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 (a remarkable feat achieved as early as in 1989).
Kottayam literally means the interior of a fort - Kotta + Akam. Rulers of Munjanad and Thekkumkur had their headquarters at Thazhathangadi in the present Kottayam town. Marthanda Varma of Travancore attacked Thekkumkur and destroyed the palace and the Thaliyil Fort. The remnants of the palaces and forts are still seen here. 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.
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 here that the famous Vaikom Satyagraham (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.
Highest 38.5 C recorded on 6th April 1998 and the lowest being 16 C recorded in 13th December 2000. 
Kottayam has a vast network of rivers and canals which empty into the great expanse of water called the Vembanad Lake, part of the interconnected Kerala Backwaters that run virtually the length of the state. Vembanad Lake is 83.72km. in length and 14.48km in width. Traditional cargo boats called Kettuvallams are modified into 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. In the Vembanad Lake there is a small beautiful island called Pathiramanal or the Midnight sands. This lonely island in the Vembanad Lake 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 and the magnificent delicate fluttering blossoms. Kumarakom bird sanctuary, an ornithologist's delight, 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 Parrots can also be spotted here. 91 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. A cruise along the Vembanad Lake is the best way to experience the sanctuary.House Boats and motorboats are available on hire for bird watching cruises in the Lake.
In the festive months of August and September, the rivers in and near Kottayam are turned into festival centres. The serene lakes come alive during Onam with a spectacular water regatta - the snake boat races. It is amazing to watch oarsmen, at least a hundred in one boat, slice their way through the waters to the fast rhythm of their own full throated singing. In the Kumarakom boat race conducted at Kavanar and Kottathodu rivers, about 50 types of boats including veppu, ody and churulan boats participate.
You could also reach Thekkady (Periyar Tiger Reserve), which is 104 km away, in Idukki District from Kottayam traveling approximately 3 hours by public transportation. It is also a gateway to the pilgrim centers of Sabarimala, Mannanam, Vaikom, Ettumanoor,Thirunakkara Bharananganam, Erumeli, Manarcaud, and so on. Kottayam town is linked by rails to other prominent cities in Kerala and also linked to the waterways for scenic travel.
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.
Although it lacks heavy industrial units, a number of small and medium scale industrial units are based in Kottayam. The main industries are publishing (newspapers and books) and those based on cash crops like latex (rubber). There are 14 large and medium scale industries functioning in the district. Of these, one is in the central public sector, two each in the state public sector and co-operative sector. The only central public sector undertaking in the district is the Hindustan News Print Limited at Velloor in Vaikom taluk, which is engaged in the production of newsprint. Travancore Cements Limited at Nattakom is the major state public sector undertaking in the district which manufactures white cement. The coir industry in the district is more or less confined to Vaikom taluk. There are 27 coir co-operatives and 20,000 workers in the district. In the handloom sector, there are eight co-operative societies which provide employment to 2100 persons. In 1998, there were 151 Industrial co-operatives in the district of which 63 women, 18 SC and 4 ST. The district has a rich forest wealth with good availability of softwood and other varieties of timber. As a result, many industries like plywood, packing cases, splints and veneers, furniture etc., are thriving.
The first printing press in Kerala (C.M.S Press) was established here in 1821 by Rev.Benjamin Baily, a British missionary. 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. Popular publishing houses like DC Books, V Publishers and Vidhyamitram are also located in Kottayam. Kottayam city hosts a number of book exhibitions every year. Numerous news papers in Malayalam, the local language, including Malayala Manorama, Deepika , Mathrubhumi , Desabhimani and Mangalam, are based in Kottayam. Malayala Manorama and Deepika are among the earliest newspapers to have been established in India that are still in circulation and among the largest selling newspapers in india.
Rubber (latex) industry
Kerala accounts for 90% of the rubber (latex) production in India, major part being the contribution of Kottayam. The increasing output in rubber production and the advent of modern processing techniques have resulted in the establishment of rubber-based industrial units like latex and crepe rubber diversifying into items such as M.C. sheets,foot wear etc. The Rubber Board, a central government research institution, is located at Kottayam. Kottayam is a major trading centre for rubber and rubber-based products. A common facility service centre, training centre and field testing laboratory for rubber - plastic industries has set up at Changanassery and a central government production cum training centre at Ettumanoor. Rubco opened a new factory at Pampady in 2001. Other rubber based industries in the district include MRF Ltd (Vadavathoor), Midas Rubber Pvt Ltd (Ettumanoor) and Intermix factory (Neezhoor).
Old Seminary situated in Chungam, Kottayam is the first institution to start English education in South India. C.M.S High School (which later became C.M.S College High School) was founded by the British missionary Rev. Benjamin Bailey. The first college in the State (C.M.S College) was started at Kottayam in 1840.
Kottayam is a major center 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(the first college in kerala), Baselius College, B.C.M Collegeand K.E College. Medical College, Kottayam one of the government medical colleges, is located at Gandhinagar close to Kottayam.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.
The world renowned school PALLIKOODAM (which means "holy place of learning" or "school" ) is also situated in Kottayam. The School was founded and is managed by Mrs.Mary Roy, an educationist, a womens rights activist, and a social reform activist. Ms.Arundhati Roy, Social reforms activist and author (GOD OF SMALL THINGS) and winner of the BOOKER PRIZE is the daughter of Mrs.Mary Roy.
Kottayam town is the first town in India to have achieved 100% literacy (a remarkable feat achieved as early as in 1989).
K R Narayanan (Congress I), the former President of India hails from Kottayam district. Currently Kottayam is represented in Lok Sabha of Indian Parliament by Suresh Kurup of CPI M. Before him Ramesh Chennithala of Congress I represented Kottayam in the Parliament.
Oommen Chandy (Congress I), the current Chief Minister of Kerala represents Puthupally Constituency in Kottayam District. K M Mani (Pala), the state minister Minister for Revenue and C F Thomas (Changanacherry), Minister for Registration & Rural Development, also represents different constituencies in Kottayam district.
Members representing constituencies in Kottayam in Kerala State Legislative Assembly
87 Kanjirappally: George J. Mathew
88 Vazhoor: K. Narayana
89 Changanacherry: C.F. Thomas
90 Kottayam: Mercy Ravi
91 Ettumanoor: Thomas Chazhikadan
92 Puthuppally: Oommen Chandy (Congress I)
93 Poonjar: P.C.George
94 Pala: K.M. Mani
95 Kaduthuruthy: Stephen George
96 Vaikom: P. Narayanan
Like the rest of Kerala, Hindus, Christians and Muslims all form a significant part of the population.
Kottayam is the last rail stop 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. The sanctum-sanctorum is covered with pictures from the epics. 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 the caste and creeds. Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple is another main templed located near the Kottayam town. Thirunakkara Srikrishna temple, Pallipurathukavu Devi Temple are another important temples located in the town.
Kottayam has it's own rich Christian tradition. Four Roman Catholic dioceses are based in the district. The Knanaya Catholic Dioceses of Kottayam is based in the town itself. On February 8 1986 Pope John Paul II visited Kottayam to beatify Blessed Chavara, along with Blessed Alphonsa.
The Malankara Orthodox Churuch (Indian Orthodox Church), under His Holiness Baseulius Mar Thoma Didymos I, is administered from Devalokam, Kottayam. The church is spread all over India and has believers spread all over the world.
The headquarters of the Knanaya Jacobite church is based in Chingavanam a suburb of Kottayam . The church in Mannanam is a pilgrim centre of great importance.
A number of old and sacred Christian churches are also located in Kottayam. Old Seminary, a prominent religions teaching 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 Mary's Jacobite Syrian Church, Manarcadu is another important Christian church in Kottayam. This church is located at Manarcadu, near Kottayam town and is considered to be a very important and sacred shrine for the Jacobites
Towns in Kottayam District
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