1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ajmere-Merwara

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AJMERE-MERWARA, a division or petty province of British India, in Rajputana, consisting of the two districts of Ajmere and Merwara, separated from each other and isolated amid native states. The administration is in the hands of a commissioner, subordinate to the governor-general's agent for Rajputana. The capital is Ajmere city. The area is 2710 sq. m. The plateau, on whose centre stands the town of Ajmere, may be considered as the highest point in the plains of Hindustan; from the circle of hills which hem it in, the country slopes away on every side—towards river valleys on the east, south, west and towards the desert region on the north. The Aravalli range is the distinguishing feature of the district. The range of hills which runs between Ajmere and Nasirabad marks the watershed of the continent of India. The rain which falls on one side drains into the Chambal, and so into the Bay of Bengal; that which falls on the other side into the Luni, which discharges itself into the Runn of Cutch. The province is on the border of what may be called the arid “zone”; it is the debatable land between the north-eastern and south-western monsoons, and beyond the influence of either. The south-west monsoon sweeps up the Nerbudda valley from Bombay and crossing the table-land at Neemuch gives copious supplies to Malwa, jhalawar and Kotah and the countries which lie in the course of the Chambal river. The clouds which strike Kathiawar and Cutch are deprived of a great deal of their moisture by the hills in those countries, and the greater part of the remainder is deposited on Mount Abu and the higher slopes of the Aravalli mountains, leaving but little for Merwara, where the hills are lower, and still less for Ajmere. It is only when the monsoon is in considerable force that Merwara gets a plentiful supply from it. The north-eastern monsoon sweeps up the valley of the Ganges from the Bay of Bengal and waters the northern part of Rajputana, but hardly penetrates farther west than the longitude of Ajmere. On the varying strength of these two monsoons the rainfall of the district depends. The agriculturist in Ajmere-Merwara can never rely upon two good harvests in succession. A province subject to such conditions can hardly be free from famine or scarcity for any length of time; accordingly it was visited by two famines, one of unprecedented severity, and one scarcity, in the decade 1891-1901. In June 1900 the number of persons in receipt of relief was 143,000, being more than one-fourth of the total population.

In 1901 the population was 476,912, showing a decrease of 12% in the decade, due to the results of famine. Among Hindus, the Rajputs are land-holders, and the Jats and Gujars are cultivators. The Jains are traders and money-lenders. The aboriginal tribe of Mers are divided between Hindus and Mahommedans. The chief crops are millet, wheat, cotton and oil-seeds. There are several factories for ginning and pressing cotton, the chief trading centres being Beawar and Kekri.