Chhattisgarh, once known to be a part of Madhya Pradesh, has had a vibrant history. A legend says that Lord Ram stayed in Dakshin Kosala during his exile days. The region of Chhattisgarh was referred to Dakshin Kosala in the ancient times. The modern-day state was always referred to with different names during different times. In the ancient times, it was referred to as Dakshin Kosala and also Mahakosala. During the Mughal reign, it was called the Ratanpur territory. The name ‘Chhattisgarh’ means 36 forts. It came in force when the Marathas ruled this region in the 18th century, after it was used in an official document of those times. Experts believe that various versions of Chhattisgarh including ‘Chhattisgarh’, and ‘cherisher’ came into being, owing to the heavy influence of the caste system in those ages.
It is said that a scion of a royal family by the name Kalingraja settled in Tuman (north-eastern region of the present-day Chhattisgarh) at the beginning of the 11th century AD. His grandson Ratanraja founded the Ratanpur, which became the capital of his territory. Ratanpur was the capital of these Rajput scions who founded the Haihaya dynasty. .
The Haihaya dynasty is an important feature of the history of Chhattisgarh. This dynasty ruled this region till 14 century AD after which they underwent a split. Also around the same time, did a dynasty called the Chalukya dynasty established its rule in Bastar, in the early fourteenth century. But all these dynasties came under the suzerainty of the Mughals, in the 16th century. The region was attacked by the Marathas in 1741, and was under their domain till it came under the British control in 1818. Vir Narain Singh was an important freedom fighter in Chhattisgarh, who led Chhattisgarh in the Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Independence, in 1857.
Demand for recognition of Chhattisgarh as a separate state was first raised in the early twenties by the Raipur Congress unit in 1924, at the meeting of the Raipur district Congress. A similar demand was brought up after independence, in the Nagpur Assembly of the state, which was then called Madhya Bharat. All these events fuelled the movement for a new state in the history of Chhattisgarh.
A State Reorganization Committee was set up in 1954. A demand for a separate state of Chhattisgarh was also brought up in this committee. But the demand was later rejected by the commission as the prosperity in Chhattisgarh could compensate for some impoverish regions of Madhya Pradesh. Nevertheless, petitions, rallies and demands for a separate state continued for a long time. But there was a lull in this movement in the 1980’s.
The first institutional and governmental initiative for the formation of Chhattisgarh was taken by the Congress Government of the region, in 1994. Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made unified and constructive efforts for the formation of a separate state. In 1998, the Union Government led by BJP, drafted a bill for the formation of Chhattisgarh, constituting the sixteen districts of Madhya Pradesh. This bill was sent to the Madhya Pradesh assembly for approval and was eventually approved with certain alterations. Then Union Government fell and after elections, the National Democratic Alliance redrafted the Separate Chhattisgarh Bill, which was eventually sent to the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly for approval.