Meenachil is the name of the north-eastern region of Kottayam district in Kerala, south India. Palai is the main town in Meenachil. The arterial river of the district is also named Meenachil. The river finds mention in Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize winning novel, The God of Small Things.
The river Meenachil, also known as Kavanar, originates in the Western Ghats of Kerala, flows westward through Erattupetta, Palai, Kidangoor, Ettumanoor and Kottayam. Near Kottayam it splits into a number of distributries before emptying into the Vembanad lake. Kumarakom, the bird sanctuary and tourist resort is on one such branch.
The current Meenachil taluk was part of four Meenachil was a principality under the local chieftains, the Karthas before Marthanda Varma annexed it to Travancore in the sixteenth century. The name of the place comes from Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai, the deity of the Karthas. The southern bank of the river was the kingdom of Thekkumkoor with capital at Changanassery and the northern bank, that of Vadakkumkoor, with its capital at Kaduthuruthy. The Poonjar royal family also held sway over significant areas of the district towards the east.
Though food crops like paddy and tapioca are cultivated, majority of the population depends on cash crops like rubber and black pepper for income. Recently people had diversified into the cultivation of vanilla on account of the sudden spurt in prices. However, with rubber prices ruling high and vanilla prices nosediving, the original agricultural pattern is seen reemerging. Though there are families with considerable wealth, a large section of the population are farmers with small and medium agricultural holdings.
The Kerala Government has recently (2006) accorded high priority to the implementation of the Meenachil river valley project. The project aims at diverting excess water from the Moovattupuzha river into the Meenachil river basin by constructing a tunnel from Arakkulam to Melukavau. Once implemented the project will help in increasing the availability of water in the area.
Some of the important festivals celebrated in the region are:
1. The Arattu at Lalam Sree Mahadeva temple (January)
2. The Katappattor temple festival (April)
3. Meenachil Kavu festival (December)
4. Palai Jubilee thirunal (December 8)
5. The Cherpunkal Church festival (December)
6. The festival of St. George's church, Aruvithura
7. The Paika Church festival
8. Palai Rakkuly thirunal (Jan 7)
9. Bharanganam Sr. Alphonsa's feast (July 28)
10. Bharanganam Sreekrishna Swami temple festival (January-February)
11. Poovarany Mahadeva temple festival (January-February)
12. Ramapuram church feast
Traditionally, the region is the hotbed of various factions of the Kerala Congress. However mainstream parties like the Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Bharatiya Janata Party also have significant following. The prices of rubber and other agricultural prices determine the agenda of many elections. It is alleged that the church influences the political agenda significantly.
Meenachil taluk does not have rail connectivity. The nearest major railway station is at Kottayam, 28 km from Palai. The nearest airport is the Kochi International Airport at Nedumbassery, 85 km from Palai.
The Ettumanoor - Poonjar State Highway (SH 32) traverses across the taluk in the easterly direction connecting major centres like Kidangoor, Cherpunkal, Palai, Bharananganam and Erattupetta. In the north-south direction, the Main Eastern Highway (Muvattupuzha - Punalur-SH 8) passes through Kollappally, Palai and Paika. The Erattupetta - Peerumedu State Highway (SH 14) passes through Teekoy and Wagamon. The Sabarimala - Kodaikanal Highway passes through Erattupetta. The Main Central Road (SH 1) from Thiruvananthapuram to Angamaly passes through the western boundary of the taluk.