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The district derives its name from God "Shiva". It was known earlier by the name ‘Sipri’. The Shivpuri place first found a mention during Mughal times in 1564 when Emperor Akbar is stated to have halted at this place. During that period it formed a part of Narwar Sarkar. Narwar or Narbar is a tahsil with a population of 6745 persons as per 1991 census, located at a distance of 43 kms from Shivpuri, the district head quarters. It has a very big ancient fort and a wealth of history behind. The district was known as Narwar district during the times of Gwalior State, although its Headquarter was at Shivpuri. Shivpuri remained with the Kachhawaha Rajputs upto 1804 when it was taken over by Scindia’s.

It was captured by the English in 1817 but returned to Scindia’s next year and it continued to be a part ofGwalior state since then. In 1859 it is said that the great Indian leader Tatya Tope was hanged near the present Collectorate. Maharaja Madhav Rao Scindia paid much attention towards the development of Shivpuri. He constructed a big palace and also developed the city.

It was the summer capital of Gwalior State and government offices were shifted here in summer months. Shivpuri was constituted as a district in erstwhile Madhya Bharat and continues as such with practically no change since 1951.