William Wilson Hunter.

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the good Raja's palace.

Karnal. — District in the Lieutenant-Governorship of the Punjab,
lying between 29 9' and 30 11' n. lat., and between 76 13' and 77°
15' 30" e. long. Karnal is the northernmost District of the Delhi
Division, and stands twenty-first in order of area, and fourteenth in
order of population among the thirty-two Districts of the Province.
It is bounded on the north by the District of Ambala (Umbala) and the
Native State of Patiala, on the west by the Native States of Patiala and
Jind, on the south by the Districts of Delhi and Rohtak, and on the
east by the river Jumna (Jamuna), which separates it from the North-
western Provinces. The District includes 45 outlying villages,
scattered throughout Patiala territory, the furthest of which, Budlada, is
10 1 miles distant from head-quarters. It is divided into three tahsils,
of which Panipat includes the southern, Karnal the central and north-
eastern, and Kaithal the western and north-western portions of the
District. Area, 2396 square miles. Population in 1881, 622,621 souls.
The administrative head-quarters are at Karnal town.

Physical Aspects. — Karnal forms a portion of the low dividing ridge
which separates the watersheds of the Sutlej and the Jumna (Jamuna),
its north-western angle being drained by small streams which swell the
freshet torrent of the Ghaggar, while its eastern front slopes gently down
to the banks of the Jumna itself. The District falls naturally into
two divisions — bdngar, or upland plain, and khddar, or low-lying land,
which fringes the valley of the great river. The former consists in its
highest portion of a grazing country, covered in favourable seasons with
rank and luxuriant grasses, whose monotonous level is broken by belts
of brushwood, and interspersed with local hollows fringed with trees of
larger growth. It is traversed in its north-western extremity by the
Ghaggar and the Saraswati, whose floods fertilize a large area. These
open pastures are succeeded to the south and east by a cultivated zone,
through whose midst the Western Jumna Canal distributes its various
branches. Three main channels convey the water towards Delhi,
Hissar, and Rohtak, while minor courses penetrate the fields around
in every direction.

Unhappily, however, the high level of the canal, and the imperfections
of the distributary system, called upon by the increasing demand for
irrigation to carry a supply far larger than that for which it was designed,


have led to much flooding, which has produced its usual bad effects on
the health of this region. Lines of swamps run along the sides of the
embankments, and seriously interfere, not only with the sanitary condition,
but also with the cultivation of the neighbouring villages ; while soda
salts brought to the surface by the high spring level, cover with a snow-
like efflorescence, which is fatal to vegetation, many square miles of what
were once fertile fields. Government is at present engaged on an
extensive improvement in the upper course of the canal, which is now
(1883) on the point of completion, and will, it is hoped, remedy this
defect, and render the work an unmixed benefit to the people whose
lands it was designed to fertilize.

Between the irrigated country and the river stretches the khddar, or
wide valley of the Jumna. It is less abundantly wooded than the
remainder of the District, though even here date-palms abound, and
a thick jungle skirts in places the banks of the river.

The banks of the larger streams are fringed with forest trees, and
groves of mangoes mark the neighbourhood of every temple or home-
stead. Indeed, as a whole, Karnal is better supplied with trees than
most of the plain country of the Punjab.

The Jumna forms the entire eastern boundary of the District for a
distance of 73 miles, separating Karnal from Saharanpur, Muzaffar-
nagar, and Meerut (Merath) Districts in the North-Western Provinces.
Its bed varies from half a mile to a mile in width, of which the cold-
weather stream only occupies a few hundred yards. Changes are
continually taking place in the river-bed. Sandbanks shift from one
side to the other of the main channel, and from time to time the whole
stream changes its course. The Jumna, however, is by no means
so capricious as many of the Punjab rivers. Its present tendency
is slightly towards the east; and within the last few years it has
changed its channel below Karnal town, so that six villages, formerly
in Muzaffarnagar, are now included in this District. The other rivers
or streams are the Ghaggar, Saraswati, Bun Nadi, Chautang, and Nai
Nadi. The District contains numerous jhils and swamps, principally
along the lines of the canals, and near the confluence of the Ghaggar
and Saraswati. It is intended to drain some of these jhils, and the
drainage cuts have been commenced.

The Western Jumna Canal enters Karnal from Ambala District
about 25 miles north-west of Karnal town. It flows through the
low-lying khddar to a point four miles below Karnal town, where
the Grand Trunk Road crosses it by an old Mughal bridge, and then
enters the upland or bdngar tract. From this point it holds a south-
west course for about 18 miles till, near the village of Rer, the Hansi'
branch strikes off westwards, via Saffdon, and occupying the bed of
the Chautang, flows on to Hansi and Hissar. From Rer, the Delhi


branch runs south to Delhi city. About ten miles below Rer, another
branch strikes off south-westwards towards Rohtak ; and a few miles
further on, just upon the confines of the District, another branch goes
to Butana. All these branches are used for irrigation in Karnal
District, and distributary channels from one or other of them penetrate
to all parts of the bdngar tract.

The only mineral products are kankar and sal-ammoniac. The former
is plentiful in most parts of the District, generally in the nodular form,
but occasionally compacted into blocks. Sal-ammoniac is only made in
the Kaithal tahsil.

The District is famous for its sport. Antelope, nilgai, and other
large game are plentiful in the northern jungles ; partridge, hare,
and quail abound throughout the District; while the canal and its
attendant jhih afford a home for numerous water-fowl, whose depre-
dations seriously interfere with the out-turn of the rice crop. Fish
abound in the Jumna, in the swamps along the canals, and in most
of the village ponds.

History. — No District of India can boast of a more ancient history
than Karnal, as almost every town or stream is connected with the
sacred legends of the Mahdbhdrata. The city of Karnal itself,
from which the modern District has taken its name, is said by
tradition to owe its foundation to Raja Kama, the mythical champion
of the Kauravas in the great war which forms the theme of the national
epic, while the greater part of the northern uplands are included in the
Kurukshetr or battle-field of the opposing armies of the Kauravas and
Pandavas. From the same authority we learn that Panipat, in the
south of the District, was one of the pledges demanded from Duryo-
dhan by Yudisthira as the price of peace in that famous conflict.

In historical times, the plains of Panipat have three times
been the theatre of battles which decided the fate of Upper
India. It was here that Ibrahim Lodi and his vast host were
defeated in 1526 by the veteran army of Babar, when the Mughal
dynasty first made good its pretensions to the Empire of Delhi.
Thirty years later, in 1556, the greatest of that line, Akbar, re-asserted
the claims of his family on the same battle-field against the Hindu
general of the house of Sher Shdh, which had driven the heirs of Babar
from the throne for a brief interval. Finally, under the walls of
Panipat, on the 7th of January 1761, was fought the battle which
shattered the Maratha confederation, and raised Ahmad Shah Durani
for a while to the position of arbiter of the entire empire.

It was at Karnal town that the Persian Nadir Shah defeated the feeble
Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah, in 1759. During the troublous
period which ensued, the Sikhs managed to introduce themselves into
the country about Karnal; and in 1767, one of their chieftains,


Desu Singh, appropriated the fort of Kaithal, which had been built
during the reign of Akbar. His descendants, the Bhais of Kaithal,
were reckoned amongst the most important cis-Sutlej princes. The
country immediately surrounding the town of Karnal was occupied
about the same date by the Raja of Jind ; but in 1795 ** was captured
by the ubiquitous Marathas, and bestowed by them upon George
Thomas, the military adventurer of Hariana. He was, however, almost
immediately dispossessed by the Sikh Raja, Gurdit Singh of Lddwa, who
held it till 1805, when it was captured by an English force, and con-
fiscated as a punishment for the Raja having actively opposed the
British after the battle of Delhi in September 1803.

Karnal was included in the Conquered Provinces which we obtained
from the Marathasby the treaties of Sarji-Anjangaon andPoona(i8o3-o4).
In pursuance of the policy of Lord Cornwallis, Kaithal, and the numerous
petty States which bordered Karnal on the north-west, remained in the
hands of their Sikh possessors, while the remainder of the District was
parcelled out among those who had rendered us service. Of these
latter, the Pathan Nawab of Kunjpura, and a Hindu family who still
enjoy the revenue of the town and pargand of Karnal, alone retain
their grants, all the others having lapsed on the death of the holders.
Under Sikh rule, the sole cbject of the local governments appears to
have been the collection of the largest possible revenue. Every rupee
that could be extracted from the native cultivators was pressed into the
fiscal bag of their Sikh over-lords, while cattle-lifting and open violence
went unpunished on every side. Sir H. Lawrence, who effected the
land settlement of Kaithal after the British occupation in 1843,
described the Sikh system as one of ' sparing the strong and squeezing
the weak.' Much of the District had formed a sort of No-Man's land
between the Sikhs and the Marathas, and when we took it in 1803,
' more than four-fifths was overrun by forests, and the inhabitants either
removed or were exterminated. 5 In 1819, the Delhi territory was
parcelled out into Districts, one of which had its head-quarters at
Panipat. The northern portion of the present District, held by the
Sikh princes, lapsed from time to time into the hands of the British.
Kaithal fell to us on the death of Desu Singh's last representative, in
1843. The disorder of the Sikh Government was immediately
suppressed by prompt measures ; two large cattle-lifting raids were
made within a week of the British occupation, and the timely severity
with which the culprits were apprehended and punished taught the
predatory classes what treatment they might expect from the hands
of their new masters. The petty State of Thanesar lapsed in
1850, and its capital was made for a time the head-quarters of a
separate District, in which Kaithal was included ; but after the Mutiny
of 1857, when the Delhi territory was transferred to the Punjab,


Thanesar District was broken up, and its pargands redistributed in
1862 between Karnal and Ambala (Umballa). The course of events
during late years has been marked by few incidents, and nothing more
than local marauding occurred during the troubles of 1857. The
towns are not generally in a flourishing condition, and the opening of
the railway on the opposite bank of the Jumna has somewhat pre-
judicially affected the trade of Karnal. But although the District
cannot compare with its wealthy neighbours in the Doab, it still
possesses great agricultural resources and considerable commerce.

Population. — Owing to numerous territorial changes in the parga?uis
at present composing Karnal District, it is impossible to give compara-
tive statistics of the number of inhabitants previous to the Census of
1868. In that year an enumeration, taken over an area correspond-
ing to that of the present District (2396 square miles), disclosed a
population of 617,997. In 1881, the Census returned a total popula-
tion of 622,621, showing a nominal increase of 4624 in thirteen years,
thus apparently indicating that the population of what was in great part a
tract desolated by continuous struggles between the Sikhs and Marathas,
has now reached the stationary stage. The results of the Census of
1881 may be briefly summarized as follows : — Area, 2396 square miles ;
number of towns and villages, 863 ; number of houses, 91,442, of
which 68,271 are occupied, and 23,171 unoccupied. Number of
families, 118,608. Total population, 622,621, namely, males 336,171,
and females 286,450; proportion of males, 53-9 per cent. The excessive
preponderance of males may be held to imply the former prevalence
of female infanticide, which has not yet been entirely stamped out.
Classified according to age, there were, under 15 years of age — males
121,665, females 101,145 ; total children, 222,810, or 35-8 per cent, of
the population. Above 15 years — males 214,506, and females 185,305 ;
total adults, 399,811, or 64*2 per cent, of the population. From the
foregoing figures the following averages may be deduced : — Persons per
square mile, 260; villages per square mile, 0*36; persons per village,
721 ; houses per square mile, 38 ; persons per house, 9*12. As regards
religious distinctions, the Hindu element decidedly preponderates, its
adherents being returned at 453,662, or 72*8 per cent, of the inhabitants.
The Muhammadans rank second, with 156,183, or 25*1 percent. The
Sikhs form a mere sprinkling of 8036 persons, being only 1*3 per cent,
of the total. The remaining population consists of — Jains, 4655, and
Christians, 85.

In the ethnical classification, the Jats rank first, numbering 95,108,
nearly all Hindus. As usual, they represent the chief agricultural
element, being careful and thrifty cultivators ; yet here, as in most other
Districts, they are confined to the once sterile uplands, while the
Rajputs and Giijars occupy the fruitful khddar. Second in numerical


order come the Brahmans, with 55,168, most of whom are engaged in
cultivation, being found most thickly in the Jumna valley. The
Chamars, who form the majority of the landless labouring class across
the Jumna in the Upper Doab, rank third, with 54,067. The Rajputs
number 53,260 persons, chiefly Muhammadans, and bear the same
reputation for thriftlessness as elsewhere. The Baniyas or trading class
number 40,599, all Hindus or Jains. The Rors, an agricultural caste
akin to the Jats, whom they almost equal as husbandmen, number
34,094. The pastoral Giijars number 21,898 in all, of whom about
one-third are converts to Islam ; they have not yet adopted an agricul-
tural life, and their villages are scattered about the low-lying khddar
country. The other most numerous castes and clans are — Chuhras,
31,288; Jhinwars, 31,200; Kumbhars, 14,712; Tarkhans, 13,787;
Nais, 10,307; Mali's, 10,124. The most numerous Muhammadan class
by race descent, as apart from the descendants of converts from
Hinduism, are the Shaikhs, who number 13,789.

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts
has a mission station in Karnal town, established in 1865, and two
branch missions at Panipat and Kaithal, established in 1882. The
number of Native Christians connected with the mission, who are
employed as mission agents, is returned at 36. The operations of the
mission include zandnd teaching, girls' schools, a dispensary under
charge of a female medical missionary, and a school for children of low
castes, such as Chamars.

Division of the People into Town and Country. — The Census of 188 1
returned the urban population at 78,328, residing in the following six
towns: — Karnal, 23,133; Panipat, 25,022; Kaithal, 14,754;
Sewan, 5717; Pundri, 4977; and Kunjpura, 47 2 5- The total
urban population therefore amounted to 12-58 per cent, of the inhabit-
ants of the District. Of the 863 towns and villages, 225 contain less
than two hundred inhabitants; 284 from two to five hundred; 182
from five hundred to a thousand; 117 from one thousand to two
thousand ; 35 from two thousand to three thousand ; 16 from three to
five thousand; 1 from five to ten thousand; 1 from ten to fifteen
thousand ; and 2 from twenty to thirty thousand. As regards occupa-
tion, the Census classifies the male population over 15 years of age
into the following seven groups :— Class (1) Professional class, including
all persons in civil or military employ, and the learned professions,
7779; (2) domestic and menial class, 14,105 ; (3) commercial class,
including bankers, merchants, and carriers, 5742 ; (4) agricultural and
pastoral class, including gardeners, 117,216; (5) industrial and manu-
facturing class, 50,712; (6) indefinite and non-productive class, 16,903 ;
(7) unspecified, 2049. The language in common use among the people
is Hindi.


Agriculture. — The total area under cultivation in Karnal is returned
at 680,319 acres; while the uncultivated area amounts to 853,671
acres, of which 562,558 are cultivable. The principal spring crop of
the year is wheat, the yield of the irrigated villages being particularly
large. The autumn harvest consists of rice, cotton, and sugar-cane,
besides millets and pulses for home consumption. The area under
each staple in 1S82 was as follows: — Spring crops — wheat, 91,691
acres; barley, 39,144 acres; gram, 74,970 acres: Autumn crops — rice,
10,826 acres ; jodr, 174,948 acres; bdjra, 54,022 acres; cotton, 22,088
acres; and sugar-cane, 17,869 acres. The growth of the more lucrative
crops is on the increase, under the stimulus given by the canal,
which ensures a fair return for the labour expended even in unfavour-
able seasons. The average out-turn per acre is estimated at 732
lbs. for rice, 159 lbs. for indigo, 173 lbs. for cotton, 11S8 lbs. for
sugar, 643 lbs. for wheat, and 397 lbs. for millet and the inferior

Irrigation is extensively practised, 249,160 acres being artificially
supplied with water; of these, 145,933 acres are irrigated by Govern-
ment works from the different branches of the Western Jumna Canal,
and 103,227 acres by private enterprise from wells. The use of manure is
on the increase. When the Government stud farm was established at
Karnal in 1853, the villagers could not be induced to cart away the
manure as a gift ; but they are now willing to pay a fair price for the
use of it. The Government stud farm was abolished in 1875. But horse
and mule breeding are still carried on from Government stallions at
Basdhara. General Perrott, the superintendent of the late Government
stud, to whom some of the buildings, lands, and stock were made over
on the abolition of the stud, has carried on horse-breeding as a private
undertaking, and has set on foot what promises to be a successful
breeding stud. There is also a Government cattle farm at Karnal. The
saline efflorescence known as reh, so deleterious in its effects that even
grass will not grow where it makes its appearance, has caused much
trouble in the neighbourhood of the canal. The village communities
are strong and united, most of them owning their lands by the tenure
known as bhdydclidra, or brotherhood. Traces of the primitive com-
munal system, however, still survive ; and cases are recorded in which
communities have voluntarily given up the bhdydclidra organization, and
redistributed their lands on this principle of shares.

The Census Report returns the total agricultural population at 331,796,
and the non-agricultural at 290,825. These figures, however, include
as agricultural only that part of the population whose sole occupation
is the cultivation of the land ; they exclude not only the considerable
number who combine agriculture with other operations, but also the
much larger number of artisans, labourers, and village servants who


are paid in kind, and who thus depend in a great measure for their
livelihood upon the harvest of the year. The majority of the agri-
cultural population are also landholders. According to the Census of
1881, the adult mole agricultural population consisted of 75,256 land-
holders, 21,032 tenants (chiefly tenants-at-will), 14,359 joint cultivators,
and 3071 agricultural labourers.

Rents, if calculated on a money basis, rule as follows, according to
the nature of the crop: — Rice, from 6s. to 10s. per acre; cotton, from
1 os. to 14s. ; sugar-cane, from 16s. to 22s. ; wheat land, irrigated, from
8s. to 13s. — nnirrigated, from 6s. to 9s. ; inferior grains, irrigated, 4s. to
6s. — unirrigated, 3s. to 4s. per acre. As a fact, rent, save in the form of
a share of the produce, is almost unknown. True rent is, however, now
beginning to make its way in the District. Agricultural wages are still
paid in kind, at the same rates which have been current from time
immemorial. Hired labour is made but little use of by the villagers,
except at harvest time. Sayyids and others, who will not do manual
labour, etc., however, often cultivate their fields by servants. Prices in
1873 rule ^ as follows :— Wheat, 22 sers per rupee, or 5s. id. per cwt. ;
barley, 38 sers per rupee, or 2s. nfd. per cwt. ; jodr and Indian corn,
30 sers per rupee, or 3s. 8|d, per cwt. In 1882, prices were returned
as under :— Wheat, 20 sers per rupee, or 5s. 7d. per cwt. ; barley, 34
sers per rupee, or 3s. 4d. per cwt. ; jodr and Indian corn, 31 sers per
rupee, or 3s. 7d. per cwt.

Commerce and Trade, etc. — The District is not remarkable for its
commerce or manufactures. Grain and other raw materials are
exported to Ambala (Umballa), Hissar, and Delhi, and raw sugar into
the Doab ; while the return trade consists of European piece-goods,
salt, wool, and oil-seeds. The produce of the canal villages goes via
Karnal town, where a brisk trade is carried on in either direction along
the Grand Trunk Road ; and also very largely via Panipat across the
river, to Shamli in the Doab, the great local sugar mart. Local trade is
principally conducted through the village shopkeepers (baniyds), who
deal with the large traders at the towns of Karnal, Kaithal, and
Panipat. But a considerable trade is also carried on by the villagers
themselves, during the hot season, when their field bullocks would
otherwise be idle.

A large quantity of cotton is woven for local use, the number
of looms being returned at 2080, and the annual value of their out-turn
at ^49,993. Sal-ammoniac is obtained from the clay of Kaithal and
Giila to the value of about ^3500 per annum. Karnal town has a few
blanket factories, and supplies many regiments with boots (a relic of the
days when there were cantonments at Karnal) ; and ornamental glass-
ware, metal vessels, and hide oil jars are made at Panipat. The District
has no railway, but the Grand Trunk Road passes through its midst,


connecting it with Delhi on one side, and Ambala on the other.
There are 69 miles of metalled and 540 miles of unmetalled road in
the District. The Jumna, with a course of 73 miles along the eastern
boundary of Karnal, is occasionally used as a waterway for flat-bottomed
boats ; the main canal, with the Delhi branch, has been hitherto navi-
gable only by rafts, and they have to be broken up several times during
the passage. The new canal, now approaching completion, will, when
fully opened, be navigable by large boats.

Administration. — The District is administered by a Deputy Com-
missioner, three extra - Assistant Commissioners, and three tahsilddrs,
with their deputies, besides the usual medical and constabulary officers.
The revenue in 1872-73 amounted to ^78,847, of which ^67,048
was derived from the land-tax. Ten years later, in 1882-83, the revenue
of the District had fallen to ^72,133, of which ^58,063 was con-
tributed by the land-tax. The other principal items are stamps and
local rates. Number of criminal courts, 17; of civil courts, 12. For
police purposes the District is sub-divided into 1 7 police circles (thdnds).
The regular police amounted in 1882 to 458 men of all grades, supple-
mented by a municipal force of 156 constables; giving a total establish-
ment, for the protection of person and property, of 614 men, or 1
policeman to every 3*9 square miles of the area and every 10 14 of the
population. There is also a village watch or rural police numbering
1 1 16 men. There is one jail at Karnal town, with an average daily
number of 210 prisoners in 1882. The average cost per inmate was

Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 8) → online text (page 3 of 64)