From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Lord Shiva statue upon Nilakkal temple arch gate (2007 photograph)
Lord Shiva statue upon Nilakkal temple arch gate (2007 photograph)
Nilakkal/Nilackal is located in Kerala
Location in Kerala, India
Nilakkal/Nilackal is located in India
Nilakkal/Nilackal (India)
Coordinates: 9°22′49.43″N 76°59′52.6″E / 9.3803972°N 76.997944°E / 9.3803972; 76.997944Coordinates: 9°22′49.43″N 76°59′52.6″E / 9.3803972°N 76.997944°E / 9.3803972; 76.997944
Country India
 • TypePanchayath
 • BodyPerunad panchayath
333 m (1,093 ft)
 • OfficialMalayalam, English
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)
Area code(s)04735
ISO 3166 codeIN-KL
Vehicle registrationKL-62 (Ranni)
KL-03 (Pathanamthitta)
Coastline0 kilometres (0 mi)
Nearest cityChittar, Angamoozhy
Lok Sabha constituencyPathanamthitta
Assembly constituencyRanni
ClimateTropical monsoon (Köppen)
Nearest AirportCochin International Airport Limited

Nilakkal (/ˈnɪləkəl/), also spelled Nilackal, or formerly Chayal, is a remote ghat region located in the Goodrical range of Ranni forest division in Pathanamthitta District in the Indian state of Kerala.[1] The place is noted mainly as an edathavalam or halting-place for the Ayyappa devotees during Sabarimala pilgrimage. Administratively, it falls under the Perunad grama panchayath in Ranni tehsil. Sabarimala, the famous Hindu pilgrim centre in South India is located at a distance of 23 km (14 mi) in the north-east hilly region of Nilakkal.[2]


According to some historical records, the name Nilakkal is associated with Nilavaaya, considered to be the presiding deity of old Shasta temple (present Sabarimala) at the forest interiors. While some other records has it that the name Nilakkal came from "Nilakkal thavalam".[3] The place's alternate name Chayal denotes a place sloping towards Pamba river.[4] But in another context, Chayal is referred to someone who is left alone.[5][6]


The historical background of Nilakkal was based on its geographical position which date backs to the ancient times. Kerala had age-long trade relations with Pandiyas and Cholas through a trade route passed through Nilakkal. It was a well established populous trade center during the first century AD, primarily exporting spices such as cinnamon, ginger, pepper and forest products like timber and ivory.[7] The place at that time was commonly known as Nilakkal thavalam and it was connected to ports like Muziris (present Kodungalloor) and Purakkad.[6] Merchants who traveled with their trade items had a sojourn at the thavalam.[3] In the later stages, the region came under the possession of Vel kings of Ay kingdom (later became Venad).


Places of Hindu worship[edit]

Sree Mahadeva temple[edit]

The temple arch gate is an important landmark of the place

The old shrine at Nilakkal is currently administered by Travancore devaswom board (TDB). During Sabarimala pilgrimage, lots of pilgrims visit the temple to have a sojourn and worship. On this occasion, Nilakkal will be crowded by a large number of pilgrims.[8] The temple was built in 1946.[9] It is located just 1 km from the main highway that leads to Sabarimala. Lord Shiva is the presiding deity and he is believed to be in two moods, Ugramoorthy (fierce) and Mangala pradayakan (auspicious). A common belief is that Lord Shiva is showering his blessings to his son Lord Ayyappa to fight against all evil spirits while throwing all anger to the evils. There is only two Upa Prathishtas (sub-deities) here, Lord Kannimoola Ganapathi and Nandi. Three Poojas are held here every day. Special weekly days are Sunday, Monday and Friday. The Maha Shivaratri held annually is one of the noted festivals of the temple.[10]

Palliyarakkavu Devi temple[edit]

It is situated near the Shiva temple. Devi presides here, who is considered as the Mother of Lord Ayyappa. Pilgrims make offerings to Devi for welfare and sake. The Irumudi kettu nirakkal (a ritual related to Sabarimala pilgrimage) is performed here by the pilgrims after the Nayattu vili (a narrative song). Three poojas are held every day. Aravana payasam is the main offering to Devi.[11]


The famous Hindu pilgrim destination, Sabarimala is only at a distance of 23 km from here. Nilakkal is an unavoidable place during the times of pilgrimages. All the vehicles to Sabarimala passes through Nilakkal which is on the state highway 67.


St. Thomas ecumenical church[edit]

Front view of Nilakkal church

Saint Thomas, who was an apostle of Jesus Christ established Seven and Half Churches in Kerala which was famed as Ezharappallikal. St. Thomas Ecumenical Church near Angamoozhy is one of them. It is referred as 'Arappally' or half-church.[5] The church is an example of the unity of the Christian churches and also of the communal harmony. The church trust proved that unity among the churches can be maintained and at the same time give respect to the sentiments of the faiths of other religions. The main message which the church provides is of 'love, peace and fraternity'.[12] This church has the importance that it is the first Ecumenical church in the world and has been dedicated by all the denominations as an example of heritage by St. Thomas.[13] The church is located in the interior part of the Sabarimala hills, while all the other churches built by St. Thomas are near to the coastal areas viz. Kokkamangalam, Paravoor, Palayoor, Thiruvithamkode. Even though there is no historical evidence of the missionary work of St. Thomas in Nilakkal, some assumptions of his establishment of a church in this place is written in old metal plates and other historian writings.[13] Since the old church is in a dilapidated stage, a new church has been constructed in a site not far from it.[13][14]

Catholic titular see[edit]

The Nazrani diocese was nominally restored in 1977 as Syro-Malankar Catholic Church (Eastern Catholic, an Antiochian Rite) Titular bishopric of Chayal (Italian) / Chaialum / Chaialen(sis) (Latin), of the lowest (Episcopal) rank. It is vacant, having had the following incumbents :

  • Paulos Philoxinos Ayyamkulangara (1977.10.11 – death 1998.11.03), as Auxiliary Bishop of the Metropolitanate Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars (India) (1977.10.11 – 1998.11.03)
  • Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal (2001.06.18 – 2003.09.11) as Auxiliary Bishop of above Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars (India) (2001.06.18 – 2003.09.11), Apostolic Visitator in North America of the Syro-Malankars (2001.06.18 – 2003.09.11) and Apostolic Visitator in Europe of the Syro-Malankars (2001.06.18 – 2003.09.11); later last suffragan Eparch (Bishop) of Tiruvalla of the Syro-Malankars (India) (2003.09.11 – 2006.05.15), (see) promoted Metropolitan Archbishop of Tiruvalla of the Syro-Malankars (India) (2006.05.15 – 2007.02.10), Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars (India) ([2007.02.08] 2007.02.10 – ...), President of Synod of the Syro-Malankarese Church (2007.02.10 – ...), Second Vice-President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (2008.02.19 – 2010.03.01), Vice-President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (2010.03.01 – 2014.02.12), Cardinal-Priest of S. Gregorio VII (2012.11.24 [2013.05.19] – ...), President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (2014.02.12 – ...) [15]

The Orthodox diocese of Nilakkal[edit]

Nilakkal diocese was formed on 15 August 2010, by the order issued by H.H Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I, the Catholicos cum Malankara Metropolitan. The first metropolitan of the diocese is H.G.Dr Joshua Mar Nicodimos. This newly formed diocese, comprising Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts, has 39 parishes including almost 2953 families. These parishes are organised into five ecclesiastical districts : Ayroor, Vayalathala, Ranni, Nilakkal and Kanakappaalam. The diocese has its headquarters at Ranni, named St. Thomas aramana, and also engages in charitable activities such as helping the poor and needy in and around the diocese.[16]

Agitation in 1980s[edit]

Discovery of a stone cross[edit]

The struggles marked its beginning on 24 March 1983, with the discovery of a stone cross on the Kerala Farming Corporation's (KFC) private land, just 200 m (0.20 km) south to the Nilakkal Mahadeva temple. Fr. Mathew Anthiyakulam, who was the chief priest of the nearby Pambavalley church arrived at the spot by singing hymns, with his two jeep loads of followers. Immediately they erected a thatched shed in shape of a Church and daily prayers were started. To the Catholic community in Kerala, it was clear that this was the exact spot where a Church was built in the first century by St.Thomas, the apostle.but later discovered that the cross has only 200 years old.[17][18]Later on, the archeologists found that the stone cross was a newly made one and denied all the possibilities of a cross being erected by itself

Formation of Nilakkal Action Council[edit]

The prayer procession held on 24 April under the guidance of Kummanam Rajasekharan (Hindu activist) and Sathyananda saraswathi (Hindu spiritual leader) marked the beginning of struggles. A meeting was held at Poorna auditorium, Thiruvananthapuram for various representatives of Hindu organizations with P. Keralavarma Raja as moderator. About 27 representatives actively participated in the meeting in which they decided to go on with struggles until the cross was removed from the spot. An action council was formed with Kummanam Rajasekharan as General-Convener, Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi as Chairman, J.Sisupalan as Convener and including 31 other members.[19] The council had its first meeting at Chengannur on 28 April.[20]

The Chief representatives of Hindu organizations were :

  • T.N Upendranatha Kurup (Devaswom Board president)
  • Kidangoor Gopalakrishna Pilla (N.S.S general secretary)
  • D.Damodaran Potti (Ayyappa Seva Sangam president)
  • Advocate Sambashivan (S.N.D.P union secretary)
  • P.R Rajagopal
  • J.Sisupalan
  • P.Parameswaran

Meanwhile, the Hindus grouped with the Vishal Hindu Sammelan to fight the Catholic demand for a church. At the same time, the crusade for the church was given a thrust by the formation of the Nilakkal Action Council under the auspices of the All Kerala Catholic Congress, led by rubber tycoon M.D.Joseph Manniparambil.

Beginning of struggles[edit]

On 19 May, when Karunakaran's government finally granted 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of land for a church at Nilakkal, a shocked Hindu community led by the Sammelan called for demonstrations to stop the Government from allowing the controversial church to be built. Fearing further trouble from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which was holding its annual camp at Trivandrum, the Government passed prohibitory orders. In spite of that, the RSS took a route march through the city shouting pro-Hindu slogans.

Over 1,000 RSS people were arrested from various parts of Kerala, although they were later released. In the Nilakkal area there was a heavy police presence to avoid further issues. Koorambala Chandran Pilla, who was seriously injured in the struggles with police force died after six months. On 6 July, Kerala Government prohibited the prolonged Nilakkal movement.[21]

Solving the problems[edit]

The Christian church action council and Nilakkal action council heartily welcomed the Sarvodaya leader M.G Manmadan who came with certain compromise conditions. A discussion was conducted on 27 June under Sathyananda, Kummanam, J.Sisupalan, P.Parameswaran, M.D Joseph Manniparabil, Fr. Antony Nirappel, Mathew Madukakuzhy and K.G Jhon. The two meetings held on 5 July and 12 August were big failures. Thus Sathyananda decided to go on with satyagraha on the Thiruvonam day. The chief moderators of various Christian sabhas pointed out to give consideration to the feelings of Hindu communities. On 19 August, a committee of certain bishops was held at Kollam to discuss about the issues. They finally decided to replace the cross to another place. Both action councils fixed a spot 4 km south-west outside the sacred poongavanam (grove) of Ayyappa to build the new church. The prolonged struggles thus came to an end and brought about religious harmony and confrontation between Hindus and Christians.[22]

Secular places of interest[edit]

Attathodu Tribal Colony: A remote tribal settlement is situated near Nilakkal named Attathodu, on the banks of river Pamba. Majority of the tribals here belongs to Malapandaram (hill pandaram) community, commonly seen in the sacred forests of Sabarimala. People here engages in small scale agriculture and relays on the forest products.[23][24]

Kakki Reservoir: Kakki reservoir is located 45 km east to Nilakkal. This dam was built as a part of Sabarigiri hydro-electric project, the second largest hydro-electric project in Kerala. This dam is situated very close to the western ghats and also it is a tourist spot.

Periyar Tiger Reserve: Periyar tiger reserve lies in northern part of Nilakkal. It spreads over an area of about 925 km² and is one of the 48 tiger reserves in India.


Rubber is cultivated in the gentle undulating lands and in plains with favorable geographical settings making its cultivation easier. As part of improving the parking facilities, a number of years tapped rubber trees were cut out. Sabari estate of Farming corporation is an important estate here.[25] The land available for cultivation around Nilakkal is comparatively less hence most parts are covered by dense reserve forests. But the historical records points out that Nilakkal in ancient times was an important commercial center exporting several spices and forest products like timber and ivory. Later, it was covered by thick forests.[26]


Photograph of a Spider from the forest interiors

Predominately it is a remote hilly area classified as Malanad (geographic division of Kerala) totally surrounded by dense reserve forests and small scale rubber plantations. Geographic coordinates of the place is 9°22′49.43″N 76°59′52.6″E. The region has an altitude ranging from 330 m (1,080 ft) above mean sea level.[27] A sizeable portion is covered by thick reserve forests of Western Ghats mountain ranges and rubber plantations. The holy river Pamba, flows westward through the northern part of Nilakkal and finally merges with Vembanadu Lake.


Nilakkal lies in the eastern part of Pathanamthitta district and west to Sabarimala near the Western Ghats forests. It is located on the main trunk road leading to Sabarimala temple. Pathanamthitta town is about 42 km (26 mi) and Kottayam about 78 km (48 mi). Chittar (27 km) and Angamoozhy (7 km) are the nearby townships.

Nearby places[edit]

  • Angamoozhy
  • Plappally
  • Attathodu
  • Chalakkayam
  • Elavumkal
  • Aryattukavala
  • Rajampara
  • Seethathodu
  • Chittar
  • Thulappally
  • Naranamthodu


Seasonal rainfall at Nilakkal
Year Southeast monsoon Northwest monsoon
2001 1,200 mm (47 in) 500 mm (20 in)
2002 1,300 mm (51 in) 700 mm (28 in)
2003 1,400 mm (55 in) 500 mm (20 in)
2004 1,500 mm (59 in) 400 mm (16 in)
2005 2,400 mm (94 in) 1,000 mm (39 in)
2006 2,000 mm (79 in) 1,000 mm (39 in)
2007 2,800 mm (110 in) 700 mm (28 in)
2008 1,800 mm (71 in) 500 mm (20 in)
2009 1,500 mm (59 in) 700 mm (28 in)
2010 2,500 mm (98 in) 1,000 mm (39 in)
2011 3,000 mm (120 in) 600 mm (24 in)
2012 1,700 mm (67 in) 400 mm (16 in)

Nilakkal's climate is classified under Köppen climate classification. It is also one of the five upstream rain gauge stations of Pamba river basin which receives a significant rainfall of over 3,000 mm (120 in) during the South-West Monsoon of last few years. But the amount of precipitation is comparatively low during the North-East Monsoon, Pre-Monsoon and Non-Monsoon period, with only 1,000 mm (39 in) of precipitation.[28] The minimum annual rainfall recorded here is 2,391.6 mm (94.16 in) and a maximum of 4,617.1 mm (181.78 in), which is about 30% above the state average.[29]

Sufficient amount of rainfall is received during the months of June, July, August and September. Although Humidity increases during the months of March and April, a pleasant climate is normally experienced. The best weather is normally from October to February. Winter begins from the month of December to mid-February. Since Nilakkal and its surroundings are in the middle of thick forests, locally developed thundershowers are common here.


Nilakkal base camp[edit]

Nilakkal developed into a main base camp of Sabarimala pilgrimage and achieved huge progress by the initiation of Sabarimala master plan by Travancore Devaswom Board. In 2005, Government gave 110 hectares (270 acres) of land to Devaswom board to improve the basic infrastructures and parking facilities for pilgrims at Nilakkal. Previously, the land was under the possession of the Government-owned State Farming Corporation since 1982. Before 1982, the area was used for cultivating sugarcane by the co-operative Mannam Sugar Mills, Pandalam. The land occupied from Farming corporation was mostly utilized for improving parking facilities.

At times of Sabarimala pilgrimage, heavy and medium vehicles drops pilgrims at Pamba and parks at Nilakkal in order to avoid the rush at Pamba. The parking grounds at Nilakkal could accommodate more than 4000 vehicles at one time. The parking has been divided into various sectors for the convenience of pilgrims from various states. Recently, Devaswom board also improved the drinking water and sanitation facilities at the camp. A nadapanthal (shed) is constructed in front of the Mahadeva temple for the pilgrims. The base camp also have a police station, Government primary health centre, KSRTC bus stand and accommodation facilities for the pilgrims.[30]

Health and education[edit]

The nearest medical centre to Nilakkal is the Government Primary Health Centre started on 19 January 2014, by Dr.Prasob Enose ,which functions throughout the year, benefiting tribal families in Attathodu colony.

Nearby hospitals[edit]

  • Govt. primary Health Centre, Angamoozhy
  • Govt. Ayurveda Hospital, Thulappally
  • Govt. Hospital, Pamba
  • Athura Hospital, Seethathodu[31]

Educational institutions[edit]

  • Government Tribal H.S.S, Kissumam
  • S.A.V.H.S, Angamoozhy[32]
  • Government Tribal L.P School, Attathodu
  • K.R.P.M Higher Secondary School, Seethathodu
  • Govt. Higher Decondary School, Chittar
  • V. K. N. M Vocational Higher Secondary School, Vayyattupuzha



Nilakkal lies on the Mannarakkulanji - Chalakkayam state highway (SH-67). The Adoor - Vandiperiyar highway passes through Plappally, 8 km (5.0 mi) west to Nilakkal. During Sabarimala pilgrimage, state-owned K.S.R.T.C buses provides chain services from Pamba to Nilakkal for the pilgrims.[33][34] Private busses only operates through nearby places like Angamoozhy and Thulappally. Still transportation is comparatively less in the region.


The nearest railway stations are Chengannur (68 km) and Thiruvalla (73 km).


Cochin International Airport (136 km) and Thiruvananthapuram international airport (156 km) are the nearest airports to Nilakkal. There is also a heliport at Perunad, near Nilakkal, which operates at times of Sabarimala pilgrimage. A helipad is constructed at Nilakkal base camp as part of the disaster management and to deal with emergency situations.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Welcome". Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Kerala St. Thomas Trail tour package, St Thomas tour packahes in Kerala, Kerala church tour packages, churches in Kerala, st Thomas churches in Kerala". Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b "local history of chengannur - Shodhganga" (PDF). p. 172. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  4. ^ "nilackal". Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b "HISTORY:sabarimala VS sabor mala and nilakkal church about 12th century A.D". Archived from the original on 12 November 2014.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^ a b "Nilackal Church Of St.Thomas And Chayal Ashram of Mar Sabor Easow".
  7. ^ "Valiyaveettil Family-The Evolution". Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  8. ^ Biju Mathew (2013). Pilgrimage to Temple Heritage, Volume 1. Kerala state, India: Info Kerala Communications Pvt Ltd. p. 121. ISBN 819212844X – via Volume 1.
  9. ^ "Communal Violence in Kerala by Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios". Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Nilakkal | Sabarimala Sree Ayyappa Temple". Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  11. ^ "Nilakkal Palliyarakkavu Devi Temple". Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  12. ^ Reporter, Staff. "`Nilackal ecumenical church a symbol of unity'". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  13. ^ a b c "Nilakkal Church | Christian Pilgrim Centres | Kerala | Kerala". Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  14. ^ "Analogical review on Saint Thomas Cross- The symbol of Nasranis-Interpretation of the Inscriptions". 29 February 2008.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Diocese of Nilakkal". Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  17. ^ "Nilakkal protest - Kummanam rajasekharan". Punyabhumi. 13 June 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  18. ^ "Kerala's New Hope – Aseema". Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Kummanam Rajasekharan". Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Stirs to protect temples powered Rajasekharan's rise". The Indian Express. 19 December 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  21. ^ "Kerala A.B.K.M 1983 violation of Hindu Sanctity in Kerala".
  22. ^ "Nilakkal in Kerala set for a Hindu-Christian confrontation". indiatoday. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  23. ^ "A life of misery in the Nilackal forests". The Hindu. 6 April 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  24. ^ "Peaceful societies - Malappandaram". Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  25. ^ "Labourers to go on with strikes at Nilakkal Sabari estate". Janmabhumi. 2 July 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  26. ^ "..:: Mar Thoma Church Ottawa Official Website ::." Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  27. ^ "Topographic maps Sabarimala". Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  28. ^ K. Ramamohan Reddy; B. Venkateswara Rao; C. Sarala, eds. (20 October 2014). HYDROLOGY AND WATERSHED MANAGEMENT: Ecosystem Resilience-Rural and Urban Water Requirements Volume 1 of First edition. Allied Publishers. p. 983. ISBN 8184249527 – via Volume 1 of First edition.
  29. ^ N. Janardhana Raju, ed. (30 November 2015). Geostatistical and Geospatial Approaches for the Characterization of Natural Resources in the Environment: Challenges, Processes and Strategies. Springer. p. 171. ISBN 3319186639.
  30. ^ "Sabarimala master plan implementation". Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  31. ^ "Athura hospital, Seethathodu, Pathanamthitta". Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  32. ^ "S.A.V.H.S Angamoozhy". Archived from the original on 18 May 2015.
  33. ^ "ksrtc-pamba-nilakkal-chain-service-bus". Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  34. ^ "KeralaSRTC::PAMBA Spl Services". Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  35. ^ "Coming soon: A helipad near Lord Ayyappa's abode - Onmanorama". 7 October 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.