It is believed that Punalur derived its name from ‘Punel’ - the Malayalam word for ‘funnel’. Another version attributes its name to be the combination of two words; Punnal's (water) and 'Uru' (place), alluding to a number of rivers that traverse the town.
Punalur was a famous center during the period of Travancore kingdom. It became a famous township when it became the capital of Pathnapuram taluk due to an attack by thieves at the Pathanupuram centre.Later due to the comming of wild animals from the other side of kallada river to the town and also to connect the country to the tamil region Punalur suspension bridge was constructed by the Britishers.Punalur paper mill was constructed by a British citizen due to the availability of raw products & the water from kallada river.Later the township elevated to one of the largest townships in Kerala.The Punaloor became a municipality in 1972.Punalur market was constructed by the His Highness Sir Sri Moolam Thirunal, Maharajah of Travancore due to the rich agricultural background.
The Punalur suspension bridge crossing the river is the only suspended-deck type in south India. Built in 1877 by Albert Henry across the 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 archeological interest. 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.
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 1988 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 1988 and 1931. Progress of population and diminishing forest area affected the supply of raw material and production.Prevailing unrest among workers inspired formation of Trade UnionsTrade 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.
The Punalur Railway Station is the major transit point located on the Kollam -Shenkottai railway line. The construction of the meter gauge rail route between Kollam – Punalur and Punalur - Shenkottai (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. 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. There are five Passenger services and two express trains in this route right now .The express trains are to Madurai and Guruvayur.
Main agricultural products of this township include rubber, black pepper, and other spices. The chief commodities of export here are the hill produces, pineapple, pepper products, plywood and timber.
Some of the tourist spots near Punalur are Thenmala Ecotourism (21 km) and Palaruvi Water Falls (15 km). Punalur is on the western edge of Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve. There is a municipal stadium which is only an open ground. Pilgrims from Tamil Nadu going to Ayyappa temple at Pampa halt at Punalur, making it a busy place during festival seasons.
It is a city and a municipality in Kollam district in the southern state of Kerala, India.It is the second largest town in Kollam. It is situated 45 km north-east of Kollam and 75 km north of Thiruvananthapuram. Punalur is the head quarters of Pathanapuram taluk. Punalur Railway Station is located on the Kollam-Shencotta railway line.A new rail is proposed from Sabarimala-Pathanamthitta-Punalur-Thiruvananthapuram. The nearest airport is at Thiruvananthapuram. The Main Eastern Highway (Punalur-Pathanamthitta-Muvattupuzha Road / SH - 08),(Punalur-Ayoor- Road / SH - 48)which connects Punalur to Thiruvanthapuram-state capital and Kollam - Shengottai Road (NH-208) connects the town to other major towns.