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Meenachil is the name of the north-eastern region of Kottayam district in Kerala, south India. The name originates from Meenakshi the Dravidian goddess. Palai is the main town in Meenachil. The arterial river of the district is also named Meenachil. The river finds mention in Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize-winning novel, The God of Small Things.
The river Meenachil, also known as Kavanar, originates at vagamon in the Western Ghats of Kerala, flows westward through Erattupetta, Palai, Kidangoor, Ettumanoor and Kottayam. Its length is about 87 kilometers. Near Kottayam it splits into a number of distributaries before emptying into the Vembanad Lake. Kumarakom, the bird sanctuary and tourist resort is on one such branch.
The current Meenachil taluk was a principality under the local chieftains, the Meenachil Karthas (also known as Njavakkat Karthas) before Marthanda Varma annexed it to Travancore in 1754. The name of the place comes from Goddess Meenakshi, the deity of the Karthas. Veera Kerala Damodara Simhar was a chieftain belonging to this family. The southern bank of the river was the kingdom of Thekkumkoor, the capital of which was Changanassery, and the northern bank, that of Vadakkumkoor, with its capital at Kaduthuruthy. The Poonjar royal family also held sway over significant areas of the district towards the east.
Though food crops like paddy and tapioca are cultivated, majority of the population depends on cash crops like rubber and black pepper for income. Recently people had diversified into the cultivation of vanilla on account of the sudden spurt in prices. However, with rubber prices ruling high and vanilla prices nosediving, the original agricultural pattern is seen reemerging. Though there are families with considerable wealth, a large section of the population are farmers with small and medium agricultural holdings.
The Kerala Government has recently(2006) accorded high priority to the implementation of the Meenachil River Valley Project. The project aims at diverting excess water from the Moovattupuzha river into the Meenachil River basin by constructing a tunnel from Arakkulam to Melukavau. Once implemented the project will help in increasing the availability of water in the area.
Some of the important festivals celebrated in the region are:
1. Moonu noyambu Feast ST. Mary's Church Kuravilangad.
2. The Katappattor temple festival (April)
3. Meenachil Kavu Festival (December)
4. Pala Jubilee thirunal (December 8)
5. The Cherpunkal Church festival(December 25 - January 2)
6. The festival of St. George's Church, Aruvithura
7. The Paika Church festival (December 19)
8. Pala Rakkuly thirunal - Epiphany (Jan 7)
9. Bharanganam Sr Alphonsa's feast (July 28)
10. Bharanganam Sreekrishna Swami temple festival (January–February)
11. Poovarany Mahadeva temple festival (January–February)
12. Ramapuram Church feast
13. Kidangoor Temple Festival
14. Edappady Subrahmanya Swamy Temple festival (January–February)
15. Edappady Vazhanekkavu Devi Temple festival (March)
16. Uzhavoor Church feast
17. VILAKKUMADOM ST. Francis Church feast
18. The Arattu at Lalam Sree Mahadeva Temple. (January)
19. Prathista dinam at Puthuppallil Kottaram Bhagavathy Temple at Edamattom (23rd Thulam)
20. Meenachil Nadeethada Hindu Maha sangamam (Jannuvay 12-18)
Traditionally, the region is the hotbed of various factions of the Kerala Congress. However mainstream parties like the Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Bharatiya Janata Party also have significant following. The prices of rubber and other agricultural prices determine the agenda of many elections. It is alleged that the church influences the political agenda significantly.
- Jose Panachippuram, Associate Editor, Malayala Manorama daily
- George Kallivayalil, Chief of Bureau, New Delhi, Deepika daily
- T. Devaprasad, Editor In Charge, Deepika daily, Tvpm
- Sunish Thomas, Senior Sub Editor, Malayala Manorama daily
- Berly Thomas, Sub Editor, Malayala Manorama
Meenachil Taluk does not have rail connectivity. The nearest major railway station is at Kottayam, 28 km from Palai. The nearest airport is the Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery, 85 km from Palai.
The Ettumanoor - Poonjar State Highway (SH 32) traverses across the Taluk in the easterly direction connecting major centres like Kidangoor, Cherpunkal, Palai, Bharananganam and Erattupetta. In the north- south direction, the Main Eastern Highway (Muvattupuzha - Punalur- SH 8)passes through Kollappally, Palai and Paika. The Erattupetta - Peerumedu State Highway (SH 14) passes through Teekoy and Wagamon. The Sabarimala - Kodaikanal Highway passes through Erattupetta. The Main Central Road (SH 1) from Trivandrum to Angamaly passes through the western boundary of the Taluk.
Colleges in Meenachil Taluk come under Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. The prominent colleges are
- St Joseph College of Engineering and Technology, Palai
- College of Engineering, Poonjar
- St Thomas College, Palai
- Alphonsa College, Palai (for girls)
- St. Stephen's College, Uzhavoor
- St. George College, Aruvithura
- Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram (MAC)
- BVM Holy Cross College, Cherpunkal
- Henry Baker College, Melukau
- Kerala District Gazetteers: Kottayam, Kerala (India) p.34-35