Mountstuart Elphinstone.

Selections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir online

. (page 38 of 41)
Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 38 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

they choose.

My opinion regarding leases agrees generally with
Mr. Prendergast 's ; but as I have no experience myself,
I am unwilling to decide a question so much disputed ;
I, therefore, am desirous of the reference I have already
recommended to Captain Eobertson. I also think
it desirable that instructions should be issued to the
collector, recommending the gradual and partial system
of leases as an experiment, which is explained in
the part of my minute immediately following the
suggestion of a reference to Captain Ptobertson.
Such instructions will, at all events, be necessary
to such collectors as have been applying for leave
to grant leases generally. I must also own, that
I think leases to Patidars, where very numerous, less
doubtful than any others. They are already bound
by a sort of lease towards the Government, and it
is but fair the Government should be similarly bound
towards them.

The opinion that the Rayatwar system involves
so much detail as to be impracticable of execution,
is not brought forward as my own ; it is only quoted
to be contested.


The objections to the Kayatwar system, from the
difficulty the Eayat must experience in complaining
to the collector, applies with additional force to the
village lease, a district lease system, because there
is another native authority interposed between the
collector and the Eayat, and that one much more
formidable than the Kamavisdar, because more perma-
nent, more intimately connected with the complaint,
and possessing greater means of exacting or oppressing
without detection.

I observe that the Kayatwar system has been ' more
extensively introduced in reality than in appearance,
while the Patel continued to go through the forms of
farming his villages.' Now that the appearance is
entirely Rayatwar, Mr. Prendergast's observation is
probably correct.

Mr. Prendergast probably understands the word
* farming ' in some sense different from that which
I meant to attach to it. I called a village farmed,
when Government transfers its rights in it to another
person, or association of persons, for a rent. I should
say it was not farmed, when Government retained
in its own hands its rights over the Rayats.

The number of Bighas, productive and unproductive,
assessable and alienated, are, as Mr. Prendergast ob-
serves, more accurately known in Broach than in any
other district in India, because none has been so care-
fully surveyed. I will add, that every object of the
survey, and every object of the reports made at the
time of the first commission, were as fully known as it
was possible for such subjects to be. But many of the
facts on which the annual assessment is founded could
not be touched on either by the survej^ or the reports ;
and many arc so fluctuating, that if the state of them,
as it then stood, had been recorded, it would be totally


inapplicable now. Thus the productive assessable land
is recorded ; but whether the quantity producing grain
is not greatly increased cannot of course be ascer-
tained from the survey. A proof that these points are
not actually ascertained, is afforded by the prosecutions
carrying on (or formerly carried on) against the Pargana
officers of Ankles var for concealing cultivation to a
large amount. But if the quantity of land of each
description to be assessed were well known, the next
step in Broach appears to me full of uncertainty. It
is a conjectural estimate of the quantity of grain of
each description produced in the season for which the
assessment is making. There is no careful examination
of each field, or debate with the proprietor about the
improvement or decline of its condition. A general
estimate is made from a summary inspection of the
state of the fields ; and although, from the experience
of the Pargana officers, it may frequently be right, yet
as it is too vague to admit of a close examination, the
collector can never be confident that it is not wrong,
either owing to mistake or corruption.

If this conjecture, however, be right, and if the
price for which the grain will sell be also accurately
ascertained, so that the sum laid on the whole village
is just, it by no means follows that the distribution will
be equally just by the time it reaches the Pvayats.
One Eayat may be in declining circumstances, while
many of his fellows may be increasing in wealth. One
part of the village land might be suffering from flood
or blight, while the rest is unusually productive. The
Patel may perhaps adjust all these inequalities, but he
does it unknown to the collector or his officers, who may
therefore be fairly said to be in the dark regarding the
sources from which the revenue is derived. I have
been speaking of villages under one Patel in Bhagdar


villages. This evil cannot be entirely remedied, and
all Government can do is to see that the whole sum
laid on the village is equitable.

A proof of the uncertainty of the assessment is,
that the vast increase laid in Broach this year was
founded on the supposition of the unusual abundance
of cotton produced ; and this was the reason assigned
by the acting-collector in the end of April, when I
believe the season is nearly closed : j^et the commercial
resident has since announced a failure, and the acting-
collector has stated that the produce of this year is a
good deal less than that of the last. The power of
resorting to a division of the crop is a safeguard
against over-assessment possessed by the cultivators in
all districts ; but I doubt if it is so effectual as Mr.
Prendergast considers it, because nobody resorted to it
this year in Broach, although the clamour in the district
has been excessive.

What Mr. Prendergast says of the Bhagdar's system,
I should generally subscribe to, in cases such as
Mr. Prendergast supposes, where almost all the culti-
vators are Bhagdars. I have, indeed, taken a very
similar view in my minute ; but this only applies to
about half the villages in the Broach Zilla, and to very
few in the other collectorship.

This is, indeed, a principal cause of the apparent
difference between Mr. Prendergast and me, that his
view generally applies to a village, cultivated by Bhag-
dars, while mine also bears on villages where there are
few Bhagdars, or those formed by a single Patel, and
on those settled Kayatwar.

With regard to the hereditary officers of Parganas, I
confess that the concurring opinions of all the revenue
officers, whose opinions I have heard on the subject,
make me unfavourable to the employment of them ; but


this question is here only introduced incidentally in
discussing the pay of Kamavisdars. In regard to them,
all I contend for is, that their pay should bear some
proportion to their trust. I do not think that the
allowances in Broach could conveniently be adopted as
a standard, because that district has a system entirely
peculiar, and not at all resembling those of the other
districts, which system leaves all the settlement of the
revenue to the Patels and Pargana officers, so that the
Kamavisdars have little else to do than to receive the

I beg to explain what I have said about the different
limits of Parganas and Kamavisdars' divisions. The
latter often include several of the former ; but I do not
believe the Parganas are ever divided, except by the
boundary line of different collectorships.

The account given of Vanta in all the reports of the
collectors beyond the Mahi, is that which I have
mentioned ; it is supported by the Mohammedan
histories and documents connected with revenue, and
I believe by the traditions of the hereditary Hindu
officers. Mj' idea of the history is, that there were
several Piajput principalities in Gujarat under different
dynasties of Solankis, Sumas, Gohils, Waghelas, etc.,
each of which, according to the Piajput practice, divided
the country among the relations and Tattayets of the
Piaja, till the whole country was shared out among
them, as Cutch, Kathiawar, and other neighbouring
countries, not subdued by the Mussulmans, are still.
That when the Mussalmans got the country they took
three-fourths of the Government share of the revenue
to themselves, leaving the Piajputs in possession of the
remaining one, precisely as it is now proposed that we
should do with the Girasias of Dhandhuka, Gogha,


Ranpur. The Rayats retained their share generally
under both Governments, and retain it still.

Mevasi seems to be used for ' refractory,' and as such
is no doubt applicable occasionally either to Rajput or
Koli ; but as all independence in a Koli is reckoned
usurpation, and not so in a Rajput, the term has come
to be applied to the former in contradistinction to a

Each Rajput tribe gives you a separate account of its
own settlement in Gujarat ; scarcely any at a very
remote period. I should suppose they all came origi-
nally from Meywar, Marvvar, and the other countries
which the Mussalmans and we call Rajputana ; but
some of them seem first to have passed into Sciud and
returned by Cutcli into Gujarat. Those mentioned by
Mr. Prendergast (Jhallas and Goliils) are stated by
Colonel Walker .to have entered their present seats, I
think, within these last 500 years.

I do not intend to propose a complete revision of the
Veras, but to mention that as one of the consequences
attending a new assessment or a resumption of alienated
lands, each of which measures I wished to show in all
its bearings.

I fully concur in the policy of preserving the Bhag-
dar villages wherever we find them established, and
am of opinion that their increasing in number may be
taken as a sign of prosperity in the country.

I meant to have circulated the returns from the
collectors, showing the number of villages held by
single Patels, the number held by Bhagdars ; but this
being Sunday, I have not been able to get them.
They shall be circulated whenever they arrive.

P.S. — The returns are now sent duly. That from
Ahmedabad gives the information required in a distinct
form. It appears that there are, out of 700 villages,



only 29 Bliagdars, the rest being managed by single
Patels. In Kaira I should conjecture that two-thirds
were managed by single Patels. In Surat almost all,
or all ; in Broach very few.

(Signed.) M. Elphinstone.
(Without date.)











We labour under a great disadvantage in all delibera-
tions regarding this tract of country, as I believe no
account of it is before the Government, for Major
Ballantyne's report is chiefly confined to the proceedings
of the Gaikwar force in 1813. This deficiency cannot
be made up by information collected during a passage
through the country; but I hope it will soon be re-
moved by the inquiries which I have directed Captain
Miles to make, and by those of Major Ballantyne when
he shall have taken charge. In the meantime, I owe
much to the information I have received from Captain
Barnewall, whose long employment in the Kaira district
has rendered him particularly well acquainted with the
adjoining parts of the Mahi Kantha.

It is scarcely necessary to mention that the fiscal
and military division known by the name of Mahi
Kantha is not, as that name implies, confined to
the banks of the Mahi ; but extends north- of the"

. 1 T-w ^''''^" Kantha.

ward from that river to the Banas, a distance

of 120 miles, and includes all the part of Gujarat which

requires the presence of a military force to procure the


payment of the Gaikwar tribute ; that is, all the north or
north-eastern portion of the province.

The mountains which bound Gujarat in that direction
are steep, craggy, and difficult of access. They send
many branches into the nearest parts of Gujarat, and
the intervals between them are nearly filled up with
jungle. Further south the hills cease, and afterwards
the jungles become less extensive ; but the rivers are
very numerous, and their banks abound in long, deep,
and intricate ravines, overgrown with thick jungle. All
these obstacles diminish as we go south, the jungle
nearly disappears, and the rivers unite in the streams of
the Sabarmati and the Mahi ; and nearly the whole of
the south-west of Gujarat, a tract sixty miles deep,
extending for 150 miles along the gulf and Cambay,
the frontier of Kathiawar and the Ran, is an open and
fertile plain. This description explains the degrees of
subjugation in which the province is found. The plain
was almost entirely reduced, and the Government of
the Marathas, though the jungles of Chuval, west of
Ahmedabad, and the banks of the Mahi as far south as
the neighbourhood of Baroda, still furnish shelter to
independent villages. When the streams begin to be
numerous, many independent communities appear among
the ravines and jungle on their banks. The rivers
increase, the jungle grows thicker and more continued
as we advance, and the independent villages become
more frequent and in more solid masses until we reach
the principalities of Idar and Lunavada, amidst the
mountains and the forest of the north-east.

The degree of independence in those communities
increases with their numbers. In the plain to the
south, and in the open spaces that run uj) between the
rivers, the Maratha Government had the right of ad-
ministering justice in every village by means of its own



officers, and it always took an account of the produce
of the village lands, of which it was entitled to a certain
share. All the other villages retained their indepen-
dence on the payment of a tribute. Most of those which
lay on the rivers in the midst of subjugated country
paid it regularly every year to the nearest revenue
officer ; but those whose situations were stronger or
more remote withheld their tribute until compelled to
pay by the presence of an invalid army. The villages
which submit to the administration of justice and the
inspection of their produce are called Rijoti ; those
which only pay a tribute, Mchvasi ; but this last term is
not extended to princes like those of Idar and Lunavada.
The tribute paid annually to the revenue officer is called
Jamabandi; that collected by an officer at the head of an
army is called Ghasdaiia. There are many Mehvasis,
who, though they are willing to pay a small sum to the
Kamavisdars, will not submit to the exaction of a large
one unless supported by force. These pay both Jama-
bandi and Ghasdana, the former to the collector every
year, the latter to the commandant of the force that is
occasionally sent to levy it. Both descriptions, how-
ever, are equally tribute, and neither is a fixed share of
the produce.

Although the whole of the above distinctions took
their origin from the different degrees in which the
communities which are the subjects of them were sub-
jected to the power of the Maratha Government, yet
the distinction has often been preserved when the cause
has been removed. Many villages remain Mehvasi,
which the Gaikwar could have rendered Ryoti ; and in
many cases the Ghasdana is still collected by the military
commander where the Mehvasi would have been equally
ready to pay it to the Kamavisdar, and where his pay-
ment to that officer much exceeds his contribution to


the army. The amount of the payments continued to
fluctuate after the denominations had become fixed ;
when the Kamavisdar, or the mihtary chief, was strong,
he increased the Jamabandi or the Ghasdana ; and when
weak, he was glad to take a smaller sum than had been
paid the year before. On the whole, however, there
was a progressive increase in the payment.

It is the Ghasdana alone that is included in the
Mahi Kantha collections.

The Mahi Kantha, though so much of it is neglected,
shows great fertility wherever it is cultivated. The
fields seem well taken care of and covered with fine
crops. Mangoes and other planted trees are unusually
numerous, and as the surface is undulating, and the
woods and mountains soften in sight, no part of India
presents a richer or more agreeable prospect.

There are in the Mahi Kantha many Kanbis, some
Vanias and other peaceable classes ; but the castes that
bear arms, and those in whom all authority of
the country is vested, are the Kajputs, Kolis
and Makvanis, of whom the Kolis are by far the
most numerous, even in the country belonging to
the Rajputs. Of the 121 chiefs settled with by
Major Ballantyne, 11 are Rajputs, 79 Kolis, and 31
Makvanis, and other Mussalmans ; but this bears no
proportion to the number of each caste. The Rajput
and Mussalman principalities of Idar and Palanpur are
nearly as extensive as all the rest put together, but
many, perhaps most, of their subjects are Kolis. The
Rajputs are of two descriptions — the Marvadis, who
accompanied the Raja of Idar in his emigration from
Jodhpur, and the Gujaratis, who have long been settled
in the province, chiefly in the central parts. The
Marvadis resemble the people of Jodhpur in their
dress and manners, but with additional rudeness con-


tracted in their sequestered situation. They are said
to be very brave, but stupid, slothful, unprincipled, and
devoted to the use of opium and intoxicating liquors.
Those of Gujarat are said to resemble more the inhabi-
tants of that province, to be more civilized than the
Marvadis, more honest, more submissive, and more in-
active and unwarlike. All the Eajputs use swords and
spears, matchlocks and shields. They often use de-
fensive armour of leather, both for themselves and their
horses, and sometimes, but rarely, carry bows. Their
plan of war is to defend their villages. They seldom
take to the woods like Kolis, and are quite incapable of
the desultory warfare so congenial to the habits of the
latter tribe. The Kolis or Bhils (for they are called
indiscriminately by both names) are by much the most
numerous and most important of the inhabitants of the
Mahi Kantha. Though there is not perhaps a very
marked difference in feature between them and the
other inhabitants, yet they are generally to be distin-
guished without difficulty ; they seem more diminutive,
and have an expression both of liveliness and cunning
in their eyes. They wear small turbans and few clothes,
and are seldom seen without a quiver of arrows and a
long bamboo bow, which is instantly bent on any alarm,
or on the sudden approach of a stranger. If they have
less appearance of strength and activity than the
generality of their neighbours, the defect is confined to
their appearance.

The natives describe them as wonderfully swift,
active and hardy ; incredibly patient of hunger, thirst,
fatigue, and want of sleep ; vigilant, enterprising,
secret, fertile in expedients, and admirably calculated
for night attacks, surprises and ambuscades. These
qualities are probably exaggerated ; but they certainly
are active, hardy, and as remarkable for sagacity as for


secrecy and celerity in their predatory operations.
Their arms and habits render them unfit to stand in the
field, and they must be admitted to be timid where
attacked ; but they have on several occasions shown
extraordinary boldness in assaults even on English
stations. They are of an independent spirit, and
although they are all professed robbers, they are said
to be remarkably faithful when they are trusted, and
they are certainly never sanguinary. They are averse
to regular industry, exceedingl}^ addicted to drunken-
ness, and very quarrelsome when intoxicated. Their
delight is plunder, and nothing is so welcome to them
as a general disturbance in the country.

The numbers of this tribe can scarcely be guessed
at. The whole of the country between Gujarat and
Milwa at the mountainous tracts on the Narbada and
in Khandesh and Berar, together with the range of
Ghats and its neighbourhood as far south as Puna, are
filled with Bhils and Kolis ; but it is those only to the west
of the Mahi that are connected with the Malii Kantlia.
It has been calculated on tolerable grounds that there
are 6,600 in the Kaira district ; and as there are fewer
there than in any division in Gujarat, the whole amount
must be very considerable. Their numbers would cer-
tainly be formidable if they were at all united ; but
though the Kolis have a strong fellow-feeling for each
other, they never think of themselves as a nation, and
never make a common cause to oppose an external

The Mussalmans of Gujarat are generally indolent
and effeminate, but those in Mehvasi villages, especially
the Molaiks, have almost as much activity as the Kolis,
with much courage.

The Makvanis are Kolis nominally converted to
Mohammedanism, but scarcely altered in the religion,


manner, or clianicter. They are chiefly settled towards
the south-east of the Mahi Kantha.

The chiefs by whom the Gaikwar tribute is paid, and
the transactions which have taken place regarding it as
far as they affect our interposition, and the
measures to be adopted for realizing it in future,
and for securing the quiet of the country and of our own
districts in the neighbourhood, are as follows :

Beginning from the north, the first chief to notice
w^ould be the Diwan of Palanpur, But as his country
is of a different character irom the rest of the Mahi
Kantha, and is now separated from it by our own
2)olitical arrangements, it will be convenient to pass him
over for the present.

The Kaja of Tdar is the fifth in descent from Ajitsing,
who reigned at Jodhpur about a hundred years ago. His
ancestor obtained possession of Idar about eighty ^he Raja of
years ago. It was at that time a part of the ^'^'""'
Jodhpur territory, Ajitsing having driven out another
Rathod prince who was called the Rao, and still retains
that title, though his territory is confined to the small
but strong district of Pol in the hills between Idar and
Udepur. He still continues his claims to Idar, and often
harasses the Raja, who some years ago had a temporary
possession of Pol.

The revenue of the state of Idar amounts to about
400,000 rupees (.£40,000), without including its de-
pendencies of Ahmednagar and Moclasa. But the Raja's
share is not more than from 100,000 to 150,000 rupees.
The rest is allotted to chiefs who hold of him under
the Rajput designation of Patavat, on condition of
military service and of a small pecuniary payment.
Besides these eight chiefs, who are all Rathods like the
Raja, and whose ancestors accompanied him from
Jodhpur, there are between twenty or thirty Patavats


of the Rao's, who held lands of the Prince for military
service, but who now pay an annual tribute instead of
it to the Eaja. These persons are Eajputs and Kolis.
They owe no service to the Eaja ; they settle their
Ghasdana separately with the Gaikwar, and appear to
look up to him as their superior rather than to the
Eaja. The Eaja of Idar's tribute, as fixed by Major
Ballantyne, amounts to 24,000 rupees (.^2,400), though
much more has been exacted by the Gaikwar's officer.
Only one-fourth of the amount falls on the Eaja. The
remaining three-fourths are, paid by his Patavats, from
Avhom, since the decline of the Eaja's power, it has
been levied separately by the Gaikwar. The whole
ultimately falls on the Eayats, on whom an extra cess
is imposed to meet it. The troops in the Eaja of
Idar's own pay amount at present to 250 horse and
1,000 foot, but these are raised for a particular occa-
sion ; his usual force is 50 horse and 150 foot. His
Patavats should furnish 500 horses and as many foot,
but very few ever attend. He has, however, about
600 men who hold lands direct of the Eaja on con-
dition of service, which they never fail to afford.

Besides the Eaja's and the Eao's Patavats, there
are three other chiefs, whose territory is included in
the principality of Idar, though in reality they are
almost entirely independent of that government.

The names of these petty cliiefships are Ahmednagar,
Modasa, and Baur, Each of the former yields a
revenue of about 30,000 rupees (^3,000) a year, and
their payments to the Gaikwar are 10,000 rupees
(CI, 000) for Ahmednagar, and 7,305 rupees {£1S0) for

Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 38 of 41)