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CALASTRI— CALCUTTA. 239

3 tahsils, comprehending 24 pargands. In 1SS2, there were 2 1
nanted civil servants stationed in the District. There were also 3
extra-Assistant Commissioners, with powers of a munstfot civil judgi
1 Special extra-Assistant Commissioner; and 3 special Deputy Col
lectors, with magisterial powers. The last were employed in the land
settlement of the District.

Medical Aspects. — The climate of Cachar differs from that common
to Eastern Bengal in being less hot and more damp. The rainy
season lasts from April to October, and during the remaining months
of the year dense fogs are of frequent occurrence. The average mean
temperature throughout the year is about 77° F., the range of variation
being 32 . The average annual rainfall for the five years ending
iSSo'-Si was 120-17 inches at Silchar, and 108-59 at Hailakandi. As
lying within the mountainous tract that bounds North-Eastern India,
Cachar is especially exposed to earthquakes. In January 1869, a shock
of unusual severity occurred, which laid in ruins the greater part of
the town of Silchar, changed the course of the rivers in several places,
and did damage throughout the District to the estimated value of
.£50,000. Another severe earthquake, which did considerable damage
to the town and its neighbourhood, occurred on the 13th October

1882.

The prevailing diseases are fevers, diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, and
small-pox. Intermittent fever usually appears every year, after the
cessation of the rains. Outbreaks of cholera are attributed to im-
portation from Bengal, and it has been observed that the path of this
epidemic regularly follows the course of the river and other lines of
communication. In recent years, by reason of the spread of cultiva-
tion and the adoption of sanitary measures, the general health of the
people has sensibly improved. The registration of vital statistics is
very imperfectly carried out. There are 2 charitable dispensaries in
the District, attended in 1881 by 631 in-patients and 7434 out-door
patients; the total expenditure was ^603, towards which Government
contributed^, including the cost of European medicines, the balance
beino- derived from local funds and subscriptions.

cllMtri.-Zammddri (estate) in the District of North Arcot, Madras
Presidency.— See Kalahasti.

Calcutta.-The capital of India, and seat of the Supreme Govern-
ment; situated on the east or left bank of the Hdgli river in at
22 ° 34' 2" N., and long. 88° 23' 59" * * lies about 80 miles Irom the
seaboard, and receives the accumulated produce which the wo pea
river systems of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra collect thr^ghout
the Provinces of Bengal and Assam. From a cluster ot Uuee mud
villages at the close of the 17th century, it has advanced by rapid
strides to a densely - inhabited metropolis. With its surrounding



240 CALCUTTA.

suburbs, and the town of Howrah on the opposite side of the river,
which is practically a portion of Calcutta, it contained in 1881 a
population of 789,864 souls. The central portion, which forms the
Calcutta municipality, had a population in 1881 of 433,219. In
1881-82, its maritime trade amounted to nearly 60 millions sterling-
but it fluctuates, according to the state of commerce, from 50 to 75
millions. Taking it at about 55 millions sterling, the exports make up
S3 millions and the imports 22, showing an excess of exports over
imports of about 1 1 millions sterling.

The History of Calcutta practically dates from the year 1686. In
1596, it had obtained a brief entry as a rent-paying village, ' Kalikata,'
in the Ain-i-Akbari, or Revenue Survey, executed by command of the
Emperor Akbar. But it was not till ninety years later that it emerged
into history. In 1686, the English merchants at Hugh, finding them-
selves compelled to quit their factory in consequence of a rupture with
the Mughal authorities, retreated under their President, Job Charnock,
to Sutanati, about 26 miles down the river from Hiigli town. Sutanati,
then a village on the east bank of the Hiigli, is now a northern quarter
of Calcutta, extending to the present Chitpur Bridge. Their new
settlement soon extended itself down the river bank to the village
of Kalikata, between the present Customs House and the Mint \
and afterwards down to Govindpur, which lay on the southern glacis
of the present Fort William. Govindpur formed part of what is now
the maidan or great Calcutta plain, and included the existing suburb
of Hastings on the river bank. These three river -side hamlets
(namely, Sutanati, Kalikata, and Govindpur) have grown into the
capital of India. In 1689-90, the Bengal servants of the East India
Company determined to make Calcutta their head-quarters. In 1696
they built the original Fort William; and in 1700, they formally pur-
chased the three villages of Sutanati, Kalikata, and Govindpur from
Prince Azfm, son of the Emperor Aurangzeb.

The site thus chosen had an excellent anchorage, and was defended
by the river from the Marath^s, who harried the Districts on the farther
side. A fort, subsequently rebuilt on the Vauban principle, and a
moat designed in 1742 to surround the town, but never completed,
combined with the natural position of Calcutta to render it one of the
safest places for trade in India during the expiring struggles of the
Mughal Empire. It grew up without any fixed plan, and with little
regard to the sanitary arrangements required for a city. Some parts
he beneath high-water mark on the Hugh', and its low level has
rendered drainage a most difficult problem. Until far on in the
last century, the jungle and paddy fields closely hemmed in the
European mansions with a circle of malaria. The vast plain {maiddnY
with its gardens and promenades, where the fashion of Calcutta now



CALCUTTA. 241

displays itself every evening, was then a swamp during three month
each year; the spacious quadrangle known as Wellington Square was a
filthy creek. A legend relates how one-fourth of the European inhabit-
ants perished in twelve months, and during seventy years the mortality
was so great that the name of Calcutta was supposed by mariners to he-
derived from ' Golgotha,' the place of a skull. The true derivation
of the word will be explained in the subsequent paragraph on Modern
Calcutta.

In 1707, the East India Company declared Calcutta a separate
Presidency, accountable to the Court of Directors in London. In 1 7 10,
it contained about 10,000 or 12,000 inhabitants. In 171 7, after suffer-
ing many oppressions from the Muhammadan Governors of Bengal, the
Calcutta Council obtained a confirmation of all their privileges from
the Delhi Emperor, together with permission to purchase thirty-eight
neighbouring villages, on both banks of the Hugh', to a distance of 10
miles down the river. In 1742, the native inhabitants, in terror of the
Maratha horse, who were then scouring Southern Bengal, 'requested
and obtained permission to dig a ditch at their own expense round the
Company's boundary,' a semicircle of 7 miles from Sutanati on the
north to Govindpur on the south. Three miles of it were excavated
in six months ; the alarm then passed off, and the ' Maratha Ditch '
remains unfinished to this day. Meanwhile, the Company was only the
zaminddr or landholder of the Calcutta hamlets, paying a revenue to
the Musalman Nawab, at first (1696) of ^120, afterwards increased
(1717) to ^884. It had no power to enhance rents beyond Sicca
Rs. 3 per bigha, say 20s. per acre. In 1752, Holwell calculated the
population at 409,056— probably an excessive estimate.

The chief event in the history of Calcutta is the sack of the town
and the capture of Fort William in 1 75 6 ^y Suraj-ud-Daula, the Nawdl 1
of Bengal. The majority of the English officials took ship, and fled
to the mouth of the Hugli river. The European garrison in the fort
were compelled, after a short resistance, to surrender themselves to the
young prince. The prisoners, numbering 146 persons, were driven at
the point of the sword into the cell used for military defaulters-
chamber scarcely 20 feet square, with but two small windows. Next
morning only twenty-three persons were taken out alive, among them
Mr. Holwell, the annalist of the ' Black Hole.' This event took place
on June 20, 1756. The Black Hole has lately been excavated, and its
dimensions bear witness to the horrors of the fatal mistake of that
nicmt It lies at the present entrance from Dalhousie Square t
lane at the back of the General Post Office; and the spot has now
been marked by a pavement.

The Muhammadans retained possession of Calcutta for about
months (1756) ; and during that brief period the name of the town was

VOL. III.



242 CALCUTTA.

changed in official documents to Alinagar. In January 1757, the

expedition despatched from Madras, under the command of Admiral

Watson and Colonel Clive, regained possession of the city. They

found many of the houses of the English residents demolished, and

others damaged by fire. The old church of St. John's lay in ruins.

The native portion of the town had also suffered much. Everything

of value had been swept away, except the merchandise of the Company

within the Fort, which had been reserved for the Nawab. The battle

of Plassey was fought on June 23, 1757, just twelve months after the

capture of Calcutta. Mir Jafar, the nominee of the English, was

created Nawab of Bengal ; and by the treaty which raised him to this

position, he agreed to make restitution to the Calcutta merchants for

their losses. The English received ^500,000, the Hindus and

Muhammadans ^200,000, and the Armenians ^"70,000. By another

clause in this treaty the Company was permitted to establish a mint,

the visible sign in India of territorial sovereignty ; and the first coin,

which, however, still bore the name of the Delhi Emperor, was issued

on August 19, 1757. The restitution money was divided among the

sufferers by a committee of respectable inhabitants. Commerce rapidly

revived, and the ruined city was rebuilt. Modern Calcutta dates from

1757. The old fort was abandoned, and its site devoted to the

Customs House and other Government offices. A new fort, the

present Fort William, was commenced by Clive, at a short distance

lower down the river Hugh than the old one. It was not finished till

1773, and is said to have cost 2 millions sterling. At this time, also,

the maiddn, or park of Calcutta, was formed ; and the salubrity of its

position induced the European inhabitants gradually to shift their

dwellings eastward, and to occupy what is now the Chauringhi

(Chowringhee) quarter.

From that time, the history of Calcutta presents a smooth narrative
of prosperity. No outbreak of civil war nor any episode of disaster has
disturbed its progress, nor have the calamities incident to the climate
ever wrought mischief which could not be easily repaired. The great
park {maiddn), intersected by roads, and ornamented by a public garden,
stretches along the river bank. The fort rises from the maiddn on
its western side, and defends it from the river approach; the stately
mansions of Chauringhi line its eastern flank ; while Government
House, the Gothic High Court, the domed Post Office, and other
public buildings, tower in fine architectural masses at its northern
end. Beyond the European quarter lie the densely - populated
clusters of huts or ' villages ' which compose the native city and
suburbs. Several squares, with large reservoirs and gardens, adorn
the city, and broad, well-metalled streets connect its various extremities.
A Sanitary Department now attempts the difficult task of introducing



CALCUTTA. 243

cleanliness into the native quarter. The old contrast which travellers
have recorded between European Calcutta as a city of palaces, and
native Calcutta as a city of filth, is not quite so strongly marked. On
the one hand, the English houses are less splendid ; on the other, the
native bastls are somewhat cleaner and more commodious. This
change has of late years gone on so rapidly, that it may be well to
extract from the Census Report of 1872 the following descriptions of
Calcutta by four eye-witnesses during the latter half of the last century
and early in the present one.

Calcutta in the last century. — Towards the end of the last century, the
native town, which then as now lay apart from the English quarter, was
thus described : —

' It is a truth that, from the western extremity of California, to the
eastern coast of Japan, there is not a spot where judgment, taste,
decency, and convenience are so grossly insulted as in that scattered
and confused chaos of houses, huts, sheds, streets, lanes, alleys, wind-
ings, gutters, sinks, and tanks, which, jumbled into an undistinguished
mass of filth and corruption, equally offensive to human sense and
health, compose the capital of the English Company's Government in
India. The very small portion of cleanliness which it enjoys is owing
to the familiar intercourse ot nungry jackals by night, and ravenous
vultures, kites, and crows by day. In like manner it is indebted to the
smoke raised in public streets, in temporary huts and sheds, for any
respite it enjoys from mosquitoes, the natural production of stagnated
and putrid waters.'

Nine years later, Grandpre thus describes the town : —

'As we enter the town, a very extensive square opens before us,
with a large piece of water in the middle for the public use [now
known as Tank Square or Dalhousie Square]. The pond has
a grass plot round it, and the whole is enclosed by a wall breast-
high with a railing on the top. The sides of this enclosure are each
nearly 500 yards in length. The square itself is composed of
magnificent nouses, which render Calcutta not only the handsomest
town in Asia, but one of the finest in the world. One side of the
square consists of a range of buildings occupied by persons in civil
appointments under the Company, such as writers in the public offices.
Part of the side towards the river is taken up by the old fort, which
was the first citadel built by the English after their establishment in
Bengal.

' Calcutta abounds with all sorts ot carriages, chariots, whiskies, and
phaetons, which occasion in the evening as great a bustle as in one
of the principal towns in Europe. On the other hand, such animals
as die in the streets or in the houses are thrown into the drains, and
they lie there and putrefy. From want, sickness, or accident, many a



244 CALCUTTA.

poor wretch of the human species also expires in the streets. I have
seen the body of a poor creature, lying dead at my door, serve two
nights for food to the jackals.'

In 1803, Lord Valentia remarked: — 'The town of Calcutta is at
present well worthy of being the seat of our Indian Government, both
from its size, and from the magnificent buildings which decorate the
part of it inhabited by Europeans. Chowringhee is an entire village
of palaces, and altogether forms the finest view I ever beheld in any
city. The Black Town, however, is as complete a contrast to this as
can well be conceived. Its streets are narrow and dirty, but the
houses [sometimes] of two storeys, occasionally brick, but generally
mud and thatched, perfectly resemble the cabins of the poorest class in
Ireland.'

'The universal custom of the natives,' writes Price, 'when they
obtain a small spot on which to build a hut, is to dig a hole, raise one
part of the ground with the earth from the other, and make the walls
of their house of the same materials from the same place, and then
cover it with straw tied on reeds or split bamboos; the hole in the
ground is made smooth, and as deep as they can, and when the
periodical rains set in, it becomes a little pond or tank, in which they
wash their bodies and clothes, as directed by their religion. Vegetation
is so quick and powerful, and shade so necessary, that in six months'
time the little hut is absolutely hid from the eyes, and almost from the
knowledge of everybody but the inhabitants of neighbouring huts. A
little path of a foot or two broad is all those harmless people want to
go from home into the common highway leading to the public market.
Thousands of these huts are run up wherever they are permitted to
build near European settlements. . . . Much ground was cleared to
make room for a new fort ; many thousand huts thrown into the holes
from whence they had been taken, to form roads and an esplanade ;
but every man who lost a hut had ground given him on which to make
another, and always of more extent and more value than what had
been taken away from him.

'Much was done by Governor Vansittart, Lord Clive, Governor
Verelst, Governor Cartier, and Governor Hastings, to cleanse the town
and make it wholesome and convenient. When Mr. Hastings came to
the government, he added some new regulations, and gave a degree
more power to the officers of police, divided the Black and White
Town into thirty-five wards, and purchased the consent of the natives
to go a little farther off.

'There are no stones, gravel, or other hard substances within 50
leagues of Calcutta with w r hich to mend the roads. Burnt and broken
bricks are all the materials we have, and very expensive they are ; for
lay them down as thick as you will, so rotten is the soil that in two



CALCUTTA. 245

years' time they will be sunk a fathom deep. With Mr. Francis came
the Judges of the Supreme Court, the laws of England, partial oppres-
sion, and licentious liberty; . . . and the natives were made to know
that they might erect their chappor (thatched) huts in what part of the
town they pleased. . . . Every man permitted his own servants to
erect straw huts against the outside of his house, but without digging
holes, to prevent more disagreeable neighbours from occupying the
spot. All distinction of character and order was thrown down, as
much as if there had been a civil war in the town ; and in fact there
was a civil and a judicial war too, for the Council-General and Supreme
Court, who both arrived at the same time, went together by the ears
about their different powers, and every inhabitant in the town, black
and white, did that which seemed best to be done in his own eyes.

'In August and September, the waters from the inland Provinces
came down, in consequence of the heavy periodical fall of rain, in such
inundations that at the high water at Calcutta, which is twice in twenty-
four hours, the level of the lower part of the town is four feet below the
surface of the river. At this time of the year it rains incessantly, and all
the lower floors of common houses are under water, except such as stand
near to the old fort, or where the first European houses were built.'

In the last century, the morals of Calcutta were at a low ebb.
European ladies were scarce, nor do they seem to have exercised a
refining influence. Until the third quarter of the century, many of the
best European houses had regular quarters for a zandna in the com-
pound. Nor was a gentleman excluded from ladies' society, nor
indeed thought the worse of, in consequence of his keeping a harem of
native mistresses. Indeed, such an establishment was considered as
essential to the dignity of a bachelor of position as ' the State horses of
a Native prince.' 'The Company's servants,' writes Stavorinus, the
Dutch traveller in 1769, 'devote a part of the morning to attending
upon their business ; they spend the remainder of the time either in
revels or sleep.'

How Calcutta became the Capital of India. — Until 1707, when
Calcutta was declared a Presidency, it had been dependent upon the
older English Settlements at Madras. From 1707 to 1773, the Presi-
dencies of Madras, Bombay, and Bengal remained on a nearly equal
footing. But in 1773, an Act of Parliament provided that the Bengal
Council should exercise a control over the other Indian possessions of
the Company ; that the chief of the Bengal Presidency should be styled
Governor-General ; and that a Supreme Court of Judicature should be
established at Calcutta. In the previous year, 1772, Warren Hastings
had placed the administration of Bengal under the management of the
Company's servants— an administration which till then had been left in
the hands of the old Muhammadan officials. He also removed the



2 46 CALCUTTA.

treasury from Murshidabad to Calcutta. The latter town thus became
both the capital of Bengal and the seat of the Central Government in
India.

In 1834, the Governor-General of Bengal was created Governor-
General of India, and was permitted to appoint a Deputy Governor to
manage the affairs of Lower Bengal during his occasional absence.
But it was not until 1854 that a separate head was appointed for Bengal,
who, under the style of Lieutenant-Governor, exercises the same powers
in civil matters as those vested in the Governors in Council of Madras
or Bombay, although subject to closer supervision by the Supreme
Government. Calcutta is thus at present the seat both of the Supreme
Government of India, and of the Provincial Government of Bengal,
each with an independent set of offices. Government House, the
official residence of the Governor-General of India, or Viceroy, is a
magnificent pile rising to the north of the fort and the great park,
maiddn. It was built by Lord Wellesley, 1 799-1804. The official
residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal is Belvedere, in Alipur,
a southern suburb of Calcutta. Proposals have been made from time
to time to remove the seat of the Supreme Government from Calcutta.
Its unhealthiness, especially in the rainy season, its remoteness from
the centre of Hindustan, and its distance from England, have each
been animadverted upon. These disadvantages have now, however,
been in some degree removed, or their consequences mitigated, by the
efforts of science and modern engineering. The railway and the
telegraph have brought the Viceroy at Calcutta into close contact with
every corner of India ; while an ample water-supply, improved drainage,
and other reforms, have improved the health of the city. Much,
however, still remains to be done for the sanitation both of the town
and suburbs.

English civilisation has thus enabled Calcutta to remain the political
capital of India. The same agency still secures to the city her
monopoly of the sea-borne trade of Bengal. The river Hiigli has long
ceased to be the main channel of the Ganges ; but Calcutta alone of all
the successive river capitals of Bengal has overcome the difficulties
incident to its position as a deltaic centre of commerce. Strenuous
efforts of engineering are required to keep open the ' Nadiya rivers,'
namely, the three offshoots of the Ganges which combine to form the
head-waters of the Hugh'. Still greater watchfulness is demanded by
the Hiigli itself below Calcutta. In 1853, the deterioration of the
Hugh channel led to a proposal to found an auxiliary port to Calcutta
on the Matla, another mouth of the Ganges. A committee, then
appointed to inquire into the subject, reported (not unanimously,
however) that the river Hiigli was deteriorating gradually and pro-
gressively. At that time 'science had done nothing to aid in facilities



CALCUTTA. 2A1

for navigation,' but since then everything has been effected which fore-
sight can suggest. Observations on the condition of the river are
taken almost hourly, and the shifting of the shoals is carefully recorded
By these means the port of Calcutta has been kept open for ships of
the largest tonnage drawing 26 feet, and almost seems to have outlived
the danger which threatened it. The construction of large wet docks
from the Hugh at Kidderpur, just below Calcutta, has been sanctioned.
A new approach from the sea to these docks, via the Matla river and
a navigable canal, has been talked of.

The Modem City of Calcutta.— The true derivation of the name of
the city appears to be from Kali-ghat, the well-known shrine to the
goddess Kali, close to the old course of the Ganges, or Adi-Ganga,
about a mile to the south of the Calcutta outskirts. The neighbouring
country was known as Kali-kshetra in very remote times. The Adi-
Ganga is still venerated as the ancient channel by which the Ganges
poured her purifying waters towards the ocean, before they were
diverted into the present Hugli. This old course, in many parts now
little more than a series of depressions and shallow pools, is marked
by shrines and burning ghats for the dead along its route. Among
such shrines, Kali-ghat, although the present temple is of comparatively
modern date, has been celebrated since the prehistoric era of the



Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 3) → online text (page 29 of 56)