Historically, the district was the part of Kalinga Empire in the 3rd B.C. century. The region had the way for spices trade. The region had feudatory system during the rule of Gangavansi and Suryavanshi Kings. Bahamanis took over the region in the year of 1519 by defeating Mukund Dev, the last Hindu Gajapati emperor of Odisha. It had been the part Nandapur Kingdom for 47 years and then followed by Hasin Khan of Mughal. During the British rule, Rayagada was the part of Jeypore administration. Afterthat it came under Koraput District. it was separated from Koraput district on 2nd October, 1992. Now, Rayagada district comes under the red corridor. It is the home of a number of tribals.
Mangei Gomango is famous as Pandita Sabara Mangei Gamango. He has received the Odisha Sahitya Academy for his contribution in the field of tribal language. Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi was a noted Indian classical singer and music director. He contributed for the promotion, propagation and popularizion the life and works of Jayadeva and the cult of Lord Jagannatha. In 1999, he founded the 'Sanjukta Panigrahi Memorial Trust' and promoted Odishi dance.
Geographically, the district has a total 7,073 sq kms. area and occupies the rank 8th in State and 132nd in India on the bases of this size. It lies at 19017' N latitude, 83042' E longitude and 207 m altitude. In the year 2019, there was a total 44.49% forest area of total geographical area. It is bounded by the Kandhamal District in the North East, Kalahandi District in the North West, Andhra Pradesh in the South, Ganjam District in the South East and Koraput District in the South West. River Bansadhara is the main river of the district. The climate of the district is extremely hot in the summers and fairly cold in the winters. Most of its rainfall occurs in the monsoon season. The actual rainfall in the district was 1684.0 mm in the year of 2018-19.
Administratively, the district is divided into 15 sub-districts, 7 towns and 2,665 villages. Oriya is its administrative language. The district came in existence on 1st April, 1993 with its administrative headquarters located at Rayagada town which is situated at the distance of 375 Kms. from the State Capital.
Demographically, according to the 2011 census, the district has a total number of 2,25,964 households with a total number population of 9,67,911 comprising 4,71,960 are males and 4,95,951 are females which leads it to rank 21st in the state and 451st in India. The density of population of the district is 137 (persons per sq Kms.). The sex ratio is pegged at 1051 (females per 1000 males) while the child ratio stands at 965 (females per 1000 males). As per 2011 census the percentage of major religion practiced by the people of this region is Hindu with 90.34% of the total population. The population growth rateb during the period of 2001-2011 was 16.46% including 15.17% were males and 17.71% were females. According to 2011 census the principal languages in the district are Oriya, Kui and Telugu with 42.80%, 33.36% and 10.43%. In the year 2017 the number of live births in the district was 22,081 out of which 11,274 were males and 10,807 were females. In the same year the number of deaths in the district was 7,873 out of which 4,513 were males and 3,360 were females.
Economically, the district is dependent on agriculture primarily. The district is rich in mineral resources such as bauxite and silicon. It is considered as one of the 19 most backward regions of Orissa and receiving funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Program. Paddy, maize, ragi, mung, biri, groundnut, potato, maize are mainly produce here. Ferro manganese factory, Ferro silicon factory, paper mill, sugar factory are main factories established in the district. IMFA, JKPAPER, Birla, L&T, Sterlite are name of the famous industries of the region. Hotel industry is also flourished here due to the contribution of Sai International, Jyotimahal, Vamsikrishna, Tejaswini, Kapilas, Raj Bhawan hotels. Small and mid-scale industries for instance Konark Alum Industries, Satyam Packers and Processors Pvt. Ltd etc. are also boosting the economy of the district. The Gross District Domestic Product during 2011-12 was Rs. 4,19,468 lakh at current price and Rs. 2,60,334 lakh at constant prices in the year 2004-2005. The Net District Domestic Product during 2011-12 was Rs. 3,58,727 lakh at current price and Rs. 2,16,804 lakh at constant prices in the year 2004-2005. The Per Capita Income or NDDP, at factor cost during 2011-12 was Rs. 37,018 at current price and Rs. 22,373 at constant prices in the year 2004-2005.
Education wise, according to the 2015 census, the literacy rate in the district is 49.76% out of which 61.04% are males and 39.19% are females. The total literate population in the district is 4,07,735 including 2,41,959 are males and 1,65,776 are females. Rayagada College, Majhigharaini Institute of Technology and Sciences, Institute for Advanced Computer and Research are some of the educational institutes here. Govind Chandra Dev High School or G.C.D. High School or GCD (Zilla) High School has place as one of the oldest high schools and one of the 17 recognized high schools of the district. Central tool room and training centre (CTTC) an Indian Government engineering institute under MSME is working for the weaker sections. DATAPRO, TCIL are famous institutes for computer education here. Some other main educational institutes in the district are Sacred Heart School, Deepti Convent School, Maharshi Vidya Mandir, St. Xavier's High School (CBSE), L.P.S. Public School, L.P.S School (JAYKAYPUR),Vignan Vidayalaya and Green Valley Public School (PENTA) etc.
Giridhar Gamang is a member of the BJP and a former Chief Minister of Odisha. He was the part of Lok Sabha in 1972, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998 and 2004.
The district has several famous historical and religious places to visit. The names of these places are Aa Majhighariani Temple, Laxminarayan Temple, Hanging Bridge (Chekaguda), Minajhola, Chatikona, Gudari Hanging Bridge. In the year of 2018, there were total 8,32,356 domestic tourists and 3,190 foreign tourists who visited the historical places of the district.