Tirunelveli District (Tamil:திருநெல்வேலி மாவட்டம்) is a southern district of the State of Tamil Nadu, South India. The city of Tirunelveli is the district capital. A unique feature of this district is that it has all five geographical traditions as enunciated in ancient Tamil Literature namely the Kurinji (mountains), Mullai (forest), Marudham (paddy fields), Neithal (coastal) and Palai (desert). The Tirunelveli Sthalapurana lay down a tradition for the origin of the name Tirunelveli based on an ancient story of a devout hindu priest Vedasarma, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, while on a pilgrimage settled on the banks of the sacred River Tamiraparani at a place called Sindupoondhurai. He was performing the daily prayers at the Thiru Venu Vananadha Swamy Temple, presently called the Nellaiappar Temple. As a famine had struck he was compelled to beg for paddy to perform his daily prayers. One day he had spread out the paddy to dry and had gone for a bath in River Tamiraparani when a thunder storm broke-out and rained heavily. Vedasarma rushed to the temple where he had spread the paddy and to his surprise he saw that despite rain around the area, the paddy that he had spread did not get soaked. Since then, according to the Indian mythology this city is called as `Tiru-nel-veli` or sacred hedged paddy. This place was called variably with different rulers – namely Mudikonda Cholamandalam under the Chola Dynasty, Thenpandiyanadu under the Pandya Dynasty, Tirunelveli Seemai under the rule of Krishna Deva Raya & Nayaks. Later this part of the country was ruled by the Nawabs of Arcot for a short period of time. On acquisition from the Nawabs of Arcot in 1790, the British named the place as Tinnevelly district on September 1, 1790 comprising the present Tirunelveli, Tuticorin Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram districts with their headquarters in Palayamkottai. The British had their military headquarters in Palayamkottai (this is where the present Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital is built) during their operations against the Palayakars and during the first and second world war.
In early 1900s, parts of Tirunelveli district was segregated and made as Ramanathapuram district. In 1986, Tirunelveli district was further split into two districts as present-day Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli districts. It is still the second largest district as of October 2008. The district covers an area of 6,823 square kms. The district has diverse geographical and physical features. It has a large mountainous stretch of Western Ghats that is mother to a perennial River Tamiraparani and many other smaller rivers. The district has a peculiar climate that receives rainfall in all the seasons and benefits from both the North East Monsoon and the South West Monsoon. The district is irrigated by several rivers originating in Western Ghats, like the River Pachaiyar, River Manimuthar, River Chithraar. Courtallam and Manimuthar Waterfalls are the two major waterfalls in the district of more that sixteen such places.