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Pala
Pala
Location of Pala
in Kerala and India
Coordinates 9°42′N 76°42′E / 9.7°N 76.70°E / 9.7; 76.70
Country  India
State Kerala
District(s) Kottayam
Municipal Chairperson Prof. Mercy Jose
Population
Density
22640 (2001)
1,375 /km2 (3,561 /sq mi)
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
Area
Elevation
15.93 km2 (6 sq mi)
56.7 m (186 ft)

Pala (Malayalam: പാലാ, also written as Palai), is a municipal town 26 km east of Kottayam in the Indian state of Kerala. It is situated on the banks of the Meenachil River and is the headquarters of the Meenachil Taluk and the Pala Revenue Division. It is the main gateway to the southern high ranges. Located at 9°42′N 76°42′E / 9.7°N 76.7°E / 9.7; 76.7, Pala is 56.7 meters above MSL. Nearby towns are Kottayam, Ponkunnam, Erattupetta, Thodupuzha, and Muvattupuzha. Pala is on the Main Eastern Highway (Muvattupuzha - Pathanamthitta- Punalur Road / SH - 08). The state highway 'SH-32' (Ettumannor to Poonjar) also passes through Pala.

Contents

History

There are various versions regarding the origin of the place name. According to one, Pala gets its name from Palazhi (Ksheera Sagara), the mythological ocean of milk from which nectar was churned out. Another view is that the name was derived from Palathu Chettiyar families, the prominent early settlers of the region.

Pala was part of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, and was ruled by the "Travancore Rajas" for a long time. The local chieftains were "Meenachil Karthas". The first royal Kartha families were known as Njavakattu Karthas.They had a title called "Damodara Simhar" and they were rulers of a small kingdom called "Meenachil" which is today's Palai (Kottayam district). They originally were Rajputs who migrated to Madurai in the 14th century (the reason for their exodus or their roots in Rajasthan are still not known). They settled in Madurai (which was a great cultural centre and capital during that time). Later they migrated to Kerala (the reason for which is stated as outbreak of an epidemic in Madurai) and settled in this place "Meenachil" which was named after "Meenakshi" of Madurai.

There are also many other attributes which make them distinct from the normal Nair folks. "Simhar" (Singh) family deity (Bhavai instead of Bhadrakali) and family name was Mevada (Mewar). They also used to have very colorful funeral processions. They were pure vegetarians though they had no sacred threads (poonul), and they followed "Marumakkathayam."

They ruled Meenachil taluk and were instrumental in promoting the Christian settlement in this place. Later they were defeated by the Travancore army of Dharma Raja (successor of Marthanda Varma) and their kingdom was annexed to Travancore (the ruling king committed suicide). All their male folks including boys were slaughtered. However, the ladies were spared. Also, the Travancore king gave them pension. The family had a successor only after a very long gap due to this genocide by the travancore

Pala has the largest proportion of Roman Catholics in Kerala. The reason why its so often referred among the Catholic circles as the "Mini Vatican of India."

Early settlements

Rubber Trees in a Plantation

Early settlements in the region date back to 1000 AD. Christian settlers came to the area very early, probably at the invitation of the local rulers. The first four Christian families are considered to be Tharayil (Tharayil Mappila) Koottumkal (brother of Tharayil Mappila) Erakonni (Kottarathil, Kuthivalachel) & Vayalakombil. They were engaged mainly in agriculture and trade. It is believed that Pala market was established around 1736 on the banks of Meenachil River by Christian settlers on the land allotted by Meenachil Karthas, who were the local rulers.

Politics

Palai assembly constituency is part of Kottayam (Lok Sabha constituency). Previously it was part of Muvattupuzha (Lok Sabha constituency).[1]

Religious places

Pala Diocese

The Syrian Christians of Pala owe their faith to St Thomas the Apostle, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, who came down to Kerala in 52 AD. Though Pala Diocese is only half a century old (July 25, 1950), some of the Churches trace their origin to earlier centuries.[2]

Pope Pius XII by the Bull "Quo Ecclesiarim" issued on July 25, 1950, bifurcated the Diocese of Changanacherry, and out of the territory covered by the Foranes of Palai, Muttuchira, Kuravilangad, Anakkallu (Bharananganam-including the present Forane of Aruvithura) and Ramapuram erected the Diocese of Palai as suffragan of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam.

On August 22, 1956 when the Holy See by the Apostolic Constitution "Regnum Coelorum" raised the Diocese of Changanacherry to the status of an Archdiocese and constituted the new Ecclesiastical Province of Changanacherry, the Diocese of Palai became one of its suffragans. Pala Diocese comprises Meenachil Taluk, and a few villages of Kottayam, Idukki and Ernakulam districts.

Pala had contacts with other continents from time immemorial. In 1663, an Armenian is said to have influenced the construction of the Lalam Old Church (St Mary's Church). Before Pala Church (now a cathedral) was built in 1002, Aruvithura used to be the Parish. It is believed that St. Thomas traveled through the then navigable Meenachil river and reached Aruvithura and Cherpunkal. Pala has many other ancient churches that are considered as pilgrim centers.

Temples

There are 11 temples in Pala Municipality. Among them Lalam Mahadeva Temple is among the most famous and is called Dakshina Kasi (Kasi of South). Lalam Mahadeva Temple is situated at the heart of Pala town on the bank of Lalam River. It is believed that this is the oldest temple in Meenachil Taluk and was once the only temple in the 58 Karas or Villages of Meenachil Taluk. Thiruvathira festival in Dhanu (December - January) is the main festival of this temple. Ambalppurathukavu Bhagavthy Temple is situated near to Lalam temple.

Kadappattor Mahadeva Temple which is situated on the bank of Meenachil River is the most famous Hindu temple in this region. Thousands of pilgrims visit the Kadappattoor temple every year, on their way to Sabarimala.

Kizhathadiyoor Puthiyakavu Devi Temple, Chembittambalam Kizhathadiyoor Thrukkayil Mahadeva Temple, Murikkumpuzha Devi Temple, Idayattu Bala Ganapathy Temple, Narasimha Swami Temple, Vellappattu Sree Vana Durga Bhagavathy Temple (the only temple in Kottayam district where Jeevatha ezhunnallathu is performed), Thattarakathu Bhagavathy Temple, Ooraasala Subrahmanya Swami Temple and Anakkulangara Bhagavathy Temple are the other temples situated within the boundaries of Pala Municipality.

Cheruthil Valuthu (big among small) Puliyannoor Mahadeva temple is also a famous temple near to Pala. Both these temples are located in Mutholi Panchayath. Meenachil vadakke kavu is a famous Bhadrakaaly temple near Pala. "Mandalakala pooja (41days)" is very famous with Kalamezhuthu & Kalam karikkal. Meenachil Dharmasastha Temple, Idayattu Bala Ganapathy Temple, Poovarany Mahadeva Temple, Valavoor Mahadeva Temple, Idanadu Bhagavathy Temple, Anthinadu Mahadeva Temple, Vezhanganam Mahadeva Temple, Bharanaganam Sree Krishna Swami Temple, Alanadu Sree Krishna Swami Temple, Ponad Bhagavathy Temple and Sree Kurumbakkavu Devi Temple are the other important temples of this region.

Churches

Kurishupalli, a shrine located at the centre of the Pala town, acts as the landmark of the town. St. Thomas Cathedral, Pala and St. Mary's Church, Lalam are two of the main Christian churches in Pala. An Armenian might have played an important role in the establishment of the Lalam Church in 1663.

A famous pilgrim centre nearby is the Alphonsa Church at Bharananganam, where the mortal remains of St. Alphonsa of India are kept. Adjacent to it is St. Mary's Church of Bharananganam which was founded in 1004. St. George's Church, Aruvithura, near Erattupetta, is also a famous pilgrim centre. Another Christian pilgrim centre near Pala is the St. Augustine's Church at Ramapuram, where the mortal remains of the Blessed Augustine Kunjachan are kept. Monastery of Mutholy was founded by Blessed Chavara Kuriakose Elias.

Trade links

Pepper - the King of Spices - on a Pepper Vine

Pala had trade links Tamil Nadu, and even countries in the Middle East. A jungle route to Gudalloor in Tamil Nadu, through the dense forests in the High Ranges, is believed to have brought a significant number of Vellalas and Chettiars during the Middle Ages. During early 1900s Pala became famous for its spice market. A particular brand of pepper called "Pala Pepper" was quoted in the London market in the early 1900s. Once rubber took a firm root in Central Kerala, Pala became a rubber market.

Pala dominated the banking and financial scene of Kerala for over three decades (1927–60) through Palai Central Bank, which was the largest business enterprise of Kerala and the 17th largest scheduled commercial bank in India, when it was liquidated in 1960 by the Reserve Bank of India.

A road linking Athirampuzha to Erattupetta through Pala was established in 1868. Pala was linked to Thodupuzha by road in 1893. Motor vehicles appeared in Pala in the early 1900s. The first bus service was started in 1908 by a public company by name Meenachil Motor Association which was the 3rd registered company in Travancore.

Pala became a Municipality in 1949.

Meenachil River

The Meenachil River flows through the taluks of Meenachil, Vaikom and Kottayam. It is formed by several streams originating from the Western Ghats in Idukki district. At Erattupeetta, Poonjar River also joins it, takes a sharp turn and flows towards the west. At Kondur, it is joined by the Chittar and at Lalam it receives the Payuapparathodu and flows in a south- west direction till it reaches Kottayam. Here, it branches into several streams before emptying into the Vembanad Lake. The important towns in the basin are Pala, Poonjar, Ettumanoor and Kottayam.

Healthcare, hospitals

  • Govt. Hospital, Pala
  • Marian medical center, Arunapuram
  • Cherupushpam Trust Hospital, Pala
  • Carmel Hospital, Pala

Closest cities, towns and villages

Cities

Other Major Towns

Villages

Culture and people

Though the population is diverse, Pala is considered as an important hub of Roman Catholic Syrian Christians in India. The Palaites have enjoyed a reputation of being hard workers, as many from Meenachil Taluk migrated to the high ranges and the Malabar region of Kerala, turning forest land into farms. In those days they worked hard during the day and spent the evenings having toddy. That was the custom then. But nowadays as alcoholism has spread, it has little link with hard work.

Meenachil taluk, of which Pala is the headquarters, has produced people with notable contribution in many fields:

Politics

  • K. R. Narayanan, President of India (1997–2002), Vice-President of India (1992–97).
  • K M Chandy [1], State Governor (1982–89), President of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee.
  • K M Mani, Member of Kerala Legislative Assembly (1965 onwards) and Minister of Kerala State (different terms during 1977-2006).
  • M M Jacob [2], Deputy Chairman of Rajaya Sabha (1986–87), Union Minister (1987–93), State Governor of Meghalaya (1995–2007).
  • R V Thomas [3], President (Speaker) of Travancore State Legislative Assembly (1947–49).
  • T A Thomman, Minister of Home, Kerala State (1964–65)
  • J Thomas Kayalackakom [4], Member of Sree Moolam Popular Assembly of Travancore State (1922–31).
  • Kidangoor Gopalakrishna Pillai [5], General Secretary of NSS (1967 onwards) and Indian High-Commissioner to Singapore.
  • George Thomas Kottukapally [6], Member of Indian Parliament - Lok Sabha (1957–62), U.N Delegate.
  • Cherian J Kappen [7], Member of Indian Parliament - Lok Sabha (1962–67).
  • Dr P J Thomas [8][9], Member of Madras Legislative Council, 1937–42 and Member of Indian Parliament - Rajya Sabha 1957-62.
  • N M Joseph, Minister of Forests, Kerala State (1987–91)
  • M J Varkey (Vakkachen) Mattathil [10], Member of Indian Parliament - Rajya Sabha (1998–2004).

Social Activist

  • James Cherian Maruthukunnel, District Governor, Lions Clubs International (1988–89).

Literature & Education

  • Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar: Author of "Varthamana Pusthakam", the first travalogue in an Indian language.
  • Ramapurathu Warrier - Poet (Kuchelavritham).
  • Mahakavi Kattakayam Cherian Mappillai (1859–1936) - Author of Sri Yesu Vijayam (1926) & Editor of Vijnaana Rathnaakaram (1913)
  • Mathew M Kuzhively, Encyclopedia editor
  • Mahakavi Pala Narayanan Nair, poet
  • Mahakavi Pravithanam P M Devasia, poet
  • Lalithambika Antharjanam, novelist
  • B. Sandhya IPS, writer and police officer.
  • Vettoor Raman Nair, writer
  • Paul Zacharia, writer & columnist
  • Ezhacherry Ramachandran, poet
  • BishopSebastian Vayalil, Founder of St.Thomas College
  • A.T.Devassia, former Vice Chancellor
  • Cyriac Thomas, former Vice Chancellor
  • Joseph Pulikunnel, writer & editor
  • BishopJoseph Pallikaparambil, Founder of St.Joseph's Engineering College
  • Pala Narayanan Nair, poet, teacher, most celebrated work 'keralam valarunnu'
  • George Kallivayalil - Columnist and Journalist

Sports

  • Col. G.V. Raja - Foremost Sports Promoter.
  • Wilson Cherian, Swimmer - Arjuna award winner.
  • T.J. Jacob, Swimmer - Indian Team at Asian Games.
  • Mathew Joseph, Swimmer - Indian Team at Asian Games.
  • Sumi Cyriac, Swimmer - National Champion.
  • Sony Cyriac, swimmer - Indian Team
  • Mani C Kappen, Volley Ball - Indian Team Player.
  • M D Valsamma, Athletics - Asian Gold Medalist.
  • Sunny Thomas - National Coach in Riffle Shooting.
  • S. Pazhaniya Pillai - Indian Athletic Team Manager.

Management & Administration

  • V.V.Joseph, IAS bureaucrat
  • R Ramachandran Nair, IAS bureaucrat, former Chief Secretary
  • M. S. Joseph, IAS bureaucrat.
  • Joseph Thomas, IPS police officer
  • K.J. Mathew, IAS bureaucrat, Chief Secretary
  • V J Kurian, IAS bureaucrat.
  • Tom Jose IAS, bureaucrat.

Commerce & Industry

  • Jacob Cherian Maruthukunnel - Pioneer in Banking, Motor Transport, Deep sea Fishing
  • Abraham Kallivayalil- Pappan chettan - Pioneer in Rubber, Pepper, Cardomom Plantations.
  • George Thomas Kottukappillil - Banker, Planter, Member of Parliament
  • Joseph Michael Manarkattu - Leader in State-wide Liquor Trade.
  • Dominic Joseph Kuruvinakkunnel - Father of Tourism Industry in Kerala.
  • C R Kesavan Vaidyan - Pioneer Medicinal Soap Maker.
  • Joseph Augusti Kayalackakom - Leader/Pioneer in Banking, Motor Transport & Plantation.
  • M O Devasia Mattathil - Leader in Forward Trade of Spices.Populary known as "The Pepper King"

Movies

  • Bhadran, Movie Director
  • Miss Kumari, late Malayalam actress
  • Joseph Kakkattil (Cherupuspam Kochettan), Movie Producer & Studio Owner
  • Mani C Kappen, Movie Producer
  • Suvarna Actress
  • Rimi Tomy Singer
  • Chanchal Actress

Science

  • K.L. Sebastian, winner of S.S. Bhatnagar Prize in Chemistry.
  • Dr. A.M.Michael, Director, Agricultural Institute of India

Journalist

  • Jose Panachippuram, Associate Editor, Malayala Manorama daily
  • George Kallivayalil, Chief of Bureau, New Delhi, Deepika Daily
  • Eby J Jose Editor, Gulf Life Magazine
  • Berly Thomas Editor, Malayala Manorama
  • T.Devaprasad, Deepika Daily, Tvpm

Education

Colleges in Pala are affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. Educational institutes here are hubs of sports excellence. Famous international volleyball player Jimmy George was an alumnus of St. Thomas College. Olympian Shiny Wilson is an alumnus of Alphonsa College. Many institutions are run under the management of the Diocese of Pala.

Colleges

Higher Secondary Schools

  • St. Augustine's HSS, Ramapuram (Kerala Board)
  • Chavara CMI International School, Ramapuram (ICSE&ISC)
  • Government HSS, Pala (Kerala Board)
  • St. Thomas HSS, Pala (Kerala Board)
  • St. Mary's HSS, Pala (Kerala Board)
  • St. Thomas HS, Marangattupilly (Kerala Board)
  • St. Antonys's HSS, Mutholy (Kerala Board)
  • Holy Cross HSS, Cherpunkal (Kerala Board)
  • Alphonsa Residential School Bharanganam (ICSE)
  • St. Vincent HSS, Pala (ICSE)
  • Chavara Junior College (CBSE)
  • St. J.N.HSS, Kozhuvanal (Kerala Board)
  • Labour India Gurukulam public school [cbse]
  • St. Antony's HSS, Plassanal (Kerala Board)
  • St. Mary's HSS, Kidangoor
  • NSS HSS Kdangoor
  • St.Michael's H.S. Pravithanam
s v  NSS HS EDANAD

Teacher Training Institute

  • St. Thomas Teacher Training College, Pala
  • St. Thomas TTI

Industrial Training Institute

  • Cherian Kappen memorial ITI

Demographics

As of 2001 India census[3], Pala had a population of 22,640. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. Pala has an average literacy rate of 86%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 86%, and female literacy is 86%. In Pala, 10% of the population is under 6 years of age.

A Rare Social Model

Although Palai is very much associated with rubber cultivation, the widespread cultivation of rubber started here only around the middle of 20th century. But Palai was into agriculture decades - or even centuries - before that. Until rubber came, farming in Palai was of the composite type, i.e. all crops were inter-planted in all fields by everyone. Typically, all fields had several tiers of plants. Big trees like Coconut, Jackfruit, Mango etc were there at the upper-most level, followed by other plants of medium height that supported pepper vines. Then the banana plants were there, followed by tubers like tapioca, yam, sweet potato etc. These were staple items then. Further, there were the home-grown vegetables like lady's fingers, egg plant, different varieties of gourd etc. Finally, at the ground level, there were the shrub-like plants like ginger, turmeric etc. This form of composite cultivation, though required hard work throughout the year, was a self-supporting one.

Another feature of Palai is that the place was colonized centuries ago by people migrating from the plains in search of land, and with the hope of making a living - if not a fortune - by 'taming' the land. It was a sort of "wild west". Many among the new migrants perished in the hostile environment, but those who survived became well off. Also, there were no "landless labor" that was common in other parts of Kerala. There was a practice called "Kilachupaathy" (ploughed half) - also called "Vechupaathy" (kept half) - in which owners of large tracts of undeveloped land gave land to those willing to develop it, who in turn are allowed to keep half the land as their own after developing it, and only the other half need to be returned to the original owner. As a result of this novel practice, everyone was the owner of a small parcel of land that he cultivated himself. On the one hand, the cultivation of tapioca and other tuber crops saved the people from poverty and famines that affected other places, while on the other, the dispersed land holding helped to reduce disparities in income levels. A unique type of egalitarian social set up therefore emerged. This also prevented extremist ideologies from making inroads into Palai.

Even now Palai is one of the few places where the rich are not addressed as "Muthalali" (rich man). Instead, the common form of addressing is "Chettan" (elder brother). Those younger than you are simply called by their names, irrespective of their position, wealth or social standing. Only those in the bureaucracy or the professions are addressed by a polite "sir". One is reminded of the practice in Gujarat where all the elderly are addressed by even kids as simply "bhai" (elder brother) even if he happens to be the prime minister. True respect was reserved to the priests of the Church. The dominant presence of Catholic Church here also would have played a role in bringing about this unique social set up in Palai.

Social change which swept the rest of Kerala naturally affected Palai also. In the second half the 20th century, as income from land got divided among the many children in each family, the more enterprising among them started the second wave of migration - this time to the high ranges in Idukki district and to the northern Malabar region of Kerala. Many of today's residents in those regions confirm that their ancestors came from places in and around Palai. The 1960s saw another development. As education became common, many young girls from even middle class families started going to Europe and USA to work as nurses and other medical support staff. This brought great prosperity to a section of population. This was followed by the so-called "Gulf Boom" in which, though late, even many from Palai also joined. As the price of rubber became erratic there was massive influx into government jobs too. The 1990s saw children from every family trying to get a job, preferably an overseas job. The advent of the Information Technology boom made the dreams of many come true.

Records and Achievements

Meenachil Taluk, of which Pala town is the headquarters, has the unique distinction of holding innumerable records. It is amazing that a rather remote Taluk located in the hilly inland could achieve so much.

World Records:

  1. The Christian parish that is home to the largest number of priests in the world – Kozhuvanal Parish, Pala Diocese [11] (101 priests).
  2. Promoter of one of the world's ten best Resort Hotels selected by the world's leading travel magazine – Dominic Joseph Kuruvinakkunnel (Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom of Casino CGH Earth Group of Hotels [12]).

National Records:

  1. India's only dalit President – K R Narayanan (1997).
  2. First Indian to become Economic Advisor to Government of India – Dr P J Thomas [13][14] (1942).
  3. India's first and only Taluk to produce one President/Vice-President, two State Governors, one State Chief Minister and one Ambassador – K R Narayanan, K M Chandy [15], M M Jacob [16], P K Vasudevan Nair & Kidangoor Gopalakrishna Pillai [17].
  4. Longest term as Finance Minister of a State in India – K M Mani (7 years).
  5. Longest term as State Governor in India – M M Jacob [18] (12 years).
  6. Highest number of Bishops from a Diocese in India – Pala Diocese [19].
  7. The first travelogue in an Indian language – "Varthamana Pusthakam" by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar (eighteenth century) [20].
  8. The first native Indian Roman Catholic (and the only Syro Malabar Catholic) Saint – St. Alphonsa [21].
  9. Author of the first encyclopaedia in an Indian language – Mathew M Kuzhively Syrian Malabar Nasrani.
  10. First head of a Homoeo Medical Dept. of a State in India – Dr K Z George [22] (1973).
  11. First Bank to open a branch in India's capital New Delhi – Palai Central Bank (1932).
  12. Maker of India's largest selling medicinal toilet soap – C R Kesavan Vaidyan (Chandrika Soap)[23].

State Records:

  1. First and only President/Vice-President from Kerala – K R Narayanan (1997/1992).
  2. First Speaker of the State since Independence – R V Thomas [24] (1948).
  3. Longest continuous term as MLA of the State – K M Mani (1965 onwards)
  4. One of the first two from the State to be beatified by Catholic church – St Alphonsa [25] (1986).
  5. Promoter of the institution that was the largest in the State for over three decades – Joseph Augusti Kayalackakom - Palai Central Bank (1927–60)].
  6. First and foremost sports promoter of the State – Col. G V Raja [26].
  7. First company promoter of the State to make a public issue of shares of a plantation company – J Thomas Kayalackakom - Mysore Plantations Ltd (1943) [27].
  8. First person to run a Star Hotel in the State – Dominic Joseph Kuruvinakkunnel - Malabar Hotel, Cochin (1962) [28].
  9. First Liquor Baron of the State – Joseph Michael Manarkattu (1980s) [29].
  10. First Stock Broker's Firm in the State – Kayalackakom Company (1946) [30].
  11. First person from the State to dominate the multi-crore Forward Trade (Satta Bazar) in spices – M O Devasia Mattathil (1970s) [31].
  12. First lady athlete of Kerala to win Asian Games gold medal – M D Valsamma (1982)
  13. One of the first two women IPS officers from the State – B Sandhya IPS (1994) [32].
  14. First MBA degree holder of Kerala – K M George Kayalackakom - New York University [33] (1948).
  15. First Christian Mahakavi and Editor of one of the oldest literary magazines in Malayalam – Kattakayam Cherian Mappillai - Sreeyesu Vijayam (1926) & Vijnaana Rathnaakaram (1913) [34].
  16. First person to introduce the ‘Vanchippaattu’ branch of Malayalam poetry – Ramapurathu Warrior - Kuchelavritham (18th century) [35].
  17. First editor of a Malayalam Newspaper – Nidhiry Mani Kathanar - Nasrani Deepika [36] (1887).
  18. First bridge constructed by private individuals - Puzhakkara Bridge - 80 ft*16 ft (Constructed in 1998 by P.A Kuriakose and brothers John and Joseph, Puzhakkara family).[Page10, 15 June 1998 Malayala Manorama Daily, Business Deepika 15-21, 1999].
  19. First Queen of the Malayalam silver screen: Miss Kumari

Pala Related Websites

Palai Travel Guide http://wikitravel.org/en/Palai

See also

References


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Palai is a town in Kottayam (district) of Kerala State in Southern India. It is a plantation town, which is deeply attached to the plantation of natural rubber. It also has trade in spices such as pepper, ginger etc. Indeed, before rubber became common around the middle of 20th century, Palai was noted for its spices. A particular brand of pepper called "Palai Pepper" was then quoted in the London market.

People of Palai are largely dependent on agriculture, particularly rubber. The good price of natural rubber for nearly half a century has made the people here prosperous. Historically the people are hard-working and attached to land.

A Rubber Plantation
A Rubber Plantation

Palai can be visited throughout the year but the heavy monsoon months of June and July may be avoided, as roads are likely to be flooded. Also, the extreme summer months of March-May are quite warm and sultry. But like the rest of Kerala temperature rarely goes above 35oC or below 22oC at any time during the year.

Get in

The nearest airport is about 80 kilometres (50 miles) away at Kochi (Cochin) from where one can travel by road (a 2 hour drive). By rail one can get up to Kottayam, which is about 28 kilometres (18 miles) away by road (45 minutes drive). Taxis are available at both Kochi Cochin airport and Kottayam Railway Station. Buses are also available.

Get around

If you feel like walking, you can easily get around Palai on foot, as the town is only about 3 miles (5 kilometres) across. But an autorikshaw will save you from the heat and the humid weather. Due to the presence of thick vegetation the atmosphere is quite sultry. Local buses are there but not very frequent.

Rubber trees under tapping
Rubber trees under tapping
  • Rubber Plantation - tapping and processing of rubber
  • The Church at Bharananganam where the mortal remains of St. Alphonsa are kept.
  • Kadappattur Temple - a stopping point of pilgrims to Sabarimala
  • You would not miss the tall granite Shrine of St. Mary in the heart of the town, with its massive statue of Jesus Christ at the top, reminding you of the one in Rio de Janeiro (ignore the size difference!). If you happen to visit Palai in the first week of December, you should not miss the most important festival of Palai, which is the feast of St. Mary at this shrine.
  • Being a place with a very high percentage of Catholic Christians(Eastern Rite Suriyani Christians under Syro-Malabar Church), there are a number of churches in and around Palai, some of which are very old and their historical and architectural features are of interst to visitors.
  • Take a stroll in a rubber estate.
  • Visit homes of friendly people and see how relaxed they are!
  • Attend a wedding reception; if you are from outside India or even from outside Kerala most hosts will gladly invite you as you would provide a 'variety' to the function. But remember to get the advice of the hosts on the dress that you wear.

Buy

Fresh green pepper (and keep it in brine). Otherwise you can buy dried pepper, the "king of spices". Remember, the Dutch East India Company sent a naval contingent from the Netherlands under Captain De Lannoy when they found that pepper supplies were not coming. What happened was that the English East India Company had reached here!! That was all about three centuries ago.

  • A popular Palai dish is the boiled and mashed tapioca, taken with fish curry. Another tapioca preparation is the one boiled in the shape of small drums ("drum-cut") which is taken with a mixture of green chillies, onion and coconut oil.
  • Another authentic Palai dish is boiled and mashed jack-fruit, taken with beef curry.
  • Ripe Jack-fruit is another local delicacy. There is also "Jack-fruit Halwa" a sweet-meat made out of it.
  • Sweet-meats made using condensed palm toddy are the really exotic ones but you have to be lucky to get them, as good quality toddy is not available.
  • If you are less inclined to experiment, Appam (a pan-cake made out of rice flour and coconut) is a safe bet in most parts of Kerala. What generally goes with it is mutton stew, which is an adaptation of the stew that you find in Ireland, or Fish Molly (fish cooked in coconut cream).

Rubber Plantation is Produced Higher rather than Other District.

Drink

Fresh sweet palm toddy is the best drink possible, but good quality can never be assured unless your host serves it right from the tree. Same is the case with alcoholic palm toddy, as spurious additives are not uncommon. Social drinking in public is frowned upon now, although at one time the place boasted of very high per capita consumption of toddy. Now it seems people think that things have gone too far as even school children started becoming addicts and family quarrels became common.

Sleep

The only approved Two Star Hotel is Hotel Maharani. Home-stays are also available. Ann's Bake House is a good place for short eats. The cakes and pastries that you get there are probably the best made in Kerala and cheaper than what you pay for in the larger cities.

Contact

Internet cafes are there. All telephone networks are also present. There are no formal tourist information facilities here, but you can get essential information from the man on the street. English is understood by most people, provided you speak it with an Indian accent.

Get out

From Palai you can make trips to some of the following destinations:-

  • Wagamon - A quite hill station in the midst of tea plantations.
  • Peermade - A hill station on the way to Thekkady
  • Thekkady - Hill station and wild life sanctuary
  • Munnar - The leading hill station of Kerala.
  • Muvattupuzha - where three rivers merges.Enrouter to Thrissur and Other Tourist attraction points.
  • Cochin - The Main Commercial City of Kerala state is 82kms away from Pala.
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