Tirunelveli district is a district of Tamil Nadu state with its administrative headquarters located at Tirunelveli city. The district got its name from its headquarters city, Tirunelveli. The term Tirunelveli is derived from three Tamil words includes thiru, nel and veli, meaning "sacred paddy hedge". The name of the place was mentioned in the Sambandar’s Saiva canonical work called Tevaram of the 7th century. At the very beginning the place was ruled by the Pandyan Dynasty and at that time it was popularly known as Thenpandiyanadu. After some time the place became a part of the Chola dynasty and they changed its name to Mudikonda Cholamandalam. Later the Madurai Nayaks took over the place and during their rule they called it Tirunelveli Seemai. In 1910, Ramanathapuram district was formed from portions of the Madurai and Tirunelveli districts, which comprised portions of the modern Virudhunagar district. Finally the British came to the place and the rule of the British East India Company was started in the place. During the period of British rule there was the Tinnevelly district which comprised the present districts of Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi and also some parts of the districts of Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram. After India got independence in 1947, the place, Tirunelveli district was bifurcated on 20th October, 1986 to Nellai-Kattabomman district (Tirunelveli) and Chidambaranar district (Tuticorin). Then Tirunelveli was emerged as a separate district in the map of the Tamil Nadu state on 20th October 1986. Subsequently, the Government of Tamil Nadu decided to name each district according to the name of the headquarters town, so the region's name changed from Tirunelveli-Kattabomman to Tirunelveli.
Geographically, the district lies at 8°73'N latitude, 77°70'E longitude and 47 m altitude. In the year 2021, there was a total 19.46% forest area of total geographical area. The district encompasses a geographical area of 6,693 sq. km. and it is bounded by Virudhunagar district on the North, Kanyakumari district on the South, Thoothukudi district on the East and Western Ghats on the West. Rainfall occurs in the district throughout the year but mostly in monsoon season. The actual rainfall in the district was 1218.7 mm in the year of 2021-22.
Administration wise, the district is divided into 11 taluks namely Alangulam, Ambasamudram, Nanguneri, Palayamkottai, Radhapuram, Sankarankoil, Shenkottai, Sivagiri, Tenkasi, Tirunelveli and Veerakeralamputhur. Moreover, it comprises 53 towns and 465 villages. The administartive language in the district is Tamil.
According to 2011 census the district has a population of 30,77,233 out of which 15,20,912 are males and 15,56,321 are females. The district has a sex ratio of 1023 (females for every 1000 males). During the year 2001-2011 the population growth rate in the district was 12.97% including 14.02% were males and 11.96% were females. As per 2011 census the major religion in the district is Hindu with 78.83% of the total population. The population density in the district is 460 persons per sq. km. According to 2011 census the principal language in the district is Tamil with 98.54%. In the year 2020 the number of live births in the district was 43,546 out of which 22,254 were males and 21,292 were females. In the same year the number of deaths in the district was 32,441 out of which 18,359 were males and 14,082 were females.
The economy of the district is dependent on both the agricultural and industrial, sectors. From the very beginning the district is famous as an agricultural area. The chief agricultural products in the district are chillies, coconut, gingerly, pulses, groundnut, indigo, cotton, rice, bananas, spices, etc. The adoption of the new agricultural technologies amongst the famers of the district helps to increase the production of various agricultural items. Since it is a coastal district, hence some of its natives adopt the fishery development and production as their prime occupation. The district is rich in mineral resources as well. Limestone, granite, garnet sand, etc are some of the commonly found mineral resources in the district. Industrially, also the district is quite well developed. Textile and forestry are the core industries in the district which contributes in its economy to a great extent. In the year 2011-12 the gross domestic product in the district was Rs. 27,02,414 lakhs at current price and Rs. 17,74,374 lakhs at constant prices in the year 2004-2005. The net domestic product in the district during the period 2018-19 was Rs. 52,73,144 lakh at current price and Rs. 38,63,924 lakh at constant prices in the year 2011-2012. The Per Capita Income or NDDP, At Factor Cost during the period 2016-17 was Rs. 1,34,885 at current price and Rs. 1,05,707 at constant prices in the year 2011-2012.
The district is well known as an abode of several reputed educational institutions. It provides a platform higher education. Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, established in the year 1990 is named after the famous poet, Prof. Sundaram Pillai. This university has a huge network in the district since most of the colleges in the district are affiliated to it. As per 2011 census the literacy rate in the district is 82.5% out of which 89.24% are males and 75.98% are females. The total number of literates in he district is 22,73,457 out of which 12,10,710 are males and 10,62,747 are females.
V. Gopalsamy, a veteran Indian politician and the founder and General Secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), a political party was born on 22nd May. 1944 at Kalingapatty in the district.
The district has several centres of attraction which allures many travellers from different parts of the country as well as world. Courtallam, a place located at a mean elevation of 160 metres on the Western Ghats in the Tirunelveli district is surrounded by numerous waterfalls and cascades. It is a perfect destination for nature’s lovers. The 900 square kilometres (350 sq. mi) Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, situated at a distance of 45 km. in the western side of the Tirunelveli town was established in 1962. There is also a famous temple named Malainambi temple with a falls which attracts many pilgrims from far off distance places. Papanasam, a most admired picnic spot is located 50 km. away from the Tirunelveli town. Additionally, the site has other popular places of interest such as Thamirabarani River, Agasthiyar Falls, Siva Temple, Papanasam dam and Hydro Electric Power Plant. Nellaiappar Temple and Sankaran kovil temple are the notable temples of the district. People from far distance places come to these temples to offer their prayers.