The name Kottayam is said to have come from 'Kotta Akam' in Malayalam, meaning 'inside the fort'. The Rajas of Thekkumkur, an independent little kingdom to which Kottayam area belonged, ruled their domain from a location in the present day Kottayam called Thazhathangadi. When, in the mid-18th century, Marthanda Varma of Travancore annexed Thekkumkur, Kottayam area, along with the areas of the rest of what is today's Kottayam District, became part of the Kingdom of Travancore (later to be the Princely State of Travancore under the British). After Indian independence, Kottayam eventually became the head quarters of the present Kottayam District.
The citizens of Kottayam had a role in some of the early social struggles in Kerala. A protest movement that took place in the 1891 called the 'Malayali Memorial agitation', seeking increased representation for Travancoreans in the Travancore civil service, as opposed to outsiders, is said to have started in Kottayam and may have been the beginning of modern political movement in Kerala. Kottayam also had an active role in the 'Nivarthana' struggle in the 1930s, which was a campaign seeking representation for Hindus of the lower castes, Christians and Muslims in the Travancore Legislature.
Kottayam District is popularly referred as the 'Land of Lakes, Latex and Letters'. It is one of the most industrially developed districts of the State. The district is also a large producer of rubber, coconut, tea, coffee and pepper. It has the distinction of being the highest literate district in the country and Kottayam was the first total literate town in the country. The district is also known for large number of temples, churches and a 1000 year old mosque.
While journeying the land of Kottayam, an inviting hill resort with an altitude of 1066 meter, known as Peermed is a place worth visiting. The Thirunakkara Shiva temple is also a famous must-see spot which resembles the typical Keralan temple culture. The walls of the temple are festooned with beautiful paintings and The Kootiattam or the Sanskrit dramas are also an event of attraction. During the month of March one may catch a glimpse of the celebration of Phalguna Utsav. Another temple that depicts the typical Kerala temple culture is located forty kilometers north of Kottayam. The Vaikom temple, which is another important Shiva temple, is associated with the legendary Parasurama.
Nature loving tourists find the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary a truly enchanting experience. A glimpse of the spotted deer, tiger, elephants and bison’s in their natural habitat while cruising on the lake has been known to leave an imprint in the hearts of the people. An ideal romantic destination for the newly married couples is a nearby place known as Kumarakom which is in the west of the Vembanad lake. Pathiramal, which literally means 'the midnight sand’, is a lonely island in the lake with romantic backwater cruises. The beauty and romantic atmosphere found in Kumarakom attract a number of visitors to this place during the tourist Season.
The boundaries of the District are Pathanamthitta District on the South, Alappuzha District on the West, Ernakulam and Idukki districts on the North and Idukki District on the East.
Geography & Location
Kottayam is located at 9.58° N 76.52° E. It has an average elevation of 3 metre. Having all the three types of land composition like low, middle and high, this place is a rich panorama of natural beauty. The land is situated on the southern side of Kerala with beautiful landscape surrounding the city. It has Ernakulam on its north while the east is protected by Idukki district. The exotic Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta districts signify the southern part, whereas Vembanad lake makes the western side of Kottayam even more striking. Kottayam is also connected with picturesque Vembanad lake with a canal.
The important rivers of the district are the Meenachil river, the Muvattupuzha river and the Manimala river. The 78 km long Meenachil river flows through the taluks of Meenachil, Vaikom and Kottayam. It has a catchment area of 1272 km2 and utilisable water resource of 1110 mm3. The river is formed by several streams originating from the Western Ghats in Idukki district. At Erattupetta, Poonjar river also joins it, takes a sharp turn and flows towards the west. At Kondur, it is joined by the Chittar and at Lalam it receives the Payapparathodu and flows in a south-west direction till it reaches Kottayam. Here it branches into several streams before emptying into the Vembanad lake. The important towns in the basin are Pala, Poonjar, Ettumanoor and Kottayam. Meenachil Medium Irrigation project is having a net ayacut of 9960 hectares, 155 sq km catchment area and a water spread area of 228 hectares.
The climate of Kottayam like the rest of Kerala can be classified as in equatorial type of climate. It is hot and humid. From June to Sept. It experiences torrential rains brought by the monsoon clouds. The climate of Kottayam is moderate and pleasant. The temperature varies from a minimum of 19.58 °C during December to a maximum of 34.33 °C between April and May. The average annual rainfall is 2,701.7 mm.
The higher temperature recorded in this District is 38.5 °C recorded on 6th April 1998 and the lowest being 16 °C recorded in 13th December 2000. The highest temperature recorded in the year 2000 is 35.4 °C (16th May 2000) and the lowest 16 °C (13th December 2000).
The yearly total rainfall recorded in this district was 2331.5 mm during the year 2000 and 1876.2 mm during the year 2001 up to 23.7.2001.
The Vembanad backwaters which is largest in the State forms the Western boundary of the district and provides inland water transport facility between centres of Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam Districts. It is also a splendid source for limeshell and a large variety of fish. The famous tourist centre Kumarakom lies on the bank of Vembanad and attracts tourists from all over the world.
As of 2001 India census, Kottayam municipality had a population of 60,725, while Kottayam district had a population of 19,52,901. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. It is one of the very few places which witnessed a negative population growth from 1991 to 2001.
In the history of Journalism, Kottayam occupies a prominent place. The origin of Journalistic activity in the district can be traced back to the middle of the last century. Jnananikshepam the first newspaper published by the natives, was brought out from CMS press at Kottayam in 1848.
Vidyasamgraham a publication of the CMS college, was started in 1864. Many of the famous writers had contributed to this publication. In 1867, Sandishtavadi another newspaper, was started at Kottayam by W.H.Moor, which was later banned. Malayala Mithram, started in 1878, was in circulation for about 12 years.
In 1887, Nasrani Deepika was started at Mannanam near Kottayam by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate(CMI) missionaries, which later became the Deepika and continues to be one of the leading vernacular dailies of the State. The Malayala Manorama, the largest circulated daily in India, was started at Kottayam in 1890 by K.C. Mammen Mapila. Bhashaposhini, the literary magazine, was also started by K.C. Mammen Mapila in 1892. After a long break, this publication has been revived by the Malayala Manorama group of publications. Contributions of veteran like Kerala Varma Valiya Koyi Thampuran. Mooloor S. Padmanabha Panicker, Katakayathil Cheriyan Mapila and Moorkothu Kumaran, had appeared in the pages of these publications.
Kottayam is the centre of newspapers and periodicals. Four major dailies; viz Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Deepika and Mangalam are being published from here. The number of periodicals come about thirty.
The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), a Central Government Institution, with its headquarters in New Delhi, has opened its second branch at Kottayam. The site of the Kottayam branch is at Vadavathoor, 3 km away from Kottayam town. IIMC is engaged in improving professional knowledge and technical skill of the personnel working in various media, information & publicity departments of the Government and Public sector undertakings.
Kottayam occupies a prominent place in the cultural map of Kerala. Kunchan Nambiar, the father of Thullal, a popular temple art form, was supposed to have lived at Kidangoor.
Unnineeli Sandesam, the exquisite Malayalam poetical work, is supposed to have been written by one of the Vadakkumkur Rajas. Ramapurathu Warrier (1703-53) is one of the celebrated names in Malayalam literature. The Christian missionaries enriched Malayalam literature by their valuable contributions, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Varthamana Pusthakam (1778), written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar, on a travel to Rome, is the first travelogue in Malayalam. The first autobiography in Malayalam, by Vaikom Pachu Moothatu was published from Kottayam in 1870.
In the closing decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Kottayam shot into limelight as the nerve centre of all literary and cultural activities in the erstwhile Travancore State. Kottarathil Shankunny, Kandatthil Varghese Mappilai and Kerala Varma Valiya Koi Thampuran are dignitaries worth mention. K.C Mammen Mappilai, Kattakayathil Cheriyan Mappilai, Vaikom Muhammed Bashir, Vadakkumkur Raja Raja Varma, Ponkunnam Varkey, Karur Neelakanta Pillai and M.P. Paul are some among the many notable personalities from the district. The great film maker, late G. Aravindan, also belongs to Kottayam. Kottayam can claim many firsts: - in the field of education, mass communication printing, book publication etc. The first English school in the state was started here. The first printing press was set up here by Rev. Benjamin Beily in 1821. The part played by Deepika, Malayala Manorama and Bhasaposhini for the cultural and literary development, is of immense significance. There are many printing presses and book publishing companies in Kottayam.
Languages and Dialects
Kottayam is the first town in India to achieve cent percent literacy. According to the 1991 census, the literacy percentage of the district is 90.52. The district has been maintaining its lead till the state achieved total literacy, subsequently.
About 96% of the people of the District speaks Malayalam as their mother tongue. Only 2.5% of the people speaks Tamil as their mothertongue. As in the case of all other languages, there is some difference between the colloquial languages and the written dialect in Malayalam also. Though there is difference in the dialects spoken by the various sections and classes of the society, the fundamental unity of the Malayalam languages is not affected in any way. The dialects spoken by the more primitive of the hill tribes differ considerably from Malayalam, but they hardly deserve to be regarded as separate languages.
The best time to visit Kottayam is between September and February. The tourist season at Periyar is September to May, though it gets increasingly warmer from February. The monsoons, June-September may get a little difficult for anybody sensitive to humidity, buzzing insects and swollen waterways. However, these are months of lush green.
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE
District Information Officer, District Collectorate, Kottayam.
The train station, boat jetty and KSRTC bus stand are all 2 km to 3 km from the centre. The Tourist Information Centre is at the Collectorate. Tourist information office at the KSRTC is helpful. The tourist police are also here. The telegraph office, open 24 hours for STD/ISD and faxes. Email is available from the Bus Station. You can cash travellers cheques and get Visa cash advances at the Canara Bank on KK Rd.
How to Reach
By Air : The nearest airport is at Cochin (Kochi) located 76 km from Kottayam. Another airport is at Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) 160 km away.
By Rail : Kottayam is well connected with the major towns in and outside Kerala by an extensive rail network. Kottayam has Express trains running between Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam - Kerala Express (connects New Delhi as well), Kanyakumari Express (connects Mumbai), Trivandrum Mail (connects Chennai) and another Kanyakumari Express (connects Bangalore). Other trains that run between Thiruvanantpuram and Ernakulam include Parasurama, Malabar, Venad and Vanchinad Express. The railway station is situated just 2 km away from the central bus station.
By Road : Kottayam has three bus stations. Buses take about four hours to Thekkady (Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary). Seven express buses daily come through from Ernakulam and either terminate at Thekkady, or continue to Madurai, three hours away. The other two bus stations are private and mainly operate to local destinations within 10 km to 30 km - although you can get to Munnar and Kumily from the Nagambaram (new) bus station. Buses to major centres operate from the KSRTC bus station.
By Boat : Boats available for Alappuzha, Nedumudi, Kumarakom and Kovalam.