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Kottayam

An important centre of the Syrian Christian community in Kerala, Kottayam is located between the palm-fringed backwaters on the west and the Western Ghats to the east. Also called the Rome of the East, the city is renowned for its churches and houses built in the colonial style. Kottayam shot into limelight when it was declared the first fully literate municipal town of India. The town is also the birthplace of the state/’s publishing industry and home to a number of globally renowned newspapers and magazines.

Kottayam is derived from two Malayalam words - kotta and akkam - which, when combined, mean the interior of a fort. In 9th century AD Kottayam was a part of the Kulashekara Empire (AD 1090–1102) and was referred to as Vempolinad (the logical root of the Vembanad Lake). By about 1102, the empire split into the kingdoms of Thekkumkur and Vadakkumkur. Both these kingdoms were annexed by Marthanda Varma of Travancore between 1748 and 1754. During Marthanda Varma’s reign, Kottayam received a prominent place among the princely states of the South.

Kottayam has been the centre of various social and political movements that started in the state. The town played a major role in the Malayali Memorial agitation. During 1924–25, Kottayam became the breeding ground for the Vaikom Satyagraha, a movement started for eradication of untouchability in the state.

The Syrian Christian community has a special place in the history of Kottayam. The community traces its origin to Saint Thomas who visited the region in AD 53. Seven churches were established by Saint Thomas on the Malabar Coast. However, the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century saw many of the Syrian Christians forcibly converted into Roman Catholicism.

Kottayam has a moderate and pleasant climate. The temperature here reaches up to 34.33°C during summers. The winter months are more suited for a visit to this place.

Sightseeing:

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary:

Twelve kilometres to the west of Kottayam town lies a small village called Kumarakom. The village is a part of Kuttanad, the wonderland which lies below sea level. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, spread over 14 acres of lush greenery and blue waters, is located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake. The sanctuary is home to local varieties of waterfowl, cuckoo, and water ducks, as well as migrating Siberian storks. An additional attraction at Kumarakom is the backwater cruises in the Vembanad Lake for which the boats are offered on rent by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.

Vembanad Lake :

About 16 km from Kottayam lies the Vembanad Lake, an enchanting picnic spot and a fast developing backwater tourism destination in Kerala. A trip to Vembanad Lake provides the visitor with exhilarating boating, fishing and sightseeing experiences. On its banks lies the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, an ornithologist/’s paradise.

Excursions From Kottayam:

Anchuvilakku:
About 22 km from Kottayam near the Changanacherry boat jetty stands Anchuvilakku. This lamppost made of stone is a typical example of Kerala architecture. It was built by the renowned freedom fighter Veluthampi Dalawa. On this post stand five lamps that use kerosene for lighting. The Changanacherry market, one of the largest in Kerala, exists nearby.

Erumeli:
About 60 km northeast of Kottayam lies Erumeli, an important pilgrim centre for both the Hindus and Muslims. Sri Dharma Sastha Temple, an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is located here. An ancient mosque dedicated to Vavar, the companion of the deity of the Sabarimala Temple, is also situated here. Hindu pilgrims customarily worship here before their trek to Sabarimala.

Pathiramanal:
The enchanting island of Pathiramanal (literally, sands of midnight) lies between Thaneermukkom and Kumarakom, and is accessible only by boat. This little island is a favourite haunt of hundreds of rare migratory birds from different parts of the world. According to a legend, a young Brahmin dived into the Vembanad Lake to perform his evening ablutions and the water made way for land to rise from below, thus creating the island of Pathiramanal.

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