The Palamu district came into existence on 1st January 1892. Prior to this, it was a subdivision with the headquarters at Daltonganj just after the revolt of 1857. In 1871 pargana japla and Belauja were transferred from Gaya to Palamu. The early history of Palamu is shrouded in legends and traditions. Autonomous tribes probably inhabited the area in past. Kharwars, the Oraons, and the Cheros practically ruled over this tact. The Oraons had their headquarters at Rohtasgarh in the then Shahabad district(which include the present district of Bhojpur and Rohtas). There is some indication that for some time a portion of Palamu was ruled from the headquarters of Rohtasgarh.
Palamu was Known to the Mughals as ‘Palaun’ or ‘Palaon’. The history of Palamu is more authentic from the Mughal period. Till the year 1589A.D. Man Singh assumed the charge of Governorship of the province of Bihar in the same year. Man Singh marched against Cheros. The Cheros made an abortive attempt to block the passage but Man Singh forced his way and killed many and took many Cheros fighters as prisoners. Nothing is known about the subsequent history of the Cheros till Akbar’s death in 1605 A.d.
The Cheros of Palamu took advantage of the confusion created by the death of Akbar. They reasserted their independence and drove out the Mughal army from Palamu. Meanwhile, Anant Rai had succeeded Bhagwat Rai. Sahbal Rai as the Chero ruler succeeded him. Sahbal Rai proved to be a very powerful rule of Palamu. His rule extended up to Chauparan. He also started creating problems with the Mughals. This forced Jehangir to order Mughal campaign against Shabal Rai who was defeated and was captured.
After the death of Shabal Rai, Pratap Rai become the Chero ruler of Palamu. Pratap Rai was contemporary of Shahjahan. He was powerful chief but the middle of the reign was plagued by large-scale Mughal invasions. As a result, the relations between the Mughal and Chero of Palamu continued to be hostile even during the early years of Pratap Rai’s reign. Palamu was given out as a Jagir to the Governor of Patna in 1632 A.D. in return for annual payment of one lac thirty-six thousand.
Pratap Rai’s successor was Bhupal Rai who ruled only for few months. Later Medini Rai became the ruler and continued for a longer period. He took full advantage of the confusion in the Mughal fort towards the end of Shahjahan’s reign. Medini Rai paid attention to the welfare of Palamu.
By 1734 A.D. Palamu was rented to Raja Sunder Singh of Tekari. Jaikrishan Rai was allowed to continue as a Chero ruler of Palamu. The latter assisted Hidayat Ali Khan against Raja Bishun Singh of Ramgarh in 1740 A.D. The annual rent of Palamu at that time was fixed at Rs. 5000 and this amount continued till 1771 A.D. but the Mohammedan interference ceased after Hidayat Ali Khan. As a result, the Marathas emerged on the scene and they started playing important role in Palamu.
Palamu was suffering from chaos and disorder at this period of time. The prevailing chaos of Palamu facilitated its subjection by the British. In the beginning, the officers of company hesitated in taking action against Cheros. This was because the Calcutta based high officials of the East India Company had instructed the Patna Council to abstain from the use of force against the Chero with a view to occupying the Palamu fort. The British decided to favor Gopal Rai, who was the son of Chatrapal Rai. By that time Chiranjit Rai and Jainath Singh had captured the fort. The British sent a message to Jainath Singh through Ghulam Hussain for handing over the Palamu fort. Captain Camac marched to Palamu and triumphed on 21 March 1771 when the fort was surrendered. Chiranjit Rai and Jainath Singh managed to escape to Ramgarh. Mukund Singh, the ruler of Ramgarh had been actively assisting Chiranjit and Jainath in their fight with Camac. Even after the fall of Palamu fort, Mukund Singh sent his emissary to Gopal Rai asking him to call back Jainath Singh and assist him in expelling the British from Palamu. Gopal Rai, however, did not oblige him and reported the matter to Camac. The Patna Council ordered Camac to restore peace after the fall of Palamu fort.
In July 1771 Gopal Rai was declared the ruler of Palamu. Thus by the middle of July 1771, the East India Company established its authority over the whole Palamu.