Gondwana (India)

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Gondwana is a region of India. Named after the Gondi people who live there (though they can also be found in other parts of India), the name of the ancient continent of Gondwanaland was derived from Gondwana, because some of the earliest rock formations of this continent were first investigated in part of the region, in modern Orissa.

As Gonds are spread widely across central India, and are a minority almost everywhere, there is no unambiguous boundary to the region. However, the core region can be considered to be the eastern part of the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, the parts of Madhya Pradesh immediately to the north of it, and parts of the west of Chhattisgarh. The wider region extends beyond these, also including parts of northern Andhra Pradesh, and western Orissa.

The region is part of the northern Deccan plateau, with an average height of about 600–700 metres. Much of it is rugged and hilly. Geologically it is mostly Pre-Cambrian rock, with some areas dated to Permian and Triassic periods. Part of it is overlaid with alluvium, and in the west it is overlaid with the igneous rocks of the Deccan Traps.

The climate is hot and semi-arid. The natural vegetation is dry monsoon forest, or monsoon scrub forest. Large parts of it are still forest, and it contains several national parks, including tiger populations.

Gondwana has a relatively high proportion of peoples of the "scheduled tribes" of India, which include the Gonds. The scheduled tribes are recognised as economically and socially disadvantaged. They form a majority of the population in many districts.

History

A number of old kingdoms were established by, or together with, ruling families of the Goindis and other scheduled tribes in this region. The first of these is mentioned in 1398, when Narsingh Rai, raja of Kherla, is said by Ferishta to have ruled all the hills of Gondwana. He was finally overthrown and killed by Hoshang Shah, king of Malwa. Between the 14th and the 18th centuries, three main Gond/Goindi kingdoms existed; Garha-Mandla occupied the upper Narmada Valley, Deogarh-Nagpur occupied the Kanhan River and upper Wainganga River valleys, and Chanda-Sirpur occupied present-day Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, and eastern Adilabad districts.

The three Goindi principalities of Garha-Mandla, Deogarh, and Chanda-Sirpur were nominally subject to the Mughal emperors. In addition to the acquisitions made in the north at the expense of Garha-Mandla, the Mughals, after the annexation of Berar in 1595, established governors at Paunar in Wardha District and Kherla in Betul District. Having thus hemmed in the Gond states, however, they made no efforts to assert any effective sovereignty over them; the Gond rajas for their part were content with practical independence within their own dominions. Under their peaceful rule their territories flourished, until the weakening of the Mughal empire and the rise of the expanding Bundela and Maratha powers brought misfortune upon them.

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