Kollam was formerly called "Desinganadu". During the rule of the Travancore kingdom in southern Kerala, Kollam was the focal point of trade. The start of the Malayalam era (ME) is associated with Kollam. It is believed that the era was started by Nestorian Christian merchants who settled in KorukeNi kollam, near to the present Kollam. The ME is also referred as Kollavarsham.
Kollam (Nelcynda) shares fame with Kodungallur (Muziris) as an ancient sea port on the Malabar coast of India from early centuries of the Christian era. Kollam had a sustained commercial reputation from the days of the Phoenicians and the Romans. Pliny (23-79 AD) mentions about Greek ships anchored at Musiris and Nelkanda. Musiris is identified with Kodungallur (then ruled by the Chera kingdom) and Nelkanda (Nelcyndis) with Quilon or Kollam (then under the Pandyan rule). Kollam was the chief port of the Pandyas on the West Coast and was connected with Korkai (Kayal) port on the East Coast and also through land route over the Western Ghats. Spices, pearls, diamonds and silk were exported to Egypt and Rome from these two ports on the South Western coast of India. Pearls and diamonds came from Ceylon and the South eastern coast of India, then known as the Pandyan kingdom.
Cosmas Indicopleustes, who visited Malabar Coast in 522 AD, mentions about Syrian Christians in Kollam. He wrote, "In the island of Tabropane (Ceylon), there is a church of Christians, and clerks and faithful. Likewise at Male where the pepper grows; and in the town of Kalliana there is also a bishop concentrated in Persia" (Reference: Travancore Manual). The Nestorian Patriarch Jesujabus who died in 660 A.D. makes special mention of Quilon in his letter to Simon, Metropolitan of Persia. In 822 A.D. two Nestorian Persian Bishops were sent to Kollam and Kodungallur to look after the Syrian Christian faithful. Mar Sapor was the Bishop of Kollam and Mar Peroz (Proth) was the Bishop of Kodungallur. Mar Sapor who is also called as Mar Abo lived his last years at Thevalakara. His remains were buried in the Martha Mariam Orthodox Church at Thevalakara which was built in the 4th century. This church which carries the tomb of Mar Sapor is 25 km far from Kollam City.
The Malayalam Era named after Quilon began in 824 AD. Malayalam Era is called 'Kolla Varsham' after Kollam, because of the importance of Kollam in the 9th century A.D. It signified the independence of Malabar from the Cheraman Perumals. (Reference: Travancore Manual page 244). For the services of the Syrian Christian merchants, King Stanu Ravi Gupta of Kollam, granted the copper plate grants in 824 A.D. to Mar Sapor Iso, transferring to the Tarasa Church and community in Quilon, lands near the city with hereditament of low caste slaves. (Reference: Travancore Manual page 244).
Merchant Soleyman of Siraf of Persia visited Malabar in the middle of the 9th century and found Quilon to be the only port in India touched by the huge Chinese ships on their way from Canton to the Persian Gulf.
The rulers of Kollam (formerly called 'Desinganadu') ,then, also had trade relations with China and exchanged embassies. According to the records of the Tang Dynasty (618 AD to 913 AD) (Reference: Travancore Manual, page 244), Quilon was their chief port of call and was given the name 'Mahlai' by them. The Chinese trade decreased about 900 AD and was again revived in the 13th century. Marco Polo, who visited China's Kublai Khan's court, on his return journey to venice, travelled through Kollam and gave an interesting account of the flourishing port of Kollam (Coilum, as referred to by him) and its trade relations with China in the East and the Western countries. Chinnakada, (China-kada), the city center, was so named after the Chinese merchants. The increase in commercial activity resulted in establishment of flourishing Chinese settlement at Kollam.
Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveller, who was in Chinese service under Kublai Khan visited Kollam in 1293 A.D. on his return trip from China to Venice. He found Christians and Jews living in Coilum (Kollam). He also found merchants from China and Arabia. He has given a detailed account of Kollam in his writings, that are reproduced in the Travancore Manual.
According to Ibn Batuta, Kollam was one of the five ports, which he had seen in the course of his travels, in the 14th century.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a trading center at Kollam in 1502. In 1661 the Dutch took possession of the town. The remnants of the Dutch forts can be found at Thangasseri. In the 18th century Travancore conquered Kollam, followed by the British in 1795. Velu Thampi Dalawa of Travancore, worked towards the improvement of the Kollam town. He helped build new markets and invited merchants and traders from Madras (now Chennai) and Tirunelveli to set up trade in Kollam. Kollam, to this day has a thriving business in cashewnuts, coir and spices.
The history of the district as an administrative unit can be traced back to 1835, when the Travancore state consisted of two revenue divisions with headquarters at Kollam and Kottayam. At the time of the integrating of Travancore and Cochin districts in 1949, Kollam was one of the three revenue divisions in the state. Later these three revenue divisions were converted into districts. But Shencottah taluka was merged with Madras state consequent to the implementation of the States Reorganisation Act of 1956.
Now the district has a single revenue division with its headquarters at Kollam Taluk Cutcherry.
As of 2001 India census, Kollam had a population of 361,441. The density of population being 1037 persons per square kilometre. The sex ratio (the number of females per 1000 males) was 1070 during the census year of 2001. The district ranks sixth with respect to the population in the state. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. Kollam has an average literacy rate of 82%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 84%, and female literacy is 80%. In Kollam, 11% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Luxury boats, operated by Government and private owners, operate from the main boat jetty during the tourist season. The West coast canal system, which starts from Thiruvananthapuram in the south and ends at Hosdurg in the north, passes through Kollam and Karunagappally taluks. The Thiruvananthapuram-Shornur canal, forms a part of the Thiruvananthapuram-Hosdurg system, runs a distance of about 62 km. The other canal systems include the Paravur Kayal, Kollam canal and Chavara canal.
Neendakara and Kollam are the two ports in the district, the former, an intermediary and the latter, a minor port. Port operations are carried out through Neendakara. Neendakara is also a busy fishing harbour.
Kollam like other districts in the state is moderately industralised. Some of the major employers in the public sector are Indian Rare Earth (IRE), Kerala Metals and Minerals Limited at Chavara; Union Electrical Industries (popularly known as the Meter Company) and Parvathi Spinning Mills at Kollam. Kundara was known as an Industrial area with Alumnium, Ceramics, Starch factories, but all are closed or on the verge of closing.
Cashew processing and coir production are the two most important sources of employment. Major share of employment in the private sector is provided by Cashew processing and exporting units. Cashew processing and sorting employs a large share of women workers who manually peel and sort the cashew into different categories according to their size.
Kollam has its fair share of privately owned and state owned educational institutions. Institutions of education are affiliated to either the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or the Kerala State Education Board.
Most private schools use English as the medium of instruction whereas government run schools offer both English and Malayalam as a medium of instruction. After the going through the 10+2 years of schooling the student can enroll in higher education institutions like colleges to pursue general or professional degree courses.
The major colleges in Kollam are Fatima Matha National College, Sree Narayana College,Travancore Engineering College, and Thangal Kunju Musaliar College. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has a campus at Vallikkavu, Karunagappally. Most of the colleges offering Higher education are affliated to Kerala University. Mount Carmel Convent Anglo-Indian Girls High School is the oldest school in Kollam along with Infant Jesus Anglo Indian School and Trinity Lyceum School, Kollam.
Lekshminada Sree MAHA LAKSHMI TEMPLE one of the famous Maha Lekshmi temples in South India, Kottarakara Sree Mahaganapathy Kshethram(Temple), situated at Kottarakara is about 30 km from Kollam town. The famous temple at Kottarakara is dedicated to Lord Vigneswara(Ganapathy). There are many Christian churches also.
The Mata Amritanandamayi Math is situated at Parayakadavu in this district, about 30 km from the Kollam town. This is a very famous Math which attracts thousands of people from within the country and abroad.
Some of the famous mosques are Valiyapalli at Jonakappuram,Chinnakada juma Masjid, Juma-'Ath Palli at Kollurvila, Juma-'Ath Palli at Thattamala, Muslim Juma-'Ath Palli at Karuva, Kalamala Palli at Kalamala, Muthirapparambu Palli at Muthirapparambu and Siyarathummodu Palli at Kilikolloor. The Jonakappuram (Jonaka Mappila=Muslim)Valiya Palli is believed to have been reconstructed on the remnants of the ancient mosque built by Malik ibn Dinar 1400 years ago.This is second mosque erected on Indian soil, after the famous Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kodungalloor.Ibn Batuta describes this mosque in his travelogue.However, it was destroyed by sea erosion and has been rebuilt several times.The 300 year old Juma-'Ath Palli at Karuva houses the mortal remains of a Sufi saint-Syed Abdur Rahman Jifri in its premises.The Karbala Maidan and the adjacent Makani mosque serves as the Eid gah for the city's Muslims.In 1830,a Muslim Jamedar in the British army and 80 other Muslim soldiers rose in rebellion at this ground,alleging religious persecution.The rebellion was crushed and the leader sent to gallows.His martyrdom was compared to that of Imam Husayn at Karbala in Iraq and ever since it has been known after Karbala.The Pattala Palli(soldier's mosque)opposite the FCI,was built in 1898 for the Hanafiite Muslim soldiers stationed in the city.
The Apostle Thomas is said to have founded one of his "seven and a half churches" in Kollam. The church founded by him was re-constructed three times because of sea erosion. The present church of Our lady purification or popularly known as Kollam port church is considered as the continuation of the one that founded by St.Thomas. This church is very near to QUILON PORT. From these seven and a half churches, including the one in Kollam, have multiplied thousands of churches, hospitals, orphanages and other Christian charities that cover India today.
Marthamarian Orthodox church, Thevelakara is where Mar Abo, guru of kadamattahu kathanar, also know as Mar Sabor taking his eternal rest.this church constructed on 4th century and received tharissapally cheppadukal,which even started kollam era)
Kadakkal in Kollam is known for Kadakkal Devi Kshetram, kadakkaldevi temple comes alive during Thiruvathira festival held in March, and is one of the prime festivals of the region. The temple festivities attract large crowds from various parts of the state. Kadakkal amma or goddess is considered as a very powerful deity.
The Mahavishnu Temple, believed to have been consecrated by Parasurama, the legendary creator of Kerala. One will be amazed to see two idols perching in the same sanctum - a bizarre feature not usually found in Indian Temples - an idol of Vishnu facing east and Shiva facing west.
Panmana Asramam, which is located 18 km north of Kollam city, is acknowledged as a unique and sacred centre of learning and service which has had the divine presence of Sree Vidhyadhiraja Chattambi Swami and goddess Sree MahaTripurasundari Devi.
Boating facilities on Ashtamudi Lake are available at the Local boat jetty beside the main Bus depot popularly known as Civil station. House boats can be hired from the boat jetty or arranged through the tourist guides or by the local hotels.
The Kayal (Lake) Pradakshina Cruise operated by local boat owner is available till the Munroe Island, formed by the backwaters of Ashtamudi and Kallada River. The backwater trip from Kollam to Alappuzha is the longest cruise in the state and takes around 8 hours.
Maruthimala is an important tourist destination in Kollam. This place is situated in Kottarakara Taluk of Kollam district.
The square-shaped clock tower, is visible from all parts of the Chinnakada market(city center). Tourists can visit the Thevally Palace, currently used by the Indian Army and the Dutch fort at Thangassery. Though most of it has been repainted, still the ambrosial palace displays a magnificent view from the lake.
The Ashtamudi lake with its scenic beauty, houseboats and ayurvedic centers also has plenty to offer. There are many breathtaking viewpoints to savor, including Padappakkara, Munroe Island, Vellimon, Paravoor, Ashtamudi, Thevally etc. Kollam is also close to the 'Tenmala' tea estates and spice county.
Approximately 7 km from Kollam on NH 47 towards Alappuzha is Neendakara. Once a fishing harbour under the Indo-Norwegian project, today it is more famous as a viewing point for 'Chaakara', a post monsoon phenomenon that occurs just off the coast. Ezhukone is a small village located 19 km north of Kollam District. Ezhukone has a concentration of more than 15 cashew nut processing factories, which is a major source of foreign income.
Ezhukone is well connected with road and rail transport facilities.NH 208, connecting Kollam District and Thirumangalam district of Tamilnadu passes through Ezhukone. Ezhukone has a Metre gauge railway station. Passenger and Express trains from Kollam to various Tamilnadu districts have stop at Ezhukone. Also the villages of Kollam district are very much blessed with natural beauties.
Another place attracting tourist interest is Sathamkotta. The place is famous for the largest freshwater lake in the state. No engined boat is allowed to sail in the lake, manually propelled boats are permitted. Sasthamkotta is connected to Kollam city by both railway and road. It takes 30 minutes from Kollam to Sasthamkotta by train and around 1 1/2 hrs by road. One railway station and KSRTC operating station are ther at Sasthamkotta. This is the capital of Kunnathoor taluk. The Sastha temple in Sasthamcottah is also very famous and attracts lot of people.
The nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, 71 km from Kollam city center.