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Kottayam

Acclaimed as the land of letters, latex and lakes, Kottayam has the distinction of being the first ever fully literate municipal town in India.The first Malayalam Printing press was established by Mr. Benjamin Bailey, a Christian Missionary in 1820 AD. Panoramic backwater streches,  lush paddy fields, highlands and extensive rubber plantations characterize this picturesque land. The majestic Vembanad lake and stunning backwaters of Kumarakom are its prime attractions.

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Places to Visit

Thazhathangadi:

Once the most important place in Kottayam, Thazhathangadi by the River Meenachil and with the Vembanad Lake not far off, was strategically vital for trade. A quiet town today, it still flaunts the sprawling houses built by the merchants of yore. Made largely of wood, these houses are excellent examples of the architecture of the time.

Kumarakom:

(15 km west of Kottayam) Situated on the banks of the vembanad Lake, in this small water world, you'll come across plenty of traditional country crafts, boars and canoes that will take you into the heart of the scenic lake. The resorts at the picturesque Kumarakom Tourist Village offer comfortable accommodation and holiday packages that include houseboat cruises, Ayurvedic massage, yoga, meditation, boating, fishing, angling, swimming etc.

The Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom:

(16 hmjrom Kouayam) Kottayam is a vast network of rivers and canals which empty into the great expanse of water called the Vembanad Lake. After lake Superior in China, vembanad is the second largest freshwater lake in South Asia and the largest in India. An enchanting picnic spot and a much sought-after backwater tourism destination, the lake provides boating, fishing and Sightseeing experiences that are truly exhilarating. Stretching for  110 odd krn and spanning three districts, the Vembanad Lake is at its widest point at Kumarakorn, The serene lake comes alive during Onam with a  spectacular water regatta - the snake boat races.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary:

(16 km from Kottayam. Open 0600 - 1800 hrs) Located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, an ornithologist's paradise, is a favourite haunt of migratory birds. June to August is the breeding season of resident wetland birds like Siberian stork, cormorants, darter, white ibis, egret, darter, heron and teal. Between November and May is the season of migratoly birds like pintailed duck, garganey teal, spot billed duck, osprey, marsh harrier, steppey eagle etc. 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.

Kallara:

Easily accessible from Kumarakom, Kallara, situated to the northwest of Kottayam, is the centre of the screwpine mat-making industry. Criss-crossed by an intricate network of canals and waterways, the Vellasseri paddy fields near Appanchira and the backwaters of Ezhumanthuruth are the major attractions of this region.

Nattakom and Panachikad:

(5 km south of Kottayam) Adding to the charm of these quiet villages are their scenic reservoirs. MigratOly birds come seeking this verdant landscape every summer. 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 recreational 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 various recreation options including boat cruises on the Vaikom Lake.

Mannanam:

(11 km from Kottayarn) Besides being associated with the Blessed Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Mannanam is the seat of the first seminary of the Malabar Church (1833), the first Catholic Sanskrit School in Kerala (1846), the first private printing press (CMS Pressstarted by Rev. Benjamin Bailey in 1846), and the first daily newspaper in Malayalarn, the Deepika (1887). A brilliant repertory of church history is preserved at the Chavara An Museum. An enchanting boat journey through the Pennar Canal to the picturesque backwater districts of Alappuzha and Ernakularn is provided by DTPC and
accommodation is available at the Mannanam DTPC Tourist Home.

Vennimala:

(15 kmfromKouayam) Easily accessible from the Kottayam - Kumili Road, Vennimala has a century-old Rarna Temple which stands testimony to the myth that Lord Rarna visited this place during his exile. The remains of a palace, a cave etc. are the other attractions. Near Vennimala, is the Aruvikuzhi Waterfalls and Mathrumala Temple.

Anchuvilakku:

(22 kmfrom Kouayam) This stone lamp post, a typical example of Kerala architecture, was built near the Changanacherry boat jetty by the renowned freedom fighter Velutharnpi 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.

Nadukani:

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 Waterfall:

(18 km from Kottayam) Aruvikkuzhi is a beautiful picnic spot with a waterfall cascading down the mountains from a height of 100 ft.

Karimbukayam - Meloram:

This quaint spot on the Manimala River that flows between the Kanjirapally (a plantation town) and Erumeli panchayats, much sought-after for its  natural splendours, is also extremely popular for the exotic water fiestas held on the reservoirs occasionally.

Melaruvithodu:

The natural reservoirs and waterfalls at Melaruvithodu on the Ernakulam - Thekkady road are the main attractions here.

Erumeli:

(60 km northeast of Kottayam) 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 centre the SabarimalaTemple. At Kanakapalam nearby, teak plantations dot the landscape.

Maniyamkunnu:

The majestic mountains here that slope down to meet the beautiful valleys below are truly spellbinding.

Alapra:

(45 km southeast of Kottayam) Located near to Erumeli, Alapra is surrounded by the Ponthanpuzha forest. The Aiapra Thacharikkal Bhagavathi Temple located amidst the forest is the only place in the district where Padayani is performed. Stunning views, spectacular waterfalls, mysterious cavesand muniyaras add to the natural attractions of the landscape.

Kayyoor, Bharananganam:

An enchanting landscape formed by a chain of green hills at the Bharananganam panchayat. A shrine dedicated to the Pandavabrothers of the epic Mahabharatha is found here, As in the famous temple at Sabarimala, only ghee is used to light the lamps here, Women are not permitted inside the temple.

Ilaveezhapoonchira:

(55 hm from Kottayam, 20 hm from Thodupuzha) Skirting Kottayarn District are the beautiful valleys of Ilaveezhapoonchira, spread over thousands of acres. This delightful picnic spot located in the midst of beautiful hillocks near Kanjar, is also ideal for trekking. During the monsoons when the valley fills up to form a scenic lake, this place unveils yet another beautiful slice of nature. lIaveezhapoonchira 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. It is easily accessible from Palai in Kottayam. A DTPC rest house nearby offers comfortable accommodation.

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 PazhakakanamPlateau nourished by the Kadapuzha River. Bamboo groves, meadows and wild flowers make this place exotic. An added attraction here is the Kazhukankulimali Waterfalls, 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. 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

Illickal Mala:

Numerous mountain streams in this peak, 6000 ft above sea level, flow down to form the serene Meenachil River. Tourists have to trek 3 km to reach the top of the hill. And if you so wish, you could even spend the night there.

Illickal Kallu:

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 resembles a mushroom owing to which it gets its name Kuda Kallu (umbrella shaped rock). 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 asKoonu Kallu (hunchback rock). Across this rock is a 1/2 feet 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.

Ayyampara Hill:

According to legends, the five Pandavabrothers - epic heroes of the Mahaoharatha - 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. Kolani Mudi: Yet another peak in the Ilaveezhapoonchira mountain range, which also has a cave.

Marmala Stream:

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.

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. During the months of Decernber/lanuary the landscape comes alive in a riot of colours with orchids and wild flowers.

Muruganmala:

On the eastern side of the Kurisumala Hill is Muruganmala housing a rock cut temple dedicated to Murugan (son of Lord Shiva). The road to this place offers some real sightseeing opportunities in a European model house and the beautiful artificial lake, both designed by the renowned architect, the late Laurie Baker.

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. liJKottathavalam: Near Murugan hills at Kurisumala, a flight of steps cut into 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.

Poonjar Palace:

The palace is a glorious testimony to the regal opulence of a bygone era.Within the palacewalls is an extraordinary royal collection of antiques and exquisite furniture which include a palanquin, a tboni - carved out of a single piece of wood- for Ayurvedic massages, huge chandeliers, palm leaf engravings, jewel boxes, different varieties of lamps, sculptures ofNataraja (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 Madurat Meenakshi Temple. The walls of this temple bear sculptures which narrate stories from the Puranas (the legends of ancient India). However, tbe most fascinating thing here is the Chuttuvilakku (row of lamps) carved out on stone walls of the SasthaTemple nearby. Such rock cut lamps are rare in India. Poonjar Koickal Devasworn Board.

Pala and Kanjirapally:

Nourished by the Meenachil and Manimala rivers respectively, these two towns are centres of rubber plantations.

Ramapuram:

Located 15 km from Pala Town on the way to Koothattukularn, Ramapuram is unique as it houses the temples of Rama as well as his three brothers in a radius of just three kllometres, It is also the birthplace of Ramapurathu Warrier, originator of the vanchipattu and the place where Lalitharnbika Antharjanarn, the renowned Malayalam novelist lived.

Ithipuzha:

(40 km from Kottayam) Endless stretches of coconut palms and vast acres of emerald green paddy fields make this quaint village picture-perfect, Located on the Ernakularn - Vaikom Main Road, tourists can traverse the river flowing through here on canoes and take in the scenic splendour.

Vayaskara and Chirattamon:

These places are well-known for their Ayurvedic rejuvenation centres.


 

PILGRIM CENTRES

Kottayam is known for its religious harmony. There are over 50 temples and 70 churches including a 1000-year-old-mosque in this district. Besides, Korrayarn is also the gateway to the pilgrim centres of Saba rima la, Mannanam, Vaikom, Ettumanoor, Bharananganam, Erume!i, Manarcad, Aruvithura, Athirampuzha and the temples of Perunna, Vazhapalli and Thrikkodithanam near Changanacherry.

Siva Temple, Thalikkotta:

(2 km from Kouayam) This is the place of worship of the erstwhile Thekkumkoor Royal Family. Annual festival: Ten-day utsavam (April-May), Sivarathri (January-February)

Kurisumala:

(3 km from Vazhikkadavu) At this renowned Christian pilgrim centre, hundreds of devotees from far and near converge during the holy week and  after, to climb the hill in faith, carrying small wooden crosses.

St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Cheriapalli:

(2 km of Kottayam Open 0800-1800 hrs) Built in 1579 by Thekkumkoor Maharajah, this church displays outstanding architecture which is a blend or Kerala and Portuguese styles. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals made in oriental and western styles on biblical and non-biblical themes. Feast Day. January 15. Ph: 0481-2566744

St. Mary's Knanaya Church, Valiapalli:

(2 km to the west of Kottayam Open 0800-2000 hrs) Built in 1550 AD, this church belongs to the Knanaya Orthodox Syrian Community. The Persian cross, believed to be one of the seven brought here by St. Thomas, and the Pahlavi inscriptions of this church are famous. St. George's Feast falls on  April 24. Ph: 0481-2563324

Juma Masjid, Thazhathangadi:

(2 km from Kottayam Open 0700-1800 hrs) This ancient mosque on the banks of the Meenachil River is believed to be 1000 years old. It is one of the oldest in India. The mosque has a square inner courtyard, an exquisitely carved wooden gabled roof, a traditional bathing area and lovely latticed windows making it resemble a temple or a king's palace. Only men are allowed here.

Thirunakkara Mahadevar Temple:

(Open 0400-1100 hrs, 1700 - 2000 hrs) In the heart of Kottayarn town is this 500-year-old temple built by the Thekkumkoor Maharajah. This temple built in the Kerala style of architecture has colourfulmurals on its walls which are worth seeing. The Koothambalam, the special building in the temple premises used for cultural purposes, is one of the best in Kerala. Camera lee: Stlll Rs. 50, Video Rs.100, Ph 0481-2583898

Dharmasastha Temple, Pakkil:

(3 km from Kottayam)This is one of the eight temples established by Parasurama, the legendary founder of Kerala. Annual festival: Sankranti vanibbyam - a fair of household articles (june/july)

St. Mary's Church, Manarcad:

(8 km from Kottayam Town) This is one of the most important churches of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christians. The ettunompu (8-day fasting) is the main annual event when devotees from far and wide congregate to participate in the prayers and rituals.

St. George's Church, Puthupalli:

This church is believed to have been built by the Thekkurnkoor Rajas.The golden cross in this church is well known. The feast of St. George (Gee Varghese) is the annual event.

Mahadevar Temple, Ettumanoor:

(12 km north off Kottayam) This temple is famous for its murals, especially the painting of Na/araja in thegopuram and ezharaponnana (the 71/2 elephants finished in gold). Festival: Eznaraponnana ezhunallathu (10 days in February/March)

St. Thomas Mount:

This holy place of Christians is located 1200 ft above sea level and offers a panoramic view of the Vaikcm Lake ancl the surrounding areas.

Siva Temple, Vaikom:

(40 kmfrom Kottayam) Associated with the legendary Parasurarna, this temple is a typical example of the Kerala style of temple architecture, More popular as the Kasi of the South, this temple is famous for its elephant pageants and traditional art performances. Annual festival: vaikatbasmami (November/December)

Vavarambalam, Erumeli:

This mosque is dedicated to Vavar, a companion of the deity-SreeAyyappa - of the Sabarimala temple. The mosque is unique because Hindu pilgrims customarily worship here before their trek to Sabarimala, Festival: Petta taullal (january).

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 every year during the feast. Annual festival: Feast of the Blessed Alphonsa (july).

St. Mary's Church Kuravilangad:

Built in 355 AD on the high ranges of Kuravilangad Town, this church has an old bell which bears an undeciphered inscription.

St. Mary's Forane Church, Athirampuzha:

(10 km from Kottayam: Open 0930 -1300 hrs, 1530 -1800 hrs) The 9th century St Mary's Church was built on land donated by the Brahmin family of Ettanasseri as thanksgiving for a male heir born to the family on praying to Virgin Mary. Leonard D'Cruz, a Portuguese sailor, brought the statue of St. Sebastian in 1687. The crucifix in this church is unique as it shows Jesus Christ without a single wound. The annual feast celebrated in honour of St. Sebastian is a big event with ftreworks and illuminations. Votive offerings of gold and silver arrows set this event apart from other festivals.

St. Mary's Church, Kudamaloor:

This church, 800 years old, was built by Chempakasseri Maharajah. The ritual offering here is a traditional water bag and rope used to draw water from the well. The Kudamaloor Temple is equally famous.

St. Joseph's Monastery, Mannanam:

(Near Medical College) This church was built by the blessed Father Chavara Kuriakose Elias.The mortal remains of this saintly priest is preserved here. Thousands of devotees gather here to pay homage to the saint every day.

Kaduthuruthi Valiapalli:

(On MC Road between Ettumanoor and Vaikom) Built in 500 AD, the church has a huge cross sculpted out of a single stone at the entrance.

Vimalagiri Church:

This temple built in the Gothic architectural style has a 172 ft tower which is one of the tallest church towers in Kerala.The feast is celebrated in December.

St. Thomas Church, Pala:

The church dates back to 1002 AD and was renovated once in the 18th century.

St. Thomas Church, Cherpungal:

Believed to have been established by the apostle St. Thomas, this church was relocated to the southern banks of the Meenachil River with the cooperation of poet Kunchan Narnbiar and his family. In 1107, the Valiapalli was built on the original site. Oil poured into lamps and kept before the image of Infant Iesus is the votive offering here - a ritual similar to the devotional practices of Hindus.

Aruvithira Church:

(11 km from Kottayam) Believed to be one of the seven churches established by St. Thomas, this is also one of the churches in Kerala which collects the largest amount of monetary otfertngs during the festival days. The annual feastis celebrated on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of April. [

Pazhayapalli, Changanacherry:

(21 km from Kottayam) This 950 year-old (mosque is one or the most famous ones or Central Travancore, The annual festival, Thangal Adiyanthiram, is famous and is marked by a grand community feast. Meat and two tonnes or rice, offered by the devotees, is used to prepare biriyani for the  community feast on this day. The Cbandanahuddam festival at the mosque is one of the largest crowd pulling events in Changanachcrry town.

Puthenpalli, Erattupetta:

The famous Cbandanakudam is celebrated here in Februarv/Dccember.

Saraswathi Temple, Panachikkad:

(13 km en-route to Changanassery. Open 0500-1030 hrs, 1700 -1930 hrs) This 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. Children arc initialed into the world of letters at the vidbyarambbam ceremony held here.

Surya Temple, Adityapuram:

The only temple in Kerala dedicated t oAditya, the sun god. The i1rsl and last Sundays of the zodiacs Scorpio (November- December) and Aries (APril-May) are considered auspicious.

Bhagavathy Temple, Ambalakkadavu:

The srauu ritual of the Thirunakkara Mahadevar Temple takes place here. Festival: Vishu (April/May)

Pallipurathukavu:

Festival: Pathamudaya mahotsavam. Famous ritual offering: Nadel Tiyattu performance.

Bhagavathy Temple, Manarcad:

This centuries-old temple is dedicated to goddess Bhadrakali. Main events: Kalamezhuthupattu, Kumbha bharani, Meena bharani, Patham udayam, Mandapam chirappu.

Kavil Bhagavathy Temple, Changanacherry:

(18 km from Kottayam) Built by one of the Thekkumkoor Maharajas. Festival: Kavil cbirappu (December -january)

Sree Subramanya Swami Temple, Perunna:

(20 km from Kottayam) Festival: Pallivetta utsavom (November - December)

Siva Temple, Vazhappalli, Changanacherry:

(17 km from Kottayam) Famous for its sculptures.

Kalkulathukavu Temple, Vazhappalli:

This temple is famous for its Mudiyeduppu utsavom (festival) celebrated once in 12 years and the rare art forms connected with it. The procession  carrying madbu (honey), kulavazha (plantain tree with the fruit), bhairavi purapadu and darika vadha purappadu etc. is a grand affair.