RAIPUR: A BRIEF HISTORY
Raipur, one of the five major cities in erstwhile Madhya Pradesh, became the capital of the newly created state of Chhattisgarh on 1st November 2000. It’s an old city, its documented history going back to February 1402. In ancient times Chhattisgarh, also known as Dakshin Kosal, was ruled by the Kalchuris. It is believed that Rai Bramhadev founded the city of Raipur in the latter half of the fourteenth century, when the dynasty was in decay and had started branching out. However, there is collaborative evidence that the city was in existence at least for another three hundred years before this period. Budhatalab- the grand old manmade tank in the city is estimated by hydro-geologists to be almost one thousand-year-old. Then is the intriguing fact that there are ancient temples dating back to 10th/11th century situated in all four directions each some twenty kms away from the city-Centre of the present day Raipur.
The oldest settlement of Raipur was on the banks of River Kharun, where again there is an ancient Shiva temple. Now known as Raipura, it’s an independent village, chiefly inhabited by fisher-folk and potters. The second phase of the city is known as Purani Basti- literally meaning the old township. This township, at least its major part, was perhaps inside the walled city in the past. The ruins of the wall were visible till the early Seventies. The fortress has gone but the Purani Basti has retained its Old World charm to a very large extent. There are old houses and badas of the pre-cement period, some of them built a hundred or two hundred years ago. There are meandering lanes and bye-lanes where people talk with you only in Chhattisgarhi- so distinct from Hindi. Then there are old temples like Mahamaya Mandir, Dudhadhari Math and Nagridas Mandir. Mahamaya Mandir was built around the 15th century and Dudhadhari in the 17th century. In this part of Raipur is also situated the old Kho-Kho Talab with its beautifully built separate bathing Ghats for man and woman. The development of the old township roughly corresponds with the Maratha rule in the region.
The third phase of the city was broadly developed in the 19th and 20th century almost simultaneously with the British Raj. This is the main residential and business district of the present day. In this part of Raipur are several monuments and functional buildings of the colonial era, like the Kaiser-e-Hind Darwaza erected in 1877 to commemorate Queen Victoria taking up the title of “Empress of India”, old Town Hall built around 1890, octagonal old museum and so on. In this area Swami Vivekanand spent two years of his early childhood. Raisaheb Bhoot Nath Day- the first Indian head of the National Library also lived in this city, so as Pundit Ravi Shankar Shukla- veteran freedom fighter and the first Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.
Raipur is a growing city. It has been the commercial capital of Central-East India for almost a hundred years ago. There are two universities and many other educational institutions in the city. It has many amenities one would like to see in a modern city. It also suffers from the same ills that have infected other major cities in India. Till late Sixties there were 130 tanks in the city. Only thirty remain today. The rest have been usurped by the construction Mafia, if I can say so. Though Raipur has become the state capital, it hasn’t brought any welcome change for the common citizen. There are plans afoot to build a new capital twenty-km east of Raipur. That shall be the newest phase of development of the city, relegating the past into obscurity.
Lalit Surjan/ 25th April 2004
The writer is Chief Editor of Deshbandhu and Convener, INTACH, Chhattisgarh State.