Madikeri was formerly known as Muddu raja keri. Muddurajakeri which means Mudduraja's town, was named after the prominent Haleri king, Mudduraja who ruled Kodagu from 1633 to 1687.
The form of the name often used in English, Mercara, is derived from Madikeri by a standard transformation of the retroflex 'd' to an 'r' consonant.
The history of Madikeri is related to the history of Kodagu. From the 2nd to the 6th century AD, the northern part of Kodagu was ruled by Kadambas. The southern part of Kodagu was ruled by Gangas from the 4th to the 11th century. After defeating the Gangas in the 11th century, Cholas became the rulers of Kodagu. In the 12th century, the Cholas lost Kodagu to the Hoysalas. Kodagu fell to the Vijayanagar kings in the 14th century. After their fall, the local chieftains like Karnambahu (Palegars) started ruling their areas directly. They were defeated by Haleri Dynasty founder Veeraraju, (Nephew of Ikkeri Sadashiva Nayaka who were descendants of Talakadu Ganga Dynasty), and his father in-law Bomma Gowda, the Seeme Gowda of Haleri kings. In the year 1700AD Ikkeri Somashekara Nayaka gifted Puttur and Amara Sullia Magnes of Tulunadu to Haleri Kings. Descendants of Veeraraju who are known as "Haleri Dynasty" ruled Kodagu from 1600-1834 AD. Haleri king Mudduraja built the Fort in Madikeri and made it as their capital. Mudduraja, the third Haleri king started leveling the land around Madikeri and built a fort in the year 1681. Madikeri Fortwhich was original built of mud and was replaced by Tipu Sultan. Kodagu became the part of British India after 1834 AD.
As of 2001 India census, Madikeri had a population of 47,257. Males constitute 57.2% of the population and females 42.8%. Madikeri had an average literacy rate of 81%, higher than the national average of 57.2: male literacy was 83%, and female literacy 79%. 11% of the population was under 6 years of age. This town is situated at an elevation of over 4000 ft above sea level.
The main language of Madikeri is Kodava Takk, Kannada, Arebhashe (A form of kannada) spoken by Gowdas those who migrated from South Canara or Dakshina Kannada and settled in Kodagu, features prominently here.Gowdas were originally from Igoor Maha Samsthana (Present Districts of Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru, Hassan and Part of Kodagu whose Roots are traced to Ganga Dynasty of Talakadu.
Madikeri features a tropical highland climate as it has an elevation of 1170 metres (3838 feet). Madikeri is located at 12.42°N 75.73°E / 12.42; 75.73. Madikeri lies in the Western Ghats and is a popular hill station. The nearest cities are Mangaluru to the west, and Mysuru to the east.
The mean daily minimum temperature is lowest in January at about 11 °C.Maximum temperature in summer is around 24 °C to 27 °C. With the onset of the south-west monsoon, the temperature decreases in June and the weather becomes chilly.The lowest temperature recorded is 4.5 °C.
Madikeri lies on the Karnataka State Highway 88 that runs from Mangaluru to Mysuru. It is 120 km from Mysuru and 136 km from Mangaluru. From Bengaluru, the state capital of Karnataka, one can take the State Highway 17 (Bengaluru - Mysuru Highway) and take a deviation just after the town of Srirangapatna to join State Highway 88 towards Madikeri. It can be approached from Mangaluru via Puttur, Sullia passing through Sampaje Ghat. From Bengaluru, Madikeri is at a distance of 252 km. Nearby towns are Hassan (115 km), Sullia at a distance of 52 km in Karnataka state and Kasaragod, Kannur, Thalassery, Kanhangad and Uppala in Kerala state (each around 114 km away).
Madikeri does not have a railway station. The nearest railheads are Hassan, Kasaragod, Kanhangad, Kannur and Thalassery (each of which are almost equidistant at 115 km away). Mysuru at 120 km and Mangaluru at 136 km away are good alternatives to reach Madikeri from within Karnataka.
Mangalore International Airport at Mangaluru (137 km) is the nearest International airport and offers flights from Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Gulf countries.Raja Seat: This is a small square viewing spot like a mantapa in brick and mortar of four pillars bridged by arches, enhanced by beautiful surroundings. This spot was a favourite place of recreation for the Rajas and hence was permanently associated with them. It is built on a high level ground with a commanding view of the cliffs and valleys to the west.
Madikeri Fort: This fort was first built by Mudduraja in the last quarter of the 17th century. He also built a palace inside the fort. It was eventually rebuilt in granite by Tipu Sultan who named the site as Zafarabad. In 1790, Doddavira Rajendra took control of the fort. The British added to the fort in 1834. The palace was renovated by Linga Rajendra II between 1812 and 1814. In the north-east corner at the entrance are two life size masonry elephants, and a church is present in the south-east corner. There is a famous Lord Ganesha temple known as "Kote ganapathi" just at the main entrance of the fort.
St. Mark's Church: This dis-used church is located within the Mercara Fort, Coorg, India and was raised in 1859, by the officers and men of the East India Company and funded by the Government of Madras, under the Church of England in India, Diocese of Madras. The Church was closed after Indian independence, and taken over by the Government of Karnataka in 1971. The building now houses the Madikeri Fort Museum, managed by the Karnataka State Archaeological Department.
Omkareshwar Temple: Located at the heart of the Town, Omkareshwara temple was built by king Linga Rajendra II in 1820. The temple has both Islamic and Gothic styles of architecture, built around a central pool. It is said Linga Rajendra killed an honest and pious Brahmin to fulfill his political ambitions. That Brahmin became a "Brahmarakshasa" and started troubling the king. In order to purify himself for the killing of a Brahmin, he was advised to construct a temple to Lord Shiva. He brought a Shivalinga from Kashi, and the temple was built and named "Omkareshwara".
Abbey Falls is a waterfall situated 6 km from Madikeri town. Water from Kootu Poley dam near the town flows into the falls.
Madikeri fort is located in the very heart of the city and some of the old buildings are now used as district offices. There are some statues and other tourist attractions inside the fort.