The Imperial Gazetteer of India - Volume XII

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 Ratnagiri, Santhal Parganas, Satara, Shahjahanpur and Sholapur.

Selection details

The following excerpts from the Gazetteer have been selected from the entries on the districts of Ratnagiri, Santhal Parganas, Satara, Shahjahanpur and Sholapur.

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

London: TRUBNER & CO. 1885
[Page 2]

1. Ratnagiri

British District in the Konkan or Southern Division of the Bombay Presidency, lying between lat. 15° 43' and 18° 5' N., and between long. 73° 3' 30" and 74° 2' E. Area, 3922 square miles. Population (1881) 997,090. Bounded on the north by the Native State of Janjira and Kolaba District; on the east by Satara District and the Native State of Kolhapur; on the south by the Sawantwari Native State and Portuguese possessions of Goa; and on the west by the Arabian Sea.

[Page 8]

1.1. Agriculture

[Page 9]

The fertile land is found along the banks of the rivers or salt-water creeks in the neighbourhood of the sea; but the soil is generally poor, consisting in great measure of a stiff ferruginous clay, often mixed with gravel. Neither wheat nor cotton is grown. There are several cocoanut plantations in the District, and hemp is grown by the fishermen for net-making. In 1876-77, rice occupied 143,636 acres, and in 1883-84, 166,904 acres. The better kinds of rice land produce also second crops of some description of pulse or vegetable. By far the greater proportion of the food crops consist of inferior grains, as harik (Paspalum scrobiculatum), 369,011 acres in 1883-84; ragi(Eleusine corocana), 292,464 acres; and wari (Panicum miliaceum). These coarse grains are grown on warkas soil in the uplands, light and poor. The warkas lands may be divided into the more level parts, mal, where the plough can be used; and the steeper slopes, dongri, admitting only of cultivation by manual labour. The best of the poorer soils bear crops for five or six successive years, and then require a fallow of from three to twelve years. The land tenures of Ratnagiri differ from that of Bombay generally, in that there is a class of large landholders, called khots, in the position of middle-men between Government and the actual cultivators. Nearly one-half of the whole number of villages in the District are held on the khoti tenure, under which the khot makes himself responsible for the payment of the assessment. Some of the khoti grants date back to the time of the Bijapur kings, and were made to Muhammadans, Marathas, and Hindus alike.

[Page 10]

1.2. Natural Calamities

Since the beginning of British rule there has been no year of distress so severe and generals to amount to famine. Of only two of the older famines, those of 1790 and 1802-03, does any information remain.

[Page 226]

2. Santhal Parganas, The

District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of Bengal, lying between 23° 48' and 25° 19' N. lat.,and between 86° 30' and 87° 58' E. long. Area, 5456 square miles. Population, according to the Census of 1881, 1,568,093 souls. The Santal Parganas form the southern portion of the Bhagalpur Division. They are bounded on the north by the Districts of Bhagalpur and Purniah; on the east by Maldah, Murshidabad, and Birbhum; on the south by Bardwan and Manbhum; and on the west by Hazaribagh, Monghyr, and Bhagalpur. The administrative head-quarters are at DUMKA.

[Page 227]

2.1. History

[Page 228]

These rules,which are referred to in the article on BHAGALPUR DISTRICT, were incorporated in Regulation 1. of 1796, so that Cleveland has a fair claim to be considered the author of the Non-Regulation system. It followed, however, from confirming the Paharias in possession of the hills, that disputes arose between them and the Hindu zamindars of the plains as to the right of grazing cattle and cutting timber along the lower slopes. That the hills had really or nominally belonged to the zamindars there can be no doubt; but the troubles following the British accession, and shortly afterwards the great famine of 1769-70, had weakened or destroyed their control. Cleveland practically assumed possession of the hills on behalf of Government; they were excluded from the Permanent Settlement in 1793; and finally in 1823, the Government by Resolution declared its proprietary right in the hills, and ordered that the tract covered by this declaration should be demarcated.

[Page 232]

2.2. Agriculture

Rice forms the staple food-grain of the District. Jaran or aman rice, the winter crop of the year, is of two kinds—bao which is sown broadcast; and ropa dhan, which is transplanted; of these, forty varieties are named. In the alluvial strip of country which runs along the eastern boundary of the District, rice is largely cultivated; and the lower slopes of the ridges in the undulating tract, as well as the swampy ground between those ridges, are also sown with rice. Level terraces are cut out of the hill sides which thus present the appearance of a series of steps varying from one to five feet in height. These rice terraces are flooded as soon as possible after the rains set in, small banks being left round the edge of each plot to hold the water. Among the other crops of the District are millets, wheat, barley, maize, various pulses and oil-seeds, jute, flax, sugar-cane (of which four varieties are distinguished) cotton, and indigo. There are two seasons for sowing indigo: the spring sowings are put into the ground in March, and reaped in June; and the autumn or October sowings are also cut in the following June.

[Page 275]

3. Satara

British District in the Deccan or Central Division of the Bombay Presidency, lying between 16° 51' and 18° 10' 30" N. lat and between 73° 37' and 74° 58' E. long. Area 4988 square miles. Population (1881) 1,062,350 souls. It is bounded on the north by the States of Bhor and Phaltan, and the Nira river separating it from Poona; on the east by Sholapur District and the estates of the Panth Pratinidhi and the chief of Jat; on the south by the river Vama, separating it from Kohlapur and Sangli States, and by a few villages of Belgaum District; and on the west by the Sahyadri range of hills, separating it from the Konkan or southern Districts of Kolaba and Ratnagiri. The administrative head-quarters are at SATARA TOWN.

[Page 280]

3.1. Agriculture

The bulk of the Satara landholders are Maratha Kunbis. But the best class of husbandmen are the Jains of the south and south-west of the District. In the east of the District, the landholders are said to be only moderately hard-working; and the richer soils in the west are said to suffer from being cropped several years in succession without fallow. At the same time, certain parts of the District show notable instances of skill and enterprise. Satara suffered from the famine of 1876-78; and the indebtedness of the people to the money-lenders has demanded special steps to be taken to preserve their position as peasant proprietors by the introduction of the Deccan Agriculturists Relief Act. The soils of the District belong to three main classes, red in the hills, and black and lightcoloured in the plains. The black soil, especially along the valley of the Kistna and its tributaries, is very fertile yielding two crops a year.

Joar(Sorghum vulgare) and bajra (Penicillar spicata), the staple food of the people, occupy nearly half the cultivated area. Rice-fields are found only in the west, along river banks. In the south and east, cotton is grown, most of it of a local variety, but some brought from Hinganghat. Near Mahabaleshwar, several European vegetables, especially potatoes, grow freely,and to a great extent supply the Bombay market. In some of the hill villages which have a heavy rainfall, nachni (Eleusinecorocana) and vari (Panicum miliare) are raised on the kumari system, that is, by cutting down and burning brushwood and sowing the seeds in the ashes. This practice, formerly general, has, on account of the damage it does to the forests, been to a large extent prohibited

[Page 281]

3.2. Natural Calamities

In 1520, mainly owing to military disturbances, the crops in the Deccan were destroyed, and a famine followed. In 1629-30, severe famine raged throughout the Deccan. The rains failed for two years, causing a great loss of life. According to local tradition, the famine of 1791-92 was the severest ever known. It seems to have come after a series of bad years, when the evils of scanty rainfall were aggravated by disturbances and war. The native governments granted large remissions of revenue, the export of grain was forbidden, and a sale price was fixed. Rice was brought from Bengal to Bombay.

[Page 342]

4. Shahjahanpur

A British District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-Western Provinces, lying between 27° 35' and 28° 28' 15" N. lat., and between 79° 23 and 80° 25' 45" E. long. Area (1881), 1745 square miles. Population, 856,946 souls. Shahjahanpur forms [Page 343] the easternmost District of the Rohilkhand Division. It is bounded on the north-west and north by Pilibhit and Bareilly (Bareli) Districts; on the east by the Oudh District of Kheri; on the south by Hardoi District, and by the Ganges, which separates it from Farukhabad District; and on the west by Budaun and Bareilly Districts. The administrative head-quarters are at the city of SHAHJAHANPUR.

[Page 349]

4.1. Agriculture

The course of tillage follows the ordinary rule of the North-Western Provinces, consisting of the kharif or autumn harvest—chief staples, cotton, rice,bajra and joar; and the rabi or spring harvest, including wheat, barley, oats, vetch, and peas. Sugar-cane is grown in the low-lying lands, and Indian corn on ground capable of bearing two crops a year.

[Page 351]

4.2. Natural Calamities

Shahjahanpur suffers from drought and famine, though its proximity to the hills sometimes saves it from the worst extremities to which neighbouring Districts are exposed. The great famine of 1783-84, though severely felt in Rohilkhand, did not press so heavily upon this Division as upon Agra and the south-west.

[Page 411]

5. Sholapur

British District in the Deccan, Bombay Presidency, lying between 17° 13' and 18° 35' N. lat., and between 74° 39' and 76° 11' E. long. Area, 4521 square miles. Population in 1881, 582,487 souls. Except Barsi taluk, which is surrounded by the Nizam's territory, Sholapur District is bounded on the north by Ahmadnagar District, on the east by the Nizam's Dominions and Akalkot State, on the south by Bijapur District and the Jath and Patwardhan States, and on the west by Satara, Poona, and Ahmadnagar Districts and the States of Phaltan and Atpadi. On the west, in some places, Patwardhan villages are included, and in others isolated Sholapur villages lie beyond the District limits. The administrative head-quarters are at the city of SHOLAPUR.

[Page 414]

5.1. Agriculture

The soil of Sholapur is of three kinds, kali or black,barad or coarse grey, and tambdi or reddish. Except in the Barsi Sub-division,where black soil is the rule, and coarse grey is rare, most of the District is either grey or red. The black soil is almost confined to the banks of rivers and large streams.

[Page 415]

Prices of produce, per maund 80 lbs.—wheat, 5s. 5d.; rice, best, 7s. 5 3/4d.; rice, common, 6s. 10 1/2 d.; bajra (Pennisetum typhoideum), 3s. 5 3/4 d.; joar, 3s. 4d.; gram, 3s. 10 3/4 d.; salt, 6s. 0 1/2d.; flour, 6s. 7 1/2d.; dal, split-peas, 4s. 3 1/2d.; ghi, £3, 12s. 6 3/4d.

[Page 416]

5.2. Natural Calamities

[Page 417]

About 1520, a great famine is said to have been caused by military hordes destroying and plundering the crops. The famine of 1791 was very severe, especially in the Karnatik, where the crops entirely failed. In the Deccan the yield was one-fourth to one-half the usual out-turn; but as thousands flocked from the Karnatik to the Deccan for food, the distress became very severe. During this famine, grain sold at 3 lbs. the shilling.

This is a selection from the original text


agriculture, crops, drought, famine, food, maize, plunder, rain, rice, war, wheat, zamindar

Source text

Title: The Imperial Gazetteer of India

Subtitle: Volume XII. Ratlam to Sirmur

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 2
  • 2 ) page 8
  • 3 ) page 10
  • 4 ) pages 226 to 227
  • 5 ) page 232
  • 6 ) page 275
  • 7 ) pages 280 to 281
  • 8 ) pages 342 to 343
  • 9 ) page 349
  • 10 ) page 351
  • 11 ) page 411
  • 12 ) pages 414 to 415
  • 13 ) pages 416 to 417


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.