Enigmatic Chhattisgarh

By: Staff Reporter
Nestled amidst the mountain ranges of Mekal, Sihava and Ramgiri and watered by numerous rivers - Mahanadi, Shivnath, Indravati, Hasdo and Kharun – Chhattisgarh owns an ancient cultural heritage that begins from the Stone Age.

Evidence of the ancient people of Chhattisgarh has been found in the hills of Raigarh, Singhanpur, Kabra, Basnajhar, Boslada and Ongana Mountains of ‘Chitwandongri’ in Rajnandgaon District. The stone equipments made and used by ancient people have been found on the coasts of Mahanadi, Mand, Kanhar, Manihari and Kelo rivers. The rock paintings of Singhanpur and Kabra Mountains now inspire contemporary painters who emulate the style of the ancient artists. Known as Dakshin Kausal, references of Chhattisgarh are replete in the Ramayana – Lord Rama is believed to have entered Dandkaranya from the northeast of Kausal to spend part of his exile here. Historical records of Samudragupta Prayag eulogy present a vivid description of Kausal. From the 6th century to mid 12th century Sarbhpurnima, Somvanshi, Panduvanshi, Kalchuri and Nagwanshi rulers dominated the region. In fact various documents, copper plaques, coins and archeological findings apprise researchers about the cultural heritage and political development of the time. The region was under the regime of Marathas from 1732 to 1818 and was later brought under the Nagpur presidency by the British.

Situated in the Deccan, biogeographically Chhattisgarh, encompassing an area of 1,35,194 sq kms, is endowed with a natural diversity that is unparalleled in its affluence and variety. The diverse ethnicity of the people of Chhattisgarh creates a festive revelry that is unique to this State. Prominent tribal groups include Hill and Bison Horn Marias and Muria Gonds, Dhruvaas, Bhatras, and Halbas. In addition, communities of Telegu speaking people from Andhra Pradesh have also made their home here.

The tribal society is governed by a profession based caste system where the Ghadwas are blacksmiths, Mahar or Gandas – weavers, Chamars – leather workers, Kallar and Sundis – distillers, Rawats – cowherds; each providing a key service in maintaining the fine balance of the society. Nothing is more distinctive of the Chhattisgarhi people than their love for music, dance and liquor. The harvest of new crop is rejoiced with the Nawakhai festival where goddess earth is worshipped in thanksgiving and the new crop is sanctified. All festivals and fairs reverberate with the beats of the tudbudi and dhapra drums, melody of muhri or flute and strains of the sitara, the string instruments. Merriment and feasts abound as men and women join in dance all through the day with sulfi or mahua – the favourite inebriant, being offered to all.

Considering its nascent status, Chhattisgarh has made marked progress in enhancing tourism by showcasing its rich culture. The art and craft of Chhattisgarh besides contributing a primary share to the State exchequer has also risen to fame through the dexterity of its artisans. Wood carvings, bell metal handicraft, terracotta figurines, tribal jewellery, paintings, and clay pieces are some of the specialities from the State. The Chhattisgarhi tribals use cowrie shells, interlaced with mirrors and fabric to create interesting objects equipped to serve modern homes. The toran – decorative door hangings, place mats, boxes, potholders, hammocks, and several useful artifacts, woven with ivory sisal fibres obtained from swaying marsh reeds of Bastar are sourced for sale. The vibrancy in each depiction is an outcome of its ageless past combined with contemporary influences. Since the survival of the ethnic population is dependent on the unfathomable ways of the ecosystem, their environment’s exuberance, with all its subtleties has left an indelible mark on their imagination. Almost all objects of daily use surpass their original function and are transformed into objects of great aesthetic value. As a result, what has evolved is an indigenous technology that is simple in concept but sophisticated in practice. Nowhere is this more clearly reflected than in the construction of their houses. The fences erected around the house are built with bamboo sticks. Pigsties and hencoops are similarly constructed. The houses themselves are made of mud, wood, bamboos and thatch, all materials secured from their immediate environment, and skillfully utilised.

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