In the past, scholars suggested that the food-gatherer groups of the Nilgiris were the descendants of the powerful Kuruma (Pallavas), who fled to the wild during the ascension of the Cholla dynasty, around the ninth century A . D . More recently scholars have regarded them as the indigenous inhabitants of the area. The Wynaad itself, as part of the Nilgiris, was in the eighteenth century a part of the kingdom of Mysore, ruled by Haidar Ali, and later by his son Tipu Sultan. In 1803, British troops of the East India Company led by the (later) Duke of Wellington won it over. Infected by malaria, the Wynaad was not popular with immigrants, most of whom crossed it and settled higher up the hills; these immigrants included the agriculturalist Badaga in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the British during the nineteenth century, and after them Indians of various castes and religions. In the 1830s exploration for gold began in the Wynaad, building to a brief but devastating gold rush during the 1880s. In the 1860s some coffee, tea, and rubber plantations were opened; most remained marginal at these low elevations. The effects on the Nayaka varied from place to place. In some localities they took to wage labor as their main source of income. In other areas, they added casual wage labor to their traditional gathering in the forest, barter in forest produce, and labor for agricultural neighbors and forest contractors.
Nayaka, while they do not maintain close contact with Nayaka of other localities, do have close contact with Neighboring non-Nayaka populations. They seem to have been in contact with non-Nayaka populations for a long time. They barter forest produce for simple agricultural and manufactured goods, such as tobacco, grain, and metal knives. They occasionally provide labor to their neighbors. They maintain friendly relations with neighboring populations and each party attends the other's festivals.