The Jews arrived in Chendamangalam after the destruction of the second temple and the final desolation of Jerusalem in (AD 69) and founded a colony. They moved to Fort Kochi in 1341 AD after the Great flood. Adjacent to the seminary is an old Syrian Catholic Church built in 1201. Intriguingly, it is the site of the first printing press in India.
The hillocks at Kottayil Kovilakom present an unusual sight of syncretism – a temple, a church, a mosque and the remains of a Jewish synagogue, all situated next to each other.
An interested addition to this visit are the remains of the Vypeenkotta Seminary, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. The place is included in Muziris Heritage Project in Kerala. It remains one of the prime weaving centres in Kerala.
The Paliam Palace, abode of the Paliath Achans, prime ministers to the erstwhile Maharajas of Kochi, is a representation of the architectural splendour of Kerala. The palace houses a collection of historic documents and relics.
Chendamangalam was part of Kanayanur taluk, of the erstwhile Cochin State. The panchayat was formed in 1914. Bordered by rivers on the north, east and south, it is a meeting place of cultural diversity. Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hinduslived here harmoniously. The presence of immigrant communities like Konkanis (Gowda Saraswatha Brahmins) Moopans (Kudumbis) and the craftsmen categories viz. Kallasari (masons), Marassari (carpenters), Moosari (moulders), Kollan (blacksmiths), Thattan (goldsmiths), Chalian (weavers), and Kusavan (potters) to this day reminds of past industrial and business importance.
There are four main centres for weaving the traditional handlooms of Kerala – Balaramapuram, Chendamangalam, Kuthampully, Kannur and Kasaragod. The array of handloom fabrics woven in Chendamangalam are similar to what one finds in Balaramapuram, but with less emphasis on kasavu patterns. Instead, the typical Chendamangalam mundu or settu mundu has coloured borders with a matching colour stripe, and only small amounts of kasavu for ornamentation.
Like in other parts of Kerala, weavers in Chendamangalam were under official patronage of the feudal family of Paliam, who served as chief ministers for the Rajas of Cochin. In terms of the actual process, Chendamangalam textiles are woven on frame looms, and their texture is slightly heavier than similar fabrics from Balaramapuram.
There are five handloom weavers co-operative societies functioning in Paravoor. Each society has its own handloom units. Of the five, the worst-affected was the Chendamangalam Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society – H47. The entire manufacturing unit was submerged during the floods, and 35 looms were damaged. This cooperative society, founded in 1957, is one of the oldest in the locality. The society has 115 members. There are 35 weavers working on looms in the manufacturing unit and the rest work from home. Around 99 looms associated with this society have been damaged, along with yarn stock.
All units were also engaged in making uniforms under the government’s school uniform project. The government launched the project to protect the handloom sector, and infused new life into it. Many workers who had left traditional weaving returned to the profession. Under the project, workers who were earlier getting only Rs 150 started getting Rs 600 as daily wage. As pay and orders increased, the handloom units too took interest in the project, and the government supported them by providing raw material and purchasing their products. With a rise in demand, the handloom units had pumped in money to make necessary changes required for the production of uniform.