KOTTAYAM – Beyond Letters and Latex
Situated seventy six Kilometres away from Kochi, Kottayam is a place strangely ancient in spirit but fairly modern in atmosphere. This land, located in the erstwhile Central Travancore, is remarkably fertile and brilliantly green. A true topical diversity adorned with backwaters, green paddy fields, rubber plantations and palmgroves as far as the eye can see. The land is also rich in varieties of vegetables, cardamom, pepper, coffee and spices. The people are healthy, hard working and educated. This is Kottayam, the Land of Letters, Latex and Lakes.
Land of letters because as a district Kottayam has the highest literacy in India. The town of Kottayam is also the birth place of the publishing industry and the home of the Fourth Estate in Kerala. Land of Latex because the district abounds in extensive rubber plantations which earned for its headquarters the sobriquet. A trip from Kottayam to Thekkady, along the zig-zag Kumily road, offers breath-taking views of rubber, coffee and tea plantations.
Land of Lakes because of the different lakes forming in great expanse of water called the Vembaad into which a network of rivers like Manimala, Pamba, Achankovil empty. These and various canals provide for boating, canoeing, fishing and sight seeing, experiences that are unforgetable. The vivid blue and green palmfringed backwaters of Kottayam is a perennial source of attraction to the tourists.
A short ride 10 Km to the west of Kottayam brings you at Kumarkom, on the vast Vembanad Lake, a well known bird sanctuary, parrots, egrets, herons, teal, larks, fly catchers, wood beetle and other birds are seen here during their respective migratory seasons. Every year hundreds of Siberian cranes come across from far away Siberia to roost and breed before going back. A cruise on the Vembanad Lake, gently rocked by the waves rippling to the rhythm of the swaying coconut palms on the distant banks could be truely exhilarating. Preserving the old style, the beautiful bungalow of Albert George Baker at Kumarakom has now been modified into ‘Taj Garden Retreat’, a hotel of Taj group with modern living facilities.
A unique back water spot accessible by boat from here is ‘PATHIRAMANAL’ a lonely island in the lake ideal for the honeymooners and modern holiday tourists. Tourists come here in search of sun and water, tropical scenery and a change from the din of city life and Pathiramanal can provide all these in plenty.
BOAT RACE IN KOTTAYAM
Every year, during Onam season, Kavanattinkara and Kumarakom Boat Races are conducted at Kavanar and Kottathodu river respectively. About 50 boats including a fews snake boats participate in these races. With fun, frolic and fanfare on the banks of the back waters, it is thrill and entertainment galore for the tourist to see these long bedecked boats surging forward propelled by hundred oars to the rhythm of country, folk beats. A ride by boat or by country craft from Changanacherry to Alappuzha through Punnamada Kayal will provide an unforgettable sight of some of the paddy fields and stretches of coconut palmgroves.
Wagamon, another tourist centre. 60 Km from Kottayam, situated at an elevation of 1100 metres above sea level, is a trekker’s paradise.
Tucked away in the folds of lovely mountains, ‘ELAVEEZHAPOONCHIRA’, in the border of Kottayam-Idukki districts, is a picturesque stretch of land 3000 ft above sea level. During monsoon. season, the water that gets accumulated over a wide area, looks like a placid lake. reflecting the rain clouds and the majestics mountains. The pristine beauty of nature is preserved almost intact in this small region
‘KANNADIPPARA’ is the highest mountain peak in Elaveezhapoonchira. If we look from Kannadippara, both sun rise and set can be seen clearly. The 80 ft. high waterfall at ‘KAZHUKANKULIMALI’ is an added visual beauty to this place.
Kottayam town is the gateway to pilgrim centres of Sabarimala, Mannanam, Kuruvilangad, Vaikom, Ettumanoor, Bharananganam,Erumeli, Manarcadu, Aruvithura and Athirampuzha. The famous Vaikom Siva Temple, associated with the legendary Parasurama, is just 40 Km. north of Kottayam town and is a typical example of Kerala Temple Architecture. So also are the Temples of Perunna , Vazhappally and Thrikkodithanam near Changanachery. There is a school imparting training in Temple art forms like PaNchavadyam, (orchestra of five musical instruments) Sopanasangeetham, Nagaswaram etc at Vaikom in connection with Siva Temple.
The temple at Ettumanoor about 12Km. north of Kottayam is famous for the exquisite samples of ancient murals and ‘Ezharaponnana’ or the 7 ½ elephants finished in gold. In the St. Mary’s Church at Kuravilangad built in 355 AD. there is an old bell which bears a hitherto undeciphered inscription. The mortal remains of the Blessed Sister Alphonsa and Blessed Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara are entombed at the St. Mary’s Church at Bharannganam and the St.Joseph’s Monastry Church at Mannanam respectively.
The religious festivals of this district are also famous. Pettathullel at Erumeli (January) Ashtami at Vaikom ( November/December) Ezharaponnana at Ettumanoor ( February/March)
Blessed Alphonsa at Bharananganam(July) Ettunompu at Manarcad(September)Chandanakudam at Changanacherry (December) are prominent among them. One will find thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Christians mixing and mingling during these festive occasions, in their quest for peace and salavation.
Mosque at Erumeli
The Mosque at Erumeli about 60 Km north-east of Kottayam town is dedicated to Vavar, a contemporary and companion of Lord Ayyappa, a Hindu deity. Every year the unique sight of multitudes of Hindu pilgrims worshipping at this mosque before their trek to Sabarimala to worship Lord Ayyappa is turely soul stirring.
Valiapally (Metropolitan Church) Kavil Bhagavathi (Goddess) Temple and Puthoorpalli Mulism Juma-ath stand shoulder to shoulder in changanacherry town. From the very ancient past the ‘CHANDANAKUDAM’ the religious festival procession of Muslims with a sacred pot filled with sandal, is being given grand reception every year (December25) by Hindus in front of Kavil Bhagavathi Temple, Changanacherry. What better examples of Hindu-Mulsim amity over centuries in this country can one expect?
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