Malerkotla, once a Princely State of India and now a city and a municipal council in Sangrur district in the Indian state of Punjab, was named after the earlier villages of Maler and Kotla. The state is said to have been settled by Kurdish Sayids who migrated to Afganistan and married into the Pathan clans. It was the two sons of one of these inter-sect marriages that produced two sons named Lodi and Sherwani. The descendants of Sherwani are said to be one of the largest family names of MalerKotla even today. It was the tribal leader Sheikh Sadruddin Sadr-i-Jahan, who in 1454 married a daughter of Sultan Lodi of Delhi, the first Afghan ruler of Delhi, who gifted the couple a jagir of more than 50 villages.
When the two youngest sons, the Sahibzadas, of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and the last Sikh Guru, were ordered to be bricked into a wall while still alive, by the governor of Sarhind, Wazir Khan, only a distant relative of his Sher Mohammed Khan, the Nawab of Malerkotla, present at his court that day, spoke out against the inhuman act saying it was against the Qur'an which did not allow the killing of innocent children. Guru Gobind Singh on hearing of the brave effort to spare his sons thanked the Nawab of Malerkotla and blessed him with a Hukamnama, and a Kirpan.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh ousted the Nawab of the Malerkotla in 1808, but the next year under the treaty of Treaty of Amritsar, the Nawab of Malerkotla, Wazir Ali Khan was reinstated. Apparently the Hukamnama of Guru Gobind Singh played no part in the return of the Malerkotla as the British had forced the treaty on the Maharaja to protect the Phoolkian Chiefs of Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Bhadaur and Malaudh who had sought help from the British in retaining their independence from the seemingly invincible forces of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Their kingdoms came to be known as the Cis-Satluj States. The rise of the Phoolkian (phool meaning flowers) kingdom had been predicted by Guru Hargobind who had blessed their ancestor, a child named Phool saying, " You feel’eth hunger now, worry no more...your house shall be a very big Charity House ....donating and feeding many…….the horses of you Armies shall graze in grasslands spanning the area between the Yamuna and the Sutlej."
During the partition of 1947, when there were mass killings of Sikhs and Muslims in villages across the Punjab only Malerkotla saw no instances of such communal violence. Sikhs in anger over the loss of their loved ones murdered many of the Muslim villagers in the neighboring villages. Some say this was done to frighten the Muslims of Malerkotla into leaving their villages in what would have certainly been a fatal 'run for the border' of Pakistan, however it is said that two brave Sikhs defended the citizens of Malerkotla warning their Sikh brothers to not even dare to caste an evil eye in the direction of the area protected by a promise made by Guru Gobind Singh. Thus it was that Malerkotla in the middle of a storm of savage violence was the one island of safety in the Punjab where not even one death was recorded.
In 1948 Malerkotla joined Patiala, Nabha, Nalagarh, Jind, Faridkot, Kapurthala and Kalsia in the Indian Union, establishing PEPSU which was organized into eight districts.
The University of Patiala, established an Institute of higher learning in Malerkotla named after, Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan (the very ruler who had defended the Sahibzade) where the studies of Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages and literature are taught at all levels.
Today Malerkotla is the only place in East Punjab (India) that has a majority Muslim population, with 55% percent of the residents being Muslims with the remaining percentage being divided between the Sikhs and Hindus. Therefore schools across Malerkotla teach Urdu alongside Punjabi and Hindi. Ssome Muslim families have converted to Sikhi and having adopted the surnames Ranu and Manak in addition to Singh and Kaur.
- Bobby Jindal, son of former Malerkotla residents Amar and Raj Jindal is the newly elected Governor of Louisiana. Jindal was elected with over 53% of the vote on October 20, 2007. His family moved into the Governor's mansion in January 2008.
- Begum Aizaz Rasul, was born into the princely house of Malerkotla and was a leader of the opposition in India's first parliament, and the only Muslim woman to be member of the Constituent Assembly of India.