Malda, the district headquarters which lends its name to the district, during its early days grew up only near the side of the river Mahananda, and now the place is known as Phulbari. Some of the oldest houses can be found here. The city started to grow since 1925-1930. Now nearly a half-million people live in this city, and it is one of the biggest cities of West Bengal. It is a part of the former Gour. The town is recognised as the English Bazaar municipality. Its notable railway station is named as Malda Town.
Pāṇini mentioned a city named Gourpura, which by strong reason may be identified as the city of Gouda, ruins of which are situated in this district. Examples are legion of the relics of a predecessor kingdom being used in the monuments of the successor kingdoms.
It had been within the limits of ancient Gour and Pandua (Pundrabardhana). These two cities had been the capital of Bengal in ancient and medieval ages and are equidistant, north and south, from English Bazar town (once known as Engelzavad established by the British rulers).
The boundary of Gour was changed in different ages since the 5th century BC, and its name can be found in Puranic texts. Pundranagara was the provincial capital of the Maurya Empire. Gour and Pundravardhana formed parts of the Mourya empire as is evinced from the inscriptions, Brahmi script on a seal discovered from the ruins of Mahasthangarh in the Bogra District of Bangladesh. Xuanzang saw many Ashokan stupas at Pundravardhana.
The inscriptions discovered in the district of undivided Dinajpur and other parts of North Bengal, along with the Allahabad pillar inscriptions of Samudragupta, clearly indicate that the whole of North Bengal as far east as Kamrup formed a part of the Gupta Empire.
After the Guptas in the beginning of 7th century AD Sasanka, the king of Karnasubarna as well as the king of Gauda ruled independently for more than three decades. From the middle of the 8th century to the end of the 11th century the Pala dynasty ruled Bengal, the kings were devoted to Buddhism. It was during their reign that the Jagadalla Vihara (monastery) in Barindri flourished paralleling with Nalanda, Vikramshila and Devikot.
The Pala empire yielded to the emergence of Sen Dynasty, the Sen rulers were orthodox Hindus, and in the habit of moving from place to place within their kingdom. During this time, Buddhism went on the defensive. It eventually disappeared from the demographic map of Bengal. At the time of Lakshman Sen Goud was known as Lakshmanabati. The Sen kings ruled Bengal till Bakhtiyar Khalji conquered Bengal in 1204 AD.
Thereafter the Muslim rule started. The name Mal Daha was coined (Mal= riches, Daha= lake). Sultan Ilyas Shah, Firuz Shah, Sikandar Shah, Raja Ganesha, Alauddin Hussain Shah and Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah are the notable rulers of medieval age. Afghan warrior Sher Shah Suri invaded Gour and was repelled by Mughal emperor Humayun. Humayun, loving the mango of Gour, named the place as Jannatabad (garden of heaven). Firuz Shah Tughlaq, Ghiyasuddin and Mughal army invaded Gour to suppress rebellion several time. Relics of Muslim structures are present as Firuz minar, Adina Mosque (the largest mosque of South Asia then), Qutwali gate etc. During the Mughal rule, the capital was removed to Dhaka due to a course change of the river Ganges. Muslim rule ended in 1757. Koch army invasion increased during the downfall of Gour.
Malda Town lies on National Highway 34, and all buses plying from Kolkata to Siliguri in the North will give a halt at Malda. By road it is 300 kms away from Kolkata, the main city of the state of West Bengal. Malda is well connected by Railways. There are some direct trains from the local main station, i.e. Malda Town; connecting Bangalore, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Dibrugarh, New Delhi, Surat, Mumbai, Nagpur, Visakhapatnam etc. Again all trains travelling from Kolkata to North Bengal and North East, gives a halt at Malda Town. There is a night service train till Malda Town (Gour Express) is a good train. At present, there is no airport, but land has been identified for setting up a new airport.Since July 2012 a Shatabdi Express train (12041/12042)which has statrted running between Howrah and New Jalpaiguri also stops at Malda Town station.This train takes thte shortest time to reach Malda from Kolkata.
Malda is famous fo special varieties of mango that are available in summer.Also,there are two special variety of sweets available only in Malda viz. Kansat Chamcham and Rosokadamba.One can try Aamsatwa(sort of mango pulp cake,dried in sun) made from mango,the most famous being that made from Gopalbhog mango. There are a few restaurants and food joints in the city.