Kalahandi district is a district of Odisha state with its administrative headquarters located at Bhawanipatna town. In the ancient period the region had not only a great name in the field of civilisation but also a glorious past too. This fact had been proved by the archaeological evidence of Stone Age and Iron Age. In history of South Asia it is mentioned that the regions of Kalahandi district and Koraput district were the places where people for the first time started the paddy cultivation. Earlier it was also popularly known as Mahakantara which means “Great Forest” and “Karunda Mandal”. Since the place was a treasure of precious stones like Corundum, Garnet, Beruz, Sapphire/blue stone, Alexandra, etc hence the place got the name Mahakantara. Some of its natives believe that probably its historical name was derived from the clan deity of Kalahandi i.e. Manikeswari (the goddess of Manikya or Karandam). During the period of British Raj, it was a princely state. Later, when India got its independence, it merged with Odisha state in India as Kalahandi district including the present day’s districts of Kalahandi and Nuapada. In 1967, the block of Kashipur block was shifted from Kalahandi district to Rayagada district for the administrative convenience.
Bhubaneswar Behera, an illustrious scholar, engineer, visionary and writer was born on 1st January, 1916 at the village of Kashibahal in the Kalahandi district. He was awarded the Utkal Ratna in 1998.
Geographically, the district lies at 20°10'N latitude and 83°16'E longitude. The altitude in the district is 248 m. In the year 2021, there was a total 30.79% forest area of total geographical area. The district encompasses a geographical area of 7,920 sq. Kms. and it is bounded by Balangir district on the North, Kandhamal district on the North East, Nuapada district and Chhattisgarh on the North West, Rayagada district on the South East and Nabarangpur district on the South West. The principal river in the district is Indravati River. The climate of the district is extremely hot in the summers and fairly cold in the winters. Most of its rainfall occurs in the monsoon season. The actual rainfall in the district was 1098.0 mm in the year of 2021-22.
Administration wise, the district is divided into two sub-divisions namely Bhawanipatna and Dharamgarh. Moreover, it comprises 13 sub-districts, 5 towns and 2,253 villages. The administrative language in the district is Oriya.
According to 2011 census the district has a population of 15,76,869 out of which 7,87,101 are males and 7,89,768 are females. The district has a sex ratio of 1003 (females for every 1000 males). During the year 2001-2011 the population growth rate in the district was 18.07% including 17.91% were males and 18.23% were females. As per 2011 census the major religion in the district is Hindu with 98.64% of the total population. The population density in the district is 199 (persons per sq. Kms.). As per 2011 census the principal language in the district is Oriya with 95.22%. In the year 2020 the number of live births in the district was 24,850 out of which 12,916 were males and 11,934 were females. In the same year the number of deaths in the district was 12,895 out of which 7,115 were males and 5,780 were females.
The economy of the district is mainly dependent on agricultural sector. More than half of its population are engaged in agriculture in order to earn their livelihood. The district is famous for its huge production of rice and paddy. Every year a huge chunk of revenue comes from the agricultural products in the district helps in its economy to a great extent. The people of the district earn their extra income from forest resources like mahua, kendu leaf, wood, timber, bamboos, etc. In the name of industry, there is only one prominent industry named Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL), a subsidiary of Sterlite Industries, a major aluminium processor has made major investments by establishing an 1 MTPA Alumina Refinery and 75 MW Captive Power Plant at Lanjigarh. In the year 2011-12 the gross domestic product in the district was Rs. 5,73,161 lakhs at current price and Rs. 3,46,020 lakhs at constant prices in the year 2004-2005. The net domestic product in the district during the period 2011-12 was Rs. 5,17,700 lakh at current price and Rs. 3,07,845 lakh at constant prices in the year 2004-2005. The Per Capita Income or NDDP, At Factor Cost during the period 2011-12 was Rs. 32,641 at current price and Rs. 19,410 at constant prices in the year 2004-2005.
The district is well known as an abode of several reputed educational institutions. It provides a platform for higher education. Some of its some most recognised educational institutions are Government College of Engineering, College of Agriculture, Government Autonomous College, Sardar Raja Medical College, Agriculture College near Dharamgarh and many more. As per 2011 census the literacy rate in the district is 59.22% out of which 71.9% are males and 46.68% are females. The literate population in the district is 8,02,036 including 4,84,177 are males and 3,17,859 are females.
Kishen Pattnanayak, a prominent social leader, socialist thinker, author and activist was born on 30th June, 1930 at Bhawanipatna in the Kalahandi district. He was elected as a member of the 3rd Lok Sabha from the Sambalpur Constituency. He was a member of the Praja Socialist Party. He also started and edited a Hindi monthly periodical called Samayik Varta.
The district has several centres of attraction which allures many travellers from different parts of the country as well as world. Amthagad fort located in the place of Amthagad is renowned for the ancient Tel river civilisation. Asurgarg, a historical place in the district draws the attention of the visitors. An ancient fort of about 2000 years old is situated at a distance of 30 kms. from Bhawanipatna. Phurli Jharna, a beautiful water fall and scenic beauty is located around 15 kms. from Bhawanipatna. Some other notable places of interest in the district are Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary, Thuamul Rampur, Permanji, Rabandarh, Amthaguda, Lanjigarh, Mohangiri, Budhigarh, Talguda fort, Mardiguda, Kusurla, Sapagaranda and many more. In the year of 2019, there were total 7,24,557 domestic tourists and 290 foreign tourists who visited these places.