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Facts About Kottayam

How to get there
Rail: Kottayam Railway Station, 2 km from the town centre, is linked to most major Indian cities.

Road: Motorable roads connect Kottayam to important south India cities. There are two bus stations- the central KSRTC station which operates most long-distance services, and the private bus station near the railway station.

Ferry: The main ferry station is about 3 km from the railway station and offers ferry services that pass through the scenic backwaters to the following places: Alleppey, Mannar, Champakulam, Kavalam, Mankombu and Ambalapuzha.

The beauty of plantations and backwaters

Kottayam, among the state's more mountainous districts, provides some of Kerala's finest natural scenes, sandwiched as it is between serene palm-fringed backwaters on the west and the Western ghats on the east. Much of this beauty is laid out in all its glory along the road which winds from Kottayam to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thekkady through plantations of rubber, tea, coffee and pepper.

In the past Kottayam was the seat firest of the Munjunad Rajas and later, in the 12th century, of the Tekkumkur Rajas. This fact of royal history is echoed in the town's name which is derived from the Malayalam work kottayakam which means the inside of a fort.

Kottayam is also an important commercial centre, thanks to its strength as a producer of cash crops. Most of India's natural rubber originates from the acres of well-kept plantations of Kottayam, also home to the Rubber Board, one of the country's primary commodities board.

As the headquarters of several ecclesiastical heads of Christian churches like those of the Syrian Christian community, Kottayam is proof of the cultural and religious plurality of Kerala. Today, as reminders of this facet can be found ancient churches like the Valia Palli, the Cheria Palli (1579) and the St. Mary's Church at Manarcad (1585).

Kottayam is equally known for its cultural achievements. It was the first town in India to attain total literacy, an event which triggered a mass movement to make Kerala the country's first totally literate state. Kottayam is also the mecca of Kerala's publishing scene, home to dozens of Malayalam newspapers and magazines, including the state's earliest, The Deepika (founded in 1887) as well as the country's largest selling daily and weekly from the Malayala Manoram group. Kottayam is also the birthplace of a unique institution, the Sahitya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham, perhaps the first-ever co-operative of writers.

Situated in the heart of Kottayam town; the Thirunakkara Mahadeval Siva Temple, built in the indigenous style and featuring several wall paintings, attracts a large number of devotees for its annual festival in the third week of March.

The Valia Palli (St. Mary's Church) build in 1550 A.D. for the Knanaya Orthodox Syrians, is situated in Thazhathangadi, 2 km from the town centre. It is famous for its 8th century Persian cross and the Pahalavi inscription on it.

Located near the Valia Palli, the smaller church of Cheria palli (St. Mary's Church), built in 1579 A.D., has some murals and paintings of Biblical and other themes.

Ayyampara, 43 km from Kottayam, is a little known scenic spot of rocky plains where a 100-acre are of flat rock makes a natural granite stadium to enjoy the sunset and the view of the town below. It is a good base for trekking.

The town of Bharananganam is an important Christian pilgrimate centre as the place where the mortal remains of Sister Alphonsa (1916-1946) was interned in a chapel next to the St. Mary's Church. This 1000-year old church features an attractive Grotto of Virgin Mary.

A Hindu pilgrimage centre, Ettumanoor, 13 km away, is famous for its legendary 16th century Shiva Temple, a good specimen of Kerala's indigenous style of temple architecture, incorporating clear-cut wood carvings and mural paintings including an exceptional one of Of Shiva as Nataraja trampling under foot the spirit of evil represented by a demon. The annual 10-day festival of the temple occurs in February / March.

A small village 12 km west of Kottayam town, on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom is a bird sanctuary known for local varieties like the water fowl, cuckoo, owl and the water duck as well as migratory Siberian storks. The sanctuary is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the best months to bird-watch are between June and August.

Within the 101 acres of beautifully wooded grounds is the Kumarakom Tourist Complex, built around the 50-year old 'Baker's Mansion', formerly a small and pretty hotel run by the KTDC, but now redone in greater style by Taj Kerala Resorts Ltd. Boats are available on hire for backwater cruises around the lake.

An important Syrian Christian centre, the town of Mannanam, 8 km from Kottayam, sites the St. Joseph's Monastery, associated with the name of Fr. Kuriakose Elias of Chavara (1805-71), one of the saintly figures of the Syrian Catholic Church of Kerala. Established in 1844, this is one of the oldest printing presses in Kerala. It printed the Nasrani Deepika, one of Kerala's oldest newspapers.

Vaikom, 40 km from Kottayam, is famed for the Siva temple which, legend, says, was constructed by Parasurama, the mythical creator of Kerala. The 12-day Ashtami festival in November / December is renowned for its elephant processions, religious discourses and performances of traditional dance and music. In contemporary history, Vaikom's prominence derives from the satyagraha of 1925, blessed by Mahatma Gandhi and aimed at throwing open the temple's doors to Harijans.

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