Kumily is small town in close proximity to Thekkady, on the outskirts of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and a thriving center for trading in spices. From the Periyar Valley, the Western Ghat mountains drop dramatically onto the Deccan Plateau. The town was once known as Kuzhumoor and used to be the capital of the Thekkumkoor Kings. It was with the advent of the British in the region that it underwent drastic changes. The British either bought or obtained on lease, vast stretches of land and hilly areas from the feudal land lords or from the princely state of Travancore and converted the forests to plantationsof tea, coffee, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and other spices and labor from Tamil Nadu and Kerala were brought to work in the plantations.
The tribal communities of Kumily today have a population of around 2000 people and live in perfect harmony with nature. Five ethnically different communities -- the Mannans, the Paliyas, the Uralis, the Mala-arayas and the Malampandarams -- have settled in Kumilypanchayat, mainly on the outskirts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. In the remote forests, there are tribes who still carry out their age-old practices such as building small dolmens for honouring the dead.
Though they used to earn their living through traditional occupations like fishing and agriculture, with the advent of eco-tourism initiatives, they have found alternative jobs. They actively take part in the tourism-related programs and serve as guides for tourists or as forest guards to prevent poaching and other illegal activities.