Etymology of Dandakaranya
The Sanskrit word ‘Dandakaranya’ means the Dandak Forest, the abode of the demon Dandak.
Geography of Dandakaranya
Dandakaranya is an extensive forest lying between the Godavari River and Narmada River. The forest of Dandaka was the biggest forest in Ancient India that lies mostly in Chhattisgarh. It stretches from Vindhya Mountain Ranges in central Indian to the banks of River Krishna and Tungabhadra River in the south. It covers about 92,200 sqkm of land, which includes the Abujhmar Hills in the west and the Eastern Ghats in the east, including parts of the Telangana State, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states. Mahendra Mountains in Odisha formed its eastern boundary.
Legend of Dandakaranya
Dandakaranya is an important place in many Hindu religious tales. The Dandakaranya zone was the location of the turning point in the Ramayana. In epic Ramayana no kingdom except the Dandaka kingdom and Kishkindhya Kingdom is mentioned as lying within this forest. The plot for the divine objectives of the Hindu to uproot the Rakshasa from the land was formulated here. According to the Ramayana, it was home to many deadly creatures and demons. Rama was living in a hermitage in the Dandaka forest when Ravana carried off Sita. During her unhappy times Sita loved a river, which was said to be a tributary to the Godavari running through the dense forests and wild districts. Surpanakha met Lord Rama in this region, where she became infatuated with him. When he turned her down, Surpanakha had her brothers Khara and Dushan attack Rama, who unsurprisingly, killed them in the subsequent battle.
During epic Mahabharata many regions that were formerly Dandaka forest were found to be habitable kingdoms. Dandak was also the kingdom, a colonial state of Lanka under the reign of Ravana. Ravana’s governor Khara ruled this province. It was the stronghold of all the Rakshasa tribes living in the Dandaka Forest.