 1961.