The two revenue villages of Periyar and Kumily constitute Kumily panchayat, which lies at the junction between Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
‘Panchayat’ literally means assembly (yat) of five (panch) wise and respected elders chosen by a village to settle disputes. The Indian government has decentralized several administrative functions to the village level, empowering elected gram panchayats, the units that form the foundation of the Panchayat. The system was adopted by state governments during the 1950s and 60s.
The Kumily panchayat is sprawled over an area of 824 sq. with the majority of the area under forest cover. The Periyar Tiger Reserve and Thekkady fall under the Kumily Panchayat. The eastern part of the panchayat slopes down into the plains of Tamil Nadu, and on the south, it is bordered by the district of Pathanamthitta. The Vandiperiyar gramapanchayat is situated on the western side and the Chakkupallam gramapanchayat is to the north.
Nineteen wards constitute the panchayat. According to the 2001 census, the population is around 36,000 and the density, 41 per sq km. The main occupation and source of income is agriculture and allied activities. There are acres of tea, coffee and spice plantations in the area. Another main source of income is tourism. Pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh travel through Kumily to reach Sabarimala. About 50 lakh pilgrims and five lakh tourists visit Kumily panchayat every year.