History of Kottayam
Kottayam literally translates to 'interior of a fort' - Kotta + Akam. It was the headquarters of the rulers of Munjanad and Thekkumkur 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 still remain today.
The present Kottayam district was originally a part of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore. It was divided into two revenue divisions, the southern and northern divisions, under the administrative control of a ‘Diwan Peshkar’ for each. In 1868, two more divisions - Quilon (Kollam) and Kottayam - were constituted. The fifth division Devikulam was then added to Kottayam. When the State of Travancore and Cochin (Kochi) merged in 1949, these revenue divisions were renamed as districts and the Diwan peshkars were replaced by District Collectors. This marked the birth of the Kottayam District in July 1949.
Kottayam has played an important role in all the political agitations of modern times. The ‘Malayali Memorial’ agitation, which sought to secure better representation for educated Travancoreans in the Travancore civil service, had its origin in Kottayam. A public meeting was held in the Kottayam Public Library and the Memorial was presented to the Maharaja Sri Moolam Thirunal (1891), thus beginning the modern political movement in the State.
The historic Vaikom Satyagraha (1924-25) was also held here, an epic struggle for the eradication of untouchability. Scheduled castes and other backward classes in Travancore were denied entry into temples and access to temple roads. Vaikom, the seat of a celebrated Siva Temple, was the venue of the symbolic satyagraha, garnering support from national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, C. Rajagopalachari, Acharya Vinoba Bhave and E.V. Ramswami Naykar.
The ‘Nivarthana’ agitation of the early thirties, which sought to secure adequate representation for the non-caste Hindus, Christians and Muslims in the State Legislature, also enjoyed considerable support from this district.
The district was also the 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.
Today, Kottayam stands as a symbol of the social and political reforms that took place in the state, and is a reminder of the rich heritage of Kerala.
Kottayam has an average elevation of 3 metres (9.8 ft) above sea level, making it a midland area according to the division of places in Kerala based on altitudes. The city is situated in the basin of the Meenachil River and in the basin of the Vembanad backwaters, which are formed from several streams in the Western Ghats of the Idukki district. It is near the inland estuary of Meenachil river where it empties into the Vembanad lake in Kumarakom. The general soil type is alluvial soil and the vegetation is mainly tropical evergreen and moist deciduous. Kottayam district is bordered by Pathanamthitta district on the south, Alappuzha district on the west, Ernakulam district on the north and Idukki district on the east.
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