Mandla was earlier called Mahishmati Nagari. An inscription in the Ramnagar fort indicates that the Gond-Rajput dynasty of Garha-Mandla began with a Rajput adventurer called Jadho Rao, who entered the service of a Gond king and married his daughter. The place remained under their local leadership till 1480. It was then taken over by Sangram Shah. He extended the territory over to Narmada Valley, Bhopal, Sagar, Damoh and most of the regions of Satpura hills. It is said that he left behind fifty-two forts or districts for his successor.
In 1564, Asaf Khan, a Mughal viceroy, invaded the region. Rani Durgawati fought his army valiantly near the historical Singorharh fort in Damoh. However, she could not win the battle and then she decided to retire past Garha towards Mandala. Shamed by her failure in the battle, the queen killed herself by plunging a dagger into her chest. Asaf Khan then robbed valuables from the region, along with more than a thousand elephants.
Mandla came under the state of Bhopal during the rule of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Later it came under the Chandra Shah. It was during the time of Prem Narayan, the grandson of Chandra Shah, when the Bundelas invaded Narsinghpur district. They destroyed the castle of Chauragarh. There were constant disputes in the family which led to outside intervention. Eventually, the whole region was divided into many parts, out of which Sagar district was handed over to the Mughal emperor Akbar, the south of Sagar and Damoh districts to Chhatar Sal Raja of Panna, and Seoni district to the Gond Raja of Deogarh. In 1670, Mandla became the capital of the Kingdom.
The city was invaded by Peshwas in 1742. The present territories of Balaghat and Bhandara were taken over by the Bhonsles of Nagpur. The last king of Gond-Rajput was overthrown and Mandla came under the control of Maratha Government of Sagar in the year 1781. Mandla was then appropriated by the Bhonsle Rajas of Nagpur, in accordance with a treaty concluded earlier with the Peshwa.
Between 1818 AD to 1835 AD, Mandla was a tehsil of Seoni district. Mandla came under the Jabalpur district in 1840. It was given the status of a district during 1849 and 6 months later, it was united with Ramgarh and Sohagpur to form a bigger district. It went under further reallocations. The British establishment in Mandla took place in 1858 after the Revolt of 1857.
In a nutshell, Mandla was ruled by the following - The Gond-Rajputs (since 15th century), the Mughals (1480 onwards), the Bundelas, the Peshwas (1742), the Marathas (1781), Bhonsle Raja of Nagpur (1799) and the British (1858 onwards).
The first political Conference was organized at Mandla in 1917 A.D. The All India Congress Committee was set up at Mandla subsequently. Soon the Forest Satyagraha gained an alarming proportion at Bhichhia where many thousands of Gonds gathered under Gandhu Gond to cut the forest. A number of arrests were made during this event. The first Civil Disobedience Movement ended with the conclusion of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact on the 5th March 1931 and the movement was stopped in the Mandla city. However, in January 1932 with the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi and other Congress leaders the Second Civil Disobedience Movement flared throughout the country. Many persons again took part in the movement, in the city including Girijashankar Agnihotri, Rawal Singh, and Ambika Goswami etc.
Gandhiji was jailed soon. After he was released, he undertook a Harijan tour of the country from November 1933 to better the conditions of the Harijans. In the course of the tour, Gandhiji visited Mandla on the 6th of December by bus from Jabalpur. With the declaration of Madhya Pradesh Reorganization Act, from 21st May 1998, Mandla district has been bifurcated into Mandla and Dindori Districts. The complete Dindori and Shahpura tehsils and Mahandwani development Block formed Dindori District while the rest of the area existed in Mandla District.
Mandla lies in the district of the same name. The district is located in the east-central part of the Madhya Pradesh. It is the eastern part of the Jabalpur district. The district forms a part of Satpura hills and is the watershed of three district river systems. It lies between the latitude 22 degree 2' and 23 degree 22' north and longitude 80 degree 18' and 81 degree 50' east. The tropic of cancer thus passes through the north of the district. The total area of the district is 13,269 Sq. Km. The district is bounded on the north-west by Jabalpur district; on the north and north-east by Shahdol district; on the south-east by Bilaspur - Rajnandgaon district; on the south by Durg and Balaghat district and on the west by Seoni district.
By Air : Jabalpur is the nearest airport, 97 Km away from Mandla. The airport at Nagpur is 250 Km away from Mandla but is the nearest airport as it is of less hassle to reach Mandla from Nagpur by road. Flights to major cities like Indore, Bhopal are frequent.
By Rail: Jabalpur is the nearest railhead. Daily trains between Delhi and Jabalpur are Mahakoshal Express and Gondwana Express, while Mumbai is connected through the Mahanagari Exp., Rajendra Ngr Exp., Kolkata Mail, LTT RJPB Exp. and Gorakhpur Exp.
By Road: There are regular to and fro bus services available from Jabalpur to Mandla. Cars can be hired from all the nearby towns to reach Mandla. The drive from Nagpur to Mandla takes around 6 hours by car. Seoni is 130 km from Mandla.
Mandla District consists of a rugged high tableland in the eastern part of the Satpura hills. In this area are the forest sanctuaries of Kanha and Kisli ' the home of countless deer and antelope and variety of other wild fauna which attract tourists from far and wide. There are Sal forests of the Phen and Banjar valleys. To the north of Mandla, on either side of Mandla â€ Jabalpur road is a large, rugged and inaccessible tract, however, contained between the two pockets of the richest black soil, around about Narayanpur and Lakhanpur.
Mandla has a hot summer season and general dryness except in the southwest monsoon season. The year may be divided into four seasons. The cold season from December to February is followed by the hot season from March to the middle of June. The period from mid June to September is the southwest monsoon season. October and November constitute the post monsoon or retreating monsoon season. May is the hottest month with the mean daily minimum temperature at 41.3 degrees Celsius and the mean daily minimum at 24 degrees Celsius. On individual days during the summer season the day temperature may go above 44 degree Celsius. The highest maximum temperature recorded at Mandla was 45.0 degrees Celsius on 1954 May 22. The lowest minimum was 0.6 degrees Celsius on 1954 January 25.
Mandla has only the bare minimum infrastructure and is one of the backward districts in this region. There are no water treatment facilities in Mandla. The main source of water supply in this region is groundwater, i.e. hand pump. However, there are some villages which come under piped water supply scheme. Apart from the above, water supply is also made through tube wells/dug wells. Mandla thrives on agriculture and small handicrafts. There are no major industries. These are seasonal. When there is no farming or harvesting to do, most of the people leave for labor to nearby places like Jabalpur or even far-off places like UP for brick kiln work, depending on the availability of work.
The Mandla district has schools until the higher secondary level and polytechnic colleges. Facilities for higher studies are not available. The neighboring cities or towns are approached for this purpose.
The dwellings are mostly houses made of cupping mud around a thin wall of brick. Long clay tiles on rafters form the roof. The houses are mostly cow-dung mopped and tiled with terracotta roofs. One of the rooms of the house, usually the front long room as long as the width of the house, has the furnace. In some houses, the furnace is located outside. A few families are presently building their houses with cement and concrete. They consist of a living room, kitchen, veranda, a special room for women to use while menstruating, and a shrine for clan gods.
The culture in Mandla has a strong tribal character to it. The Gond and the Baiga tribes are most significant tribes in the district. The Gonds are mostly agriculturalists whereas the Baigas are forest dwellers. In the tribal societies, the clans are usually named after some animals or plants like Markam (Mango tree), Tekam (Indian Teak tree), Netam (the dog), Warkara (wild cat) and so on. Worshipping the ancestors is an integral part of the tribal culture. Gonds have a tribal council to settle local disputes of internal nature such as conjugal infidelity and other social matters while they settle the extraneous matters in the presence of Mukadama, the village headman.
Dance and music too are an integral part of their culture. The arts portray their feelings, aspirations and interactions with nature. They have specific songs and dances for every season or ceremony. Dance and song lasts the whole day and spills over to the nights during grand festivities. These folk dances are popularly called 'Karma', based on the name of a popularly grown plant. The stem of this plant called Karam Kalla is dug into the ground before beginning the dance. The tribals then dance around this plant. Their festivals are not associated with religion but more so with the harvest cycle. Throughout the year, a number of fairs, festivals and feasts are organized in the village.
Bidri, Nawa, Hareli, Khyania and Melamadai are major festivals and fairs. Hareli is the festival of rain. It is observed in the early period of rains. This is mostly celebrated in the month of July-August. Hareli word is probably derived from Hindi word, `Haryali` which means greenery, as in this season vegetation begins to bloom and there is greenery all around. Khyania is another important festival of the region. Melamadai is a huge fair that is held after the harvesting of the paddy crop. The fair goes on for a week after Diwali and is inaugurated by the village head. The head of the village inaugurates the Mela. Another festival called the Chait Gal begins during Sharad Purnima in October and goes up till Kartik Purnima.
Gonds : The Gonds dress in a simple manner with the men in dhothis (loincloths) and the women in cotton saris and cholis (tight fitting cropped blouse). Many youngsters seem to be contemporarily clothed with pants and t-shirts. The staple diet of the Gonds is millets known as Kodo and Kutki, which they cultivate. They are boiled to make a broth or consumed as dry cereal. Vegetables are either grown in gardens or collected from forests along with roots, tubers and even honey. Rice is luxury and is cooked during feasts and celebrations. They are fond of meat but must abstain from the flesh of animals that are their clan totems. Gonds grow their own tobacco for smoking and brew the Mahua liquor.
Though the Gonds are animistic (the belief that animals, plants and even inanimate objects have souls), there are influences of Hinduism in their culture. There is also sometimes the influence of the hierarchy in Hindu royalty. For example, the Hindu festival Dussera is celebrated by the Raj-Gonds (and influence of the Rajputs)
Baigas :They are one of the 74 primitive tribes found in India. The men usually wear a 'fatka' to cover their private parts, which is very similar to the loin cloth used for the dhoti of the Gonds. Women wear a sari. Some of the Baigas tie a cloth around their head which looks similar to a turban. The Baigas construct their own huts with mud and dry grass.
They eat Kodo and Kutki, coarse grain and drink 'Pej', which is made from grinding maize or the water left from boiling rice. Tattooing is an integral part of their life. The women who specialize in tattooing are called Godharins. The Baigas are experts in folk medicine and have in depth knowledge of the various herbs.
Korkus : They belong to the Munda group of the Dravidian family, and have strong influences of their erstwhile Rajput chieftains. They are mainly agriculturalists. The Korku tribe lives in small groups of huts made of grass and wood.
Malviya : They are known to be one of the earliest settlers of the Narmada river valley. Their name means 'from Malwa' and they are known to have been invited to settle in Malwa by the Gond kings of Kherla. They are cultivators by occupation.
Kanha-Kisli National Park
Terracotta work : The Kumhars or potters of Mandla craft exquisite pieces of terracotta work. They not only make pots and vessels but figures of gods and goddesses, beautiful lamps, pipes and toys out of the clay derived from the river banks and fields.
Moti Mahal, Ramnagar : Ramnagar is situated at distance at a distance of 20 kms from Mandla. Moti Mahal is built on the banks of Narmada by the Gibd ruler Hirdayshay in the second half of the 17th century.
Hot water spring, Tikera : Tikeriya is 70 km away from Mandla on the Jabalpur-Mandla road. This is a hot water spring in the center of the Narmada River.
Columnar basalt, Ramnagar : This is considered to be a phenomenal wonder of nature. These rocks are hexagonal in shape, a rare geological feature. There is an entire mountain which is of stacked hexagonal columns. The mountain is locally called the Karia Pahad or the black mountain.