1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Burdwan

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BURDWAN, or Bardwan, a town of British India, in Bengal, which gives its name to a district and to a division. It has a station on the East Indian railway, 67 m. N.W. from Calcutta. Pop. (1901) 35,022. The town consists really of numerous villages scattered over an area of 9 sq. m., and is entirely rural in character. It contains several interesting ancient tombs, and at Nawab Hat, some 2 m. distant, is a group of 108 Siva lingam temples built in 1788. The place was formerly very unhealthy, but this has been to a large extent remedied by the establishment of water-works, a good supply of water being derived from the river Banka. Within the town, the principal objects of interest are the palaces and gardens of the maharaja. The chief educational institution is the Burdwan Raj college, which is entirely supported out of the maharaja's estate.

The town owes its importance entirely to being the headquarters of the maharaja of Burdwan, the premier nobleman of lower Bengal, whose rent-roll is upwards of £300,000. The raj was founded in 1657 by Abu Ra Kapur, of the Kapur Khatri family of Kotli in Lahore, Punjab, whose descendants served in turn the Mogul emperors and the British government. The great prosperity of the raj was due to the excellent management of Maharaja Mahtab Chand (d. 1879), whose loyalty to the government—especially during the Santal rebellion of 1855 and the mutiny of 1857—was rewarded with the grant of a coat of arms in 1868 and the right to a personal salute of 13 guns in 1877. Maharaja Bijai Chand Mahtab (b. 1881), who succeeded his adoptive father in 1888, earned great distinction by the courage with which he risked his life to save that of Sir Andrew Fraser, the lieutenant-governor of Bengal, on the occasion of the attempt to assassinate him made by Bengali malcontents on the 7th of November 1908.

The District of Burdwan lies along the right bank of the river Bhagirathi or Hugli. It has an area of 2689 sq. m. It is a flat plain, and its scenery is uninteresting. Chief rivers are the Bhagirathi, Damodar, Ajai, Banka, Kunur and Khari, of which only the Bhagirathi is navigable by country cargo boats throughout the year. The district was acquired by the East India Company under the treaty with Nawab Mir Kasim in 1760, and confirmed by the emperor Shah Alam in 1765. The land revenue was fixed in perpetuity with the zemindar in 1793. In 1901 the population was 1,532,475, showing an increase of 10% in the decade. There are several indigo factories. The district suffered from drought in 1896-1897. The Eden Canal, 20 m. long, has been constructed for irrigation. The weaving of silk is the chief native industry. As regards European industries, Burdwan takes the first place in Bengal. It contains the great coal-field of Raniganj, first opened in 1874, with an output of more than three million tons. The Barrakur ironworks produce pig-iron, which is reported to be as good as that of Middlesbrough. Apart from Burdwan town and Raniganj, the chief places are the river-marts of Katwa and Kalna. The East Indian railway has several lines running through the district.

The Division of Burdwan comprises the six districts of Burdwan, Birbhum, Bankura, Midnapore, Hugli and Howrah, with a total area of 13,949 sq. m., and a population in 1901 of 8,240,076.