Palai

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For the town in northern Sri Lanka, see Pallai. For the tree, see Alstonia scholaris.
Rubber Trees in a Plantation
Palai
പാലാ
Town
Pala Kurishupalli
Pala Kurishupalli
Palai is located in Kerala
Palai
Palai
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
 • Type Municipality
 • Body Municipal Council
 • Municipal Chairperson Leena Sunny
Area
 • Total 15.93 km2 (6.15 sq mi)
Elevation 56.7 m (186.0 ft)
Population (2012)
 • Total 22,056[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 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.

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]

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.

Climate data for Pala, Kerala
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 31.7
(89.1)
32.4
(90.3)
33.4
(92.1)
33.4
(92.1)
32.5
(90.5)
30.3
(86.5)
29.7
(85.5)
29.7
(85.5)
30.2
(86.4)
30.4
(86.7)
30.4
(86.7)
31.1
(88)
31.27
(88.28)
Average low °C (°F) 22.3
(72.1)
23.2
(73.8)
24.5
(76.1)
25.4
(77.7)
25.2
(77.4)
24.0
(75.2)
23.5
(74.3)
23.7
(74.7)
23.7
(74.7)
23.7
(74.7)
23.5
(74.3)
22.5
(72.5)
23.77
(74.79)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 23
(0.91)
41
(1.61)
64
(2.52)
163
(6.42)
324
(12.76)
623
(24.53)
646
(25.43)
458
(18.03)
303
(11.93)
344
(13.54)
209
(8.23)
59
(2.32)
3,257
(128.23)
Source: Climate-Data.org[3]

Transportation[edit]

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. At present, nearest major railway station of Pala is Kottayam which is 28 km away. Pala is expected to get a Railway station as sanctioned through the construction-started Angamaily- Sabarimala new railway line.[4][5]

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 Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara.

St.Thomas Church at Arunapuram is one of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Churches, 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 been a traditional stronghold of the Syro Malabar Catholic Christians, who are generally very conservative in faith and beliefs, the town has, of late witnessed the emergence of a few Evangelical/ Pentecostal churches in and around the region. Few Latin Catholic churches can also be seen in the place. The other denominations of the Syrian Christians are largely absent in Pala.

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. Mattathil Ouseph Devasya was the king pin behind the rubber 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 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. 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[6] 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.

KISCO Bank[edit]

Kizhathadiyoor Service Co-operative bank Ltd no.1955[7] (Kisco bank) is one of the largest banking institutions in the co-operative sector in the state of Kerala.The bank had its humble beginning in the year 1934 with a share capital base of Rs.125/- contributed by 18 members. The noble object behind the formation of the society was to improve the economic and social status of the society members, and formulate and implement schemes to encourage thrift, self-help and cooperation among members. The bank is the largest co-operative bank in the Meenachil Taluk of the district of Kottayam. The bank has core banking, ATM, net banking, telebanking foreigh exchange, neft/rtgs facilities. Kisco bank presently diversified its area of operation and deals with neethi medical shops, diagonostic centres, ambulance services, ultrasound scan, ct scan, dialysis centres, mamogram, dental units, x-ray facilities, furniture marts, fish market, agro shops, kisco milk, farm tourism, paliative care units, blood donors forum, working women's hostel, saphalam 55+, farmers club, kisco opticals, kisco cottons etc. The bank is headed by Adv.George C Kappen who recently received the award for the Best Cooperative bank in Kerala.

Healthcare, hospitals[edit]

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

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.[8]

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.[8] 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).[8] 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.[9] 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.[9]

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).[8]

Demographics[edit]

As of 2001 India census,[10] 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.

A Rare Social Model[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.

Pala Municipal Stadium[edit]

Cherian J Kappen Memorial Stadium functions in the Palai municipal area providing support for the sports activities.

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. The following are the educational institutions in the locality: