Changanassery is a city and a municipality in Kottayam district in the state of Kerala, India. It is located 18 km from Kottayam town. This town is known for the peaceful coexistence of Hindus, Christians and Muslims. It is surrounded by temples, churches and mosques.
It is known as the gateway to High range (hill resorts) and Kuttanadu (backwaters). It is ideally located between Thiruvavanthapuram and Kochi. The nearest beach is only 20 km, the backwaters 3 km and the hill resort 40 km.
The town has an 18th century temple and is the host to the Deepam festival, which is celebrated every winter. In the past, the town was known as Anchu Vilakkinte pattanam in local language, meaning town of five fire lamps, which symbolises unity and points to old business time.
Changansserry was an old business place during the pre-British area. During the renovation of Travancore, Changanasserry was the boundary and was called Thekkum koor.
The place named Changanacherry entered into the history books in AD 90. It has been believed by some people that this name is derived from a place named "Changannattusserry". It is believed that the name Changanasserry originated from its Market roots. This was a famous trading place were traders from the Kuttanad area and high ranges converged. The measurements used for rice in old era were "Changazhi" "Nazhi" and "Uzhi". The name originated from a combination of these three measuring containers.
An interesting story mentions that during the reign of king Udaya Marthanda Varma of Travancore, steps were taken to build a Catholic church by giving out plots for sowing 'Changazhy', 'Nazhy' 'Uri', 'Payattupadu' (various Malayalam terms of measuring grains). All these terms put together apparently made up the name of the place to Changanachery. It was in 980 AD, that the famed Diwan of Travancore Veluthampy Dalava made a market place at Changanacherry, realizing the possibilities of development of this place. That market has grown to today's "Janapath". Towards the memory of the centennial celebrations of the place in 1905, the people installed the "Anchu Vilakku" (Five lamps) seen near the Boat jetty. The lamp signifies the 'unity in diversity' of the local ethnic and religious sects - a truly fitting tribute to the ethos of Changanacherry.
Another belief is that the name is derived from three separate words - 'shang', 'natham', 'sherri'. The story goes that sometime in the past, the ruler of Changanacherry commissioned a church, a temple and a mosque to be built equidistant from his palace so that he would wake up every morning to the call of the conch shell (shang), the chiming of the church bells (natham), and the muezzin's call (sherry). The church and temple and mosque still stand and the annual chandanakodi festival bears testimony to the religious harmony that prevails in this town.
As of 2001 India census GR India, Changanassery had a population of 51,960. Males constituted 48% of the population and females 52%. Changanassery has an average literacy rate of 86%, higher than the national average of 59.5%; with male literacy of 86% and female literacy of 85%. 11% of the population is under 6 years of age. A large percentage of population from Changanacherry resides abroad in the Gulf, European and American states.
Bishop House, Changanassery is famous for its many excellent schools and colleges. It is home to one of the most reputed colleges in India, St. Berchmans College. Two other colleges, N.S.S. College and Assumption college are also well known for its academics.
St. Berchman's High School is the oldest school and is over a hundred years old. Some other schools are Sacred Heart EMHS, Kristu Jyoti EHS, Placid Vidya Vihar and the Good Shepherd Public School.
St. Berchman's College, Changanassery also known as S B College, is one of the most reputed colleges in Kerala, India. Established in 1922, the college has grown over the years into one of the leading colleges with thirteen postgraduate and seven research departments. It is run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Changanassery, is affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam and is recognized by the All India Council for Technical Education.
The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has awarded Five Star status to St.Berchmans College. The NAAC committee which met on 21 May 2006 at its headquarters in Bangalore, on the basis of the peer team report reacredited SB at the A+ level. St. Berchman's is the first college in the state to acquire this grade. Academy of Accounts, an institute which is well known for Accounts Executive Programme, is also situated in Changanacherry.
December is a month of celebration for the people in Changanachery. Parel Church in the name of St. Mary and the festival there on December 8 attracts thousands of pilgrims from all religions. Every year in December the processions from the Chirappu, chandanakudam and cathedral church merge in the town.
They celebrate Mandala Pooja (Hindus), Christmas (Christians) and Chandanakundam (Muslims) together during this time. People irrespective of their religious affiliations, go from one place of worship to another. There is a historical basis to the marvelous scene of the Christian, Hindu and Muslim worship places stands together in Changanachery. It is indeed a history of religious harmony.
Archdiocese of Changanacherry
Archdiocese of Changanacherry is the largest Catholic Diocese in India. The Bishops house is over 100 years old. The diocese is one of the oldest in India. Dioceses of the province Palai, Kanjirappally and Thuckalay were formed from this diocese as the population grew. The Archdiocese is one of the first two Vicariates of the Syrian Catholics and the second Metropolitan Archdiocese of the Syro Malabar Church, after the establishment of the Syro Malabar hierarchy which was the prelude to the restoration of the identity of the Church in 1992 as a Sui Juris Church.
Pope Leo XIII of happy memory by his Bull Quod Jam Pridem dated 20 May 1887 established the two Vicariates Apostolic - Kottayam and Trichur - exclusively for the Syro Malabarians and the same Pope recognized the existing Vicariates by the Bull Quae Rei Sacrae dated 28 July 1896 establishing a new Vicariate, Ernakulam, with territories carved out from the two existing Vicariates (Pallippuram, Edappally and Arakuzha divisions from Kottayam Viacriate).
The Vicariate of Kottayam was renamed Changanacherry, since this town had been the centre of Catholic activity (eg. the Changanacherry Synod in 1888} and hence its headquarters was shifted to Changanacherry in 1890.
A new Vicariate - Kottayam - was constituted in 1911 exclusively for the Suddists.
Changanacherry was raised to the status of an archdiocese on 26 July 1956 by Pope Pius XII.
The archdiocese, at present, manages many parishes, hospitals, colleges, Schools - including those for the physically/mentally challenged and Orphanages.
Nair Service Society - NSS
Nair Service society or the NSS as it is popularly known in Kerala has its headquarters in Changanacherry. NSS is a social organization which has made remarkable contributions in the fields of education, medicine and agriculture. Its volunteers spanning about 4000 odd karayogams spread across Kerala continue to work towards the upliftment of the downtrodden sections of society focussed on localized activities across Kerala. The Society was started by Mannathu Padmanabhan (Mannam) on 31 October 1914. Mannathu Padmanabhan revived and reshaped the old concept of village societies, the karayogams, which practically set the tenor of family and village life. Mannam fought for social equality, the first phase of being the Vaikom Satyagraha, demanding the public roads near the temple at Vaikom be opened to low caste Hindus. He supported the admission of low caste Hindus into temples was the chairman of the Guruvayur Satyagraha, paving the way for the temple entry proclamation. In 1950 he set up the Hindu Mandalam to draw together Hindus, rousing them to support the National Movement. He suffered imprisonment for his support. As the first president of Travancore Devaswom Board he revitalised many temples which had almost ceased to function. NSS, started by Mannam continues its social activities based out of Changanacherry.
Interesting Sites in the Vicinity
Changanasserry town includes areas such as Vazhappally, Vattappally, Puzhavathu, Perunnai, Fathimapuram, Parel, Chethipuzha, Kurisumoodu and Cheeranchira.
Kurichy a beautiful place close to Changanachery. Perumpanachy is a small village near to Changanacherry. Thrikodithanam, a village located on the outskirts of Changanassery Municipality, is famous for its Thrikodithanam Mahavishnu temple which was built during the reign of the second Chera empire in circa 800 AD.
Outskirts of Changanacherry is very beautiful. A trip by boat from Changanacherry to various Kuttanadan villages is a wonderful journey. The Boat jetty (Boat station) is located in the famous Changanacherry market. The journey is very interesting since nature reigns supreme here. Acres of paddy fields and groups of coconut trees in sunset time will take one to heaven.
Kumarnkarry is also a part of the Changanacherry which is situated just 3 km from town. Evening and Morning walks in the midst of paddy fields is also a wonderful one. Sunset at Kumarankarry is also very beautiful.
All the western areas of Changanacherry have interesting scenes of nature.
Moreover Kuttikanam, Thekkady are the nearby place of Changanacherry. Thekkady is just 100 km from Changanacherry.
Near by places are Kangazha, Vazhappally, Chingavanam, Thrickodithanam, Kottamuri, Paipadu, Nalukody, Laikadu, Thengana, Kurisummoodu, Chethipuzha, Manimala, Vazhoor, Vellavoor, Nedumkunnam and Kodinattumkunnu.