Kumarakom gained national and international importance with the visit of the Hon'ble Prime minister A.B. Vajpayee in 2000 December.
Kumarakom is a small village 14km. west of Kottayam. It is a part of Kuttanad, which is a ' wonder land ', lying below sea level, comprising of a number of islands, in the back waters. Kumarakom is an unbelievably beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interpersed with enchanting waterways and canals adorned with white lilies. Situated on the Vembanad Lake, this small water world has plenty of traditional country boats, crafts and canoes which will take you in to the heart of scenic Kerala. The resorts near by offer comfortable accomodation and exclusive leisure options like Ayurvedic massages, Yoga and meditation besides boating, fishing, angling and swimming.
In the last Century, Henry Baker, an English man, attracted by the beauty of the place, selected Kumarakom as his residence and built a bungalow, obtaining 104 acres of land from the then Maharaja of Travancore. He also made a beautiful garden. Preserving the old style, the beautiful bungalow of Baker has now been modified into the Taj Garden Retreat, a hotel with modern living facilities. The Kerala State Tourism Development Corporation is converting this place into a Tourist Complex. K.T.D.C. has constructed A.C. Cottages here and it runs a floating restaurant. The Corporation also provides boating facilities. Coconut lagoon is a beautiful resort here.
VEMBANAD LAKE :
Kottayam has a vast nertwork of rivers and canals, which empty into the great expanse of water called the Vembanad Lake, a fast developing backwater tourism destination. Vembanad Lake is having 83.72km. length and 14.48km. Width. 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 back waters, providing facilities to tourist to enjoy the beauty of the Vembanad Lake in a relaxed pace. The Kumarakom tourist village offers house boat cruises and holiday packages.
In the Vembanad Lake there is a small beautiful island called Pathiramanal or the Midnight sands. This lonely island in the Vemabanad Lake is accessible only by boat.
Boat Races :
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 viz veppu, ody, churulan and few snake boats participate.
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.
Three Kms. from Vazhikkadavu, this renowned Christian pilgrim centre is where hundreds of devotees from far and near converge during the holy week and after, to climb the hill in faith, carrying small wooden crosses. The peaceful Jewish monastery at the top of the hill, the cool mountain air and the lush green landscape are all soothing to the soul. On the eastern side of the hill is Murugan mala, home of a rock cut temple dedicated to Murugan ( son of Lord Siva). The road to Kurisumala offers wonderful sight-seeing opportunities in a European model house and the beautiful artificial lake both designed by the renowned architect, Laurie Baker.
A picnic spot ideal for langourous break. Tourists can avail of various recreation options. Boat cruises are available on the Vaikom lake.
MONROE LIGHT :
The Vemband lake at its glorious magnificance is seen at Pallom. The sunset from the Monroe light area is an unique experience, that one will always cherish. The vast expanse of the blue waters as seen from here, awakes the glorious feelings of awe and love for the mother nature. Situated at the eastern extremity of the Vembanad lake, the light was established by colonel Monroe, the Resident in 1813. This being an engineering marvel, the like of which is very rare.
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 salvation.
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 truly soul stirring.
Valiapally (Metropolitan Church) Kavil Bhagavathi (Goddess) Temple and Puthoorpalli Muslim 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
BIRD SANCTUARY :
An attraction of Kumarakom is the Bird sanctuary spreading over 14 acres of land. Located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, the sanctuary is a favourite haunt of migratory birds like the Siberian Stork, egret, darter, heron and teal. Local birds like the water fowl, cuckoo, owl and water hen, other common varieties like the wood pecker, sky lark, crane and parrots can also be spotted here. 91 Species of local 50 species of migratory birds are found here. The best time to bird watch is June-August and migratory birds during 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.
Elaveezha poonchira, a hill station near Melukavu Mattom, 60kms from Kottayam is gaining tourist importance.
Located among three beautiful hillocks Mankunnu, Kudayathoormala and Thonippara, Poonchira is a place of picturesque charm. Legends say that the pool here was a bathing place for Panchali the legendary heroine of Mahabharata. The D.T.P.C. is developing this place into a trekking spot. A tourist bungalow with rooms and dormitory to accommodate 15 people has been constructed. The beautiful valleys of Poonchira are spread across thousands of acres. The verdant landscape punctuated by the gigantic hills, each rising to around 3200 ft. is an ideal place to unwind. During the monsoons when the valley fills up to form a scenic lake, this place unveils yet another beautiful slice of nature. Elaveezha poonchira means valley where leaves don't fall and is named so because the place has no trees. This is also one of the best places in Kerala to witness both the sun rise and sunset.
POONJAR PALACE :
The Poonjar Palace in Meenachil taluk is a glorious testimony to the regal opulence of a bygone era. With the palace walls, is an extra ordinary royal collection of antiques and exquisite furniture which include a palanquin, a thoni carved out of a single piece of wood for ayurvedic massages, huge chandeliers, palm leaf engravings, jewel boxes, a variety of lamps, sculptures of Nataraja (dancing Lord Siva ), grain measures, statues and weapons. A unique couch preserved here is taken out once a year for ritualistic purposes. Near the palace is an amazing replica of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. The walls of this temple have sculptures with war fare stories from the Puranas (the legends of ancient India ). However the most fascinating thing here is the Chuttuvilakku (row of lamps) carved out on the stonewalls of the Sastha Temple nearby. Such rocks cut lamps are rare in India.
Situated 64kms from Kottayam, this enchanting hill station at an elevation of 1100 metres above sea level is a trekker’s paradise. This enchanting hill station on the Idukki-Kottayam border dotted with tea gardens and meadows, will soon be one of India's foremost Eco tourism projects. The breeding centre of the Kerala Live stock Board is located here.
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