Every village or town has a story behind its nomenclature, whether it be based on some historical incident or mythical belief. The interesting part is knowing how these beliefs can change and take different forms in different places, like the mythological stories from the scriptures including Mahabharata and Ramayana. Vazhoor is a town in the Kottayam district. The story behind its name dates back to the time of the Mahabharata when the Pandavas went into exile.
After losing the infamous game of dice, the Pandavas, along with their wife Draupadi, were banished from the kingdom for 12 years by the Kauravas. While in exile the Pandavas had passed through many forests which are believed by some to be in the southern parts of India. Draupadi got to know about the special flower Kalyanasaugandhika, and Bhima sets off to find some for her. While there are theories stating that his search for the flower took place in the northern parts of India, there are lores that state that the plantain forests Bhima came across were in present-day Kodungoor.
Bhima then crosses paths with his brother Hanuman, who was guarding a forest with all types of plantains, and Bhima called it Vazhoor as in ‘vazhayude ooru’. It is said to have been a place near the forested banks of the Pannagam river, surrounded by three hills – Plackal, Marathannur, and Ezhuvelil hills.
The story behind the origin of the Pannagam river in Vazhoor is also quite intriguing, as it is said to have been formed from the tracks of a giant snake. The Pannagam thodu is a river that forms near Madappattu and joins the Meenachil river. The word “pannagam” itself means snake and there is a local belief that a long time ago, during a time of severe drought, a huge snake had come in search of water, and the tracks it had left then got bigger and bigger to form the present Pannagam river. The first bridge over it came to be known as Pannagam Paalam.
Also, the vast area of plain land starting from this bridge came to be known as the Pulickal Kavala. The history behind the name Pulickal Kavala is from a more recent time when compared to the ones mentioned earlier. During the rule of T. Madhava Rao, Diwan of Travancore from 1857 to 1872, it is said that as the officials had come to the place for a land survey, they noticed a single large tamarind tree and chose it as a landmark, naming the place after the tree. Thus, the name Pulickal Kavala stuck and the place got its current identity. (Source: P.C Kuruvila Pulickal, Pulickal Kavalayude Charithram)
It is always amusing to trace down the etymology of the names of places as these can reflect the minor yet significant details about their lost or forgotten history. However, the line between history and myth can get blurred, either adding to its beauty or dubiety.