The former South Africa president, who served 27 years in jail for conspiring to overthrow the white-minority apartheid government, spent three months in a Pretoria hospital earlier this year battling a persistent lung infection.
Mandela’s health had improved enough to allow him to return home in early September, although the presidency had described his condition as ‘critical but stable’ since June.
His family previously told of how the liberation struggle icon had continued to put up a courageous fight, even on his ‘deathbed’.
South Africans had begun to come to terms with the mortality of their first black president and father of the "Rainbow Nation", following a string of health scares in recent months.
It was the fourth hospital stay since December 2012 for the Nobel peace prize laureate after he was discharged in April following treatment for pneumonia.
However, his last hospital stay was his longest since he was released from prison in 1990, after serving 27 years under the apartheid regime.
The world reacts to Nelson Mandela's death
The death of former South African president Nelson Mandela has sent shockwaves across Australia and the world with leaders lining up to pay their respects to iconic 'leader of modern South Africa'.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has released a statement praising 'a great man' who overcame suffering to lead his country.
"The world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela," the Prime Minister's statement reads.
"Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as more than a political leader, he was a moral leader.
"He spent much of his life standing against the injustice of apartheid.
"When that fight was won, he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and reconcile his country.
"While the world may never see another Nelson Mandela, he has inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and honest lives.
"On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian community, I extend my condolences to Mr Mandela’s family and to the people of South Africa."
Australia's Governor-General Quentin Bryce has released a statement praising Mandela's "leadership and enduring commitment to the recognition of the worth of every human being".
“Nelson Mandela’s death brings great sadness to the world. No person in our lifetime has been more admired and respected," her statement read.
“I remember well my last meeting with Mr Mandela, as Governor-General, in Johannesburg in March 2009. His wisdom and dignity shone through, as always. So too, the twinkling sense of humour etched on his face.
“The outpouring of love from his people in these past months has been deeply touching.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr Mandela’s family and the people of South Africa at this time of sorrow and mourning.”
Earlier this year US President Barack Obama led the tributes to Mr Mandela on his 95th saying, “We will forever draw strength and inspiration from his extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness and humility.”
Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918, he was one of the world's most revered statesmen and revolutionaries who led the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
A qualified lawyer from the University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand, Mandela served as the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
His political career started in 1944 when he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and participated in the resistance against the then government’s apartheid policy in 1948.
In June 1961, the ANC executive approved his idea of using violent tactics and encouraged members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela's campaign.
Shortly after, he founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC and was named its leader.
In 1962, he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment.
In 1963, Mandela was brought to stand trial along with many fellow members of Umkhonto we Sizwe for conspiring against the government and plotting to overthrow it by the use of violence.
Jailed for lifetime
On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
His statement from the dock at the opening of the defence trial became extremely popular. He closed his statement with: "During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Mandela served 27 years in prison from 1964 to 1982, spending many of those years at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town.
While in jail, his reputation grew and he became widely known across the world as the most significant black leader in South Africa.
He became a prominent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gained momentum in South Africa and across the world.
On the island, he and other prisoners were subjected to hard labour in a lime quarry. Racial discrimination was rampant and prisoners were segregated by race with the black prisoners receiving the fewest rations.
Mandela has written about how he was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months.
Free and fair In February 1985 President PW Botha offered Mandela his freedom on condition that he unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon but he rejected the proposal.
He made his sentiment known through a letter he released via his daughter.
"What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts," he wrote.
In 1988 Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison and would remain there until his release.
Throughout his imprisonment, pressure mounted on the South African government to release him. The slogan 'Free Nelson Mandela' became the new battle-cry of the anti-apartheid campaigners.
Finally, Mandela was released on February 11, 1990 in an event streamed live across the world. After his release, Mandela returned to his life's work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier.
In 1991, the first national conference of the ANC was held inside South Africa after the organisation had been banned in 1960.
Mandela was elected President of the ANC while his friend Oliver Tambo became the organisation's National Chairperson.
Mandela's leadership and his work, as well as his relationship with the then President FW de Klerk, were recognised when they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
South Africa's first multi-racial elections, held on 27 April 1994, saw the ANC storm in with a majority of 62 per cent of the votes and Mandela was inaugurated in May 1994 as the country's first black President.
As President from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.
Honours and personal life Mandela has received many national international honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, the Order of Merit from Queen Elizabeth II and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush.
In July 2004, the city of Johannesburg bestowed its highest honour by granting Mandela the freedom of the city at a ceremony in Orlando, Soweto.
In 1990, he received the Bharat Ratna Award from the government of India and also received the last ever Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union.
In 1992, he was awarded the Atatürk Peace Award by Turkey. He refused the award citing human rights violations committed by Turkey at the time, but later accepted the award in 1999.
Also in 1992, he received of Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civil service award of Pakistan.
Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, was published in 1994. He had begun work on it secretly while in prison.
Mandela has been married three times. He tied the knot with Evelyn Mase in 1944 and the nuptial lasted until 1957. He then married Winnie Madikizela in 1958 and the couple separated in 1996. He then married Graca Machel in 1998.
Mandela's wife Winnie became a powerful figure in her own right while Mandela was imprisoned but a series of scandals involving her led to the couple's estrangement in 1992, her dismissal from his cabinet in 1995, and their official divorce in 1996.
Mandela and his wives
Nelson Mandela's love life has seemingly run parallel to his political one - and can be divided up into three key eras.
The young activist married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1944. The couple, who had four children, divorced in 1958 - shortly before Mandela became an outlaw with the banning of the ANC. Mandela's second marriage - and probably his most famous - largely coincided with the time he spent locked up at the hands of the apartheid regime.
In 1958 he walked down the aisle with Winnie Madikizela, who stood by his side and actively campaigned to free him from prison. But the couple, who had two children, split up in 1992 on the grounds of her adultery. She was also later convicted of kidnapping. His third marriage, to Graca Machel - the widow of former Mozambique President - came on his 80th birthday as entered his role of world statesman.