The Kandhamal district was created on 1 January 1994 from the former Boudh-Kandhmal district as a result of district reorganization in the state of Odisha. Before that the district was known as Phulbani. It is a tribal-dominated district, where a majority of the people belong to the Kondh (Kandha) tribe.
The district lies between 83.30° E to 84-48° E longitude and 19-34° N to 20-54° latitude. The district headquarters is Phulbani, located in the central part of the district. The other popular locations are Baliguda, G. Udayagiri, Tikabali and Raikia.
The territory is rural, with a number of waterfalls, springs, hill stations, and historical and archaeological places.
- Area: 8,021 km²
- Altitude: 300 to 1100 meter
- Rainfall: 1,597 millimetres (62.9 in)
- Climate: Minimum temperature (December) 1 °C (34 °F); maximum temperature (May) 35 °C (95 °F)
A majority of the land area of the district (71%) is forests, and 12% of the land is cultivable. The road connectivity with other districts is poor. Kandhamal is one of the poorest districts in Orissa, ranking 29th out of 30 districts by the Human Development Index.
According to the 2011 census Kandhamal district has a population of 733,110, roughly equal to the nation of Guyana or the US state of Alaska. This gives it a ranking of 497th in India (out of a total of 640). The district has a population density of 91 inhabitants per square kilometre (240/sq mi). Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 12.92%. Kandhamal has a sex ratio of 1037 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 65.12%.
At the time of the 2011 Census of India, 53.15% of the population in the district spoke Odia and 45.65% Kui as their first language.
Most inhabitants belong to the Kandha (Kondhs) tribes, following various religious faiths, who are said to be “proud and aggressive”, in the words of a district official. The Kondhs hold 77% of the cultivable land.
About 17% of the population are Panos, who are designated as Scheduled Castes. They hold 9% of the cultivable land. The majority of the Panos (90%) are Catholics.
• Languages: Odia and Kui (tribal language of the Kondhs) Rice is the primary staple food and crop of Kandhamal district. In recent years residents have focused on horticulture, sericulture, floriculture and other agricultural activities apart from rice. The district is full of flora and fauna. A wide variety of wildflowers like orchids are found in the dense forests of the district. Mango, mahula (mahua), Indian gooseberry (amla), kendu, meswak and jackfruit are also found in abundance in the wilderness. Bamboo and Thysanolaena (broom grass) are collected from the forests of Kandhamal and used or sold. A special pulse known as kandula is native to this district; the Kondh people mostly cultivate it in the hilly forests. The organic turmeric cultivated in this district is popularly known as ‘Kandhamal Haladi’ and is renowned for its purity. An organization called Kasam promotes turmeric cultivation in the district. In some areas ginger is also cultivated along with turmeric.
On 25 December 2007, ethnic conflict broke out between Khond tribals and Pana Scheduled Caste people.
On 23 August 2008, Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati – a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – was murdered by Maoist gunmen along with four others, including a boy. Maoist rebels took responsibility for the multiple murders. This led to large-scale riots between the indigenous ethnic Kandha tribe and the Scheduled Caste Pano communities. The underlying causes are complex and cross political and religious boundaries. Land encroachment, perceived or otherwise, being a particular source of tension between the communities, the clash was predominantly ethnic, but assumed communal overtones despite the fact that in addition to Hindu Kondhs were fighting against Protestant Christian Kondhs and the Catholic Panos. In April 2010, a special “fast track” court in Phulbani convicted 105 people. Ten people were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
It is currently a part of the Red Corridor of India, an area with significant Maoist insurgency activity. Suspected Maoist rebels detonated a roadside land mine on 27 November 2010, blowing up an ambulance. A patient, a paramedic, and the vehicle’s driver were killed.
READ had started its work in the district of Kandhamal from the year 2008, after the communal violence took place between Dalit and Tribal. Now READ is working on Peach building program incorporating all religions, castes, denominations, creed and colours.