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By: Stephen James

Periyar is the second longest river in the state with a length of 229 km.
Unlike several other rivers Periyar is never dry at any time of the year. It is the
life line of the State of Kerala. It is one of the most important power sources of
Kerala. There are a series of dams and power stations viz. Pallivasal, Kundala,
Mattupetty, Senkulam, Neriamangalam, Cheruthoni, Idukki, Edamalayar and
Panniyar on this river basin. Idukki Hydro-electric Project is the most important
scheme of its kind in Kerala. The much talked about Pooyamkutty power project
is also proposed to be in Periyar. These Hydro Electric Projects producing the
much needed electricity for lighting the State and running its machines are using
the water from this mighty river Periyar. A trip down the river along the thick
forests on its banks, historic remnants close to the river and the silken-smooth
sand-banks will be one of the most memorable experiences in any ones life.
Until recently the shores of Periyar was very busy during summer season with
people from Central Travacore who come there with their whole family for
‘Sukavasam’ with their Kettu vallam. The film ‘Nadhi’ has depicted the story of
such holiday makers very lively. Nowadays such practices are rarely seen. It is
believed that one of the tributaries of Periyar is coming through the mountains
where the life saving medicine ‘neelakoduveli’ is grown. Even today some of the
Ayurveda ‘Vaiydanmar’ of North Travancore are collecting the water from the
northern side of the river at Bhoothathankettu to use it in their ayurvedic
preparations. A dip in the water is believed to be enough for giving relief from
many skin deceases.
The mighty river is the silent witness to the rise and fall of Jainism and Buddhism
in this land, the Golden era of Chera Dynasty and the arrival of Jewish,
Christianity and Islam religions to India. Kalady, the birth palace of
Sankaracharya, the greatest Advaitha Philosopher is on the bank of Periyar.
Other important places on its bank are Malayattoor and Aluva which are places
of pilgrimage for Christians and Hindus respectively. Uliyannore is a piece of land
on the banks of the Periyar River near Aluva. Perumthachan the son of the
renowned scholar Vararuchi, who was patronized by King Vikramaditya, is
associated with Uliyannore. It is believed that the famous Shiva temple at
Uliyannore was built by Perumthachan who belonged to this place. Even today
there are a few families who claim to be the descendants of this genius.
St. Joseph's Pontifical Seminary- Mangalapuzha which is situated on the shores
of Periyar is a famous catholic institution for the formation of candidates for
Priesthood. It belongs to the Syro-Malabar Church. The famous Union Christian
college of Aluva, one of the oldest higher learning institutions of Kerala, is also
close to this mighty river.
The presence of the river has given Kerala one of the most exquisite culture as
could be compared to that of any part of the world. As it is known, the rivers
have brought with them the behavior and traditional aspects of the population
living on their banks. The case is no different here either.
Take a walk down Periyar River and you will find some kind of a gracefulness
envelope you. The cool river, its silken-smooth sandbanks and the people round
gets into your mind to stay there emanating a sacred feeling that you would
want to come back to its banks over and over again. The Periyar is indeed
Kerala’s lifeline. The activities along the long stretch of its banks are always
hectic as if life proceeds along with the quiet flow of water downstream... History
also records the changes that happened to the Periyar and its banks in the great
floods of AD 371 and again in AD1341.The natural dam at Bhoothathankettu (old
Bhoothathankettu), is a result of either an earthquake or huge land slide in one
of these two historically recorded floods. The Deluge of 1341 AD forced the river
to flow into two tributaries at Thottummukham. One continued to flow through
Desam and Mangalappuzha to fall into the Kodungallor backwaters. The other
made a new track to flow downward dividing the Aluva mainland into two, the
north and south. It again got divided at Kunjunnikkara Island, one to flow into
the Varapuzha backwaters and the other into the Cochin backwaters. The
famous old Kodungallor port has become non-usable and a new secure natural
Cochin port has come up as a result of the changing course of the river.
The Mangalappuzha is one of those many landmarks that history had left behind
on the shores of the mighty river. Once Mangalappuzha was known to be the
nerve centre of trade and commerce in this part of South India. Spices, ivory,
rose wood, pepper, sandal wood etc from this part of the land was the major
items that attracted merchants from all parts of the world to Kerala. Taking a
walk down history’s dark lanes we come to know that there were gallows, which
were used to hang, convicts here. These were under the Alangad District Court.
In 1800 the court headquarters were shifted to where the present Union
Christian College stands. The gallows were dismantled once the college buildings
started coming up. The bungalows of the Dutch and the Portuguese were also
there overlooking the Periyar. History also says that Tipu Sultan had made his
march in his quest to conquer Travancore and had camped on the sandbanks of
the Periyar. This was way back in 1790. 1939 saw the Marthandavarma Bridge
being opened to traffic and since then it has been part of every Keralites lifeline
because it connected South to North by road.
The riverbank has its ornamental look with huge tall coconut palms lending its
own charm. The green canopy along the shores fills the mind with happiness.
The temples, churches and mosques along the banks of the Periyar give a touch
of Kerala’s diverse culture and beliefs. During its course five important tributaries
join the river. They are Muthirapuzha, Mullayar, Cheruthoni, Perinjankutti and
Edamalayar. The Chalakkudy river also joins the Periyar at Elanthikara, 10 km.
east of Kodungalloor.
The river is highly beneficial to the Ernakulam district for irrigation, drainage and
navigation. The river plays a very important role in the agricultural, industrial and
commercial development of the district. The Periyar Valley Irrigation Project was
capable of irrigating a net area of 30414 ha. as at the end of 1990-91. The City
of Cochin is getting its drinking water from Periyar.

Periyar is known as ‘chhoorni nadhi’in the Sangham poetry. It was also known
as Thamraparni Nadi’ (Sukasandesam –stanza 66). A land route existed in the
Sangham age from Mussuris (present-day Kodungalloor) to Madurai which
passed near the banks of the river Periyar. Tamil poems from the 'sangham'
period are the earliest reference to the Chera Empire. Sangham period refers to
the time when academies or sanghams flourished for the cultivation of poetic
arts in various capitals of the Pandiyan kingdom. There were three of these
Sanghams. The first two existed in cities that were taken over by the sea. The
third existed in Madura. The time period is probably the first three centuries of
the Christian era. The three works attributed to Kerala poets during this epoch
are shilappadikaram , patridupattu, Kalavali-harpathu. Of these the first one
gives a lot of information about political organization then existed.
Silappathikaram was written by Ilango Adikal, a Jain monk, brother of King
Senkuttuvan It is said that Senkuttuvan a Chera King, accompanied by his
brother, Ilango who was a Jain monk and his friend, the poet Mathuraik
Kulavanikan Satthanar went to see the scenic beauty of the country side near the
river, Chhoorni (Periyar). He then heard a story from neighboring villages of a
woman with a single breast who sat down in penance under a vengai tree
without food or water for 15 days and then died. Intrigued and moved by the
story, Cheran Senkuttuvan yearned to know more about the details. His friend,
Satthanar, the poet, responded by saying that the name of the woman was
Kannagi who was worshipped as the Goddess of Chastity in the villages. He
narrated the story that led to the tragedy. Ilango Atikal was then asked by the
King to write the story of Kannagi so that her name will be perpetuated for the
benefit of mankind.

These epics give a lot of information about the sort of culture and religion
existed in these areas. Janism and Buddhism were prevalent in these areas. The
present day Muniyara’s, remains of caves, broken stoopas, cave paintings are all
the living proof of existence of such a civilization.
The poet describes in detail the route of Kannagi’s journey through the Western
Ghats. The poetic description of the beauty of the river ‘chhoorni’ and the life of
people lived in that area gives lot of information about the rich cultural
background of the civilization of that time. In the Western Ghats there are
peoples who are classified as tribals. There are dozens of distinct tribes on the
Tamil Nadu side of the border, and dozens more on the Kerala side. Each tribe is
composed of individuals at innumerable settlements in the forest and jungle
These tribal groups speak various combinations of Tamil, Malayalam, and pre-
Dravidian languages, for some of these groups are considered to having arrived
(from Africa?) before the Dravidians.
There is a tribe living in the Western Ghats known as Muthuvans, who claim that
their ancestors had left Madurai with Kannagi. If their ancestors had been
citizens of Madurai at one time, and had chosen to revert of living in the
wilderness, the Muthuvans would not be significantly different physically than
other Tamilians. This proved to be case with the Muthuvans who live now in the
forest areas on the northern bank of Periyar.
There are a number of Muthuvan settlements in the forest near Edamalyar
reservoir. The area south west of Valpara is a beautiful valley with the gushing
river Periyar at the bottom. The Muthuvans believe that after Kannagi brought
fire down on Madurai, and Madurai was burning, she started to wander away.
Some of Madurai's good citizens saw Kannagi and followed her. They took with
them the royal musical instruments--drums and flutes, as well as the dead king's
sword, ear studs, and bracelet. They played the instruments as they walked
away toward the west. Soon the distraught Kannagi became tired, so these
people carried Kannagi on their back, thus earning their name, Muthuvans, which
means, "those who carry."
The Muthuvans and Kannagi entered the Western Ghats. Deep in the forest,
Kannagi instructed them to stop. There she founded their society. She said to
them, "Live in the jungle with unity. Treat each other as brothers and sisters.
Together, use the resources of jungle to live." She instructed them as to how to
organize their first settlement and how to build their first building. How to weave
leaves to make roofs. She showed the women how to tie their saris in such a
way as to carry their young just as they had carried her. Then Kannagi went
inside the first structure and disappeared. However the Muthuvans and their
claimed relationship with Kannagi are not mentioned in Prince Ilango Adigal's
The Chera capital was Vanchi near Muzuris. There is strong archeological
evidence that the ancient city of Vanchi, capital of the Chera dynasty, lies in the
outskirts of modern day Kodungallurthough historians are divided on this issue.
Muzuris was a major port. There were at least five ports on the Malabar coast to
which sailors came according to the Greek mariner who compiled periplus of the
Erythraean sea. The most important port was Muzuris which stood at the mouth
of the Periyar river. The location was where Cranganore (Kodungallore) stands
today. The other ports were Kottayam, Tripuithura, Pantalayani near Kollam and
Calicut. It was also the capital of Cheraman Perumal, King of Kerala, whose
famous palace Allal Perumkovilakam was situated near the great pagoda at
Thiruvanchikulam. The area where the palace stood is called the
‘Cheramanparambu’. This, along with the ancient Thivanchikulam Temple, the
Bhagwati Temple (Where the Bharani Festival is held) and the Portuguese fort
are the living proof an old rich civilization and culture existed here. Adding to this
religious amity is the fact that the Jews first settled here before moving south to
Eric Flint and David Drake's alt-history epic --Destiny's Shield-- devoted to real-
life Byzantine butt-kicker Belisarius. Everybody's favorite general is leading an
outnumbered Roman-Persian force to check Malwa aggression in the east, forced
to action by the fiends' sea-borne invasion of the Tigris-Euphrates delta and their
subsequent siege of Babylon In this Novel which narrates a historic story of 6

Centuary AD mentions about Muziriz and its King. A relevant portion from the 12
the chapter of its third volume is quoted below:
”The viceroy turned in his plush, heavily-upholstered chair and gestured to a
man sitting to his right. Like the viceroy, this man was dressed in the expensive
finery of a high Keralan official. But instead of wearing the ruby-encrusted sword
of a viceroy, he carried the emerald-topped staff of office which identified him as
one of Kerala's Matisachiva. The title meant "privy councillor," and he was one of
the half-dozen most powerful men in the South Indian kingdom.
The Matisachiva was slender; the viceroy, corpulent. Otherwise, their appearance
was similar and quite typical of Keralans. Kerala was a Dravidian land. Its people
were small and very dark-skinned—almost as dark as Africans. Shakuntala's own
size and skin color, along with her lustrous black eyes, were inherited from her
Keralan mother.
The Matisachiva's name was Ganapati. The moment Shakuntala had seen him,
sitting next to the viceroy in his audience chamber, she understood the
significance of his presence. She remembered Ganapati. Ten years before, at the
age of nine, she had spent a pleasant six months in Vanji, the capital city in the
interior. At the time, she had been the daughter of the great Emperor of Andhra,
visiting her mother's family. She had been well-received then, even doted upon—
and by none more so than her grandfather. But, even then, there had been
times that a head-strong girl had to be held in check. Whenever such times
came, it had always been Ganapati who was sent to do the deed”.
Kodungalloor Cheraman Mosque

Also nearby is the Cheraman Mosque, believed to be the first mosque built by
Muslims in India in 644 A.D. The mosque is situated in Methala, Kodungalloor.
Legend says King Cheraman Perumal of Kodungallor left for Mecca, embraced
Islam, accepted the name Thajuddeen, married the sister of the then King of
Jeddah. Before his death Thajuddeen handed over to the King of Jeddah several
letters addressed to Kerala Kings seeking their help to propagate Islam. The
Jiddah king came to Kerala and met the then king of Kodungalloor who helped
the former to convert the Arathali temple into a Juma Masjid. This mosque was
designed and constructed based on Hindu art and architecture. It resembles a
temple in appearance. The mosque is the first mosque in India and the second in
the world where Juma prayers were started.

Kodungallor Bagavathy temple

The Kodungallur temple is believed to be erected by Cheran Senkuttuvan the
famous Chera king for Kannagi the legendary heroine of shilappadikaram, a
famous Tamil literary work.There is a tradition in Kodungallur that Kannagi
ascended here: she has certainly been enshrined here.
The Bharani festival at this temple is famous as there is a congregation of
Velichappadus (priests of Devi temples who act as oracles) of different Devi
temples. Today, the town is a great pilgrim centre. Bharani festival held in the
Bhagavathi temple here is a big devotee draw.
On Bharani day, special nivedya (nectar) known as Variyarippayasam is offered
to Devi. This is performed by Adikals( priests). Early morning, the deity would be
ceremoniously taken out of the Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) and placed on a
raised pedestal for public worship. Simultaneously, the temple flag will be hoisted
signifying the victory of Devi over Darika(evil). After the bharani day, the temple
doors will remain closed for six days. During this period, pooja will be offered
only once in a day.
On the seventh day when the sreekovil is opened, thousands would have
Dharsan (vision) of Devi, Such a darshan is reckoned as most auspicious. The
temple here requires devotees to carry pepper along as an offering for the gods.
Kodungallur is an ancient center of Kali worship (Kali is the goddess of Death). In
a striking example of how Hinduism enshrines mortals (and story characters), in
this area Kannagi came to be perceived and worshipped as an avatar of Kali,
who had been worshipped for millennia before Kannagi's appearance around the
second century AD.
There is an open-air shrine on a main street near the central Kali temple. The
'shrine' consisted of an empty space surrounded by a waist-high iron spike fence
with some dried flower-garlands on it. The local people say that the idol of
Kannagi--supposedly 1700 years old, brought here from the Himalayas--had
stood in that space until the recent past.
Inside the Kali temple there is an idol portraying Kali with one breast: because it
has only one breast it is identified with Kannagi. Kannagi was led through the
wilderness by a Jain monk, she was immortalized in writing by another monk--
Jain or Buddhist.
The Kali temple of Kodungallur is famous for a yearly festival. During the rest of
the year, its Kali is considered chaste. But during a certain festival, her lewdness
is celebrated. People formerly classified as "untouchables" converge to sing
graphically and grotesquely sexual songs to the goddess--which she is said to
enjoy immensely. The celebrants drink alcohol. They rip their own flesh. They
are allowed to "impurify" the temple with their presence. Afterwards, the temple
is ritually "cleansed" and all is calm until the next year. The pattern of alternation
makes it possible for a single female figure to contain polar opposite qualities;
this female is both chaste and vulgar, socially proper and socially unacceptable,
clean and unclean.


It is a 9
century Jain temple shaped out from a huge rock in a picturesque
surrounding situated 8 miles south of Periyar. There are 120 steps to reach the
temple. It is at the top of a hill. The idol of Thirthankaran and Padmavathi Devi is
carved on the rock inside the cave. On the top of the large rock the foot print is
also seen carved. Now it is administered by a local trust and Hindus worship
From the third century BC to early 9th century AD there is very little written
history available. Trade with the west continued at least until the 6th century.
Coins of Byzantine emperors up to Justin I have been discovered in Kerala.
Roman coins dating from BC 40 to AD 98 have been recovered from the localities
near Periyar. In 1962 Egyptian coins of 7th and 8th century were found in
Kothamangalam which is hardly 8 km south of present Periyar from


Incompleted dam by bhoothan New Bhoothathankettu

Bhoothathankettu, is the perfect getaway for the
nature freak. Forests to trek in, birds to watch, a river for boating, rapids to
shoot, a lake to fish in, and much more, provide the perfect holiday for the
nature loving tourist. Tall mountains, a calm lake, the river Periyar and an all-
encompassing forest meet at Bhoothathankettu to make it a tribute to nature.
Bhoothathankettu is 100 mtr. above MSL and has a very moderate climate. At
Bhoothathankettu a nature loving tourist can enjoy a cruise through a tranquil
fresh water lake, trek through deep green reverie forest in search of remnants of
bygone civilizations, go for an adventure expedition down the turbulent Periyar
reenacting the old bmboo-route to Kalady (Etta chengadam), take a cool dip in
fresh clean water coming down a mountain where the ‘Neelakoduveli’-a life-
giving herb- is said to grow and much more. All this is located just 50 km. north
east of Kochi and a 35 km. drive from Kochi International Airport.
A myth associated with the place explains its name and how it came about.
According to it Bhoothams (evil spirits/ghosts) wanted to destroy the temple at
Thrikariyoor dedicated to Lord Shiva. They decided to flood the region by
damming the river Periyar. To do this the Bhoothams rolled down massive stones
from the surrounding hills into a narrow portion of the river. Lord Shiva, realizing
their intention came up with an ingenious plan to deter them. Ghosts being
scared of daylight, he tricked them into believing that morning had arrived. To
do this Lord Shiva imitated a rooster’s crow, the most common announcement of
dawn’s arrival, on hearing which the evil spirits fled, leaving the dam incomplete.
Visitors can see the structure downstream from the present dam. Hence the
name Bhoothathankettu (fort of the spirits) has been given to this place. Later,
this natural topography helped in building a dam here.
The Forest on the right bank of Periyar was the abode of a great civilization at an
unknown time in history. The civilization disappeared for reasons not fully
known. Nature did leave a few traces of the past glory. The remnants of
temples and Muniaras are indicators for historians and future generations to
explore the truth and find out the real glory of the civilization.

The remnants of the temples, muniaras and the other old structures are of great
historical value. Historians are yet to formulate a unanimous view over the
same. It calls for a much more serious study and deep research. The above
structures are in a very pathetic condition. There is an urgent need to take
immediate steps to preserve them before they vanish. Here are the places,
which can be documented by historians.

a) Bhoothathankettu Temple

b) Thundathil Temple
c) Karimpani Temple (inside the Mahogany Plantations)
d) Kariyachiram Muniyara
e) Tippu’s Bridge adjacent to Karimpani forest station
f) Muniaras of Moonja
g) Poika Temples
h) Remnants of the township at Mangattuthotty near Koottickal (partially
submerged by the Periyar Valley Reservoir)
i) Temples at Ovungal near Palamattom
j) Chelamala
k) Thattekkadu Temple
l) Muniaras on the Muniarappara near Kuttampuzha.
m) The temple at Knacheri
n) Temple at Kuttampuzha
o) The remnants of Nandagadies seen on the road near Knacheri
p) The Nandagadies at Thatteekkad (cemetery)
q) The remnants of an irrigation system at Thundathil

On the western side of the Thattekad ferry, and the southern side of the Periyar,
a hill is seen. The summit of this hill stands higher than those of the surrounding
seven hills, and is not of rock as in the case of the other hills seen in this region,
but of earth. The northern side of the hill is steeper than the southern. At
present the slopes are covered by teak plantations. This is the ‘Chelamalai’.

Ruins of an old temple near Chelamalai

Noteworthy features of Chelamalai are the following:
i) On the southern side, the remnants of a path, around 10 feet wide, cut into
the latérate, can be seen at several places. Though there are several breaks in
the path due to the forest road passing through the site, it can easily be
distinguished. Along the sides of the path, remains of the foundation of a wall
can also be seen.
ii) There are several old wells located within a 5 to 6 sq. km. area.
iii) On the eastern side of Chelamalai and on the western side of the Punnekkad -
Thattekad road, at the ten km milestone, the exposed portion of an underground
structure, resembling a cellar, about six to eight ft. wide and ten ft. long is seen.
One side of it is a laterate wall while the other three sides are granite. Only the
top of the vertical stone slabs are visible, the rest being buried in the ground. In
the middle of this structure, portions of granite slabs, vertically sunk in the
ground, are seen. This could have been a tomb megalithic era. During a recent
ditch-digging exercise by the telephone dept., the side of this road opposite to
the above-mentioned structure was dug up. Exactly opposite this presumable
tomb, were found several large earthen jars or pots. Called
Nanangadis, these are burial containers for people, used during the BC 2000 to
AD 500 period. The pots, all except for one were in pieces, the exception having
been intact as the workmen had dug around it exposing only half of the jar in
the ditch. The jar was around 4 feet high with an approximate mouth radius of
25 to 30 cm. The jars had overturned rims that had some sort of simple, regular
design on them. This area could have been a cemetery, as the Nanangadis were
found in perfect rows, of the Cheras who lived in the Chelamalai region.
iv) On the north western side of Chelamalai a stone-paved path, six ft. wide,
from the top of the hill to the river at the bottom, is seen. This path has steps in
certain parts, and both sides are packed with uncut stones.
v) From the top of the hill along the southern side, remains of a pathway, 15 to
20 ft. wide, built with stone packing on both sides is seen. Remains of this
veritable road stretching for about half a km can be seen.
vi) At the top of the hill, remains of large compound walls like that of a fort,
surround the summit of the hill in concentric circles. Uncut sandstones lie
scattered all over the hill, giving the impression of massive destruction, natural
or otherwise, of the construction that was presumably here.
Local people inform that several years ago this area was ploughed - using
elephants- in search of treasure. In the process the ruins in the area were
disturbed, most likely destroyed completely, due to the ignorance of the
treasure-seeker, of the historical importance of the area. The area has
undergone teak planting and several other agricultural activities. During the
course of farming all the structures would have been demolished for planting
teak and other intermittent crops like ginger, tapioca, paddy etc. Hence all the
structures would have disappeared. The people who have farmed here have
seen remains of wells, building foundations, roads etc.
Chelamalai is also believed to be the “Vanchinagaram” or “Vanchi” of AD first
century, which was the capital of the early Chera Kingdom. The ruins of roads,
pathways, wells, fort, cemetery etc. lead towards this conclusion. The central
location of Chelamalai also makes it a suitable site for a ruling capital. The ruins
of several temples located within a 10 km radius of Chelamalai clearly indicate
the importance of the area and the human population that once existed here.
What reason can be there for the signs of such a massively populated area other
than it being a centre of some sort, and coupled with the extensive fort complex
on the hill it implies this region was a capital.
Presently the location of Vanchi is a highly disputed question. The answers range
from Karavur near the banks of the Amaravati in Tamil Nadu, to near
Kodungalloor, to Thrikariyoor near Kothamangalam. The noted historian V.
Kanakasabhai states that present-day Thrikariyoor is the location of Vanchi, but
according to the `Pathitipathu’ (a famous anthology of Tamil poems of the
Sangam age) VI.3, Vanchi is situated on the summit of a tall hill encircled by
forest. In view of the above information why not Chelamalai be a viable
candidate for the location of Vanchi. Moreover it is close to Thrikariyoor thus not
completely denying Kanakasabhai’s theory either. A detailed investigation and
study of the area is required. Each stone found in Chelamalai will probably have
a story to tell of a bygone era.
Muniyara or Megalithic Monuments, MEHG uh LIHTH ihk, are structures built
of large stones by prehistoric people for burial or religious purposes. The word
megalith means large stone. The stones may weigh from 25 to 100 short tons
(23 to 91 metric tons) each. Megalithic monuments can be found in various
parts of the world. The best-known ones are in Western Europe and were built
between 4000 and 1500 B.C.

Many megalithic structures served as tombs. Some of these tombs had
passages. Other tombs, called dolmens, consisted of a small, simple chamber.
Such tombs have been discovered in many parts of western and southern
Single, erect stones are called menhirs. A monument composed of menhirs
arranged in a circle and surrounded by a bank of earth and a ditch is called
henge. The most famous henge, Stonehenge, stands near Salisbury, England.
Menhirs were also arranged in parallel rows called alignments. Elaborate
alignments near Carnac in northwestern France extend over 2 miles (3
kilometers).(Courtesy: The World Book Encyclopedia Vol. 13 Page 384.)
Several such structures are found in many parts on the banks of Periyar. The
famous ones are seen at Marayoor, Kuttampuzha, Thattekad, Thundathil, Poika
and Karipani.
Marayoor is situated near Aana mudi from where a tributary of Periyar starts its
downword journey to the Arabian Sea. Marayoor is on the path existed in the
olden days from Kodungallor to Madurai which was used by Kannagi after fleeing
from the burning of Madurai in her anger against the then Pandiyan king. There
are three rock painting sites identified in the surrounding areas of Marayoor. As
these sites are not protected the paintings are getting damaged. These are all
world Historical Heritage Sites and to be saved from further damage.
1. Attala.
This is situated near the village of Kavakudi in the west part of Marayoor
Township. About 94 painted motifs are visible. It is on the surface of an
inwardly curved massive rock dramatically situated facing east. It is a rock
shelter over looking the valleys of picturesque tea estates. This place is
1500 meters above sea level. Except a few human and animal figures
most of the paintings are abstract designs. Scholars have analyzed the
pictures and identified historically useful evidences about the type of
ammunitions used by the Stone Age people. One of the paintings is the
pose of a man chasing an animal with a stone chisel with handles. Lot of
studies on the basis of these paintings was done in the early years of the
past centaury by European planters of Munnar.
There is a cave near this rock which is a short cut to the bottom of the
rock. But now it is not passable.
2. Ezhuthu Guha
This is situated in the Koodakavu Sandalwood Reserve Forest at Marayoor
at an elevation of 1000 mtrs above sea level. About 90 painted motifs is
visible there. This is the most important rock art site so far identified in
Kerala. It is a painted rock shelter.
3. Kovilkadavu
Dozens of Muniyaras (Dolmens) around the area of an old Shiva Temple
at Kovilkadavu on the banks of Pambar, and rock paintings on the south
western slopes of the plateau overlooking the river are still exist. About 10
motifs could be seen there. The Muniyaras are easly visible from the main
road to Kovilkadavu.

Apostle Thomas
St. Thomas, the disciple of Jesus Christ, is believed to have landed in
Kodungalloor (formerly called Muziris) in 52 AD. The St. Thomas Church
established by the apostle houses holy relics from the olden days. Some
historians say, St. Thomas the Apostle who arrived at Malainkara (near
Kodungallor/Cragnanore) in AD 52, had established a Church at 'North
Paravur' (then known as 'Kottailkavu'). This place is located just a few miles
south of the ancient port of Kodungallor. Historically, N.Paravur is one of the
most important centre of Christianity in Kerala. Through the centuries many
important events had occurred at this place.
Knai Thoma

The Nicene council created four Patriarchs according to four corners of earth and
defined areas of authority for the first time. They were, Patriarch of Rome, also
recognized as the first among the equals solely because of the preeminent status
of Roman Empire, Patriarch of Alexandria, Patriarch of Constantinople and the
Patriarch of Antioch who had authority over the entire east. Jerusalem bishop
was conferred honorary rank as the fifth Patriarch recognizing the preeminent
status of Jerusalem as the place of redemptive activities of the Lord. The
practical aspect of this creation was also to break tie situations in case of
disputes when the council was in progress. Subsequent synods ratified the
decisions of the Nicene council and decided that no one shall alter decisions of
the Nicene council. Thus obedience to the Nicene council is mandatory and basis
for all future doctrines. Historians agree that creating the Patriarchates was not
altogether a new invention of the Nicene council but ratification and
authentication of the practices and privileges locally existed until then at various

Within twenty years from then the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, he took
prompt action to stabilize and improve downtrodden conditions of Malabar
Christians which itself is sufficient proof that he was legitimately concerned about
the welfare of the Indian flock under his care. There was a seasoned trader
called Knai Thoma who had visited Malabar Coast several times for business.

Knai Thoma expressed willingness to migrate to Malabar. He felt it expedient to
escape persecution from Sapor II, Persian King. The Patriarch advised Mor
Ouseph, bishop of Edessa to accompany Knai Thoma to Malabar. Knai Thoma,
the bishop, two priests, two deacons and 72 families comprising four hundred
members landed in Kodungallor in AD 345.

Mor Ouseph, bishop of Edessa

Some recent writers discredit the Syrian migration of Knai Thoma as a way to
escape persecution. The chief idea was to uplift the dwindling Christianity and he
did it in compliance to the request from the Patriarch. This is a golden landmark
and turning point in the history of St Thomas Christians of Malabar. Knai Thoma
presented valuables to the King Cheraman Perumal. King Perumal was well
pleased with the newcomers and gave them freedom and many civic honors.
Perumal had no difficulty to recognize the familiar face of Knai Thoma. A
document written in 1604 and preserved at the British Museum says, Perumal
personally greeted Knai Thoma at the port and out of respect conferred his own
name on him. The King conferred 72 honors written in copper plates to
Christians. Thus for the first time St. Thomas Christians were free to worship,
preach and enjoy equal civic liberties. From then onwards St. Thomas Christians
were known as Syrian Christians.
Because of the seas on both sides, ancient Kerala had many ports such as
Mussiris (Kodungalloor), Kochi, Nelkanda (Niranam), Kollam, etc. The waters
near the shores of Kerala has something special called "Chakara" (mud-banks).
These are hard mud-rocks, but when ships hit them, they (ships) do not get
broken or sunk. Instead they are helpful for the ships to anchor nearer to the
shores/ports. This is very unique to the shores of Kerala. (May be a proof that
Kerala is a land born out of the seas, by some force like earth quake!) Kerala
was very famous for the spices like, cloves, cardamoms, nut mug, cinnamon, etc.
and Kerala was the only place in the ancient world where black pepper (known
as 'black gold') used to grow. So, people from many different countries such as,
Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, Arabs, Jews, Romans, etc., used to come for
trade and many were living in Kerala for convenience. Rome had their wear-
houses guarded by their soldiers in Kerala. (It is known that it was in fashion
among the Romans to keep black pepper on the dining table.) Jewish contact
with Kerala dates back to 973 BC Historians say that the first Jewish settlement
in Kerala was soon after the Babylonian conquest of Judea in 586 BC and was
under the leadership of Joseph Rabban. The Jewish temples in Kodungallor,
Mattancherry near Kochi, Kollam, etc. are some of the silent proofs of this. The
traveller Pliny has described the port Muziris in his writing. He mentions a brisk
trade between the Cheras and Rome during the first century A.D. King Solomon's
ships used to anchor in this international port of the ancient world. "Once in
three years came the navy of Tharshesh (Solomon's) bringing gold and silver,
ivory and capes and peacocks". says the Book of Kings in the Bible. Kodungallor,
the latter-day name of Muziris, with its natural port attracted the Romans, the
Chinese and the Arabs. They came for the black gold of that time - Pepper. And
the southern most part of India, Kerala had it for all of them
The story of Kannagi gives lot indications about the presence of a rich culture in
the banks of river Periyar in the later centuries of BC and early centuries of AD.
There is ample living proof of such a civilization in this area. They are the
Muniyaras, Marayoor cave paintings, Kallil temple, Chelamalai, historic places of
Kodungallor, numerous temple ruins in the forest areas of Thundam and
Thattekkad areas, several caves, remains of boundary walls and house
foundations sighted inside the forest etc. The presence of Muniyara’s and Kallil
temple give an indication of the presence of a strong Jain and Buddhist
community in this area. Christanity and Islam came to India through the port of
Kodungallore. Kalady, the birth palace of Sankaracharya, the greatest Advaitha
Philosopher is on the bank of Periyar. So Periyar is India’s Gateway of Religion
and civilization.
So River Periyar has witnessed several historic events. It can tell you the stories
of our forefathers. But do we have the patients to listen to it? The historic
remnants are not being protected. They are being thrown away by either by
unscrupulous people who do not know its importance or by Government itself by
converting rain forests to teak plantations. Remnants of the township at
Mangattuthotty near Koottickal is partially submerged by the Periyar Valley
Reservoir. Chelamali was ploughed using Elephants in the course of hunting for
treasures. The temple remnants and ruins were thrown to Periyar valley lake by
‘tongiya’ contractors. Palamattom temple was reconstructed. The huge slabs of
Muniyara’s are being taken away for road construction and culverts.

All these are happening because Government is not recognizing the importance
of these historic sites. When ever the authorities are approached for its
protection the answer is the cold face of bureaucrats who are living in a different
Those sites are worthy to be excavated. Evidence of another civilization as old as
Harappa and Mohanjadaro are hidden under it. They are getting damaged due to
increased human activities. They need to be declared as World Historical
Heritage Sites. Who is there to take initiative? Or is it because if these evidences
are brought to light it will prove that what has been taught so far as history is
(Acknowledgements: Some of the information and photographs contained in this
paper is collected from various publications in the Internet and the uncompleted
research work conducted by late P.K. Jacob, my beloved Father, about the historic
background of our native place when he was heading a team appointed for that
purpose at the time of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of Pindimana U.P. School,
Kothamangalam the oldest Educational institution near Bhoothathankettu. Also
included are the photographs taken during the history tour conducted by
Bhoothathankettu Ecotourism Development Society (BEDS) to various historically
important sites mentioned.)