BACKGROUND ON THE PRESENT SITUATION
Vennimala is a serene and beautiful place located in the Puthuppalli village panchayath of Kottayam district. The place is a hill located 15km from Kottayam town and can be accessed from Kottayam – Kumili Main Road.
Vennimala in ancient days was a dense forest. It is believed that Lord Rama and Lakshmana during their period of exile visited this hillside. At that time numerous sages meditated in the caves of Vennimala. The place was called ‘Vijayadri’ in Sanskrit in ancient times. The name means ‘hill of victory’. (A detailed description of this place appears in the famous work ‘Aitihyamala’). Vennimala in medieval ages was inhabited by tribal communities especially Malayarayars. Cheraman Perumal, the illustrated emperor of ancient Kerala consecrated an ancient temple here dedicated to Lord Rama and Lakshmana that still stands here. He was taken to the beauty of this place and stayed here and built a palace. He earmarked the hill as a sacred and protected place.
The hill had more than sixty large and small ponds scattered throughout the forest. Even today about a dozen such ponds are remaining. Presently Vennimala has around eighty households on the hillside. Rubber abounds the vegetation of the hill. There are no commercial establishments on the hilltop and it remains silent and serene away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
NEED OF THE PROJECT
The main objectives of the project are:
1) To promote rural tourism in this hill village with active participation of locals.
2) To develop the village as a showcase for conservation of tradition, culture and mythology associated with it.
3) To create and promote an environment friendly tour circuit of Vennimala and the neighboring picnic spots among international as well as domestic tourists visiting Kumarakom, Thekkady etc.
CORE FEATURES AND COMPONENTS
The main attractions of Vennimala are the following:
1) Lord Rama and Lakshmana Temple: The major attraction at Vennimala is its age old Sreerama and Lakshmana Temple. The temple has two ‘kodimarams’. The temple celebrates 28 days of annual festival every year.
2) Ponds in the hill: It is said that Vennimala once had seven big ponds called ‘saras’ and 72 small ponds called ‘eris’ scattered throughout the hill. Presently, around a dozen of these ponds still remain. The temple pond located about 100m from the temple has a flight of steps going down. It is said that the sacred channel of the temple opens to this pond. The other small ponds are located in various parts of the hill. The unique feature of these ponds is that they have sparkling fresh water even in hot summers.
3) Cave: There is a huge cave on one side of the hill located barely one kilometer from the temple. It is said that the cave runs up to the banyan tree in front of the temple, but it is closed today by big boulders fallen in place. The wide opening mouth of the cave is still intact. The cave can accommodate nearly ten people at a time. The inside of the cave is cool and moist and offers a fine view of the undulating rubber plantations below.
4) Walks: Vennimala offers numerous serene countries walks on the hill. The visitor can crisscross the entire hillside by walking through pleasant and shady ‘nattuvazhis’ (country walks). These small tracks have their own unique charm lined with rubber trees and covered with beautiful grass.
ASSOCIATED FEATURES AND COMPONENTS
Around Vennimala are some other beautiful picnic spots noted for their scenic splendor that can be integrated with Vennimala and developed as a tourism circuit. The major spots are the following:
1) Matrumala : Matrumala is located in Kooropada village and is about 8km from Vennimala. The place can be accessed from Kottayam through Pampadi. Matrumala is a hill top that offers stunning views of the entire surroundings. The place got its name as it has a small temple on its top dedicated to Goddess. The temple is believed to have been built by Parasurama, the legendary creator of Kerala who installed idols of the seven Goddesses (Saptamathas) here. A muddy winding road leads to the hill top that can be approached by either vehicle of on foot.
2) Aruvikuzhi Waterfalls: Three km further from Kooropada junction is this spectacular water falls located right under the road bridge at Pallickathodu. This beautiful picnic spot is located 18 km from Kottayam town. Located amidst shady rubber plantations, streams tinkle as they make their way through the rugged lands cape and roars down cascading from a height of 100ft.
Land at Vennimala is in the hands of numerous private parties. But it is of no consequence as no acquisition of land is needed for this project as it involves no construction work.
As the project involves no construction, the only cost estimate needed will be for marketing and promotion of the circuit.
The implementing agency will be District Tourism Promotion Council – Kottayam. Participation of local people and home stay units will also be sought.
The project can be implemented in three months time. The stages of implementation are:
1) Development of promotional brochures and marketing of the tour circuit.
2) Discussion and consultation with local people for providing necessary arrangements for the tourists.
3) The package can be initiated from the next tourism season onwards.
SUGGESTED OPERATION MECHANISM
The project proposes to develop a tourism circuit comprising Vennimala, Mathrumala and Aruvikkuzhi waterfalls in the vicinity. The tourism circuit will be promoted and marketed by DTPC Kottayam itself and will be offered as a one day tour to tourist. This new circuit can be marketed among tourists visiting Kumarakom and Thekkady and can be run in association with home stays.
a) To the tourism industry in a state level perspective:
Vennimala, on development can be developed as a new tourism circuit that can be integrated with the well known destinations of Kumarakom and Thekkady. The place can be easily accessed from these tourist centers as well as from Kottayam town. The tourists can utilize the facilities available at Kumarakom, Kottayam or Thekkady and can cover Vennimala as a day trip.
b) To the tourism industry in a local level perspective:
Vennimala is only a stone’s throw away from Kottayam town. Hence Vennimala will also serve as a picnic spot for the local people of Kottayam.
c) To the local people:
There are nearly 80 houses on Vennimala hill top. There are no hotels and commercial establishments. The project will be developed with the participation of local people.
1) The locals will guide the tourists to the various attractions in the vicinity.
2) Home stay units can be promoted by willing locals where the tourists can have their food and accommodation.
3) The locals will be envisaged to make the destination clean.
LOCAL PARTICIPATION MEASURES
The project will be developed only after seeking participation of local people. The project will be implemented by DTPC – Kottayam through local inhabitants of Vennimala and vicinity.
CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION EFFORTS
The project envisages sustainable and responsible tourism development at Vennimala.
1) The project will help to conserve and preserve the cultural heritage of Vennimala.
2) The project will preserve the attractions and greenery of the destination.
3) Eco friendly practices like rain water harvesting and organic farming can be practiced at Vennimala with the help of local bodies and self help groups.
The tourism project at Vennimala will definitely give a boost to the development of the village and in turn will help in sustainable tourism development. This travel circuit can be developed as a model tourism circuit in the state.
COST ESTIMATE FOR THE PROJECT
a) Cost of installation of sign boards:
Welcome sign boards will be installed at three different locations highlighting the tourism circuit at Vennimala. The sign boards will be installed at Manarcaud, Pampadi and Kooroppada junctions.
Cost needed for sign boards: 3 x 5000 = Rs. 15000/-.
Labor charges: Rs. 5000/-.
Total cost: Rs. 20000/-.
b) Construction of two cabin type snack parlors:
Two cabin type snack parlors are proposed at Vennimala on the hill top. The hill top has no restaurants or hotels and hence these parlors will provide necessary basic food items to tourists. The parlors will be managed and run by local people and will be an income source to the village community.
Cost estimate for the work:
1) Cost of the aluminum cabin (10’ length x 5’ width x 7’ height) with fixed window table and glass panes: Rs. 40000
2) Cost for laying cement foundation : Rs.15000
3) Labor charges: Rs.10000
Total cost: Rs. 65000/-
Cost for two snack counters: 2 x 65000 = Rs. 130000/-.
c) Cost needed for marketing and promotion:
Adequate marketing and promotion of the project is needed to keep it viable. This include development of packages, promotional brochures and initial financing to guides and escorts.
Cost estimate: Rs. 50000/-
Total cost for Vennimala tourism circuit: Rs. 200000/-.