Historically, Karnalayaor is the original name of Karnal. It was founded by Raja Karna of the great epic Mahabharta. It was also called as Karnaal, Kurnaul or Karnaul in British rule. Karnal is said to have been founded by Karna of Mahabharata. The region came under the control of Persian emperor, Nadir Shah in 1739, by defeating the Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah. Then Raja Gopal Singh of Jind occupied Karnal in the year 1863 and then in 1785 Marathas captured the place of Karnal. From that moment the fight between the Marhattas and the Sikhs was started. In 1795 the Marhattas seized this region from Raja Bhag Singh of Jind. Again, it was wrested by Raja Gopal Singh of Jind in 1863. Finally, British came to this region and captured it in 1805. They made it a British cantonment and converted into a residence for Dost Mohd. Khan Amir of Kabul. The place was used differently during different periods of time. The fort was used as a jail, as quarters for native cavalry and as poor house. At last, Karnal was emerged as a separate district in the map of Haryana state on 23rd January, 1973.
A number of key persons from different fields also belong to the district. Kalpana Chawla was an Indo-American astronaut. She was the first woman to go to space of Indian origin. She died in 2003 in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. She was awarded by the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal and NASA Distinguished Service Medal after her death. Manju Jaidka is a Professor of English language at the Punjab University. She has contributed for Twentieth-Century English and American Poetry, American Studies in India, and World Literatures.
Geographically, the district has a total 2,520 sq. km. area and occupies the ranks 6th in State and 454th in India on the bases of this size. It lies at 29°69'N latitude, 76°98'E longitude and 228 m altitude. In the year 2021, there was a total 1.26% forest area of total geographical area. The climate of the district remains extremely hot in the summers and fairly cold in the winters. Most of its rainfall occurs in the monsoon season. The actual rainfall in the district was 849.8 mm in the year of 2021-22.
Administrative wise, the district is divided into 5 sub-districts, 8 towns and 434 villages. Hindi is its official language. In the state of Haryana with an allotted district code of 74 the district of Karnal came into existence on 23rd January, 1973 with its administrative headquarters located at Karnal which is situated at a distance of 125 kms from the State Capital.
Demographically, according to the 2011 census, the district has a total number of 2,84,551 households with a total of 15,05,324 persons comprising 7,97,712 are males and 7,07,612 are females which causing it to rank 5th in the State and 334th in India. The density of population of the district is 597 persons per sq. km. The sex ratio is pegged at 887 females per 1000 males while the child ratio stands at 824 females per 1000 males. The schedule caste population of the district is recorded as 3,39,604 comprising 1,79,681 are males and 1,59,923 are females. According to the 2011 census, the percentage of the principal languages of the region are Hindi with 87.41% and Punjabi with 10.86%. In the year 2020 the number of live births in the district was 34,513 out of which 18,311 were males and 16,194 were females. In the same year the number of deaths in the district was 12,477 out of which 7,725 were males and 4,752 were females. The population growth rate during the period 2001 to 2011 was 18.14% including 16.73% were males and 19.77% were females. As per 2011 census the major religion in the district is Hindu with 89.08% of the total population.
Economically, the district is dependent on the agriculture primarily. Karnal is called the rice bowl of India. The GDDP or Gross District Domestic Product during the period 2005-06 was Rs. 5,53,751 lakh at Current Price and Rs. 4,26,004 lakh at Constant Price during the period 1999-2000. The NDDP, or Net District Domestic Product during the period 2005-06 was Rs. 5,12,872 lakh at Current Price and Rs. 3,95,058 lakh at Constant Price during the period 1999-2000. The Per Capita Income or NDDP, at factor cost during the period 2011-12 was Rs. 93,231 lakh at Current Price during the period 2004-2005.
Education wise, according to the 2011 census, the literacy rate in the district is 74.73% including 81.82% are males and 66.82% are females. The total literate population of the district is 9,78,013 comprising 5,64,516 are males and 4,13,497 are females. The district has several educational institutes including schools and colleges.
The district has several famous political personalities. Chaudhary Ishwar Singh belonged to Congress Party. He was the speaker of Haryana Vidhan Sabha from 1991-1996. He became an MLA from the Pundri constituency of Haryana four times. Ved Prakash Goyal was an Indian politician from the Bharatiya Janata Party. He had served as the Union Minister of shipping in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 2001 to 2003. He also became the member of Rajya Sabha.
The district has a number of famous historical and religious places to visit. These places are Cantonment Church Tower, European Soldiers Grave, Gateway of Old Mughal Sarai, Kalander Shah Tomb, Karna Tank, Kushan Stupa, Miran Sahib Tomb, Old Fort, Sita Mai Temple, Taraori Sarai, Dargah Nuri. In the year 2020-2021, there were total 1,13,972 domestic tourists and 55 foreign tourists. Gateway of Old Mughal Sarai (Rest House) was constructed by Feroz Khan in 1637 AD. It was built during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It has three storeys, some balconies, rounded towers and it is quadrangular in shape. The Cantonment Church is a tower, named after St. James. It is a rare piece of British Architecture. It has a height of 35 m. It is surrounded by a large ornamental cross and is bordered by a big cross. Kalander Shah's Tomb was built by the emperor of Delhi named Ghias-ud-din in the memory of a famous Muslim sage called Bo-Ali-Qualander Shah. It is the most religious place in Karnal. The tomb has a mosque which was built by the Emperor Alamgir, a fountain and reservoir in the outside area.