Early History

In ancient times the tract which corresponds to the district of Ranchi and the neighbouring parganas was in the undisturbed possession of Munda and Oraon tribes and was known to Aryans as Jharkhand or the 'forest territory'. The entire tract was presumably beyond the pale of the direct Hindu influence in ancient India. However, Jarasandh, the mighty emperor of Rajgriha in the Mahabharat period might have exercised some kind of loose supervision over the area. Similarly, Mahapadmanand Agrasen of Magadh, who subdued the entire country upto Orrisa, might have gained some control over Jharkhand as well .
Possibly, the area was included in the Magadh Empire during the reign of Ashoka ( 273-232 B.C. ). With the decline of Mauryan power, King Kharavels of Kalinga led on army through Jharkhand and ransacked Rajgriha and Patliputra. Later , Samudra Gupta (335-380 A.D.) must have passed through the area on his expedition to the Deccan.
The Chotanagpur Raj is believed to have been set up in fifth century A.D. after the fall of the imperial Guptas. Phanimukut was elected the first king It is said that he was found by the Side of a tank under the protection of a Nag ( Snake). Hence the dynasty founded by him was named the Nag Dynasty.

Mughal Period

The Chotanagpur plateau was reffered to as Jharkhand by the Muhammedan historians. Throughout the Turko-Afgan period (upto 1526), the area remained virtually free from external influence . It is only with the accession of Akbar to the throne of Delhi in 1556 that Muslims influence penetrated Jharkhand, then known to the Mughals as Kokrah. In 1585, Akbar sent a force under the command of Shahabaz Khan to reduce the Raja of Chotanagpur to the position of a tributary. Kokrah was included in the subah of Bihar, as mentioned in the Ain-I-Akbari.
After the death of Akbar in 1605. The area presumably regained its independence. This necessitated an expedition in 1616 by Ibrahim Khan, Fateh Jang, Governor of Bihar and brother of Queen Noorjahan, Ibrahim Khan defeated and captured Durian Sal, the 46th Raja of Chotanagpur. He was later released by the Emperor and allowed to resume his previous position as an independent Chief. After that the relations between the Moghul Emperors and the Kokra Chiefs continued to be somewhat friendly and peacefully. A stipulated revenue of Rs. 6000/ was regularly paid.
In 1632 Chotanagpur was as Jagir to the Governor at Patna for annual payment of Rs. 1,36,000.00 . During the reign of Muhammed Shah ( 1719 – 1748 ). Sar Balland Khan, the Governor of Bihar , marched against the Raja of Chotanagpur and forced his submission . Another expedition was led by Fakhruddoula , Governor of Bihar in 1731. He came to terms with the Raja of Ramgarh who owed allegiance to the Raja of Chotanagpur. The district seems to have enjoyed almost an unbroken peace from 1624 when Durjan Sal was released till the appearance of the British in 1772.

British Period (Part - 1)

The Diwani of Bengal , Bihar and Orrisa was granted by Emperor Shah Alam-II to the East India Company in 1765. This Diwani included Chotanagpur as a part of Bihar. The internecing quarrels and depredations of the Raja of Gidhaur,the Raja of Ramgarh and the rival claim between Gopal Rai and Chitrajit Rai for the Kingdom of Palamu led the British take an active interest in the area. In 1771 captain Camac attacked Palamu and put Chitrajit Rai as the Raja. The history of Ranchi for sometime thereafter is interlinked with the history of Palamu, Hazaribagh and Singhbhum.
During the operations of Captain Camac against the Raja of Palamu, Dhupnath Shahi , Raja of Chotanagpur rendered useful service to British. He acknowledged the authority of the company and offered to pay an annual tribute of Rs. 12000 instead of Rs. 6000 fixed under the Muslim rule. However, arrears in payment resulted in an expedition against him in 1773, as a result of which an agreement was reached stipulating enhanced payment of Rs. 15000 per year. The Raja was allowed to retain his hold on the internal administration.
Captain Camac was succeeded in 1780 by Chapman, civilian administrator of Chotanagpur. The so-called conquered provinces, were formed into a district under the name of the Ramgarh Hill Tract in 1780 which lasted till 1863. The district of Ranchi was not directly included in this unit but was added under the designation of Tributory Mahal of Chotanagpur. Chapman was at the same time the Judge and the Magistrate and Collector of the district. There was an Adivasi insurrection at Tamar in 1789 which could be quelled only by the use of force. Sporadic disturbances continued for six years more.

British Period (Part - 2)

Disputes between the Raja and his brothers led to further disturbance in 1807-1808. A force was sent under Major Roughsedge. The Diwan of the Raja who was primarily responsible for the trouble was apprehended and jailed. The Raja paid up arrears of revenue and settled disputes with his brothers. Six police thanas were also set up in 1809, marking the beginning of end of the feudal authority of the Raja. This also marked the induction of non-tribal revenue collecting agents who later oppressed the aboriginal tenants.
The discontent among the tribal population evidenced in the earlier insurrections, found an outlet in the Kol insurrections of 1831-32. The immediate cause for it was the humiliation caused to Mundas by the Sikh and Muslims Thikadars (intermediaries) in revenue collection.. The Mundas got together in Laukha village near Tamar and plundered and destroyed many villages held in farm by Sikh and Muslim Thikadars. They were overpowered by the forces led by captain Wilkinson in 1832.
Ranchi has attracted many Christian missions which have contributed much to the growth of education in the district. The earliest Christian missionaries reached the district in 1845 and the first conversions of the tribal population to Christianity took place in 1850.

1857 Movements

The 7th and 8th Native companies of the Ramgarh Battalion stationed at Hazaribagh rose in revolt on the 30th July. When news of this reached Col. Dalton (who was then the Commissioner of Ranchi), he sent Lt. Graham with two companies of the Ramgarh Light Infantry, thirty horseman and two guns to disarm the regiment at Hazaribagh. Meanwhile, the insurgents at Hazaribagh Started marching to Ranchi by the road via Badam. Getting news of this, the infantry with Lt.Graham also rose against British authority and lcommenced their return journey to Ranchi. Lt. Graham proceeded to Hazaribagh with the cavalry which remained loyal to him and reached there on the 2nd August. The deserters from Lt. Graham’s contigent returned to the army station at Doranda and successfully exhorted the Sepoys there to rise against British authority .In view of this, Col.Dalton left Ranchi for Hazaribagh. The insurgent troops at Doranda burnt the offices and Courts of the district office and some bungalows and set free the prisoners in jail. They expected the insurgents from Hazaribagh to join them but when the latter did not reach Doranda, they set out in the third week of September to join Babu Kuer Singh in Shahabad. They were attacked and defeated on the 2nd October, 1857 at Chatra under a British force commanded by Major English. Meanwhile, Col. Dalton returned to Ranchi on 22nd September with a contingent of force. The courts were reopened and peace and order restored.

Main Events after 1857

The infiltration of the British in the political horizon of Chotanagpur also synchronized with a great socio-economic revolution. Agrarian discontent against the imposition of begari (forced labour) and illegal enhancement of rent by the intermediaries resulted in the Sardari agitation , so called due to the instigation and leadership provided by the Sardars. By 1887 the movement had grown and many Mundas and Oraon cultivators refused to pay rent to the landlords. The Sardari agitation (or Larai as it was called ) was at its height in 1895 when a socio-religious leader named Birsa Munda appeared on the scene. The importance of his role in the social history of Ranchi is borne out by the appllation of Birsa Bhagwan given to him.
The movement led by Birsa Munda was half agrarian and half religious, it had a direct connection with agrarian unrest and also appeared to have been influenced by Christian ideas. Birsa Munda was an apostate from Christianity. His teaching was partly spiritual, partly revolutionary. He proclaimed that the land belonged to the people who had reclaimed it from forests, and therefore, no rent should be paid for it. He asserted that he was the Messiah and claimed divine powers of healing.
Birsa’s crusade brought about an armed rising of the deluded peasantry which was quickly suppressed. Birsa died in the jail in 1900.
A regious movement among the Oraons was initiated by Jatra Oraon of Bishunpur police station in 1914. The Tana Bhagat movement , as it was called , also had its genesis in agrarian issues and particularly the economic disparity between Christian converts and the traditional or sansari Oraons. The non-Cooperation movement launched by Jatra Oraon and his associates soon spread even to Palamu and Hazaribagh.
The district played an important role in the national freedom movement. Under the guidance of Ganesh Chandra Ghosh Ranchi became an important center of work for the follower’s of Revolutionary party. Ranchi was the venue of a meeting between Mahatma Gandhi and Sir Edward Albert Gait, Lieutenant Governor of Bihar and Orrisa on 4th June and again on 22nd Sept.1917 in the context of the Champaran Indigo planters repressive measures against the raiyats of that district. The Champaran agrarian law subsequently passed under the name of Bihar and Orrisa Act-I of 1918.

Non-Cooperation Movement in Ranchi

The non-Cooperation movement in Ranchi district followed the pattern as elsewhere in India. The movement caught the imagination of the people particularly the Tana Bhagats and a large number of them attended the Gaya session of the congress in December 1922 which was presided over by Deshbandhu Chittranjan Das. These Tana Bhagats returned home deeply impressed with the message of freedom Movement. Barefooted they used to trek over long distances with congress flags in their hands and they carried the message to the masses in the interior. They attended the meetings organized by the non-cooperation workers.

On 5th October, 1926, a khadi exhibition was opened at Ranchi in presence of Sri Rajendra Prasad in the local Arya Samaj Hall. The Tana Bhagats also attended it. This was a part of the constructive programme launched by Mahatma Gandhi after he had suspended the non-cooperation Movement in 1922. The Simon Commission was boy-cotted in 1927. On 4th Aprill, 1930, Tarun Singh (Youth league) of Ranchi organized a meeting in the local municipal park which was attended by a large number of students from different educational institutions. The leaders appealed to them to join the Civil Disobedience Movement.
The Salt Satyagrah which was launched at the behest of Mahatma Gandhi, received great response in Ranchi District . In the wake of the quit India Revolution of 1942 the arrest of national leaders led to strikes , processions, demonstrations and also disruption of the lines of communications. The district took an active part in the Subsequent events which led to country’s indepedence in 1947.

Source :  The District Census Handbook of 1981.