Kottayam town is situated in the basin of the Meenachil River and in the basin of the Vembanad backwaters which is formed from several streams in the Western Ghats. Bordered by the lofty and mighty Western Ghats on the east and the Vembanad Lake and paddy fields of Kuttanad on the west, Kottayam is a land of unique characteristics. It is also the ideal take off point for visits to Peermade, Munnar, Thekkady, Ernakulam and Madurai. Thazhathangady Juma Masjid, situated on the banks of river Meenachil, one of the oldest mosques in India, is famous for its architectural beauty and richness in wood carvings. This mosque was constructed by the followers of the prophet Muhammad during one of their first voyages to Kerala. Thirunakkara Mahadeva temple, at the heart of the town, is a Shiva temple built in the Kerala style of temple architecture, with interior murals depicting themes from the Hindu epics. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century by the then Raja of Thekkumkur. The annual temple festival culminates in a ceremony called the Aaraattu, attracting a large number of devotees.