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Kottayam Kottayam is one of the 14 districts in the state of Kerala, India. The district has its headquarters at Kottayam town, located at 9.36 N and 76.17 E. Bordered by the lofty and mighty Western Ghats on the east and the Vembanad Lake and paddy fields of Kuttanad on the west, Kottayam is a land of unique characteristics. Panoramic backwater stretches, lush paddy fields, highlands, hills and hillocks, extensive rubber plantations, places associated with many legends and a totally literate people have given Kottayam District the enviable title: The land of letters, legends, latex and lakes. Kottayam town is the first town in India to have achieved 100% literacy (a remarkable feat achieved as early as in 1989).

¤¤ History

Kottayam literally means the interior of a fort - Kotta + Akam. Rulers of Munjanad and Thekkumkur had their headquarters at Thazhathangadi in the present Kottayam town. Marthanda Varma of Travancore attacked Thekkumkur and destroyed the palace and the Thaliyil Fort. The remnants of the palaces and forts are still seen here. The present Kottayam district was previously a part of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore. Earlier, the Travancore state consisted of two revenue divisions viz. the southern and northern divisions, under the administrative control of a 'Diwan Peshkar' for each. Later in 1868 two more divisions Quilon (Kollam) and Kottayam were constituted. The fifth division Devikulam came next but only for a short period, which in course of time, was added to Kottayam. At the time of the integration of the State of Travancore and Cochin (Kochi) in 1949, these revenue divisions were renamed as districts and the Diwan peshkars gave way to District Collectors, paving the way for the birth of the Kottayam District in July 1949.

Kottayam has played its role in all the political agitations of modern times. The 'Malayali Memorial ' agitation may be said to have had its origin in Kottayam. The Malayali Memorial sought to secure better representation for educated Travancoreans in the Travancore civil service against persons from outside. The Memorial, which was presented to the Maharaja Sri Moolam Thirunal (1891) was drafted at a public meeting held in the Kottayam Public Library. The event marked the beginning of the modern political movement in the State.

It was here that the famous Vaikom Satyagraham (1924-25), an epic struggle for eradication of untouchability, took place. Scheduled castes and other backward classes in Travancore were denied not only entry into temples, but also access to temple roads. Vaikom, the seat of a celebrated Siva Temple, was the venue of the symbolic satyagraha. It is of immense historic significance that national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, C. Rajagopalachari, Acharya Vinoba Bhave and E.V. Ramswami Naykar, associated with this struggle. The ' Nivarthana ' agitation of the early thirties, to secure adequate representation for the non-caste Hindus, Christians and Muslims in the State Legislature, enjoyed considerable support from this district. The district was also a centre of the agitation led by the State Congress for responsible Government in Travancore. The agitation had a triumphant end, with the overthrow of Sir. C.P. Ramaswami Iyer, the then Dewan of Travancore.

¤¤ Facts and Figures

Area : 2203sq. km

Altitude : Sea Level

Population : 18,20,000 ( 1991 census )

¤¤ Talukes

Meenachil, Vaikom, Kottayam, Changanassery, Kanjirapalli

¤¤ Muncipalities

Kottayam, Vaikom, Pala, Changanassery

¤¤ Tourist Season

September to March

¤¤ Tourist Attractions

Ayyampara is a beautiful scenic spot, 43 km. from Kottayam.

The flat rocky plain above the town affords awe inspiring view of the surroundings and is an excellent point for sunset viewing. Bharananganam is an important Christian pilgrim centre.  The church here houses mortal remains of Sister Alphonsa (1916-1946). The ancient church contains an attractive Grotto of Virgin Mary. Changanasserry is a beautiful town, located 23 km. from Kottayam. Here, the Thrikkodithanam temple has 18th century old inscriptions of great historic value.  The 'Deepam' festival is celebrated here in the months of Nov.-Dec. Peruna is a little known town 2 km from Changanassery, famous for the Kidangoor Sri Subrhamanya Swamy Temple, where the annual festival takes place in March. The other attraction is Sree Sankara Ayurveda Vaidyasala and the Ayurveda hospital is renowned world over. Social Ayurvedic treatments are systematically and carefully carried out for the maximum benefits of the patients.

Ettumanur Hindu pilgrim centre 17 km. from Kottayam.  The ancient Siva temple built in 16 AD. is a masterpiece of the Kerala style of temple architecture.  The inner and outer walls of the temple are decorated with exquisite sculptures and murals depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The annual festival is celebrated for 10 days during Feb /Mar. Mannanam is a Syrian Christian pilgrim centre, located 8 km. from Kottayam.  It is famous for the St. Joseph's monastery. St. Joseph's Press established in 1844, is the oldest printing press in Kerala.

Kumarakom is an implausibly beautiful paradise stocked with divine mangroves and coconut groves, lush green paddy fields, gushing waters snaking through the dense forests and the magnificent delicate fluttering blossoms. The place is located on the Vembanad Lake. This illustrious land is recognised for its traditional country crafts. There are exquisite boats and canoes that take you on a ride to the interiors of the lake. Well, by interiors, we definitely do not mean underwaters. Fantastic resorts are available nearby that offer leisurely accommodation with an ever increasing line of facilities provided like Ayurvedic massage, yoga, meditation, boating, fishing, angling and swimming.

Vembanad Lake is an intermingled and immense network of rivers and canals, it is so to say, just another paradise. It incidentally forms the joining point of all the rivers. This makes it a wonderful picnic spot. It is slowly being commercialised and developed into a backwater destination. The lake has in store for you, certain thrilling activities like boating and fishing. Nearby is the Kumarakom Tourist Village that offers houseboat cruises and holiday packages. The otherwise quiet and peaceful lake comes alive bustling with joy at the arrival of Onam. It forms the centre of attraction during that time as the snake boat races are held there. The vigour of the boatmen, their cheerful and competitive spirit and the enthusiasm of the silent watchers is worth the bucks spent on a trip to this place.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary - The banks of the Vembanad lake house this fabulous bird sanctuary. An ornithologist's delight, this place is the favourite haunt of the migratory birds like the Siberian stork, egret, darter, heron and teal. Among the other species are the woodpecker, skylark, crane, water hen and parrots. To get the right feel of the place, we suggest a cruise trip along the lake. Take a look at Pathiramanal too, which is a delightful island on the lake and can be accessed by boat from here.

Pathiramanal is a 10 acre island. Situated on the backwaters, it plays abode to rare varieties of migratory birds from different parts of the world. Sprucing up the beauty of the region are these quaint reservoirs named Nattakom and Panachikad Reservoirs and are set amidst a green carpet. This thriving landscape makes it pleasing for the migratory birds to have a little fun every summer. A boat ride from Kodoorar in Panachikad to Kumarakom is a great way to relax and enjoy nature's bounties. Facilities here range from Ayurvedic massages to boating, fishing and swimming.

A small yet ideal spot for the avid picnickers, Vaikom provides many recreational facilities too, including boat cruises. Anchuvilakku is a stone lamp post, from the times when the Kerala architecture reigned supreme. It lies near the Changanacherry boat jetty, where the famous Changanacherry market also exists. Five lamps adorn this post and are lit using kerosene. Nadukani lies atop a picturesque hill and overlooks endless stretches of meadows with huge rocks giving them company. Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls is a beautiful picnic spot where streams snake through the landscapes that house fascinating rubber plantations and the gushing waters make gurgling noises that are a treat to the ears. The waters splash down the mountains from a height of 100 ft.

Karimbukayam is a tiny area on the Manimala River. The river flows between the Kanjirapally and Erumeli. This place is bountiful in natural treats but what makes it so popular are the occasional exotic water fiestas on the reservoirs organized by the fervent people. There are natural reservoirs and waterfalls at Melaruvithodu on the Ernakulam - Thekkady road that are worth giving a visit. Erumeli is cosily nestled in the lush green Western Ghats. Rich in natural beauty, it forms the entrance point to South India's most prominent pilgrim centres. Teak plantations dot the landscape.

Vavarambalam is a mosque dedicated to Vavar, a companion of Sree Ayyappa. The Pettathullal festival is held here in January every year. Maniyamkunnu houses many majestic mountains that slope down to meet the beautiful valleys below. Kayyoor is an enchanting landscape formed by a chain of green hills. A shrine dedicated to the Pandava brothers of the epic Mahabharatha is found here. Only ghee is used to light the lamps here.  Women are not permitted inside the temple. St.Mary's Church is another attraction here and now forms a famous pilgrim centre. An annual festival is held here named the Feast of the Blessed Alphonsa (July). Thousands flock to see the major event.

Ilaveezhapoonchira  Skirting the Kottayam district are beautiful valleys of Ilaveezhapoonchira, spread over thousands of acres.  The verdant landscape punctuated by four gigantic hills, each rising to around 3200 ft, is an ideal place to unwind.  During the monsoons when the valley fills upto form a scenic lake, this place unveils yet another beautiful slice of nature. Ilaveezhapoonchira means valley where leaves don't fall and is named so because the place has no trees.

Kannadipara  As the name suggests, the valley of this rocky mountain reflects the morning sun with a mirror like perfection. This is also the highest point in Ilaveezhapoonchira. 3 km from here is the Pazhakakanam Plateau nourished by the Kadapuzha River. Bamboo groves, meadows and wild flowers make this place exotic. An added attraction  here is the Kazhukankulimali Waterfalls that playfully cascade down the mountain and greet the river below with a magnificent splash.  On the eastern side of Kannadipara is a natural fort set amidst steep rocks.

Mankallu Mudikal - The three hills in this region lie close to each other, their flat hilltops covered with lush grasslands.

Illickal Mala - Numerous mountain streams in this peak, 6000 ft. above sea level, flow down to form the serene Meenachil River.  The solitude, the tranquility, the gentle breeze and the star spangled sky here are all enchanting beyond words.  Tourists have to trek up 3 km to reach the top of the hill.  And if you so wish, you could even spend the night on the heights.

Illickal Kallu - This magnificent hill comprises of three different hills each rising to 4000 ft and above. The hills have a rather peculiar shape, closely resembling the mushroom or an umbrella. Hence the name Kuda kallu (umbrella shaped rock). The hill houses a medicinal herb Neel Koduveli believed to possess supernatural healing powers. One can have a look at the Arabian Sea from the hilltops. The sunset is an exceptionally rare treat to the eyes.

Ayyappara - The Pandavas, of the Mahabharata fame are believed to have stayed near this rock, 2000ft. above sea level, during their exile. The land is spread over an area of 20 acres. The name is believed to have its origination from the Ayyappa temple situated here. Standing on four pillars and placed below a flat but huge piece of rock that forms the roof, The temple, or so to say, a rock cave, can accommodate jus around 15 people. Thousands throng to this place to get the deity's blessings and more than anything, to watch the pleasing sunset.

Kolani Mudi is yet another peak on the Ilaveezhapoonchira mountain range that houses yet another cave. Marmala Stream is a scenic stream with breathtaking waterfalls. Sliding down numerous hillocks from a height of 200 ft, the gushing water has etched out over the years a deep pond in the rocks.  Right under the waterfalls is a natural bridge. Vazhikkadavu On the outskirts of the district is this hill station of rocky terrains sought-after for its pristine nature.  On one side of the main rock are extremely tall and steep rocks and on the other is a valley of fearful depth.  Bordering this crude landscape like a silver lace is the Meenachil River.

Kurisumala 3 km from Vazhikkadavu is this renowned Christian pilgrim centre where hundreds of devotees from far and near converge during the holy week and after, to climb the hill in faith, carrying small wooden crosses.  The peaceful Jewish Monastery at the top of the hill, the silence of the hills, the cool mountain air and the lush green landscape are all soothing to the soul. On the eastern side of the hill is Muruganmala housing a rock cut temple dedicated to Murugan (son of Lord Shiva).

Thangalppara - The mausoleum of Sheikh Fariduddin found here makes this place a famous Muslim pilgrim centre.  Nearby is the scenic hill station of Kurathikallu and the beautiful Kottathavalam. Kottathavalam Near Murugan hills at Kurushumala, a flight of steps cut in the rocks takes one to this magnificent cave. The rocks within the cave, carved like chairs and couches and the figures of Madurai Meenakshi, Ayyappa, Murugan, Kannaki and weapons sculpted on them, are all worth exploring.

Poonjar Palace - Within the palace walls is an extraordinary royal collection of antiques and exquisite furniture which include a palanquin, a thoni - carved out of a single piece of wood - for Ayurvedic massages, huge chandeliers, palm leaf engravings, jewel boxes, different varieties of lamps, sculptures of Nataraja (dancing Lord Shiva), grain measures, statues and weapons. A unique conch preserved here is taken out once a year for ritualistic purposes. Near the palace is an amazing replica of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. The walls of this temple bear sculptures which narrate stories from the Puranas (the legends of ancient India). However, the most fascinating thing here is the Chuttuvilakku (row of lamps) carved out on stone walls of the Sastha Temple nearby.

Wagamon is an enchanting hill station on the Idukki - Kottayam border, dotted with tea gardens and meadows, will soon be one of India's foremost eco-tourism projects. Pala and Kanjirapally, nourished by the Meenachil and Manimala rivers respectively, these two towns are centres of rubber plantations. Vayaskara and Chirattamon are two places well known for their Ayurvedic rejuvenation centres.

Pilgrim Centres

Siva Temple, the place of worship of the erstwhile Thekkumkoor royal family.  Annual festival - ten day utsavam (April-May), Sivarathri (January-February). St.Mary's Church, Built in 1579, this church displays outstanding architecture which is a blend of Kerala and Portuguese styles. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals made in oriental and western styles on biblical and non biblical themes. Thazhathangadi Valiapalli Built in 1550 AD, this church belongs to the Knanaya Orthodox Syrian Community. The Pahlavi inscriptions of this church are famous.

Jama Masjid - This ancient mosque on the banks of the Meenachil River is believed to be 1000 years old. Thirunakkara MahadevaTemple is situated in the heart of Kottayam town and is a 500 year old temple built by the Thekkumkoor Maharajah. Adorned in the Kerala style of architecture, colourful murals decorate the walls of the building. St.Mary's Church is one of the most important churches of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christians. The ettunompu (8 days fasting) is the main annual event held here, when devotees from far and wide congregate to participate in the prayers and rituals.

Dharmasastha Temple, established by Parasurama, plays host to the annual festival named Sankranti Vanibhyam. St. George's Church, believed to have been built by the Thekkumkoor Rajas houses the golden cross, which is very popular. The Mahadeva Temple nearby, is famous for the murals. The CSI Cathedral Church, built over 175 years ago, is a monument from the British Era. Of the other famous churches present here are the Malankara orthodox Syrian Church, the St. Mary's Church at Kuravilangad (it has an old bell bearing an intricate inscription), St. Mary's Church at Athirampuzha (built in 1080 AD with a unique festival, unique because the offerings made to the deity are gold and silver arrows), St. Mary's Church at Cheriyapally,

St. Mary's Church at Valiyapalli (the ancient Syrian Church) and the St. Mary's Church at Kudamaloor (800 years old built by the Chempakasseri Maharajah. The offering made to the deity here is a traditional water bag andrope).

St. Thomas Mount is a holy place situated at a height of 1200 ft. above sea level and offers a panoramic view of the Vaikom Lake and the surrounding areas. Shiva Temple is a temple associated with Paraurama and presents the Kerala style of architecture. It is popular for its art performances and the annual festival of Vaikathashtami (November/ December). St. Joseph's Monastery, near Medical College houses the mortal remains of blessed Father Chavara Kurakose Elias. Kaduthuruthi Valiapalli, between Ettumanoor and Vaikom, built in 500 AD, has a huge cross sculpted out of a single stone at the entrance. Vimalagir Church, built in the Gothic architectural style has a 172 ft. tower. St. Thomas Church is believed to have been established by the apostle St. Thomas. Here oil poured into lamps kept before the image of Infant Jesus is the offering. Another Church present nearby is the Aruvithira Church.

Pazhayapalli is a very famous 950 year old mosque, that plays host to the annual festival, Thangal adiyanthiram. Chandanakuddam festival at the mosque is one of the largest crowd pulling events in Changanacherry town. Saraswathi Temple, also known as the Mookambika Temple of the South, holds the Saraswathi (goddess of learning and the arts) pooja every year in October/ November. The only temple dedicated to Sun God is the Surya Temple, Adityapuram. Here, the first rays of the sun are considered to be very auspicious. There is a Bhagavathy Temple at Ambalakkadavu and also at Manarkad. The latter is dedicated to Godess Bhadrakali. The main auspicious events held here are the Kalamezbuthupattu, Kumbha bharani, Meena bharani, Pathm udayam, Mandalam chirappu.

The Kavil Bhagavathy Temple is situated at Changancherry and is believed to have been built by one of the Thekkumkoor Maharajas. Of the other temples nearby are the Sree Subramanaya Swami Temple situated in Perunna, the Siva Temple located at Vazhappalli (famous for sculptures) and the Kalkulathukavu Temple (famous for its Mudiyeduppu festival celebrated once in 12 years and the rare art forms connected with it.  The procession carrying honey, plantain tree with the fruit, bhairavi purapadu and darika vadha purappadu is a grand affair.

¤¤ How to Reach

Air : Nearest airports Kochi (76 km), Thiruvananthapuram ( 160 km ).

Rail : The railway station is situated 2 km from the central bus station and is connected to the major cities of India.

Road : An excellent network of roads connects the districtto all themajor towns and cities of India.

Backwaters : There are two ferry stations. The Town Jetty is about 3 km from the railway station and operates services during the monsoon. During summer, boats are operated fro the Kodimatha Jetty.

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