Writers such as Alexander Cunningham, John Faithfull Fleet and Moti Raven Kangali, Girija Shankar Agrawal identify Mandla as the location of ancient Mahishmati.
Gondwana queen, Rani Durgawati shah Marawi ruled Mandla province and fought against Akbar her valiant effort to save her kingdom is still subject of folklore. Rani Avanti bai of Ramnagar later fought with British to save her kingdom from annexation.
The Gondwana dynasty of Garha-Mandla commenced, according to an inscription in the palace of Namnagar, 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 afterwards 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.
As of 2011 India census, Mandla had a population of 71,579. Males constitute 51% of the population and females 49%. In 2011 Mandla has an average literacy rate of 68.3%, higher than the national average of 59.85%: male literacy is 79.5%, and female literacy is 57.2%. Scheduled tribes dominate the population, so there is a Special education programs to promote them. In Mandla, 13.7% of the population is under 6 years of age.90% of population are Hindus,4% Christians, 5% Muslims and rest counts for Buddhists, Jains and others.
Mandla is connected by road to nearby cities like Jabalpur, Nagpur and Raipur through National Highway 12A (Express highway). From Jabalpur to Mandla it takes less than 3:00 hours by bus (96 km approx.). Mandla is served by a narrow gauge railway spur from Nainpur, where it connects to the narrow gauge line between Jabalpur and Gondia.
Mandla has various places of tourist attraction which include wildlife, ancient forts, temples and springs. Tourists are attracted toward Kanha National Park. mostly people are from the outside the subcontinent Various Ghats at the bank of river Narmada are hot spots of attraction for tourists and locals. Few famous ghats are Rangrez Ghat, Rapta Ghat, Nav Ghat, Nana Ghat and Sangam Ghat. Sahastradhara is one of the most popular tourist destination in the locality of Mandla. The place has an ecstatic beauty of nature where water drips from thousand deep narrow channel through the magnesium, limestone and basalt rocks forming a beautiful grid like pattern. The Garam Pani Kund situated 18 km from Mandla city is known for its magical sulphur abundant water Well. Locals believe that water of well was blessed by god Vishnu to cure the people suffered by plague spread in past. Apart from magical water, this place is surrounded with evergreen flora. Indian council of medical research (ICMR) concluded that water in well can cure various skin disease. The Ramnagar Fort / Mandla Fort was built in the late 17th century by the Gond Kings. It is constructed in a loop of the Narmada River. The main feature of this fort is its three- storey strategic construction. It was built on the banks of the Narmada river so that the river forms its defence from three sides. This fort is also known as Moti Mahal situated 24 km from Mandla city. Another fort, Begum Mahal is situated 3 km away from Moti Mahal is known for its beautiful three storyed rectangular masterpiece of mugal architecture which was built for Chimney Rani. The marvellous black stones used to build Begum Mahal were taken from another spot of attraction, "Kala Pahad" situated 4 km from it. The Main Market of Mandla is famous for its hand-craft goods. At the heart of Mandla city, lies Mandla Chowpati famous for delicious Kamal Chaat and Shrinath Pawbhaji. Other snacks like dosha, kachodi, phulki and dhabeli are served at thela's. For accommodation there are many hotels and lodges in the city and Hotel Tourist (M.P.T) administered by state tourism in Mandla. Bamhni banjar is situated in mandla district and it is famous for Babba samosa . Neelam coffee house's rasmalai and other delicious foods
Once this small town was considered among the most green towns; now this is just a memory. Deforestation has largely affected this area as shown in summer 2007 when the temperature exceeded 46 °C. Each day around 20,000 kg of woods are cut. Only because of Ma Narmada (Narmada River) is this town living: it bounds from all around.
The prominent schools in Mandla are
- Navratna Vidyalaya mandla
- Kendriya Vidyalaya Mandla.
- Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Padmi.
- Sarasawati Shishu Mandir Mandla.
- Bharat Jyoti Higher secondary school.
- Montfort School.
- Maharshi Vidya Mandir.
- Gyan Deep English Medium (HS) School.
- Nirmala Higher Secondary School.
- Amal Jyoti Convent School Maharajpur.
The prominent High education centres in Mandla are
- Rani Durgawati Mahavidyalaya
- Jagannath Munnalal Choudhary Mahila Mahavidyalaya
- Polytechnic Girls College
Prominent Government Industrial Training Institutes are-
- ITI (Tribal) Rassiaiya-dona Mandla
- ITI Nainpur
- ITI Niwas
Mandla is a Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh. This is a Scheduled Tribe seat; it became a reserved seat in 1957. Members of Parliament
(as Mandla Jabalpur South):1951: Mangroo / Govind Das Maheshwari, Indian National Congress (open seat)
1957: Mangrubabu Uike, Indian National Congress
1962: Mangru Ganu Uike, Indian National Congress
1967: M. Uikey, Indian National Congress
1971: Mangru Uikey, Indian National Congress
1977: Shyamlal Dhurve, Bharatiya Lok Dal
1980: Chhotelal Sonu, Indian National Congress - I
1984: Mohan Lal, Indian National Congress
1989: Mohan Lal, Indian National Congress
1991: Mohan Lal, Indian National Congress
1996: Faggan singh Kulaste, Bharatiya Janata Party
1998: Faggan Singh Kulaste, Bharatiya Janata Party
1999: Faggan Singh Kulaste, Bharatiya Janata Party
2004: Faggan Singh Kulaste, Bharatiya Janata Party
2009: Basori Singh Masram, Indian National Congress
2014: Shalu Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party