Bilaspur is a city in Bilaspur District in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, situated 133 km (83 miles) north of the state capital, Naya Raipur. It is the second-largest city in the state. Chhattisgarh State High Court at village Bodri, District Bilaspur privileges it to host the name ‘Nyayadhani’ of the state. It is the administrative headquarters of Bilaspur District. Bilaspur is the commercial center and business hub of North East Chhattisgarh region. It is also an important city for the Indian Railways, as it is the headquarters for South East Central Railway Zone and the Bilaspur Railway Division. It is also the headquarters of South Eastern Coalfields Limited.
Bilaspur is known for its aromatic Doobraj rice, handloom woven colorful soft Kosa silk saris, and more for its rich, varied and colorful culture and also famous for samosas of nitti and parotha of chikka.
Historically, Bilaspur was a part of the Kalchuri dynasty of Ratanpur. The city, however, came into prominence around 1741, the year of the Maratha Empire rule, when a Maratha official took up his abode there.
The management of Bilaspur district was taken over by the British Government in 1818. The city was taken over by the British East India Company of Great Britain in the year 1854 from the then ruler of the region, Bhosale of the Nagpur kingdom belonging to the Maratha Empire. Under Bhosale of the Nagpur kingdom there were many subedars or zamindars/landlords like Akbar Khan, Vazeer Khan, Sao and others in Bilaspur.
Bilaspur district was constituted in 1861, followed by Bilaspur municipality in 1867. Famines in the Bilaspur district were recorded by the British administration in 1828-9, 1834-5, 1845-6, 1868-9 and 1899–1900. In 1868-9 and 1899–1900, the rains failed almost completely, resulting in severe distress, migration and desertion of villages. After the 1868-9 famine there was prosperity for the next 25 years; but in 1895 there was a very poor harvest, followed in 1896 by a complete failure of crops, and severe famine continued throughout 1897. In that year the mortality rate was as high as one in six people. The famine of 1897 was followed by two favorable years; but in 1899 the monsoon failed completely and the rice crop was wholly destroyed.
Guru Ghasidas (1756–1836) started a religious movement, Satnamis (meaning the worshippers of Satnam), between 1820 and 1830 primarily around the Sonakhan forests. This religious movement preached that god is not idols and not found in idols, but god is synonymous with truth. His community was a farming community, though in the Hindu caste hierarchy they have been put in the Schedule caste. The university at Bilaspur is named after him as Guru Ghasidas University.
Railways arrived at Bilaspur in the decade 1880–90, with the arrival of the Bengal Nagpur Railway. In 1888 Mistri Jagmal Gangji and other Mistri Railway Contractors laid the first railway tracks from Rajnandgaon to Bilaspur, and in that same year fellow Kutchi contractor Khoda Ramji and others built the line from Bilaspur to Jharsuguda, including the bridge over the Champa river.
In 1890, the present railway station and yard were constructed by the famous Gujarati railway contractor Jagmal Gangji. His son Mulji Jagmal Sawaria was later given the title of “Rao Sahib” by the British for his contribution to the development of the town, railways and the district. Jagmal Block and Jagmal Chowk in the city are named after Jagmal Gangji Sawaria.
In 1901, the population of Bilaspur was 18,937 and it was the eighth-largest town in the Central Provinces of British India. In 1908, weaving of tasar silk and cotton clothes were recorded as the major industries of Bilaspur.
Historical records like Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol 8, 1908 note that the city is said to be named after a fisherwoman by the name of “Bilasa” in the 17th century, and for a long period it consisted only of a few fishermen’s huts.
The climate is pleasant and mild in the winter (minimum temperature 10 °C, 50 °F). There are medium rains in the monsoon season. The summers are very hot and dry, with maximum temperature 45+ °C, 113 °F.
The people of Bilaspur also have a great tendency towards adopting new trends and life styles. Bilaspur thus is multicultural, for people from all over the world have come and settled in this region. People of Bilaspur are also known for their simplicity, kindheartedness and adaptability. And this is the actual culture of Bilaspur.
Bilaspur is rich in its cultural heritage. Bilaspur has its own dance styles, cuisine, music and traditional folk songs in which sohar song, bihav song and Pathoni songs are very famous. Sohar songs are related to child birth, and bihav songs are related to marriage celebration. The main parts of bihav songs are Chulmati, Telmati, Maymouri, Nahdouri, Parghani, Bhadoni and other songs related to Bhanver, Dowery and Vidai songs. Pathoni songs are related to gouna (departure of bride to the bridegroom’s home). The people of this region are very fond of colours. The dresses they wear are all colourful. Women too wear sarees with Kardhani. In rural areas women wear mala made of one rupee coins, though this has gone out of fashion these days. The people of this region are also known for creating humour out of language. Comical plays are very popular and are worth watching. The city celebrates all the major festivals of India. There are some local festivals such as the colorful Rout Dance (November), harley, and pola. The Rawat Nach Mahotsav is the folk dance festival of Bilaspur celebrated by Rawat tribes. The town has been the home of some famous literary personalities including Bimal Mitra
Bilaspur railway station is a regional hub for the railway system. It is the busiest junction of Chhattisgarh and second busiest of central India after Itarsi . It is the Zonal Head Office of the South East Central Railway. It is well connected to the rest of the country through the Indian Railways.Bilaspur railway station has the 3rd longest railway platform in India after Gorakhpur and Kharagpur and the third cleanest railway station of India . The Rajdhani Express (Bilaspur-New Delhi) via Bhopal bi-weekly connects Bilaspur to New Delhi. The station is on the Tatanagar–Bilaspur section of the Howrah-Nagpur-Mumbai line and another rail is for Delhi via Katni.
Daily connections are available for Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune, Nagpur, Indore, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Amritsar, Agra, Roorkee, Haridwar, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Tatanagar, Patna, Jabalpur, Raipur, Varanasi Indore Jaipur, Bikaner, Udaipur, Ajmer etc. It is also connected by. direct trains to Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Chennai, Ernakulam, Tirupati, Tirunelveli, Bangalore, Bhuj, Gandhidham, Okha, Porbandar, Dhanbad, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Gorakhpur, Shirdi, Udaipur, Bikaner Jammu, Jodhpur, Guwahati, Kanpur, Lucknow, Ranchi, Guwahati and many other cities and towns in India. Many local trains are running here daily for small station passengers
The city is connected with Mumbai and Kolkata through National Highway network. Bilaspur is on NH-130 connecting Raipur and Ambikapur.While NH-49 starts from Bilaspur and ends at KharagpurAnother National Highway NH 130 A is newly announced which starts from Bilaspur and end at Podi via Mungeli Kawardha merging with NH 12A to connect Bilaspur with Jabalpur. Other state highways are SH 7 and SH 5. Bilaspur city buses tracked by GPS Vehicle Tracking System. There are regular buses and taxis available to all nearby major cities and towns.National Highway Between Bilaspur and Raipur is under 4 laning process while Bilaspur to Odisha border and Bilaspur to Katghora stretch of NH 130 are declared to be 4 laned by Central Government.
For local transportation three-wheeled, black and yellow auto rickshaws, referred to as autos, are popular. Local transportation also includes man-powered cycle rickshaws, horse drawn tangas [horse carriages], City bus etc.
The nearest commercial airport is at Raipur Swami Vivekanand Airport, approximately 131 km from Bilaspur city. From Raipur Indigo, Jet Airways and Air India have regular flights for Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Bhopal, and Vishakhapatnam.
Bilaspur also has an air strip at Chakarbhata Airport Bilaspur Airport for VIP and military operation. Chhattisgarh’s second airport will start at Bilaspur which will be jointly operated by AAI and Indian Army.It will be a domestic airport and expected to start in 2016
Additional 2 airstrips are on Kota Road (Mohanbhata airstrip) and Mulmula. These airstrips are under Defense Ministry of India and lying unused after Second World War.
Bilaspur is famous for Doobraj rice, chila, rice role, angakar roti, thetri-khurmi etc. No trip to Bilaspur is complete without trying samosa from various vendors. The large but light samosa of Bilaspur are different than the Punjabi kind (which is predictably bulky and full of blustery masala). At Bilaspur, this pale-gold, dimpled temptress seduces the travelers. There are many other local Chhattisgarhi foods you may find on visiting a local family such as cheela and dhusaka.