The history behind the naming of Kottayam can be explained as kotta 'fort' and akam 'inside'. Thazhathangadi near Kottayam town was the administrative headquarters of the Thekkumkoor and Vadakkumkoor Kings. Vembolinadu, which was established in 1100 A.D., were conquered by Marthanda Varma between 1749 and 1754 and became part of Travancore. He also conquered Poonjar and Meenachil areas later.
Marthanda Varma Dharmaraja during 1758-1798 selected Kottayam as a strategic location to defend Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan.
As an administrative unit, Kottayam district was formed in 1860 as one of the divisions of Travancore with Chertalla as its headquarters. The then Diwan of Travancore, G. Rama Rao shifted the headquarters to Kottayam in 1878. The present Thirunakkara ground was meant for police parade as well.