Karaikal district (also Karikal or Karaikkal) is one of the four districts of the Union Territory of Puducherry in India.

Karaikal city (about 16 km north of Nagappattinam and 12 km south of Tarangambadi) is the regional headquarters. Karaikal region is made up of the Communes of Karaikal, Kottucherry, Nedungadu, Tirunallar, Neravy and Tirumalarajanpattinam.

Several explanations are offered for the word Karaikal. The Imperial Gazetteer gives it the meaning ‘fish pass’. According to Julien Vinson the town is said to have known as Karaigiri in Sanskrit. However, the name Karaikal is no doubt a combination of two words ‘Karai’ and ‘Kal’. Both the words ‘Karai and ‘Kal’ have several meanings, of which the more acceptable ones are ‘lime mix’ and ‘canal’ respectively. Hence it has been suggested that the name may mean a canal built of lime mix.

This Karaikal area formed an integral part of the Pallava kingdom in the eighth century(C 731-796). Poet Sekkizhar (992-1042) describes the town as “vanga malik kadar karaikal”, the ‘Karaikal of many vessels on the coast’ in his Peria puranam. In that the poet relates the life story of one Punithavathiar who abandoned the pleasures of material life and devoted herself entirely to a life of prayer and penance to signify her devotion to Lord Siva. He called her ‘Karaikal Ammayar’, conveniently after the town which must have been famous already.

The formation of Karaikal national congress on 13.6.1947 and Students Congress on 31.1.1947 symbolised the first concrete expression of popular desire in Karaikal for freedom from French rule. The French ruled this district till 31 October 1954 on which date the French flag flying atop the government house at Karaikal was lowered with due military honors before a large gathering of officials and non-officials. Thus the de facto transfer of power took place on 1 November 1954 followed by de jure transfer on 16 August 1962.

Karaikal is a small coastal enclave of territory which was formerly part of French India. Together with the other former French enclaves of Pondicherry, Yanam, and Mahé, Karaikal forms the Union Territory of Puducherry. Karaikal is bounded on the North and South by Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu state, on the west by Tiruvarur district (also belonging to Tamil Nadu), and on the East by the Bay of Bengal. The enclave is located 132 km south of the city of Pondicherry, and is known for its rich cultural heritage.

Karaikal is situated on the east coast of India, near latitude 11 N in the deltaic region of the Cauveri, experiences tropical maritime type of climate with small daily range of temperature and moderate rainfall. Karaikal has an annual average rainfall of about 126 cm. 68 percent of which occurs during October to December. The amount of rainfall during the south-west monsoon period is small, being less than 20 per cent of the annual. November is the rainiest month, accounting for about a third of the annual total. The range of variation of annual rainfall is wide.

December and January are the coolest months with the maximum at about 28 C and the minimum at about 23 C°. Minimum temperature as low as 16 C° may sometimes be recorded. The diurnal ranges of temperature are generally small throughout the year, being highest (about 10 C°) in May and June, and the least (about 5 C°) during November to February.

According to the 2011 census Karaikal district has a population of 200,314, roughly equal to the nation of Samoa.This gives it a ranking of 589th in India (out of a total of 640).The district has a population density of 1,252 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,240/sq mi) .Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 17.29%.Karaikal has a sex ratio of 1048 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 87.83%.