The temples of Bastar
which are found in the
remote jungle remain
untouched as the
locals do not pray in
them. They tell of the
Dravidian culture that
once flourished here.
From a historical perspective Bastar occupies a peculiar position poised between North and South India. Some Gond tribes have Indo-Aryan type languages and others Dravidian ones. The area has had links northwards and southwards at different times. The Indravati River once formed a clear dividing line as ancient inscriptions found north of it are written in the Nagari script while to the south they are written in Telugu.
Bastar’s history is difficult to unravel as it has come under a great many different types of rulers and influences. The typical situation consisted of powerful dynasties competing for power while local authority remained in the hands of local chieftains or headmen.
In the 5th and 6th centuries AD it was a Buddhist enclave and there are Buddhist remains at Bhongapal and Garh Gobrahin. Buddhist monks probably had a powerful influence on the surrounding people so it is possible that some tribal beliefs have their origin in Buddhist teachings at that time. One might also speculate that tribal ideas about the interconnectedness of the earth and all living creatures may have been absorbed into Buddhist thought.
Between 844 and 1150 Bastar was raided by the Eastern Chalukyas, the Cholas, the Western Chalukyas and the Hoysalas. There were a succession of Gond kingdoms between the 11th and 14th centuries which were ruled over by the Naga kings. From them have come the Shiva temples at Barsur with their Nandi bull figures.