The Imperial Gazetteer of India - Volume I

About this text

Introductory notes

The Imperial Gazetteer of India was the outcome of a detailed statistical survey of the country conducted between 1869 to 1881. The Gazetteer volumes were published under the supervision of William Wilson Hunter. Hunter was educated at the Universities of Glasgow, Paris and Bonn and had a degree on Sanskrit, before joining the Indian Civil Service in 1862. Hunter joined as assistant magistrate and collector of Birbhum district in Bengal. During his days in Birbhum, Hunter meticulously collected local traditions and records and published the, The Annals of Rural Bengal. Hunter also compiled A Comparative Dictionary of the Non-Aryan Languages of India. Impressed with Hunter's endeavors, the then Viceroy Lord Mayo, asked Hunter in 1869 to supervise the comprehensive statistical survey of the Indian sub-continent. The survey report completed in 1881 comprised of 128 volumes. These volumes were condensed into 9 volumes and was published as The Imperial Gazetteer of India. Hunter thereafter presided Commission of Indian Education (1882) and became Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, before retiring from service in 1887. In this project we have made our selections from the Second edition of The Imperial Gazetteer of India. The second edition, published between 1885-1887 from Trubner & Company had 14 volumes.

The following excerpts from the Gazetteer have been selected from the entries on the districts of Agra, Ahmadabad, Ahmadnagar, Allahabad, Anantapur, Azamgarh.

Selection details

The following excerpts from the Gazetteer have been selected from the entries on the districts of Agra, Ahmadabad, Ahmadnagar, Allahabad, Anantapur, Azamgarh.

The Imperial Gazetteer of India.
W. W. HUNTER, C.S.I., C.I.E., LL.D.,

London: TRUBNER & CO. 1885
[Page 60]

1. Agra

District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, lying between lat. 26° 44' 30" and 27° 24' N., and between long. 77° 28' and 78° 53' 45" E. Area (1881)1850 square miles; population (1881) 974,656 souls. Agra is a District of the Division of the same name, and is bounded on the north by Muttra (Mathura) and Etah, on the east by Mainpuri and Etawah, on the south by Dholpur and Gwalior States, and on the west by Bhartpur State. The administrative head-quarters are at the city of AGRA.

[Page 63]

1.1. Agriculture

In the Doab, the soil is generally rich and fertile, but elsewhere its productiveness is much impaired by the prevalence of ravines. Their detrimental influence extends far beyond the area actually occupied by their sloping sides; for wherever any declivity begins, the surface soil is washed away, leaving scarcely enough mould for seed to germinate in; while nearer to the actual declivity a belt of sandy loam occurs, where the produce is always poor and uncertain. The khadir or low-lying silt, however, which stretches between the ravines and the river-sides, is usually rich and fruitful. The course of agriculture does not differ from that which is common throughout the whole upper Gangetic plain. The crops are divided into the kharif or autumn harvest and the rabi or spring harvest. The kharif crops [Page 64] are sown after the first rain in June, and reaped in October or November. They consist of bajra, joar, moth, and other food-grains ; and cotton, which is not ready for picking till November. The rabi crops are sown in October or November, and reaped in March and April. They consist of wheat, barley, oats, peas and other pulses. Manure is used, where it can be obtained, for both harvests; land is allowed to lie fallow whenever the cultivator can afford it; and sometimes from paucity of labourers. As a rule, the same soil is not planted for both spring and autumn harvests in a single year, but occasionally a crop of early rice is taken off a plot in August, and some other seed sown in its place for the spring reaping. Rotation of crops is practised in its simplest form ; autumn staples alternate with spring, wheat and barley being substituted for cotton and bajra, while gram takes the place of joar.

[Page 64]

1.2. Natural Calamities

The District suffers much in periods of [Page 65] drought, as it depends largely on natural rainfall for its water supply. Famines from this cause occurred in 1783, in 1813, in 1819, and in 1838.

[Page 82]

2. Ahmadabad(Ahmedabad)

A District in the Province of Gujarat (Guzerat), Northern Division, Bombay Presidency, lying between 21° 57' 30" and 23° 24' 30" N. latitude, and 71° 20' and 72° 57' 30" E. longitude. Total area, 3821 square miles, with 9 towns and 853 villages. Population (1881) 856,324. The chief town and administrative headquarters of the District are at Ahmadabad city.

[Page 88]

2.1. Agriculture

The two principal varieties of soil are the black and the white. In many parts of the District, both kinds occur within the limits of the same village; but on the whole, the black soil is found chiefly towards the west, and the light-coloured soil in the east. With the help of water and manure, the light-coloured soil is very fertile; and though during the dry weather, especially where subject to traffic, it wears into a loose fine sand, yet after rain has fallen, it again becomes tolerably compact and hard. Two other varieties of soil are less generally distributed; an alluvial deposit of the Sabarmati river, the most fertile soil in the District, easily irrigated, and holding water at the depth of [Page 89] a few feet below the surface ; and in the north-east of the District, a red stony soil, like that of Belgaum in the south of the Presidency.

As compared with the other British Districts of Guzerat, an important peculiarity of Ahmadabad is the great extent' of land held by the class of large landholders called talukdars, who own the lands of 387 villages, or 46-47 per cent. of the whole number in the District. Their possessions comprise the border land between Guzerat Proper and the peninsula of Kithiawir. Historically, this tract forms 'the coast, where the debris of the old Rajput Principalities of that peninsula was worn and beaten by the successive waves of Musalman and Maratha invasion.' But these estates are part of Kathiawar rather than of Guzerat. Their proprietors are Kathiawar chiefs, and their communities have the same character as the smaller States of the western peninsula. The talukdari villages are held by both Hindus and Musalmans. Among the Hindus are the representatives of several distinct classes.

[Page 90]

As in other parts of Guzerat, there are in Ahmadabad two sets of agricultural operations-one ending in the early or kharif, lasting from July to November; and the other in the late or rabi harvest, from November to March. The cultivating season is generally considered to begin immediately after the first fall of rain in June or July. A month or two before this, however, manure is carted to the field, and left there exposed to the action of the sun; and after a fall of rain, the manure is spread over the ground and ploughed in. The plough used is of the most simple construction, costing from 6s. to 8s. After two ploughings, each to the depth of 4 or 5 inches, the ground is considered ready for the seed, which is sown by a drill plough. Several English ploughs have been distributed in the District, and they are appreciated by the cultivators, as the land is found to derive lasting benefit from deeper ploughing. The advantages of a free use of manure are admitted by the husbandmen ; but, at the same time, as a great part of the cowdung is burnt as fuel, the ground is but scantily manured. The District is not favourable for direct river irrigation, as most of the rivers flow in deep, narrow channels with sandy beds. At the same time, there are many spots along the course of the Sabarmati, Khari, and Bhadhar rivers, where, by means of a frame on the banks, water is raised in leather bags. Well water is also used to a considerable extent. The irrigation from tanks and reservoirs is almost confined to the early part of the cold season, when water is required to bring the rice crops to maturity.

[Page 91]

2.2. Natural Calamities

During the past two centuries and a half, fourteen years have been memorable for natural calamities. Of these, three were in the 15th, six in the 18th, and seven in the 19th centuries. In the 15th century, the year 1629 is said to have been a season of great famine; and 1650 and 1686 were years of drought and scarcity. In the 18th century, 1718 and 1747 were years of scarcity, and 1771 was one of pestilence. The years 1714 and 1739 were marked by disastrous floods in the Sabarmati. In 1755, extraordinarily heavy rains did considerable damage to the city of Ahmadabad. The famine, which reached its height in 1790-91, and from having occurred in Samvat 1847, is known by the name sattalo, lasted through several seasons.

[Page 98]

3. Ahmadnagar(Ahmednagar)

A District in the Deccan, or Central [Page 99] Division, Bombay Presidency, lying between 18° 20' 0" and 20° 0' 0" N. lat., and 73° 42' 40" and 75° 45' 50" E. long. Area, 6666 square miles. Population (1881) 751,228 souls.

To the north-west and north lies Nasik District; on the north-east the line of the Godavari river separates Ahmadnagar from the Dominions of the Nizam. On the extreme' east, from the point where the boundary leaves the Godavari to the extreme northern point of the Shohipur District, it touches the Nizam's Dominions, a part of the frontier being marked by the river Sina. On the south-east and southwest lie the districts of Sholapur and Poona, the limit towards Sholapur being marked by no natural boundary. But to the south-west, the line of the Bhima, and its tributary the Kera, separates Ahmadnagar from Poona; and farther north the District stretches westwards, till its lands and those of Thana (Tanna) District meet the slopes of the Sahyadri hills. Except in the east, where the Dominions of the Nizam run inwards to within ten miles of the city of Ahmadnagar, the District is compact and unbroken by the territories of Native States, or outlying portions of other British Districts.

[Page 102]

3.1. Agriculture

The soil varies much in different parts of the District. Towards the north and east, it is as a rule a rich black loam; while in the hilly parts towards the west, it is frequently light and sandy. By reason of this variation in soil, it is said that a cultivator with ten acres of land in the north of the District is better off than one with a holding twice as large in the south. Though a single pair of bullocks cannot till enough land to support a family, many cultivators have only one pair, and manage to get their fields ploughed by borrowing and lending bullocks among each other. Garden lands are manured; but, as a rule, for ordinary dry crops nothing is done to enrich the soil. Cultivators are employed in ploughing in March, April, and May; in sowing the early kharif crops in July; and in harvesting the early crops from November to February. There are no tanks for irrigation, but there is a good deal of irrigation from wells, especially in the northern parts. The District, though possessing in many parts a fertile soil and a fair supply of water, not unfrequently suffers from drought.

[Page 103]

Ahmadnagar District is not subject to blights or floods. Occasionally wheat is affected by a disease called tambira. Under this disease, as the name implies, the grain turns a copper colour and withers away. Though the country is liable to drought, scarcity, deserving the name of a famine, has seldom occurred since the District came into the hands of the British. In 1791, 1792, and 1794, there was much misery owing to the increase in the price of grain, occasioned by the disturbed state of the country.

[Page 183]

4. Allahabad

District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-Western Provinces, lying between 24° 47' and 25° 47' 15" N. lat., and between 81°11' 30" and 82° 21' E. long. Area, 2833'1 square miles; population (1881) 1,474,106. Allahabad is a District-in the Division of the same , and is bounded on the north by Partabgarh District in Oudh; on the east by Jaunpur and Mirzapur; on the south by the Native State of Rewa; and on the south-west and west by Banda and Fatehpur. Greatest length of the District from east to west, 74 miles; maximum breadth from north to south, 64 miles. The administrative head-quarters are at ALLAHABAD, the capital of the North-Western Provinces.

[Page 189]

4.1. Agriculture

Allahabad is one of the Districts where cultivation has nearly reached its utmost limit, very little waste land fit for tillage being now left uncultivated. The kharif, or autumn crops, are sown in June, on the first appearance of the rains, and reaped in October and November. Food-stuffs are the staples of this harvest, the principal crops being rice, pulses,joar and bajra (millets). Cotton is sown at the same time, the coarser varieties being picked in November or December, and the finer in April or May. The rabi, or spring crops,' are sown in October and reaped in March or April. They consist of wheat, barley, and other grains. Manure is used for both harvests, wherever it can be obtained.

[Page 191]

4.2. Natural Calamities

Famines from drought occurred in Allahabad in 1770, 1783, 1803, 1819, and 1837, and severe scarcities in 1813, 1860-61, 1868-69, and in 1873-74. In the two famines antecedent to British rule, beyond a little gratuitous relief at the capital, no measures appear to have been taken for the relief of the starving multitudes.

[Page 273]

5. Anantapur(Anantapuram)

District in the Madras Presidency, created on the 5th January 1882, comprising the seven taluks of Gutti (Gooty), Tadpatri, Anantapur, Dharmavaram, Penukonda, Madaksira, and Hindupur, which previously formed part of Bellary District. The separation of these seven taluks from the large and unwieldy District of Bellary is one of several administrative improvements in the Madras Presidency since the famine of 1877. Anantapur District lies between 13° 41' and 15° 13' N. lat., and 76° 50' and 78° 12' E. long.; area, 5103 square miles; population (1881) 599,889. In point of size Anantapur ranks fifteenth, and in population twentieth, among the Districts of the Madras Presidency. It contains 900 inhabited villages, including 10 towns. Bounded on the north by Karnul (Kurnool) District, on the south and west by Mysore territory and Bellary District, and on the east by Cuddapah District.

[Page 276]

5.1. Agriculture

[Page 277]

The cultivated area is divided officially, as in other Madras Districts, into 'wet,' 'dry,' and 'garden' lands. Dry land is that on which crops are raised without the help of artificial irrigation. The chief crops are kambu, cholam, ragi, and korra, and these form the staple food of the masses. Wet lands are artificially irrigated, and are exclusively devoted to rice and sugar-cane. 'Garden' lands produce cocoa-nut, betel-leaf, plantains, wheat, tobacco, chillies, turmeric, vegetables and fruits. Manure in some form or other is always applied. Crops are not cultivated in any recognised order.

[Page 277]

5.2. Natural Calamities

The earliest famine on record is that of 1792-93. In that year, rice, which is largely produced in Anantapur and other taluks in the District, sold at 4 lbs. for the shilling, and cholam, the staple food of the masses, at 12 lbs. for the shilling.

[Page 391]

6. Azamgarh

District of the Benares Division, in the Lieutenant Governorship of the North-Western Provinces, lying between 25° 38' and 26° 25' N. lat., and 82° 42' and 83° 49' E. long.; area, 2147 square miles; population in 1881, 1,604,654. Bounded on the north by [Page 392] Faizabad and Gorakhpur Districts; east, by the new District of Ballia; south, by Ghazipur District; and west, by Jaunpur and Sultanpur. The administrative head-quarters of the District are at AZAMGARH, which is also the chief town.

[Page 397]

6.1. Agriculture

Agriculture.-The soil is alluvial throughout, being partly bangar (the old) and partly kachhar (the new deposit), with the transition from the one to the other generally marked by some change of elevation in the surface. The bangar land, although both reh and kankar occur more frequently in it than in the kachhar, is the more fertile of the two. The sub-soil strata are sands and clays, the former sometimes coming to the surface in the patches called balui. Water is met with at a few feet beneath these sandy strata, but owing to the looseness of the soil the wells have to be lined with masonry, to prevent them from falling in. The clays are of three kinds,-the clear grey or bluish grey, called matiari containing but little organic matter; the black clay, called karail, heavy, sticky, very tenacious of moisture, and the most fertile of all the soils of the District; the light clay, called kabsa, contains a saline matter, and forms in fact the transition soil between the raised sandy wastes, on which it always borders, and the heavier clays of the more depressed portions. The waste tracts of the District generally lie on the higher levels, and owe their sterility to the presence of reh, a saline efflorescence which crystallizes on the surface of the soil during the hot months. This usar or reh land can, however, with labour, be reclaimed; for if it be well trenched during the rains, and mixed with uninfected soil, the reh dies out in time, and even after the first year the reclaimed surface will yield a crop of rice. If, however, the surface drainage from the adjoining reh-infected parts be admitted to it, the improving patch rapidly lapses into its original sterility. Much of the present rice land was once, no doubt, usar land; and if the wholesome water were to be drained off them, would at once revert. In some places, extensive beds of kankar (limestone in course of formation) underlie the surface in solid sheets of coherent rock. The thin layers of soil that cover such reefs alternate, according to the season, between parched, dusty plains, and swamps. Agriculture in this District is specially dependent upon a seasonable distribution of the rainfall. The total agricultural population in 1881 was 1,293,089, or 80.6 per cent. of the inhabitants of the District. The two great harvests of the year are the kharif or autumn, and the rabi or spring crop. Including two-crop land, the total area cultivated in 1881-82 was 889,942 acres, the principal crops being as follow: - Kharif-rice, 274,706 acres; arhar, 52,379; Indian corn, 10,550; other food [Page 398] crops, 40,589; sugar-cane, 75,310; indigo, 10,790: total kharif area, 467,389 acres. Rabi-wheat, 17,934 acres; barley, 235,078; wheat and barley mixed, 39,401; barley and gram, 18,641; peas, 87,277; other food crops, 22,055; miscellaneous non-food crops, 12,167: total rabi area, 422,553 acres.

[Page 399]

6.2. Natural Calamities

In 1782-83, there was so serious a scarcity that deaths from starvation occurred in the town of Mau, and a mosque and some wells built as relief works in the town of Kopaganj form memorials of the year. Wheat, nevertheless, sold throughout this 'famine' at 14 lbs. for the shilling.

This is a selection from the original text


agriculture, class, crops, famine, flood, food, grain, irrigation, rice, scarcity, waste, wheat

Source text

Title: The Imperial Gazetteer of India

Subtitle: Volume I. Abar to Balasinor

Editor(s): W.W. Hunter

Publisher: Trübner & Co.

Publication date: 1885

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Internet Archive:

Digital edition

Original editor(s): W.W. Hunter

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) page 60
  • 2 ) pages 63 to 65
  • 3 ) page 82
  • 4 ) pages 88 to 91
  • 5 ) page 98
  • 6 ) pages 102 to 103
  • 7 ) page 183
  • 8 ) page 189
  • 9 ) page 191
  • 10 ) page 273
  • 11 ) page 277
  • 12 ) pages 391 to 392
  • 13 ) pages 397 to 399


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > gazetteers > imperial

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.