Mandalore—or Mand’alor in it’s truest rendering and which meant “sole ruler” in Mando’a—was the title of the leader of the Mandalorians. The title originated with the mythical figure Mandalore the First, whose warriors were said to have conquered the planet of Mandalore. Eventually, the term came to be applied to the Mandalorian leaders, with the first known bearer of the title being Mandalore the Indomitable, who reigned during the Great Sith War. The last known person to claim the title of Mand’alor was Yaga Auchs, who kept the Mandalorians on Mandalore during the Sith–Imperial War.
The title was notable for surviving several thousand years, through considerable Mandalorian hardships. Despite several lost wars, infighting and the emergence of the “Mandalorian mercenary” phenomenon, at least seventeen Mandalorians declared themselves Mand’alor throughout the years, with varying degrees of success in their attempts to lead the Mandalorian clans.
When the Taung species were driven from Coruscant in the early years of the Galactic Republic, they searched the galaxy for a new planet to colonize. They decided upon a planet in the Outer Rim Territories populated by enormous mythosaurs. The leader of these Taung, Mandalore the First, led his warriors as they slaughtered the mythosaurs, and used their bones to establish cities. The planet was named Mandalore after this leader, and the Taung themselves started referring to themselves as “Mandalorians” in his honor.
Over time, Mandalorian leaders began using “Mand’alor” as a title. By the time of Mandalore the Indomitable’s reign, around 4,000 BBY, this title was represented by a war mask. Without the mask, no new Mand’alor could be declared. This was the source of the great confusion and disillusionment that befell the Mandalorians at large at the end of the Mandalorian Wars—Mandalore the Ultimate had been killed in battle by the Jedi Revan, who took the mask for himself. It was not until Revan revealed the location of the mask to Canderous Ordo that the tradition was allowed to continue.
At some later time, the tradition of passing the title by passing on the mask of the Mand’alor faded, replaced by a simple tradition of declared succession.
At the time of the Mandalorian Wars, the Mand’alor was appointed based on individual worth, the definition of which is unknown. Also, at the time, the new Mand’alor could be declared only when they possessed the mask of Mandalore. When the mask vanished for some time, the Mandalorian clans splintered. The tradition declined at some point before 60 BBY, by the time of Jaster Mereel’s reign, when it seemed Mandalorians merely flocked to powerful and charismatic leaders.