The second-largest City in Kollam and the fifth largest in south Kerala, it is home to a paper industry with the Punalur Paper Mills, established in the 1850s, one of the first industries in Kerala and a pioneer in the industrial development of the state. Punalur become an important trading and transport centre between Kollam and Sengottai (Tamil Nadu) under the rule of the Travancore Kingdom. Steady progress by the Punalur Panchayat administration saw an upgrade to municipality status in 1972.
The Punalur Suspension Bridge is the first motorable bridge in South India. The 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 two 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 over 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 over it. Now the bridge is of historical interest and is a major tourist attraction.
It is believed that Punalur derived its name by 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.
Punalur is a town on a 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. The British Raj established a good hold over this part of India due to its rich agricultural resources.
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 of the oldest river valley civilizations in India. It dates to between 5210 and 4420 BC, making it older than the Indus Valley Civilization which is believed to have flourished from 4400 to 3700 BC. 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 a 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.
Punalur also served as a pivot point in the rise of the independence movement and against the rule of Diwan. Many meetings were centered on Punalur due to its close proximity to Tamil Nadu. Many important decisions on planning and attacking Tirunelveli collector were 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 the flow of goods to and from Tamil Nadu started going 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. The Punalur paper mill employees' union was one of the first organised employee unions 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 the 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). Many tourists have visited scenic spots along the Kallada River. The Palaruvi Falls is 35 kilometres (22 mi) from Punalur. The first planned eco-tourism project in Kerala is only 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Punalur on NH 208 towards Sengottai.
Punalur is a Municipality and City in Kerala, the Municipality was formed on April 1, 1971 with an area of 34.06 square kilometres. Currently Punalur is a Grade-II municipality and divided into 35 electoral wards. Punalur is the headquarters of the Punalur Taluk and is one of the major Taluks in Kollam District. Punalur has been recently made a Revenue divisional office. Kerala Budget 2017-2018, announced a new Revenue division in Kollam district headquartered at Punalur, now Kollam district has two Revenue divisions with headquarters at Punalur and Kollam. Punalur Revenue division is administratively divided into three Taluks they are Punalur, Kottarakkara and Pathanapuram which are subdivided into 50 villages.The people of Punalur took out processions and distributed sweets to celebrate the announcement of new Revenue division. Punalur is the sub divisional headquarters of the Kollam Rural Police. Punalur also has a Divisional Forest office, Sub Regional Transport Office and Excise Circle and Range offices. Most of the Government offices are functioned in Mini Civil station in Punalur. There is a court complex under construction that houses the Sub Court, Judicial First Class Magistrate Court I, II, III(Forests), Munsif Court and Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal(M.A.C.T).
Even though it is located near the Western Ghats, Punalur is the hottest place in Kerala, and during summer temperatures as high as 44 °C (111 °F) have been recorded. 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 8 January 1968. Minimum temperatures in January–February on a cloudless day can be as low as 16 °C (61 °F) and maximum in March–April can be as high as 40 °C (104 °F).
Kollam - Thirumangalam Road(NH-744) passes through Punalur, connects the town to Tamil Nadu and other parts of districts. The Main Eastern Highway, which is Punalur-Pathanamthitta-Thodupuzha-Muvattupuzha Road / SH - 08 starts from Punalur. Commutation in this hilly city is mainly dependent on state run KSRTC, SETC and Private Bus services. It is well connected to the capital city of Kerala Thiruvananthapuram, the district headquarters of Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram and Wayanad etc. Interstate services to towns in Tamil Nadu like Sengottai, Tenkasi, Tirunelveli, Madurai, Trichi, Chenai, Velankanni, Salem and Hosur. KSRTC ply Town to Town and Fast Passenger 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, Thalachira and Kokkadu.
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" (click on the reference to see the documentary) (this reference 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.
The Punalur Railway Station currently connects to Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad Junction, Nagarcoil, Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Madurai. The station handles One Express train service to Palakkad Junction and seven passenger train services, of which four services ply to Kollam Junction, another three services ply to Madurai Junction, Guruvayur and Kanyakumari.
The 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 over two decades failed to produce any result but finally reached a legal settlement in February 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.Punalur Paper Mills – The first paper mill in Kerala currently reopened for production. It was reopened on 11.9.2015.
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 undertaking.
Rehabilitation Plantations LTD, Punalur
RPC Kraft paper mills manufacturing M.G. Plain Kraft Paper.
Milchkine Technologies-Kannan Arcade Opposite Krishnan Kovil Punalur
The premier establishment played a 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 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 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 is a latex centrifuging factory which process field latex into 60% centrifuged latex.
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 incorporated 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, 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.Punalur Balan (1927–1987)
Lalithambika Antharjanam (1909–1987)
Sohan Roy Director
M.A Nishad Director
M. J. Radhakrishnan Cinematographer
Bethel Bible College was established in 1927, and is the first Pentecostal Theological Institution in India. It is the Division of world Missions of the Assemblies of God.
Cooperative Engineering College is located at Piravanthoor, 4 km away from Punalur.
AKMAS Arts & Science College Punalur
St.Goretty College, Punalur
Sree Narayana Guru College of Advanced Studies, Punalur
Quaran College, Chemmanthur
University Institute of Management, Punalur
NGPM TTI Venchempu, Punalur
Sree Narayana College Punalur
Technical institutionsGovernment Polytechnic
Bharatha Matha ITC
DATATECH ITC, Punalur conducting Computer Operator and Programming Assistant Course
Punalur has many Government, aided and unaided schools. 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, The Government Higher Secondary School in Punalur and the Taluk Samjam Schools were established in the early 20th century. Later the Taluk Samajam Schools were split into Boys HSS, Girls HS, and the Chemmanthoor HS.Among un aided schools the notable institution are Sabarigiri, St thomas, Toch. From play school to Higher Secondary classes are available in these institution.