The regency has a lively history. Records indicate it came under the suzerainty of King Airlangga in 1037. When Majapahit invaded Bali in AD 1343, the territory was allotted to one of Gajah Mada's field generals, Arya Kenceng. As Javanese invaders expanded their territory, they came into conflict with the Mengwi house, founded during the mid-1600s with the fall of Gelgel and allied with Buleleng. Tabanan's classical period was in the 17th century and included the founding of the main 'puri' by Raja Singasana. Tabanan, Mengwi, and Penebel were almost constantly at war until 1891 when Mengwi was defeated by the princes of Tabanan and Badung. Through a series of court intrigues, assassinations, truces, and marriages, the principal houses of the district-Kaleran and Kerambitan-were formed in the 19th century.
When the Dutch conquered Bali in the early 20th century, they captured the king and crown prince (who committed suicide while in captivity), sacked the Tabanan palace, and exiled most of the surviving royalty to Lombok. The Dutch controller's office was established right in front of Puri Kaleran, but it was the outcaste marriage of a high-ranking princess that finished the kingdom for good. Since the rajadom had not entered into an agreement with the Dutch, the heirs lost their titles and lands, which were parceled out to the regency's 'banjar'. Some historians believe this early redistribution of land to the peasants accounts for Tabanan's prosperous rice economy today. In 1929, the Dutch reorganized Bali's kingdoms into eight regencies, restoring the raja's titles and authority, a status that lasted until 1950, when Sukarno abolished Indonesia's royalty with the stroke of a pen.