Oppressed by a certain ruler, the Vaisyas of lunar race living in the town of Santhyapuri emigrated in a body to Kancheepuram in the Tondamandalam country in the year 204 kaliyuga. The King of Kancheepuram gave them permission to settle in his country and made grants of lands, temples and Madams to them. They stayed there for a very long time, but being troubled by heavy taxes and fines, they left that part of the country about 2312 kaliyuga and settled in Chola country. The Chola King being impressed by them, bestowed on them the privilege of placing the crown on the head of the new ruler at the time of coronation. In those days, the town of Kaveri-poompattinam is said to have been a flourishing state, and in it Vaisyas of other countries occupied the North Street. Being unwilling to disturb them, the King made the new settlers occupy the east, west and the south streets. As a mark of respect, they were allowed to use flags with the figure of a lion on them and use golden vessels (kalasam) in their houses. They all at the instance of the King, became disciples of Isanya Sivachariyar of Pathanjalikshetra (Chidambaram).
About 3775 kaliyuga, Puvanthi Chola Raja imprisoned several of the Vaisya women, whereon all the 8,000 families destroyed themselves leaving their male children to be taken care by a religious teacher named Admanadhachariar. In all 1,502 children were thus brought up. Later Puvanthi Chola fell ill, and knowing his recovery is impossible, sent for the Vaisya boys and asked them to attend to the coronation of his son, Rajabushana Chola. But they said they were all bachelors and could not comply with his request. Thereupon the King consulted various elders and gurus at his Court and found that the Vaisyas could marry the young women of the Vellala community. After prolonged consultations and negotiations with the leaders of the Vellala community, it was agreed that Vellala young women would marry the Vaisya young men. But the young Vaisya men, while willing to marry Vellala girls, were emphatic that they would not give their children in marriage to Vellala children. After some protest the Vellala folks agreed to this. Under the royal patronage, mass marriage was performed.
The last migration of the Chettiars within Tamil Nadu was from Chola Nadu to Pandya Nadu and this came about by a request made by Soundaraja Pandiyan King to Price Rajabushana Cholan. The Pandiyan King had approached the Cholan Prince for some good citizens and Vaisyas after his country was submerged for sometime due to unprecedented deluge, which had caused massive destruction to people, property and cattle. The Chola Prince being sympathetic and finding the plea reasonable persuaded some Vaisya merchants to migrate to the neighbouring kingdom. But the Vaisyas pointed out they are not agreeable for the community to be separated as they would like to stay united wherever they are. Thereupon, the Chola Prince permitted them to migrate enmasse. As promised the Pandiya king allotted the new Vaisya immigrants some well-defined territory in his country, west of the sea, north of the river Vaigai, east of the mountain Piran Malai and south of the river Vellaru. It was here that they first built the community centre called Ilayatrakudi Nagaram and the people who settled in this central Nagaram came to be called Nagarathars. Then they built the first temple, to be followed in course of time by eight others.
The present area of Chettinad thus formed part of Pandya Kingdom until the advent of the Nayak rulers of Madurai, who held sway over the territory during the 16th century. At the beginning of the 18th century, Raghunatha Sethupathy (1674 1710), the ruler of Ramnad defeated the Nayak army of Princess Mangammal in 1702 and secured complete freedom for his little kingdom. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, there were periodical incursions by Muslim chieftains, both from the north and the south, as well as petty feuds between Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga principalities. The consequent insecurity as well as growth of the Chettiar population led to their gradual dispersal into nearby villages and thus the 96 villages came into existence.
By 1800 the British had established their rule in South India and restored relatively peaceful conditions. The Chettiars then moved closer to the centre of their settlement from the relatively far off villages, and the number of Nagarathar villages shrank to the present 78.