Bilaspur is a district of the Chhattisgarh State of India and is the district headquarters and the second-largest city in the State. It is called Nyaydhani (legal capital) because High Court is located here. Besides this, it is also the headquarters of the South East Central Railway which comprises the Bilaspur, Nagpur and Raipur divisions. Bilaspur is also well connected to the rest of the country by means of rail and road network hence improving the economy of the city. The city's main commercial hub is Vyapar Vihar, Telipara, Link Road, Bus Stand Road, Rajiv Plaza and Gol Bazar.
Bilaspur is situated on the banks of the rainfed Arpa River which originates from the high hills of the Maikal range of Central India. Arpa is very shallow in depth but sometimes creates havoc during rains. Agaar and Maniyaar are the other rivers that surround Bilaspur District. This dolomite rich region is surrounded by lush green forests in the north and the coal mines of Hasdeo valley in the east.
Location: 111 km (69 miles) north of the state capital Raipur (East Chhattisgarh)
Geography: Latitude 21'47" to 23'8" North and longitude 81'14" to 83'15” East
Average Elevation: 264mts. (866 ft)
Area: 6,377 sq. kms.
Population: 1,993,042 (2001 census) (1,009,007 males and 984,035 females)
Population Density: 266 per square kilometre
Literacy Rate: 52.91%
Tehsils: 7 - Bilaspur, Pendra Road, Lormi, Kota, Takhatpur, Bilha, Masturi
Total Number of Villages: 1635
Rainfall: 1220 mm (average)
The district is bounded by Korea on the north, Anuppur District and Dindori District of Madhya Pradesh state on the west, Kawardha on the southwest, Durg and Raipur on the south and Korba and Janjgir-Champa on the east.
Bilaspur City is spread over about 30 km² (12 miles²). Over the years, Bilaspur has developed with wide roads, cafes, hotels, street lighting and some beautiful squares. However the last decade has seen large scale unregulated urbanisation and residential and commercial expansion, over straining the water resources and generally defunct civic amenities due to its indifferent officials and politicians.
The downtown is called Gol Bazaar (Circular Market). Gol Bazaar and Sadar Bazaar are buzzing and vibrant but overcrowded with slow moving traffic. In contrast there are some newly developed areas as well. Electricity is government regulated with power cuts sometimes, more so, during the maintenance. The sewerage and drainage system is practically nonexistent, so much so, that like any other Indian town even the first shower of monsoon floods many areas.
The climate is pleasant and mild in the winter (10°C, 50°F). There are medium rains in the monsoon season. The summers are very hot and dry (maximum temperature 45+°C, 113°F, maximum humidity 90%).
The main languages spoken are Chhattisgarhi, a dialect and Hindi, while Bengali, Sindhi, Punjabi and English is spoken by only a few.
Bilaspur City is around 400 years old and the name of the district derived from the city of Bilaspur, the administrative headquarters of the district. The name 'Bilaspur' originated from Bilasa, a fisherwoman who founded it according to a legend.
Historical records like Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol 8, 1908 note that the city is said to be named after a fisher-woman by name Bilasa in the 17th century, and for a long period it consisted only of a few fishermen's huts. In 1901, population of Bilaspur was 18,937 and was 8th largest town in Central Provinces of British India. In 1908, weaving of tasar silk and cotton clothes were recorded as major industries of Bilaspur.
The management of Bilaspur district was undertaken by British Government in 1818, before this it was under harsh extortionist nature of marathaa rule for about 60 years. Bilaspur district was constiuted in 1861. Bilaspur municipality was constituted in 1867. Famines in Bilaspur district before 1908 were recorded by British administration in 1828-9, 1834-5, 1845-6, 1868-9 and 1899-1900. In 1868-9 and 1899-1900, the rains failed almost completely, accompanied with severe distress, migration and desertion of villages. After 1868-9 famine, there was prosperity for next 25 years; but in 1895 there was a very poor harvest, followed in 1896 by a complete failure of crops, and severe famine prevailed through the year 1897. In 1897, mortality rate was as high as dying of one in every group of six people. Famine of 1897 was followed by two favorable years; but in 1899 monsoon failed completely and rice crop was wholly destroyed.
Guru Ghasidas, (1756-1836) started a religious movement Satnamis (meaning the worshippers of Satnam) between 1820 and 1830 primarily around Sonakhan forests. This religious movement preached that god is not idols or not in idols but god is synonymous to truth. His community was a farmer community though in Hindu caste hierarchy they have been put in Schedule caste. University at Bilaspur is named after him as Guru Ghasidas University.
Historically, Bilaspur was a part of Kalchuri dynasty of Ratanpur. The city, however, came into prominence around 1741, the year of the Maratha Empire invasion, when a Maratha official took up his abode there and began to build a fort which was never completed. The populace of Bilaspur suffered heavily during the famine of 1896-1897, during which the city experienced the highest death rate of the region.
The city was taken over by the British East India Company of Great Britain in the year 1854 when the then ruler of the region of the Mahratta kingdom died heirless.
The area which comprises present-day Bilaspur District was under the control of the Bhonsla Rajas of Nagpur until 1818 and was governed by a Maratha ‘Subah’ (district officer). In 1818, the British started administering the area on behalf of the Raghuji III who was minor. The area was administered by a commissioner. In 1853, after the death of Raghuji III, British annexed the Nagpur Kingdom to British India as Nagpur Province, and in 1861 when the new Central Provinces was born, Bilaspur was organized into a separate district. In October 1903, a new province ‘The Central Provinces and Berar’ was constituted and Bilaspur District became a part of the Chhattisgarh Division of the province. In October 1905, on transfer of Sambalpur District to Bengal Province, Chandrapur-Padampur and Malkhurda estates were transferred to Bilaspur District. In 1906, when the Drug district (presently Durg District) was formed, a part of the Mungeli Tahsil was transferred to the new district. Also, another part of the district was transferred to the Raipur District. On 25 May 1998, the original Bilaspur District was split into 3 smaller districts, present Bilaspur, Korba and Janjgir-Champa.