Wayanad District in the north-east of Kerala, India, was formed on November 1, 1980 as the 12th district by carving out areas from Kozhikode and Kannur districts. Kalpetta is the district headquarters as well as the only municipal town in the district. The region was known as Mayakshetra (Maya's land) in the earliest records. Mayakshetra evolved into Mayanad and finally to Wayanad. The Folk etymology of the word says it is a combination of Vayal (paddy field) and Naad (land), making it 'The Land of Paddy Fields'. There are many indigenous tribals in this area. It is set high on the Western Ghats with altitudes ranging from 700 to 2100 m
According to archaeological evidence, the Wayanad forests have been inhabited for more than 3,000 years. Historians are of the view that human settlement existed in these parts for at least ten centuries before Christ. Much evidences of New Stone Age civilization can be seen in the hills throughout the present day Wayanad district. The two caves of Ampukuthimala, with pictures on their walls and pictorial writings, speak volumes of a bygone civilization. The recorded history of this district exists only from the 18th century onward.
In ancient times, this land was ruled by the Rajas of the Veda dynasty. In later days, Wayanad came under the rule of the Pazhassi Raja dynasty of ancient Kottayam. When Hyder Ali became the ruler of Mysore, he invaded Wayanad and brought it under his sway. In the days of Tipu Sultan, Wayanad was restored to the Kottayam royal dynasty. But Tipu handed over the entire region of northern Kerala to the British, signing the treaty of Srirangapatna with British army officer and colonial administrator Cornwallis. This was followed by fierce and internecine encounters between the British and Pazhassi Raja of Kottayam.
When the Rajah was driven to the wilderness of Wayanad, he organised the war-like Kurichiya tribals into a sort of people's militia and engaged the British in several guerrilla type encounters. In the end, the British could get only the dead body of the Rajah, who committed suicide in the forest. Thus, Wayanad fell into the hands of the British and with it came a new era. The British authorities opened up the plateau to cultivation of tea and other cash crops by constructing roads across the dangerous slopes of Wayanad, to Kozhikode and Thalassery.
Later, they extended these new roads to the cities of Mysore and Ooty through Gudalur. Settlers emigrated from all parts of Kerala and the fecund lands proved a veritable goldmine with incredible yields of cash crops. When the State of Kerala came into being in November 1956, Wayanad was part of Kannur district. Later, south Wayanad was added to Kozhikode district. In order to fulfil the aspirations of the people of Wayanad for development, North Wayanad and South Wayanad were carved out and joined together to form the present district of Wayanad. This district came into being on November 1, 1980 as one the twelve districts of Kerala, consisting of three taluks; Vythiri, Mananthavady, and Sulthan Bathery.