The town already existed before 1876. Kovilpatti was a water stop for steam engines after the introduction of the Southern Railways, and the establishment of textile mills like Loyal Textiles (1891) and Lakshmi Mills Ltd (1926) fueled the economic growth of the town. The Government Revenue divisional offices were sited there in 1911.
The town was constituted as a Municipal Town in 1964 composed of Kovilpatti Village and Illuppaiyurani Village. In 1961, the area of the town was 2.64 km2 with a population of 33,305; in 1971, it extended to 7.25 km2 and the population reached 48,509. In 1991, it was 12.58 km2 with a population of 78,834.
In the 2011 census, Kovilpatti had a population of 95,057. The sex-ratio of 1,065 females to 1,000 males much exceeded the national average of 929.
A total of 8,325 residents were under the age of six, constituting 4,158 males and 4,167 females. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes accounted for 10.32% and .84% of the population respectively. The literacy rate of the city was 81.27%, compared to the national average of 72.99%. The city had a total of 25099 households in 2011. There were a total of 41,006 workers, comprising 85 cultivators, 165 main agricultural labourers, 932 in household industries, 36,989 other workers, 2,835 marginal workers, 26 marginal cultivators, 26 marginal agricultural labourers, 262 marginal workers in household industries and 2,521 other marginal workers.
In the religious census of 2011, Kovilpatti was 92.29% Hindus, 2.48% Muslims, 5.12% Christians, 0.01% Sikhs, 0.01% Buddhists and 0.08% followers of other religions.
Kovilpatti is located at 9.17°N 77.87°E / 9.17; 77.87. It has an average elevation of 106 metres (347 feet). Located 100 km south of Madurai, 55 km north of Tirunelveli and 60 km north-west of Tuticorin, Kovilpatti is situated on National Highway No.7, which connects Varanasi in the north and Kanyakumari in the south. The town lies approximately 130 m above mean sea level.
The climate of Kovilpatti town is hot and dry. Temperatures range between a maximum of 37 °C and a minimum of 22 °C. April to June are the hottest months and December and January are coldest with temperatures rising towards the end of February. Rainfall occurs mostly during the north-east monsoon in the months of October to December though the town receives little rainfall, averaging 840 mm compared to the district average. Annual rainfall has ranged from 964 mm to 228 mm during past decades.
Kovilpatti constituency was part of Sivakasi Lok Sabha Constituency till 2008. As per order of the Delimitation Commission in respect of the delimitation of constituencies in the Tamil Nadu, the Kovilpatti constituency will be a segment of the new Thoothukkudi (Lok Sabha constituency). Delimitation was made effective for all elections in the state of Tamil Nadu that is held on or after 19 February 2008. With 5 terms from 1967 to 1990, S. Alagarsamy was the longest-serving member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly representing the Kovilpatti constituency.
Parvathi High School, Illuppaiurani, St Joseph Higher Secondary school, Ravilla K.R.A vidhyashram, V.O.C.government Higher Secondary school, Government girls Higher Secondary school, Nadar Higher Secondary school, E.V.A. Vallimuthu High School, Lakshmi mill Higher Secondary school, Kammavar Higher Secondary school, St. Paul's Matriculation Higher Secondary School, SDA Higher Secondary school, AVS Higher secondary school, Shyamala CBSE school, Punitha Ohm convent matriculation school, Johnbosco Matric School and Edustar International School, C.K.T Matriculation Higher Secondary School, U.P Matriculation School, Kamaraj Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Edustar International school CBSE and Counian matriculation higher secondary school are some of the most prominent schools in the town. National Engineering college, Unnamalai Institute of Technology, Lakshmi Ammal polytechnic college, KR College of Arts and Science, GVN Arts and Science College, S.S. Duraisamy Nadar Mariammal College, Govt college of Arts and Science, Punitha ohm college of education are some of the most prominent colleges in the town.
Kovilpatti is one of the industrial cities in Tamil Nadu. The town started its industrial development earlier than 1891. The introduction of the Southern Railway, the establishment of Loyal Textiles (1891), Lakshmi Mills (1926), establishment of Government Revenue Divisional Offices (1911), induced the industrial growth of the town. Kovilpatti is famous for match factories, textile mills and fireworks industry. Kovilpatti and its neighboring towns are candy paradise and most shops sell eatables like dark brown spiral candy, bright yellow wavy sev, Ellu mittai (எள்ளு மிட்டாய்), cocoa mittai, cheeni mittai, karupatti mittai and yeni padi mittai . Kovilpatti is famous for its unique candy 'kadalai mittai (கடலை மிட்டாய்) (Ground-nut candy)' and is referred as land of homemade sweets and savouries.
The Shenbagavalli-Poovananathar temple has a legend that Sage Agasthya came to South to balance the earth level when it sank at north during the wedding of Lord Shiva with Mother Parvathi is popular. On his way to Pothigai hills, the sage destroyed two demons Vilvalan and Vadhabi and also relieved himself of the Brahmmahati dosha that afflicted him due to killing of the demons. He also created the Agasthya spring as requested by the sages of Ponmalai hills. One Vamanan belonging to Shivakuzhu was born as the king of Vembakkottai in the name of Shenbagan as ordered by Nandhi, the bull vehicle of Lord Shiva. He built the temple as advised by the Lord. As the temple is built by king Shenbagan, Mother is named Shenbagavalli. Later, the temple was renovated by Ullamudayan belonging the 10th century.
Kathiresan temple is built on a hill Kathiresan hills at west side of the city. City view from the hill is quite interesting and may enjoy fresh air. Ettayapuram is situated about 15 km east of Kovilpatti. It is notable as a cotton growing centre. It is also famous as the birthplace of Nationalist poet and freedom fighter, Subramanya Bharathi. Points of interest are the ruins of Ettayapuram Jamin palace, the Manimandapam of Bharathiyar, the birth house of Bharathiyar, and the memorial of Sri Muthusamy Deikshidar. Kalugumalai is a massive dome of rock of 300 feet height situated on the road connecting Kovilpatti and Sankarankoil. It is famous for a rock cut temple called “Vettuvankoil”. Another rock cut temple is dedicated to lord Subramaniya Swamy is located at the foot of the rock. The remains of "Samana Palli" or Jain school can be seen atop the hill along the Vettuvan Koil. Panchalankuruchi is situated three kilometres north of Ottapidaram. The famous freedom fighter Kattabomman's fort was located here. At present only the fort remains; the rest of the settlement was destroyed by the British at the end of the war in 1799. In 1975, the government of Tamil Nadu constructed a fort in Panchalankurich in memory of the freedom fighter. Sankarankoil is situated west of Kovilpatti. It is the site of temple of Sankara Narayanar and Gomathiamman and attracts pilgrims and devotees from the surrounding districts. The Adithapasu festival attracts large crowds every year during July or August.
Kovilpatti is well connected by Road(NH7) and Train. Kovilpatti Railway Station has two platforms with stoppings for Major Express and all passenger trains.
Kovilpatti Airport: St. Bobgalie's Airport a small, unused airport which is rarely used an helipad. There is no news for AAI for any future plans for this airport. This Port might not be available after days or might be converted to an Airforce base for dump and exercises in Future.
It has 2 bus stations arizhnar anna bus stand & new bus stand
Kovilpatti has a number of cinemas which predominantly play Tamil movies. Kovilpatti's theatres are SBT Theatre, Shanmuga Theatre, Lakshmi Theatre, AKS Theatre.