Chatra is one of the twenty-four districts of Jharkhand state, India, and Chatra is the administrative headquarters of this district. The district covers an area of 3706 km². It has a population of 790,680 (Census 2001).

In ancient period, the area covered by the present district and adjoining areas were ruled by a number of states, which were collectively known as the Atavika (forest) states. These states accepted the suzerainty of the Maurya empire during Ashoka’s reign (c.232 BCE). Samudragupta, while marching through the present-day Chotanagpur region, directed the first attack against the kingdom of Dakshina Kosala in the Mahanadi valley

During Muhammad bin Tughluq’s reign, the territory which comprises the present district came in contact with the Delhi sultanate. Later, it became a part of the Bihar Subah of the Mughal empire. Daud Khan, the Mughal Subahdar of Bihar, during the reign of Aurangzeb occupied Kothi near Pokhri Fort on 5 May 1660, without much opposition, and then he moved towards the fort of Kunda which had a very strong fortification as it was situated on a hilltop. This fort was finally occupied by him and was completely destroyed on the 2 June 1660. Later, Kunda Fort was under the possession of the Raja of Ramgarh. In 1734, Aliwardi Khan advanced towards Kunda after defeating the rebel Zamindars of Tikari (Gaya). He mounted an attack on Chatra Fort and demolished it

The British East India Company came in contact with this region for the first time in 1769. Raja Rammohan Roy, worked as a serestadar at Chatra from 1805–06 and stayed both at Chatra and Ramgarh while in office.

The most important battle fought between the insurgents and the British in Chotanagpur during the rebellion of 1857 was the “Battle of Chatra”. This decisive battle was fought on 2 October 1857 near Phansi Talab. It lasted for an hour in which the mutineers were completely defeated. 56 European soldiers and officers were killed whereas 150 revolutionaries were killed and 77 were buried in a pit. Subedar Mangal Pandey and Nadir Ali Khan were sentenced and hanged to death on the 4 October 1857 on this very spot. The European and Sikh soldiers were buried in a well along with their arms and ammunitions.

“56 men of Her Majesty’s 53rd Regiment of foot and a party of Sikhs were killed at Chatra on October 2nd 1857 in action against mutineers of the Ramgarh Battalion. Lieutenant J. C. C. Daunt of the 70th Bengal Native Infantry and sergeant D. Dynon of the 53rd regiment were awarded Victoria Cross for conspicuous gallantry in the battle, in which the mutineers were completely defeated and lost all their four guns and ammunitions.

At the same time, another inscription on the bank of the Phansi Talab immortalises the two revolutionary subedars, namely, Mangal Pandey and Nadir Ali Khan

In 2006 the Indian government named Chatra one of the country’s 250 most backward districts (out of a total of 640). It is one of the 21 districts in Jharkhand currently receiving funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme (BRGF).

According to the 2011 census Chatra district has a population of 1,042,304, roughly equal to the nation of Cyprus or the US state of Rhode Island. This gives it a ranking of 434rd in India (out of a total of 640). The district has a population density of 275 inhabitants per square kilometre (710/sq mi) . Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 28.98%. Chatra has a sex ratio of 951 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 62.14%.