Kerala is not only diverse in its geography and climatic conditions, but also in the religious faith. The state has people belonging to different communities and religions, living in harmony. The predominant religions followed in Kerala are Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Apart from these religions, there is considerable population of people belonging to the Buddhism, Jainism and Judaism. The different religions in Kerala have influenced the culture of the state. There are a number of temples present in the state which are famous for their annual festivals. The state also is home to considerable number of mosques and churches.
Apart from being the third largest religion in the world, Hinduism is also one of the main religions followed in Kerala. Nearly half of the population of Kerala comprises of Hindus. The state contains a long list of ancient and sacred temples dedicated to different Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Nambudiri, Nair, Ezhava, and other Dalit castes form the major population of Hindus in Kerala.
It is believed that of Islam set its foot in India through Kerala. The Arabs of the Middle East came here for trade and settled here at the coastal areas. Kerala has the oldest mosque in the country. Majority of the Muslim population lives in the coastal areas of central and southern Kerala, especially in Malappuram district.
It is believed by the Syrian Christians that St. Thomas visited Kerala in 52 AD and established 7 churches in the region. In 3rd and 4th centuries, a large number of Jewish Christians from Middle East came to the state. Portuguese who arrived in 15th century introduced Latin rites. Few centuries later, missionary movement during British rule brought Protestantism. At present, there are five different branches of Christianity in Kerala.
It is believed that Buddhism flourished in Kerala during the period of 650-850 AD. There are various ancient statues and idols in the state showing the importance of Buddhism in Kerala. However after 8th century, the religion started fading and completely disappeared by 11th century. There is significant impact of Buddhism in temples of Kerala where we can see the influences of Buddhist art and literature.
Jainism was brought by Chandragupta Maurya to the south in 3rd century BC. There is an ancient Jain temple known as Jainmedu in Vadakkanthara village, near Palakkad. Currently, Jainism is restricted to only a small population of Kerala, which mainly consist of Marwari business community settled in Kochi and Calicut.
It is believed that spice traders brought Judaism to Kerala, in 7th century. According to Jews of Cochin, following the destruction of Second Temple of Jerusalem, a considerable population of Jews relocated themselves to Kerala. With passing of centuries, the population of Jews decreased considerably and at present, there are only few hundred Jews left in Kerala.
People belonging to different religions and communities live in harmony in Kerala. Read more religions in Kerala, in the article.