The Imperial Gazetteer of India - Volume II

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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 Balasore, Bankura, Bardwan, Bareilly, Bellary, Bhagalpur, Bijnaur and the separate entry on the Bengal Province.

Selection details

The following excerpts from the Gazetteer have been selected from the entries on the districts of Balasore, Bankura, Bardwan, Bareilly, Bellary, Bhagalpur, Bijnaur and the separate entry on the Bengal Province.

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

London: TRUBNER & CO. 1885
[Page 1]

1. Balasor

District in Orissa, under the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, lying between 20° 43' 50" and 21° 56' 30" N. lat., and between 86° 18' 40" and 87° 31' 20" E. long; area, 2066 square miles; population, according to the Census of 1881, 945,280 souls. It is bounded on the north by Midnapur District and the Tributary State of Morbhanj; on the east by the Bay of Bengal; on the south by Cuttack District, the Baitarani river forming the boundary line; and on the west by the Tributary States of Keunjhar, Nilgiri, and Morbhanj. The administrative head-quarters are at Balasor town, on the Burabalang river. Balasor derives its name from Bal-eswara, 'The Young Lord,' or 'Lord of Strength,' i.e. Krishna; or perhaps from Ban-eswara, 'The Forest Lord,' i.e. Mahadeva. The administrative head-quarters of the District are at Balasor town.

[Page 7]

1.1. Agriculture

Rice is the staple crop in Balasor, as throughout the rest of Orissa; indeed, it may almost be called the only crop of the District, as it has been estimated that but one acre in a thousand of the cultivated area is sown with any other crop. The principal rice crop is sown in May and June; the reaping seasons vary for different varieties, the crops sown in high lands being repeated in July, August, and September; those sown on middling lands, in September and October; and the variety (guru) sown in low lands, in December and January. The coarse varieties of the grain are the most easily cultivated, but of late years the finer sorts have been more extensively grown than formerly. Manure, consisting of cow dung, ashes, tank mud, etc., is used at least once in five years, 10 cwts. being allowed for an acre of rice land. Rents vary according to the situation of the land (and its liability to heavy floods) and to the tenure on which it is held; the average rate for pal land, which produces the finer kinds of rice, and also bears a second crop, is 6s. Such land yields from 12 cwts. to 15 cwts. of coarse paddy, or from 7 to 10 cwts. of fine paddy every year, the average value of which may be taken as £1; the out-turn of the second crop may be valued at from 12s. to 16s. an acre. Nearly two-thirds of the District is cultivated, and the remaining portion is almost all incapable of tillage. Wages, and with them prices, have much increased in Balasor of late years. Owing to the extraordinary manner in which estates in Balasor are cut up, the condition of the peasantry is not very satisfactory. A single estate generally consists of several villages or patches of land situated in different parganas, quite separate, and often at a considerable distance from each other. Endless confusion regarding boundaries is, of course, the result. Further, a landholder cannot supervise the whole of his estate, and it is impossible for him to take an intelligent interest in it, or to do justice to the cultivators, who on their part must be satisfied with very small holdings, unless they are willing to hold under several proprietors, or to farm a number of scattered patches under the same landlord. Large firms are unknown; there are not in the whole District more than a hundred holdings of from 20 to 100 acres in extent, and about 60 per cent, are below 10 acres.

[Page 7]

1.2. Natural Calamities

The District suffers much from both flood and drought. [Page 8] Droughts, due to deficient rainfall, occur from time to time, but fortunately the failure in the higher levels is often compensated by increased fertility in the plains. In years of flood, however, although the uplands are much benefited by the local rainfall, to which the floods are partly attributable, the extent of high land is so small that the increased fertility is by no means commensurate with the loss of crops in the low-lying tracts.

[Page 78]

2. Bankura

District of the Bardwan Division, within the Lieutenant-Governorship of Bengal, lying between 22° 40' and 23° 37' N. lat., and between 86° 38' and 87° 47' E. long; area, 2621 square miles; population, according to the Census of 1881, 1,041,752 souls. The District forms, in shape, an irregular triangle, with its apex to the north. Bounded on the north and east by Bardwan District, the Damodar river marking the boundary for most of the distance; on the south by Midnapur; and on the west by Manbhum. The chief town and administrative head-quarters of the District are at BANKURA town.

[Page 80]

2.1. History

In later history, the family figures in turn as the enemy, the ally, and the tributary of the Musalman Nawabs. It was exempted from personal attendance at the Court of Murshidabad, and appeared by a representative or a Resident at the Darbar. During the 18th century, the Bishnupur house declined. Impoverished by Maratha raids and Muhammadan extortions, it finally succumbed beneath the famine of 1770, which left the country almost bare of inhabitants. More than one-half of the estate relapsed into jungle, and the family was reduced to such poverty that the Raja was compelled to pawn his household idol, Madan Mohan (a remnant of aboriginal worship), with one Gokul Chandra Mitra of Calcutta. Some time after, the unfortunate prince with great difficulty managed to collect the amount required to redeem it, and sent his minister to Calcutta to obtain back the pledge. Gokul received the money, but refused to restore the idol. The case was brought before the Supreme Court at Calcutta, and decided in favour of the Raja; whereupon Gokul caused a second idol to be made, exactly resembling the original, and presented it to the Raja. The earlier years of British administration intensified rather than relieved the difficulties of the house of Bishnupur. The Rajas insisted upon maintaining a military array which was no longer required under English rule, and for the support of which their revenues were altogether inadequate. The new system protected them from Maratha raids and [Page 81] Muhammadan oppressions; but, on the other hand, it sternly put down their own irregular exactions from the peasantry, enforced the punctual payment of the land tax, and realized arrears by sale of the hereditary estates. The Bishnupur family never recovered from the indigence to which they were reduced by the famine of 1770, and their possessions in the District have passed to new and more energetic families. Bishnupur is now in ruins; the palace, with its armouries and theatre and embellished rooms, has disappeared; the interior of the fort is a jungle, in the middle of which lies peacefully an immense roughly fashioned gun—121/2 feet in length—the gift, according to native tradition, of a deity to one of the Rajas.

[Page 83]

2.2. Agriculture

The principal crop in Bankura, as throughout the rest of Bengal, is rice. The aman or winter crop is sown in April or May (the ground having been previously four times ploughed), transplanted in July or August, and reaped about December; the aus or autumn rice is sown broadcast in May, and reaped in September. Among the other crops raised in the District are oilseeds (mustard, til, and sarguja), matar (peas), and chhola (gram), cotton, flax, hemp, indigo, sugar-cane, and pan. Cotton is gathered in March or April, and indigo generally in July. There are, however, two seasons for sowing indigo, one in February or March, and the other about October. The cultivation of indigo is not increasing, owing partly to the uncertainty of the spring rainfall of late years, and partly to the fact that the soil is not very well suited to this crop. Irrigation is necessary for all kinds of crops in Bankura, and is effected by means of wells and tanks where natural watercourses and streams are not available; the cost of irrigation varies considerably throughout the District, being for rice land from 9s. to 15s. an acre, and for sugar-cane land from 18s. to £1, 16s. an acre. Manure, consisting of rich black mud scraped from the bottom of tanks or reservoirs and mixed with ashes and stubble, is used for rich fields, and for more valuable crops cow-dung is added; the cost varies from 4s. 6d. to 9s. an acre. On all lands growing sugar-cane and other exhausting staples, rotation is observed, the cane being generally followed by til, after which a crop is taken of aus or autumn rice, succeeded by mustard (often mixed with peas). Although spare land fit for tillage is scarce in the District, tenures are not unfavourable to the cultivator. As in other parts of Bengal, the land is let and sub-let to a great extent, many middlemen coming between the proprietor and the cultivator. The tenures are generally of the ordinary descriptions, the only one of special interest being 43 ghatwali estates held subject to payment of a light quit-rent to Government. This quit-rent was originally payable to the Raja of Bishnupur, on account of service lands held by the ghatwals or officers appointed for the defence of certain passes against the inroads of the Marathas and others, who made frequent plundering expeditions into the country. The ghatwali estates were annexed to the regular rent-paying lands at the time of the Decennial Settlement; and on the application of the Bishnupur Raja, who found that he had [Page 84] no control over their services, the ghatwals were taken over by the Government, the revenue paid by the Raja to the State being reduced by the amount he had received from them. Spare land fit for tillage is scarce in the District. Tenures, however, are not unfavourable to the cultivators; and that there is a certain quantity of surplus cultivable land is shown by the fact that a class of peasants, known as sajas, only hold their lands on a yearly lease, and lead a wandering life from village to village, settling down for the time wherever they can get their temporary holdings on the best terms, and paying their rent in kind. The peasantry are almost invariably in debt, and almost all are tenants-at-will. Very few cases occur of small proprietors who own, occupy, and cultivate their hereditary lands, without either a superior landlord above, or a sub-tenant or labourer below them.

[Page 84]

2.3. Natural Calamities

The District is subject to drought, occasioned by a deficiency in the rainfall, which is attributed to the indiscriminate clearing of jungle. As there are very few patches of low marshy land in the District which retain moisture for a considerable time, a year of general drought results in serious calamity. Inundations occur every year, owing to the suddenness with which the rivers and streams rise in the rainy season, and the lands bordering on the rivers suffer accordingly,—so much so that in many places they are permanently allowed to remain waste and uncultivated. Drought in Bankura District arises solely from a deficiency in the local rainfall, and not from the failure of the rivers or streams to bring down their usual supply of water. Nothing has been done to guard against the calamity of drought.

[Page 125]

3. Bardwan(sometimes spelt Burdwan, correctly Vardhamana)

Division or Commissionership under the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, lying between 21° 35' and 24° 35' N. lat., and between 86° 35' and 88' 32' 45" E. long: area, 13,855 square miles. Population (1881) 7,393,954 souls. Comprises the six Districts of BARDWAN, HUGLI, HOWRAH, MIDNAPUR, BANKURA, and BIRBHUM (all of which see separately). It is bounded on the north by the Districts of the Santal Parganas and Murshidabad, on the east by the Districts of Nadiya and the Twenty-four Parganas, on the south by the Bay of Bengal and Balasor District, and on the west by Morbhanj State and Manbhum and Singhbhum Districts. Number of towns and villages, 30,054; number of occupied houses, 1,407,761; unoccupied houses, 132,940; total, 1,540,661.

[Page 127]

3.1. History

In the beginning of the 18th century, the Marathas, after plundering the Western Districts, made their appearance in Bardwan, encamping at Katwa (Cutwa), and Badyajama and Jagat Rai assisted the Nawab to drive them out. This was no easy task ; and in the time of the Maharaja Tilak Chandra Rai (1744-71), who succeeded Jagat Rai's son, the invaders, having laid waste the border principalities, overran Bardwan. 'How can I relate to you,' writes the Maharaja to the English authorities, ' the present deplorable situation of this place! [Page 128] Three months the Marathas remained here, burning, plundering, and laying waste the whole country; but now, thank God, they have all gone, but the inhabitants are not yet returned. The inhabitants have lost almost all they were worth !' Grievous as was the state of affairs thus disclosed, the sufferings of Bardwan at the hands of the Marathas were insignificant compared with those of Birbhum, where the dry soil and fine undulating surface afforded precisely the riding-ground which their cavalry loved. The swampy nature of the country in Bardwan protected it to a great extent, and the District would have rapidly recovered from the predatory incursions referred to, had it not been subjected to natural scourges scarcely less terrible than the Maratha horse. The great dearth of 1770 affected the District most disastrously. The Maharaja died in the midst of the desolation, and his heir had to melt down the household ornaments and beg a loan from Government in order to perform the funeral ceremonies. For the next twenty years, the family remained in a state of chronic debt, and the relations between the Rajas and the English authorities were of the most troublesome and unsatisfactory character.

The Permanent Settlement (1793) brought about a new order of things, and, after a long period of poverty and ruin, Maharaja Tej Chandra restored the financial position of the family.

[Page 130]

3.2. Agriculture

The principal crop in Bardwan, as in other Districts of Bengal, is rice. The aus or autumn crop is sown in May and reaped in August or September; and the aman or haimantik (winter) crop is sown in June or July and reaped in November or December. Aman rice requires much water, and is always sown on sali or low-lying land, which retains more or less moisture all the time the crop is in the ground; it is always transplanted.Aus rice, on the other hand, is grown on sona land, which is higher and therefore drier than sali. Among the other crops raised in the District, are wheat, barley, gram, peas, mustard, til, castor-oil, sugar-cane, mulberry, pan, potatoes, hemp, cotton, and indigo. There are two indigo crops; the spring indigo gives the best out-turn, but the yield is very precarious, depending almost entirely on a regular alternation of sunny and showery weather during the time the plant is on the ground.

[Page 132]

3.3. Natural Calamities

Before the construction of the railway and the Damodar embankment, floods were common in Bardwan; in 1770, 1823, and 1855, serious inundations occurred, causing great damage to property and loss of life.

[Page 137]

4. Bareilly(Bareli)

District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-Western Provinces, lying between 28° 3' and 28° 54 N. lat., and between 79° 3' and 79° 50' E. long; area, 1614 square miles. Population in 1881, 1,030,936 souls. Bareilly is a District of the Rohilkhand Division, and is bounded on the north by the Tarai District : on the east by the new District of Pilibhit; on the south by Shahjahanpur and Budaun Districts ; and on the west by Budaun and Rampur State. The administrative head-quarters are at the town of Bareilly (Bareli).

[Page 142]

4.1. Agriculture

The soil of Bareilly is divided into upland and lowland, the latter consisting chiefly of the alluvial basins watered by the rivers Dioranian, Nakalia, Dogora, Baigul, and Ramganga. Some of these low-lying tracts are covered twice a year by rich crops of wheat and sugar-cane; others, more sandy and less fertile, produce only a single crop of linseed or melons. The higher levels of the alluvial region are usually the most productive, as the inundations deposit their fine silt and vegetable mould at a distance from the central channels, while nearer the main stream, sand and shingle render cultivation comparatively fruitless. The harvests are those common to the rest of Upper India. The kharif or autumn crops are sown after the first rain in June, and gathered in October or November; early rice may even be harvested at the end of August, but cotton is not ripe for picking till February. The other autumn staples are joar, bajra, moth, and inferior food-grains. The spring crops are sown in October or November, and reaped in March or April; they consist of wheat, barley, oats, and pulses. Manure is used, where it can be obtained, for both crops; and land is allowed to lie fallow whenever the cultivator can afford it. Owing to the abundant rainfall, and the regularity of the Christmas showers, combined with the nearness of water to the surface, irrigation is not so necessary as in the Doab. Moreover, as rents are often paid in kind by fixed proportions, it is asserted that the cultivators will not take the trouble to irrigate, when they know that they must share the resulting profit with their landlord.

[Page 143]

4.2. Natural Calamities

Nothing is known of the scarcities which occurred in Rohilkhand during the last century, though the Muhammadan historians occasionally mention that after long-continued struggles between the Katheriyas and the Musalmans, or protracted wars of the Afghans against the Imperial troops, much land had fallen out of cultivation, and little grain was left in the country. The great famine of 1783 found Bareilly under the rule of the Wazirs of Oudh, who did nothing to mitigate its severity, but the distress never seriously affected Rohilkhand. In the famine year of 1803, Bareilly had but recently passed under the British Government. Very little rain fell during the autumn, and all the crops failed; disturbances arose, and the landlords, unable to pay their share of the revenue, absconded in numbers. The distress reached its height in April, when the people fed their starving cattle on the dried-up stalks of the spring crops.

[Page 240]

5. Bellary(Ballari, Valahari)

District in the Madras Presidency, lying between 14° 14' and 15° 57' N. lat, and 75° 45' and 77° 40' E. long.; area (including the native State of Sandur) 5904 square miles; population in 1881 (including the State of Sandur, 10,532), 736,807. The river Tungabhadra bounds it on the north and north-west, separating it from the territories of the Nizam; on the east lie the Districts of Anantapur and Karnul (Kurnool); on the south is the District of [Page 241] Chitaldrug in the Mysore State; and on the west, the river Tungabhadra separates it from Dharwar District of the Bombay Presidency. In point of size, Bellary now ranks twelfth, and in population eighteenth, among the Districts of the Madras Presidency; before a part of it was formed into the new District of Anantapur, it ranked second in area, and thirteenth in population. It is sub-divided into 8 taluks and contains within its limits the native State of Sandilr, which has an area of 164 square miles. The number of inhabited villages is 1174, and of towns, 10.

[Page 245]

5.1. Agriculture

The cultivated area is officially divided into 'wet' and 'dry' lands. 'Dry' land is that in which there is no artificial irrigation. The chief crops are cholam, ragi, and korra, and on these depends the food supply of the masses. 'Wet' lands, or those artificially irrigated, are almost exclusively devoted to rice and sugar-cane. On other 'dry' lands are raised cocoa-nut, betel leaf, plantains, areca-nut, wheat, tobacco, chillies, turmeric, vegetables, and fruits. Cotton is grown on dry land, the regar or ' black cotton soil,' being the soil always preferred, the out-turn on the red ferruginous or grey calcareous soils being on the average only 25 per cent, of that on the black soil. A fair crop would be 240 lbs. of uncleaned, or 60 lbs. of cleaned, cotton. Exotic varieties of cotton (Hinganghat, New Orleans, Sea Island, etc.) have been tried, and have hitherto failed. The total area under the various crops is thus estimated—grain crops, 1,117,878 acres; orchard and garden produce, 9881; tobacco, 4061; hemp and other drugs, 1237; condiments and spices, 6759; sugar-cane, 8448; sugar palms, etc., 2161; oil-seeds, 50,512; cotton, 205,895; indigo, 323; jute, 715; flax and other fibres, 664 acres. Manure, wherever obtainable, is applied, and the use of green foliage for this purpose, in 'wet' lands, is almost universal. No regular rotation of crops obtains, but the principle that two exhausting crops should not be sown successively on the same field is everywhere recognised.

[Page 246]

5.2. Natural Calamities

The earliest famine recorded is that of 1792-93. In that year rice sold at 4 lbs. for the shilling, and cholam, the staple food of the masses, at 12 lbs. for the shilling.

[Page 254]

6. Benares

District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-Western Provinces, lying between 25° 8' 30" and 25° 32' 30" N. lat., and between 82° 42' and 83° 35' 30" E. long.; area, 998 square miles; population (1881) 892,694 souls. Benares is a District in the Division of the same name, and is bounded on the north by Ghazipur and Jaunpur; on the west and south by Mirzapur; and on the east by Shahabad in Bengal. The administrative head-quarters are at the city of BENARES.

[Page 258]

6.1. Agriculture

Benares District has the smallest area of any in the North-Western Provinces proper, except the Tarai; its total extent being returned in 1881 at 998 square miles, of which 741 are cultivated, and only 69.6 returned as still available for cultivation. Most of the soil consists of a rich clay, more or less mixed with sand, and usually very fertile. The course of tillage is that common to the whole upper basin of the Ganges. The kharif or autumn crops are sown after the first rain in June, and harvested in October and November. Rice may even be gathered in August, but cotton does not ripen for picking till February. Bajra, joar, and other common food-grains form the remaining staples of this harvest. The rabi or spring crops are sown in October or November, and reaped in March or April. They consist of wheat, barley, oats, peas, and other pulses. The harvests are a little earlier in Benares than in the Doab and Rohilkhand Districts, owing to the dampness and comparative warmth of the winter, and the early commencement of the rainy season. The chief crops of the District comprise sugar-cane, Indian corn, barley, wheat, peas, indigo, and rice. Moth and pot-san (hemp) are sown with other crops, but not separately. Manure is employed, where obtainable, for both crops, and land lies fallow whenever the cultivator can afford it. The same field is seldom planted for two harvests within a single year, the chief exception being in the case of rice lands, which often bear a [Page 259] second crop of some other staple. Where small proprietors own the soil, each holder generally tills his own plot in person; but, as a rule, the greater portion is let out to cultivating tenants. The whole District is permanently settled, and the landlords are therefore unusually powerful and wealthy. They can raise their rents without restriction, and the number of tenants-at-will increases daily, as the older occupancy-holders die out for want of heirs, or lose their privileges from inability to pay the rent.

[Page 259]

6.2. Natural Calamities

Although Benares District suffers like its neighbours from drought, and from its natural consequence, famine, yet it appears to occupy an intermediate position between the centres of distress in Upper India and Bengal, so as to be less severely affected by scarcity than either of the regions to the east and west. In 1770, Benares was visited by famine in common with all the other Districts east of Allahabad, including those of Behar. In 1783, the dearth [Page 260] pressed chiefly upon the western country; but Benares suffered somewhat, like all the tract to the west of the Karamnasa, and grain riots occurred in the city.

[Page 268]

7. Bengal

A Presidency of British India, comprising the whole river system of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, together with the upper waters of the Indus and its affluents; or, roughly speaking, all India north of the Vindhya Mountains. The various significations which the term ' Bengal ' has borne at different times will be explained in the following article (BENGAL, LOWER). The Presidency of Bengal has now a historical rather than an administrative meaning, except in the Military Department, the Indian Army being still organised under three Commanders-in-Chief—for Bengal, Madras, and Bombay respectively—with the supreme direction vested in the Commander-in-Chief for Bengal. The Bengal Presidency includes the following five great Provinces, each presided over by a Local Government of its own, but all subject to the general control of the Government of India, with the Viceroy at its head.

[Page 269]

Bengal (or as it is more precisely designated, 'Lower Bengal'), the largest and most populous of the twelve local Governments of British India, comprising the lower valleys and deltas of the Ganges and Brahmaputra; lies between 19° 18' and 28° 15' N. lat., and between 82° and 97° E. long. Excluding Assam, which was erected into a separate administration in February 1874, Bengal now includes the four great Provinces of Bengal Proper, Behar, Orissa, and Chhota or Chutia Nagpur. It forms a Lieutenant-Governorship, with a population, according to the Census of 1881, of 69,536,861 souls; and an area of 193,198 square miles, or 187,222 square miles, excluding rivers, lakes, and certain unsurveyed tracts. Although ruled by a Lieutenant-Governor, Bengal forms the largest Administrative Division of India. It contains, exclusive of Assam, one-third of the total population of British India, and yields a gross revenue of 17 to 18 millions sterling, or one-third of the actual revenues of the Indian Empire. It is bounded on the north by Nepal and Bhutan; on the east by Assam, and by an unexplored mountainous region which separates it from China and Northern Burma; on the south by the Bay of Bengal, Madras, and the Central Provinces; and on the west by the plateau of the Central India Agency, and by an imaginary line running between it and the adjoining Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-Western Provinces.

[Page 287]

Amid the stupendous catastrophes of river inundations, famines, tidal waves, and cyclones of the Lower Provinces of Bengal, the religious instinct works with a vitality unknown in European countries, where the forces of Nature have long yielded to the control of man. Until the British Government stepped in with its police, and canals, and railroads, between the people and what they were accustomed to consider as the dealings of Providence, scarcely a year passed without some terrible manifestation of the power and the wrath of God. Maratha invasions from Central India, piratical devastations on the seaboard, banditti who marched about the interior in bodies of 50,000 men, floods which drowned the harvests of many Districts, and droughts [Page 288] in which a third of the population starved to death, kept alive a sense of human powerlessness in the presence of an Omnipotent fate with an intensity which the homilies of a State clergy sometimes fail to awaken. Under the Muhammadans, a pestilence turned the early capital into a wilderness, never again to be re-peopled. Under our own rule, it is estimated that 10 millions perished within the Lower Provinces alone during the famine of 1769-70; and the first Surveyor-General of Bengal entered on his maps a tract of many hundreds of square miles as bare of villages, with the words written across it, 'depopulated by the Maghs.'

[Page 302]

7.1. Agriculture

Rice.—The chief products of the Province have been already summarised. The great staple crop is rice; of which there are three harvests in the year,—the boro, or spring rice; aus, or autumn rice; and aman, or winter rice. Of these, the last or winter rice is by far the most extensively cultivated, and forms the great harvest of the year. This crop is grown on low land. In May or June, after the first fall of rain, a nursery ground is ploughed three times, and the seed scattered broadcast. When the seedlings make their appearance, another field is prepared for transplanting. By this time the rainy season has thoroughly set in, and the field is dammed up so as to retain the water. It is then repeatedly ploughed until the water becomes worked into the soil, and the whole reduced to thick mud. The young rice is next taken from the nursery, and transplanted in rows about 9 inches apart. If, by reason of the backwardness of the rains, the nursery ground cannot be prepared for the seed in April-May-June, the aman rice is not transplanted at all. In such a case, the husbandmen in June, July, or August soak the paddy in water for one day to germinate, and plant the germinated seed, not in a nursery plot, but in the larger fields, which they would otherwise have used to transplant the sprouts into. It is very seldom, however, that this procedure is found necessary. Aman rice is much more extensively cultivated than aus and in favourable years is the most valuable crop; but being sown in low lands it is liable to be destroyed by excessive rainfall. The aman is reaped in November-December-January. Aus rice is generally sown in high ground. The field is ploughed, when the early rains set in, ten or twelve times over, till the soil is reduced nearly to dust, the seed being sown broadcast in April or May. As soon as the young plants reach 6 inches in height, the land is harrowed for the purpose of thinning the crop and to clear it of weeds. The crop is harvested in August or [Page 303] September. Boro or spring rice, is cultivated on low marshy land, being sown in a nursery in October, transplanted a month later, and harvested in March and April. An indigenous description of rice, called uri or jara-dhan, grows in certain marshy tracts. The grain is very small, and is gathered for consumption only by the poorest.

[Page 306]

7.2. System of Land Tenures and Rent

System of Land Tenures and Rent.—The land revenue of Bengal and Behar is fixed under the Permanent Settlement, concluded by Lord Cornwallis in 1793. The Government, by abdicating its position as owner of the soil, and contenting itself with a permanent revenue charge on the land, freed itself from the labour and risks attendant upon a detailed local management. The land is held by zamindars, who pay their revenue direct to Government. In default of punctual payment of the revenue fixed upon the estates, these are liable to sale at public auction. Many of the zamindars have in their turn disposed of their zamindaris to under-tenants. The practice of granting undertenures— permanent and temporary—has steadily increased, until in many Districts only a small proportion of the whole permanently settled area remains in the direct possession of the zamindars. This process of sub-infeudation has not terminated with the patnidars (permanent tenure-holders) and ijaradars (lease-holders). Lower gradations of sub-tenures under them, called dar-patnis and dar-ijaras, and still lower subordinate tenures, have been created in great numbers. Such tenures and under-tenures often comprise defined tracts of land; but a common practice has been to sub-let certain aliquot shares of the whole superior tenure, the consequence of which is that the tenants in any particular village of an estate often pay their rents to many different landlords,—a fraction, calculated at the rate of so many annas or pice in the rupee, to each. All the under-tenures in Bengal have not, however, been created since the Permanent Settlement. Dependent taluks, gaulis, haolas (hawalas), and other similar fixed and transferable under-tenures existed before the Settlement, and their permanent character was recognised at the time. In addition to these numerous tenures, the country is dotted with small plots of land held revenue free; the great majority of them having been granted by former Governments, or by zamindars under those Governments, as religious endowments,—grants which have been recognised and confirmed by the English Government.

[Page 343]

8. Bhagalpur

District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of Bengal, lying between 24° 34' and 26° 35' 30" N. lat., and between 86° 25' and 87° 33' 30" E. long; area, 4268 square miles; population, according to the Census of 1881, 1,966,158 persons. It is bounded on the north by the Independent State of Nepal; on the east, north of the Ganges, by the District of Purniah; on the south and on the east, south of the Ganges, by the Santal Parganas; and on the west by the Districts of Darbhangah and Monghyr. The administrative headquarters are at Bhagalpur, on the right or south bank of the Ganges.

[Page 348]

8.1. Agriculture

The principal crop in the District is rice, but this staple does not bear the same relative importance in Bhagalpur as in most other Districts of Bengal. The rice produced is for the most part exported. The bhadai or early crop is sown in May and reaped in August; the aghani rice is also sown in May, but reaped in December and January. Among the other crops grown in the District are wheat, Indian corn, several kinds of millet, peas, oil-seeds, and indigo. Indian corn forms the staple food of the poor of Bhagalpur; it is sown in April or May, and ripens in August.

[Page 349]

8.2. Natural Calamities

Bhagalpur has suffered from time to time from scarcity, and there are records of famines in 1770, 1775, 1779, and 1783. Between 1783 and 1865-66, the year of the great Orissa famine, the District seems to have been free from this scourge.

[Page 427]

9. Bijnaur(Bijnor)

District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-Western Provinces, lying between 29° 1' 30" and 29' 58' N. lat., and between 78° 2' and 79° E. long; area 1867.7 square miles; population (1881) 721,450 souls. Bijnaur is the northernmost District of the Rohilkhand Division, and is bounded on the north-east by the submontane road, which separates it from the foot of the Kumaun and Garhwal hills; on the west by the river Ganges, which separates it from Dehra Dun, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut (Merath) Districts; [Page 428] and on the south and south-east by Moradabad, Tarai, and Kumaun Districts. The administrative head-quarters are at the town of Bijnaur.

[Page 431]

9.1. Agriculture

The character of the soil, and the system of tillage in [Page 432] Bijnaur, do not materially differ from those prevalent throughout the whole upper basin of the Ganges and its tributaries. Here and there, especially in the south-western corner of the District, undulating sandhills overlie the fertile soil, composed of materials which originally shifted from time to time before the prevailing westerly winds, but which have now become fixed in position and bound together by coarse vegetation. Most of them produce barley and other inferior crops in years of favourable rain. The open plain country is divided into bangar or upland, and khadar or lowland. The latter lies along the riversides; and its soil is always composed of clay, but intermixed with sufficient sand for agricultural purposes.

[Page 433]

9.2. Natural Calamities

Bijnaur suffers, like other North-Western Districts, from drought and its natural consequence, famine. Indeed, as its dense population depends largely for support upon imported grain, even during the most favourable years, it would be very disastrously affected by dry seasons, were it not for the unusual moisture of the soil, due to its sub-montane position. The great famine of 1783-84 was felt in Bijnaur, as in all other parts of the North-Western Provinces, but it did not produce such serious distress as in Agra and the southwest.

This is a selection from the original text


agriculture, drought, famine, flood, food, grain, rain, rice, scarcity, settlement, waste, wheat

Source text

Title: The Imperial Gazetteer of India

Subtitle: Volume II. Balasore to Biramghata

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 1
  • 2 ) page 7
  • 3 ) pages 7 to 8
  • 4 ) page 78
  • 5 ) pages 80 to 81
  • 6 ) pags 83 to 84
  • 7 ) page 125
  • 8 ) pages 127 to 128
  • 9 ) page 130
  • 10 ) page 132
  • 11 ) page 137
  • 12 ) page 142
  • 13 ) page 143
  • 14 ) pages 240 to 241
  • 15 ) page 245
  • 16 ) page 246
  • 17 ) page 245
  • 18 ) page 254
  • 19 ) pages 258 to 259
  • 20 ) pages 259 to 260
  • 21 ) pages 268 to 269
  • 22 ) page 287
  • 23 ) pages 302 to 303
  • 24 ) page 305
  • 25 ) page 343
  • 26 ) pages 348 to 349
  • 27 ) pages 427 to 428
  • 28 ) pages 431 to 433


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.