1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Balasore

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BALASORE, a town and district of British India, in the Orissa division of Bengal. The town is the principal one and the administrative headquarters of the district, and is situated on the right bank of the river Burabalang, about 7 m. from the sea-coast as the crow flies and 16 m. by the river. There is a station on the East Coast railway. The English settlement of Balasore, formed in 1642, and that of Pippli in its neighbourhood seven years earlier, became the basis of the future greatness of the British in India. The servants of the East India Company here fortified themselves in a strong position, and carried on a brisk investment in country goods, chiefly cottons and muslins. They flourished in spite of the oppressions of the Mahommedan governors, and when needful asserted their claims to respect by arms. In 1688, affairs having come to a crisis, Captain William Heath, commander of the company's ships, bombarded the town. In the 18th century Balasore rapidly declined in importance, on account of a dangerous bar which formed across the mouth of the river. At present the bar has 12 to 15 ft. of water at spring-tides, but not more than 2 or 3 ft. at low water in the dry season. Large ships have to anchor outside in the open roadstead. The town still possesses a large maritime trade, despite the silting-up of the river mouth. Pop. (1901) 20,880.

The district forms a strip of alluvial land between the hills and the sea, varying from about 9 to 34 m. in breadth; area, 2085 sq. m. The hill country rises from the western boundary line. The district naturally divides itself into three well-defined tracts—(1) The salt tract, along the coast; (2) The arable tract, or rice country; and (3) The submontane tract, or jungle lands. The salt tract runs the whole way down the coast, and forms a desolate strip a few miles broad. Towards the beach it rises into sandy ridges, from 50 to 80 ft. high, sloping inland and covered with a vegetation of low scrub jungle. Sluggish brackish streams creep along between banks of fetid black mud. The sandhills on the verge of the ocean are carpeted with creepers and the wild convolvulus. Inland, it spreads out into prairies of coarse long grass and scrub jungle, which harbour wild animals in plenty; but throughout this vast region there is scarcely a hamlet, and only patches of rice cultivation at long intervals. From any part of the salt tract one may see the boundary of the inner arable part of the district fringed with long lines of trees, from which every morning the villagers drive their cattle out into the saliferous plains to graze. The salt tract is purely alluvial, and appears to be of recent date. Towards the coast the soil has a distinctly saline taste.

Salt used to be largely manufactured in the district by evaporation, but the industry is now extinct. The arable tract lies beyond the salt lands, and embraces the chief part of the district. It is a long dead-level of rich fields, with a soil lighter in colour than that of Bengal or Behar; much more friable, and apt to split up into small cubes with a rectangular cleavage. A peculiar feature of the arable tract is the Pāts (literally cups) or depressed lands near the river-banks. They were probably marshes that have partially silted up by the yearly overflow of the streams. These pāts bear the finest crops. As a whole, the arable tract is a treeless region, except around the villages, which are encircled by fine mango, pipal, banyan and tamarind trees, and intersected with green shady lanes of bamboo. A few palmyras, date-palms and screw-pines (a sort of aloe, whose leaves are armed with formidable triple rows of hook-shaped thorns) dot the expanse or run in straight lines between the fields. The submontane tract is an undulating country with a red soil, much broken up into ravines along the foot of the hills. Masses of laterite, buried in hard ferruginous clay, crop up as rocks or slabs. At Kopari, in Kila Ambohata, about 2 sq. m. are almost paved with such slabs, dark-red in colour, perfectly flat and polished like plates of iron. A thousand mountain torrents have scooped out for themselves picturesque ravines, clothed with an ever-fresh verdure of prickly thorns, stunted gnarled shrubs, and here and there a noble forest tree. Large tracts are covered with sal jungle, which nowhere, however, attains to any great height.

Balasore district is watered by six distinct river systems: those of the Subanrekha, the Burabalang, the Jamka, the Kansbans and the Dhamra.

The climate greatly varies according to the seasons of the year. The hot season lasts from March to June, but is tempered by cool sea-breezes; from June to September the weather is close and oppressive; and from October to February the cold season brings the north-easterly winds, with cool mornings and evenings.

Almost the only crop grown is rice, which is largely exported by sea. The country is exposed to destructive floods from the hill-rivers and also from cyclonic storm-waves. The district is traversed throughout its entire length by the navigable Orissa coast canal, and also by the East Coast railway from Calcutta to Madras. The seaports of Balasore, Chandbali and Dhamra conduct a very large coasting trade. The exports are almost confined to rice, which is sent to Ceylon, the Maldives and Mauritius. The imports consist of cotton twist and piece goods, mineral oils, metals, betel-nuts and salt. In 1901 the population was 1,071,197, an increase of 9% in the decade.