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Municipality and City
View of Punalur Railway Station
View of Punalur Railway Station
Punalur is located in Kerala
Location in Kerala, India
Coordinates: 9°01′01″N 76°55′34″E / 9.017°N 76.926°E / 9.017; 76.926Coordinates: 9°01′01″N 76°55′34″E / 9.017°N 76.926°E / 9.017; 76.926
Country  India
State Kerala
District Kollam
 • Type Local
 • Body Municipality
 • Total 34 km2 (13 sq mi)
Area rank 14
Elevation 56 m (184 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 1,01,251
 • Rank 9
 • Density 3,337/km2 (8,640/sq mi)
 • Official Malayalam, English
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 691305 to 034
Telephone code 0475
Vehicle registration KL 25,KL 2
Nearest city Kollam (44 km), Thiruvananthapuram (75 km)
Website www.punalurmunicipality.in

Punalur (Malayalam: പുനലൂര് Punalūr) (Tamil: புனலூர் Punalūr) is a city situated near the Kerala - Tamil Nadu border in the Kollam district, in the southern State of Kerala, India. It is situated in the banks of the Kallada River, receiving its name from two Tamil words; punal, meaning "water" and ooru, meaning "city", therefore "city of water". It is about 45 km north-east of Kollam and 75 km north of Thiruvananthapuram. It is also known as the "Lap of the western ghats".

It is the second-largest city in Kollam and the 5th largest city in south Kerala, and it is also a famous paper industry in India. The Punalur Paper Mills, established in the 1850s, was one of the first industry in Kerala and was a pioneer in the industrial revolution of Kerala. Punalur become an important trading and transport centre between Kollam and Sengottai (Tamil Nadu) under the rule of Travancore Kingdom. Steady progress of Punalur Panchayat administration upgraded to Municipality status in 1972. Although enjoying the status of Municipality since 1972, Punalur is waiting for development in basic infrastructure to the ever growing population, tourists and pilgrims.


Punalur is a city on mountain path which had good relations with Tamil Nadu to the East from time unknown. Most parts of Punalur taluk were inhabited before the Indus Valley Civilization. Human civilizations existed in Punalur during the Mesolithic period,mainly around Thenmalai (known as shenduruny).Punalur is described in inscriptions of Mithranandpuram and Vellayani. Until 1734, Punalur was under the direct rule of the Ilaydathu swaroopam. Later it was annexed by Marthanda Varma and came under the rule of Travancore. Britishers had a good hold in this part due to its rich agricultural background.

Historically, Shenduruny has a rich heritage. A recent study conducted by Dr.P.Rajendran, archaeological research associate of the Poona Deccan College, has resulted in the excavation of the remains of Stone Age culture from a large cave situated at the north -western part of the Shenduruny(kallada) river. It was proved that these remains belong to the Mesolithic period.This study brought out the fact that the Shenduruny River Valley Civilization was one among the oldest River Valley Civilizations in India. It dates back from 5210 to 4420 B.C. older than the Indus Valley Civilization which is believed to have flourished from 4400 to 3700 BC The cave paintings seen here are comparable to the Mesolithic paintings found in the caves of central India. The cave found here is large enough to hold at least twenty people at one time. According to Dr. Rajendran, the marshy place seen below just in front of the cave once must have been a lake. Now the Shenduruny river has the reputation that it had nourished a civilization in the prehistoric past.

Portuguese Captain Road Drigs tried to establish his supremacy over the black pepper trade in 1552, but the local traders were not interested and so they transported the pepper to Tamil Nadu in about 500 bullock carts. This act of the local traders evoked the anger of the Captain and he sent his troops and killed many people .

Punalur also served as pivot point in the rise of independence movement and also against the rule of Diwan. Many meetings where centered around Punalur due to the close proximity to Tamil Nadu. Many important decisions on planning and attacking Tirunelveli collector was taken in Punalur.

The Taluk headquarters was shifted from Pathnapuram to Punalur, after an attack at Pathnapuram, in 1880. This helped in the growth of Punalur. Later flow of goods to and from Tamil Nadu started flowing through Punalur. Punalur is the first settlement after the majestic Western ghats. The opening of Punalur Suspension Bridge increased the importance of Punalur as the centre of trade between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.Later the railroute between Kollam and Thiruchendur made the town to glorious growth.

Punalur Paper Mills, the first of its kind in Kerala, served both as an economic centre as well as a source of jobs. Punalur paper mill employees union was one of the first organised employe union in the state of Kerala itself.The workers of Punalur paper mill actively participated in movements including freedom fight and the riot against Diwan rule .Later Travancore plywood industry added to Punalur's importance in the industrial field. Punalur Market (formerly Sri Ramapuram market) is one of the largest vegetable / agro-products markets in Kerala.

Cultural history of Punalur reflects in the work of traditional and modern artists and performing groups of music, drama, cinema, etc., especially acclaimed contributions of Punalur N. Rajagopalan Nair, Punalur Balan and Lalithambika Antharjanam in Theatre and Malayalam literature.


Punalur has an average elevation of 56 metres (184 ft).[1] Many tourists have visited scenic spots along the Kallada River.[2] The Palaruvi Falls is 35 kilometres (22 mi) from Punalur.[3] The first eco-tourism project in Kerala is only 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Punalur on NH 208 towards Sengottai.


Regarding climate, even though located near the Western Ghats, Punalur is the hottest place in Kerala,[citation needed] and during summer temperature has recorded even 44 °C (111 °F). Punalur and Chittur, Palakkad have a long reputation of being the hottest places in Kerala, but Punalur broke all heat records in 2007 and 2009. The summers of 2007 and 2009 were the hottest when the maximum temperature hovered around 40 °C (104 °F) for many days. Punalur also holds the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in lowland/midland regions of Kerala; with 12.9 °C (55.2 °F) on January 8, 1968. Minimum temperature in January–February months on a cloudless day can be as low as 16 °C (61 °F) and maximum in March–April months can be as high as 40 °C (104 °F).


It is believed that Punalur derived its name from "Punel" - the Malayalam word for "funnel". The other school of thought attributes the etymology to the word 'punal' (river in old Tamil and Malayalam as in "kuruthipunal=river of blood" according to Dr. Hermann Gundert), and "ooru" (place), referring to the river passing through the town. Yet another suggestion is associated to Hindu epic, Ramayana, that the name originated from the pursuit of Khara for Rama and Lakshmana. Khara on seeing the duo, removed his sword from sheath, first at a place now known as Karavaloor (Malayalam Val – Sword, Ooruka – to remove). But unable to attack them there, followed and removed his sword again at Punalur ( Malayalam Punar- Again).


Major Roads[edit]

Punalur KsrtcBustand

Kollam - Thirumangalam Road(NH-208) passes through Punalur, connects the town to Tamil Nadu and other parts of districts. The Main Eastern Highway, which is Punalur-Pathanamthitta-Muvattupuzha Road / SH - 08 starts from Punalur. It is included in second phase of Road development plan of Kerala Public Works Department. Punalur-Ayoor- Road / SH - 48 connects Punalur to Thiruvanthapuram. Connections to other major towns include Punalur-Kulathupuzha road, Punalur-Narikkal road, and Punalur-Kayamkulam Road SH - 5. The Hill Highway(SH-59, 1332.16 km Long) is the longest state highway in Kerala also passing through Punalur. This highway extends from Nandarapadvu in Kasaragod district to Parassala in Thiruvananthapuram district. Commutation in this hilly city is mainly dependent on state run KSRTC and Private Bus services. It is well connected to the capital city of Kerala Thiruvananthapuram, the district headquarters of Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha, Thrissur, Ernakulam, etc. and to towns in Tamil Nadu like Tenkasi, Tirunelveli, Madurai and Sengottai. KSRTC ply Town to Town and city services in Punalur mainly through Main Eastern Highway linking Punalur to Pathanamthitta, Ranni, Erumely, Kanjirappally, Ponkunnam, Palai, Mundakayam, Kattappana, Kumily, Thodupuzha, Muvattupuzha, Kottayam and many more towns in highranges of Kerala. Plenty of A/C Luxury Bus services are operated from Punalur to Bangalore, Chennai, and Coimbatore on a daily basis. There is lot of town services which connect the interior parts of municipality with main town centre. Many other services are also operated by KSRTC to interior villages like Mathra, Achenkovil, Rosemala, Tenmala, Aryankavu, Pattazhy, Kokkadu etc...


Thirteen- Arch Railway Bridge
Another view of 13 ring bridge

Punalur railway station is the major transit point located on the Kollam – Sengottai railway line. The construction of the meter gauge rail route between Kollam – Punalur and Punalur – Sengottai (Ghats Section) along the scenic mountain terrain was started in 1873 by the British engineers and was completed in 1902. Travancore rulers in association with the British prepared the plan for the track through the challenging mountain terrain as it involved construction of long arch bridges over steep valleys and tunnels across the rocky mountains of Western Ghats. Documentary on historic Punalur Rail Route "Ormmakalilekku Oru Ottayadipatha"{down the memory lane} demonstrates the rail route through complex terrain.

The first goods train travelled on this route in 1902 and a train carrying its first passengers began its run in 1904. It makes for a thrilling train journey as it passes over five big bridges and hundreds of tiny ones while negotiating mountain streams and valleys. Passengers are also treated to a breath-taking view of the Western Ghats. The train also passes through five tunnels on this stretch, including the one-kilometer long tunnel between Bhagawathipuram and Arayankavu. The station at Punalur was equipped with locomotive service centre, Parcel and Timber Depot, Train parking bays, Storage Tanks for water and oil, etc. This route is in the process of up-gradation to broad-gauge and first part of conversion finished between Kollam and Punalur. The conversion work on Punalur-Sengottai ghat section is on progress. Once the conversion is over this will serve as the shortest rail-route from Kochi port to Tuticorin port. Infrastructure of the station will be changed as proposed in tune with handling demands and matching to the glory of past.

A new railway line is proposed through Sabarimala to Thiruvananthapuram via Punalur. If this proposed Sabari railway line is connected to proposed new railway terminal at Nemom near Thiruvananthapuram via Nedumanagad, new long distance trains can be operated from Nemom terminal via Punalur to Chennai/Bangalore and rest of country. The Punalur Railway Station currently connects to Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Nagarcoil, Tirunelveli, Madurai, and Kanyakumari. The station presently handles seven passenger trains, of which four services ply to Kollam Junction, one to Madurai Junction, one to Guruvayur and another one to Kanyakumari. The scenic Punalur – Shencotta railway lies across the western ghats, providing a valuable link across the southern states. The journey through the western ghats is incredible.[4]

Suspension bridge[edit]

The Punalur suspension bridge crossing the river is the only suspended-deck type in south India. Built in 1877 by Albert Henry

across the Kallada River, this huge bridge was suspended by three spans and was used for vehicular movement. Construction took more than six years. It is said that after completion of the bridge people hesitated to walk through the bridge. In order to prove the strength of the bridge the engineer and his family passed under the bridge in a country boat while six elephants were walking through the bridge. Now the bridge is only of historical interest.[5][6]

Suspension Bridge, Punalur

The main concept behind the construction of this bridge was that areas on the other side of the river Kallada was dense forests. The need of a bridge was necessary, but the problem was through a concrete bridge, wild animals can easily pass to the populated area so to prevent that a bridge which shakes when some one enters was built and finally it succeeded.

The bridge is connected to four wells. The iron rods of the bridge is connected to the clips, situated in the wells. Each well is of about 100 feet deep and no one since know the engineering behind the construction of this bridge.


Main agricultural products of this town include rubber, black pepper, and other spices. The chief commodities of export here are the hill products: pineapple, pepper products, plywood and timber. The Punalur Paper Mill Ltd., a paper industry established in 1888 by a German national, was closed in 1987 due to labour disputes. Various attempts to resolve the issues crossed two decades to produce any result but finally reached legal settlement in Feb. 2011 between the new management and the State Government. It is in the process of running by the newly formed management. Major share of PPM owned by Akhula Industries, Hyderabad.

The Punalur economy was at its height during the time of Punalur paper mill. However, other industries like Agro-Fruit, State Farming Corporation, Rehabilitation Plantations, RPC Kraft Paper, plywood industry, etc. are still provides a significant contribution to Kerala. The Punalur market is also assisted by the agricultural industries.

Industries in Punalur[edit]

  • Punalur Paper Mills – The first paper mill in Kerala currently in the reopening stage.
  • Travancore Plywood Industries Ltd., Punalur, which has now become the KINFRA Industrial Park.
  • Kerala Agro Fruit Products
  • Kerala Latex Private Limited
  • State Farming Corporation of Kerala Ltd., Punalur -A Govt. of Kerala undertaken.
  • Rehabilitation Plantations LTD, Punalur
  • RPC Kraft paper mills manufacturing M.G.Plain Kraft Paper.*

Punalur Paper Mills Limited[edit]

The premier establishment played major role in the economic growth of city and the population around Punalur. During the reign of Sree Moolam Thirunal permission was granted to a German National, T. J. Cameroon to establish paper factory at Punalur based on the availability of reed as raw material from the forest. The paper factory opened in 1888 was named as Travancore Paper Mills progressed in production and quality. Name of the Mill transformed to Lakshmi Paper Mills, Meenakshi Paper Mills and Punalur Paper Mills as management changes between 1888 and 1931. Quality Paper from PPM reached customers like India Security Press at Nasik and International Markets.

Progress of population and diminishing forest area affected the supply of raw material and production. Reduced pace of production and working hours resulted in losing job for many workers. Prevailing unrest among workers inspired formation of Trade Unions to address various demands with management of PPM. Managements under different ownerships failed to maintain the smooth running of PPM and finally it was closed in 1987 due to labour disputes.

As Laxmi Nivas Dalmia said in 1985: "The single biggest error I ever committed was to rehabilitate a sick paper mill in Kerala."

Various attempts to resolve the issues crossed two decades to produce any result but finally reached legal settlement in Feb. 2011 between the new management and the State Government. It is in the process of running by the newly formed management owned by Akhula Industries Hyderabad.

Kerala Agro Fruit Products[edit]

Kerala Agro Fruit Products engages in the production and processing of fruit products under the Jyothi brand, producing pineapple juice, jam, and concentrate. As of December 13, 2008, KAFP operates as a subsidiary of Oil Palm India Limited.

Kerala Latex Private Limited[edit]

Kerala Latex Private Limited is a latex centrifuging factory which process field latex into 60% centrifuged latex.

Rehabilitation Plantations Ltd[edit]

The Rehabilitation Plantations Ltd., Punalur (RPL) started as a government rubber plantation scheme in 1972 for the settlement of Sri Lankan repatriates which was necessitated by Sirimao-Shastri Agreement of 1964. Later on it was formed into Government Company and incorporrated on 5 May 1976. The authorised share capital of the company is Rs.350.00 lakhs and the paid up capital is Rs.339.27 lakhs. The share capital contribution of Government of India is 40% and remaining 60% was contributed by Government of Kerala.

The Company has settled 700 repatriate families from Sri Lanka. Two members from each family are provided with employment in the company. At present the company employs to 1300 workers, 185 staff members and 32 officers in the company.


As of 2001 India census,[7] Punalur had a population of 47,226. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. Punalur has an average literacy rate of 84%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 85%, and female literacy is 82%. In Punalur, 10% of the population is under 6 years of age.

Notable people[edit]


  • Axis bank
  • Indian overseas bank
  • Bank of India
  • Allahabad bank
  • Andhra bank
  • United bank of india
  • State bank of Mysore

Educational Institutions[edit]


  • Sree Narayana College Punalurwas established in 1965 and managed by the Sree Narayana Trust, Kollam, one of the leading educational agencies in the state. The college offers courses at the degree and post-graduate levels in Arts, Science and Humanities and is fast developing into a center of excellence in University education. Its academic, research and extension programs have been rendering outstanding service to society by molding academically equipped, intellectually inquisitive, emotionally balanced and socially committed citizens.
  • Bethel Bible College was established in 1927, is the first Pentecostal Theological Institution in India. It is the Division of world Missions of the Assemblies of God .
  • Cooperative Engineering College :-This college is located at Piravanthoor, 4 km away from Punalur.
  • Hindustan Engineering College
  • SMG Engineering College

There are many other professional colleges around Punalur.

Technical Institutions

  • Government Polytechnic
  • Bharatha Matha ITC
  • DATATECH ITC, Punalur conducting Computer Operator and Programming Assistant Course
  • Mathra ITC


Punalur has many Government, aided and unaided schools, which play an active role in producing a bright future for Punalur. Starting from the first school, St. John's L. P. School popular as 'Roma School' opened in thatched sheds in the St. Mary's Church campus during the late 19th Century, people of this area is promoting education. The Government Higher Secondary School in Punalur and the Taluk Samjam Schools were established in early 20th century. Later the Taluk Samjam Schools were split into Boys HSS, Girls HS, and the Chemmanthoor HSS.


  • St. John's L. P. School (The first School of Punalur,since 1925)
  • Boys HSS
  • Government HSS
  • Girls HS
  • St.Goretti HSS
  • Mary Giri Vidya Mandir
  • ST. Thomas Senior Secondary School
  • Sabarigiri Senior Secondary School
  • SN Trust HSS
  • Chemanthoor HSS
  • Tholicode LPS
  • NSV vocational higher secondary school
  • SN Public School
  • TVTM School
  • Tiny Tots E.M School
  • TocH Public School
  • Kelancavu LPS
  • GDHS Piravanthoor
  • GUPS Piravanthoor
  • SNUPS Vazhathoppu
  • GUPS Chekom
  • Fathima Public School
  • TATViC
  • SMG Hss & junior College
  • Edamon Vocational Higher Secondary School
  • VOUPS Kalaynadu (Since 1954)

Fine Arts Institutions

  • Sree Thyagaraja School of Music (Since 1928)


  1. ^ Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Punalur
  2. ^ Panoramio - Photo of Amazing Punalur - Kakod Whitewater02
  3. ^ "Palaruvi Falls". World of Waterfalls. Retrieved 2010-06-26. 
  4. ^ Trip report on PUU-SCT on BG and MG lines RailMatters
  5. ^ bridgemeister.com Punalur suspension bridge
  6. ^ View the Suspension Bridge on Google Earth
  7. ^ "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01.