The Gateway of Malanad

Kanjirappally, a little town on the foothills of the Western Ghats of Kerala, India, is a tribute to the pioneering nature of the intrepid planter and the free spirit of enterprise. This beautiful town resplendent in greenery and plantations exudes an old-world ambiance in a fast-moving world. There is also considerable importance attached to Kanjirappally both historically as well as culturally. This place is rightly described as “the Queen of Malanad (The Land of Mountains)” and “the Gateway of Malanad”. The name Kanjirappally is probably linked to the tree Kanjiram, once abundant in these places. The geographical position of Kanjirappally ensured that from ancient times it served as an excellent trade junction among the commercial centers of the east and the west.

The earliest inhabitants of Kanjirappally were the “Koyyins”, a tribal society. Who had settled in Chotti in Parathodu Panchayat, around 1000 A.D., a Pandiyan prince managed to extend his power far into the heart of Kerala and established his rule in Pandalam. During the long control of Pandalam over the borderlands of Kerala, the Tamils enjoyed the freedom of movement and settlement in the high ranges of the Western Ghats and around places like Kanjirappally, Aruvithura (Erattupetta), etc.


The colonization of tradesmen from neighboring Tamilnadu is an important landmark in the evolution of Kanjirappally. Since the Pandians were holding the hill areas of the trade routes, the arrival of the trade caravans was speedy, safe, and easy. The first Tamil clan to settle down here in Kanjirappally around AD 1150 was the “Kannannur Chetties”. Their ancestry can be traced to a village in Chettinad, a few kilometers East of Dindigul. By caste, they were Vysyas or traders. They traded in cloth, metal-wares, pulses, jewels, grain, tobacco, and opium for sale. In return, Kanjirappally offered pepper, ginger, coconut, areca nut, and other spices.

Kanjirappally, later on, was to become the commercial center of the old kingdom of Thekkumkoor with its capital at Vennimala, near today’s Kottayam. One trade route ran Eastwards winding through the forest and mountain ranges of Peermade. It passed through Azhutha and Kumaly. A more important route went South East and passed through the spices-rich forests of Erumely, Thiruvampady, and Pampavally, crossing the Pamba river at Nilakal, which was the headquarters of a Taluk in the erstwhile territory of Pandalam. These ancient lines of communication consisted of narrow trails of pony paths threading through thick forests. Large quantities of cargo moved through them.





The Christian colonization of Kanjirappally had a profound impact on the history of commercial agriculture in these parts. The Christian claim their roots from early settlements at Nilakkal or Chayal on the banks of river Pamba. There is also a strong belief that the flourishing Christian community there was founded by Apostle Thomas himself. The place was in the forest recesses far away from seats of power. Nilakkal became an important depot for spices like pepper, cardamom, etc. and the Christians were engaged in this lucrative trade as procures and sorters. A Catholic diocese makes this an important Christian religious center. The old church of the Christians in Kanjirappally, namely, “Pazhayapally” (meaning Old Church) was built in 1449, fifty years before Vasco de Gama set foot in India!




The influence of Hinduism from across the border from Tamilnadu is overwhelming. A beautiful temple Ganapathiyar Koil built-in granite stands as a testimony to the early Tamil influence in religion and culture. There are also indications that Tamil rulers of Kanjirappally levied a tax on livestock or Pothimadu to supplement income to another temple Bhagavathi Shri Madura Meenakshi. The next batch of Hindu settlers came two centuries later. They too were traders by profession. Hailing from Kumbhakonam, they were called Vellala Pillas. Though they were merchants, they gradually took to farming. The Vellalas attended the Ganapathiyar Koil for worship but later they built another temple on the northern side of the temple property, called Northern Ganapathiyar Kovil in Pallava style of architecture. During the reign of Thekkumkoor Raja, these Vellala Pillas became highly influential and another temple by the side of River Chittar in the name of Madura Meenakshi was built.






The Muslim migration took place around this time some and arrived through the mountain passes of Kumaly. But the greater number hailed from Puliyangudi and Thenkasi, in South Pandinad. They settled down in the typical Pilla pattern and wedged between the two Chetti settlements. For their worship, they built the Pichapally Medu Palli and later the Nainaru mosque, at the ’24th mile’ of the present K. K. Road.

Commercial Center

In the next 300 years, Kanjirappally steadily grew in size and prosperity while more immigrants came in, mainly Christians and Muslims. Under the enterprising traders, Kanjirappally became the leading trade center between the East and the West as mentioned earlier. The Christian settlers cultivated paddy and other crops in hills and valleys after clearing virgin forests. Later on, they were the acknowledged pioneers in the cultivation of huge plantations of rubber. The prosperity of this place centered around these natural rubber plantations which now dot the landscape.


Many legendary families owe their prominence to this natural produce. The lifestyles and the ambiance of Kanjirappally high life became the stuff of popular legends. But sadly this prosperity is on a downswing now due to the severe recession and declining need for natural rubber in the industry. Kanjirappally is now the headquarters of a Taluk comprising Elikulam, Chirakadavu, Kootikal, Erumely, Kanjirappally, Manimala, Mundakayam, and Parathodu Panchayaths. Earlier it covered a larger area stretching from Meenachil to the Pamba river enveloped mainly by vast virgin forests. Melaruvi, Pichapally Medu, Koovapally Kurisumala, Karumpukayam (where boat races are conducted) Koodapuzha, the confluence of Manimalayar and Chittar are the recommended tourist spots for those who enjoy nature’s beauty.


  1. posted by James on June 25, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    Appreciate your effort on creating a website for Kanjirappally. Really loved it.


  2. posted by Sruthi Mohan on June 25, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    Kanjirappally’s treasures include churches, mosques as well as temples. The obvious beauty of this town runs deep and can be found in the most unexpected of places.


  3. posted by Noufal Ibrahim on June 25, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    Kanjirappally can be a major tourist destination owing to its lush green rubber plants and scenic natural environment. Kanjirappally rubber estate in the area has a lot to offer in terms of relaxation, sightseeing, excursions and other types of fascinating outdoor activities.


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