Kuttanad is a place that has in recent times become a tourist hotspot of India and of the world. A unique piece of earth with its lush greenery of paddy fields ,coconut palm groves and silver back waters, it embraces the Arabian sea on the west and the foothills and valleys of the Vindhya Mountains on the east. Centrally located in the State of Kerala, it covers an area of 266 kilometers, lying mostly below sea level with a population of around 300000. It is inhabited by a hardoworking, peace loving people who despite differences of religion, cast and political affinities, continue to live in perfect peace and harmony.This mode of life is reflected in the ancient customs and cultural traditions that people from the ouside marvel at.
The story of Kuttanad is steeped in legends and myths carried down the ages. It is difficult to distinguish between factual history and mythology when we speak about the origins of this beautiful land. Kuttanad is a way of life, a culture and a great emotion for the natives of this land of lakes and rivers.
The name Kuttanad is is interpreted in different ways by historians and linguists. One theory has it that Kuttanad literally means ‘the land of lakes’. ‘Kutta’ is an ancient tamil designation for lake and ‘nadu’ for country or place. As per another theory, Kuttanad is a derivative of the name Khandava, the legendary forest mentioned in epic Mahabharatha. As per the story, the vast forest of Khandava was burnt up and its inhabitants destroyed by Krishna and Arjuna to cure the sickness of Agni the God of fire.
Later the burnt out forest was covered by water and mud and remained thus. Occasional findings of black wood during excavations in the marshy soil is pointed out as proof of this claim. Kuttanad is a derivative of ‘chuttanad’ ( ‘chutta’ in Malayalam means ‘burnt’).This claim is further enhanced by the fact that the low –lying, black soiled paddy fields of Kuttnad were referred to as “kari’s . (Kari means charcoal)
There is also the argument that Kuttand as a whole or at least a major portion of it was part of the Arabian sea which was later transformed by geological forces into land.
Kuttanad is fertilised and watered by many rivers and rivulets.The most well known of these are the Rivers Pampa and Achenkovil that carry (rain) water and fertile mud from the Western Ghats down into the valleys and spill into the Vembanad Lake. These waters feed a rich variety of flora and fauna, and have become the breeding ground of a culture that attracts not only toruists but historians and lovers of art and culture.
The land units that we see scattered among the watery vastness were raised by human labour into thier present condition. Kuttanad is a civilisation raised out of water by sheer human will. Once upon a time it was part of the legendary empire of the Chera dynasty.They ruled over a major portion of
South India during the 9-12 th century The Cheran kings were referred to as ‘Kuttuvan’s on account of their roots in Kuttand. The traces of Tamil influence can still be seen in this place. Kuttand was one of the 12 places of ancient South India wher “Kodum thamizh’ was spoken accoridng to the Ancient Tamil classics ‘Venpai’ and ‘Tolkapiyam’ During the gloorious days of the Sangham age Wehn Kerala was part of the Tamil empire Kerala was divided into four political units – Poozhinad, Kudanad, Kuttanad and Venad. It covers parts of today’s administrative districts Kottayam, Eranakulam, Alapuzha, Kollam and Pathanamthitta.
The population of Kuttanad comprises mainly of various Hindu and Christians denominations with a smattering of Muslims as well. There is archaeological evidence to show that it was also a Buddhist centre once upon a time.
Kuttanad is unique in the sense that it is one of those rare places on earth where people live and cultivate their land below sea level.
Till the 1950s the only means of transportation in Kuttanad was water. Kuttanad was a group of small villages connected by narrow bunds , improvised bridges and a variety of country boats small and large used for various trnasportation purposes. In the British days steam boats arrived. When Alapuzha became a major trading town, it became the virtual capital of Kuttanad, adding commerce to an otherise agrarian economy. In the 1950s, the Changanacherry -Alapuzha road connected the two towns with a 23 kilometer road cutting across the heart of Kuttanad. And in recent years Kuttanad has made giant leaps forward in communication and road transport, education and living standards, thanks to the efforts of visionary men and women of this place.
The people of this place have made their mark in various fields of life religion, culture, politics, education science, not only in India but also abroad.