Bordered by the lofty and mighty Western Ghats on the east and the Vembanad Lake and paddy fields of Kuttanad on the west, Kottayam is a land of unique characteristics.
Panoramic backwater stretches, lush paddy fields, highlands, hills and hillocks, extensive rubber plantations, places associated with many legends and a totally literate people have given Kottayam District the enviable title: The land of letters, legends, latex and lakes. Kottayam Town is the first town in India to have achieved 100% literacy.
Kottayam lies close to the Vembanad Lake at the mouth of the Meenachal River with the palm fringed backwaters to its west and the rocky Western Ghats to its east. Situated in the mountainous districts of Kerala, Kottayam is surrounded by much varieties of nature, be it the paddy fields of Kuttanad or the famous panoramic backwaters of Kerala, the highlands and hillocks or the extensive rubber plantations spread over many acres of land around.
Kottayam (meaning “Inside a Fort”) comes form the words “Kotta” meaning Fort and “Akam”. The old town of Kottayam was originally found on a hilltop known as Kunnumpuram. The fort here was called Thaliil Kotta founded by Raja Thekkumcoor, the local chieftain. Kottayam started as a small hamlet that developed within the walls of the fort and thus the name Inside the fort.
The town has bore fruits of its hard work; earning some much deserved titles. It is the first town to have achieved 100 % literacy in India as early as 1989. The first English speaking school in South India was started at the Old Seminary in Kottayam in 1813 and the first college of Kerala was also started here in 1840.. The town has thus produced many legends and highly literate people who have rightly given their own town the title of “Land of Letters, Legends, Latex and Lakes”. In Malayalam it is called “Akshara nagari” which means “City of Letters”
Kottayam is thus one of the pioneering centers of modern education in India and an important centre of the publishing business of the state of Kerala.
Kottayam is also an important commercial centre, its main produce being cash crops. Acres of plantations are dedicated for growth of rubber trees, thus most of India’s natural rubber comes from here. Kottayam is the headquarters of Indian Rubber Board.
English education in South India did actually start at the Old Seminary here at Kottayam in 1813. The first printing press in Kerala was established (CMS Press) here in 1821 by Rev. Benjamin Bailey. The first college in the State (CMS College) was also started here at Kottayam in 1840. Maiden printed Malayalam-English and English-Malayalam Dictionaries were published from Kottayam in 1846 and 1847 respectively. The first and only Cooperative Society of writers, authors and publishers (SPCS), for publishing books and periodicals was set up here in 1945. Kottayam is the hometown of a vast number of books and periodicals and is the center of publishing business in the State. Kottayam is the first town in India selected by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to be transformed as an Eco City.
Mr K R Narayanan, the former President of India hails from Kottayam District.
Kottayam is the ideal take off point for visits to Peermade, Munnar, Thekkady, Ernakulam and the temple city, Madurai. It is also a gateway to the pilgrim centers of Sabarimala, Mannanam, Vaikom, Ettumanoor, Bharananganam, Erumeli, Manarcaud, and so on.
Kottayam dates back to an era of the Kulasekhara kings (1090 - 1102 AD) when it was ruled as one region under the name of Vemolinpad. Kottayam was also ruled by Rajas of the Independent kingdom of Thekkumcoor who ruled Kottayam from Thazhathangadi till the 18th century.
At this time the region of Thekkumcoor and surrounding areas were annexed by Marhanda Varma, King of Travancore and remained under the Kingdom of Travancore even during the British rule in India.
The citizens of Kottayam and surrounding areas have played an important role in the early social struggles in Kerala. The beginning of the modern political movements of Kerala was marked by the protest movement formed in 1891, the Malayali Memorial Agitation for representation of Travancoreans.
Another important moment of historical significance is the Vaikom Satyagraha under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave etc to demolish untouchability, also started here.
Nearest Airport from Kottayam is in Cochin, which is around 91 km away. Pre paid taxis are available to transfer you to Kottayam.
Kottayam has express trains running between Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam - Kerala Express (connects New Delhi as well), Kanyakumari Express (connects Mumbai), Trivandrum Mail (connects Chennai) and another Kanyakumari Express (connects Bangalore). Other trains that run between Thiruvanantpuram and Ernakulam include Parasurama, Malabar, Venad and Vanchinad Express.
Kottayam has three bus stations.. Buses take about four hours to Thekkady (Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary). Seven express buses daily come through from Ernakulam and either terminate at Thekkady, or continue to Madurai, three hours away.
The other two bus stations are private and mainly operate to local destinations within 10 km to 30 km - although you can get to Munnar and Kumily from the Nagambaram (new) bus station.
There are number of hotels in Kottayam which suits all budgets. Hotel Windsor Castle, Pearl Regency, Orchid Residency, Hotel Aida and Hotel Elegance are a few good hotels in Kottayam.
Flower Show and Food Festival
Flower Show and Food Festival is an annual event that is held during the third week of January. The festivities include cultural programs on all days. These events are quite popular and are worth a visit while in Kottayam.