From rumors about a demised space station to legends of royal cruelty, strange affairs have contributed to strange names of places across Kerala. We take you on a tour of the places which owe their names to history and mystery.
Skylab via Kumaranalloor
A fallen space station is a bit out of place on the suburbs of Kottayam but Skylab has lent its name to a small intersection on the way from Kumaranalloor to Anakkara. The name is just over three decades old.
The imminent fall of the US Space Station was the talk of the town in 1979. The apocalyptic news was being discussed across the tea shops of Kerala. The people in would-be Skylab, however, went a step further and fanned rumors that the satellite’s debris may fall over their heads.
Anyway, the name stuck. Skylab lives on as a part of address.
Elival in Malampuzha
You can reach Elival (translated as rat tail) if you drive 33 kilometers from Malampuzha to Akamalavaram, on the proposed Malampuzha ring road. It is easy to see, in an aerial view, why the name caught on. The place is sandwiched between two streams flowing into the dam, giving it the appearance of a rodent’s curvy tale.
Some of the natives blame the ignominy on the wild imagination of some forest officers who visited the area in the 1980s.
Some others put forward a theory that the name comes from a tribal recipe. Indigenous people used to hunt down and eat rats and rat tails were considered a delicacy, they theorize.
Whatever the origin, some of the residents had tried to rename the area to more pleasant names such as ‘Puzhayoram’. The buses even put up the new name on the name board but people kept referring to the bus stop as ‘Old Elival’, just to be sure.
The proposed Malampuzha ring road passes through Elival.
Meetna on Bharatappuzha
The place may sound like a hybrid of Meerut and Patna but the locality is definitely Kerala. The area on the banks of the Bharatappuzha River falls under the Ottappalam municipality.
The unique name comes from an ancient family in the village. The Meetna family of landlords ruled over the area in feudal times.
The family name must have been associated with the place too, local historians theorize. The family parted with some of the land it owned and a village soon developed in the area. The Meetna Senior Basic School is all set to celebrate its centenary this year.
Meetna and the surrounding villages came to be known as SRK Nagar after a Sree Rama Krishna ashram was set up in the area. Swami Nirmalananda, an early disciple of Sree Rama Krishna Param Hamsa and a contemporary of Swami Vivekananda, went to the area in 1926 to set up the ashram. He died there in 1938.
The area also has a Sharadashram.
Thalavettampara near Nenmara
The grisly name has a cruel legend behind it. The area (which falls under present-day Ayiloor panchayat) was ruled by Kodakara Mooppil Nair, a vassal of the Kochi king. The vassal antagonized the king when he leaked vital information to the rival Samorin of Kozhikode. The Kochi king sent his trusted aide, Krishna Pattar, to kill Nair.
The assassin cut Nair’s head and presented it to the king in a wrap of silk. The king was so pleased that he gifted a large swathe of land, tax-exempt, to the assassin.
The rocky terrain where Pattar decapitated Nair came to be called as Thalavettampara.
This is the place where Sita is believed to have taken a dip during her wild sojourn with Rama. As if to back up the legendary nomenclature, nearby places are named Lakshmanan Challa (after Rama’s faithful brother) and Chikkiriyal (supposed to be a corruption of Sugreevan Chal after the monkey warrior who allied with Rama).
Pallassana and Pallavoor
Pallavoor and Pallassana evoke memories of the Pallava dynasty which ruled over large areas of south India. The coins and inscriptions unearthed from the the valley of the Karottumala Hill in 1964 are believed to be from the Pallava period.
While Pallava Ooru contracted to Pallavoor, Pallassana may be the place where the Pallava army (sena) camped.
The Chera dynasty is also represented in strange ways. Cherapuram near Elavancherry seems to be a tribute to the Chera kings.
Muthalamada near Palakkad
This one doesn’t take much imagination to form an association. Muthalamada was a swamp that straddled the erstwhile Thiru-Kochi and Malabar regions of Kerala. The place might have been so swarmed with crocodiles (muthala in Malayalam) that it was named as a den of the reptiles.
Other members of the animal kingdom have also contributed to places in the vicinity. Karadikkunnu and Karadiyamkadu for bears, Naripparachalla for tigers, Pothampadam for buffaloes, Nendankizhaya for crabs, Anamari and Anakkuzhikad for elephants, Kuthiramooli for hoses, Manchira and Manthoni for deer, Pannikkol for pigs, Kuruvikkoottumaram for sparrows, Meenkara for fish, Kozhikothi for chicken, Kakkamada for crows and Pokkanmada for cats are some of the animal-inspired place names.