Kollam (known to the Portuguese as Quilon, pronounced koy-lon) is a city and a municipal corporation in Kollam district in the Indian state of Kerala.
It lies 71 Kilometres north of the state capital Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum). It is also the headquarters of the Kollam District, one among the 14 districts in the state of Kerala. It is bound on the south by Thiruvananthapuram district, on the north by Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha, on the east by Tamil Nadu and on the west by the Arabian Sea. The town is very famous for cashew processing and coir manufacturing. It is the southern gateway to the backwaters of Kerala, and thus, a prominent tourist destination.
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. The ME is also referred as Kollavarsham.
Kollam shares fame with Kodungallur 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.
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 ,then, also had trade relations with China and exchanged embassies. According to the records of the Tang Dynasty (618 AD to 913 AD) 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 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.
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.
Kollam Railway Station is considered to be one of the biggest railway stations in Kerala state after Shoranur and Palakkad. The district is covered by 132 km of railway tracks, of which 51 km are broad gauge and 81 km metre gauge. The metre gauge track is being converted to broad gauge under project Unigauge and is closed. There are almost 22 railway stations of which 9 are on broad gauge line and 13, on the metre gauge line. Kollam is an important railway junction. The Thiruvananthapuram – Ernakulam (via Kottayam and Alappuzha) line passes through Kollam. Kollam is the terminal junction for Chenkotta – Kollam metre gauge line. Electrification of the Broad Gauge railway lines towards Thiruvananthapuram from Kayamkulam is complete.
The district is well connected to other parts of Kerala and India through the National Highways 47, 220 and 208 and by the railway network. Kollam has a total 1552.096 km of roads. The National Highway 47 covers a distance of 57.4 km in the district. The National Highways NH 208 (Kollam – Chenkotta) and NH 220 (Kollam – Theni) originates from Kollam. The State Highway namely, Main Central Road (MC Road) and Punalur-Pathanamthitta-Muvattupuzha (Main Eastern Highway) connects the district to other districts. Transport is provided by State owned Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private transport bus operators. Road transport is also supported by private taxis and autorickshaws also called autos..
The State water Transport Department operates boat services to West Kallada, Munroe Island and Alappuzha. The Alappuzha service attracts a lot of tourist attention. A full day onboard journey through the backwaters provides an opportunity to experience the natural way of life of the people around.
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.
Places of worship
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), Oachira Parabrahma Temple,Chittumala Durgadevi Temple,Rameswaram Mahadeva Temple, Puthenkulangara Devi Kshethram at Keralapuram, Kadavoor Mahadeva Temple, Sasthamkotta Ayyappa Temple,Sakthikulangara Sree Dharmasastha Temple, Ayyappa Temple Kadappakkada, Ashramom Sree Krishna Swamy Temple,Vadayattukotta Unichakkam Veedu Sree Krishna Swamy Temple,Mukhathala Murari Temple,Thirumullavaram Mahavishnu Temple, Anandavaleeswaram Temple, Mulamkadakam Devi Temple,Vishnathu Kavu Devi Temple, Thalavoor Sri Durga Devi Temple, Pattazhy Devi Temple, Kundara Elampalloor Devi Temple, Pazhangalam Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, Kollorvila Devi Temple, Umayanalloor Sri Balasubramania Swamy Temple, Vadakkevila Nadamveedu Sri Bhagavathy Temple, Paravoor Puttingal Devi Temple, Kattayil Palakkottu Bhagavathy Temple, Kattayil Kavil Bhagavathi Temple, Kollam Ammachi Veedu Muhoorthy Kavu, Kottarakkulam Sree Mahaganapathy Kovil, Kollam, Kollam Valiayakavu Devi, Koonambaikulam Devi Temple, Ummannoor Anchu Moorthy Temple, Palathra Sree Durga Bhavathy temple,Ammachiveedu Muhurthi,Sree Daivappura Devi Temple, Near Prathibha Hospital, Prathibha Jn., Kadappakkada, Kollam [Lord Siva & Parvathy in one sree kovil] this prathishata is rare in south India., etc are among the important Hindu temples in Kollam.
The Mata Amritanandamayi Math is situated at Parayakadavu in this district, about 30 km from the Kollam town.
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 Siyavathummodu Palli at Kilikolloor. The Jonakappuram 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. In 823 Mar Sapor and Mar Prot ministered here. Remnants of an early church lies in the ocean bed a couple of miles into the sea. In 1510 a new church was built, at a probable site near to the destroyed one, as a result of the concordance between the Queen of Designanad and the King of Portugal (Port Quilon Church) which is now under the Latin Diocese of Quilon. The present Kadeesha orthodox church is considered as the continuation of the one that founded by St.Thomas. 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.
Some of the other important churches are Kadeesha orthodox church, kallada orthodox valiyapalli, kundara valiyapalli,St. Casimir’s Church, Kadavur;St. John’s Church, Eravipuram; Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni, Tuyyam; Trinity Lyceum, Infant Jesus Shrine, Vadi; St. Joseph Shrine, Perinad; St. Francis Church, Koduvila (Kallada); Amalotbhava Matha Church, Pullichira (Kottiyam),St. Joseph Church, Kureepuzha Kollam, St. John Britto Church, Sakthikulangara; St. Sebastians Church, Neendakara; St. Thomas C.S.I. Church, Pattathanam; St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Sastri Junction, St. Antony’s Church at Tillery, St. Thomas Marthoma Church,Thevally. and Marthamarian Orthodox church, Thevelakara.
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 has been acknowledged to be a unique and sacred centre of learning and service which has had the divine presence of Sree Vidhyadhiraja Chattambi swami and goddess sree maha tripurasundari devi. Panmana ashram is located 18 km north of Kollam city.
Places of Interest
Most of the sights in Kollam are situated within a radius of 8-10 km from the city centre. Places close to city centre include the calm and scenic Thirummulavaram and Tangasseri beaches. Another picturesque beach worth visit is the semilunar Kochupilamood Beach (Kollam beach). The light house at Tangaseeri Kollam stands 144 ft (44 m) tall. The Tangasseri Light House was built in 1902. Thirumullavaram, approximately 6 km away from the city centre is popular for its calm and serene beach.
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.
Tourist spots such as Thenmala, Residency Palace Ashramom, Adventure Park, Jetayu para, and Palaruvi water falls are popular attractions.
A place in Kollam district that every tourist has to visit is the maruthimala. Maruthimala is situated in Kottarakara Taluk of Kollam district.
Places to visit
Kollam is widely known as the Cashew Paradise in Kerala, and affords a wide cultivation and processing techniques.
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 Islands, 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. Motorboats are not allowed in the lake, only manually propelled boats are permitted. Sasthamkotta is well connected to Kollam town by both rail and road. It takes 30 minutes from Kollam to Sasthamkotta by train and around 1 1/2 hrs by road. Sathamkotta is also the headquarters of Kunnathoor taluk.
Kollam is situated on NH 47 that links Salem to Kanyakumari, via Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam and Alappuzha.
The nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, 71 km from Kollam city center.