The city is the state capital and houses many central and state government offices, organizations and companies. Apart from being the political nerve centre of Kerala, it is also a major academic hub and is home to several educational institutions including the University of Kerala, and to many science and technology institutions, the most prominent being the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Technopark and IIST.
Thiruvananthapuram is an ancient city with trading traditions dating back to 1000 BC. It is believed that the ships of King Solomon landed in a port called Ophir (now Poovar) in Thiruvananthapuram in 1036 BC. The city was the trading post of spices, sandalwood and ivory. However, the ancient political and cultural history of the city was almost entirely independent from that of the rest of Kerala. The early rulers of the city were the Ays. With their fall in the 10th century, the city was taken over by the rulers of Venad.
The rise of modern Thiruvananthapuram began with accession of Marthanda Varma in 1729 as the founding ruler of the princely state of Travancore (Thiruvithamkoor in the local vernacular). Thiruvananthapuram was made the capital of Travancore in 1745. The city developed into a major intellectual and artistic centre during this period. The golden age in the city's history was during the mid 19th century under the reign of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal and Maharaja Ayilyam Thirunal. This era saw the establishment of the first English school (1834), the Observatory (1837), the General Hospital (1839), the Oriental Research Institute & Manuscripts Library and the University College (1873). The first Lunatic Asylum in the state was also started during the same period. Sanskrit College, Ayurveda College, Law College and a second grade college for women were started by Moolam Thirunal (1885–1924).
The early 19th century was an age of tremendous political and social changes in the city. The Sree Moolam Assembly, established in 1904 was the first democratically elected legislative council in any Indian state. Despite not being under direct control of the British Empire at any time, the city however featured prominently in India's freedom struggle. The Indian National Congress had a very active presence in the city. A meeting of the Indian National Congress presided by Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramaiah was held here in 1938.
The period of Chitra Thirunal Bala Rama Varma, who took over in 1931, witnessed many-sided progress. The promulgation of "Temple Entry Proclamation" (1936) was an act that underlined social emancipation. This era also saw the establishment of the University of Travancore in 1937, which later became the Kerala University.
With the end of the British rule in 1947, Travancore chose to join the Indian union. The first popular ministry headed by Pattom Thanu Pillai was installed in office on 24 March 1948. In 1949, Thiruvananthapuram became the capital of Thiru-Kochi, the state formed by the integration of Travancore with its northern neighbour Kochi. The king of Travancore, Chitra Thirunal Bala Rama Varma became the Rajpramukh of the Travancore-Cochin Union from July 1 1949 until October 31 1956. When the state of Kerala was formed on November 1 1956, Thiruvananthapuram became the capital of the new state.
With the establishment of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in 1962, Thiruvananthapuram became the cradle of India's ambitious space programme. The first Indian space rocket was developed and launched from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) located in the outskirts of the city in 1963. Several establishments of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) were later established in Thiruvananthapuram.
A major milestone in the city's recent history was the establishment of Technopark—India's first IT park—in 1995. Technopark has developed into the largest IT Park in India and third largest in Asia and is home to IT giants like UST Global, Infosys and TCS, employing around 20,000 people in close to 150 companies.UST Global is the largest company in Trivandrum with close to 3000 employees working in Trivandrum centre. This placed Thiruvananthapuram on the IT map of India and it is today one of the most promising in the country in terms of competitiveness and capability.
Thiruvananthapuram is built on hills by the sea shore and is located at on the west coast, near the southern tip of mainland India. The city and the suburbs covers an area of about 250 square kilometers, sandwiched between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. The average elevation is 16 ft from the sea level.
The area can be divided into two geographical regions, the midlands and the lowlands. The midland region comprises low hills and valleys adjoining the Ghats. The lowland is a narrow stretch comprising shorelines, rivers and deltas, dotted with coconut palms. Vellayani lake, biggest fresh water lake in the district is in the suburbs of the city. The major rivers that flow through the city are the Karamana river, and the Killi river.
There are highlands, which form the eastern suburbs of the city. The highest point in the district is the Agasthyarkoodam which rises 1890 m above sea level. Ponmudi and Mukkunimala are hill-resorts near the city.
The city has a tropical climate and therefore does not experience distinct seasons. The mean maximum temperature 34 °C and the mean minimum temperature is 21 °C. The humidity is high and rises to about 90% during the monsoon season. Thiruvananthapuram is the first city along the path of the south-west monsoons and gets its first showers in early June. The city gets heavy rainfall of around 1700 mm per year. The city also gets rain from the receding north-east monsoons which hit the city by October. The dry season sets in by December. December, January and February are the coldest months while March, April and May are the hottest. The winter temperature comes down to about 18 °C and summer temperatures can sometimes go as high as 35 °C.
The economy of Thiruvananthapuram city was earlier based on the tertiary sector with about 60% of the workforce being employed as government servants. Large scale industrial establishments are low compared to other south Indian state capitals like Chennai and Bangalore. At present the economy is growing with the contributions from more professionals in the fields of IT, and Medical/Bio-Technology. The city contributes 80% of software exports from the state. The opening of many private Television channels in the state, made Thiruvananthapuram the home of several studios and related industries. India's first and only animation park is situated here.
Since the establishment of Technopark in 1995, Thiruvananthapuram has steadily grown into a competitive IT centre. The city was rated as the best 2nd tier metro with IT/ITES infrastructure, and second in terms of availability of human talent. Technopark houses global majors like Infosys, TCS, McKinsey & Co., Ernst & Young, Allianz Cornhill, Tata Elxsi, UST Global, etc. The park has around 110 companies employing over 12,500 professionals. With the expansion plans to be completed in 2008–09, this figure is to rise to about 30,000. With the completion of the 600,000 ft² Thejaswini, Technopark has become the largest IT Park in India. Work on the 460,000 ft² Leela IT building, IBS Campus, TCS Peepul Park and Tata Elxsi D&D Centre has commenced while that on the US Tech Campus and Infosys campus is due to commence shortly.
Tourism has also contributed heavily to the economy of Thiruvananthapuram. Foreign tourists generally use Thiruvananthapuram as a hub to explore the highly promoted tourism industry of the state of Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram is ranked first in the number of foreign tourists visiting Kerala. It is also a major destination for chartered flights to India for Medical tourism, as there are more than fifty recognised Ayurveda centres in and around the city. This is primarily due to Ayurveda's immense popularity in the West. Medical tourism is further promoted by the recuperation facilities available at the beach resorts and hill stations nearby.
There are around 20 government owned and 60 privately owned medium and large scale industrial units in Thiruvanathapuram. The major employers are the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), Milma, Keltron, Travancore Titanium and Hindustan Latex, all government owned. There are also about 30,000 small scale industrial units employing around 115,000 people. Traditional industries include handloom and coir.
Commercial activity is quite low mainly due to the under-development of ports. However, this is expected to change with the construction of the proposed mega Deep Water Container Transshipment Port at Vizhinjam. Situated close to the city, Vizhinjam is very close to international shipping routes and the East-West shipping axis and hardly require maintenance dredging. Other major organizations of economic interest are the Chithranjali Film Complex, Kinfra Apparel Park, Kinfra Film and Video Park, Kerala High-tech Industries (KELTECH), Kerala Automobiles Limited and the English Indian Clays Ltd.
Most of the city comes under the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency. Some northern wards of the city come under the Chirayinkeezhu constituency. The city contributes to six legislative assembly seats namely Kazhakoottam, Thiruvananthapuram North, Thiruvananthapuram West, Thiruvananthapuram East, Nemom and Kovalam.
The city police is headed by a Police Commissioner, an officer of Deputy Inspector General rank in the Indian Police Service. The city is divided three police sub-divisions headed by Assistant Commissioners. There are also two traffic sub-divisions. A women's cell and a narcotics control cell also operate in the city. The other units of Thiruvananthapuram city police include Crime Detachment, City Special Branch, Dog Squad, Mounted Police, District Crime Records Bureau, Foreigners Registration Office (FRO), Tourist Police and District Armed Reserve. There are two state Armed Police Battalions and a unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) based in Thiruvananthapuram. The CRPF has a Group Head Quarters (GHQ) located at Pallipuram. There is also a large army cantonment in Pangode where some regiments of the Indian Army are based.
Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of Kerala and hence the state legislative assembly and Secretariat are located here. The city is also the headquarters of the Thiruvananthapuram district. The only foreign mission in the city is the Consulate of Maldives.
The water supply schemes cover 100% within the city limits. It is 84% of the urban and 69% of the rural population, when the district is considered. Peppara and Aruvikkara dams are the main sources of water for distribution in the capital city. The new project plan for improving the water supply with Japan aid covers Thiruvananthapuram city and six suburban panchayats having urban characteristics.
The sewerage system in the city was implemented at the time of the Travancore Kingdom, and modernised in 1938. This scheme for the disposal of sullage and sewage is an underground system. The whole system is controlled by Kerala Water Authority now. The city area is divided in to seven blocks for the execution of the sewerage system, two commissioned in the 1990s and two after 2000. The sewerage is pumped to a stilling chamber at the Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) located at Valiyathura, and is disposed through sewage farming. Diary Development Department maintains this sewage farm and fodder cultivation is done here. There is no revenue generation from this scheme, and the sewerage system in the city is a service provided to the residents.
Within the city, city buses, taxis and autorickshaws provide means of transportation. Scooters, motorcycles and regular bicycles are the favored means of personal transportation.
The intra-city public transport is dominated by the state-owned KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation). There are also private bus services, but are limited in number. The city services of KSRTC operate from six depots namely, the City depot, Vikas Bhavan, Peroorkada, Pappanamcode, Kaniyapuram and Vellanad. These services were revamped in 2005 with the introduction of modern buses and electronic ticketing mechanisms. The central city bus terminal is located at East Fort(Kizhakkekotta), near the Padmanabha Swamy temple. The Central and Inter State bus station is located 1 km away at Thampanoor. Buses from it go to all major towns and villages in the State as well as big cities in India such as Bangalore and Chennai.
The Central railway station is also located at Thampanoor in the heart of the city, 8 km from the airport. It is a very important terminus which handles over 50 trains daily. The city is well connected by rail to almost all major cities in India. Thiruvananthapuram is the first major city from south along the second longest train route in the world, Kanyakumari to Jammu. A second satellite station was opened in 2005 at Kochuveli, near the International Airport.
Thiruvananthapuram's International Airport, with direct flights from the Middle East, Singapore, Maldives and Sri Lanka is the gateway to the tourism-rich state of Kerala. There are also two military airports one near the civilian airport and the other at the Southern Air Command of the Indian Air Force at Akkulam. Apart from regular scheduled flights, many chartered flights from Europe like First Choice Airways from London Gatwick and Monarch, operating with big jets, land here during the peak tourist season (around December); with Kerala fast becoming a prime tourist destination in India. Thiruvanthapuram airport's importance is also due to the fact that it is the southernmost airport in India and also the closest (and thus cheapest option) for neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Maldives.
The construction of the mega Deep Water Container Trans-shipment Port at Vizhinjam is expected to begin in 2007. It is to be built in three phases, and expected to be a key competitor in the ports business (especially for container transshipments), with the international shipping lanes between Europe and the Far East very close to the port, and also with major ports like Colombo, Kochi and Tuticorin in close proximity.
The exponential growth of the services and IT based sectors coupled with its prominence as the state capital and tourist centre has caused considerable strain on the transport infrastructure of the city. To tackle this crisis, several multi-million dollar construction projects are now underway including the construction of several new underpasses and flyovers, scheduled to be completed by early 2007. In the first phase, 42 km of six-lane and four-lane dual carriage ways are being built.
The city has a population of 744,739 according to the 2001 census (nearly 1.1 million on Nov 2006). Within the city, the density of population is about 5,284 people per square kilometer. The district has a literacy rate of 89.36%. With the sex ratio being 1,037 females to every 1,000 males, there are more women in Thiruvananthapuram than men. The wider urban agglomeration registered a population of about one million in 2001.
Hindus comprise of 65% of the population, Christians are about 18% and Muslims about 15%. The major language spoken is Malayalam. English and Hindi are also widely understood. There is also a prominent minority of Tamil speakers and a few Tulu and Konkani speakers.
Unemployment is a serious issue in Thiruvananthapuram, as it is in whole of Kerala. The increase in the unemployment rate was from 8.8% in 1998 to 34.3% in 2003, thus registering a 25.5% absolute and a 289.7% relative increase in five years. Thiruvananthapuram taluk ranked third in Kerala with 36.3% of its population unemployed. The in-migration of unemployed from other districts also boost this high unemployment rate. Thiruvananthapuram has a high suicide rate in the state, which went up from 17.2 per lakh in 1995 to 38.5 per lakh in 2002. In 2004, the rate came down slightly to 36.6 per lakh.
This apparent paradox—high human development and low economic development—is visible in the entire state of Kerala, and is often dubbed as the Kerala phenomenon or the Kerala model of development.
The people of Thiruvananthapuram are now sometimes referred to as "Trivandrumites" , by some tourism sites and blogging community, though the word is not in common use. Thiruvananthapuram has a rich cultural background, with the rulers of erstwhile Travancore taking an active interest in development of arts and culture. Thiruvananthapuram has produced several great artists, the most famous ones being Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, Irayimman Thampi and Raja Ravi Varma.
Maharaja Swathi Thirunal was a great composer and played a vital role in the development of Carnatic music. A music college in his name exists today in the city. Raja Ravi Varma was an illustrious painter with global recognition. His contributions to Indian art are substantial. Most of his famous paintings are preserved at the Sree Chithra Art Gallery in the city. The Padmanabha Swamy Temple and the fort surrounding it, the Napier Museum and Zoo, the VJT hall, Palayam Mosque and Church are among the prominent heritage buildings in the city. The Veli lake and Shankumugham beach are home to various sculptures of noted sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman.
Thiruvananthapuram easily disguises itself as a laid back quiet city to the casual observer. However, beneath it, there is a hum of cultural activity. The city comes to life during the festival season of Onam in August/September, and during the tourist season later in the year. The state government conducts the tourism week celebrations every year during Onam with cultural events taking place at various centres in the city. The other major events include the annual flower show, the Attukal Pongala, the Aaraat of Padmanabha Swamy Temple, the Beemapally Uroos, Vettucaud Perunaal etc. The CVN Kalari at East Fort, is world renowned centre for training in Kerala's own martial art the Kalaripayattu. The Margi centre offers training in many of Kerala's traditional arts including Kathakali.
The general cuisine of the people is Keralite cuisine, which is generally characterised by an abundance of coconut and spices. Other South Indian cuisines, as well as Chinese and North Indian cuisines are popular. Fast food culture is also very prominent in the city.
Thiruvananthapuram has numerous libraries, the prominent ones being the State Central Library (Trivandrum Public library, Est. 1829), the University Library, Thiruvananthapuram Children's Library, Manuscripts Library and the Centre for Development Studies Library. The British Council and Library (Est. 1964) was located very near to the Government Secretariat adjacent to the YMCA Hostel.
Thiruvananthapuram is a major academic hub. The University of Kerala is located here. The city also has several professional education colleges including fifteen engineering colleges, three medical colleges, three Ayurveda colleges, two Homeopathy colleges, six other medical related colleges, and some law colleges. Trivandrum Medical College, the premier health institute of the state is also one of the finest in the country. It is being upgraded to the status of an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The College of Engineering, Trivandrum is one of the prominent engineering institutions in the country. The Asian School of Business and IIITM-K are two of the management study institutions in the city, both situated inside Technopark. The Indian Institute of Space Technology, the unique and first of its kind in India, is situated in here. Centre for Development Studies one of the foremost development economics research centers in the country is located here.
The schools in the city are classified as Aided, Unaided and Government schools. The government schools are run directly by the state government and follow the syllabus prescribed by the state government. The aided schools also follow the state syllabus. In addition to this there are also four Kendriya Vidyalayas run directly by the Central government which follow the CBSE syllabus and private schools run by educational trusts or boards which follow CBSE and/or ICSE syllabus and/or state syllabus. The first International school in Kerala, The Trivandrum International School, was started in Thiruvananthapuram on August 2003. The literacy rate in Thiruvananthapuram, according to the 2001 census, is 89.36 percent; 92.68 percent among males and 86.26 percent among females. Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram is a Research and Development hub in the fields of space science, information technology, bio-technology, medicine and so on. It is home to a cluster of research centres, which include the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research , Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre(LPSC), Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station(TERLS), Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST), Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, RGCB, Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute, ER&DC – CDAC, CSIR – National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Free Software Foundation (FSF), Regional Cancer Centre(RCC), Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI), Priyadarsini Planetarium, The Oriental Research Institute & Manuscripts Library, Kerala Highway Research Institute, Kerala Fisheries Research Institute, etc.
Daily newspapers are available in English and Malayalam. The English newspapers with editions from Thiruvananthapuram are The New Indian Express and The Hindu. The major Malayalam newspapers are Mathrubhumi, Malayala Manorama, Kerala Kaumudi, Deshabhimani, and Madhyamam.
Most Malayalam TV channels are based in Thiruvananthapuram. The government owned Doordarshan began broadcasting from here in 1981. Asianet was the first private Malayalam channel and began operations in 1991. The other channels now based in Thiruvananthapuram are Surya TV, Amrita TV, Kairali TV, Kiran TV (Youth channel of Surya TV) Asianet Plus (Youth channel of Asianet) and People (News and current affairs channel of Kairali TV). The local cable services are provided by Asianet Satellite Communications Limited, Trivandrum Cable Network Pvt Ltd and Siti Cable and they provide a bouquet of local channels in addition to all the Indian channels. DTH services are available through Doordarshan Direct Plus Tata Sky and Dish TV.
All India Radio has an AM (1161 MHz) and an FM (Ananthapuri FM; 101.9 MHz) station for the city. FM radio channels broadcast from Thiruvananthapuram are Ananthapuri FM(AIR) 101.9 MHz, Big FM 92.7 MHz, Club FM 94.3 MHz , Radio Mirchi 98.3 MHz, S FM 93.5 MHz and Radio DC(Low power CRS) 90.4 MHz.
There are over 18 cinema halls which screen films in Malayalam, Tamil, English and Hindi. There are also two film studios in the city, Chithranjali and Merryland. The Kinfra Film and Video Park is located near Technopark and is one of the most advanced film and animation production facilities in India. Leading firms like Prasad Labs have their facilities here. The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) is held in November/December every year and is acknowledged as one of the leading such events in India.
The basic telephone services are provided by BSNL, Reliance and Tata Indicom. The cellular networks operating in the city are BSNL CellOne, Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone (all GSM) and also Reliance and Tata Indicom (both CDMA). The number of mobile phone connections has increased exponentially since the late 90s. Major broadband internet services are provided by BSNL DataOne, Asianet Dataline and Siti Cable. Private providers like Relaince, VSNL, Airtel and Satyam also have their presence in the city. The major dial-up internet providers are BSNL NetOne, Kerala Online and KelNet among others. Thiruvananthapuram also holds the distinction of having been the first 100% Digital SSA(Secondary Switching Area) in India.
The most popular sports are Football and Cricket. Basketball, Badminton and Volleyball are also popular, mostly in schools. The Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) is Head Quartered in Thiruvananthapuram. The HQ complex of KCA, have advance facilities including two practice turfs with nets, bowling machines, gymnasium with multi-gym and equipment for aerobic training, lecture hall and library, an astro-turf indoor coaching facility, fully furnished accommodation for coaches and players, a physiotherapy clinic, functional office facilities and guest rooms. KCA has decided to establish an international cricket stadium in the city suburbs. The Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium is a prominent football stadium and has hosted both national and international level matches. The University Stadium has hosted two international cricket matches. This stadium is under University of Kerala and is equipped with synthetic tracks for athletics games. The city also holds the Central stadium which has facilities for athletics, football, basketball, volleyball and cricket practice nets for upcoming cricketers. The Jimmy George Sports Complex, the GV Raja Sports School and Lakshmi Bhai National College for Physical Education (LNCPE) are the other major sports establishments in the city. The city also has a Golf Club, one of the oldest in India, and a Tennis Club (Trivandrum Tennis Club/TTC) both located at Kawdiar. The city fields two football clubs SBT-Thiruvananthapuram and Titanium, in the second division of the National Football League. The city also holds a fully equipped modern swimming pool located near the Jimmy George Sports Complex at Vellayambalam. Many state level and national level swimming competitions are held in this facility. It also holds coaching camps for people interested in learning swimming.
Being the Indian city with the closest air link to the small island-country of Maldives and also Sri Lanka, the city’s medical and health infrastructure caters to patients from both countries, especially Maldives. Exports of perishables and medicines from Trivandrum International Airport run to full capacity on everyday flights to Maldives and Sri Lanka because of this nearness. Thiruvananthapuram also provides a key link in movement of goods and passengers to and from southern Tamilnadu into Kerala, the state border being just 30 km away. The city is also important for people from around the world seeking help through Ayurveda medicine and therapy. Ayurveda resorts are coming up at a rapid pace along the International Beach of Kovalam and Varkala coast.