Palai

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For the town in northern Sri Lanka, see Pallai. For the tree, see Alstonia scholaris.
PALA
പാലാ
City
PALA  is located in Kerala
PALA
PALA
Coordinates: 9°42′N 76°42′E / 9.7°N 76.70°E / 9.7; 76.70Coordinates: 9°42′N 76°42′E / 9.7°N 76.70°E / 9.7; 76.70
Country India
State Kerala
District Kottayam
Government
 • Municipal Chairperson Kuriakose Padavan
Area
 • Total 15.93 km2 (6.15 sq mi)
Elevation 56.7 m (186.0 ft)
Population (2012)
 • Total 38,531[1]
 • Density 1,375/km2 (3,560/sq mi)
Languages
 • Official Malayalam, English
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 686574 , 686575
Telephone code 9148 22
Vehicle registration KL 35
Nearest city Kottayam
Official Website Official Site

Pala (Malayalam: പാലാ, also written as Palai), is a municipal town 28 km east of Kottayam in the Indian state of Kerala, spread over an area of 15.93 km2. It is situated 173 km North from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, on the banks of the Meenachil River and is the headquarters of the Meenachil Taluk and the Pala Revenue Division. It is the one of the main gateways to the southern high ranges of Western Ghats. Pala connects to highranges through Thodupuzha and Kanjirappally taluks.

Etymology[edit]

There are various versions regarding the origin of the place name. According to one, early Christian settlers from Kottayam (near Chavakad in today's Thrissur district), who settled down in Meenachil on the other side of the Meenachil River, named the place as Pala - a shortened form of Palayoor. Another view is that the name was derived from Palathu families, the prominent early settlers of the region. Another version is that Pala gets its name from Palazhi (Ksheera Sagara), the mythological Ocean of milk from which nectar was churned out. But there are no supportive explanation why or how this place is connected with the Puranic ocean of milk.

History[edit]

Pala was part of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, and was ruled by the "Travancore Rajas" for a long time.before the annexation to Travancore 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 were related to the ancient Pandya race and believed to have some Rajput connection also their "kula Devatha" is "Ambadevi".

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 forces.

Early settlements[edit]

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. According to reliable historical sources The first four Christian families are considered to be Tharayil (Tharayil Mappila)Koottumkal (brother of Tharayil Mappila) Erakonni & 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.

Geography and climate[edit]

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 Changanassery. Pala is on the Main Eastern Highway (Muvattupuzha - Pathanamthitta- Punalur Road / SH - 08). The state highway 'SH-32' (Ettumanoor to Poonjar) also passes through Pala.[2][3]

Religious places[edit]

Churches[edit]

Bharananganam Church

St.Mary's Shrine(Jubilee Shrine) also Known as Pala Kurishupally a shrine located at the centre of the Pala town, acts as the landmark of the town. St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Cathedral, Pala and St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Lalam are two of the main Syrian Catholic churches in Pala.

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 Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of Bharananganam which was founded in 1002. St. George's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Aruvithura is also a famous pilgrim centre. Another Christian pilgrim centre near Pala is the St. Augustine's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church at Ramapuram, where the mortal remains of the Blessed Thevarparampil Kunjachan are kept. Monastery of Mutholy was founded by Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara.

St.Thomas Church at Arunapuram is one of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church which has the largest number of convents in Pala Diocese.Two main colleges of Pala comes under the area of this church.

Though Pala has remained very conservative in faith and beliefs, due to the large influence of education and media which promoted free thinking and freedom of choice, it has also welcomed and promoted a number of Reformed Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, namely Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Indian Pentecostal Church of God, Assemblies of God, Many Born Again Baptized / Nondenominational Christian Bible teacher's Worship Houses etc.

Temples[edit]

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)[citation needed]. Lalam Mahadeva Temple is situated at the heart of Pala town on the bank of Lalam River. Kadappattor Mahadeva Temple which is situated on the bank of Meenachil River is the most famous Hindu temple in this region. 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, Thattarakathu Bhagavathy Temple, Ooraasala Subrahmanya Swami Temple and Anakkulangara Bhagavathy Temple, Kochidappady Sree Shanmugha swami Temple,Payappar sree dhrma shatha teemple payappar, are the other temples situated within the boundaries of Pala Municipality.

Trade links[edit]

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 the 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.

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[edit]

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.

Palai Central Bank[edit]

Pala dominated the banking and financial scene of Kerala for over three decades (1927–60) through Palai Central Bank. Started in 1927 by Joseph Augusti Kayalackakom, it grew up to become the largest business enterprise of Kerala, and the 17th largest among the 94 scheduled commercial banks in India. The daring initiatives of this small-town-bank included the opening of a branch in India's new capital New Delhi in 1932, the first Bank to open a branch in the newly built city. During the 3-decade period of its dominant presence, the Bank played a major role in the growth of Pala town too, including using its influence to bring the Municipality, Catholic Diocese, St Thomas College and other institutions to Pala, beating the claims of some of the other bigger and older towns nearby.

The Bank was liquidated in 1960 on the orders of Kerala High Court in response to a petition made by the Reserve Bank of India(RBI). In the published history of RBI[4] a 27-page appendix (Appendix C: The Palai Central Bank) extensively covers the history of the Bank. In it Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is quoted as saying that RBI made a "mistake" in closing down the Palai Central Bank.

Healthcare, hospitals[edit]

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

Closest cities, towns and villages[edit]

Neighbouring cities & towns

Culture and people[edit]

Palai is one of the main Christian cultural centers in Kerala. Population of Palai is predominantly Saint Thomas Christians who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.

Cuisine[edit]

Pesaha Appam
Kappa Erachi (Beef & Cassava)

Appam and Stew is a favorite breakfast dish of Syrian Christians. Appams, kallappams, or vellayappams are rice flour pancakes which have soft, thick white spongy centres and crisp, lace-like edges.[5]

Stews are prepared by gently simmering meat, potatoes and onions in a creamy white sauce flavoured with black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green chillies, lime juice, shallots and coconut milk. Meat used is either chicken,mutton, duck or beef.[5] Cassava is a mojor staple food of the region which is often ate with "Meen Mulakittathu" or "Meen vevichathu" (fish in fiery red chilly sauce).[5]

Pesaha Appam is the rice bread made by the Saint Thomas Christians to be served on Maundy Thursday night.[6] Traditionally, Pesaha Appam is served in a ceremonial manner on Maundy Thursday night in Syrian Christian households. The head of the family cuts the appam, dips it in paalukurukku (syrup) or Pesaha Pal (made of coconut milk), and serves it to the other family members.[6]

Syrian Christian beef ularthiathu is a beef dish cooked with spices. Other dishes include Piralan (chicken stir-fries), Meat Thoran (dry curry with shredded coconut), sardine and duck curries, and Meen molee (spicy stewed fish).[5]

Notable Persons[edit]

Politics[edit]

Major political leaders who were from Palai :

Head of State[edit]

  • K. R. Narayanan, President of India (1997–2002), Vice-President of India (1992–97).

Governor/Minister/Legislator[edit]

[In reverse chronological order]

Literature & Education[edit]

Sports[edit]

  • Col. G.V. Raja - Foremost Sports Promoter.
  • M D Valsamma, Athletics - Asian Games Gold Medalist.
  • (C.V. Sunny),Basketball-Former Indian Captain.

Commerce & Industry[edit]

Movies[edit]

Science[edit]

  • Dr. A.M.Michael, Former Director of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi and also Vice Chancellor of Kerala Agricultural University. Dr. Michael is the 1st Indian Agricultural Engineer, graduating from the Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Allahabad.

Journalist[edit]

  • Jose Panachippuram, Associate Editor, Malayala Manorama daily
  • Eby J Jose Editor, Gulf Life Magazine
  • Robin Jose Editor, Palanews.com News Portal

Education[edit]

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.