Kottayam is also referred to as the "Akshara Nagari" as a gesture to acknowledge its unparalled contribution to literature and print media. Afterall, it was here that the very first newpaper of Kerala was published. Kottayam has several reasons to bask in its glory of being the "first" in many fields. Modern education finds its origin Kottayam. It was here again that the first college of Kerala was established. It also has the honor of being the first city in the whole of India to achieve 100% literacy. It is also the very first district in the whole of India to be 100% tobacco free. It has also made a mark in having the city coined in as a favoured religious tourism centre with its native St. Alphonso being the first woman to be canonnised as a Saint by the Syro Malabar Catholic Church.
Kottayam is not just a business centre, it is also an important influence to the culture of Kerala as a whole. Margamkali and Arjna Nritham are the two local dance forms. The cuisine too though largely like the rest of Kerala's has not been left un-influenced and has a unique Syrian Christian dominating influence to it. It is famous as a trade centre for spices and rubber.