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The Mughals, who acquired the sovereignty in 1600, were in 1632
ousted by Shahjl Bhonsla, a servant of the Bijapur kings and father of
Sivajl, who founded the Maratha power. Sivajl built two small forts
near Ghosale and Raigarh ; repaired the strongholds of Suvarndrug and
Vijayadrug, which stand on the coast-line below Bombay; and in 1674
caused himself to be enthroned at Raigarh. Nine years after SivajT's
death in 1680, the seizure of Raigarh restored control of the country
to the Mughals. The period of the Angrias, who terrorized the coast
while the Muhammadans were powerful inland, lasted for 150 years —
from 1690 to 1840, when Kanhoji II died in infancy and the country
was taken over by the British.

Kanhoji, the first of the Angrias, was in 1698 the admiral of the
Maratha fleet, having his head-quarters at Kolaba, an island-fort close
to AlTbag and within 20 miles of the present city of Bombay. From
here he had long harassed shipping on the coast from Malabar to
Bombay; in 17 13 he threw off his allegiance on Raja. Shahu, and
having defeated and captured the Peshwa, set up an independent
rule in ten forts and sixteen minor posts along the Konkan coasts.
Having conquered the Sldls of Janjlra, his rivals in buccaneering,
Kanhoji, with a considerable fleet of vessels, ranging from 150 to 200
tons burden, swept the seas from his fort of Vijayadrug. In 17 17 his
first piracies against English trade occurred. In retaliation the English
assaulted Vijayadrug, but the assault was beaten off. On two occasions
within the next four years, Kanhoji withstood the combined attacks of
the English and Portuguese. On his death in 1731 the Angria chief-
ship was weakened by division between Kanhojf s two sons, of whom
Sambhojl Angria was the more enterprising and able. Sambhojl was
succeeded in 1748 by Tulajl ; and from that date until the fall of
Vijayadrug before the allied forces of the Peshwa and the British at
Bombay, both British and Dutch commerce suffered severely from
the Angria pirates.

In 1756 the fort of Vijayadrug was captured by Admiral Watson and
Colonel (afterwards Lord) Clive, who commanded the land forces.
Fifteen hundred prisoners were taken, eight English and three Dutch
captains were rescued from the underground dungeons in the neigh-
bourhood of the fortress, and treasure to the value of \2\ lakhs was
divided among the captors. Vijayadrug was handed over to the
Peshwa, under whom Manaji and RaghujI, the descendants of an
illegitimate branch of the first Angrias, held Kolaba fort as feudatories



of Poona. On the downfall of the Peshwa's rule in 1818, the allegiance
of the Angrias was transferred to the British. In 1840 the death of
Kanhoji II, the last representative of the original Angrias, afforded an
opportunity to the Bombay Government to annex the forts of Suvarn-
drug, Vijayadrug, and Kolaba. The District has since enjoyed un-
broken peace.

Kolaba District., with the exception of the taluka of Allbag, formed
part of the dominions of the Peshwa, annexed by the British in 18 18,
on the overthrow of Baji Rao. Allbag lapsed in 1840. Kolaba island
has still an evil reputation with mariners as the scene of many wrecks.
Full nautical details regarding it are given in Taylor's Sailing Directions.
Many houses in the town are built from the driftwood of vessels which
have gone ashore. Ships are sometimes supposed to be intentionally
wrecked here ; the coast near Allbag presents fair facilities for the
escape of the crews.

The most interesting remains in the District are the Buddhist caves
at Pal, Kol, Kuda, Kondane, and Ambivli, and the Brahmanical caves
at Elephanta. There are numerous churches and forts built by the
Portuguese. The former strongholds of the Marathas and the Angrias
are imposing rock-built structures, the chief being Raigarh, where
Sivajl was crowned ; Kolaba fort, the stronghold of Angria in the
eighteenth century ; Birvadi and Lingana, built by Sivajl to secure his
share of Kolaba against his neighbours ; Khanderi, and Underi.

The population of the District was returned at 524,269 in 1872 and
564,892 in 1881. It rose to 594,872 in 1891, and to
605,566 in 1 90 1. The following table shows the dis-
tribution of population by tdhikas according to the Census of 1901 : —




Number of





Q. X •

O J^-o

fee 5 S 00

>- -a c •






rt - q,
v .2 — ?, "

ons a
ead a





O «








+ 6






S 7,4I5


+ 2


Allbag .

3 93





+ 7

5,9 r 7


2 93





+ 3








+ 4



35 2

2 26

83,4 r 5


— 5


Mahad .
District total




"4. 2 35


- 4







+ 2

The Allbag and Panvel talukas being naturally well placed and close
to Bombay, the density of population is higher than in the rest of the
District. The chief towns are Uran, Panvel, Pen, and Alibag.
Classified according to religion, Hindus form 94 per cent, and Musal-


mans 5 per cent, of the total. The language of the District is Marathi,
which is spoken by more than 99 per cent, of the population.

Among Hindus, the most important classes are the Brahmans
(24,000), chiefly Konkanasths (14,000), who own large gardens and
palm groves along the coast. In the south they are the landlords or
khots of many villages, holding the position of middlemen between
Government and the actual cultivators. As in Thana, they and Prabhus
(6,000) form an influential element in the population. The Vanls
(8,000) are traders. Agris (113,000) are tillers of salt land and makers
of salt. Marathas and Kunbis (210,000) are rice cultivators. Kolis
(25,000) are principally fishermen and sailors. Bhandaris (6,000) are
toddy-drawers, and Malls (14,000) are gardeners.

The hill tribes include the Thakurs and Kathkaris ; and the unset-
tled tribes, the Vaddars and the Vanjaras. The Thakurs (18,000) are
small squat men, with hard irregular features, in some degree redeemed
by an honest kindly expression. They speak MarathI, are harmless and
hard-working, the women doing as much work as the men. When
not employed on land cultivation, they find stray jobs or gather fire-
wood for sale. The Kathkaris (30,000) are cultivators, labourers, and
firewood sellers, and were originally, as the name implies, cutch (kath)
boilers. Their women, tall and slim, singularly dirty and unkempt,
are hard workers, and help the men by hawking head-loads of firewood.
Kathkaris, as a rule, are much darker and slimmer than the other
forest tribes ; they rank among the lowest of the low, their very
touch being thought to defile. They eat every sort of flesh, except the
cow and the monkey. They are poor, and much given to drinking.
In 1902 they were granted large areas of forest for dalhi cultivation,
with the object of inducing them to follow more sober habits ; but the
object has not been wholly successful, owing to their ignorance of
agriculture. The Vaddars (400) are rude, intemperate, and unsettled
in their habits, gathering wherever building is going on. They are
quarry-men, and make grindstones, handmills, and rolling-pins.

The Bani-Israil, or Indian Jews, numbering about 2,000, are chiefly
found in the seaboard tracts. They are of two classes, the white and
black ; the white, according to their own story, are descended from the
original immigrants, while the black are descendants of converts or of
women of the country. A considerable number of them enlist in the
native army, and are esteemed as soldiers. They maintain the rite of
circumcision, and faithfully accept the Old Testament. Their home
language is MarathI, but in the synagogues their scriptures are read in
Hebrew. The Jews monopolize the work of oil-pressing to so great
an extent that they are generally known as oilmen or telis. The late
Dr. Wilson was of opinion that the Bani-Israil are descended from
the lost tribes, founding his belief upon the fact that they possessed


none of the Jewish names which date from after the Captivity, and
none of the Jewish scriptures or writings after that date. Some of the
Musalmans are the descendants of converted Hindus ; others trace
their origin to foreign invaders ; and a few are said to represent the
early Arab traders and settlers. The last named form no distinct
community, but consist of a few families that have not intermarried
with Musalmans of the country. The percentage of the population
supported by agriculture is 72. The industrial class numbers 71,000
in all.

Of the 1,202 native Christians in 1901, more than 500 were Roman
Catholics and 270 were Congregationalists. The former are found
chiefly in the Karanja island of the Uran petha. As early as 1535
there were three churches in the island. The United Free Church
Mission of Scotland and an American Mission have establishments in
the District. The former maintains a high school, three primary
schools for the depressed classes, and two girls' schools.

There are four descriptions of soil. The alluvial tract is composed
of various disintegrated rocks of the overlying trap formation, with
a larger or smaller proportion of calcareous sub- .

stance. This is by far the richest variety, and
occupies the greater portion of the District. The slopes of the
hills and plateaux are covered with soil formed by the disintegra-
tion of laterite and trap. Though fitted for the cultivation of
some crops, such as ndg/i, van', and san-hemp, this soil, owing to its
shallowness, soon becomes exhausted, and has to be left fallow for
a few years. Clayey mould, resting upon trap, is called kharapat or
' salt land.' Soil containing marine deposits, a large portion of sand,
and other matter in concretion, lies immediately upon the sea-coast,
and is favourable for garden crops. Rice is grown on saline as well
as on sweet land. Between December and May the plot of ground
chosen for a nursery is covered with cow-dung and brushwood ; this
is overlaid with thick grass, and earth is spread over the surface ; the
whole is then set on fire on the leeward side, generally towards
morning, after the heavy dew has collected. In June, after the land
has been sprinkled by a few showers, the nursery is sown before being
ploughed. The plants shoot up after a few heavy falls of rain. In the
beginning of July the seedlings are planted out, and between October
and November the reaping commences. On saline land no plough is
used, and the soil is not manured. In the beginning of June, when
the ground has become thoroughly saturated, the seed is either sown
in the mud, or, where the land is low and subject to the overflow
of rain-water, the seed is wetted and placed in a heap until it sprouts
and is then thrown on to the surface of the water. No transplanting
takes place, but the crop is thinned when necessary. Should a field



by any accident be flooded by salt water for three years in succession,
the crops deteriorate.

The District is chiefly ryotwari. Khots and izdfatdars own 733 and
17 square miles respectively, while inam lands cover about 7 square
miles. The chief statistics of cultivation in 1903-4 are shown below,
in square miles : —


Total area.





Panvel .
Karjat .
Alibag .
Pen . .
Roha .
Mahad .







5 2
















* Statistics are not available for 72 square miles of this area. These figures are
based on the latest information.

Rice, the chief staple of the District, holds the first place with 391
square miles or 33 per cent, of the total cultivated area. The two main
kinds are red and white rice. Red rice is inferior, and is grown only
in the salt low-lying lands near creeks. The poorer kinds of grain
called nagli (90 square miles), vari (69), harik (27), which form the
chief food-supply of the people, are also grown in considerable quan-
tities, especially on the flat tops and terraced sides of the hills. Veil
occupied 14 square miles and udld 9 square miles. The latter is grown
chiefly in Mahad, Mangaon, Karjat, and Roha. Of other pulses, tur
and mug are grown in Mahad, Mangaon, and Roha, and gram in
Mangaon, Panvel, and Karjat. Sesamum, occupying 6 square miles, is
raised mostly in Mangaon and Mahad. Niger-seed occupied 3 square
miles. Cotton is now rarely grown, but was cultivated with consider-
able success during the great development of the production of Indian
cotton at the close of the eighteenth century. San-hemp is grown
in Mangaon. The betel-vine and the areca-nut palm are grown in
many gardens. The special garden produce is pineapple, which is
cultivated in large quantities in Chaul and Revadanda.

The most interesting feature in the agriculture of Kolaba District,
especially in Alibag and in Pen, is the large area of salt marsh and
mangrove swamps reclaimed for the growth of rice. These tracts,
situated along the banks of tidal creeks, are locally known as kharapat
or ' saline land.' Most of the shilotris or embankments, which save the
land from tidal flooding, are said to have been built between 1755 and
1780 under the Angrias by men of position and capital, who undertook,
on the grant of special terms, to make the embankments and to keep


them in repair. In several cases the agreements were never fulfilled ;
and as the matter escaped notice, the foreshore, which should rightly
have lapsed to Government, still remains in possession of the original
grantees. For many years these reclamations were divided into rice-
fields and salt-pans. The salt-pans were gradually closed between 1858
and 1872 ; and about two-thirds of the area formerly devoted to salt-
making has now been brought under tillage. Each reclamation has
two banks, an outer and an inner. In the outer bank are sluice-gates
which are kept closed from October to June, but, as soon as the rains
set in, are opened to allow the rain-water to escape. Two years after
the embankment is completed, rice is sown in the reclaimed land,
in order that the decayed straw may offer a resting-place and supply
nourishment to grass seeds. Five years generally elapse before any
crop is raised. More than 14,000 acres have been reclaimed in this
way. The reclamation of saline land is encouraged by no revenue
being levied for the first ten years, and full revenue only after thirty
years. Under the Land Improvement and Agriculturists' Loans Acts
advances have been made to cultivators amounting, during the decade
ending 1903-4, to 2 lakhs, of which Rs. 61,000 was advanced in 1896-7
and Rs. 33,000 and Rs. 37,000 in 1895-6 and 1 899-1900 respectively.

Except the Gujarat bullocks kept by a few traders and large
landowners, almost all the cattle of the District are of local breed.
The Kolaba buffaloes are smaller, blacker, and smoother-skinned
than those of Gujarat. Sheep are usually imported from the Deccan.
Goats are kept by some Musalmans and lower-class Hindus, chiefly
for milk. Ponies are brought from the Deccan by Dhangars and

Of the total area of cultivated land, only 3 square miles or 0-5 per cent,
were irrigated in 1903-4. The sources are wells and tanks, irrigating
respectively 1,300 and 15 acres, and other sources 478 acres. The only
part of Kolaba where there is much irrigation is along the west coast
of Allbag in a belt known as the Ashtagar or 'eight plantations.'
This tract includes the lands of eight villages covering 14 square miles,
all of them with large areas of closely planted coco-nut gardens and
orchards, irrigated from wells. There are numerous river dams.
The wells, whose brackish water is especially suited to the growth of
coco-nut palms, are fitted with Persian wheels or rahats.

Kolaba is fairly rich in forest, the teak and black-wood tracts being
especially valuable. The Kolaba teak has been pronounced by com-
petent judges the best grown in the Konkan, and in-
ferior only to that of Malabar. Considerable damage
has been done to the forests in past years by indiscriminate lopping ;
but the villagers are now commencing to realize the need of measures
of conservancy. The value of the forests is increased by their proximity

vol. xv. a a


to Bombay, for they may be said to He around the mouth of the
harbour. The curved knees are particularly adapted for the building
of small vessels. The timber trade of the District has two main
branches — an inland trade in wood for building purposes, and a coast
trade in firewood and crooks for ship-building. The total area of forest
in 1903-4 was about 458 ] square miles, of which 449 square miles were
' reserved,' chiefly in Pen and Nagothana. The revenue in the same
year was Rs. 83,750.

Except patches of mangrove along the river banks, the forests of
Kolaba are all on the slopes and tops of hills. In the northern talukas
Karjat has valuable Reserves in both the Western Ghats and the
Matheran-Tavli range. Panvel also has a considerable forest area, but
much of it, except the teak-coppiced slopes of Manikgarh, is of little
value. Each of the central talukas — Pen, Alibag, and Roha — has large
rich forests, while the less thickly wooded southern talukas of Mangaon
and Mahad have few Reserves. Teak is the most widely spread and
the most valuable tree. Next come the mango, sis//, black-wood ;
dhaura [Ano^cissus latlfolia), once plentiful but now rather scarce ; and
the three principal evergreen hill-forest trees — ain, a valuable and
common tree for house-building and tool-making, jamba, and kitijal
(Terminalia paniculata). The apta (Bauhinia racemosa), though of
almost no use as timber, supplies leaves for country cigarettes or bidis.
Nut-yielders include the avla {Phyllanthus Emblica), the tamarind, and
the hirda {Terminalia Ckebula) ; and liquor-yielders the mahua, the
coco-nut, the palmyra, and the wild thick-stemmed palm. Minor
forest produce consists of fruits, gums, and grass.

The only mineral known to occur in Kolaba is iron, of which traces
are found in laterite in different parts of the District. Aluminium
occurs in the form of transcite in the hills around Matheran. Good
building stone is everywhere abundant ; sand is plentiful in the rivers ;
and lime, both nodular and from shells, is burnt in small quantities.

Salt is extensively made by evaporation, and its production furnishes
profitable employment in the fair season, when the cultivators are not
engaged in agriculture. It is produced in large quan-
communications. ^ Q% m the Pen and Panvel talukas, but the Pen
trade is falling off. The District contains 155 salt-
works, which produce nearly 2§ million maunds of salt yearly. The weav-
ing of silk, a relic of Portuguese times, is practised at Chaul ; but the
manufacture has declined since 1668, about which time a migration of
weavers took place and the first street was built in Bombay to receive
them. The extraction of oil from sesamum, the coco-nut, and the
ground-nut, and the preparation of coco-nut fibre, also support many
families. The manufacture of cart-wheels at Panvel is a large industry.
1 This figure is taken from the Forest Administration Report for 1903-4.


The preparation of spirits, a business entirely in the hands of Parsls,
is restricted to Uran, where there are numerous large distilleries.

The principal trade centres of the District are Pen, Panvel, Karjat,
Nagothana, Revadanda, Roha, Goregaon, and Mahad. The chief
articles of export are rice, salt, firewood, grass, timber, vegetables, fruits,
and dried fish. The supply of vegetables of various sorts to Bombay
from the Allbag and Panvel talukas has increased on a remarkably
large scale, and also the provision of fuel from the Allbag, Pen, and
Roha talukas. Grass is sent to Bombay in large quantities from the
Panvel and Pen talukas. The imports consist of Malabar teak, brass
pots from Poona and Nasik, dates, grain, piece-goods, oil, butter, garlic,
potatoes, turmeric, sugar, and molasses. The District appears on the
whole to be well supplied with means of transporting and exporting
produce, a great portion being within easy reach of water-carriage.
There are five seaports in the District. During the ten years ending
1902-3 the total value of sea-borne trade averaged nearly 177 lakhs,
being imports about 31 lakhs and exports about 146 lakhs. In 1903-4
the imports were valued at 32 lakhs and the exports at 121 lakhs ; total
value, 153 lakhs. Minor markets and fairs are held periodically at thirty
places in the District. Banias from Marwar and Gujarat are the chief
shopkeepers and money-lenders.

The District is served by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, which
passes through the Karjat taluka and the Khalapur petha. In addition
to a steamer ferry between Bombay, Dharamtar, and Ulva, there is
direct steamer communication for passengers and freight between
Bombay and the coast ports during the fair season. There are three
main roads over the Bor, the Fitzgerald, and the Varandha ghats,
which connect the District with the interior and are available for traffic
all the year round. The total length of metalled roads is 87 miles,
and of unmetalled roads 160 miles. The Public Works department
maintains 78 miles of the former and 85 miles of the latter. Avenues
of trees are planted along 37 miles.

The largest bridge is one of 56 spans at Mangaon across the Nizam-
pur-Kal. At Nagothana there is a masonry bridge, built in 1580 at
a cost of 3 lakhs to facilitate the march of the Ahmadnagar king's
troops into Chaul.

The oldest scarcity of which local memory remains was the famine of
1803. The distress caused by want of rain and failure of crops was in-
creased by the influx of starving people from the Deccan.
Many children are said to have been sold for food. The
price of rice rose to about a seer for a rupee. To relieve distress,
entire remissions of revenue, during periods varying from eight months
to two years, were granted. In 181 7-8 there was a great scarcity of
food, approaching to a famine. In 1848, in the old Sankshi division, part

A a 2


of the rice crop on saline land was damaged by unusually high spring-
tides. Remissions were granted to the amount of Rs. 37,750. In
1852 heavy rain damaged grain and other produce stacked in the fields.
In 1854 an exceedingly good harvest was the outcome of a most favour-
able rainfall ; but on November 1 a terrible hurricane completely
destroyed every sort of field produce, whether standing or stacked,
felling also coco-nut and areca-nut plantations. Remissions to the
amount of more than Rs. 12,000 were granted. In 187 1 there was a
serious drought, particularly in the southern half of the District. In
1875-6 and in 1876-7 floods did much damage to the same tract. In
1878-9 the cold-season crops were damaged by locusts.

The District is divided into seven tahikas, Alibag, Pen, Panvel,
Karjat, Roha, Mangaon, and Mahad, usually in charge of one

. « . . . member of the Indian Civil Service and a Deputy-
Administration. . . f" J

Collector recruited in India. The Khalapur, Uran

or Karanja, and Nagothana pethas are included in the Karjat, Panvel,
and Pen tahikas. The Collector is ex-officio Political Agent for the
JanjTra State.

The District is under the sessions division of Thana, and the District
Judge of Thana disposes of civil appeals from Kolaba. During the
monsoon the District Magistrate is invested with the powers of a
Sessions Judge. There are five Subordinate Judges. The District
Judge of Thana acts as a court of appeal from the Subordinate Judges,
who decide all original suits, except those in which Government is
a party and applications under special Acts. There are twenty-five
officers to administer criminal justice. The commonest form of crime
is petty theft; but cases of homicide, hurt, and rioting occasionally
occur and are usually ascribable in the first instance to drink, to which
a large majority of the population are addicted. In years of scarcity
dacoities are sometimes committed by immigrants from the Deccan ;

Online LibraryGreat Britain. India OfficeImperial gazetteer of India .. (Volume 15) → online text (page 43 of 50)