The district's name is a combination of two Malayalam words, pathanam and thitta, which together mean 'array of houses on the river side'. The district capital is located on the banks of the river Achankovil.
It is presumed that the regions that form the district were formerly under the rule of Pandalam, which had connections with the Pandya kingdom. When Pandalam was added to the princely state of Travancore in 1820, the region came under Travancore administration.
The district was formed on 1 November 1982 in the interest of speeding up development. The formation was done by incorporating various portions of the erstwhile Kollam, Alappuzha and Idukki districts. While the taluks Pathanamthitta, Ranni, Konni and Kozhencherry were taken from Kollam district, Pandalam, Thiruvalla and Mallappally were taken from Alappuzha district.
Pathanamthitta being also a land of culture and learning could bring forth the literary talents of two centuries together in single volume named Desathuti: Pathanamthitta Kavithakal. Unnikrishnan Poozhikkad collected 184 poems of different poets of Pathanamthitta starting from 18th century. Later on Desathuti was formed into a cultural organization which organizes literary symposiums and musical festivals.
Pathanamthitta is a landlocked district, located at 9°16′N 76°47′E, spanning over an area of 2,637 square kilometres (1,018.15 sq mi). The district is bordered by the districts Kottayam and Idukki in the north, Alappuzha in the west, Kollam in the south. To the east it has border with the Tamil Nadu state.
The district can be divided into three natural geographical regions: the highland, the midland and the lowland. The highland stretches through the Western Ghats, where the hills are tall and covered with thick forests. Western Ghats maintains an average altitude of around 800 m. It descends to the smaller hills of midland in the centre and finally to the lowland. The lowland with its abundance of coconut trees, lies along the eastern borders of Alappuzha district. (western part of Tiruvalla Taluk)
Pathanamthitta has a moderate climate, more or less the same as is prevalent elsewhere in Kerala. Annual temperatures range between 20 °C (68 °F) and 39 °C (102 °F). The district experiences three distinct weather conditions: winter, summer and the monsoon. The winter season is experienced from December to February and summer season from March to May. There are two rainy seasons: The South-West monsoon (June to September) and the North-East monsoon (October to November). The South-West monsoon is usually very heavy. About 75% of its annual rainfall is received during this season.
Pathanamthitta district has a reserve forest area of 1,385.27 square kilometres (534.86 sq mi). This is approximately 50% of the total district area. The forest area can broadly be classified as evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous. The forest is the main source of raw materials for wood based industrial units. Timber is the most important produce.
Three important rivers flow through the district. These rivers originate from various mountains of the Western Ghats mountain range. The Pamba (176 km or 109 mi), which is the third longest river in Kerala, has its origin in Pulachimala. The Achankovil river (128 km or 80 mi) originates from Pasukida Mettu, and Manimala river (90 km or 56 mi) originates from the Thattamalai hills. A small portion of Kallada river also falls in the southern border of the district. Pamba and Achankovil rivers together drain more than 70% of the total area of Pathanamthitta.
One third of the electricity produced in the State comes from this district. The Sabarigiri Hydroelectric project situated at the Pamba basin and the Kakkad Electricity project functions in this district. The abundant water resources are also utilized for irrigation purpose through the Kallada and Pamba irrigation projects.
Nalkalikkal bridge which was built more than 50 years ago was replaced with a new bridge and approach road a few years back. The name is derived from the words 'Nalu' (four) and 'Kal' (legs or spans in case of a bridge), as the old bridge had 4 spans. It connects Aranmula and nearby village of Kidanganoor.
Agriculture is the main occupation of the people. About 75% people are dependent on this sector. Rubber is the most important crop, with its plantations covering over 478 square kilometres (185 sq mi). The hilly terrain coupled with high humidity makes the region suitable for rubber plantations. Paddy is the most important crop cultivated in the wet lands. Tapioca and pulses are the important dry land crops. Other major crops are coconut, banana, pepper and ginger. In certain areas cashew, pineapple, sugarcane, cocoa and other tree spices are cultivated. The land available for cultivation is less since sizeable area of the district is reserve forest.Source : Statistics for Planning-DES 2006
Pathanamthitta district has a unique position in the inland fisheries map of Kerala state with its freshwater resources like rivers, reservoirs, streams, ponds, quarries and paddy fields. The fisheries activities in this region started with the establishment of a Fresh Water Survey Station. The district has an Ornamental Fish Breeding resource centre and a National Fish Seed Farm. There are 2444 fishermen depending on this sector for their livelihood.
Pathanamthitta district has tremendous potential in fish culture sector. For the development of piscine culture activities a Fish Farmers Development Agency (F.F.D.A.) was constituted during the year 1990. The agency provide technical as well as financial assistance to the farmers. The ongoing schemes of F.F.D.A. are assistance to new pond construction, pond reclamation, supply of fish seed, feed, medicine towards input, integrated farming and establishment of mini hatcheries.
Pathanamthitta is a less industrialized district of Kerala. As of 31 March 2006, there are 13,898 registered Small Scale Industries (SSI), employing 46,421 people. There are also 378 workers employed in the handloom sector. There are three Mini Industrial Estates in the district with the State government declaring 8.5 hectares of area as development plot. District Industries Centre distributes the land to needy entrepreneurs on request. 14.48 hectares of land has been transferred to KINFRA and five acres of land has been transferred to SIDCO for industrial parks. Green channel committee has been set up to help entrepreneurs get help in obtaining licenses, clearances, electricity, water connection, without delay.
The district headquarters is at Pathanamthitta town. The district administration is headed by the District Collector. He is assisted by five Deputy Collectors holding charges of general matters, revenue recovery, land acquisition, land reforms and election. Under the three tier system of panchayat in rural areas, Pathanamthitta has one district panchayat, 9 block panchayat and 57 grama panthayats. Under the single tier system in urban areas, there are 4 municipalities the district. In addition, there is a census town (Kozhencherry).
As per the Delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Order, 2008, Pathanamthitta has five Assembly constituencies, down from eight. However, the district was unified into a single Parliamentary constituency, thus contributing a seat to the Lok Sabha. The Pathanamthitta parliamentary constituency is formed by including all the five Assembly constituencies of the district along with two other Assembly constituencies in the neighboring Kottayam district. Congress, Kerala Congress, and the CPM/CPI are the main political parties.
A new national highway National Highway 183A (NH183A) is declared starting from Adoor to Vandiperiyar in Idukkki district via Pathanamthitta. National Highway 220 (NH220) passes through Tiruvalla. SH 01, SH 05, SH 07 and SH 08 are the major State highways providing connectivity to other towns and districts. SH 08 also known as Main Eastern Highway, is the second longest state highway of Kerala. It connects the townships of Punalur in Kollam district and Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district. The Kerala Public Work Department (P.W.D) maintains the all the roads in the district, including the village roads. As of 2005, the P.W.D. maintains about 1,596 kilometres (992 mi) of road in the district. Tiruvalla city, has the best road transportation facilities in the district, which is a junction of SH 01, SH 05, SH 07 and several other main district roads.
There is a good connectivity of State transport, K.S.R.T.C., on all major state highways in the district. The K.S.R.T.C depot at Tiruvalla city is one of the largest in Kerala, with modern shopping facilities. There are inter-state services to Bangalore and Tenkasi from Tiruvalla. However, on other roads and especially towards the eastern side, the State transport service is less frequent. Here, private bus operators facilitate the transportation needs. The K.S.R.T.C. has seven major depots in the district namely, Pandalam, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvalla, Mallappally, Adoor, Ranni and Konni. From Pathanamthitta, there are Inter State Services to Coimbatore and Tenkasi.
Tiruvalla railway station (Station code :TRVL), is the only Railway Station within the district. The Chengannur Railway Station (though designated as in Alappuzha District) is nearer to some parts of the district like Pandalam. Express trains to Trivandrum, Cochin, Chennai, Mangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Calcutta, New Delhi, Goa, Baroda, Ahmedabad etc., are available form both the stations. Computerised Train Reservation Centres are available both at Tiruvalla railway station, Pathanamthitta and Chengannur Railway Station. Tiruvalla city limits enjoy the benefits of "I-ticketing".
Trivandrum International Airport (TRV) at Thiruvananthapuram (119 km or 74 mi) is the nearest airport. The National Carrier Air India has a Reservation Office at Tiruvalla. Aranmula International Airport has been planned at Aranmula, 18 km from Pathanamthitta town. The Rs 2,000 crore airport is the biggest infrastructure project in central Kerala in several decades.
According to the 2011 census Pathanamthitta district has a population of 1,195,537, roughly equal to the nation of Timor-Leste or the US state of Rhode Island. This gives it a ranking of 399th in India (out of a total of 640). The district has a population density of 453 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,170/sq mi). Its population growth rate over the decade 2001–2011 was −3.12%. Pathanamthitta has a sex ratio of 1129 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 96.93%. Pathanamthitta District is one of the few districts to have negative growth in population.
According to the Census of India 2001, the district had a population of 1,234,016 with a density of 467 persons per square kilometre. This is the lowest density in the State after Idukki and Wayanad. Schedule tribes and castes comprise 13% of the total population. The female to male ratio is 1094:1000, which is the highest among the districts in the State. Pathanamthitta's literacy rate is 95%.
Pathanamthitta's major religion are Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains have much smaller followings. As of 2004 the population included 694,560(56.28%) Hindus, 481,602 (39.03%) Christians and 56,457 (4.58%) Muslims, the lowest following in the State.
As of 2011 the population included 681,666(56.93%) Hindus, 456,404 (38.12%) Christians and 55,074(4.60%) Muslims. In Christian Denominations Malankara Orthodox Church, with population of 252, 352, Mar Thoma Syrian Church population of 134, 751, Jacobite and Knanaya Jacobite population accumulating to a total of 47,256 and Malankara Catholics reaching a total of 44,326.A large number of Pentecostal and Reformation Groups also are present in this area.
Pathanamthitta district is known for its fairs and festivals. The Padayani is one such major folk art. The colourful art, colloquially known as Padeni, is associated with the festivals of certain temples only in Southern Kerala. The art is a combination of music, dance, painting and satire. Sabarimala, Maramon Convention, Anandapalli and Kadammanitta are some of the major fairs and festivals. Traditional Keralite festivals like Onam, Vishu as well as other major Christian and Islam festivals are celebrated with great fervor. The region is known for its cultural heritage and communal harmony. Participation of people from different religions can be seen.
The residents of Pathanamthitta partake of Keralite cuisine, which is generally characterised by an abundance of coconut and spices. Other South Indian and Chinese cuisines are also popular. The residents of the district generally wear traditional Kerala wear. The younger generation prefers Indo-Western clothing to the traditional wear.
The early history of Malayalam literature and the native tradition of Malayalam poetry has its roots in the district through the contributions of the three Niranam Poets. They lived between AD 1350 and 1450. Their work include the Malayalam translation of Bhagavad Gita, Bharatamala (a condensation of Mahabharatam), Ramayanam, Bhartam, Bhagavata Purana and Sivarathri Mahatmyam. These works are considered to be among the first major work of its kind in Malayalam.
Pathanamthitta was home to a number of acclaimed poets like Pandalam Kerala Varma, Muloor S.Padmanabha Panicker, Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan, Vennikkulam Gopala Kurup, Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan, Nellikkal Muraleedharan and K. V. Simon. Renowned writers like Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati, E. V. Krishna Pillai, Dr.K. M. George, Idayaranmula K. M. Varghese, Dr.K. M. Tharakan, Konniyoor Narendranath had their roots here. Painters like V. S. Valiathan, C. K. Ra and World's Fastest Performing Cartoonist S. Jithesh, and Veteran Cartoonists like P. K. Manthri, Madhu Omalloor were born in this district. Film personalities like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aranmula Ponnamma, Adoor Bhavani, Adoor Bhasi, Adoor Pankajam, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, M.G. Soman, Director Blessy and Mohanlal are the natives of this district.
With a number of fairs and festivals, Pathanamthitta district is known as the "headquarters of pilgrimage tourism." The district receives an estimated 3 to 4 million pilgrims during the festival season of Sabarimala.
Situated here among the Western Ghats is a temple dedicated to the Hindu deity, Ayyappan. The district is a host to Asia's biggest and the world's second largest Christian convention.
The eight-day Christian gathering in February is held at Maramon on the sand-bed of Pamba River. The three-day Christian gathering is held at Makkamkunnu, Pathanamthitta known as Makkamkunnu Convention by Malankara Orthodox Church. The Cherukolpuzha Hindu convention, Kadammanitta devi temple, the 10th century Kaviyoor mahadeva temple, Parthasarathi temple at Aranmula and anikkattilammakshethram are some of the Hindu religious places of interest.
The most important and famous Christian center is Parumala St Peters, St Paul's and St Gregorios Orthodox Church (http://parumalachurch.org) famous for the tomb of Saint Gregorios (Parumala Thirumeni). Millions of Pilgrims visit this church annually. St. George Orthodox Church, Mylapra or Mylapra Valiyapalli or Chakkittayil palli (ചക്കിട്ടേൽ പള്ളി) is one of the famous Georgian pilgrim centre which is very close to Pathanamthitta District headquarters.
St. George Orthodox Church, Chandanapally or Chandanapally Valiyapalli is one of the biggest churches in South India, located at a village named Chandanapally, Pathanamthitta District.
Some of the other Christian places of interest are St. Mary's Orthodox church at Niranam, St. Thomas Ecumenical Church at Nilackal, Manjanikkara Dayara St Stephen's Jacobite Church, Parumala Seminary and St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral, Thumpamon also known as Thumpamon Valiya Pally, headquarters of Thumapmon Diocese of Malankara Orthodox Church. The churches at Niranam and Nilackal (Chayal) are believed to be among the seven churches founded by St. Thomas the Apostle. The Muslim colourful Chandanakkudam festival of the Jama — Al Mosque at Pathanamthitta town attracts many visitors. Although these places are religious in nature, they attract people from all faiths.
The district is known for its reserve forest and wild life. Perunthenaruvi water falls, Kakki reservoir surrounded by forest and wild animals, dam sites at Moozhyar and Maniyar, elephant training centre at Konni, Charalkunnu hill station are ideal locations for nature enthusiasts. Trekking to the Sabari Hills during January to March is also organized by Pathanamthitta District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC).
Pathanamthitta district has places known for its historical importance. Among them are, ancient Valiyakoickal Temple and Palace at Pandalam, monument of Velu Thampi Dalawa at Mannadi and the Muloor Smarakom (Muloor memorial). Pandalam was the capital of the ancient Travancore kingdom.
The district has other tourist attractions. Aranmula is a major attraction for its famous metal mirrors and snake boat race. The school of traditional arts attracts foreign visitors. Founded by French artist Louba Schild, the school teaches kathakali, classical dance, classical music as well as kalarippayattu. The palace at Aranmula Aranmula kottaram has a history of 200 years.
Pathanamthitta has tropical biodiversity with forest, plantations, rivers and fertile land. Fifty percent of the district is covered with forest, providing rich flora and fauna. The district has a variety of plants including medicinal, spices, tuber crops and those yielding fruits and fiber. Aromatic plants and spices such as pepper, ginger, cardamom and turmeric are cultivated on a large scale. Trees such as timber, teak, rosewood, jack tree, manjakadambu, anjili, pala can be found in abundance.
The forests of the district have excellent wild life habitats. A variety of animals and birds can be found. Tigers, elephants, gaur, deer, monkeys and other wild animals are found in the forest. Giant squirrel, lion-tailed macaques, barking deer and bear can also be spotted in the reserve. Malabar grey hornbill and great Indian hornbill are found. Wide variety of other birds such as sunbirds, woodpeckers and kingfishers can also be seen.
The existence of the wildlife habitat is under threat from various areas. Pollution from fertilizer and industries and illegal sand mining are the major threats. Issues connected to Sabarimala pilgrimage such as clearing of forest land and large amount of waste discharged also threatens the habitat.
The district houses several notable educational institutions including N. S. S College, Pandalam one among the oldest and most reputed colleges of higher learning in the state. Pathanamthitta district is divided into two educational districts: Pathanamthitta and Thiruvalla. There are no universities in this district. Most of the colleges are affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. As of 2006, there are six engineering colleges, two medical colleges (both in Tiruvalla) and nine private aided arts and science colleges. The two medical colleges, both in Tiruvalla, belong to the private sector. There are no government engineering colleges, and the only government controlled self-financing engineering college (managed by CUSAT) is at Tiruvalla. (College of Engineering, Kallooppara)
As in the case with most of the state, the schools and colleges here are run by the government, private trusts, or individuals. Each school is affiliated with either the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or the Kerala State Education Board. English is the language of instruction in most private schools, while government run schools offer English or Malayalam. After 10 years of secondary schooling, students typically enroll at Higher Secondary School in one of the three streams—Arts, Commerce or Science.
The Aranmula Boat Race is part of a festival celebrated during the month of September. Though the snake boat race is also performed at nearby places, the race held at Aranmula is unique because of the boats' shape and design. Maramadimatsaram (Ox Race) is another such seasonal sport. This is held as part of the largest annual cattle fair of Central Travancore region. The race is held in three categories.
While football is the most popular sport, cricket is the most-followed sport as in the rest of the state and India. The Public stadium at Tiruvalla houses some of the important sports activities (mainly cricket) in the district.
See List of people from Pathanamthitta District