The city was at one time the capital of the Pallavas (4th to 9th centuries CE). Kanchipuram fell to King Pulakesin II (r. 610-642 CE) in the 7th century CE when this powerful Early Western Calukya ruler defeated Harsa of Kanauj. Falling again into Pallava hands it was recaptured by the Calukya ruler Vikramaditya II (r. 733-746 CE) and a contemporary inscription at the site records this victory. Kanchi was also the home of the famous 6th century CE poet Bharavi who wrote the Kiratarjuniya and the famous 11th to 12th century CE Hindu philosopher Ramanuja. Still today an important religious centre, the site has over 120 temples and is also noted for its production of fine silk saris.
The major occupations of Kanchipuram are silk sari weaving and agriculture. As of 2008, an estimated 5,000 families were involved in sari production.[ The main industries are cotton production, light machinery and electrical goods manufacturing, and food processing. There are 25 silk and cotton yarn industries, 60 dyeing units, 50 rice mills and 42 other industries in the Kanchipuram. Another important occupation is tourism and service related segments like hotels, restaurants and local transportation
Kanchipuram is a traditional centre of silk weaving and handloom industries for producing Kanchipuram Saris. The industry is worth ₹ 100 cr (US$18.18 million), but the weaving community suffers from poor marketing techniques and duplicate market players. In 2005, "Kanchipuram Silk Sarees" received the Geographical Indication tag, the first product in India to carry this label. The silk trade in Kanchipuram began when King Raja Raja Chola I (985–1014) invited weavers to migrate to Kanchi. The craft increased with the mass migration from Andhra Pradesh in the 15th century during the Vijayanagara rule. The city was razed during the French siege of 1757, but weaving re-emerged in the late 18th century.