This land of revolutions lie abandoned in the shadows

Today, despite harbouring much historical significance, Nettayam remains a ‘village’ in the shadows of Vattiyoorkavu, which has witnessed rampant development in recent years.
Nettayam junction
Nettayam junctionPhoto | Express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When one thinks of Nettayam, a quaint village near Vattiyoorkavu, what immediately rushes to mind is the Sri Ramakrishna Ashram. The stone-built abode, established during the early 20th century, catapulted what was once a dense forest into a prominent village.

Today, despite harbouring much historical significance, it remains a ‘village’ in the shadows of Vattiyoorkavu, which has witnessed rampant development in recent years. This also means that many are unaware of the stories associated with Nettayam, starting with the origins of its name and how the region’s culture has evolved over the ages.

Origins of ‘Nettayam’

According to historian Vellanad Ramachandran, Nettayam’s name might have originated due to the geography of the place. “Netta and Katta are idioms usually used in the southern part of Kerala. Netta means long, and Katta means short or small. Similarly, if bricks are laid lengthwise, it is called Nettayakkettu, and if bricks are laid crosswise, it is called Kattayakkettu.

So, Nettayam means elongated or long. After Vattiyoorkavu, from the Central Polytechnic College to Nettayam, the area is a long stretch of level road without any bends or curves. Naturally, it might be that the place name emerged on account of this,” Ramachandran says.

However, it may have been known as Nettayoor once, he adds. “It means a long village or land. Over time, this might have evolved into Nettaayam, which later got shortened to Nettayam.”

Land of revolutions

Nettayam was once famous for its Tamil settlements. “Traces of such settlements can still be found here. Also, it was one of the places that contributed the most to the Bhoodan movement, which saw the voluntary distribution of land. Approximately 10 acres of land were given,” Ramachandran says.

The Vattiyoorkavu protest of 1908, which though dons the place name Vattiyoorkavu, actually took place near Nettayam. During the time, when meetings of all kinds were banned by the British Government, the region was host to one openly defying orders. “Today, the site where the meeting was done is where the polytechnic college sits,” Ramachandran says.

According to him, the name Nettayam existed before Vattiyoorkavu. Place names primarily form based on the geography of the area. Nettayam’s name was formed that way. But Vattiyoorkavu’s name came from the settlement/community there. Names formed in this manner get significant recognition because of this link.

On the other hand, place names formed based on geography gradually get abandoned. “In any case, Nettayam’s historical and cultural significance cannot be dismissed.”

What’s in a name

Weekly column on the history of place names. Got any suggestions? Write to

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The New Indian Express