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c^TAT E Q U i E T EM





The Imperial Gazetteer of India.















^1 30^-





Cochin. — Native State in subsidiary alliance with the British
Government, and politically connected with the Presidency of Madras
— called after the town of the same name, formerly its capital, but
since its capture from the Dutch in 1795, ^ British possession, and
included within the limits of the District of Malabar. That District
bounds the State of Cochin on the west, north, and north-east ; a small
portion at the south-west is washed by the Arabian Sea ; and the State
of Travancore forms the southern boundary. It lies between 9° 48'
and 10" 50' N. lat, and between 76° 5' and 76° 58' e. long. ; and con-
tains 7 Sub-divisions — namely, Cochin, Cannanore, Mugundapuram,
Trichiir, Tallapalli, Chittur, and Kranganur. Total area, 1361 square
miles. Population (1881) 600,278, namely, 301,815 males and 298,463

Physical Aspects. — The most striking physical feature of the country
is the series of shallow lakes or backwaters, which receive the drainage
of the numerous streams descending from the Western Ghd^ts, and
are consequently liable to great rises as these feeders swell, and to
equally great reductions in volume as they dry up. One of these
feeders, the Alwai, has been known to rise nearly 16 feet in twenty-
four hours; and the backwater into which^it flows sometimes continues
swollen for months, while in the dry season it shrinks in many places
to a depth of 2 feet, and even to 6 inches at the northern and
southern extremities. The Cochin backwaters extend from north
to south for a distance of about 120 miles in all, passing consider-
ably beyond the boundary of the State. Their breadth varies from a
maximum of 10 miles to not more than a few hundred yards; and
^they are very irregular in form, branching into a great number of
, intricate and shallow channels, containing several low alluvial islands.



The communication with the sea is at three points — one at the city
of Cochin, another at Kodungalilr or Kranganiir, and the third at
Chetuwai or Chatwai. Though the backwaters are in most places
shallow, navigation is at all times possible from Cochin to Kranganiir,
and from Cochin to Aleppi or Aulapolai, both for passenger and cargo
boats. During the rains, all parts are navigable by flat-bottomed boats ;
but for the conveyance of petty merchandise, canoes drawing little
water are preferred. All the lands washed by the backwaters, whether
islands or enclosing banks, are low and swampy, and liable to be flooded
during the monsoon inundations. They are in general densely covered
with luxuriant cocoa-nut palms ; and in such places as are embanked,
great quantities of rice are grown.

The chief rivers of Cochin are the Ponani, the Tattamangalam, the
Karuvamir, and the Shalakudi. The Alwai or Periyur also passes
through a portion of the State, The timber of Cochin is amongst
the most valuable of its products, the revenue derived from the forests
in 1881-82 being ^^5812. The principal timber tract is Iruari in the
north-east, which is covered with dense forests of teak-trees of enormous
size, but less durable and elastic than timber of the same kind pro-
duced in Travancore and Malabar. It is consequently more in demand
for building houses than for ships, for which latter purpose it is also
rendered less suitable by being cut into short blocks, in order that it
may be dragged to the torrents which sweep it down to the backwater.
The violence with which it is carried down the streams often renders
it unfit for purposes requiring wood of large dimensions. Other
valuable descriptions of timber are peon or pun^ of which excellent
masts are made ; and black wood, angel}\ jack, ben-teak, and bastard
cedar. The only mineral products which contribute to the revenue of
the State are laterite and granite ; for though both gold and iron were
at one time worked, these industries have now died out. The flora,
however, abounds in plants of commercial value. Besides the timber-
trees already mentioned, the hills afford a great variety of drug, dye
and gum-yielding shrubs ; cardamoms are produced in many parts, and
everywhere on the hills the jungle exhibits a splendid luxuriance of
foliage and flowers. The fauna includes all the larger animals of
Southern India — elephant, bison, bear, tiger, leopard, sdmbhar^ and
ibex, with many varieties of deer. The hunting leopard, hyaena, wolf,
fox, monkey, etc., are also found, and birds are very abundant, as also
are snakes and other reptiles.

History. — The State arose out of the dismemberment of the Malayalam
kingdom in the time of Cheruma Perumal, from whom, by right of
lineal descent, the present Rajas of Cochin claim to hold their territory.
Cheruma Perumal governed the whole country of Kerala or Chera,
including Travancore and Malabar, in the 9th century, first as


viceroy and afterwards as an independent ruler. Cochin early
succumbed to the Portuguese, who in the i6th century built a fort,
and established commercial and missionary relations with the adjoining
districts. In 1599, the Archbishop of Goa convened a synod at
Udiampur, at which the tenets of the Syrian Christians, then a large
body, were declared heretical. In 1662, the Dutch took the town of
Cochin from the Portuguese, and under their management it soon
attained to great prosperity. A century later, the Zamorin of Calicut
invaded the State, but was expelled by the Raja of Travancore, who
obtained, as a reward for this service, a portion of Cochin. In 1776,
Haidar All, the ruler of Mysore, overran the country, compelling it
to become tributary; and in 1790, his son, Tipii, entered the State,
and laid it waste as far as Virapalai, when he was recalled to the
defence of Seringapatam. It remained nominally under the authority
of Tipii until 1799, when Mysore was conquered by the British.
Already, in the preceding year, the Raja of Cochin had signed an
independent treaty with the Company, by which he acknowledged
himself its tributary, and agreed to a yearly tribute of ;^io,ooo. In
1809, a conspiracy to assassinate the Resident and to commence
hostilities against the British necessitated the employment of troops.
After the pacification of the State, another treaty was concluded, bind-
ing the Raja to a yearly payment of ;^2 7,000, and admitting the right
of the Company to control the distribution of its forces in the State,
and to demand increased payments in proportion to any increase of
military expenditure on behalf of the Raja, it being provided that in
no case should his income fall below ;£^35oo, in addition to one-fifth
of the annual revenue. The Raja engaged to hold no correspondence
with any foreign State without the knowledge of the British Government,
to admit no Europeans into his service, nor allow any to remain within
his territory without the consent of the British authorities, who might
dismantle or garrison any fortresses in his dominions. On the other
hand, the British undertook to defend the territories of the Raja
against all enemies whatsoever. Subsequently, in 181 9, the annual
payment to the British Government was reduced to ;2{^24jOoo, being
one-half of the estimated revenue at that time ; and at a still later
period, the tribute was fixed at ;^2 0,000, at which sum it remains at
the present day. Since the date of this transfer of power to the
British, Cochin has no history beyond that of internal reforms. In
1836, some changes were made in the levy of transit dues ; and in
1848, the freedom of commercial intercourse between this State
and the neighbouring Districts was further advanced by the removal
of frontier customs' restrictions ; thus, among other advantages,
facilitating the passage of merchandise from Malabar and Coimbatore
to the port of Cochin. By the inter-portal convention of 1865, the


system of inland transit duties was altogether abolished ; the State
agreeing to equalize the rates of customs' duty at its seaports with
those obtaining at the ports of British India, and to sell salt within its
limits at the price ruling in the District of Malabar. In return for
these concessions, the British Government guaranteed to the State a
minimum customs' revenue of ;£" 10,000, and a revenue from tobacco
of ^'1050 per annum.

Population. — The first Census recorded, that of 1820, returned the
total population at 223,003; but the method adopted was defective,
and it was not till 1875 that a satisfactory enumeration was accom-
plished. The total population then disclosed was 601,114 persons,
inhabiting 120,220 houses. The returns of the last Census, taken on
the 17th February 1881, gave the total population at 600,278 persons,
or a decrease of 836 since 1875 ; number of persons per square mile,
441. The principal races are Malayalis, Tamulians, Konkanis, and
Telugus. Divided according to religion, there were 429,324 Hindus,
33,344 Muhammadans, 136,361 Christians, and 1249 Jews. The
Christians, of whom 15,422 are Protestants, form about 21 per cent, of
the population ; most of the remainder belong either to the Romano-
Syrian Church, established here in 1659, and subject to the Archbishop
of Malabar, or to the orthodox Roman Catholic Church under the Arch-
bishop of Goa. The Jacobite and Nestorian Churches, acknowledging
the Patriarch of Antioch as their head, and established long before
the period of European settlements, also number many members, a few
being substantial landowners. The proportion of Christians is 3 per
cent, higher than in the adjoining State of Travancore, and 197 per cent,
more than in the Madras Presidency generally. The Christians are
massed in the neighbourhood of the sea-coast backwaters and lagoons,
and almost monopolize the boating and fishing industry. Arranged
according to local precedence, the Hindu castes stand as follows : —
(1) Brahmans, who form 3*6 per cent, of the population, and are
generally priests and proprietors of land ; (2) Kshatriyas, also gene-
rally landowners ; (3) Ambalavasis, temple servitors ; (4) Nairs,
superior agriculturists and Government servants ; (5) Pillais, sub-
ordinate Government servants ; (6) Ottars, contractors for labour ;
(7) Vallamars, fishermen, cloth-weavers, potters, and artisans of all
kinds ; (8) Ezhuwans, agricultural labourers ; (9) Chermars, agricultural
serfs; (10) hillmen. Of these, the first four may be described as well-
to-do, and the two last as wretchedly poor. The chief hill tribe is
that of the Malayars or Kaders, living on roots, leaves, mice and other
small animals, without fixed settlements or ostensible occupation, except
occasional basket-weaving. The Vallamars, who live by fresh-water
fishing, number 4000, but the sea fisheries are monopolized by the
Marakan caste, who are more numerous. A considerable trade in


cured fish is carried on along the coast, emigrants from Ceylon
coming over annually to engage in it during the fishing season. Im-
migration affects the population returns to the extent of about 8000
annually, the new-comers generally settling in the State. Enumera-
tions of the population have been made five times during the last 55
years, and the result up to 1875 ^"'^^ been to show a great and
continuous, though not always uniform, increase. Up to 1875, the
increase per annum in Cochin had been i*86 per cent. — a more rapid
rate than in any of the chief European countries. The Census,
however, of 1881 showed a decrease of 836 persons. The density of
the population is 441 persons per square mile — a number exceeded,
however, in Tanjore. The luxuriant growth of the cocoa palm on
the sea-shore and backwaters is the chief support of this heavy popu-
lation. Little labour being entailed by this cultivation, abundant
opportunity exists for further earnings. Nearly the whole produce of
the country consists of special articles for export; the collection of
which at the port of Cochin, by the endless network of canals, affords
ample employment to boatmen, imported rice being distributed in the
shape of return cargo. The fact that a sufficient fish diet is available
at an almost nominal cost has an important bearing upon the material
condition of the people.

The most populous towns are— Ernakolam, the capital, with 14,038
inhabitants in 1875; Cochin, 13,775 i Trichur, 11,109 ; and Tripun-
THORA, the residence of the Raja, 8493. Seven other towns had over
5000 inhabitants, and 47 more between 2000 and 4000, making the
urban population 248,000, or 40 per cent, of the total. Smaller villages
numbered 595, the average population being about 380. Later statistics
for town and village population are not available. The tendency to
gather into towns has become marked in recent years, while the pro-
portion of tiled houses annually increases.

A gi-icultu7'e. — Rice forms the staple of cultivation, some 50 varieties
being locally distinguished ; the best land supports three crops annually.
Next to rice, cocoa-nut engages the attention of the cultivators.
Wherever a sufficiently light soil prevails, this tree is grown ; and its
products — coir, oil, coprah, and the nuts — form the chief exports of
the State. Other crops are — besides the usual cereals, pulses, and
vegetables, — cotton, coffee, indigo, betel leaf and areca-nuts, hemp,
flax, sugar-cane, ginger, and pepper. This list illustrates the very
diversified and fertile nature of the soil. Irrigation obtains only on a
small scale, the natural rainfall usually sufficing for the crops. Manure,
where necessary, consists chiefly of vegetable refuse, leaves, bark, etc.,
and the ashes of burnt wood. Of the total area of the State (871,359
acres), nearly one-third, or 288,125 acres, is under cultivation, divided
among 66,250 separate registered proprietors ; the assessment ranging


from 6s. an acre downwards. The yield of an acre of superior rice
land averages in value ;^7, 3s. ; that of inferior land, ;£Af. The
majority of cultivators do not hold more than 5 acres, from which they
obtain the equivalent of about i6s. a month. Most of them cultivate
their own land, and tenants-at-will are rare. Rent was, till the present
century, paid in kind ; but, after several tentative standards, it has
now been roughly commuted at about one-fourth of the value of
the produce. Beyond this, no regular conversion of rents into cash
has been introduced, nor do any of the revenue regulations of British
Districts obtain here. The proprietary right in the soil rests either in
the Government or private persons. In the former case, the tenants
occupy for the most part on, nominally, simple lease, held direct from
Government, but about one-fifth of the whole is in reality mortgaged
to the tenants. Only two kinds of land are fiscally recognised — ' rice
land ' and ' garden land,' the former being assessed by the area
under crops, and the latter by the number of trees upon it. Cocoa-
nut palms, jack fruit-trees, and palmyras pay the highest rates, which
range from is. lod. per tree down to 2d. Where no trees exist, the
crop is assessed at about is. 4d. per acre. Various imposts supplement
the ka?iom or land-tax proper, — the chief being kettit-thengu, levied
upon every 100 trees, after each has been taxed individually; nekudi,
a royalty collected by the State on the rents of private lands ; and
7?iaptira, taken from all holdings above a certain size. Wages have
doubled in every branch of labour during the last 20 years, and now
average for a carpenter or bricklayer yd. per diem, for a smith lod.,
and for a day-labourer 5d. Prices of food have increased in even
greater proportion; rice, which in 1851 was at 3s. per maund (or
4s. id. per cwt), cost in 187 1, 6s. 6d. (or 8s. lod. per cwt). The
price of all other grains has risen proportionately. This rise, however,
does not much affect the poorest class of day-labourers, for they receive
the bulk of their wages in kind, at the old rates of about 4 lbs. of grain
per diem for an adult male, 3 lbs. for a woman, and 2 lbs. for a child,
the rate of commutation being generally fixed at 5d., 3d., and 2d. per
diem for each. Among the urban population an increasing prosperity
is marked by the improved class of dwellings erected, and by the more
general distribution of luxuries. The monthly expenses for a house-
hold of the average shopkeeper class would be ^^4, those of an average
peasant ^i, los.

Cojnmerce and Manufactures. — In spite of its favourable configuration
for commerce, and its great natural resources. Cochin possesses no
important trade by sea or land. The total number of vessels which
called in 1881-82, at the ports of Mallipuram and Narakal, was only 82.
The port dues amounted to £^\2. Except in the coffee cultivation
on the Nelliampatti range, European capital has not yet been attracted


to the State. In the Cochin and Kanayanur taluks, ornamental work
in metals, and carving in wood and ivory, are carried to a point of great
excellence ; and the hardware and arms here manufactured command
a sale beyond the limits of the State. The timber produced in the
forests, and the salt manufactured along the coast, are Government
monopolies, and yield a large revenue. The old tobacco monopoly
was abolished in 1862. Among local products, the cocoa-nut palm
supplies in its nut and fibre an article of export ; but the others —
areca-nut, ginger, oil-seeds, pepper, etc. — are only locally interchanged.
The Madras Railway approaches the State at Shoranur, where there
is a station. The principal exports, besides rice and the products
of the cocoa-nut already mentioned, are pepper, cardamoms, and

Means of ConifHunication. — In consequence of the great extent and
facility of water carriage, and of the impediments presented by torrents,
backwaters, and inlets of the sea, the construction of roads has, until
recently, been little regarded ; but there are now 133 miles of good
road in the State. The longest and most important line runs nearly
parallel to the sea-shore, and on an average about a mile from it. This
forms the principal military and official route between Travancore and
IMalabar. Its continuity, however, is frequently broken by the water
channels which cross it. In the less swampy parts about Trichiir,
there are some excellent portions of road, for making which the pre-
vailing formation of laterite is well suited. The Cochin Government
has always readily assumed its share in works common to the State
and to British territory, such as the protective works at Cruz Milagre
(where an opening of the breakwater into the sea threatened by
diminishing the scour over the Cochin bar to impair the value of the
harbour), and the improvement of the West Coast Canal for a length
of 30 miles where it forms the boundary of the State. Again, when a
cart-road was projected to connect Ponani with the southern end of the
Shoranur bridge, and thus with the railway without the necessity of
fording the river, the Cochin Government readily undertook the cost of
the length lying within the State. There is now water communication
(canals and backwater) for 45 miles between Cochin and Trichiir, and
smaller canals branch from this line along its length. Throughout this
water system considerable traffic is carried on for nine months of the
year, for the remaining three (the hot months) the communication is
often interrupted.

Religious and other Institutions. — Public libraries, aided by State
grants, have been established at Ernakolam and Trichiir ; and the
numerous missions represented in Cochin support printing-presses,
private schools, and societies for the advancement of knowledge. The
Catholic mission has a large number of educational institutions. The


Official Gazette of Cochin is the only periodical publication. Chari-
table endowments, providing for the maintenance of Brahman travellers,
are attached to all the pagodas ; and the State also grants aid to many
establishments for the support of the local Brahman population. The
total expenditure on religious and charitable endowments amounts to
;2£"i 1,732 per annum. Religious gatherings are held annually at all the
chief pagodas ; the attendance at the most important — that held at
Kranganiir, and lasting for ten days — averages 12,000 per diem. At all
these gatherings a large interchange of local produce is effected.

Natural Calamities. — The State of Cochin is not subject to famine,
the ample means of communication which it possesses placing it
beyond the likelihood of such a visitation. Nor are destructive floods
or droughts known. A local inundation or deficiency of rainfall may at
times have caused temporary loss, but there is no case on record of
an entire harvest having been destroyed.

Admi?iistration. — The State is divided for administrative purposes
into 7 taluks or Sub-divisions, each supervised by a tahsilddr, the local
head of the police, revenue, and magisterial administration, assisted by
a subordinate native staff. In matters of revenue, the tahsilddrs are
under the direct control of the Diwdn, or chief magistrate of the State,
and responsible adviser of the Raja ; while in matters of police or
criminal justice they are subject to the Diwdn-peshkdr (the chief
assistant of the Diwdn)^ who is assisted by a Deputy. Civil justice is
administered locally by five imuisifs, possessing jurisdiction in civil
suits up to the value of ^50, and by two zild courts. The Court
of Appeal, the highest tribunal of the State, has unlimited powers, both
civil and criminal, subject only in sentences of death and imprisonment
for life to the confirmation of the Raja. The administrative head-
quarters of Cochin are at Ernakolam; but the Raja resides at Tripuntora,
5 miles distant. The Penal Code of British India has been partially intro-
duced into the State, and also a Registration Act modelled upon our
Actviii. of 1871. The total revenue for 1881-82 amounted to ;£i44,928;
the total expenditure, to ;£'i33,426. In 1809-10, the revenue was only
;^58,7i6 ; and the expenditure, ;£^5o,37o. The chief items of income
(1881-82) were — land revenue, ^63,539; customs, ^^11,619; salt,
;£i 8,353 ; and excise on spirits and drugs, ^4270 : principal
items of expenditure — subsidy to British Government, ;£20,ooo ;
Raja's establishment, ;;^ 1 8,5 16 ; administration (judicial, revenue, and
police), ;^23,348; religious and charitable endowments, ^11,732;
public works, ^15,769. The police force numbers 217 men,
and costs annually ^1470. During 1881-82 they arrested 3391
persons implicated in 1397 cases, obtaining only 654 convictions, while
the remainder were either acquitted or discharged. Owing to the
peculiar system of police administration obtaining in the State, these


figures do not convey a correct view of the working of the Department,
the reorganization of which is under contemplation. There is no village
watch such as obtains in the neighbouring British Districts. The daily
number of prisoners in jail during 1881-82 averaged 134 ; the charges
for the maintenance of the jails were ^381 ; average cost per head,
;^2, 1 6s. lod. Education costs the State ^2646 annually, the chief
institution being the High School at Ernakolam, with an average daily
attendance of 213 pupils. Five Anglo-vernacular, one Hebrew-Sanskrit,
and seven Malayalam schools receive grants-in-aid from Government,
as also do numerous primary schools for boys. Female education has
not as yet engaged State attention. Of the total population of 600,278,
the Census disclosed 26,621 as being able to read and write ; of these,
1 133 were women. The postal department, which is modelled on that of
British India, carried during 1870-71 about 17,300 letters, 950 news-
papers, and 17 books, exclusive of all covers on public service. There
are no municipalities. In regard to jurisdiction over European British
subjects, the Raja, with the approval of the Madras Government, appoints

Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 4) → online text (page 1 of 58)