Meenachil River is the divine river of Kottayam - a district in the State of Kerala, that played a predominant role in the temporal, spiritual and cultural life of the people around it. It solely belongs to Kottayam as it begins in the north – eastern boarder of Kottayam district and ends in the western border.
Meenachil River originates as a spring in the southern slops of Kurishumala hills of Vagamon and develops to a waterfall landing in Adivaram of Poonjar panchayath. From Adivaram it flows through Peringalam to Poonjar, and then through Erattupetta, Bharananganam, Pala, Kidangoor, Ettumanoor, Peroor, Nagambadom, Chungam and Thazhathangadi, and joins the Vembanad lake in Kumarakom, a famous tourist destination of Kerala. Streams from Teekoy, Illikkal Kallu and Chittar also join this flow with other thirty major and minor streams at various places.
The length of Meenachil River is 78 Kilometres, with a catchment area of 1272 square kilometres and utilizable water resource of 1110 million cubic metre.
Meenachil River is also known in the names – Gauna Nadi (Gaunar), Valanjar and Kavanar. The legend behind this river is that, it originates from the water current from Gauna Mharshi’s Kamandalm (water – jug used by ascetics), when he threw it on a rock, in anger. The flow of water became the river, in the name Gauna Nadi or Gaunar. Later, when temples were constructed at Kanjirappally and Poonjar in the name of Goddess Meenakshi of Madhurai, the land began to know in Her name, that is Meenachi (Meenakshi) and later Meenachil. Thus Gauna Nadi flowing through the Meenachil area acquired the name Meenachil River.
The land through which this river flows is fertile. Marl, silt, alluvial and laterite soil found in these places are suitable for cultivating pepper, coffee, cocoa, nut-meg, banana and tapioca. But natural rubber is the prominent crop of these areas.
The water from this river is used for irrigation, and public water supply in the towns and villages through which it flows. Before the development of modern transportation facilities, coconut, spices and other cash crops from the High range are were transported through Meenachil River in Kettu vallams or traditional rice boats to Alappuzha harbour, and from there to other parts of the state and abroad. Teak and other valuable woods from the forests of Western Ghats were also transported through this river in lot, tied one to the other.
Many of the Hindu, Christian and Muslim worship centres are situated in the banks of river Meenachil. Sree Dharma Shasta Temple, Poonjar, Sree Krishna Swami temple, Bharananganam, Sree Mahadeva Temple, Kadappattoor, Sree Subrahmanya Swami temple, Kidangoor, Sree Mahadeva Temple, Nagambadom, St.George’s Forane Church Aruvithura, Mar Sleeva Forane Church, Cherpunkal, Orthodox Syrian Church Thazhathangady, the Erattupetta Mosque and the Juma Masjid of Thazhathangady are examples. ‘Aratt” conducted as a part of temple festivals of Bharananganam, Lalam, Puliyannor, Kadappattoor, Kidangoor, Ettumanoor, Kumaranalloor, Amayannoor and Nagambadom temples are held in Meenachil river.
The famous Surya Kaldi Mana, stated in ‘Aithihyamala’ of Kottarathil Shankunni is situated in the banks of Meenachil River in Nattassery near Kumaranalloor.
Thazhathangady near Kumarakom is another important place through which this river flows. Thazhathangady or ‘Lower Bazar’ was a renowned commercial centre of Kottayam in the past. The Juma Masjid of Thazhathangady famous for its architectural richness and wooden carvings is considered to be one of the oldest Mosques in the country. Recently Thazhathangady is declared as a Heritage zone, and a Heritage Festival is conducted every year in the banks of Meenachil River. The Thazhathangady Boat Race conducted in the Meenachil River at Onam season is a festival to the people of Kottayam and a great tourist attraction.
Moreover, Meenachil River became internationally famous through the Booker Prize winning novel of Arundhati Roy, ‘the God of Small things’. It is written in the backdrop of Aymanam, a village near Kumarakom. The Meenachil River flows through the boarder of Aymanam village and the river itself is a character in this novel.