William Wilson Hunter.

The imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 3) online

. (page 36 of 56)
Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 3) → online text (page 36 of 56)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


seem to rise abruptly from the plain ; but on approaching them, the
heavy green of their slopes is found to be divided from the softer hues
of the young wheat by broad belts of gravelly soil, — here carpeted with
short sward and dotted with noble trees, there uncovered, and con-
trasting their brown-red tints with the deep black of the valley lands.
But the greenness of English scenery is wanting. It is only in
favoured reaches of the rivers, where the pools never dry up, that the
water-loving shrubs keep their verdure and brilliancy throughout the
year.'

On the Satpuras, the grander alternations of scenery are even
more frequent. 'The hills are higher and more abrupt, the black-
soil deposits deeper, and the water-supply more abundant. In the
midst of the grim rolling plateaux of basalt lurk little valleys cultivated
like gardens, — oases of sugar-cane and opium, — which, but for their
inaccessibility, would tempt away the best cultivators of the plains.'
The rivers, with their rapid streams and limpid waters, lend a singular
charm to the Province. Such is the sacred Narbada, as it dashes
through the glens, and leaps in wild waterfalls from the heights of
Amarkantak, its bright waters glistening against the black basaltic rock,
or as it winds along the narrow channel between the glittering ' Marble
Rocks,' or works itself into the whirlpool of Makrai j and such are
the Wardha and Wainganga, foaming, after the rains, in torrents
along their deep and rocky beds ; and the Godavari, where it forces a
passage through the heart of the mountains which formerly marked the



CENTRAL PROVINCES. 299

frontier of the Province. At this point the Godavari may justly claim
the title of the Indian Rhine. Pent in for 20 miles between the hills,
the river flows in a deep and narrow channel, with a fierce current
that sometimes lashes itself into boiling whirlpools, till, escaping from
its prison, it spreads itself in a broad smooth surface, and, flowing on
in a mighty stream, leaves the Central Provinces behind. To the east.
in Bhandara and parts of Chanda District, lies the lake country of
the Province.

' There,' says Sir R. Temple, ' an irrigation tank is not a piece of
water with regular banks, crowned with rows or avenues of trees, with
an artificial dyke and sluices, and with fields around it, but it is an
irregular expanse of water ; its banks are formed by rugged hills,
covered with low forests that fringe the margins where the wild beasts
repair to drink ; its dykes, mainly shaped out of spurs from the hills,
are thrown athwart the hollows, a part only being formed by masonry ;
its sluices often consist of chasms or fissures in the rock ; its broad
surface is often, as the monsoon approaches, lashed into surging and
crested waves.' Nawagaon, the largest of these lakes, is 1 7 miles in
circumference, with a depth in places of 90 feet. Nor have the Hindus
failed to appreciate the beauties of the country. Wherever, as at
Bheraghat, a splendid view unfolds itself; wherever, as at Muktagiri,
the plash of a waterfall echoes through the trees, — there in all likelihood
rises an ancient temple. The spirit of the old nature-worship yet lives
in the legends that consecrate these lovely scenes.

Forests. — The Central Provinces cover an area of 113,279 square
miles, of which little more than one-third is under cultivation. Yet
the forests are not so important as might have been expected. The
greater part of the waste land is covered by scrub jungle, and produces
but little valuable timber. Nature may have doomed the stony
highlands to barrenness, but the improvidence of man has desolated
many of the fertile tracts. Each most valuable tree has had its special
enemy. The teak fell before the ravages of the charcoal-burner, who
found that its close-grained wood produced the most concentrated fuel.
The sal (Shorea robusta), when tapped, supplies an excellent resin ; and
many a noble tree has consequently been girdled and left to perish.
But still more destructive has proved the habit of ddhya or nomad
cultivation, now fortunately on the wane, by means of which clear-
ances are made by firing the forest and jungle. At present, the
northern part of the Province is almost destitute of tree forests. In the
south, amid the scanty population in the hill chiefships which border
the Nagpur and Chhatisgarh plains, the forests have suffered least.
Under the system of conservancy introduced in i860, considerable
progress has been made in arresting the course of destruction. The
woodland is divided into reserved forests, under the special control and



300 CENTRAL PROVINCES.

management of the Forest Department, with an aggregate area in
1882-83 of 2588 square miles; and 17,131 square miles of unreserved
or excess wastes, which, at the Settlement, Government retained for
itself. These latter are managed by the District officers. Experience
shows that wherever fire is kept out of the forests, the power of natural
reproduction may be relied upon. In 1882-83, an attempt was made
to protect 912,927 acres; and actual protection from fire was afforded
to 889,968 acres. The total cost amounted to ^1557, the average
being £i, 2s. 6d. per square mile.

Coal.— The large coal-fields which extend under various parts of
the Central Provinces, and the excellence of the iron-ores, gave rise to
expectations which at present seem unlikely to be realized. For the
most part, on analysis, the coal has proved of inferior quality. It con-
tains neither sufficient fixed carbon for iron-smelting, nor combustible
volatile gases to such an amount as to adapt it for generating steam.
At present the only important colliery is that at Warora, which turned
out 88,417 tons of fair quality in 1882. Production of coal has largely
increased of late years in consequence of the consumption of this coal
by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company.

Iron. — The Central Provinces is also rich in its iron-ores, particularly
in Chanda District, and a scientific examination into the resources of
this District was conducted in 1881-82 by Ritter von Schwarz, a gentle-
man of great experience in iron-mining in Austria, and his report
promises favourably for the future. He considered that with the
construction of an ironwork at Dungarpur, and the erection of more
blast furnaces, there was no reason to doubt that Chanda District alone
was capable of turning out 260,000 tons of iron or steel yearly. He
reported further that, besides supplying India with much of her steel
and iron requirements, Chanda was able to open out an export trade
with England in articles which were now imported from the Continent,
particularly in Ferro-manganese and Brescian steel.

History. — The early history of the Province consists entirely of the
conjectural interpretation of fragmentary inscriptions, which record
the names of unknown princes, and relate their deeds with oriental
hyperbole. We learn how their beneficence made earth better than
heaven, how the world trembled at the march of their elephants, and
how the sea was swollen by the tears of queens widowed by their
conquests. But from this source little positive knowledge can be
obtained. It seems established that in the 5th century a race of foreign
( Yavand) origin ruled from the Satpura plateau. Again, between the
10th and 13th centuries, we can discern a distinguished line of Lunar
Rajput princes governing the country round Jabalpur (Jubbulpore),
while a territory south of the Satpuras was held by the fire-descended
Pramara princes of Malwa. The Chanda dynasty of Gonds probably



CENTRAL PROVINCES. 301

rose to power as early as the 10th or nth century; and the Haihai-
Bansi kings of Chhatisgarh trace their origin to the remotest antiquity.

Before, however, we leave this dim and misty borderland, and pass
into the realms of history, we are confronted by a problem which
deserves some notice. Who were the Gaulis? Were the historical
Gond kingdoms preceded by a race of shepherd kings ? On the
Satpura plateau, in Nimar and Sagar (Saugor) Districts, and in parts of
the Nagpur Division, every ruin of an unknown age, ever)' legend that
cannot be traced to Hindu mythology, is assigned to the Gauli princes.
Of these shadowy personages the most striking is Asa, the Ahfr chief,
whose story Ferishta relates. Towards the close of the 14th century,
there dwelt on the summit of a lofty hill in Khandesh a rich herdsman
chief, whose ancestors had held their estates for 700 years. He had
ten thousand cattle, twenty thousand sheep, and a thousand mares.
His followers numbered two thousand, and he had built himself a strong
fortress. But the people, to whom his benevolence had endeared him,
still called him by the familiar name of Asa the Ahir (herdsman), and
thus his fort has received the name of Asigarh. It is, however, with
regard to Deogarh that the Gauli traditions gather most consistence.
Deogarh was, it is said, the last seat of Gauli power ; and the names yet
survive of the successive chiefs, until Jatba, the favourite and minister
of Mansiir and Gansiir, the two last Gauli princes, murdered his bene-
factors, and founded the Gond dynasty of Deogarh.

But whatever importance we may be disposed to attach to the
legendary Gaulis, the history proper of Gondwana only begins in the
1 6th century. Ferishta indeed mentions a line of princes, whether
Gond or not is uncertain, who reigned at Kherla on the Satpura plateau,
and enjoyed 'great wealth and power, being possessed of all the hills of
Gondwana and other countries.' They first appear in 1398 a.d. ; and
for a brief space they succeeded in maintaining a precarious independ-
ence, by playing off the rulers of Malwa and the Bahmani kings against
each other. But, in 1467, Kherla fell before the Bahmani power, and,
after a last expiring effort, the Kherla dynasty disappears from history.
In the next century the Gonds asserted themselves with more
lasting success. As the Muhammadan power of Malwa gradually
decayed, Sangram Sah, the forty-eighth Rdja of the Gond line of Garha-
Mandla, issued from the Mandla highlands, and extended his dominion
over 52 gdrks, comprising the present District of ^agar (Saugor),
Damoh, Hoshangabdd, Narsinghpur, and Jabalpur, besides Mandla and
Seoni.

In the 1 6th century, also, the immemorial Haihai-Bansi line of
Chhatisgarh emerges into the light of history ; and in the succeeding
century, the Gond princes of Deogarh transformed themselves from
obscure aboriginal chiefs into a powerful Muhammadan dynasty. From



3 o2 CENTRAL PROVINCES.

the rise of the Gond power until the advent of the Marathas, Gondwana
enjoyed practical independence. The Gonds willingly owned the
supremacy of the Emperor at Delhi, and the distant monarch wisely
contented himself with nominally including in his dominions the wild
and rugged country of the Gonds. With all its drawbacks, this was a
happy period for Gondwana. The people prospered under a rude
feudal system ; and the tanks and tombs and palaces, and above all
the battlemented stone walls, long since too wide for the shrunken city
within, testify to the ability and beneficence of the princes. Indeed,
the rulers appear to have been in advance of their subjects ; and much
of the improvement then effected arose from the prudent liberality with
which the wiser Rajas encouraged Hindu husbandmen to settle on the
land. But the invasion of the Marathas abruptly ended the peaceful
progress of Gondwana. In the ten years from 1741 to 1751, the
Bhonsla family established its dominion over the three kingdoms of
Deogarh, Chanda, and Chhatisgarh, while the last Gond dynasty, that
of Garha-Mandla, fell before the same race in 1781.

The founders of the Maritha power had the virtues as well as
the vices of military leaders ; and at first the Gond people felt
the effect of the conquest less than their feudal chiefs. But
in the end of the 18th century, the Marathas began to suffer
from the want of money, and every variety of fiscal expedient was
contrived to grind taxes from the unfortunate people. In short,
a poor man could neither shelter nor clothe himself, nor earn his
bread, nor eat it, nor marry, nor rejoice, nor even ask his gods for
better weather, without contributing on each individual act to the
necessities of his alien rulers. This oppression brought about its
natural result. The ruined husbandman forsook his farm, and joined
the robber -bands that wandered through the country. By degrees
these increased in number ; and from their standing camps in the
Narbada valley, a marauding cavalry, under the name of Pindaris,
spread desolation over the land. Encumbered neither by tents nor
baggage, and riding in parties of two or three thousand, they carried
fire and sword wherever they went, even to the gates of the capital.
So lasting has proved the terror they inspired, that to this day there
are places in the valley of the Wardha where the shopkeepers will not
publicly expose their goods. Thus, harassed in every way, the country
had become utterly exhausted when, in 18 18, Apa Sahib was finally
deposed. At that time the English annexed the region since known as
the Sagar (Saugor) and Narbada (Nerbudda) territories, while under-
taking the management of what remained of the Bhonsla kingdom
during the minority of Raghuji 111. Raghuji attained his majority in
1830; but on his death in 1853. without a child, his dominions lapsed
to the British Government. At first, it may be that the administration



CENTRAL PROVINCES. 303

erred in overrating the resources of the country ; but under the more
lenient assessment of later years an era of prosperity has begun.

In i860, the Nizam ceded a strip of territory on the left bank of the
Godavari, formerly styled the Upper Godavari District, consisting of
6 taluks, namely, Sironcha, Naogaon, Albaka, Cherla, Bhadrachalam,
and Rakapalli. The two last-named taluks were transferred to Madras
in 1874. The four first-named are still attached to the Central
Provinces, and now form a Sub-division of Chanda District. In 1861,
the ' Central Provinces ' were formed by the union of the Sagar (Saugor)
and Narbada (Nerbudda) territories with the Nagpur Province. In
1864, the new administration obtained an accession of territory by the
addition of Nimar District ; and in the following year it received
a further accretion of 700 square miles of country, which formerly
constituted the Native State of Bijeraghogarh in Central India, but
had been confiscated in 1857.

Population. — The table on page 304 exhibits the area, population, etc.,
of each of the British Districts and Native States included within the
Central Provinces, as disclosed by the Census of 1881.

The 15 Native States are attached to 5 British Districts, although
they are under the direct administration of their own chiefs. Makrai,
with an area of 215 square miles, is attached to Hoshangabad District ;
while the largest State, Bastar, 13,062 square miles, is attached to
Chanda. The remaining 13 are attached to the three Districts of the
Chhatisgarh Division — namely, Chhuikadan, Ranker, Khairagarh ; and
Nandgaon, with an aggregate area of 2658 square miles, to Raipur
District; Kawardha and Sakti, with an area of 1002 square miles, to
Bilaspur District ; and Kalahandi, Raigarh, Sarangarh, Patna, Sonpur,
Rairakhol, and Bamra, with an aggregate area of 11,897 square miles,
to Sambalpur District. Including Feudatory States, the average area
of each District is 6293 square miles, the smallest being Narsinghpur
(1916 square miles), the four largest being Chanda (23,847 square
miles), Sambalpur (16,418 square miles), Raipur (14,543 square miles),
and Bilaspur (8800 square miles). Excluding Feudatory States, the
average area of each District is 4691 square miles, the 5 largest Districts
being — Raipur (11,885 square miles), Chanda (10,785 square miles),
Bilaspur (7798 square miles), Mandla(47i9 square miles), and Sambalpur
(4521 square miles). Total area of Native States, 28,834 square miles ;
population (1881), 1,709,720; average density, 59-3 per square mile.

The area of the Central Provinces in 18S1 (including Native States)
was less by 886 square miles than the area returned in 1872, owing to
the transfer to the Madras Presidency in 1874 of the Bhadrachalam and
Rakapalli taluks of the former Upper Godavari District. The actual
difference, however, proves to be only 518 square miles, on account of

[Sentence continued on p. 305.



3°4



CENTRAL PROVINCES.



Census of the Central Provinces (1881).
British Districts.



District or State.



Area in
square
miles.



( Nagpur, .
| Bhandara,
j Chanda, .
-j Wardha, .
j Balaghat,

L Total,

Jabalpur,
Sagar,
Dam oh, .
i s Seoni, . .
•5 I Mandla, .

[ Total,

f Hoshangabad
^ Narsinghpur
-o | Betul, . .
x> \ Chhindwara,
Nimar,



Total,



,cj f Raipur, .

ra j Bilaspur, .
Jf J Sambalpur,

rt i

~ | Total,

U I
Total of British
Districts, . . .



Kalahandi or
rond, . .

Raigarh,

Sarangarh, .

Patna, . .

Sonpur,

Rairakhol, .

Bamra, . .

Sakti, . .

Kawardha,

Chhuikadan
Kondka,

Ranker,

Khairagarh,

Nandgaon,

Makrai, . .

Bastar, . .



Ka



Total Native States

Grand Total Central
Provinces,



3.786
3,922
10,785
2,401
3,146



24,040



Number
of towns

and
villages.



1682
1616
2804
908
1211



8221



Number of
occupied
houses.



Population.



145.593
133.056
I48,i35
85,044
69,034



580,862



Total

population,



697.356
683,779
649, 146
387,221
340,554



2,758,056



3918


2310


4005


1842


2799


1 146


3247


1463


4719


I75 1



4437
1916

3905
3915
3340



17.513



7.798
4,521



24,204



84,445



3-745
1,486

540
2,399

906

833
1,988

"5



174

639

940

905

215

13,062



28,834



n3.279



174.512

130,409

70,276

67, 104

61,779



;i2 504,080



687,233
564,950
312,957

334,733
301,760



2,201,633



Males.



351.756
340,811
326,824

195.564
168,830



1.383,785



Females.



345,600
342,968
322,322
191,657
171,724



1,374,271



349,251
294,795
162,570
167,925
J 53.542



1,128,083



337,982
270,155
150,387
166,808
148,218



!- 073. 550



1536

987

II72

1833
627



6155



102,863

79.765
58,603
73,621
48,592



363,'



4743
3724
3257



11,724



34,6i2



446,651
281,580
160,359



488,787
365,173
304,905
372,899

231-341



252,493
186,635
154,426
186,168
121,008



1,763,105 900,730



1,405,171

1,017,327

693,499



,590 3,115,997 1,546,837



696,242
504,046
346,549



.336.976



9,838,791



4,959,435



236,294
178,538
150,479
186,731
110,333



862,375



708,929
513,281
346,950



4.879.356



Native States.



2,461
685
438

1. 59i
869
199
632
117

389

109
436
512
54i
59
2,204



11,242



45,854



53.527
23,282
25,406
50,841
25,521
3-349
14,828

3-955
28,369

9,669
16,142
30,392

48,35i

3,38o

38,271



375.283



2,712,259



224,548

128,943

7L274

257,959

178,701

i7,75o

81,286

22,819

86,362

32,979

63,610

166,138

164,339

16,764

196,248



1,709,720



11,548,511 5,827,122



116,918

64,767

35-221

i3 I -570

90,012

9,02T
41,761

II- 35 2

42,706

16,267

32,131

82,677

81,717

8,521

103,046



867,687



107,630
64,176
36,053

126,389

88,689

8,729

39,525
11,467
43.656

16,712

3L479
83,461
82,622
8,243
93,202



842,033



5,72I,389



1,569,160 129 3*5



CENTRAL PROVINCES. 3°5

Sentence continued from />. 303.]

short entries in 1872 of the areas of certain Districts, which were after-
wards detected and rectified. Making due allowance for the transfer of
the taluks to Madras, the population of the British Districts, which in
1872 was returned at 8,173,824, amounted in 1881 to 9,838,791, show-
ing an increase of 1,664,967, or 20-37 P er cent, in the 9 years. In the
Feudatory States in 1872, the population was returned at 1,049,710, and
in 1881 to 1,709,720, showing an increase of 660,010, or 62-88 per cent.
Taking British Districts and Feudatory States together, the population
in 1S72 was returned at 9,223,534, and in 1881 at 11,548,511, being
an increase of 2.324,977, or 25-21 per cent. This enormous increase
is due to various causes. In the first place, it is more apparent than
real, and is largely made up, especially in the Feudatory States, by the
increased accuracy of the Census of 1881 over that of 1872. Among
other causes of increase, setting aside the natural increment of births
over deaths, are the attraction of labourers to the lines of railway
under construction, and the increased facilities to immigration afforded
by fresh communications, and the opening up of the country. Large
numbers of famine refugees, who flocked into the Districts during
scarcities, have now settled down permanently, and become prosperous
cultivators.

Religion. —Including British Districts and Feudatory States, the
Census of 1881 thus exhibited the classification of the population
according to religion -.—Hindus, 8,703,110; Sikhs, 99; Kabirpanthis,
347,994; Satnamis, 398,409; Kumbhipathias, 913; Muhammadans,
285,687; Christians, 11,973; Buddhists, 17; Brahmos, 7; Jains,
45,911; Jews, 63; Parsi's, 399; aboriginal tribes still professing their
primitive faiths, 1,753,917 ; unspecified, 12. The British Districts, with
their area of 84,445 square miles, and population of 9,838,791, are thus
returned according to religion: Hindus, 7,3 I 7> 8 3°; Sikhs, 97; Kabir-
panthis, 294,474; Satnamis, 358,161; Kumbhipathias, 692; Jains,
45,718; Muhammadans, 275,773; Christians, 11,949; Parsis, 399;
Jews, 63; Buddhists, 17; Brahmos, 7; non-Hindu aboriginal tribes,
33-599 ^ and unspecified, 12.

Aborigines.— The Satpura plateau, stretching east and west for nearly
600 miles, with the wheat fields of the Narbada valley on the one
hand, and the rice lands of the Nagpur plain on the other, forms the
true barrier between Northern and Southern India. In this natural
fastness the so-called aboriginal tribes have found refuge, retreating on
either side before the waves of Aryan immigration which swept forward
from the Deccan and from Hindustan. Army after army invaded the
Deccan, and Hindu dynasties rose and fell ; but the forests of Gond-
wana lay apart from the line of march ; and while the ravages of war
wasted the rich cities of the plains, the refugees were slowly gathering

VOL. III. u



306 CENTRAL PROVINCES.






strength and confidence. By degrees they issued from the Satpura
hills, and occupied the rich valleys beneath. But the superiority of
the Aryan race manifested itself in peace as in war ; and step by step
the aboriginal tribes were driven back a second time to the stony
uplands, as the Hindu farmers in increasing numbers cleared the fertile
plains below. Those who remained were absorbed by the higher race,
and now form the lowest stratum of the Hindu social system.

Though Gondwana comprised the greater part of the Central
Provinces, the non-Aryan tribes now form a minority of the popula-
tion. The Census of 1881 returned their total number, including
those who have embraced Hinduism, as well as those who still
adhere to their primitive deities, at 2,776,356, of whom 2,163,241
inhabited British territory, and 613,115 the Feudatory States. The
proportion of these tribes to the total population of each District
varies from 55-58 in Mandla, to only 2-28 in Nimar. Though the term
' aborigines ' is commonly applied to them, it must be remembered that
this is merely a convenient expression, serving to distinguish the tribes
in question from races of Aryan descent. In the gravels and clays
which apparently mark the Miocene and the Pliocene periods, remains
of animals now extinct in India co-exist with the bones of others still
found in the Central Provinces. Of later date, however, and scattered
through the upper soils of large areas, agate knives and implements
have been dug up in the Narbada (Nerbudda) and Nagpur country ;
and to a yet later epoch belong the polished celts, axes, and other
shaped stone implements, which exactly resemble those abundantly
found in Northern Europe. Beyond these indications, we know
nothing of any inhabitants of the Provinces who may have preceded
the so-called aboriginal tribes. These consist of a southern and a
northern section, distinguished as the Dravidian and the Kolarian
races. From their curious intermixture within a limited area, Mr.
Hislop concludes that the Dravidians, entering India by the north-



Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 3) → online text (page 36 of 56)