Kanker is a district in the southern region of the state of Chhattisgarh that has an average elevation of 388 m. Kanker District is situated between two well-developed cities of Chhattisgarh, namely Raipur and Jagdalpur. It sprawls across an area of 5285 sq km and is surrounded by four other districts of Chhattisgarh Bastar, Dhamtari, Durg and Rajnandgaon.
The Kanker district is divided into 7 tehsils, namely Kanker, Charama, Narharpur, Bhanupratappur, Antagarh, Durgukondal and Pakhanjoor. It also encompasses 7 blocks named Kanker, Charama, Bhanupratappur, Narharpur Antagarh, Durgukondal and Koyali Beda. Amongst the 1004 villages housed in Kanker district, 995 are revenue villages, while the rest 9 are forest villages.
Early references of Kanker are made in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, which reveal that this independent state belonged to a dense forest named Dandakaranya. Occupied by monks (or rishis) during the stone era, Kanker was affected by Buddhism in the 6th century BC. The Satavahana Dynasty occupied the state in 106 AD, and was succeeded by Nags, Vakatakas and Gupta dynasties.
The Vakatakas lost control over the state to the Nal dynasty, the downfall of which led Kanker into a state of onrush and partition. Post the Nal reign, Kanker was won by the Chalukya Dynasty that ruled the state up to 788 AD. Till 1100 AD, the state was under the control of different dynasties like Nals, Nags and Kalachuris. From 1125 to 1166 AD, the state was ruled by the Som Dynasty.
The rule of Som kings continued until 1184 AD, but under the control of Kalachuris. However, the weakness of Kalachuris again shifted the control in the hand of Soms, who then divided the state in two parts. After 1206 AD, the two branches of Som Dynasty were again combined. The Som King lost control over Kanker to the Kandras in 1344 AD, which remained in power till 1385 AD.
After the downfall of the Kandras, the Chandra Dynasty came into power, during the reign of which Kanker was declared the capital of the kingdom. The Chandras were defeated by the Marathas after 1802 AD, who then transferred the control to the British in the later years. Kanker District was recognised as an independent district after years of Indian independence, in the year 1999.
Up to the Nal Dynasty, the people of the state were divided into four different classes, namely Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. However, their downfall was followed by migration of people from outside, and the main casts were divided into around 62 casts. Currently, 50% of the total population of Kanker is tribal; however, their culture has changed in this modern era.
Earlier, Halbi was a predominant language of the state; however, Hindi, Chhattisgarhi and Gondi are also being used in the present time. Due to the migration of people from different parts of the country, Bangla, Telugu and Oriya are also popular in the district. An important festival celebrated in Kanker is Madai, with others like Mati-tihar, Gobar-boharani, Ramnavmi and Navakhani.
The tribal society of this forestry district is renowned for their excellency in making beautiful handicrafts like wooden carvings, bell-metal items, terracota items and bamboo crafts. Other than festivals and handicrafts, Kanker district is popular among globetrotters for its various places of interest like Gadiya Mountain, Malanjhkudum Falls, Shivani Temple and Charre-Marre Falls.
Travelling to Kanker is easy with the Raipur Airport and Raipur Railway Station, located at a distance of 140 km from the district. An alternative to flights and trains is to travel to the district using road transport via National Highway 43, which connects Kanker to major towns in the vicinity. The best time to make a visit to the Kanker district is from October through March.