Kottayam (Malayalam: കോട്ടയം) is one of the 14 districts in the state of Kerala, India. The district has its headquarters at Kottayam town, located at 9.36° N and 76.17° E. According to the 1991 census, it is the first district to achieve highest literacy rate in the whole of India. On 27 September 2008, Kottayam district also became the first tobacco free districts in India.
Bordered by the Western Ghats on the east and the Vembanad Lake and paddy fields of Kuttanad on the west, Kottayam has many unique characteristics. Panoramic backwater stretches, lush paddy fields, highlands, hills and hillocks, rubber plantations and places associated with many legends given Kottayam District the enviable title: The land of letters, legends, latex and lakes. The district is 15.35% urbanised.
Kottayam has played its role in all the political agitations of modern times. The 'Malayali Memorial ' agitation may be said to have had its origin in Kottayam. The Malayali Memorial sought to secure better representation for educated Travancoreans in the Travancore civil service against persons from outside. The Memorial, which was presented to the Maharaja Sri Moolam Thirunal (1891) was drafted at a public meeting held in the Kottayam Public Library. The event marked the beginning of the modern political movement in the state.
It was in Kottayam that the famous Vaikom Satyagraha (1924-25), an epic struggle for eradication of untouchability, took place. Scheduled castes and other backward classes in Travancore were denied not only entry into temples, but also access to temple roads. Vaikom, the seat of a celebrated Siva Temple, was the venue of the symbolic satyagraha. It is of immense historic significance that national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, C. Rajagopalachari, Acharya Vinoba Bhave and E.V. Ramswami Naykar, associated with this struggle. The ' Nivarthana ' agitation of the early thirties, to secure adequate representation for the non-caste Hindus, Christians and Muslims in the state Legislature, enjoyed considerable support from this district. The district was also a centre of the agitation led by the state Congress for responsible Government in Travancore. The agitation had a triumphant end, with the overthrow of Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, the then Dewan of Travancore.
The present Kottayam district was previously a part of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore. Earlier, the Travancore state consisted of two revenue divisions viz. the southern and northern divisions, under the administrative control of a 'Diwan Peshkar' for each. Later in 1868 two more divisions Quilon (Kollam) and Kottayam were constituted. The fifth division Devikulam came next but only for a short period, which in course of time, was added to Kottayam. At the time of the integration of the state of Travancore and Cochin (Kochi) in 1949, these revenue divisions were renamed as districts and the Diwan Peshkars gave way to District Collectors, paving the way for the birth of the Kottayam District in July 1949.
Vembanad Lake has a great expanse of water which is a part of the interconnected Kerala Backwaters that run virtually the length of the state. Vembanad Lake is 52 miles (84 km) in length and 9 miles (14 km) in width. Traditional cargo boats called Kettuvallams are modified into luxurious cruise boats and house boats. These boats gracefully move around the back waters, providing facilities to tourist to enjoy the beauty of the Vembanad Lake in a relaxed pace.
Pathiramanal (the midnight sands) is located in the Vembanad Lake is a small beautiful island. This island is accessible only by boat.
Kumarakom, located on the coast of Vembanad Lake, is a beautiful village stocked with divine mangroves and coconut groves, lush green paddy fields, gushing waters snaking through the dense forests. Kumarakom bird sanctuary, is home to migratory birds like the Siberian stork, egret, darter, heron and teal. Local birds like the water fowl, cuckoo, owl and water hen and other common varieties like the woodpecker, sky lark, crane and parrot can also be spotted here. Ninety-one species of local and 50 species of migratory birds are found here. The best time to watch local birds is June–August and the best time for migratory birds is November–February. House Boats and motorboats are available on hire for bird watching cruises in the Lake.
During the months of August and September, the rivers in and near Kottayam are turned into festival centres. The serene backwaters come alive during Onam with a spectacular water regatta -the snake boat races. Oarsmen, at least a hundred in each boat, slice their way through the waters to the fast rhythm of their own full-throated singing. Thazhathangadi boat race in Kummanam is over a century old. Boat races are conducted at Kavanar and Kottathodu rivers in Kumarakom. These vallam kali have about 50 boats participating, including Chundan, Churulan, Iruttukuthi(ody) veppu, and canoes.
Other nearby tourist destinations:
Confined more or less to the Vaikom area of the district, is a thriving coir processing industry, processing coir and making coir products. Consisting of more than twenty co-operatives, it employs around 20,000 people. In the hand loom sector, eight co-operative societies provide employment to 2100 persons. The district has a rich forest wealth with good availability of softwood and other varieties of timber providing raw material for a number of small enterprises in the production of plywood, packing cases, splints, veneers and furniture.
Kottayam is a major centre of education. Mahatma Gandhi University, one of the six universities in Kerala is located here. Other prominent educational institutions located in Kottayam include C.M.S College, Baselios College, B.C.M College, Government College Nattakom and K.G College. Medical College, Kottayam one of the government medical colleges, is located at Gandhinagar close to Kottayam. Government Dental College, Kottayam, the third and the latest Dental College is also located in Gandhinagar. Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Technology, the government engineering college named after former prime minister of India Mr. Rajiv Gandhi is situated in Pampady. There are also a number of other engineering colleges situated in the district. Theophilus college of Nursing, Kangazha is the first Self-financing Nursing College to be started in the private sector.
The famous school Girideepam("light on the hill")is located here in kottayam
Kottayam town is the first town in India to have achieved 100% literacy (a remarkable feat achieved as early as 1989.
Members representing constituencies in Kottayam in the Kerala state Legislative Assembly
Kottayam, Thiruvalla and Chengannur are the railway stations for pilgrims heading to the Hindu holy site of Sabarimala. During December and January of each year pilgrims from all over India head to Kottayam and its vicinities to start their final journey to the Sabarimala Temple. The temple is located around 110 km from Kottayam, in the district of Pathanamthitta. Panachikad Temple, one of the famous Saraswathy temples in Kerala is located nearly 12 km away from Kottayam. The Siva temple at Thirunakkara is in the heart of Kottayam town. Three festivals are celebrated here in Thulam (October-November), Mithunam (June-July) and Meenam (March-April) of which the last one is the most important. The Aaraattu, conducted on the last day of the festival, is the festival of Kottayam, irrespective of caste and creeds. Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple is another important temple located near Kottayam town. Thirunakkara Srikrishna temple, Pallipurathukavu Devi Temple are other important temples located in the town. Kodungoor Devi temple, Kavinpuram Devi Temple (Ezhacherry), Chirakadavu Mahadevar temple, Ponkunnam Devi temple, Cherubally Devi temple, Kidangoor Subramanyaswamy Temple and Vaikom Mahadevar temple are other famous Hindu temples near Kottayam.
Kottayam has a rich culture. One of the oldest mosques in Kerala Thazhathangady Mosque is situated in Kummanam at 3 kilometers from Kottayam town. This mosque is considered to be around 1500 years old and was built by early Arab travelers who landed in Kerala during the time of the Cheraman empire.
A number of old and sacred Christian churches are also located in Kottayam. Old Seminary, a prominent religious institution belonging to the Malankara Orthodox Church and a seminary for aspiring priests for Syrian Christians in Kerala, is also located in Chungam, Kottayam. The Cheria Pally, an ancient Church belonging to the Malankara Orthodox Church is a well preserved church with wall murals dating back to ancient times. These unique wall murals have been painted using vegetable dyes. The Valia Palli has Persian inscriptions and a stone cross and belongs to the Knanaya Jacobite Church. St. George Church, Puthupally, and the Vakathanam Palli are two renowned and ancient churches frequented by pilgrims. Cherpunkal Church is a famous Church in the name of Infant Jesus. Lots of people visit the church every First Friday.
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