Nagpur is one of the fastest-growing metropolises in India situated on the banks of the river Nag in Maharashtra, almost at the geographic centre of the country. It is an ancient city with traces of human existence about 3,000 years ago, according to archaeological surveys.
Excavations in this region have unearthed lithic tools and several megalithic burial places among other things. Findings of important remains like an iron-smelting furnace of the megalithic period in the Naikund village near Nagpur indicates the prevalence of megalithic culture in the region.
Ruled by Various Dynasties
The region was ruled by various dynasties including the Mauryan, Shunga, Vakataka, and Satavahana dynasties from 4th century BCE to around the 2nd and 3rd century CE. The later kingdoms such as Chalukyas and the Yadavas also ruled over this part of the land for centuries.
The Yadava Kingdom ruled the region in the 12 century CE. The foundations of Marathi culture and social life were laid during this period.
In 1296, Alaudidin Khilji attacked and prevailed over the Yadavas. One year after his death, the region came under the rule of the Tughlaq Dynasty in 1317, followed by the Mughal Empire in the 17th century.
Under the Mughal rule, the Gond kingdom of Deogarh was entrusted with the regional administration. And, it was Bakht Buland Shah of the Gond Kingdom who laid the foundation of the city of Nagpur in 1703.
In 1743, Raghoji Bhonsle of Vidarbha, a Maratha clan took control of the region and established the Nagpur Kingdom with the city as the capital.
The Bhonsle period was marked with peace, increased cultural activities, and economic prosperity in the kingdom. During this period, the Nagpur kingdom covered the present-day eastern Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.
However, with the defeat in a battle against the British in 1803, Bhonsles had to give up a sizable area of land from their control. Finally, the third Anglo-Maratha war in 1817, marked the beginning of the downfall of the Nagpur kingdom.
In 1818, Nagpur became a princely state under the British, and in 1854, the British annexed the state following the death of the heirless Maharaja Raghoji III. In 1861, Nagpur and the surrounding regions became part of the Central Province, with Nagpur as capital.
Nagpur was the main centre of trade and commerce in the Vidarbha region those days. With the advent of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway in 1867, the city’s importance strengthened significantly.
Second Capital of Maharashtra
Today, Nagpur is the second capital of Maharashtra, where the winter session of the state legislature and the state legislative council is held. This is in line with an agreement, known as the Nagpur Pact among leaders when Nagpur and Vidarbha region became part of the newly formed Maharashtra State in1956. Before that, Nagpur was the capital of Madhya Pradesh since 1950.
Nagpur witnessed various political activity during the country’s independence movement. The city hosted two annual sessions of the Indian National Congress during the period. It was in the Nagpur session of 1920 that Congress launched the Non-cooperation movement in the country.
Nagpur is the birthplace of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925. The city was the venue for the event where Baba Saheb Ambedkar along with his supporters converted to Buddhism in 1956 at Deekshabhoomi, a Buddhist pilgrim centre in the city.
The name Nagpur
The earlier name of Nagpur was “Fanindrapura”, where Fana means hood of a cobra. Later, it became Nagpur believed to be named after the River Nag flowing through the city. It is also said that the city is named after the Nag people, worshippers of Lord Shiva and Mahamaya, who lived in this land thousands of years ago.
Nagpur has a couple of nicknames such as the ‘Orange City ‘of India, the ‘Tiger Capital’ of India or the ‘Tiger Gateway of India. The city is a major centre for orange cultivation and trade. In February 2016, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) general body passed a resolution adopting the orange city tag to Nagpur. Similarly, Nagpur serves as a central connection to several Tiger Reserves in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Nagpur has several ancient temples built particularly during the reign of the Yadava kingdom, which are specimens of the architectural marvels of the period. Some of the temples and other structures of the Yadava time include the Kalika Devi Temple at Katol, around 59km from Nagpur and the Trigarbha temple and sculptures of Vishnu and Mahalakshmi of Parseoni (33km).
This is beside the Ram temples, the famous Shiva temple and other magnificent ancient temples at Adasa, and the fort at Ramtek among others.
Ramtek- ‘Vow of Ram’ to eliminate evils from the world
Ramtek lying around 50km northeast of Nagpur is closely connected to the epic Ramayana. It is a picturesque hill, located about 7km from Mansar.
During the Vakataka period in the 3rd century CE, Ramtek was called ‘Ramagiri’. There are some early temples bearing inscriptions of the Vakataka period. With the famous Lord Ram temple as well as many Jain temples, Ramtek remains an important pilgrim centre for Hindus and Jains.
The entire region including Nagpur and Vidarbha was part of the famous Dandakaranya mentioned in the Ramayana, where Lord Ram chose to stay along with Mata Sita and Lakshmana. It is believed that the trio on their journey to begin their 14-year vanvas rested at Ramtek.
The sage Agastya’s ashram was situated near Ramtek in the Dandakaranya. There were also ashrams of other rishis around this region. These rishis were regularly harassed and their daily poojas and other religious rites and rituals were disrupted by the demons. The miscreants even killed some of the sages during such acts.
Hearing these atrocities, Lord Ram was distressed. He took a vow that he would relieve the world from the demons by eliminating the whole of them. The name ‘Ramtek’ meaning vow of Ram originated from this famous incident. ( Vow is ‘tek’ in the local language.)
Memories of Kalidas
It is said that the great Sanskrit poet and dramatist Kalidas penned the epic ‘Meghdoot’ while staying here, inspired by the natural beauty and tranquillity of Ramtek. The Kavikulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya was established here in memory of Kalidas.
Today, Ramtek also hosts the annual Kalidas Festival as a tribute to the great poet and his eternal contribution to the field of poetry. The four-day annual festival, organized by the Maharashtra Tourism department since 1996, is an extravaganza of music, dance, and drama performed by renowned artists.
Ramtek is also the birthplace of the second Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar.
Nagpur lies in the Decan plateau at the exact centre of the Indian peninsula at 21.1458° N, 79.0882° E, with an average elevation of 1,020ft above the sea level. The metropolis is spread across an area of 227.36sq.km.
The district of Nagpur is bounded by Bhandara district on the east, Chandrapur district on the southeast, Wardha district on the southwest, and Amravati district on the northwest. The Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh state shares the border on the north.
The city lies 837km northeast of the state capital Mumbai.
Nagpur enjoys a tropical climate with dry conditions prevailing for most of the year. Summers begin in March and end by June, with temperature exceeding 48 °C in May, while winters last from November to January. During winters, the temperature drops below 10 °C. Summer season is also characterized by severe weather conditions such as thunderstorms, dust storms, hailstorms, and squalls.
The city receives an average annual rainfall of about 1092 mm.
People, language, food
The Nagpur municipality has a population of 24,05,665, according to the 2011 census, whereas, the population in the urban agglomeration stands at 36,02.341.
A majority of 59.5% of the population are Hindus, followed by Buddhists (25.6%) and Muslims (12%). Christians, Jains, and Sikhs from the rest of the population.
Marathi is the official language in Nagpur. Hindi and English are also widely used. The city enjoys an average literacy rate of 91.92%.
The people of Vidharbha region has unique cuisine known as the Varhadi cuisine or Saoji cuisine. This is the main cuisine of the Savji community. People also take non-vegetarian food.
With an abundant supply of oranges, there are numerous beverages made out of this fruit. The orange burfi available at Nagpur is widely popular among visitors to the city.
How to reach Nagpur
Nagpur is connected to major metropolitan cities such as Delhi (1094km), Mumbai (837km) Kolkata (1140 km) and Chennai (1092 km) by road, rail and air.
Major state and national highways like the NH-7 and NH-6 pass through the city. The state government is planning a new state highway, Nagpur–Aurangabad–Mumbai express highway at a cost of if ₹30,000 crore.
The city is at the junction of two Asian Highways namely AH43 Agra to Matara, Sri Lanka and AH46, a route of the Asian Highway Network within India, from Kharagpur to Dhule.
Nagpur has two bus stations in the city at Ganeshpeth and Sitabuldi operating over 2,000 services daily to several cities far and near.
Nagpur is the Railway Divisional Headquarters for both the Central Railway and South East Central Railway Zones of Indian Railways. The station is connected to all major cities in the country, with daily service by over 260 trains including passenger and express trains.
Other major railway stations in Nagpur include the Ajni Railway Station and Itwari Railway Station. This is beside the minor stations of Motibagh, Kalama, and Godhani in the city.
Recently, the state government has cleared a ₹8,680-crore metro rail project for Nagpur. The project is expected to be completed in six years.
Nagpur is well connected by daily direct flights to major cities in the country. This includes Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Indore and Raipur. Besides, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways operate direct flights from Nagpur to Sharjah and Doha respectively.
Nagpur’s Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport is one of the busiest airports in India. The Central government is planning to upgrade the airport for ₹1,500 crore.
Places of interests
There are some places of interest in and around Nagpur, a city noted for its cleanness and greenery. The region has some ancient temples and heritage sites thronged by people both for spiritual and tourist purpose.
This includes the famous Lord Ganesh Temple at Adasa, Ramtek Fort Temple, Shantinath Jain temple Ramtek, Deekshabhoomi, Mahakali Temple at Chandrapur and the Bhadravati Jain Temple
Besides, there are the 8th -century caves used by Buddhist monks, and several picnic spots including natural and man-made lakes such as the Ambazari lake, Gorewada lake, and Telangkhedi lake.
Some of the most popular centres include the following:
Ramtek Fort Temple
Ramtek Fort Temple also commonly known as Ram Mandir or Ram Dham is situated inside a fort on a hilltop at an elevation of 1,132ft above the sea level in Ramtek, about 50km from Nagpur.
The temple is almost synonymous with Ramtek sharing a rich source of mythological history related to Lord Ram and his stay here, deep inside the thick forest Dandaka those days.
The 600-year old temple, dedicated to Lord Ram is believed to have been built by the King of Nagpur, Raghuji Bhonsale. It is built in a unique OM structure and decorated with a picturesque description of Ramayana, Krishna Leela, and idols of Lord Hanuman, Sai Baba and Gajanan Maharaj.
Thousands of pilgrims visit the temple, particularly during the occasion of Ramanavami every year. Devotees use the large lake at the foot of the temple, known as Ambala Talab for immersing the ashes (asthi visarjan) of the dead.
Besides the Ram Temple, there are some 25 Brahmanical style temples on the hillock. The state government is reported to have approved some 42 works for the development of the centre, under the ₹150-crore Ramtek Pilgrimage and Tourism Development project.
Adasa Ganpati Temple
The Ganesh Temple in Adasa, a small village located about 45km away from Nagpur is one of the eight Ashta- Vinayak in the Vidarbha region. The main deity of this ancient temple is Lord Ganesha, built in a monolithic stone measuring 12ft tall and 7ft wide.
There are around 20 small temples in the complex spread over 10 hectors of land, dedicated to various deities. This includes Hanuman, Trimbakeshwar, Bairambuva, Shakti and Bhuyarbaba. The three Shivalingams enshrined in the Mahadeo Temple are believed to be self-evolved.
This centre is visited by large crowds especially during Hindu religious festivals, featuring large fairs every year.
Shantinath Jain temple
Shree Shantinath Digambar Jain Mandir in Ramtek is an ancient Jain temple, dedicated to Bhagawan Shantinath. A 15-ft tall Atishaya purna idol of Bhagwan Shantinath in kayotsarya posture is enshrined in the Mandir.
It is believed that the temple was built in the 18th century during the Bhonsle period. And, it is constructed with stones in the Maratha style architecture. Customary to the style, the temple is covered by high walls or bastons from all sides.
Near the old temple, there is a new temple built of pink sandstones recently, dedicated to all 24 Tirthankars. The temple is known as Panch Bal Yati Temple or Chaubisi Temple.
Deekshabhoomi, located at the heart of the city of Nagpur is an important pilgrim centre for Buddhists in India. The site was the venue for the mass conversion of Babasaheb Ambedkar and his followers to Buddhism on 14th October 1956. On this day every year, the place is flocked by millions of pilgrims to commemorate the event.
The stupa in Deekshabhoomi, the largest in Asia was designed like the famous stupa of Sanchi. The idol of Lord Buddha is installed inside the stupa. Ashes of Babasaheb is also kept here.
People also visit nearby places such as the Buddhist stupa at Kamthi (16km), Khindsi (44km), a large water reservoir situated within the Satpura hill ranges, and the Totaladoh dam (79km) on the river Pench.
The region has four national parks and thirteen wildlife sanctuaries. This includes the national parks and tiger reserves such as Bandhavgadh, Kanha Kesali, Pench National Park, Tadoba –Andhari, Navegaon, Melghat, Bor etc.
Fairs and Festivals of Nagpur
The people of Nagpur, as elsewhere in the country celebrate almost all religious festivals with a lot of enthusiasm.
Some of the popular festivals include the Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday Lord Ganesha; Dussehra, commemorating Lord Ram’ s victory over Ravana; Diwali, the festival of lights; Gudhi Padwa, heralding the prosperous new year; Makar Sankranti, the passing of the sun from one Zodiac sign to the other; Holi, the festival of colours; Nag Panchami, veneration to snakes; Gokul Ashtami or Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna and Marbat, a unique festival celebrated only in Nagpur city.