Bastar tribal region extends from 17° to 2 north latitudes and 80° to 82° east longitudes covering a total area of 39,114 sq. km in newly constitute Chhattisgarh state. It lies in the southern part of Chhattisgarh state bounded by Orissa on the eas1 Maharashtra in the west, and Andhra Pradesh in the south.
It is located at a distance of about 88 km from- the state capital Raipur and 160 km from the port of Vishakhapatnam along the Andhra coast. The region- lies on the leeward side of the Eastern Ghats and, therefore, is devoid of any marine influences from the east. It thus has an interior location in the peninsular upland of the country. In a real size the region is equal to the size of Kerala or half of the size of Assam. It consists of three districts of Dantewara, Bastar and Kanker.
Leaving aside narrow lowlands falling in Mahanadi and Godavari river basins in its north and south, a greater part of the Bastar tribal region is a plateau with general elevation of 600 meters above the mean sea level. Physiographically the region is divided into five distinct units: (i) The northern Mahanadi plain (elevation 300-450 m) which slopes northward and merges into the Chhattisgarh plains of Durg and Raipur districts, (ii) The Abhujhmar Hills (elevation 450-750 m) consisting of high ridges and deep valley of numerous streams in the western part of the region, (iii) The North-Eastern Plateau (elevation 450-750 m) characterized by steep scarps to its north, south and west.
It also includes Indrawati plain in its southern part at a height of 400-600 m. (iv) The Southern Plateau (300-750 m) consists of Bailadila (meaning hump of a bullock' height 1200 m), and Tikanpalli hills in the middle and a small Dantewara plain in the north, (v) The southern lowlands of the Godavari and Sabari rivers (elevation 150-300 m). It is a rolling type of plain which extends from the southern boundary of the region to the base of the southern plateau season (increasing in rainy season but decreasing in dry summers).
Bastar has a monsoon type of hot tropical climate. It has a mean annual temperature of 24.5°C and an average annual rainfall of 120 cm. It enjoys three distinct seasons of dry early summer, wet late summer and winter. Most of the rainfall is caused by the Arabian Sea branch of the south-west monsoon.
The south-western and north-western parts of the region on the windward side experience maximum rainfall of 137-150 cm. The hills in the middle have created a rain shadow area in central Bastar wherein the amount of rainfall is less than 120 cm. Further eastward it again increases to a little over 125 cm. a year. Although there are very little regional variation in climatic conditions but seasonal contrasts are well marked.
The region is characterized by red soils formed by the weathering of metamorphic and granite rocks. The soil cover is thin in uplands and relatively deep in lowlands. It is converted into late rite soil on the uplands. The heavy rainfall and shifting cultivation are mainly responsible for large-scale soil-erosion. The soils are mainly poor in quality and humus contents.
Bastar region is mostly covered by moist deciduous forests which spread over three-fourth of the region's area. Teak, sal, and laurels account for about 80 per cent of the volume of wood found in these forests. These forests have only provided protection to the tribal's of the region but have also been the main source of their economic activities and livelihood. Besides timber these forests give useful things like fruits, flowers, leaves, gums and roots etc. to tribal people.
Bastar region is very rich in mineral resources particularly iron-ore. There are three main tracts of iron-ore mining. These are: (i) Raoghat hills in Narayanpur tahsil, (ii) Chargaon-Kondapakha- Haliladdi hills in the north-west, and (iii) Bailadila hills in Dantewara tahsil 1. The Bilabial range (length 30 km, width 10 km, altitude 300-900 m and in contents 60-70 per cent) has an estimated iron a I reserve of 1,153 million tones.
The range rural north-south along the western boundary of Dantewj tahsil. The iron-ore area is now opened up and link with Vishakhapatnam port through which the exported to Japan. The Raoghat hills along north-western border of the north-eastern plastic have six bodies of iron-ore with estimated reserve at 738 million tones.
Besides iron-ore the Bastar tribal region rich deposits of mica, limestone, bauxite, manganese, clays, glass sand and building stones. Tin t proper utilization of most of these minerals has no P been made owing to the lack of infrastructural facilities and low level of technological development.
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the people. Only about 20 per cent of the region ® area is under cultivation. Large expanse of cultivated land is found on the east and north-east while r its extent is very small in the southern and western parts of the region. The lowlands are better suited to agriculture than uplands which are mostly covered by forests. The agriculture is largely rained. About 90 per cent of the net sown area is occupied by kharif crops when sufficient of moisture is available.
The area under rabi crops is limited. Rice and millets are the main food crops occupying about 60 and 15 per cent of the net sown area respectively. Wheat occupies only about 3 per cent of the net sown area. Oil seeds are important non-food crops occupying about 7 per cent of the net sown area of the region. The winter temperatures are higher in the southern Godavari lowlands where jowar is cultivated both as kharij: and rabi crops. Enough fodder is available in the wet season for animals. Fishing is also carried on in some areas.
The influence of physiographic is clearly seen on the cropping pattern of the region. Rice is grown in the lowlands, while millets and pulses largely occupy the uplands. Tanks are the principal means of irrigation. Tribal's also practice shifting cultivation in many parts of the region.
Stock rising is mostly limited to rearing of cows in trade and administrative centers. The proportion of people engaged in cattle rearing for supplying milk is high in Jagdalpur, Kondagaon and Bhanuprtappur due to high concentration of its non- tribal consumers.
The region is lagging behind in respect of industrial development. Cottage and handloom industries are the only exceptions. Wood-works pertains to the making of cart-wheels, ploughs and house doors. Metal work is mostly developed in the eastern Kondagaon tahsil where the local tribes know to make more use of iron ware than the more primitive tribes living elsewhere. Handloom weaving is popular in cotton textile industry. The proportion of weavers is greater where the local tribes use more cloth per head of population.
According to 2001 Census the total population of Bastar region is 26, 72,651 out of which 91.84 percent live in rural areas. This population is sparsely distributed giving an average density of 68 persons per square kilometer. Tribal's constitute 67.36 per cent of the total population. The physical isolation created by difficult terrain has led the different tribal communities to live in their own worlds developing their own customs, rituals and beliefs.
The population is predominantly rural living in small hamlets. The hills and forests are devoid of population. The higher population concentrations are found in the Mahanadi basin (Kankar tahsil), Indrawati basin (Jagdalpur), Kotri plain (Bhanupratappur), Dantewara plains (northern Dantewara) and Sabari plains (northern Konta). People are also concentrated in Kondagaon (north eastern plateau) and southern Dantewara because these tracts are isolated basins providing a sort of privacy to the tribal's.