In the 15th century, during the visit of Fa-Hien, Contai was uninhabited and had no name for the outside world. In Valentine’s travelogue, a harbour, Kendua by name, was mentioned. This harbour was on the bank of the river, a short distance from the Rasulpur estuary. Later the harbour was shifted to the present site of the Contai Town. However, it is said, the name of the abandoned port was retained for its new location, In foreigners tongue, Kendua is said to have changed first to Cauntee and finally to Contai, whereas in local tongue it has changed to Kanthi (কাঁথি).
But linguists raise serious doubts about such change of pronunciation. They offer other suggestions.Mr. Yogesh Chandra Sarkar thinks that the name Kanthi owes its origin to outstretched sand-dune, about 27 miles from Rasulpur estuary to Peeplipattan, that from the sea looked like a long wall or Kanth (কাঁথি) as it is called by local people. Some suggest that the name may originate from the custom of local people to build long walls or Kanths around their habitation in order to keep off wild beasts like buffaloes, tigers and rhinoceroses that were found in abundance then and these Kanths gave the place its name.
Yet, some people, conversant with the local history, give another explanation. They say on the sand dunes lived Saints and Fakirs or witch doctors to whom afflicted people often came for cure and who asked them affectionately in somewhat Hindi, “Kanha thee?” meaning to say, ’where are you from? Gradually the cure-seeking people coming from distant places came to identify this unnamed place by those two words “Kanha thee”, and in course of time the words merged into one to give the virgin or Ahalya land a name.
Contai was originally a part of Hijli Kingdom, a tributary state of Orissa ruled by the Hindu king Gopinath Pattanayak. In 1852 the East India Company of British India announced Contai as a Sub-Division consisting of six police stations - Contai, Khejuri, Ramnagar, Bhagwanpur, Egra and Patashpur. But the Government continued working from Negua. The Sub-Division that covered 912 square miles (2,400 km2) was the second largest in Bengal . In 1863 when Nimak Mahal (the salt factory and business center) at Contai, in the teeth of a serious crisis, ceased functioning, the Sub-Divisional office was shifted from Negua to the abandoned Nimak Mahal building.
Bankim Chandra Chottopadhyay, the precursor of Bengali novel, worked as the Deputy Magistrate of Contai, though for a short period, from January 1860 to November of the year. In 2002, Medinipur District was divided into two parts – Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur for the sake of administrative efficiency and expediency. Purba Medinipur consists of four Sub-Divisions – Tamluk, Contai, Egra and Haldia. Contai Sub-Division now consists of eight blocks of Ramnagar, Digha, Kanthi (Contai), Khejuri and Bhupatinagar.
For details history of Contai, see History of Contai
Contai is about 160 km from Kolkata and 31 km from the beach town Digha.
As per 2011 Census of India Contai had a total population of 92,226 of which 49,031 (53%) were males and 43,195 (47%) were females. Population below 6 years was 8,440. The total number of literates in Contai was 78,500 (93.69% of the population over 6 years).
As of 2001 India census, Contai had a population of 77,497. Males constitute 52% of the population and females 48%. Contai has an average literacy rate of 82%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 85% and, female literacy is 78%. In Contai, 10% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Contai police station has jurisdiction over Contai I and Deshapran CD Blocks. It covers an area of 370.80 km2 with a population of 382,216.
Contai Women police station was opened on 18 March 2012. It has jurisdiction over Contai subdivision.
Contai Subdivision is famous for its tourism , cashew crop, fishing and processing industries. The land is highly fertile and therefore, agriculture is also the major driving force that sustains the middle-class economy of this region. However, sometimes agriculture is affected by frequent floods due to torrential Monsoon rain and Cyclone formed from depressions in the Bay of Bengal. Contai is also famous for Cashew Nut Industry and Salt Industry.
In past years Contai was a small village with very few inhabitants. In those times there were no Hotels,restaurants and cafes. But now a days there are many restaurants and cafes and tourists may take shelter in their lodges. The lists of hotels,restaurants and cafes found in contai are:-Niketa restaurant
Contai is well-connected by roads/highways with other nearby cities and towns like, Digha, Dantan, Jhargram, Kharagpur, Midnapore, Tamluk, Haldia, Howrah, and Kolkata. The town is also connected by a rail link to Howrah/Kolkata which is again extended to Digha. The rail line is believed to have given a rise to the local economy. For local transportation, bus, mini-bus, taxi,toto,auto and cycle rickshaws are available.
The opening of Central Bus-stand has eased the traffic congestion within the city to a great deal. The region holds great potential in tourism but lamentably enough, no other place except Digha has been developed properly.
There are numbers of well-known schools and colleges in Contai. For higher education, besides the Prabhat Kumar College, Contai  under the Vidyasagar University, there is an Ayurvedic College, a Polytechnic Engineering College, a Veterinary College, etc. The literacy rate of Contai subdivision is as high as 97%.List of schools in Contai
Contai Kshetra Mohan Bidhyabhaban
Contai High School
Contai Model Institution
Contai Hindu Girls' School (H.S.)
Contai Chandramani Brahmo Girls' School
Contai Town Rakhal Chandra Vidyapith
Kishorenagar Sachindra Siksha Sadan
Contai Public School
Kalikapur High School
Contai Rahamania High Madrasha H/S
Contai Muslim Girls' School
Contai Sawkatia English Medium High Madrasha School
Supriya Institute of Engineering & Management (ITC)
Nayaput Sudhir Kumar High School
Mount Litera Zee School
New contai nursery
Arati path bhavan
The highest technical & Engineering Polytechnic College is Contai Polytechnic
There are many hospitals in the Contai town. one is named as Contai Subdivisional Hospital. People of this subdivision mainly depends on this hospital. There are also many private nursing home. Health of common people is generally well.
Among many festivals in Contai, "Gandhi Mela" is the most popular.it is a type of fair. It is held during January/February each year and it continues for 10 or 15 days. Many people from Contai and neighbouring subdivisions take part in "Gandhi Mela" not only for amusement but also for agricultural and industrial exhibitions. There is also some cultural institution like Contai Bramho Samaj, Contai Harisabha etc. The regular Bengali festivals like Durga Puja, Saraswati Puja and Kali Puja are well attended. Other common pujas in the worship of Sitala, Jagaddhatri, Holi, Janmastami, Bheema Puja,viswakarma also takes place.
Contai is famous for Pital (Brass) Kansa (Tin) Silpo and Madur ( Mat made of a kind of grass ) Silpo. Beautiful place to visit.Birendranath Sasmal, Freedom fighter
Raghunath Maity, Freedom fighter
Bolai Das Mahapatra, Freedom fighter
Esichar chandra Mal, Freedom fighter
Dariapur Light House
Sand Dunes at Contai
Neemkuthi of Contai
First Telegraph Office, Khejuri
Bankiput sea beach
Kadua sea beach
home of freedom fighter,Birendranath sasmal.