Kottayam is a compound word Kotta+Akkam which means the interior of a fort. Rulers of Munjanad and Thekkumkur had their head quarters at Thazhathangadi in the present Kottayam Town. Marthanda Varma of Travancore attacked Thekkumkur and destroyed the palace and the Taliyil fort. The remnants of palaces and forts are still seen here.
Bordered by the lofty Western Ghats on the east, the Vembanad lake on the west, Kottayam is the land of unique backwater stretches, lushy paddy fields, highlands, extensive rubber plantations, a totally literate people has given this district the little: "The Land Of Letters Latex and Lakes".
The present district of Kottayam was previously a part of erstwhile princely state of Travancore. Earlier, the Travancore state consisted of two revenue divisions viz., the Southern and the Northern division, under the administrative control of Divan Peshkar for each. Later, in 1868, two more divisions, Quilon and Kottayam, were constituted. The fifth division - Devikulam, came next but for a short period, which in course of time, was added to Kottayam.
At the time of integration of the State of Travancore and Cochin in 1984, these revenue divisions were renamed as districts and the Divan Peshkars gave way to District Collectors, marking the birth of Kottayam District.
The beginning of of the 9th century A.D. is the age of Kulashekaras. At that time, Kottayam was a part of the Kulashekara Empire (1090-1102 A.D). The Vembanad Lake itself derives its name from Vempolinad.
The Kingdom of Vempolinad, split itself into kingdoms of Thekkumkur and Vadakkumkur by about 1100 A.D. and later these two kingdoms were annexed by Marthanda Varma of Travancore (between 1748 and 1754).
The Portuguese and the Dutch had their business relations with both Thekkumkur and Vadakkumkur kingdoms, pepper and other spices being the main attractions.
In addition to Thekkumkur and Vadakkumkur, Marthanda Varma brought two more pretty principalities in Kottayam under his control. These were Poonjar and Meenachil.
After Marthanda Varma, Dharma Raja (1758-1798) placed Kottayam in a key position in the new defense strategy against Haider Ali and Tippu Sulthan of Mysore. Apart from this, Kottayam afforded asylum to a number of refugee princes who left Malabar in the wake of Mysore invasions.
Kottayam occupied a pre-eminent position in the cultural life of the Travancore princely court, the main reason being the migration of Ramapurathu Warrier, the famous poet of Vadakkumkur, to Triruvananthapuram , following the annexation of Kottayam by Marthanda Varma.
Kottayam has played its role in all the political agitation 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 Travancore civil service aganist persons from outside. The memorial that was presented to Maharaja Sri Mulam Thirunal (1891) was drafted at a public meeting held in Kottayam Public Library. The event marked the beginning of the modern political movement in the state.
It was here that the famous Vaikom Satyagraha, (1924-25) an epic struggle for eradication of untouchability, took place. Scheduled castes and other backward classes in Travancore were not only denied 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, Acharaya Vinoba Bhava and E.V.Ramaswami 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 State Legislature, enjoyed considerable support from this district.
An unbelievably beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals adorned with white lilies. Situated on the Vembanad Lake, in this small water world you'll come across plenty of traditional country crafts, boats and canoes which will take you into the heart of the scenic Iake. The resorts nearby offer comfortable accommodation and exclusive leisure options like an Ayurvedic massage, yoga, meditation, boating, fishing, angling and swimming.
The Vembanad Lake, Kumarakam - 16 km from Kottayam
Kottayam is a vast network of rivers and canals which empty into the great expanse of water called the Vembanad Lake. The lake, an enchanting picnic spot and a fast developing backwater tourism destination, provides boating, fishing and sightseeing experiences that are truly exhilarating. The Kumarakom Tourist Village offers houseboat cruises and holiday packages. The serene lake comes alive during Onam with a spectacular water regatta - the snake boat races. It is indeed amazing to watch oarsmen, at least a hundred in one boat, slice their way through the waters to the fast rhythm of their own full throated singing.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary - 16 km from Kottayam
Located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, an ornithologist's paradise, is a favourite haunt of migratory birds like the Siberian stork, egret, darter, heron and teal. Other common varieties like the woodpecker, skylark, crane, water hen and parrots can also be spotted here. A cruise along the Vembanad Lake is the best way to experience the sanctuary. Pathiramanal, an enchanting island on the lake, can be accessed by boat from here.
Reservoirs at Nattakom and Panachikad
Adding to the charm of these quiet villages are their scenic reservoirs escorted by vivid green all along. Migratory birds come seeking this verdant landscape every summer and frolic in the natural splendours till the end of the season. A boat ride from Kodoorar in Panachikad to Kumarakom is a great way to relax and enjoy nature's bounties. Facilities here cater to the recreation needs of tourists, from soothing Ayurvedic massages to boating, fishing and swimming.
Tourist Land, Vaikom
This is a quaint picnic spot ideal for a languorous break. Tourists can avail of recreation options at this place too. Boat cruises are available on the Vaikom Lake.
Anchuvilakku - 22 km from
This stone lamp post, a typical example of Kerala architecture, was built near the Changanacherry boat jetty by the renowned freedom fighter Veluthampi Dalawa. The Changanacherry market, one of the largest in Kerala, was also established by him. The five lamps on this post are lit using kerosene.
A picturesque location at the top of a hill with endless stretches of meadows girded by huge rocks. A bird's eye view of the low lying places can be enjoyed from here.
Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls - 18 km from Kottayam
2 km down a mud lane from Kumarakom is this beautiful picnic spot where streams tinkle as they make their way through the landscape and waters roar as they cascade down the mountains from a height of I00 ft. Tourists can also enjoy the shade of the rubber plantations here.
Karimbukayam - Meloram
This quaint spot on the Manimala River that flows between the Kanjirapally (a plantation town) and Erumeli panchayats is much sought-after for its natural splendours. However what makes the place really popular are the occasional exotic water fiestas on the reservoirs organised by the enthusiastic people. The natural reservoirs and waterfalls at Melaruvithodu on the Ernakulam - Thekkady road is in no way inferior to the other picturesque regions of Kottayam.
The Mosque at Thazhathangadi is one of the ancient mosques in India. It is believed that malik Dinar had built this mosque about 1000 years ago.
Erumeli - 60 km north-east of Kottayam town.
Nestled in the lush green Western Ghats is this nature-rich village. This is also the entrance point to South India's most prominent pilgrim centres - the Sabarimala Temple. At Kanakapalam nearby, teak plantations dot the landscape. Vavarambalam, Erumeli : This mosque is dedicated to Vavar, a companion of the deity - Sree Ayyappa - of the Sabarimala temple. The mosque is unique in that Hindu pilgrims customarily worship here before their trek to Sabarimala. Festival Pettathullal (January).
The majestic mountains here that slope down to meet the beautiful valleys below are truly spellbinding.
An enchanting landscape formed by a chain of green hills at the Bharananganam panchayat. A shrine dedicated to the Pandava brothers of the epic Mahabharatha is found here. As in the famous temple at Sabarimala, only ghee is used to Iight the lamps here. Women are not permitted inside the temple.
St. Mary's Church, Bharananganam
The mortal remains of the Blessed Alphonsa are entombed at this church which is now a famous pilgrim centre. Thousands gather at this holy shrine during the annual festival: Feast of the Blessed Alphonsa (July).
Skirting the Kottayarn 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 up to 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. This is also one of the best places in Kerala to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset. A DTPC rest house nearby offers comfortable accommodation.
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.
The three hills in this region lie close to each other, their flat hilltops covered with lush grasslands. An aerial view of these resemble a traditional clay oven. With no trees around, the hilltops give you the feeling that you are walking in the clouds.
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.
Three hills, each rising to 4000 ft. and above, together form this huge hill. Each of the hills have a peculiar shape. One of them resemble a mushroom owing to which it gets its name Kuda Kallu (umbrella shaped rock). It is said that the medicinal herb Neela Koduveli, which bathes the hillsides in blue, grows here. This flower is also believed to possess supernatural powers which could increase wealth and ensure a rich harvest. The second hill, has a small hunch on the sides and is therefore referred to as Kuunu Kallu (hunch back rock). Across this rock is a 1/2. ft. wide bridge called Narakapalam (bridge to hell). From the hilltops, the Arabian Sea can be seen in the distant horizon as a thin blue line. The sunset on a full moon day is sensational, when the moon can be seen rising up like another sun, as the orange sun goes down.
According to legends, the five Pandava brothers - epic heroes of the Mahabharatha - stayed near this rock, 2000 ft. above sea level and spread over 20 acres, during their exile. The name of the rock is said to be a modified version of the original term Anchupara (five rocks). However, some say that the name owes its origin to the Ayyappa Temple here. This temple has four pillars which support a flat piece of rock that forms the roof. On one side of the rock is a cave that can accommodate over 15 people. The sunset is beautiful from here. Above all, the cool mountain breeze does wonders to your mind and body.
Yet another peak in the Ilaveezhapoonchira mountain range, which also has a cave.
This scenic stream and its breathtaking waterfalls are together referred to as the enchantress of the jungle. 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.
On the outskirts of the district is this hill station of rocky terrain 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. During the months of December/January the landscape comes alive in a riot of colours with orchids and wild flowers.
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). The road to Kurisumala offers some real sightseeing opportunities in a European model house and the beautiful artificial lake, both designed by the renowned architect, Laurie Baker.
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.
Near Murugan hills at Kurushumala, a flight of steps cut in the rocks takes one to this magnificent cave. Legends say that the royal family from Madurai rested here on their way to Poonjar. 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.
The palace is a glorious testimony to the regal opulence of a bygone era. 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. Such rock cut lamps are rare in India.
Pala and Kanjirapally
Nourished by the Meenachil and Manimala rivers respectively, these two towns are centres of rubber plantations.
There are many legends about how this region became known as 'Pala'. Pala is believed to be an old time holy place of Hindus. The very word Pala was desired from 'Palazhi' the mythological holy river from which nectar was churned.
It is also believed that the word comes from 'Palathu Chethayar' families then prominent settles of the region. Another school maintains that the first group of Christian settles who came from 'paloor' was instrumental in christening the place 'Pala'. According to another school, the 'palayam' (fort) of the Meenachil Karthas (the ruling family) was situated in the region and so the name Pala got established. The first Kartha families were known as 'Njavakathu Karthas'.
Pala was the headquarters of the Meenachil region. 'Meenachil' derives its name from the famous Meenachil river. This river which is the main artery of the region was formally known as 'Kavanar'. It is believed that later a 'Meenakshi' temple was established somewhere on the shores and over centuries, the holy abode of Meenakshi became known as Meenachil.
Vayaskara and Chirattamon
These places are well known for their Ayurvedic rejuvenation centres.
This 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. The breeding centre of the Kerala Livestock Board is located here