Pala, Kerala

For the tree, see Alstonia scholaris.

Gateway Of Southern High Range, Mini Vatican Of India

Pala Town

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
 • Municipal Chairperson Kuriakose Padavan
 • Total 15.93 km2 (6.15 sq mi)
Elevation 56.7 m (186.0 ft)
Population (2012)
 • Total 38,531[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, Muvattupuzha, Thodupuzha
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.


There are various versions regarding the origin of the place name. According to one, Pala gets its name from Palazhi (Ksheera Sagara), the mythological Ocean of milk from which nectar was churned out. Another view is that the name was derived from Palathu Chettiyar families, the prominent early settlers of the region. Another version is that early Christian settlers from Kottayam (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.


Pala was part of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, and was ruled by the "Travancore Rajas" for a long time. 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).

There are also many other attributes which make them distinct from the normal Nair folks. "Simhar" family deity (Bhavai instead of Bhadrakali) and family name was Mevada (Mewar). They also used to have very colorful funeral processions. They were pure vegetarians though they had no sacred threads (poonul), and they followed "Marumakkathayam."

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

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. 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

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. 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.[2][3]

Religious places


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). 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 are the other temples situated within the boundaries of Pala Municipality.


Kurishupalli, 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 Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara.

St.Thomas Church at Arunapuram is one of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church 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 remained very conservative in faith and beliefs, due to the large influence of education and media which promoted free thinking and freedom of choice, it has also welcomed and promoted a number of Reformed Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, namely Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Assemblies of God etc.

Trade links

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 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. 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

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

Pala dominated the banking and financial scene of Kerala for over three decades (1927–60) through Palai Central Bank. Started in 1927 by Joseph Augusti Kayalackakom, 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.

Healthcare, hospitals

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

Closest cities, towns and villages

Neighbouring cities & towns

Culture and people


  • pani (പാനീ)
  • pidi & chicken/beef/pork curry
  • tapioca and pork dry fry


Major political leaders who were from Palai :

Head of State

  • K. R. Narayanan, President of India (1997–2002), Vice-President of India (1992–97).


[In chronological order]

  • P.K. VasudevanNair, Former Chief Minister of Kerala State
  • M J Varkey (Vakkachen) Mattathil,[5] Member of Indian Parliament - Rajya Sabha (1998–2004).
  • N M Joseph, Minister of Forests, Kerala State (1987–91)
  • M M Jacob,[6] Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha (1986–87), Union Minister (1987–93), State Governor of Meghalaya (1995–2007).
  • Kidangoor Gopalakrishna Pillai,[7] General Secretary of NSS (1967 onwards) and Indian High-Commissioner to Singapore (1992 onwards).
  • K M Chandy,[8] State Governor (1982–89), President of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee.
  • K M Mani, Member of Kerala Legislative Assembly (1965 onwards) and Minister of Kerala State (different terms during 1977 - incumbent).
  • T A Thomman, Minister of Home, Kerala State (1964–65)
  • Cherian J Kappen,[9] Member of Indian Parliament - Lok Sabha (1962–67).
  • George Thomas Kottukapally,[10] Member of Indian Parliament - Lok Sabha (1957–62), U.N. Delegate.
  • R V Thomas,[11] President (Speaker) of Travancore State Legislative Assembly (1947–49).
  • Dr P J Thomas,[12][13] Member of Madras Legislative Council, 1937–42 and Member of Indian Parliament - Rajya Sabha 1957-62.
  • J Thomas Kayalackakom,[14] Member of Sree Moolam Popular Assembly of Travancore State (1922–31).

Social Activist

  • Fr. Abel Periapuram, Founder of Kalabhavan.
  • James Cherian Maruthukunnel, District Governor, Lions Clubs International (1988–89).

Literature & Education

  • Bishop Joseph Pallikaparambil, Founder of St. Joseph's Engineering College
  • George Kallivayalil - Columnist and Journalist


  • Col. G.V. Raja - Foremost Sports Promoter.
  • Wilson Cherian, Swimmer - Arjuna award winner.
  • T.J. Jacob, Swimmer - Indian Team at Asian Games.
  • Mathew Joseph, Swimmer - Indian Team at Asian Games.
  • Sumi Cyriac, Swimmer - National Champion.
  • Sony Cyriac, swimmer - Indian Team
  • Mani C Kappen, Volley Ball - Indian Team Player.
  • M D Valsamma, Athletics - Asian Games Gold Medalist.
  • Sunny Thomas - National Coach in Rifle Shooting.
  • S. Pazhaniya Pillai - Indian Athletic Team Manager.

Management & Administration

  • V.V.Joseph, IAS bureaucrat
  • R Ramachandran Nair, IAS bureaucrat, former Chief Secretary
  • M. S. Joseph, IAS bureaucrat.
  • Jacob Thomas, IPS police officer
  • K.J. Mathew, IAS bureaucrat, Chief Secretary
  • P M Kuriakose, IAS bureaucrat, former Secretary
  • V J Kurian, IAS bureaucrat.
  • Tom Jose IAS, bureaucrat.
  • Seju P Kuruvila, IPS police officer

Commerce & Industry

  • Jacob Cherian Maruthukunnel - Pioneer in Banking, Motor Transport, Deep sea Fishing
  • Abraham Kallivayalil- Pappan chettan - Pioneer in Rubber, Pepper, Cardomom Plantations.
  • George Joseph Kottukapally - Director of Palai Central Bank and Sree Moolam Prajha Sabha Member
  • George Thomas Kottukapally - Member of Parliament, recorded as the largest individual Syrian Christian landholder in history with over 13,000 acres
  • Joseph Michael Manarkattu - Leader in State-wide Liquor Trade.
  • Dominic Joseph Kuruvinakkunnel - Father of Tourism Industry in Kerala.
  • C R Kesavan Vaidyar - Pioneer Medicinal Soap Maker.
  • M O Devasia Mattathil - Leader in Forward Trade of Spices.popularly known as "The Pepper King"
  • Joseph Augusti Kayalackakom (1884–1968) - Founder Managing Director of Palai Central Bank.
  • Jose Joseph Mamparampil
  • Annamma Joseph Kottukappally - Founder of the Anns chain of bakeries in Kerala
  • Asha Sebastian Mattathil - Pioneer Jewellery Designer in kerala
  • Jobin George Velickakathu - Founder of Georgian Group Of Companies


  • Bhadran, Movie Director
  • Miss Kumari, late Malayalam actress
  • Joseph Kakkattil (Cherupuspam Kochettan), Movie Producer & Studio Owner
  • Mani C Kappen, Movie Producer
  • Suvarna Actress
  • Mia George (Gimi George)Actress
  • Asin Thottumkal Actress
  • Rimi Tomy Singer
  • Chanchal Actress
  • Issac Thomas Kottukapally, National Award Winning Music Composer & Director
  • Remya Nikhil Anchor, Dancer.
  • Listin Stephen, Film producer


  • K.L. Sebastian, winner of S.S. Bhatnagar Prize in Chemistry.
  • Dr. A.M.Michael, Director, Agricultural Institute of India


  • Jose Panachippuram, Associate Editor, Malayala Manorama daily
  • George Kallivayalil, Chief of Bureau, New Delhi, Deepika Daily
  • Rogen Joseph, Editor,Engineers World
  • Eby J Jose Editor, Gulf Life Magazine
  • T.Devaprasad, Deepika Daily, Tvpm


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.

Coaching Centers in Pala

Civil Service Institute Pala

The Civil Service Institute was founded in January, 1998, sponsored jointly by the Archdiocese of Changanacherry and the dioceses of Palai and Kanjirappally as a part of the Inter-diocesan Centre for Human Resources Development.The CSIP’s achievement as a centre for career development is reflected in the number of students who passed the examination from the institute. The number of students who secured civil services from the instituted is partial in depicting the role of CSIP as a centre for career development of learning. There may be hundreds of candidates of the institute who secured better placements in government services and other institutions. Simultaneously, large number of college going students who have undergone part time training in the institute gets entry into higher education courses. The institute’s achievements in the field of civil services examination is illustrated under roll of honour.

Brilliant Study Centre Pala

Brilliant Study Centre, the numero uno among the innumerable entrance coaching centers in the state, was established in 1984 and eversince its inception it has been providing excellent coaching for medical and Engineering Entrance Examination

Lumen Study Centre: St. Thomas College Palai

An excellent coaching Center for medical and Engineering Entrance Examination run by St. Thomas College Management

Talent Academy Pala

Talent Academy provides outstanding classes and extensive preparation techniques, which help the aspirants to achieve top ranks in AIEEE, JEE-IIT Kerala state medical/Engineering examinations

Thoopan's Swimming academy

Pala Jumps Academy


As of 2001 India census,[15] 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

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, egg plant, 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.

Records and Achievements

Meenachil Taluk, of which Pala town is the headquarters, has the unique distinction of holding innumerable records. It is amazing that a rather remote Taluk located in the hilly inland could achieve so much.

World Records:

  1. The Christian parish that is home to the largest number of priests in the world – Kozhuvanal Parish, Pala Diocese[16] (151 priests).
  2. Promoter of one of the world's ten best Resort Hotels selected by the world's leading travel magazine – Dominic Joseph Kuruvinakkunnel (Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom of Casino CGH Earth Group of Hotels[17]).

National Records:

  1. India's only dalit President – K R Narayanan (1997).
  2. First Indian to become Economic Advisor to Government of India – Dr P J Thomas[12][13] (1942).
  3. India's first and only Taluk to produce one President/Vice-President, two State Governors, one State Chief Minister and one Ambassador – K R Narayanan, K M Chandy,[18] M M Jacob,[19] P K Vasudevan Nair & Kidangoor Gopalakrishna Pillai.[7]
  4. Longest term as Finance Minister of a State in India – K M Mani (7 years).
  5. Longest term as State Governor in India – M M Jacob[19] (12 years).
  6. Highest number of Bishops from a Diocese in India – Pala Diocese.[20]
  7. The first travelogue in an Indian language – "Varthamana Pusthakam" by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar (eighteenth century).[21]
  8. The first native Indian Roman Catholic (and the only Syro Malabar Catholic) Saint – St. Alphonsa.[22]
  9. Author of the first encyclopaedia in an Indian language – Mathew M Kuzhively Syrian Malabar Nasrani.
  10. First head of a Homoeo Medical Dept. of a State in India – Dr K Z George[23] (1973).
  11. First Bank to open a branch in India's capital New Delhi – Palai Central Bank (1932).
  12. Maker of India's largest selling medicinal toilet soap – C R Kesavan Vaidyar (Chandrika Soap).[24]

State Records:

  1. First and only President/Vice-President from Kerala – K R Narayanan (1997/1992).
  2. First Speaker of the State since Independence – R V Thomas[11] (1948).
  3. Longest continuous term as MLA of the State and Finance Minister who presented highest number of State Budgets – K M Mani (MLA from 1965 onwards and 10 State Budgets)
  4. One of the first two from the State to be beatified by Catholic church – St Alphonsa[22] (1986).
  5. Promoter of the institution that was the largest in the State for over three decades – Joseph Augusti Kayalackakom - Palai Central Bank (1927–60).
  6. First and foremost sports promoter of the State – Col. G.V. Raja.[25]
  7. First company promoter of the State to make a public issue of shares of a plantation company – J Thomas Kayalackakom - Mysore Plantations Ltd (1943).[26]
  8. First person to run a Star Hotel in the State – Dominic Joseph Kuruvinakkunnel - Malabar Hotel, Cochin (1962).[27]
  9. First Liquor Baron of the State – Joseph Michael Manarkattu (1980s).[28]
  10. First Stock Broker's Firm in the State – Kayalackakom Company (1946).[26]
  11. First person from the State to dominate the multi-crore Forward Trade (Satta Bazar) in spicesM O Devasia Mattathil (1970s).[29]
  12. First lady athlete of Kerala to win Asian Games gold medal – M D Valsamma (1982)
  13. One of the first two women IPS officers from the State – B. Sandhya IPS (1994).[30]
  14. First MBA degree holder of Kerala – K M George Kayalackakom - New York University[31] (1948).
  15. First Christian Mahakavi and Editor of one of the oldest literary magazines in Malayalam – Kattakayam Cherian Mappillai - Sreeyesu Vijayam (1926) & Vijnaana Rathnaakaram (1913).[32]
  16. First person to introduce the ‘Vanchippaattu’ branch of Malayalam poetry – Ramapurathu Warrier - Kuchelavritham (18th century).[33]
  17. First editor of a Malayalam Newspaper – Nidhiry Mani Kathanar - Nasrani Deepika[34] (1887).
  18. First bridge constructed by private individuals - Puzhakkara Bridge - 80 ft*16 ft (Constructed in 1998 by P.A Kuriakose and brothers John and Joseph, Puzhakkara family).[Page10, 15 June 1998 Malayala Manorama Daily, Business Deepika 15-21, 1999].
  19. First Queen of the Malayalam silver screen: Miss Kumari
  20. First candle manufacturing company in Kerala:THE LITTLE FLOWER CANDLE WORKS PALAI Estd.1939 Mg.Prop.J Thomas Chavara Palai
  21. An entrance coaching institution: Brilliant Study Centre

Pala Related Websites

  • Website about Palai

See also


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