History of Changanacherry

              Changanacherry has always been regarded as a confluence of communal harmony. It has a rich history and cultural heritage. We, the people of Changanacherry take pride in the fact that, our glorious town has given birth to south luminaries as Ulloor. S.Parameswara Iyer. A.R.Rajaraja Varma, Kerala Varma Valiya Koithampuran and Mannathu Padmanabhan. The tombs of Mar Thomas Kurialacherry. Mar James Kalacherry. Mar Mathew Kavukkatt. Mannathu Padmanabhan. Haji Meera Sahib and Kunjunikkoya Thangal drawhunders of people everyday to Changanacherry. It has also been consecrated by the footprints of Mahatma Gandhi and Sree Narayana Guru. Besides, being the headquarters of the Nair Service Society, the S.N.D.P. Branch No.1 is also located here. Changanacherry is also the nerve centre of the Christians and the Muslims. Changanacherry Market, which was inaugurated by Veluthampi Dalawa in 1805, is a very important Commercial Centre in Kerala. Changanacherry is on the Southern border of Kottayam District. In ancient times, Mundakkayam, Kanjirappally and Puthupally were parts of Changanacherry.
           Today, we have Lappalam on the South Kannanperoorchira on the north, Kurishmoodu and Eruppa on the east. Historical records show that Changanacherry was once upon a time submerged under water. Centuries old cattamarans and remnants of old ships unearthed from the depths of this town bear testimony to the fact it emerged from the sea. Geologists have proved this fact after conducting excavations at Perunnai and Vazhappally. From the inscriptions at Perunnai Temple, we learn that modern Perunnai was known as 'Perunnaithal' before the 10th century. 'Perunnaithal' means an extensive sea-shore. Even the very name 'Changanacherry' was recorded in history only by the 15th century. Before that this place was known by different names. In B.C. 184, during the reign of the Pushyamithra Saga dynasty, owing to religious precautions, a group of Buddists fled Magadha and reached 'Changanacherry'. During their period the place was called 'Sanganattusserry'. They served their kings, tilled the land and conducted trade commerce.
The place named Changanasseri entered into the history books in A D-90. It has been believed by some people that this name is derived from a place named "Changanatuseri".
An interesting well known story about the name of Changanasseri is that during the reign of the Thekkucore King belonging to Lakshmipuram Palace, steps were taken to build a TEMPLE, CHURCH and MASJID around the palace. The Raja wanted to hear the "Shankhu Vili (Temple-Counch Sound), Mani Nadam (Church-Bell Sound) and Bankh Vili (Masjid-Prayer Sound) daily. He built Kavil Bhagavathi Temple, Methropolitan Church and Pazhaya Pally Juma Masjid. All these sounds ("SHANKHU" = Sankhu vili + "NADAM" = Mani nadam + "SERI" = Bankh vili) put together apparently made up the name of the place to Changanasseri (Shankhu+Nada+Seri).

           Some historians are of the view that 'Changanacherry' go its name from Changa=water and Cherry=near the sea. In some records, the name is written as 'Changanacherry'. In "Unnuneeli Sandesam"there is a reference to 'Thenganacherry'. Between 8th century. A.D. and 12th Century A.D. Changanacherry was part of "Nathuzhinadu" which had its capital at Thrikodithanam. That was the age of the Kulasekhara emperors. But Natuzhi Nadu declined in the 12th century and the Thekkumkoor dynasty, Changanacherry become a part it and the place entered into a new phase of development. In this context, it will be worth remembering the story of the Ettuveetil Pillas.
     The oldest Cheppedu in Kerala History “Vazhappally Cheppedu” (Vazhappally Proclamation) was obtained from the Thalavana illam – Vazhappally, which is situated opposite and near to the Vazhappally maha temple. This Cheppedu dates backs to AD 830 King Rajasekharan, who formulated the Vazhappally Proclamation (Vazhappally Sasanam) was an ardent believer of Lord Siva (Thiru-vazhappallilappan). The 8th Century marked the advent of King’s rule in Kerala. So the period of Raja Rajasekharan’s rule might had been from AD 820 to AD 844. This historical document belongs to the 12th administrative year of Rajasekhara Devan Rajadiraja Parameswara Bhattakaran.

          During the reign of King Marthanda Varma, a group of 8 prominent Nairs hatched a conspiracy against the King and fought a war to capture power. But the King mercilessly killed them and their spirits were kept arrested in 8 pots at Vettadikkave in Puzhavathu so that they would not disturb him in future. However, he promised the people that whenever a King of Travancore treads on the soil of Changanacherry, he would take back the Ettuveettil Pillas. Since then, the kings of Travancore were reluctant to tread on the soil of Changanacherry. But this convention was broken when Sri.Chitira Thirunal came to St.Berchmans' College in 1952 for the inauguration of the Science Exhibition. During the reign of king Marthanda Varma, the members of the Thekkumkoor dynasty were driven out of the town. But his successor Dharmaraja, recalled them and allowed them to stay in their places.
          When Tippu Sultan invaded Malabar, many rulers fled to Changanacherry and Parappanadu dynasty took hold of Neerazhikkottaram. Members of Thekkumkoor royal family were shifted to Nattacherry near Kottayam. King Marthanda Varma was great patron of churches, temples and mosques. He is said to have donated Changazhi, Nashi, Uri and the site for the construction of the Cathedral Church. 'Changanacherry' might have developed its name out of all these things. Perhaps 'Sanghunacherry' might have later developed into 'Changanacherry'.
           By the 15th century, the Thekkumkoor rulers made themselves the masters of this place and established their headquarters at Neerazhikottaram in Puzhavathu. They constructed palaces, fortresses and secret passage through a cave. The secret passage ended in 'Chithrakulam'which was the bathing ghat of the members of the royal family. The most interesting feature of Chitrakulam is that when viewed from above, it is square shaped and when watched from below, it is oval in shape. It is called Chitrakulam because King Chitravarma was responsible for the construction of this engineering marvel. In 1962, the Kumaramangalam Mana transferred its ownership to Changanacherry Municipality. When Neerazhikottaram fell on evil days, Lakshmi Bhai Thampuratty built the new Lakshmipuram Palace. Swathy Thirunal, the great carnatic musician, was her son. The Thekkumkoor rulers were so generous that they donated land for almost all the public institutions in Changanacherry. One of the most prominent members of this royal family today is ganagandharvan. L.P.R. Varma who established himself as a playback singer, music director, carnatic musician and an actor.
             Changanacherry is known as 'the land of Anchuvilakku'. It was Velumthampi Dalawa, the Dewan of Travancore who erected this lamp in the market. In 1805,the famous Changanacherry Market was inaugurated by Veluthampi Dalawa by selling an elephant. He got unstinted support from the people of Changanacherry to fight against the British. He stayed at 'Kottayathu Madam' and learned the Pazhassi tactics to be employed against his foreign enemies. Historically, the important places of worship in the town are St.Mary's Metropolitan Church. St.Mary's Church Parel, Secred Heart Church Chethipuzha, Sri Subrahmanya Swamy Temple Perunnai. Thrikkannapuram Temple Perunnai, Sri Mahadeva Temple Vazhappally, Mahadeva Temple Thrikkodithanam, Anandashram, Muslim Pazhaya Pally Puzhavathu and Puthur Muslim Pally.
         The Archbishop's House built in the style of French Chateaus has grandeur of its own. St.Mary's Church Parel is a pilgrim centre where lakhs of people congregate for the annual festival. The Mannam Samadhi at Perunnai draws a large number of people every day. Changanacherry is best known for its education institutions. St. Berchmans College one of the oldest Colleges in Kerala draws students not only from India but also from abroad. Last year, it bagged the 'R.Sankar Award' for the best Special Grade College in Kerala. Its Library, auditorium, hostel complex and sports and games department are one of the best in Kerala. The N.S.S. Complex with its Arts and Science College, Training College, High School and Administrative Block presents a very beautiful picture. 

Vazhappally Maha Temple

Thiruvazhappally Sree Mahadeva Temple at Changanasseri occupies a unique position among the Kerala Hindu Shrines. This Holy Shrine is a major temple under the administration of the Travancore Devaswom Board. This temple situates 900 m west of Mathumoola Junction and 1.5 km north of the Town. The main idol of lord Mahadeva faces East, while Dakshinamoorthi & Ganapathy faces south and Lordess Parvathi faces west in the same Vatta (circular) Sreekovil, Besides separate shrines for Maha Ganapathi, Saastha and Bhramma Rakshas. The other deities installed in this temple are Nagaraja, Naga yakshi and Nandikeswar. The presence of Lord Subramanyan and Lord Parasurama also seen in the temple. So the whole shrine belongs to one family –Lord the Siva’s. Lord Ganapathy is the God of wisdom and remover of all obstacles. According to Sankalpa of the temple, Ganapathi Vigraha is in the form of Maha Ganapathi. This is one of the rarest temple, where Mahaganapathi faces south with separate dwaja–sthambam (Flag Staff). The main Vazhipaat being to Maha ganapathy “Otta–Appam” (Ganapathy Appam). Temple has two Dwaja-sthambas.

Methropolitan St.Mary's Cathedral Church

The architecture of the church is European-inspired with Portuguese and Spanish themes. Inside, the high ceilings are supported on huge columns. The main altar features exquisite craftsmanship of wood carving of statues and crosses. The domed ceiling is adorned with fresco paintings. There are no pews in the church: worshippers squat on the floor. As is customary in many Kerala churches, they are separated by gender: men sit up front while women occupy the rear section. A new semi-circular section was added to the rear of the building in the 60s to accommodate a growing congregation. Outside, at the head of the building, stands the tallest structure in the town, namely, the bell tower. The ringing of the bell can be heard throughout the city.

                 Nair Service Society (NSS)

The Nair Service Society (NSS) is an organization created for the upliftment and welfare of the Nair community. It is headquartered at Perunna in the town. It was established under the leadership of Sri.Mannathu Padmanabhan. The Nair Service Society, a synonym for selfless service and social commitment was founded by the late Sri. Mannathu Padmanabhan on 31-10-1914. It came into being at a crucial stage in the history of the Nair community which was facing a crisis brought about by disunity and blind adherence to outmoded customs, beliefs and practices. They had a glorious past. But ignorance, accumulated over centuries, reinforced by inadequate education, proved disastrous for the community. the N.S.S in his own unique way. With his persistence, tireless efforts, vision and farsightedness, the N.S.S opened an array of educational institutions, hospitals and other socially beneficial institutions all over the state.

               Archdiocese of Changanacherry

The Archdiocese of Changanacherry is one of the first two Vicariates and the second Metropolitan Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, after the establishment of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy which was the prelude to the restoration of the identity of the Church in1992 as Sui Juis Church, thanks to the untiring efforts of our forefathers. It comprises the civil districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Kottayam in the state of Kerala.

              Meetings of National importance are conducted on the ground of the N.S.S. College where tens of thousands of people can be very easily accommodated. Assumption College, one of the best women's colleges in Kerala, is also the pride of Changanacherry. Sacred Heart English Medium School and Kristu Jyothi English Medium High School are famous all over Kerala. Changanacherry Municipal Office, which started functioning in 1921, has now 32 wards. Fr. Dominic  Thottassery M.A. L.T. was the first Chairman. We have a very good library in the municipal office complex titled Ulloor Smaraka Library.Changanacherry is the meeting point between the high ranges and the coastal area.
     Alleppey-Madurai railway, connecting Changanacherry, Kanjirappally, Mundakkayam and Kumaly is a dream of the people of Changanacherry. The demand for law college in this cultural capital of Kerala has not so far met with success.

                                               Boat Jetty 1950
Our Boat-Jetty which is in a dilapidated condition should be renovated and more boats should be put into tourists operation for the benefit of the tourists who come in large numbers to cruise in the Kuttanadu back waters. The Changanacherry by-pass is a must for the development of our own. Changanacherry can be developed as a transit point for tourist who wish to visit Thekkady and Kuttanadu. The work on the construction of the Revenue Tower is over. One of the long-cherished dreams of the people of Changanacherry to get service under one roof will be realized.

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  1. Some corrections may be needed. Please read my blog: www.ramukaviyoor.blogspot.in