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Assam, lying between 24° 12' and 25° 50' n. lat, and between 92° 28' and
93 29 e. long.; area, 3750 square miles. The Census of 1881 returned
a total population of 313,858. This number includes 24,433 hill people,
who dwell in the mountainous Sub-division of Gunjong or North Cachar
formerly known as the Asalu Sub-division. The administrative head-
quarters are at the town of Silchar.

The District is bounded on the north by the Kopili and Diyang
■avers which ^separate it from Nowgong District; on the east by Man"
pur State and the Naga Hills District; on the south by the hill country
S hT ^ ' h6 T LusMl OT Kuki tril >e; on the west by the District of
Sylhet and the Jamtia Hills. An Inner Line, in accordance with the
regulations of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, No. V. of r8 73

X>r arCa u l8?5 a ' 0ng th£ S0Uthern frontier . ™ -hich British
subjects are not allowed to pass without special permission.

ma n V 7 ? • me ° f Cachar P res «ves the memory of one of the
many k gd of md origin ^ ^ J^

died wi hoiTf'^ ° f ASSSm - When the ** of the Cachad Wjto
J *' he,r ^ ^ f ^nation in 1830, the British took possession

ou a small nn H "' ft ""* ^ anneXed t0 BrMsh Ind ' a -"resented

The CaThari r '7 " *"?"* ^ °™ ed ^ ^ Cachar d 3'" a «y.

the Cachan race is supposed to have first established itself, in the

17 bee„ n ° W r,, by ; tS ^ '" th£ be § innin g °f the '*h cera^t
BuItLir I 8 : a"' % ^ S0UthTOrds from its original home!
aboriSal X. t l "*'" 6 * 1 "** the ethnicaI affinife of the

Aat Te r'l n ° W mhabltmg Ae Valle y 0f the Brahmaputra, show
peoMe do ' ba " S mUSt ° n r haVe been a numerous and powerful
record! exi^ "T ™ T* *" '^ ° f AsSam ' No trustworthy

hTve t^xrT^r 1 ? 1 of Cachari su P remac y- zt is - d ^

however an Me^ , ^ (tHe K ° Chs and the Cacharis •*,

latter on emh' ^V* {<m0er bdn S the name assu ™ d by the

on embracing Hinduism), and the kingdom seems to have



CACHAR. 2 3>



included some portion of Eastern Bengal. As a historical (act, the
Shan Ss 're first found ruling in the hill country now OC. U,
bv N "aX, to the north of the Bareli watershed, The* cap,* wa
5 SSpuRat the foot of the hills, where extensive run* of bnck
D' MAPUR ' " ™ been discovere d amid the dense jungle. I he

SSS'SSSS^i Peopled chiefly by Cacharia, although

SS^^TStLn 1 is the same as that of the Cachar,
Hindus from Bengal naturally foUowed up fbe nv« ta. ££

^Jt^'SrS^^T^SS - a dining
of civilisation. The ^Cachans rf P ^ g w h

and fugitive race. Their capital a the fa beg inning of the 18th

sessions of the B* °^£^^d etttd'aT Kashpur among its
century they crossed the Bar el ran , D e ^ British first

southern spurs. Nor was this t he last .nov ^ ^

became acquainted with Cachar the es«ieu« of ^ ^

Garheritar, in Bikrampur pargana no * the srte of a ^ ^

the Cacharis had thus transferred t"hes to ^

process of conversion to Hinduism « ent on apa ce , 1 Qf

Ly had retained their native forms of* «* P> ^ t0

the superstitious dread of a -«^ f h ' uma n being. The
be propitiated with the occasional "**£? Thc rc ,, n ing

formal act of conversion took Place as re cenfly a 79 _^ ^ body

Raja, together with * Jj£Lr£^l* ** W— \?

of a large copper cow, and thence : p ? Qr membeB of

as Kshattriyas of the ^ a ^. C ^ du ™ at the same ..me; but the

the Cachari aristocracy adopted Hindu,, ^^ of ^

common people, at least those who ocenpi the ^ ^ ^

race and are known as Daos ^ ^bam^ ^ ^

religion, and repudiate *e ceremonml restrctio ^ ^

further history of Cachar is a ffT^^A in the str.
The last Raja, Gobind Chandra, became



232 CACHAR.

between the State of Manipur and the aggressive power of Burma, which
had already established its supremacy in the Brahmaputra valley.' The
Burmese won the day, and Gobind Chandra was driven to take refuge
in the British District of Sylhet.

In 1826, as an incident in the first Burmese war, he was restored to
his throne by a British force. But his English allies did not remain long
enough in the country to re-establish his authority. One of his subjects^
Tularam Senapati, the general of the Cachari army, revolted and
succeeded in establishing his independence in North Cachar. Finally,
in 1830, Gobind Chandra was assassinated; and as he left no sons, the
British took possession of Cachar in accordance with a clause in the
treaty of 1826. The Sub-division of North Cachar was annexed in
1854, on the death of Tularam Senapati, also without heirs.

The most important events in the recent history of Cachar are—
the discovery of the tea-plant growing wild, in 1855; the dispersion
in 1857 of a body of mutinous Sepoys, who had made their way
into the District from Chittagong (see Chittagong District) ; and the
Lushai expedition of 1871-72, by which the repeated inroads of the
hill tribes on the southern frontier were checked. In January 1880,
however, the Angami Nagas from Konoma in the Naga Hills made
a descent upon a tea-garden in the north of the District, and killed
the European planter with 22 of his servants. This led to a military
expedition against the Nagas in 1880-81, and the further annexa-
tion of their formerly independent tracts. The actual assailants on
the tea-garden in Cachar were never captured, but relics of the raid
were found in Konoma when the village surrendered, in March 1880.
Towards the end of 1881, a Cachari fanatic gave out that he was
possessed of supernatural powers, and that he had been ordained to
restore the ancient Cachari kingdom. He gathered about him an
ignorant following, who, after demanding the retrocession of North
Cachar, attacked Gunjong, the sub-divisional head-quarters station,
which they burnt to the ground, killing three persons. They next
attacked the Deputy-Commissioner and sub-divisional officer, who were
encamped at Maibong, the ancient Cachari capital. Nine of the
assailants were shot down, but the remainder succeeded in making their
escape into the jungle. The Deputy-Commissioner received a sword-
wound in the hand during the fray, which, for want of proper treatment,
brought on mortification, eventually causing his death.

Physical Aspects.— -The District of Cachar occupies the upper portion
of the valley of the Barak. It is surrounded on three sides by lofty
ranges of hills, being only open on the west towards Sylhet. These
mountain barriers rise steeply from the narrow plain, overgrown with
dense green jungle, and broken by a few hill torrents and white cascades.
Besides this background of noble scenery, the valley itself presents a



C A CHAR. 233

picturesque appearance. In the centre, from east to west, runs a wide-
rolling stream, navigable by steamers in the rains, and dotted with
many native craft. On both sides, from north and south, low spurs and
undulating ridges run down almost to the water's edge, with fertile
valleys between. These lower hills, and the many isolated knolls which
rise up all over the valley, are now covered with trim tea-gardens— on
the lower slopes the carefully-kept rows of tea-bushes, always above
flood-level ; half-way up, the coolie lines ; on the summit, the planter's
bungalow. The low lands, wherever possible, are under rice cultivation.
The & cottages of the people are buried in groves of tufted bamboo and
shady fruit-trees.

The following are the principal ranges of hills :— The Birel range,
forming the northern barrier of the valley and the boundary between
North and South Cachar, varying in height from 2500 to 6000 feet;
and on the south of the Barak, the Bhubans, the Rengti Pahar, the
Tilain, and the Saraspur or Siddheswar Hills, all running from south
to north, with a height not exceeding 3000 feet. The absence of
plateaux in the upper ranges is remarkable. In shape, the hills are
ridged or peaked ; some of them form long even ridges, some bristle
up into peaks, while others are saddle-backed. The slopes are extremely
precipitous, especially the Bhubans range. Most of the hills are
covered with forest jungle, except where they have been cleared for
jum cultivation, or in the case of the lower ranges, cultivated with
the tea-plant. The Barak river runs a total course of about 130
miles through the District, first north and then west. Its bed
is from 100 to 200 yards wide, and it is navigable throughout the
year by boats of 20 tons burthen. Its chief tributaries within
Cachar District are — on the south bank, the Dhaleswari, together
with its new channel known as the Katakhal, the Ghagra, and the
Sonai; on the north bank, the Jiri, the Jatinga, the Madura, the
Badri, and the Chiri. The most important sheet of water in the District
is the Chatla haor or fen, a low-lying tract between the Rengti Pahar
and Tilain hill ranges, which during the greater part of the year is
drained by the Ghagra river ; but in the rainy season, the rainfall on the
surrounding hills, assisted by the floods of the Barak, turns the marsh
into a navigable lake 12 miles in length and 2 miles broad.

To the extreme south, the land above inundation-level is for the
most part forest and jungle, but of late years there has been a consider-
able extension of rice cultivation in this direction. North of the Barak
almost all the plain is cultivated. There is a constant succession of
changes in the character of the country ; and the rich vegetation and
beautiful forms of the hills, the great fertility of the cultivated lands,
the size and beauty of the bamboo groves and fruit-trees that surround
the cottages of the people, and even the wild and primeval appearance



234 C A CHAR.

of the great marshes, give a richness and picturesque variety to the
scenery of Cachar which is generally wanting in the monotonous plains
of Eastern Bengal. The soil of the valleys is an alluvial deposit of
mixed sand and clay, in which clay predominates. On the hills and
other elevated tracts, the surface is a rich vegetable mould, and the
rocks underneath are composed of quartz, schist, and conglomerate.

No mines or minerals of any value are known to exist in Cachar.
Discoveries of coal have been frequently reported, but on examination
the deposits have invariably turned out to be anthracite or lignite, not
worth working. Petroleum also has been discovered, but not utilized.
The local demand for salt was formerly met from salt-wells; but a
cheaper and better supply is now obtained from Bengal, and only one
of the salt-wells is still worked. The great natural source of wealth to
Cachar lies in her forests, which are practically inexhaustible. The two
most valuable timber-trees are/<zr»/(Lagerstroernia reginae) and ndgeswar
or ndgkesar (Mesua ferrea). Boats, logs, bamboos, canes, and thatching
grass are exported to Bengal in large quantities. The wood-cutters pay
licences at the rate of 2s. per head, and tolls are levied at Sialtekh ghat
on the Barak river. In 1876-77, a total area of 745 square miles was
declared Forest Reserves, and placed under regulations for conservancy.
In 1 88 1, the forests yielded a total revenue of ^2151. Caoutchouc, the
produce of Ficus elastica, is collected chiefly beyond the frontiers of the
District. In 1881-82, the registered export of caoutchouc from the two
Districts of Cachar and Sylhet was 1466 maunds of 80 lbs. each, valued at
^5864. Recently, cinnamon and oak trees have been found in the newly-
opened country of North Cachar, where the tea-plant also grows wild. The
manufacture of tea-boxes gives employment to many. A saw-mill which
a few years ago existed at Badrpur for the manufacture of tea-boxes has
since been abandoned, and all the boxes are now made by hand. The
wild animals found in the District include elephants, rhinoceros, buffa-
loes, the metnd or wild cow, tigers, black bear, and many kinds of deer,
including the sdmbhar and the bard singhd. The right of capturing
wild elephants is a valuable monopoly of Government. The metnd or
wild cow (Bos gavaeus) is domesticated by the hill tribes and kept for
sacrificial purposes. The animal chiefly used for agriculture is the
buffalo.

Population. — The Census of 1881 returned a population of 289,425
residing in the plains, and 24,433 scattered over the wild hilly tracts,
making a total of 313,858. The Census of 1872 was confined to the
regularly-settled portion of the District in the plains, or an area of 1285
square miles, out of a total of 3750 square miles, and showed a total popu-
lation of 205,027 persons. The number of villages or mauzas in 188 1 was
in the plains 353, and of occupied houses 32,294, showing an average of
819 persons per village, and 8-96 per house. Classified according to



C A CHAR. 235

sex, there were in the plains i54,5 68 malcs and *34,857 females; pro-
portion of males, 53-4 per cent. This large preponderance of males is
due to the presence of the coolies on the tea-gardens. The following
figures relate to the hill tracts. Total population, 24,433, namely, 12,368
males and 12,065 females. Number of mauzas or village unions, 300,
and of houses, 5470, showing an average of 8 1 -5 persons per village, and
4-47 per house. Hindus numbered 10,943, while there were only 3
Muhammadans and 2 Christians in this tract; the remaining 13,486
are made up of aboriginal tribes. Classified according to religion, the
Hindus in the plains, as loosely grouped together for religious purposes,
numbered 186,657, or 64-5 per cent.; the Muhammadans, 92,393, or
31-9 per cent. ; Brahmos, 40; Christians, 765, or '2 per cent. ; and hill
tribes, 9570, or 3*3 per cent.

Cachar is a remote and backward District, shut in between lofty
hills, which has but recently come under the influence of Hindu
civilisation. The population is largely composed of the neighbouring
hill tribes, included among the general mass of Hindus in the
religious classification just given. The chief aboriginal tribes are—
Cacharis, 4425 in the plains, and 10,890 in the hills; Kukis, including
the Lushai clan, 2794 in the plains, and 6420 in the hills ; Nagas, 5984
in the plains, and 4021 in the hills ; and Mikirs, 659 in the plains, and
3045 in the hills. The number of immigrant coolies imported from
Bengal and other parts of India in connection with the tea industry is
returned at 66,363 (including children) born outside Assam, of whom a
few are Christians, as against a locally-born coolie population numbering
20,730. Among the native population, the Manipuris occupy a pro-
minent place, numbering 26,745* all found in the plains. They have
migrated from the State of Manipur within the past fifty years, and
though the majority now rank as Hindus, some have adopted Islam.
They are the pioneers of cultivation on the skirts of the jungle, and are
an industrious, peaceable race. The women weave excellent cotton
cloth, known as Manipuri k/ies/i, which finds a market beyond the limits
of the District ; and also a kind of fine net, for mosquito curtains. The
men manufacture brass vessels. The Kukis, both in the hill tracts
and in the plains, are all recent immigrants from the southern hills, and
the majority live along the southern frontier. There is, however, a
settlement of Old Kukis, as they are termed, from having been the first
immigrants of their race, on the north of the Barak river. Since
the retaliatory expedition of 1871-72, the Kukis have uniformly
maintained friendly relations with the British officers, and a valuable
trade has been opened at certain fixed marts on the frontier.

The population of Cachar is entirely engaged either in rice cultivation
or on the tea-gardens. There is only one town with a population of
more than 5000 souls, namely, Silchar, the civil station and head-



2 3* C A CHAR.

quarters of a regiment of Native Infantry, which in 1881 contained
6567 inhabitants. In conjunction with the neighbouring villages
Silchar has been constituted a municipality, with an income* in
1881-82, of ^1167; average rate of taxation, is. 8d. per head A
large trading fair is annually held here in January, attended by about
20,000 people. Other centres of trade are Sonai and Sialtekh on the
Barak; and Barkala, Udharban, Lakshmipur, and Hailakandi.

An interesting bond of social organization is to be found in the kh'eh
or primitive agricultural partnerships, which still retain their vitality, and
constitute the ordinary proprietary bodies throughout the District
These kMls, which differ in several important respects from the village
communities of the rest of India, are variously explained either as a
relic of the indigenous revenue system of the great Cachari kingdom
or as an invention of the Bengali Hindus to protect themselves from
the exactions of the Raja. Properly speaking, each khH consists of a
band of individuals, bound together by no real or fancied tie of blood
nor even by community of race or religion, but merely associated for
purposes of common profit. For collection of revenue, the State did
not look to the individual cultivator, but to the mukhtdr or head-man
of the khil, who was primarily responsible. At the same time, the
members of the /^/were held jointly and severally liable for the default
of any of their number; and the property of a defaulter, in accordance
with a principle still known as ghosdwat, was made over to the khelto
which he belonged. A certain number of khels were comprehended in
a larger corporation, called a raj. Such was the fiscal and agricultural
system of Cachar when the British took possession of the country in
1 830. The conception of individual property, and separate liability for
the Government revenue, has been gradually substituted for it ; but the
machinery of the khel still retains a strong hold upon the sentiments of
the people, and is continually reappearing at the present day as an
anomaly in the administration.

Agriculture.— The staple crop of Cachar is rice, which yields three
harvests in the year— (1) the dus, or early harvest; (2) the sail, which
is transplanted, and supplies by far the greater portion of the food-
su PPly; (3) the dsrd or dman, which is sown broadcast. The sail
crop is sown in nurseries in June, transplanted into low-lying fields
in the following month, and reaped about December or January. The
minor crops comprise mustard, linseed, pulses, sugar-cane, chillies, and
vegetables. Cultivation has rapidly extended since the date of British
annexation, but even at the present time a very small proportion of the
total area is under tillage. In 1830, the total cultivated area was esti-
mated at 29,000 acres. By 1881-82, the amount had risen to 256,000
acres, or nearly nine-fold; but this is still only 10 per cent, of the total
surveyed area of the District. Almost the whole cultivated area is under



C A CHAR. 237

rice, excepting the tea lands. The statistics of tea cultivation are given
below. The land revenue is assessed by Government direct with the
cultivators, locally known as mirdsddrs. The last term of assessment
was for 20 years, which expired in 1879. The present term of assess-
ment is for 15 years, and the rates fixed vary from 3s. per acre for first-
class land, and from is. 8d. per acre for second-class land. Leases for
a term of years, with favourable conditions, are granted for jungle
reclamation. The animals used in agriculture are buffaloes and bullocks.
Manure is never used except for the sugar-cane crop. Irrigation is
nowhere practised on an extensive scale ; but in exceptional years, when
the rainfall is deficient, water is thrown upon the rice-fields out of the
neighbouring marshes and artificial channels. Spare land is abundant,
and the fields are never allowed to lie fallow as a deliberate stage in the
process of agriculture, nor is any rotation of crops practised. The out-
run of rice varies from 5 to 11 cwts. to 30 cwts. per acre, the proportion
of rice to paddy being about as 5 is to 8. Actual famine has never been
known in Cachar. Drought, flood, and blight occasionally occur, but
not to such an extent as to affect the general harvest. The local pro-
duction of rice is inadequate to satisfy the local demand, augmented by
the large number of labourers on the tea-gardens. The deficiency is
supplied from the neighbouring District of Sylhet, whence it is estimated
that 300,000 maunds of rice are imported every year.

Manufactures, Trade, etc. — Coarse cotton cloth is spun and woven
by the male members of Hindu castes, and by the women of the hill
tribes. The only special manufactures are a cotton cloth called Mani-
puri khesh, and a fine net, for mosquito curtains, both woven by the
Manipuri women ; and parts or rugs made by the Kuki women.
Near Badrpur, and just inside Sylhet District, there is a colony of
Manipuri braziers. Most of the tea-boxes required on the gardens
are made in the District, from the produce of the neighbouring
jungles.

The foreign trade of Cachar is entirely conducted by water, passing
by the Barak river through the neighbouring District of Sylhet. The
chief item of export is tea. The imports comprise cotton piece-
goods, rice, liquors, tea-seed, iron, and woollen goods. The more
valuable commodities are carried in steamers, which can navigate the
Barak within Cachar District only during the rainy season ; the more
bulky goods in native boats. There are no large centres of trade
in the District. The wants of the coolies are chiefly supplied by
means of bazars on the tea-gardens, and at three large annual
fairs, held at Silchar, Siddheswar, and Hailakandi. A brisk trade
is conducted with the Kuki tribes on the southern frontier. Three
recognised marts have been opened, to which the Kukis bring down
caoutchouc, cotton, ivory, wax, and pari rugs, to exchange for rice,



23§ C A CHAR.

salt, tobacco, brass-ware, etc. The trade with Manipur is said to
be on the decline. The local traffic of the District passes by road
rather than by water. The enterprise of the tea-planters has con-
structed, and now maintains, a very complete system of roads, by
which communication is established between their gardens and' the
river Barak. In 1881, the number of miles of road open was 266
maintained at a cost of ^"4300.

Tea Cultivation and Manufacture.— The tea-plant was discovered
growing wild in Cachar in 1855, and the first grant of land for a tea-
garden was made in the following year. Reckless speculation in the
promotion of tea companies led to a severe depression, which reached
its crisis about 1868; but since that date the industry has recovered
and now makes rapid and regular progress. In 1 88 1, the total area taken
up for tea was 211,812 acres, of which 43,563 acres were under plant ■
the total out-turn was 10,455,982 lbs, being just double the out-turn
of 1873. The average monthly number of labourers employed was
36,681, of whom 15,749 were imported from Bengal. The land for
tea-gardens has been acquired direct from Government, either on long
leases or by sales in fee-simple. It is estimated that a total sum of
£250,000 in coin and notes is annually introduced into the District
in connection with this industry. A full account of the processes of
cultivation of the plant and preparation of the leaf will be found in
the Statistical Account of Assam, vol. ii. pp. 434-445.

Administration.-^!* the year 1870-71, the total revenue of Cachar
District amounted to ^36,711, and the expenditure to £25 291 The
principal items among the receipts were — land revenue Vi 7 qc6-
opium, ^2855; excise, ^7609; stamps, ^8467; fore'st revenue'
^2151. District details of revenue and expenditure are not available
to me for a later year. In 1880, the regular police force consisted of
608 officers and men, maintained at a cost of ,£11,773 The District
also maintains a municipal police in Silchar of 9 constables, and a body of
rural watchmen or chaukiddrs, supported by the villagers, and numbering
4376 m 1880. The jail at Silchar, and subsidiary jail at Hailakandi,
contained in 1882 an average daily number of 121-21 prisoners, in-
cluding 9-23 females.

Within the last few years, education has made considerable progress
n Cachar under the stimulus of Sir G. Campbell's reforms, by which

or vilk.f ' ^ g T m " aid rUlCS ^ b6en CXtended t0 ^Mthsdlds
or Milage schools. Between March 1872 and March 1881, the total
number of schools in the District increased from 6 to ioo

*or administrative purposes, Cachar District is divided into 2 Sub-
2E*S T, head ^ arte ' s at SiIch -> Hailakandi, and Gunjong' tZ
Silchar Sub-division is further divided into 3 thdnds or polce circles
For fiscal purposes, the settled portion of the District is'div'ded to



Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 3) → online text (page 28 of 56)