(The first 100% Literate Municipal City in India)
Kottayam Town, the headquarters of this district is located on the foothills of the Western Ghats. This beautiful town is also a prominent trading centre, especially for plantation crops like rubber, tea, pepper and cardamom. Kottayam is a stronghold of the Christian community in the state as many denominations have their headquarters here. Many newspapers and magazines in Malayalam and English are published from Kottayam. Kottayam is very famous for its ‘Kettuvallam’ (House Boat). Traditional cargo boats called Kettuvallams are modified into cruise boats and house boats, with all basic facilities like kitchen, toilet, bathrooms, sit-outs etc. These boats gracefully move around the backwaters, providing facilities to tourist to enjoy the beauty of the Vembanad lake in a relaxed pace.
Kumarakom is a small village 12 Kms. west of Kottayam town. It is a part of Kuttanad, which is lying below sea level, comprising of a number of islands, in the backwaters. This beautiful sanctuary, in Kumarakom, on the eastern banks of the Vembanadu lake is an ideal place for backwater cruises organized by the Kerala Tourism Department. Spread over 14 acres of lush greenery and blue waters, Kumarakom offers sanctuary to various birds including water fowl, water ducks, cuckoos and siberian storks which nest and spend the summer here.
This town, located on the bank of the Vembanadu lake, is famous for its Siva temple, which is one of the oldest Siva Temple in the world. During the Sabarimala season pilgrims alight here to worship the ‘Annadanaprabhu (Load Siva)’. Vaikom gained prominence during the Indian freedom struggle, as it was the venue of the famous Satyagraha staged in 1925 for the admission of Harijans into this temple. Vaikom is situated about 40kms from Kottayam town. Two Ashtami festivals are held annually, one in Kumbham (Feb -Mar) and the other in Vrischikam (Nov-Dec) of which the latter is more famous. The celebrations last for 12 days and end with an ‘Aarattu’ at the Subramanya Swami Temple at Udayanapuram, on the day after Ashtami. Prathal (feast) is the main Vazhipadu here. There is a school teaching temple arts, known as Kshethrakalapeedhom, attached to the temple.
St. Mary’s Church, Cheriyapally- This church contains exquisite murals and paintings of Biblical and non-Biblical thems.
Thirunakkara Siva Temple
Built in the indigenous style of architecture, this temple has many interesting paintings on its walls. The sanctum-sanctorum is covered with pictures from the epics. Three festivals are celebrated here in Thulam (Oct-Nov) Mithunam (Jun-Jul) and Meenam (Mar-Apr) of which the last one is the most important. The ‘Aarattu’, conducted on the last day of the festival, is the festival, is the festival of Kottayam, irrespective of the caste and creeds. The main festival Phalguna Utsavam is celebrated during March.
The Mosque at Thazhathangadi is one of the ancient mosques in India which is made in the old Kerala style. It is believed that malik Dinar had built this mosque about 1000 years ago. Now it is an important pilgrim centre at Kottayam. The artistic value of this mosque is of special interest to the tourists.
Goodshepherd Church situated behind the civil station at Kottayam, this is the first church of Diocese of Vijayapuram. The construction of this church, which is completed in Italian style, was completed in 1882 and was renovated in 1964. The feast at St. Sebastian is on 20th January and that of Good Shepherd, is from 10th to 12th April.
Vimalagiri (Angathattu Palli) is the cathedral of the Dioceses of Vijayapuram.This church, constructed in Gothic style. The main steeple has a height of 172 ft., which is considered as the highest church steeple in the state. Vimalambika is the deity here. The main feast is in December. This church is situated near Kottayam railway station. The chief ecclesiastical dignity of the Orthodox Syrian Church, the Catholics of the East, has his head quarters in Devalokam Aramana at Muttambalam Catholic Church, Latin Catholic Church and the Church of South India have their Head quarters in Kottayam. The Arch Bishop of Changanassery who follows the Syro-malabar rite, has his Head Quarters in Changanassery. The Bishops of Knanaya Jacobite and the Church Mission Society have their headquarters at Chingavanam and Kurichy respectively.
The Siva Temple here, built in 16 AD, is a good specimen of the indigenous Kerala Style of temple architecture. The shrine contains exquisite mural paintings and sculptures depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. Nearby is a mural art centre, preserved by the state Archaeological Department. The annual festival of the temple is celebrated for ten days during February/March.
The church here, containing the mortal remains of Sister Alphonsa is one of the important pilgrim centres of the Christian in Kerala.
Located on the bank of Manimala river, Erumeli is an important pilgrim centre for Hindus and Muslims. Pilgrims going to Sabarimala alight here at the Sastha temple to worship the deity. These pilgrims also offer prayers at an ancient mosque here.
How To get there: Kottayam is connected by rail and road with all the major cities in South India. The nearest airport is at Cochin, 76 Km. from here. The main ferry station at Kottayam operates ferry services to various places through scenic backwaters.