Dandakaranya (Kannada: ದಂಡಕಾರಣ್ಯ, Oriya: ଦଣ୍ଡକାରଣ୍ୟ, Telugu: దండకారణ్యం, Malay: Indrapawanan, Marathi: दंडकारण्य) is a spiritually significant region in India. It is roughly equivalent to the Bastar division in the Chhattisgarh state in the central-east part of India. It covers about 35,600 square miles (92,200 km2) of land, which includes the Abujhmar Hills in the west and the Eastern Ghats in the east, including parts of the Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh states. It spans about 200 miles (320 km) from north to south and about 300 miles (480 km) from east to west. Dandakaranya roughly translates from Sanskrit to "The Jungle (aranya) of Punishment (dandakas").
Dandaka-aranya, means the Dandak Forest, the abode of the demon Dandak.
Dandakaranya is an important place in many Indian Hinduism religious tales. The Dandakaranya zone was the location of the turning point in the Ramayana, a famous Sanskrit epic. The plot for the divine objectives of the Hindu Trinity to uproot the rakshasa from the land was formulated here. According to the Ramayana, it was home to many deadly creatures and demons. Exiled persons resided here and sages had to cross it in order to reach the Vindhya Mountains. Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana spent 13 years as exiles traveling around the region. Surpanakha met Lord Rama in this region, where she became infatuated with him. When he turned her down, Surpanakha had her brothers Khar and Dushan attack Rama, who unsurprisingly, killed them in the subsequent battle. This region has an average height of metres and lies mostly in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
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