Kerala is bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea and on the other sides by Tamil Nadu and Mysore. It is one of the smallest states of the Union: area 38, 855 sq km. Madhya Pradesh is eleven times bigger than Kerala which has half its population. One third of the state is forests and mountains.
Like the Punjab, Kerala has been one of the gateways of India. Even in the dim past carried on trade with countries as far apart as Arabia and China. The chief port was Muziris (modern Cranganore or Kodungallur) which was frequented by vessels from Arabia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. It was because of its early contacts with west Asia that Kerala came to have the first settles of Jews and Christians and, later Muslims. St. Thomas is believed to have come to this land in AD 49 and gained some converts to Christianity. Kerala and the countries of west Asia and Europe continued to maintain relation for several centuries, but they acquired politically significance only after Vasco da Gama landed near Calicut on May 17, 1498. The Portuguese, who came to Kerala seeking its pepper and other spices, stayed on to meddle with its politics and played one Raja against another. Later the Dutch and the English followed their example.