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For the town in northern Sri Lanka, see Pallai. For the tree, see Alstonia scholaris.
Palai city
Religious capital of kerala
Pala Kurishupalli
Pala Kurishupalli
Palai city is located in Kerala
Palai city
Palai city
Palai city is located in India
Palai city
Palai city
Coordinates: 9°42′46″N 76°41′01″E / 9.71278°N 76.68353°E / 9.71278; 76.68353Coordinates: 9°42′46″N 76°41′01″E / 9.71278°N 76.68353°E / 9.71278; 76.68353
Country India
State Kerala
District Kottayam
 • Type metropolis
 • Body Municipal Council
 • Municipal Chairperson Leena Sunny
 • Total 74.09 km2 (28.61 sq mi)
Elevation 56.7 m (186.0 ft)
Population (2012)
 • Total 220,123[1]
 • Density 1,375/km2 (3,560/sq mi)
 • 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 city 28 km east of Kottayam in the Indian state of Kerala, spread over an area of 74.09 km2.It is the biggest city in Kottayam District. 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.


There are various versions regarding the origin of the place name. According to one, early Christian settlers from Palayoor (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.


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 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.[2] 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. 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. Template:Weather box/concise


Palai is one of the main Christian cultural centers in Kerala. Population of Palai is predominantly Saint Thomas Christians (Roman Catholic Syrian Christians) who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. 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 98%, higher than the national average of 73%: male literacy is 98.5%, and female literacy is 97.8%, still much lower than the state average. This is thought to be because of the plantation industry influence despite having large number of schools. In Pala, 10% of the population is under 6 years of age. According to the 2011 census, Palai has a population of 22,056. Christians make up 65.09% of the population, Hindus 34.19%, Muslims 0.51%, Jain 0.01%, other religions 0.05% and 0.15% not stated.


KL-35 is the RTO code for Meenachil taluk including Pala town. Pala KSRTC depot is located in Thodupuzha Road. Frequent KSRTC buses are available to Kottayam,Ernakulam,Thodupuzha,Erattupetta,Ponkunnam,Vaikom and also have long distance buses to Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Punalur,Kumily,Kattapana,Alapuzha and also to northern part Thrissur, Kozhikode and Kannur. It operates interstate buses to Bangalore, Coimbatore and Tenkasi. Pala is served with two private bus terminals and have regular services to near by towns and Malabar regions. Auto rickshaws are commonly used for small distances. Taxis are also available in plenty. The major railway station is Kottayam railway station which is 27 km away and nearest is Ettumanoor which are 18 km away.Pala is expected to get a Railway station as sanctioned through the construction-started Angamaily- Sabarimala new railway. The Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery is 69 km away from the town.

Pala is well connected with good road networks. Main road which connect the town from one to other end.To reduce traffic, River view road and Pala town Bypass are constructed. Phase 2 and 3 of bypass are under construction and the proposed Pala town ring road is also in a fast track. This projects will make Pala into a new generation of transportation.One of the major highway passing through Pala is Main Eastern Highway (Muvattupuzha -Pala-Ponkunnam- Pathanamthitta- Punalur Road / SH - 08).This highway connects Pala to the north up to Muvattupuzha with MC road. In south, it links to Ponkunnam with KK road(NH) and extend up to Punalur. In 2016,Thodupuzha-Pala- Ponkunnam stretch which is a part of Main Eastern Highway upgraded by KSTP with modern standards. The state highway 'SH-32' (Ettumanoor to Poonjar) also passes through Pala.

How to Reach[edit]

* Kottayam- Ettumanoor-Pala (27 km)

* Kochi- Thrippunithura- Thalayolaparampu-Kaduthuruthy-Kuravilangad-Pala (65 km)

* Vaikom-Thalayolaparampu-Kaduthuruthy-Kuravilangad-Pala (43 km)

* Punalur- Pathanapuram- Konni- Pathanamthitta- Ranny- Manimala- Ponkunnam-Pala (105 km)

* Alapuzha-Thannermukkam- Neendoor -Kallara –Ettumanoor-Pala (62 km)

* Trivandrum- Kottarakkara-Changanassery-Kottayam-Pala (175km)

* Thrissur- Chalakudy-Angamaly-Perumbavoor-Muvattupuzha-Thodupuzha-Pala (125 km)

* Kozhikode- Feroke-Tirur-Ponnani-North Paravur-Ernakulam- Thrippunithura- Thalayolaparampu-Kaduthuruthy-Kuravilangad-Pala (239 km)

* Kannur- Thalassery-Mahe-Vadakara-Kozhikode- Feroke-Tirur-Ponnani-North Paravur-Ernakulam- Thrippunithura- Thalayolaparampu-Kaduthuruthy-Kuravilangad-Pala (331 km)

* Sabarimala- Pampa-Erumely-Ponkunnam-Pala (85 km)

* Vagamon- Vellikulam-Teekoy-Erattupetta-Bharananganam-Pala (36 km)

* Kumily(Thekkady)- Vandiperiyar-Pambanar-Kuttikanam-Mundakayam-Kanjirapally-Ponkunnam-Pala (102 km)

* Munnar- Pallivasal-Adimaly-Oonnukal-Paingottur-Vengallur-Thodupuzha-Pala (122 km)

  • Kattapana- Upputhara-Elappara- Vellikulam-Teekoy-Erattupetta-Bharananganam-Pala (76 km)

Places of worship[edit]

Bharananganam Church
  • St. Alphonsa Church (Tomb) at Bharananganam
  • St. Thomas Cathedral Church Pala
  • St. Mary's Church Lalam, Pala
  • St. Jude Church Kizhathadiyoor, Pala
  • St. Peter's Church Moonnani, Pala
  • Kadappattor Mahadeva Temple
  • Kizhathadiyor Puthiyakavu Devi Temple
  • Lalam Mahadheva Temple
  • Narasimha Swamy Temple
  • Ooraashala Subramanya Swamy Temple
  • St.Mary's Shrine (Jubilee Shrine)
  • St. George's Forane Church, Aruvithura
  • St. Augustine's Forane Church Ramapuram, Pala
  • St. Augustine's Forane Church Kadanad, Pala
  • St. Mary's Forane Church Kuravilangad, Pala
  • Holy Cross Church Cherpunkal, Pala


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. Mattathil Ouseph Devasya was the king pin behind the pepper trade in Pala; 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 had a great influence on the economy of Travancore and later Kerala, as Pala dominated the banking and financial scene for over three decades (1927–60) through Palai Central Bank. The bank was started in 1927 by Joseph Augusthy Kayyalakakom, and 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.

Kizhathadiyoor Service Co-operative bank Ltd No.1955[5] (Kisco bank) started in 1934 is one of the largest banking institutions in the co-operative sector in Kerala.

Pala became a Municipality in 1949.

Cuisine of Palai[edit]

Pesaha Appam
Kappa Erachi (Beef & Cassava)

Kappa and Beef is a favorite dish of People of Pala . Appams, kallappams, or vellayappams are rice flour pancakes which have soft, thick white spongy centres and crisp, lace-like edges.[6]

Stew (a derivative of the Irish stew, considered to have been introduced by seminarians) is 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.[6] 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).[6] Boiled raw jack-fruit, locally known as "chakka puzhukku" is another local delicacy.

Pesaha Appam is the rice bread made by the Saint Thomas Christians to be served on Maundy Thursday night.[7] 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.[7]

Beef ularthiathu is a beef dish cooked with a variety of Indian 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).[6]

Community Life[edit]

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, eggplant, 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. The dominant presence of Syrian Malabar Nasrani Christians 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 boys and girls from even middle-class families started going to Europe, USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand to work as Registered 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.

Educational Organizations[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. The following are the educational institutions in the locality:

  1. St. Thomas College, Palai
  2. Alphonsa College, Pala
  3. St. Joseph's College of Engineering and Technology, Pala
  4. Deva Matha College, Kuravilangad
  5. Henry Baker College, Melukavu
  6. St.Joseph G.H.S, Mutholy(kerala Board)
  7. St.Joseph's HS Kudakkachira (Kerala Board)
  8. St. Augustine's HSS, Ramapuram (Kerala Board)
  9. Chavara CMI International School, Ramapuram (ICSE&ISC)
  10. St. Thomas HS, Marangattupilly (Kerala Board)
  11. St. Thomas Teacher Training College, Pala
  12. Chavara Public School, Pala
  13. Sr. Vincent School, Pala
  14. Sanjos School Choondacherry
  15. Alphonsa Residential School Bharananganam
  16. Nirmala Public School Pizhaku
  17. St. Sebastian's HSS Kadanad
  18. Carmel School Pala
  19. St. Thomas HSS Pala
  20. St. Mary's GHSS Pala
  21. Holy Cross School Cherpunkal
  22. St. Joseph's HS Manathoor, Pizhaku
  23. St. Micheal HSS Pravithanam

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  4. ^ RBI scripts
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d Marks, Gil (2010), Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Wiley and sons
  7. ^ a b Amprayil, Kuruvilla Cherian (16 March 2008). "Kerala Nazranee Pesaha Receipes". Nasrani Syrian Christians Network. Retrieved 22 August 2009. 

External links[edit]