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in a metropolitan District, closely cultivated and traversed by many
roads and canals, as well as by the railway, there is no large game,
excepting in the north-western part of the Kambakam range, where the
sdmbhar^ pig, and wild sheep are in considerable numbers, and leopards
and bears are occasionally found. A few antelope still linger in the
plains at the foot of the hills. Crocodiles in large numbers are found in
the Karunguli tank, and in no other. It is not known when and how
they were introduced. The tank was constructed in 1795 by the then
Collector of the District, Mr. Place, and communicates with others.
Snakes, as in other parts of the Presidency, are common.

History. — Chengalpat formed part of the ancient kingdom of Vijay-
anagar, and is studded throughout with places of historical interest ;
indeed, there is hardly a village within 30 miles south and west of
Madras that is not mentioned by the historians of Southern India.
After the overthrow of the Vijayanagar dynasty at Talikot in 1564, the
Raya kings fell back on Chandragiri and Vellore ; and the vicinity of
Chengalpat to the latter fortress makes it probable that the power of the
family extended over the present District. At any rate, when in 1639
the East India Company negotiated for the site of the present city of
Madras, it was from Sri Ranga Raya that the grant was finally obtained.
During the struggle between the British and the French for the mastery
of the Karnatic, Chengalpat and many other towns in the District were
the scene of constant fighting. In 1760, the District, oxjdgir, as it was
then and long after called, was granted to the East India Company in
perpetuity by Muhammad All, the Nawab of Arcot, ' for services rendered
to him and his father ;' and in 1763 this grant was confirmed by the
Emperor Shah Alam. From 1763 till 1780 it was leased to the
Nawab : and during that period was twice ravaged by Haidar All, once
in 1768, and again in 1780. On the latter occasion, the Mysore chief
almost depopulated the District; and what fire and sword had left
undone, famine completed. Since that year, the history of the District
consists chiefly of a chronicle of territorial arrangements and transfers.
In 1784 it was divided into 14 separate farms, and rented out. Four
years later it was parcelled out into collectorates, which again in 1793
were united into one 'District.' In 1801, the Sattiawad division and


the territory about Pulicat (ceded to the Dutch by the Nawab) were
added to Chengalpat. The former was transferred in 1804 to North
Arcot, but re-united to this District, partly in 1850, when 53 of its
villages were incorporated with the Ponneri taluk ; and altogether when
the remaining 90 were subsequently made over to the Tiruvallur taluk.
The 'home farms,' and some other villages which till 1798 formed the
jurisdiction of the ' Recorder's Court,' were in that year separated from
the Chengalpat Collectorate, and placed under the officer then called
the ' Land Customer,' but subsequently appointed ' Collector of Madras.'
In i860, the town of Madras, the sea-customs excepted, was transferred
to Chengalpat; but in 1870 the former arrangement was reverted to,
and the Collectorate of Madras remains distinct from that of this

Population. — Several attempts have been made to enumerate the
inhabitants. The first Census, taken in 1795-96, when the District
was just beginning to recover from the Mysore devastations, gave a
total population of 217,372, inhabiting 59,911 houses. The next, in
1850, showed 583,462 souls; in 1859, 603,221, living in 93,310
houses; in 1866, 804,283, in 123,605 dwellings. The enumeration of
1871 disclosed a population of 938,184 persons; and the last regular
Census of the 17th February 1881 returned a total population of
981,381, living in 142,182 houses and 2003 villages, among which are
included 6 towns. The increase of population in the decade 187 1-
188 1 was 43,197, or 4*6 per cent. Number of persons per square mile,
345, ranging from 598 in Saidapet to 269 in Chengalpat taluks. In
point of density Chengalpat ranks sixth in the Presidency. Number
of persons per house, 6*9. The proportions of the sexes are nearly
equal, the males numbering 492.626, the females 488,755, or 502
males to 498 females in every 1000. Classified according to religion
there were 939,314 Hindus, Vaishnavs and Sivaites being in almost
equal proportions; 25,034 Muhammadans, chiefly Sunnis ; 16,774
Christians, of whom 81 per cent, were Roman Catholics; Jains and
Buddhists, 229; and 'others,' 30. Among the Christians, Europeans
numbered 1683, and Eurasians n 74, the remainder being natives.
Under 10 years there were 273,928, and between 10 and 20 years
200,935. By caste, the Hindus were distributed as follows : Brahmans,
32,026, or 3*41 per cent, of the total population ; Kshattriyas (warriors),
6435, or °'^9 P er cent.; Shetties (traders), 16,825, or 179 per cent. ;
Vallalars (agriculturists), 181,316, or 19*31 per cent. ; Idaiyars (shep-
herds), 55,271, or 5-89 per cent. ; Kammalars (artisans), 21,805, or 2 '33
per cent.; Kanakkan (writers), 15,059, or i'6i per cent. ; Kaikalar
(weavers), 35,662, or 379 percent.; Vanniyan (labourers), 190,876,
or 20*33 per cent.; Kushavan (potters), 7775, or o-S2 per cent.;
Satani (mixed castes), 14,549, or 1*55 per cent.; Shembadavan (fisher-


men), 16,027, or 171 per cent.; Shanan (toddy-drawers), 18,290, or
1*94 per cent. ; Ambattan (barbers), 9655, or 1*02 per cent. ; Vannan
(washermen), 13,089, or 1*39 per cent. ; Pariahs, 243,597, or 25*93 P er
cent; 'others,' 61,057, or 6-49 per cent. Classified according to
occupation, 170 per cent, of the total population, or 14,758 males
and 1949 females, belong to the professional class; 0-57 per cent., or
2664 males and 2919 females, to the domestic; 1*08 per cent., or
9057 males and i486 females, to the commercial; 30-60 per cent., or
224,028 males and 76,298 females, to the agricultural; 977 per cent.,
or 54,626 males and 41,226 females, to the industrial; and 56*28 per
cent., or 187,493 males and 364,877 females (including children), to
the indefinite and non-productive, 6*51 per cent, among the last
being returned as 'occupied.' About 50*23 per cent, are returned
as ' workers,' on whom the remaining 4977 per cent, of the popula-
tion depend. Of the males 67*13 per cent., and of the females 33*19
per cent, were 'workers.' There were educated or under instruction
101,096 persons, or 95,964 males and 5132 females; the percentage
being 19*48 for the male and 1*05 for the female population.
Pariahs are numerically the strongest caste ; the Vanniyans come
next ; and after them the Vallalars. These three castes are extensively
influenced by European contact ; for, though the great majority
engage only in the agricultural and servile labour that tradition
assigns them, many of them have pushed to the front, and they
now fill one-third of the official posts within the reach of natives.
Of those in 'the professions,' it is noteworthy that in this District,
which lies near the capital, and is therefore under the influence of the
British example of toleration and indifference to caste, there are as
many Pariahs as Brahmans. From the same cause, and from the
progress of education, orthodox Hinduism shows signs of losing
ground, and an advanced Monotheism is making way. There are,
however, no Brahma Samaj centres. The chief towns of the District
are — Conjeveram (population 37,275); St. Thomas' Mount, a
military cantonment (15,013); Saidapet (10,290); Tiruvatiyur
(9098); Chengalpat (5617); Punamalli, cantonment (4821); Tiru-
vallur (6242) ; Pallavaram, cantonment (3956). Conjeveram is the
only municipal town in the District. Besides these, there are 36 town-
ships with from 2000 to 3000 inhabitants, making the total urban
population about 20 per cent, of the whole. The villages with less
than 500 inhabitants each, number 1443. The neighbourhood of the
capital naturally exercises great influence on the surplus adult labour
of the District, but this is nevertheless essentially agricultural. The
people are much attached to their lands, and the literal interpretation
given to mirdsi rights (vide infra) strengthens this attachment.

Agriculture. — The land nowhere attains the high fertility of some of


the other Madras Districts, and is, as a rule, poor. Where the under-
lying rock does not crop up, the soil is often either impregnated with
soda or very sandy. Nor do the cultivators combat this natural
poverty. The stubble is never left to enrich the ground ; and animal
manure, being required for fuel (owing to the absence of forests), is not
applied to the extent that it should be. The absence of marsh land is
a remarkable feature ; but wet crops are largely raised beneath the banks
of the numerous tanks which dot the District. Agriculture is neverthe-
less very backward, a fact attributable in part to the number of absentee
landowners, who reside in Madras, and seldom, if ever, visit their
properties. This leaves the land to be cultivated by rack-rented
tenants {pdikdris), checks the investment of capital in the soil, and
encourages a slovenly and hand-to-mouth system of agriculture.
Perhaps no better indication of the poverty of the actual tillers of the
soil can be given than that the land revenue is regularly in arrears,
and that from 15 to 20 per cent, of the total has to be collected
annually by coercive process. The prevalent tenure is rdyatwdri, the
cultivator holding direct from Government, with a permanent right of
occupancy. Of 728,904 acres of cultivable Government land available
for such holdings, 539,862 acres are thus held under 71,881 separate
deeds. Under this head are included 8212 ' joint' holdings, a whole
village being occasionally held by coparceners. The rest of the Govern-
ment land in the District, 1,089.996 acres, is reserved for special
purposes, as grazing grounds, village sites, etc., or is waste. About
250,000 acres of private property are under cultivation, raising the total
of productive land in the District to about 800,000 acres. Most of
this, though settled in rdyativdri tenure, is subject to certain viirdsi or
hereditary rights, w T hich take the form of a tax paid by outsiders to the
descendants of the original villagers, for what is practically the per-
mission to cultivate. Besides the rdyatwdri tenure, various other forms
of holding obtain, the chief being zaminddri, mitta, shrotriam, mandyam,
and tjdrd, all distinguished by a common system of rack-renting.
About 25 per cent, of the villages of the District thus belong to land-
lords with privileged tenures, a large proportion of whom are absentees.
Their agents almost invariably oppress the tenants, who occupy theoreti-
cally only 'at will,' and are frequently in debt to the landlord, his
agent, or the village money-lender. Those who are not, are almost
constantly waging war against their landlords in either the Revenue or
the Civil Courts.

The soil is classified into four varieties — 'permanently improved,'
regar or 'alluvial,' 'red ferruginous,' and 'arenaceous,' or sandy, the
third being by far the most common. The proportion of ' wet '
(artificially irrigated) cultivation to 'dry' is as 7 to 6. An acre of the
former would be assessed at from 4s. to 15s., and its yield for each



crop may be estimated at about £3, 4s. per acre ; the net profit to the
cultivator, after deducting land revenue, cesses, etc., and value of
labour, the major portion of which in the case of the actual cultivator
goes into his own pocket, averaging £1, 9s. 6d. per acre, exclusive of
the value of the straw, for each crop. In favourable situations, such as
the neighbourhood of tanks and river channels, two crops are obtained
in the year. On dry land, the assessment varies from 6d. to 4s. per
acre, the average being a trifle over 3s. ; the rdyatwdri holdings average
l\ acres each. Deducting the land revenue and other expenses, the
cultivator's net annual profit averages 13s. per acre, or on his total
holding, £4, 1 7s. 6d. The chief wet-land crop is rice of three kinds
— samba, kar, and maiiakatai — divided by the cultivators into 31
varieties. On dry lands the staple crops are ragi, varagu, c/wlam,
ka?nbu, indigo, pulses, oil-seeds, ground-nuts, chillies, and tobacco.

Natural Calamities. — Many years have been marked by great scarcity,
arising from various causes ; but in five only did the scarcity amount
to famine. In 1733, from neglect of irrigation ; in 1780, from the
ravages of the Mysore troops; in 1787, from drought; in 1785, from
extraordinary floods, which destroyed the tanks and water channels;
and in 1806-7, owing to a general failure of the rains throughout the
Presidency, the District suffered from famine. In 1867-68, prices rose
very high; and during the famine of 1876, the starvation point was
nearly reached. When paddy or unhusked rice rises to 8 lbs. for the
shilling, especially if that price is stationary for any length of time,
measures of State relief become necessary. The District is peculiarly
liable to cyclones, the months of May and October being the usual
periods of visitation. Between 1746 and 1846, fifteen disastrous cyclones
have been recorded, and 1872 was marked by the occurrence of a most
destructive storm of this kind. The cyclones are generated in the Bay
of Bengal, and approach the coast of the District (the town of Madras
being frequently touched by their centres) from the south-south-east,
afterwards assuming a west or west-south-westerly direction. The area
within which their action is usually felt extends from 109 miles north to
120 miles south of Madras. They have from the earliest times caused
great destruction to shipping, strewing the coasts with wrecks, breaching
the tanks, sweeping away villages, and inflicting on the country most
disastrous losses in cattle and other live stock. The rainfall accom-
panying a cyclone averages 6 inches.

Coinmerce and Trade. — The trade of the small coast towns has long
ago been attracted to Madras ; and, except at the Presidency town,
there is now no commercial activity along the seaboard. Pulikat alone
maintained its independence as a trading port until 1864; but in that
year its customs house also was removed, and the coast of the District
is now deserted. Land trade (except the local interchange of field


produce and the necessaries of life) exists only in the unremunerative
form of through traffic ; while such industries as the manufacture of
spirits for local consumption, and the planting of casuarina groves,
belong rather to the city of Madras than to Chengalpat District. The
salt manufactured for Government gives employment to many thousand
families, chiefly mirdsiddrs having hereditary rights to the manufacture ;
and the annual out-turn is valued at ,£526,142. Weaving occupies
about 30,000 persons, but — except the finer muslins of Ami, the art of
making which is nearly extinct, and confined to only a few families,
and the coloured cloths of Conjeveram — none of the District manu-
factures have more than local repute. Metal-ware to a small extent,
and indigo, the making of which is on the increase, complete the list
of the non-agricultural industries. The fresh-water fisheries yield an
annual revenue of about .£114; but the sea fishery, though yielding
no revenue, and not under any kind of official control, is a most
important industry. The number of large boats employed is over 400.
An extensive trade is carried on in fresh fish, brought into Madras from
as great a distance as 20 miles, in baskets slung on a pole or on men's
heads, and thence exported by rail to Bangalore and other places.
The varieties most prized are the Indian mackerel (Scomber kanagurta),
mango fish (Polynemus paradiseus), mullet, seer (Cybium), and pomfret
(Stromateus). Turtles from Pulikat, and oysters from Sadras and Cove-
long, supply the Madras market. There were, in 1881-82, 675 miles
of road in the District, nearly all metalled or gravelled throughout, and
80 miles of coast canal. The South Indian Railway passes through the
District in two directions, one the main line for 65 miles south,
running from Madras past St. Thomas' Mount, Pallavaram, Chengalpat,
and Madhurantakam, and the other, which is a branch line from Chen-
galpat to Conjeveram and Arkonam on the Madras line, for 31 miles
north-west. The Madras Railway also passes for 40 miles of its course
through the Tiruvalliir and Saidapet taluks.

Administration. — The District is divided for revenue purposes into
6 taluks, namely, Chengalpat, Conjeveram, Madhurantakam, Pon-
neri, Saidapet, and Tiruvallur, each with its sub-divisional native
establishment subordinate to the head-quarters at Saidapet, the revenue
and magisterial jurisdictions being in every case conterminous. The
sessions are held at Chengalpat, 30 miles from Saidapet, where also the
sub-collector and civil surgeon are stationed. Within the limits of the
District, but under independent jurisdiction, lies the Presidency town
of Madras. The total revenue of the District was returned in 1881-82
at ^£566,287, and the total expenditure on civil administration at
^143,122. The principal items of receipt were as follows: — Land
revenue, ,-£177,396; salt, ^"347,911; excise on spirits and drugs,
,£28,741 ; stamps, ^it,o6o; and licence tax, ^1179. Chief items of


expeniiture : — Land revenue and excise collection, ^14,260 ; and salt
establishments, ^42,956. The police force aggregated, in 1881, a
total strength of 17 officers and 930 men, maintained at a cost of
^15,183, or about 4d. per head of the population. Of this force,
nearly one -half were jail and salt guards, the actual number of
constables on general duty being 499, or one to every 5§ square miles
and every 1967 inhabitants. There are 13 jails in the District, with an
average daily population of 160 prisoners, and costing annually ^1439.
Education has recently made marked progress, and female education
is spreading; 10 per cent, of the population can now read and write.
The District being in close proximity to the Presidency town, the
colleges and schools there, for the most part, provide higher education.
The Saidapet High School, which teaches up to the College entrance
examination, is the only purely Government educational institution now
within the District. There are 4 aided schools, which also prepare
for the matriculation examination. There were in 1 881, 580 schools
conducted on the results grants system, which were under the super-
vision of the Local Fund Board. The number of pupils was 11,824,
and the sums paid as results grants was ^"1388. The total cost to
Government of education in the District in 1881-82 was ^2158, in
addition to ^1388 paid by the Local Fund Board on account of grants
to the schools mentioned above. Chengalpat contains only one
municipality, Conjevaram, and 3 military cantonments — St. Thomas'
Mount, Pallavaram, and Punamalli.

Medical Aspects. — The climate, considering the latitude, may be
called temperate, and the extremes of heat and cold experienced inland
are here unknown. Both monsoons affect the District. The mean
temperature for the whole year, day and night, is about 8i° F., vary-
ing from 63 to 107 . The annual rainfall averages 41 inches. This
figure cannot be held to be absolutely accurate, but care having been
of late years taken in gauging the rainfall, it is not very far from the
truth. In 1846, 20 inches of rain fell in as many hours, and the
whole District was flooded. Chengalpat has the reputation of being
one of the healthiest Districts in the Presidency. The fevers which
devastate so many other parts, are almost unknown in it. The annual
death-rate, according to the mortuary returns, is 22 per thousand.
Epidemic cholera has until recently been frequent, and, in 1875-76,
caused in Conjevaram alone 1067 deaths out of 1577. Since then,
however, there has been but little of this disease. Ague in the cold
damp weather is not uncommon, and small-pox and ophthalmia are
prevalent diseases. [For further information regarding Chengalpat, see
the Mamial of Chengalpat District, by C. S. Crole, Esq., C.S., Madras,
1879. Also the Madras Census Report for 1881 ; and the Annual
Administration Reports of the Madras Government from 1880 to 1883.]


Chengalpat (Chingleput).—Tdluk of Chengalpat District, Madras
Presidency. Area, 436 square miles; villages, 298; houses, 16,456;
population (1881) 117,218, or 269 persons per square mile, and nearly
7 per house. Males, 59,049; females, 58,169. The soil is mostly
ferruginous loam in the interior, and sandy towards the west. It is,
generally speaking, rocky and poor, the country being covered with low
hills and extensive scrub jungle. Its appearance is, however, generally
more pleasing and variegated than that of the rest of the District. The
taluk contained in 1883, 2 civil and 3 criminal courts, with 8 police
circles (thdnds) ; strength of police force, 69 men.

Chengalpat (Cliingleput, 'The brick town'). — Chief town of the
taluk of Chengalpat, Chengalpat District, Madras Presidency. Lat.
12 42' 1" n., long. 8o° 1' 13" e. ; population (1881) 5617, namely,
5286 Hindus, 235 Muhammadans, 95 Christians, and 1 unspecified.
Situated at the junction of the Chengalpat-Arkonam branch with the
main line of the South Indian Railway. As the seat of the District
Sessions Judge, and the head-quarters of the sub-collector and civil
surgeon and of the taluk, it contains the usual civil and criminal
courts, as well as the court of the District munsif, jail, hospital,
post-office, etc. There is a large chhatram or free halting -place
for native travellers, built from local funds, and under the manage-
ment of the Local Fund Board ; also a public bungalow for the
accommodation of Europeans. The Roman Catholic and Free
Churches have established missions here.

The historic interest of Chengalpat centres in its fort, now partly
traversed by the railway, and abandoned for all military purposes. It
was erected about the end of the 16th century, when the Vijayanagar
Rajas, fallen from their original power, held their court alternately
here and at Chandragiri. The workmanship proves it to be of
Hindu origin, and the site selected must have rendered it impreg-
nable in the past. On three sides lie a lake and swamps ; the fourth,
naturally weak, is strongly defended by a double line of fortifications.
Although now commanded on all sides by modern artillery, it has always
been considered one of the keys of the Presidency town. About 1644,
the fort passed into the hands of the Golconda chiefs, by whom it was
surrendered to the Nawabs of Arcot, who in turn gave it up in 1751 to
Chanda Sahib, when, assisted by the French, he invaded the Karnatic.
In 1752, Clive bombarded it, compelling the French garrison to
surrender; and throughout the campaign it continued of the first
importance to the British— now as a place of confinement for the
French prisoners, now as a depot for war material, and again as a
centre for petty operations against the turbulent Palegars of the sur-
rounding country. After the reduction of Fort St. David, the Madras
Government, apprehensive of an attack on Madras, called in all the


garrisons and stores from outlying forts ; and the stronghold of
Chengalpat was thus actually abandoned in 1758. Considerations of
its importance soon, however, persuaded our Government to re-occupy
it, and while the French were advancing from the south, a strong
garrison was thrown into it from Madras. Lally, the French General,
arrived just too late, and, finding it impregnable except by regular siege,
made the mistake of leaving it in his rear, and passed on to Madras.
During the siege that followed, the garrison of Chengalpat rendered
invaluable assistance, not only by securing the country north of the
Palar, but by sallying out with disastrous effect upon the rear of the
investing enemy. In 1780, the British force, after the destruction
of General Baillie's column, found refuge here; and during the wars
with Mysore, this fortress was once taken by the enemy, re-occupied
by the British, and twice unsuccessfully besieged. It was from the
Palegar or Nayakkan of Chengalpat and Chandragiri that the British
criginally obtained permission, in 1639, to build the town of Madras.

Chengama (Tingrecotta or Singaricotta). — A pass connecting the

Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 3) → online text (page 46 of 56)