Mandla Knowledge Guide
Writers such as Alexander Cunningham, John Faithfull Fleet, Moti Raven Kangali, Girija Shankar Agrawal and brajesh mishra identify Mandla as the location of ancient Mahishmati. Gondwana queen, Rani Durgavati shah Maravi ruled Mandla province and fought against Akbar in her valiant effort to save her kingdom; which is still subject to folklore. Rani Avantibai of Ramgarh later fought with the British to save her kingdom from annexation. The Gondwana dynasty of Garha Kingdom commenced, according to an inscription in the palace of Ramnagar, in the fifth century, with the accession of Jadho Rai, an adventurer who entered the service of an old Gond king, married his daughter and succeeded him to the throne. Alexander Cunningham placed the date two centuries later in 664. The Garha-Mandla kingdom was a petty local chiefship until the accession of Raje Sangram Shah Madawi, the forty-seventh king, in 1480. This prince extended his dominions over the Narmada Valley, and possibly Bhopal, Sagar, and Damoh and most of the Satpura hill country, and left fifty-two forts or districts to his son. In addition to Mandla, Jabalpur and Garha in Jabalpur District and Ramnagar in Mandla District served at times as capitals of the kingdom.The control of the Garha-Mandla kings over their extended principality was, however, short-lived, for in 1564 Asaf Khan, the Mughal viceroy, invaded their territories. The queen Durgavati, then acting as regent for her infant son, met him near Singorgarh fort in Damoh District; but being defeated, she retired past Garha towards Mandla, and took up a strong position in a narrow defile. Here, mounted on an elephant, she bravely headed her troops in defense of the pass, and notwithstanding that she had received an arrow-wound in her eye refused to retire. But by an extraordinary coincidence the river in the rear of her position, which had been nearly dry a few hours before the action commenced, began suddenly to rise and soon became unfordable Finding her plan of retreat thus frustrated, and seeing her troops give way, the queen snatched a dagger from her elephant-driver and plunged it into her breast. Asaf Khan acquired immense booty, including, it is said, more than a thousand elephants.From this time the fortunes of the Mandla kingdom rapidly declined. The districts afterward formed into the state of Bhopal were ceded to the Emperor Akbar, to obtain his recognition of the next Rajja, Chandra Sah. In the time of Chandra Sah's grandson, Prem Narayan, the Bundelas invaded Narsinghpur District and stormed the castle of Chauragarh. During the succeeding reigns, family quarrels led the rival parties to solicit foreign intervention in support of their pretensions, and for this a price always had to be paid. Mandla was made capital of the kingdom in 1670. Part of Sagar District was ceded to the Mughal Emperor, the south of Sagar and Damoh districts to Chhatar Sal Raja of Panna, and Seoni District to the Gond Raja of Deogarh.In 1742 the Peshwa invaded Mandla, and this was followed by the exaction of chauth (tribute). The Bhonsles of Nagpur annexed the territories now constituting Balaghat District and part of Bhandara District. Finally, in 1781, the last king of the Gondwana line was deposed, and Mandla was annexed to the Maratha government of Sagar, then under the control of the Peshwa.At some period of the Gondwana kingdom the district must have been comparatively well-populated, as numerous remains of villages could be observed in places that, by the early 20th century, were covered in forest; but one of the Sagar rulers, Vasudeo Pandit, is said to have extorted several tens of thousands of rupees from the people in 18 months by unbridled oppression, and to have left the district ruined and depopulated. In 1799 Mandla was appropriated by the Bhonsle rajas of Nagpur, in accordance with a treaty concluded some years previously with the Peshwa. The Marathas built a wall on the side of the town that was not protected by the river. During the 18 years which followed, the district was repeatedly overrun by the Pindaris, although they did not succeed in taking the town of Mandla.In 1818, at the conclusion of the Third Anglo-Maratha War, Mandla was ceded to the British. The Maratha garrison in the fort refused to surrender, and a force under General Marshall took it by assault. Mandla and the surrounding district became part of the Saugor and Nerbudda Territories of British India. The peace of the district was not subsequently disturbed, except for a brief period during the Revolt of 1857, when the chiefs of Ramgarh, Shahpura, and Sohagpur joined the rebels, taking with them their Gond retainers. British control was restored in early 1858. The Saugor and Nerbudda Territories, including Mandla District, became part of the new Central Provinces in 1861. The town was made a municipality in 1867. The Maratha wall was removed in the early 20th century. By the first decade of the 20th century, Mandla contained an English middle school, girls' and branch schools, and a private Sanskrit school, as well as three dispensaries, including mission and police hospitals, and a veterinary dispensary. A station of the Church Missionary Society was also established there.