Kollam district, earlier known as Quilon district, is considered as one of the oldest ports on the Malabar Coast, and has long been drawing the attraction of international countries. The town served as a leading spice market in the medieval and modern India. The district of Kollam was a recognized international emporium of trade of the ancient world. It is also the southern gateway to the backwaters of Kerala. The name ‘Kollam,’ is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Kollam’ meaning pepper. The present town area is believed to have been built by a Syrian merchant, Sapir Iso, in the 9th century A.D. It was also the capital of the powerful kingdom called “VENAD”.
Velu Thampi Dalawa of Travancore did much for the improvement of Kollam town. He built new bazaars and invited merchants from Madras and Tirunelveli to settle here. The rulers of Kollam (Desinganadu) and China, exchanged embassies and there was a flourishing Chinese settlement at Kollam. Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveler, who was in Chinese Service under Kublahan in 1275, visited Kollam and other towns on the west coast, in his capacity as a Chinese mandarin. Kollam later became the capital of the enlightened and liberal rulers of Desinganad. It was also the nerve centre of the rebellion organized by Velu Thampi against the British.
Once a city of palaces, Kollam has been known to the outside world by the time honored proverb, “Once you have seen Kollam you would no more need your illam (home).”