Wankaner derives its name from the geographical feature related to the location of the town: 'Wanka' means a bend and 'ner' means water stream in Gujarati. Wankaner literally means a bend on the stream and it is located on the bend of the Machchhu river
The Jhala Rajput clan ruled Wankaner, the capital of the former princely State of Wankaner, till Indian independence in 1947 AD. It was one of the four princely states of Jhalawad, other three being- Wadhvan, Limbdi and Dhangadhra.
Sartanji founded the princely State of Wankaner in 1605 AD and the town was fortified in the late 18th century for protection against the bandits and neighboring enemies. King Amarsinhji, a noble ruler, who made Wankaner a rich city-state, ruled Wankaner up till 1947 AD.
Under the patronage of Amarsinhji, 5 palaces and many bungalows were built and named after the rulers of the princely States of Kutch, Rajkot, Mayurbhanj and Jamnagar.
Amarsinhji built the Ranjit Vilas Palace on a hill, overlooking Wankaner town. It took seven years to complete (1907-14 AD) and was designed by Amarsinhji himself. It was inaugurated by and named after his dear friend Jam Ranjitsinhji of Jamnagar. The ground of the palace extends to two hundred and twenty five acres. The state guesthouse, Chandra Bhavan is also located in the same campus in the vicinity of the Ranjit Vilas Palace.