Kottayam is one of the larger towns in Kerala, south India, located near to Kochi. The city is India’s first 100% literate city, also known as Letter Capital of Kerala, due to headquarters of more than a dozen publishing houses and newspaper companies as well as several famous colleges and university. The city is one of the strongest centres of Kerala’s indigenous Church, the Malankara Orthodox Church, a major non-catholic church. Kottayam is a town in south-central Kerala, sandwiched between the Vembanad Lake and the Kerala hill-country. Best known as a hub of trade and commerce, Kottayam is also a centre for education and literature, and as a centre of Kerala’s large Christian population. Travellers should not face much difficulty in getting by with English, as the language is widely understood. Most signboards above shops are in English as well. Tamil is another language that is understood reasonably widely.
Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls Aruvikkuzhi is a beautiful picnic spot and an ideal shooting location for movies located in Kottayam. Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls, falling in five steps, is a real feast for the eyes. Here streams make their way through the landscape and the water roars as it cascades down the mountains from a height of 100 ft. It is an ideal place for trekking and is located in the midst of rubber plantations. St. Mary’s Church is situated at the top of the waterfalls. The rubber plantation centre at Pallickathod is just 1 km from this spot.
Bharananganam an important pilgrim centre in South India, is located on the banks of Meenachil River, the surrounding places are bestowed with natural beauty due to hilly areas and a lot of vegetation. Agriculture is the main occupation of the people, who cultivate plantation crops such as Rubber. The thousand-year-old St. Mary’s Syro Malabar Catholic Church here is one of the famous pilgrim centres of the Christians in Kerala. Also known as Anakkallu Palli, it is the place holding the mortal remains of Saint Alphonsa (1910–1946).
Elaveezha Poonchira Valley where leaves do not fall. A hill station with large hills around 3200 ft high. Beautiful hillocks named Mankunnu, Kudayathoormala, Thonippara and Poonchira are located here. A pool located here is famously remembered in local folklore as a bathing place used by Panchali, the legendary heroine of the Mahabharata.
Erumely also spelt “Erumeli” is a village and town in the south-east part of Kottayam district. It is situated on the way to Sabarimala and also an important halting place (idathavalam) for the Sabarimala pilgrims. Erumely is famed for its religious harmony and prosperity between Hindus and Muslims which existed from the early periods. It is a place which has strong roots in legends and myths associated with lord Ayyappa.
Ettumanoor The ancient Siva Ettumanoor Mahadevar Temple here has brought glory and fame to the place. Myths have it that the Pandavas and the sage Vyasa had worshipped at this temple. The name of the place had its origin from the word ‘manoor’, which means the home of deer. The present temple building, with its gopuram and the fortress around it, was reconstructed in 1542 AD. There are Dravidian mural paintings on the walls inside and outside of the main entrance. The fresco of Pradosha Nritham (Dance of Shiva) is one of the finest Wall painting in India. There is a golden flag staff inside the temple. On the top of it is the idol of a bull surrounded by small bells and metal leaves of the banyan tree. The temple roofs are covered with copper sheets and it has 14 ornamental tops. Bhagavati, Sastha, Ganapathy and Yakshi are installed here as subordinate deities. It is believed that the great philosopher, Sankaracharya wrote the ‘Soundaraya Lahari’ staying in the temple.
Kumarakom Fishing, agriculture and tourism are the major economic activities. Kumarakom’s perfectly balanced tropical climate is very conducive to cultivation. The place has expanses of mangrove forests, paddy fields and coconut groves. Fruits like Banana, Mango, Jackfruit, Ambazhanga, Puli (Tamarind), Chaambenga, Peraycka (Guava), Aathaycka and Pineapple grow here. Also, cocoa and coffee, chena (yam) and chembu (colocasia), grow well and were cultivated under the coconut trees. This rich agricultural environment is mainly irrigated using interspersed waterways and canals of the Meenachil river. The smaller canals are often lined by hibiscus plants which lean partly over the canals to form a green canopy, from which hang the lovely hibiscus flowers. In the olden days, when the bund separating the backwaters from the sea was not yet built, the water in the canals moved in and out with the sea tide and it was salty. After the Thanneermukkam bund was constructed, the connection to the open sea was not free anymore, and so the tidal movement of the water in the canals stopped. It stagnated and then plenty of water hyacinths started growing densely in the canals, forming lovely green carpets with pale lilac flowers carpets.
Pathiramanal means ‘sands of night’. The scenic beauty of both sides of the lake, as well as that of the island, is mind blowing. It is home to many rare varieties of migratory birds from different parts of the world. the Island (also known as Anantha Padmanabhan Thoppu) was purchased by Chevalier ACM Anthraper, from M/s Bheemji Devji Trust of Cochin and was under the private ownership of Thaimattathil Family until the late seventies. In 1979 after Land Reforms Acts were enforced in the State, the property came under government ownership. The island was returned to the government as a surplus land that crossed the land ceiling. It was later transferred to the Tourism Department and the idea of leasing it out to private enterprises was under consideration. The island at present is uninhabited. Till the late seventies of the 20th century, 14 worker families resided in the island, who were later rehabilitated on the mainland in the Muhamma panchayath. The island is an hour and a half drive by motor boat or 30 minutes by speed boat from Alappuzha town. One can also take the boats plying in the Muhamma-Kumarakom water route. The SWTD boats plying in the Muhamma-Kumarakom water route no longer stops at Pathiramanal. It takes around 40 minutes from Kumarakom to reach Pathiramanal. The journey through Vembanad Lake is a marvellous experience.
Poonjar Palace of Poonjar Royal family, one of the major principalities of Travancore Kingdom, was the home of one of Kerala’s famous prince, Prince G.V Raja. The Poonjar 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 including a palanquin, a droni (treatment bed) carved out of a single piece of wood for Ayurvedic massages, huge chandeliers, palm leaf engravings, jewel boxes, varieties of lamps, sculptures of Nataraja (the dancing Siva), 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 that narrate stories from the Puranas (the legends of ancient India). However, the fascinating thing here is the Chuttuvilakku (row of lamps) carved out on the stone walls of the Sastha Temple nearby. Such rock-cut lamps are rare in India.
Vaikom Temple The ancient Sanskrit texts, Bhargava Purana & Sanalkumara Samhita mention this place as Vairagya geham and Vairagya puram. As per legends, Vyaghrapada Maharshi got Siva darsana here, so it was fittingly called Vyaghrapadapuram. Later, when Tamil spread, the word Vairagya got transformed as Vaikom. Today Vaikom is one of the most revered Shiva shrines in South India. The temple along with Ettumanoor Siva Temple, Kaduthuruthy Thaliyil Mahadeva Temple is considered a powerful trisome. The belief is that if a devotee worships at these three temples before ‘Ucha pooja’, all the wishes are fulfilled. Though Vaikkath Ashtami is the better known festival at the temple, it celebrates many other festivals, some of them unique to the temple.
Vembanad Lake is the longest lake in India and the largest lake in the state of Kerala. It is also counted as one of the largest lakes in India. Spanning several districts in the state of Kerala, it is known as Punnamada Lake in Kuttanad, Kochi Lake in Kochi. Several groups of small islands including Vypin, Mulavukad, Vallarpadam, Willingdon Island are located in the Kochi Lake portion. Kochi Port is built around the Willingdon Island, and the Vallarpadam Island. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is conducted in a portion of the lake. High levels of pollution have been noticed at certain hotspots of the Vembanad backwaters. The government of India has identified the Vembanad wetland under National Wetlands Conservation Programme.
Manarcaud St. Mary’s Shrine here attracts people of all faiths. Various kinds of offerings are made here devotees. Manarcad Marth Maryam Cathedral (St. Mary’s Cathedral), is a Syrian Orthodox church located about 9 km from the town of Kottayam in Kerala, India and a destination for people on annual pilgrimages seeking the blessings of the Virgin Mary. During his 2004 apostolic visit, Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka II have elevated this church to the status of Cathedral and Universal Marian Pilgrim Centre. There are more than 2000 families in this parish and it is one of the largest Christian parishes in Kerala.
Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple At the heart of the town Is a Shiva temple built in the Kerala style of temple architecture, and with interior murals depicting themes from the Hindu epics. It was built at the beginning of 16th century by the then Raja of Thekkumkur. The annual temple festival that culminates in a ceremony called the Aaraattu which attracts a large number of devotees.
Thazhathangady Juma Masjid On the banks of Meenachil River One of the oldest Mosques in India and is more than 1000 years old. Thazhathangady Juma Masjid is a mosque situated in Thazhathangady, one of the Heritage Zones of Kerala. It is famous for its richness of architecture, wood carvings and the beauty. The Southern half of it is demolished and extended with iron pillars, aluminium sheets and minars in 2012. This mosque is situated on the banks of the Meenachil River. Thazhathangady Juma Masjid is also called as the “Taj Juma Masjid”. The ancestors of this Masjid came and settled in Kottayam, from different parts of Kerala.The Muslims who lived here played an active role in Freedom Struggle and other National Movements. This mosque is known for its intricate wooden carvings and architecture.
St. Mary’s Church commonly known as Kottayam valiyapally (master church- English) is one of the oldest churches in Kerala. Built in 1579, the church is well preserved. The architectural style of the church is European, with galleries, pillars, cornices and pediments. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals made in Oriental and Western styles on biblical and non-biblical themes. Three Metropolitans of the Malankara Syrian Church came from three families of Kottayam. They were Mar Dionysius, Malankara Metropolitan of the Punnathara family, Mar Theophilos of the Varikkat family and Mar Athanasius of the Chackalaparambil family. Orthodox Churches venerate departed saints, commemorate their memorial day and seek their intercession.
Kuravilangad (St.Mary’s Church) the land of Kuravilangad is blessed by the esteemed presence of St.Mary’s Forane Church, which was built in 105 A.D just one hundred years before Constantine declared Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. It is believed, Mother Mary’s first appearance in the world was in Kuravilangad. Our Lady appeared to a few children at Kuravilangad, who were tending their flock in the bushes. Our Lady asked them to build a church at the place from where a miraculous perpetual spring sprouted, a spring which exists even today. The children reported the events to the elders and a church was built there. The Asia’s Largest Church bells located at this church.