The present-day district of Pudukkottai was part of the Pandya kingdom. Over the centuries, the district was ruled by a succession of South Indian dynasties which included the Cholas, Pallavas and Hoysalas. The district became a part of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century.
The Vijayanagara empire fought many wars with the Muslim Deccan sultanates to its north, and in 1565 the allied sultanates decisively defeated Vijayanagara at the Battle of Talikota. The defeat weakened the Vijayanagara Empire, and regional governors, called Nayaks, became de facto local rulers in much of Southern India. Pudukkottai was ruled by the Nayaks of Madurai from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century.
Pudukkottai has an average elevation of 100 metres (328 feet). The state consists mainly of an undulating plain, nowhere of great fertility and in many parts barren; it is interspersed with rocky hills, especially in the southwest. Granite and laterite are quarried, red ochre is worked, and silk and cotton fabrics, bell-metal vessels and perfumes are among the principal manufactures. There is also some export trade in groundnuts and tanning bark.