Kalahandi

Kalahandi (locally pronounced Kalahani) is a district of Odisha in India. The region had a glorious past and great civilisation in ancient time. Archaeological evidence of stone age and Iron Age human settlement has been recovered from the region.Asurgarh offered an advanced, well civilised, cultured and urban human settlement about 2000 years ago in the region.In South Asia it is believed that the lands of Kalahandi district and Koraput district were the ancient places where people started cultivation of paddy. In ancient time it was known as Mahakantara (meaning Great Forest) and Karunda Mandal, which means treasure of precious stones like karandam (Corundum/Manik), Garnet (red stone), Beruz, Neelam (Sapphire/blue stone), and Alexandra etc. Manikeswari (the goddess of Manikya or Karandam) is the clan deity of Kalahandi may also signify its historical name.

It was a princely state in British India and in post independence period it merged with Odisha state in India as Kalahandi district comprising current Kalahandi district and Nuapada district. In 1967, Kashipur block from Kalahandi district was transferred to Rayagada district for administrative reason. In the 1980s, Kalahandi’s name became associated with backwardness and starvation death, which is known as “Kalahandi Syndrome”.Despite its backwardness it is one of the rich regions in history, agriculture, forest resources, gemstone, bauxite, folk dance, folk music, folklore, handicrafts and arts. In 1993, Nuapada sub-division was carved out as a separate district, but Kalahandi (Lok Sabha constituency) continues to constitute present Kalahandi district and Nuapada district together.

Kalahandi lies in between 19.3 N and 21.5 N latitudes and 82.20 E and 83.47 E longitudes[35] and occupies the south western portion of Odisha, bordered to the north by the Balangir district and Nuapada district, to the south by the Nabarangpur district, Koraput district and Rayagada district, and to the east by the Rayagada district, Kandhamal district and Boudh district. It has an area of 8,364.89 square kilometres and ranks 7th in area among the 30 districts of Odisha. The district headquarters is at Bhawanipatna which stands almost in the central location of the district. Bhawanipatna and Dharamgarh are two sub-divisions of Kalahandi. Junagarh, Jaipatna, Kesinga, Lanjigarh and Mukhiguda are other major towns in Kalahandi. Tel is the main river of Kalahandi. Other notably rivers are Indravati, Udanti, Hati, Utei, Sagada, Rahul, Nagabali, Mudra, etc. The topography of Kalahandi consists of plain land, hills & mountains. Kalahandi is surrounded by hills. Its border with Nabarangpur, Koraput, Rayagada and Kandhamal districts are hilly and mountainous. The district is primarily agricultural, with over one third of the district area covered with dense jungle forest. Industry is very limited, but bauxite and graphite deposits can be commercially exploited.

The nearest airport is in Raipur (200–250 km) having daily flights to majority of the cities in India. Kalahandi can be reached from Raipur via Nuapada or Dharamgarh. Vishakhapatnam airport is 300 km away and Bhubaneswar airport in 450 km. Kesinga is the gateway of Kalahandi for rail connectivity. It is directly linked with most of the major cities in India, such as Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Visakhapatnam, Raipur, Nagpur, Ahemadabad etc. by rail. A new railway station for Bhawanipatna has been opened for service and was inaugurated on 11 Aug 2012.National Highway 201 and 217 pass through Kalahandi. Luxury night buses are available to Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Raipur, Visakhapatnam, Sambalpur and Rourkela from Kalahandi.

According to the 2011 census Kalahandi district has a population of 1,573,054,roughly equal to the nation of Gabon or the US state of Idaho.This gives it a ranking of 317th in India (out of a total of 640).The district has a population density of 199 inhabitants per square kilometre (520/sq mi).Its population growth rate over the decade 2001–2011 was 17.79%.Kalahandi has a sex ratio of 1003 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 59.22%.

Kalahandi is a rich land in culture and festivals.Since it is a melting point of southern Odisha and Western Odisha with a substantial tribal population, those living in hills as well as plain land, their culture, tradition, languages and belief along with mainstream Hindu culture have made Kalahandi region rich with culture and festivals. The mixture of Aryan and tribal culture makes Kalahandi region rich in its culture and festivals. In pre-independence period Kalahandi was largely inspired to Saivaism, Vaishanivism and Shakti puja. Shakti Puja is largely accepted among tribal, perhaps due to which Kalahandi was well known for celebrating Shati Puja. However, affect induction of Kalahandi as part of Odisha state, dominance of coastal Oriya culture in the state is increasingly influencing the local culture. Celebration of Rathajatra and construction of Jaggannath temple in Kalahandi has been increasingly realised unlike in old days of Radha Krishna temple.