The history of Malkangiri seems to be in no way less thrilling and adventurous than any other place of India. The land of dense inaccessible forests, small but beautiful rivers, undulating plateaus and splendorous rich tribal culture, Malkangiri has its history of human civilization enrooted to as long as 2500 years back. Prior to the modern civilization, many mythological episodes took place in and around Malkangiri.
During the reign of Lord Ramachandra, Malkangiri occupied an important place in the entire ‘Ramayana’. It was the holy river ‘The Tamasa’ and its environs which encouraged Saint Valmiki to express his internal feelings in the form of ‘The Ramayana’, the holiest book of the Hindus. This place was known as “Malyavantagiri” in the Ramayana. Tamasa, the river, flowing out of a cave has derived its name from a tribal word ‘TANSA’, which means cave. Banks of this river witnessed the creation of the largest mythology, the Ramayana. The scenic beauty if this Malyavantagiri has found an important place in the ‘Dandi Ramayana’ of Balaram Das. The belief of a visit of Lord Ramachandra is further strengthened by the existence of ‘Sitakunda’, the bath place of Goddess Sita near Mudulipada. Also during the period of the Mahabharata, this place became the point of attraction for the Pandavas. They spent their ‘Angyatvasa’ (exile) for a period of one year in the dense forests of Malkangiri. In the villages of Koyas, “PANDABOERU” (Pond) are found which are believed to be used by the Pandavas. During the month of January, ‘PATAKHANDA PARVA’ is celebrated by the Koyas, a primitive tribal community, in which a sword is worshiped. People believe that this sword belongs to the Pandavas. They also celebrate ‘Bhimudu Parva” during January, in which ‘Bhima’, the middle Pandava is worshiped and the Koyas believe that this Bhima will save their families. Kanamraju (Lord Krishna), Balaraju (Arjuna) and Poturaju (Bhima) are the three famous Lords of this area, who are being worshiped by the people. On every alternative year, Badayatra, the festival of these Lords is celebrated throughout the district.
During the period of Indus Valley civilization, a rich civilization flourished along the banks of the river ‘Tamasa’. In the year 1995, some ancient monuments were discovered from the same place, signifying the above facts. Also a big ‘Shiva Linga’ was discovered from beneath the ground here, en lighting a linkage of this civilization with that of Indus Valley civilization. The ancient Kings of this place, during the early Vedic and later Vedic periods, worshiped Lord Mallikeshwar, after whom they named their kingdom as ‘Mallika Nagari’. This Mallika Nagari gradually became Malkangiri in the modern times.
One ancient Shiva Temple now submerged in the Chitrakonda Reservoir was known as the second Lingaraj of Odisha. This famous Shiva Temple was visited by Sri Chaitanya Deva during his visit to Nandapur. Existence of a number of Shiva Temples in and around Malkangiri signifies the fact that the ancient Kings were Shaivists.
The founder ruler of Jeypore state, King Vinayaka Dev came from Kashmir and got married to Lilabati, the Princess of Nandapur. In the path of establishing the kingdom, he faced a lot of hardship and revolts. Singaraju, brother of Lilabati, sponsored his sincere efforts to King Vinayaka Dev in suppressing the rebel groups. King Vinayaka Dev established two new villages, namely ‘Nilakamberu and Singarajukhunta’ as a mark of respect and gratitude towards Lilabati and Singaraju. Some ancient monuments and idols of different Gods were discovered from Nilakamberu. Malkangiri was flourishing as a hilly kingdom during the reign of the ‘Ganga Dynasty’. It was known as ‘Kumbudiri’, as mentioned by the first Collector of Koraput District, Mr. R.C.S.Bell in gazetteer, 1941. There is enough evidence that the wild forest country of Malkangiri is known as a former civilization. In ‘Kondakamberu’, there are two inscriptions recording a gift to the God Nilakantheswar by the Queen of Pandu Singh, in the year 1376 A.D. ‘Kondakamberu’ was formerly known as “Kambudiri”.
During the period from 1400 A.D. to 1872 A.D., this princely state was ruled by as many as twenty six Kings. The entire state was divided into four Muthas, namely, ‘Mout’, ‘Podia’, ‘Korukonda’ and ‘Padmagiri’. The head of each Mutha was called ‘Muthadar’. Each Mutha was further divided into a number of villages, of which ‘Peda’ was the head. The post of ‘Muthadar’ and ‘Peda’ were hereditary and recognized by the King of Malkangiri. There was always a fear of foreign invasion for the kingdom for which there was no permanent place for the Kings. Temporary castles were built for the Kings in several places of the state. A ruin of such a castle still exists over ‘Raja Rani Hill’, just in front of Bhairavi Temple of Malkangiri. An annual meeting was held on the ‘Vijaya Dashami’ festival at ‘Sardar Basani Ambatota’ of Deva Dangar. The meeting was attended by all the ‘Muthadar’ and ‘Pedas’ of the state. The King used to preside over this meeting and all important decisions were taken in this meeting. The King gave power to the Muthadars in these meetings to execute his decisions.
The last Queen of Malkangiri, Bangaru Devi ruled over here from 1855 A.D. to 1872 A.D. She defeated King Ramachandra Deva III of Jeypore by her powerful and extra–ordinarily large Koya army. She along with her Koya army fought bravely against the mighty British army and finally deposed in 1872 A.D., resulting in a complete accession of Malkangiri state into Madras Presidency. Queen Bangaru Devi tried her best and fought for another 8 years unto 1800 A.D. to have power but failed. Finally she lost her life at the age of 70 in the year 1885, after a prolonged illness for 5 years. In the year 1880 A.D., Tama Dora, a brave Koya young man led the Koya troops, defeated the British Police of Malkangiri and declared himself as the ruler of Podia and Motu. In this incident, one Inspector and six policemen of Podia Police Station were killed. This incident is famous as ‘Koya Revolution’ and had its great impact throughout the country. Colonel Macqoid of Hyderabad contingent marched with 100 men to protect, but failed by the severe attack of the Koya Army, under the leadership of Tama Dora. However the efforts of this brave young man came to an end when he was brutally killed in the Rampa Forests near Mout on 28/07/1880 by the Military Police of Hyderabad and then the organized Koya Army was fragmented lacking a dynamic leadership.
After a long gap of 35 years (from 1880 to 1915), rebel groups again tried to fight against the British empire in and around Malkangiri. Unifying all the small rebel groups, Alluri Sitarama Raju established a big guerilla troop and fought against the British army. Chitrakonda and Kondakamberu were the headquarters of Sitarama Raju. He was initially a follower of non–violence and grasped a good deal of knowledge on Indian culture, mythology and religious activities of Hindus. Observing the exploitation of honest tribal by the British Police and their brutality, he became violent and declared direct war against them. He called the young Koya people to join his army by delivering eloquent speeches. He became popular in the area from Bhadranchalam in Andhra Pradesh to Bastar in Madhya Pradesh. Fearing at the growing popularity of A.Sitarama Raju, British Tahasildar Bastian along with a huge English Army arrested Raju but finally relased him due to pressure from all corners. Raju, after being released from police custody made himself involved in direct battle against the British police. He along with his large Koya troop raided the Raja Bamangi jail and released a freedom fighter named Biraya Dora. In the month of September, 1922, two British Army Officers namely Wrighter and Cobbard were killed and another officer Themoy Heir was seriously injured by Alluri Sitaram Raju and his troops. In another incident, in September, 1923, Malkangiri police station and Treasury were looted by Raju and his group. During the beginning of 1924, Assam Rifles and Malabar Troops were sent to the forest of Malkangiri for suppressing the rebels. The troops cordoned Chitrakonda and attacked the Koya Army from all sides. A large number of Koya young fighters were killed and many tribal families were tortured brutally by the English Army. Finally A.Sitarama Raju was called for a discussion with the Collector. But it was a conspiracy. Raju was caught by the Malabar Troops and tied up to a tamarind tree. Finally by the orders of Major Guddal, Malabar Troops fired at Raju and killed him. The brave episode of Sitarama came to an end with the clear suppression of the Koyas.
Again Malkangiri came into national news when Laxman Naiko, the freedom fighter, had led the tribals for a non–cooperation movement against the British. He was a follower of non–violence principle of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1942 he led a demonstration in Mathili on 21st of August, but police opened fire at the peaceful mob, killing demonstrators namely Nakula Pujari, Samara Nayak, Narasingha Bhumia and Linga Bhumia. In this incident, a forest guard namely G.Ramaya was also killed for which Laxman Naiko was accused and arrested. The trial continued for four months and on 13th November, 1942, the then Sessions Judge V.Ramanathan put forward his verdict : “Accused No.1, Sri Laxman Naiko is convicted under section 302 I.P.C. and sentenced to death subject to confirmation by the Hon’ble High Court”.Advocate Radha Charan Das of Berhampur and famous freedom fighter Uma Charan Pattnaik of Berhampur went to Patna High Court for an appeal, which was finally rejected. On 29th March, 1943, the file of Sri Laxman Naiko came to an end when he was hanged till death in Berhampur jail. It has been studied that the case against Laxman Naiko was weak and it was open to go for higher appeal in court of law. But no significant steps were taken in this regard by any of the famous personalities of that time. Even it is most unfortunate that the people involved in the entire process of Laxman Naiko”s arrest and death penalty were able to get all government facilities, employment and promotion during the post independence period.
Prior to 1936, Malkangiri was a part of Madras Presidency. In 1936, Koraput District from Madras Presidency merged into Odisha and Malkangiri Tahasil was included in Koraput District. The first English Collector of Koraput District, Mr.R.C.S.Bell, in the year 1941, prepared the Gazetteer of Koraput in which he described the physical condition, climatic condition and all about the tribal people of Malkangiri Tahasil. This Tahasil was a part of Nawarangpur Sub–Division of Koraput District. On 1st January, 1962, Malkangiri Sub–Division came into existence. In 1958, Dandakaranya Development Project was implemented to settle the refugees coming from East Pakistan. This project continued for 30 years until it was declared closed in the year 1988.
Finally on 2nd October, 1992, Malkangiri got its identity as a District as per Notification No. 49137/R dated 01.10.1992 of Odisha Government in Revenue and Excise Department, Odisha, Bhubaneswar, carving out of Koraput District.