The known history of the Tumkur district begins with the Gangas. The Ganga family ruled over the southern and eastern districts of the state from early in the Christian era to 1025 AD. The earliest record of The Ganga family found in this district belongs to about 400 A.D. After the Gangas, Tumkur was ruled by the Rastrakutas and The Chalukyas. The Nolambas under these rulers ruled the area for a long time. The cholas also ruled some parts of the district. The Vijayanagara Empire ruled supreme for the latter part of the 13th to 17th century. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Tumkur was ruled by The Wodeyars of Mysore until independence.
The Tumkur town municipality was set up by the Mysore Wodeyars in the 1916. Self-rule of the residents of Tumkur started after the setting up of the municipality. Tumkur was converted into a city corporation only in 2010 by adding 22 villages adjoining the city. The population is 3,05,877 as per the 2011 census. Tumkur is now a middle class majority city, with a literacy rate of 80%, mainly traders, government employees, small and medium industrialists, and self-employed individuals. The GDP of Tumkur is around 16600 crores (2014) and the total collection of income tax in the last financial year[when?] was approximately 80 crores. Being an Agrarian economy, the major plantation crops of Tumkur are coconut and arceanut. The major cash crops are paddy, ragi and groundnut. Iron ore, manganese and granite are the major minerals found in the Tumkur district.
Due to its proximity to Bengaluru, it acts as a gateway to North Karnataka, being on the Chennai – Mumbai industrial corridor and the infrastructure that Tumkur provides, it has the potential to be the satellite city to decongest the state capital Bengaluru . It also has been identified as National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ). NIMZ of approximately 13500 acres and the HAL helicopter manufacturing facility (Nr Gubbi) 610 acres are being developed as integrated industrial townships with state-of-the art infrastructure and land use on the basis of zoning, clean and energy efficient technology, necessary social infrastructure, and skill development facilities, for promoting world class manufacturing activity. Tumkur is home to 24 large scale industries with an investment of 911.42 crores and generating an employment for 6445 persons. The existing 15 medium scale industries and 23804 micro and small industries employ 132994 persons and account for an investment of close to 790 crores. A 2000 MW of solar power plant on 11000 acres is being developed near Pavagada to cater to the power needs of Tumkur and adjoining districts.
Tumkur is a knowledge hub in the south interior of Karnataka. It has Tumkur University, two medical colleges, five engineering colleges, 38 degree and postgraduate colleges, one dental college and many polytechnics, high schools and primary schools.
The Indian budget for the year 2014-2015 held on 10 July 2014 announced that Tumkur was one of the cities in south India to be developed as an “Industrial Smart” city. The city was also selected as one among the 100 in the country shortlisted for the Smart City project. Tumkur is competing now to be one among the 20 to be taken up for development this year.[when?] The government of India has promised 100 crores each as a matching grant for five years and the local body with assistance from the state government has to match another 100 crores. Thus, in five years, development in the amount of 1000 crores will happen in Smart City. The Tumkur District Chamber of Commerce and Industry under the leadership of Surendra Shah, President – 2014-16 is striving to make the City of Tumkur the most aspired city in India.