Kottayam occupies a prominent place in the cultural map of Kerala.
Kunchan Nambiar, the father of Thullal, a popular temple art form, is supposed to have lived at Kidangoor. Unnineeli Sandesam, the exquisite Malayalam poetry work, is supposed to have been written by one of the Vadakkumkur Rajas. The Christian Missionaries enriched Malayalam literature by their valuable contributions in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Varthamana Pusthakam (1778) written by Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar, on a travel to Rome, is the first travelogue in Malayalam. The first autobiography in Malayalam by Vaikom Pachu Moothathu was published from Kottayam in 1870.
In the concluding decades of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, Kottayam shot into limelight as the nerve centre of all literary and cultural activities in the erstwhile Travancore State. Late Kottarathil Sankunny, Kandathil Varghese Mappilai, Kerala Varma Valiyakoi Thampuran, K.C. Mammen Mappilai, Kattakkayathil Cheriyan Mappilai, Vadakkumkoor Raja Raja Varma, Karoor Neelakanda Pillai, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, D.C. Kizhakkemuri and Abhaya Dev are few names, in the category of outstanding dignitaries and celebrities, worth mentioning, who had made very valuable, substantial and individual contributions in their own way to the cultural and social milieu. Eminent writers Ponkunnam Varkey, Vaikom Chandra Sekharan Nair, distinguished Poet Mahakavi Pala Narayanan Nair, illustrious Kathakali artist Kudamaloor Karunakaran Nair, world renowned Booker prize winner Arundhathi Roy, accomplished film actor Mammootty, and talented film director Jayaraj are some other notable personalities who all hail from Kottayam district. Renowned music director L. P. R. Varma (Late ) also hailed from Kottayam.
Kottayam stands first in the field of Education, Mass Communication, Printing and Book Publication. The significant role played by Malayala Manorama & Bhashaposhini and Deepika for the cultural and literary development is of immense importance. There are many printing presses and book publishing companies in Kottayam. The SPCS, a unique co-operation venture of authors and writers was started in the year 1945. Prominent publishers D.C. Books started publication from here in the year 1974. Kottayam is the headquarters of Current Books since the year 1977. It is estimated that 70% of the State’s book publication takes place in Kottayam.
The Folk dances of Kottayam consists of Margamkali and Arjuna Nritham. Margamkali is an art form popular among the Syrian Christian Community of the erstwhile Travancore. This consists of group dances and martial arts like Parichamuttukali. The theme of the songs revolves round the life of St. Thomas. Margamkali is performed by men and women separately.
Koodiyatam is the ancient Sanskrit dramatic version of Kerala It is a temple art and has been recognized and approved by UNESCO. This art is very ancient and is supposed to be about 2000 years old. This programme has been staged in several foreign countries many times.