The Imperial Gazetteer of India - Volume XI

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 Patiala, Poona, Purnia and Ratia.

Selection details

The following excerpts from the Gazetteer have been selected from the entries on the districts of Patiala, Poona, Purnia and Ratia.

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

London: TRUBNER & CO. 1885
[Page 87]

1. Patiala

Native State, under the political superintendence of the Punjab Government. Patiala belongs to the group known as the cis-Sutlej States; and is situated between 29° 23' 15" and 30° 54' N. lat., and between 74° 40' 30" and 76° 59' 15" E. long. The State is divided into two portions, of which the larger is situated in the plain south of the Sutlej (Satlaj), while the other portion is hill country stretching up to Simla, which latter place formerly belonged to Patiala, but has been exchanged for territory in the district of Barauli.

[Page 88]

1.1. History

[Page 89]

The terrible and unprecedented famine of 1783 did much to cripple the power and resources of Patiala. Sir Lepel Griffin says of this famine (Punjab Rajas, 1870, p. 57):—'The year previous had been dry, and the harvest deficient; but in 1783 it entirely failed. The country was depopulated, the peasants abandoning their villages, and dying in thousands of disease and want. But little revenue could be collected; the country swarmed with bands of robbers and dakaits; and the state of anarchy was almost inconceivable. The neighbouring chiefs began to seize for themselves the Patiala villages, and all who dared threw off Patiala authority, and declared themselves independent.' The Raja of Patiala was, however, saved by the courage and energy of the Diwan, and of certain ladies of the ruling family, which has always been famous for the talents of its female members. These formed an alliance with the Marathas, and by their aid subdued all those who had attacked the Raj; but they received little gratitude from the Raja Sahib Singh, and finally died in disgrace or exile.

[Page 200]

2. Poona (Puna)

British District in the Deccan, Bombay Presidency, lying between 17° 54' and 19° 23' N. lat., and between 73° 24' and 75° 13' E. long. Area, 5348 square miles. Population (1881) 900,621. Poona District is bounded on the north by the District of Ahmadnagar; on the east by Ahmadnagar and Sholapur; on the south by the Nira river, separating it from Satara and the estate of the chief of Phaltan; and on the west by Kolaba and Thana. Two isolated blocks of Bhor State, one in the west and the other in the south, are included within the limits of Poona District. The administrative head-quarters are at POONA city.

[Page 205]

2.1. Agriculture

[Page 206]

Kunbis and Malis are the chief cultivating classes, although men of all castes own land. About four-fifths of the landholders till with their own hands. The rest let the land to tenants, and add to their incomes by the practice of some craft or calling. Kunbis depend almost entirely on the produce of their fields. They work more steadily, and have greater bodily strength than other husbandmen, and show high skill in their occupation. The uncertain rainfall over a great part of the District, the poverty of much of the soil, the want of variety in the crops, and a carelessness in their dealings with money-lenders, have, since the beginning of British rule, combined to keep the bulk of the Poona landholders poor and in debt.

In the hilly tract in the west of the District, where the chief grains are rice, ragi, and other coarse grains, which require great attention and labour, the holdings are generally smaller than in the east. In 1882-83, including alienated lands, the total number of holdings was 227,871, with an average area of about 9 acres.

In Poona all arable land comes under one or other of three great heads [Page 206]—dry-crop land, watered land, rice land. The kharif or early crops are brought to maturity by the rains of the south-west monsoon; the rabi or spring crops depend on dews, on irrigation, and on the partial fair-weather showers which occasionally fall between November and March. The chief kharif crops are spiked millet mixed with the hardy tur (Cajanus indicus), and joar. These are sown late in May or in June, and are reaped in September and October or November. In the wet and hilly west the chief harvest is the kharif. The rabi crops are sown in October and November, and ripen in February and March, They are chiefly the cold-weather Indian millets, together with gram, lentils, and pulses. As in other parts of the Deccan, the chief kinds of soil are black, red, and barad or stony. The black soil, found generally near rivers, is by far the richest of these. The red soil is almost always shallow and coarser than the black. The stony soil is found on the slopes of hills. It is merely trap rock in the first stage of disintegration; but if favoured by plentiful and frequent rains, it repays the scanty labour which its tillage requires. With four oxen, a Kunbi will till some sixty acres of light soil. Sixty acres of shallowish black soil require six or eight oxen. Eight oxen can till fifty acres of deep black soil. Many husbandmen possess less than the proper number of cattle, and have to join with their neighbours for ploughing.

[Page 208]

2.2. Natural Calamities

Natural Calamities.—With much of its rainfall cut off by the western hills, large tracts in the east of the District have a very uncertain watersupply. In the year 1792-93, no rain fell till October, and the price of grain rose to 4 lbs. for the rupee (2s.).

[Page 321]

3. Purniah

British District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of Bengal, lying between 25° 15' and 26° 35' N. lat., and between 87° 1' and 88° 33' E. long. Area, 4956 square miles; population (according to the Census of 1881) 1,848,687. Purniah forms the north-eastern District of the Bhagalpur Division. It is bounded on the north by the State of Nepal and Darjiling District; on the east by the Districts of Jalpaiguri, Dinajpur, and Maldah; on the south by the river Ganges, which separates it from the Districts of Bhagalpur and the Santal Parganas; and on the west by Bhagalpur. The administrative head-quarters are at PURNIAH town, which is also the most populous place in the District.

[Page 326]

3.1. Agriculture

Rice is the most important crop in Purniah. Although the area under rice is less than in Bengal proper, it is considerably larger than in the more western parts of Behar. Next to rice, tobacco and jute are the most important products of the District. The best tobacco is grown along the high strips of country extending from the town of Purniah in a north and somewhat westerly direction. The soil farther to the east, which is richer and moister, is not so well adapted for the cultivation of this crop.

[Page 327]

The rates of rent are generally low as compared with other Districts, ranging from a nominal rate of 6d. to 8s. per acre. Besides the system of rents founded on the nature and richness of the soil, there is another, current in the south-west of the District, called hal-hasli, under which rent is assessed according to the crops grown on the land.

A letter from the Collector to the Board of Revenue in 1788, estimates the average earnings of the labouring classes at 1 rupee, or 2s., a month.

[Page 327]

3.2. Natural Calamities

Purniah District is very liable to floods, which cause much damage; but on such occasions it is usual for the high lands to yield abundantly, thus tending to compensate for the crops destroyed by the inundation. Drought, when it occurs, is a more serious calamity than flood. The great famine of 1770, which was attended with a terrible mortality in Purniah, was occasioned by the failure of nearly all the crops of the year, but particularly of the [Page 328] late rice, in consequence of long-continued drought. In a report to the Directors of the East India Company, it was stated that 'the famine which has ensued, the mortality, the beggary, exceed all description. Above one-third of the inhabitants have perished in the once plentiful Province of Purniah.' In 1788, the rainfall was again deficient, but no serious results followed, and there is no record of any other failure of the crops till 1866.

[Page 488]

4. Rangpur

British District, occupying the central portion of the Rajshahi Division, under the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal. It lies between 25° 2' 50" and 26° 18' 45" N. lat., and between 88° 47' and 89° 55' 30" E. long. Bounded on the north by Jalpaiguri District and Kuch Behar State; on the east by the Brahmaputra river, separating it from Goalpara and Maimansingh; on the south by Bogra; and on the west by Dinajpur and Jalpaiguri. Area, 3486 square miles. Population (according to the Census of 1881) 2,097,964. The administrative headquarters are at RANGPUR Town.

[Page 490]

4.1. History

[Page 491]

The third dynasty had three kings, Niladwaj, Chakradwaj, and Nilambhar. The first of these founded Kamatapur, the ruins of which, situated in Kuch Behar territory, are 19 miles in circumference. All these successive capitals were built upon the same principle—enclosure within enclosure, the royal palace occupying the centre of the whole. Raja Nilambhar is said to have been a very great monarch; but unfortunately he was brought into collision with the Afghan king of Gaur, who captured his capital by stratagem, and carried him away prisoner in an iron cage. This Afghan conqueror is identified with Husain Shah, who reigned from 1499 to 1520.

But the Muhammadans did not retain their hold upon the country. A period of anarchy ensued; and among the wild tribes from the hills of Assam that overran Rangpur, the Koch came to the front and founded the dynasty which still exists at Kuch Behar. The first Raja, Visu, was a conqueror who extended his arms eastwards up the Assam valley, and southwards over Rangpur. On his death, however, the kingdom was divided; and as soon as the Mughal Emperors had established their supremacy in Bengal, their viceroys began to push their north-eastern frontier across the Brahmaputra. By 1603 the Muhammadans were firmly established at Rangamati in Goalpara, which continued to form their outpost against the incursions of the Ahams. Rangpur proper was not annexed till 1687 by the generals of Aurangzeb. In the extreme north, the Kuch Behar Rajas were able to offer such a resolute resistance, that in 1711 they obtained a favourable compromise, in accordance with which they paid tribute as zamindars for the parganas of Boda, Patgram, and Burubbhag, but retained their independence in Kuch Behar proper.

This was the condition of things when the East India Company received possession of the diwani of Bengal in 1765. At first, the British continued the Muhammadan practice of farming out the land revenue to contractors. But in 1783, the exactions of a notorious farmer, Raja Debi Singh of Dinajpur, drove the Rangpur cultivators into open rebellion; and the Government was induced to invite the [Page 491]zamindars to enter into direct engagements for the revenue. In 1772, the banditti, increased by disbanded troops from the native armies, and by peasants ruined in the famine of 1770, were plundering and burning villages 'in bodies of 50,000 men.' Rangpur was then a frontier District, bordering on Nepal, Bhutan, Kuch Behar, and Assam. The enormous area of the jurisdiction, and the weakness of the administrative staff, prevented the Collector from preserving order in the remote corners of his District, which thus became the secure refuges of banditti. The early records of Rangpur and neighbouring parts of Bengal are full of complaints on this head, and of encounters between detachments of sepoys and armed bands of dakaits and saniyasis. A small British force sent against them received a check; in 1773, Captain Thomas, the leader of another party, was cut off, and four battalions had to be employed. In the year 1789, the Collector conducted a regular campaign against these disturbers of the peace. They had fled to the great forest of Baikunthpur, within which he blockaded them with a force of 200 barkandazs. At last they were compelled to surrender; and within a single year no less than 549 robbers were brought to trial.

[Page 496]

4.2. Agriculture

Rice constitutes the staple crop throughout the District. Of the total food supply, the aman or winter crop, grown on low lands and usually transplanted, affords from 70 to 85 per cent.; the remainder is furnished by the aus or autumn crop, which is generally grown on high lands. About one-eighth of the total area is capable of producing two crops in the year. The staples grown for export are rice, jute, tobacco, oil-seeds, potatoes, and ginger. Indigo cultivation is no longer conducted under European supervision, but native planters have taken over the deserted factories. Among miscellaneous crops may be mentioned pan or betel leaf, supari or betel-nut, and mulberry for silkworms.

There is little that is peculiar [Page 497] in the land tenures of the District, except the large degree to which the superior landlords have parted with their rights in favour of intermediate tenure-holders. Among such intermediate tenures may be mentioned the upanchaki, which was originally granted for charitable or religious purposes at a quit-rent, and the maskuri. It is also noteworthy that the term jotdar, in this part of the country, is applied to a substantial middle-man, who holds for a term, but does not cultivate with his own hands. Very few of the actual cultivators have won for themselves rights of occupancy by a continuous holding of over twelve years; the majority are mere tenants-at-will.

[Page 518]

5. Ratia

Town and municipality in Fatehabad tahsil, Hissar District, Punjab; distant from Hissar town 40 miles north-west. Ratia is now scarcely more than a Jat agricultural village, but bears marks of former importance, like so many other places in the desolated tract once watered by the Ghaggar and Saraswati (Sarsuti). It was originally held by Tuar Rajputs, then conquered by the Pathan invaders. Devastated by the great Chalisa famine in 1783-84, and colonized since British occupation by its present Jat inhabitants. Population (1881) 3212—Hindus, 1472; Sikhs, 1348; Muhammadans, 386; and Jains, 6. Number of houses, 407. Municipal income (1883-84), £96, or an average of 7d. per head. Small trade in grain, leather, and wool, and considerable manufacture of raw hide jars (kupas).

This is a selection from the original text


agriculture, banditti, crops, drought, famine, grain, irrigation, rice, robbery

Source text

Title: The Imperial Gazetteer of India

Subtitle: Volume XI. Pali to Ratia

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 ) pages 87 to 89
  • 2 ) page 200
  • 3 ) pages 205 to 206
  • 4 ) page 208
  • 5 ) page 321
  • 6 ) pages 326 to 327
  • 7 ) pages 327 to 328
  • 8 ) page 488
  • 9 ) pages 491 to 492
  • 10 ) pages 496 to 497
  • 11 ) page 518


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.