Popularly known as Kottayam Cheriapalli, the St. Mary's Orthodox Syrian Church was built in 1579. The church, dedicated to Mother Mary is the second church of Kottayam. Located near Valiapally, the church with its distinct blend of the traditional temple architecture of Kerala and Portuguese style is an impressive structure. For instance, the Hindu influence can be observed in the murals, granite pillars, and large brick walls. Richly crafted murals on biblical and non-biblical themes made in oriental and western styles can be seen here. The facade of the church done in bas relief is impressive and so is the woodwork of later added porches. The 'Feast of St. Mary', the feast of the church, which falls on January 15 is also known as Vithukalude Perunnal meaning 'the festival of seeds' and is observed to obtain the blessings of Virgin Mary upon agricultural seeds. The Feast of the Assumption of St Mary or Vaangippu Perunnal is another feast observed in this church.
Situated 2 km to the west of Kottayam is the famed St. Mary's Knanaya Church popularly known as Valiyapally. Built on a hilltop on the banks of the River Meenachil, this church which belongs to the Knanaya Orthodox Syrian Community was consecrated to the Holy Mother in 1550 AD as the first Church of Kottayam. It is believed that the church was built by the descendants of the Syrian Knanaya Christians who migrated to India in 345 A.D from Jerusalem under the leadership of Kana Thoma.
The church is renowned for the presence of two ancient granite Persian crosses with Pahlavi script inscriptions. Two small sanctums are dedicated to St. Thomas and St. George and the two ancient Persian Crosses are mounted here. The smaller cross, dating as early as the third century is kept in the northern sanctum while the bigger cross in the southern sanctum belongs to the ninth century. Equally impressive are the rare antique carvings and mural paintings that adorns the ceiling and behind the main altar. Another intriguing aspect of this historic church is the presence of inscription in ancient 'Vattezhuthu', the old Malayalam script.
Situated near Uppoottikkavala at Thazhathangadi in Kottayam, the Thaliyil Siva Temple has a rich history that dates back to several centuries. This temple figures among the eighteen and a half Thalis that came into existence as part of the Brahmin dominance during the second Chera period. The main deity here is Lord Siva.
The temple was highly revered by the erstwhile Thekkumkoor Rajas and was a crucial place of worship for them. When the Thekkumkoor royal family made Thaliyanthanapuram as their administrative headquarters, they renovated the temple as their main shrine.
The stunning murals which date back to the sixteenth century and belonging to the Vembanad School and the 'Kokkarani' or a tunnel which was used by the royal family as an escape route are other aspects of interest here.
The Orthodox Theological Seminary, popularly known as the Old Seminary was established in 1815. Earlier referred to as 'Cottayam College', this place holds a prime position in the cultural history of Kerala. It was here that English education was started for the first time in Kerala and was the first non-Catholic Seminary in India.
This heritage monument lying in the lush green campus located on the banks of the Meenachil River is famed for the many buildings it houses. It is noted for the presence of a 200 year old Naalukettu (quadrangle), a musical school, and a museum among others.
Situated on the banks of the Meenachil River and believed to be over 1000 years old, the Thazhathangadi Juma Masjid is one of the oldest mosques in the country. The unique construction and richly carved interiors attract tourists from far and wide. It is believed that the masjid was constructed by Habib Dinar, son of Malik Dinar who was instrumental in introducing Islam to Kerala.
Be it the unique locking mechanism in the Khazi’s room, square shaped sun dial, the traditional pool and its kulippura (bathing ghat), every piece whispers of an eventful past. With its latticed windows, square inner courtyard, ornately crafted arches, carved wooden gabled roof and remarkable pillars, the mosque which showcases traditional wooden architecture is an architectural wonder.
The Eastern corridor of the mosque bears quotes from the Quran engraved in wood. The dais of the Imam, a broad water tank made with a single piece black stone and its stone channel situated at the front of the mosque and the historical sword donated by the Thekkumkoor King are other artefacts of interest. A sacred well with stone steps resembling those in a temple can be seen here. The mosque figures in the list of protected monuments of Government of Kerala.
Located 11km from Kottayam, Mannanam, one of the most popular places in the district has quite a history behind it. Mannanam bore witness to a radical social transformation as it was here that the first private printing press (CMS Press started by Rev. Benjamin Bailey in 1846), the first Catholic Sanskrit School in Kerala (1846), and the first daily newspaper in Malayalam, the Deepika (1887) were established. It was also the seat of the first seminary of the Malabar Church (1833).
Mannanam’s history is also tied with the Blessed Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara who founded the St. Joseph’s Monastery in 1831 AD. For those interested in knowing the church history of Kerala, head off to the Chavara Art Museum where an impressive repertory of church history is preserved. Palm leaf documents, boat used by the saint, first printing press, paintings, and lamps are preserved here.
Further, this hillock abounds with natural beauty. This picturesque destination with verdant paddy fields and enticing surrounds offer a highly rewarding boat journey through the Pennar Canal to the backwater districts of Alappuzha and Ernakulam. The DTPC offers boat rides to travellers and accommodation is available at the Mannanam DTPC Tourist Home.