Kottayam literally means the interior of a fort - Kotta + Akam. Rulers of Munjanad and Thekkumkur had their headquarters at Thazhathangadi in the present Kottayam town. Marthanda Varma of Travancore attacked Thekkumkur and destroyed the palace and the Thaliyil fort. The remnants of the palaces and forts are still seen here.
The present Kottayam district was previously a part of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore. Earlier, the Travancore state consisted of two revenue divisions viz. the southern and northern divisions, under the administrative control of a 'Diwan Peshkar' for each. Later in 1868 two more divisions Quilon (Kollam) and Kottayam were constituted. The fifth division Devikulam came next but only for a short period, which in course of time, was added to Kottayam. At the time of the integration of the State of Travancore and Cochin (Kochi) in 1949, these revenue divisions were renamed as districts and the Diwan peshkars gave way to District Collectors, paving the way for the birth of the Kottayam District in July 1949.