1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Central Provinces and Berar

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20354421911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — Central Provinces and Berar

CENTRAL PROVINCES AND BERAR, a province of British India, which was formed in October 1903 by the amalgamation of the Central Provinces and the Hyderabad Assigned Districts. The total area of the provinces is 113,281 sq. m., and the population on that area in 1901 was 10,847,325. As is shown by its name the province is situated in the centre of the Indian peninsula, comprising a large proportion of the broad belt of hill and plateau country which separates the plains of Hindustan from the Deccan. It is bounded on the N. and N.E. by the Central India states, and along a small strip of the Saugor district by the United Provinces; on the W. by Bhopal, Indore and the Khandesh district of Bombay; on the S. by Hyderabad and the large zamindari estates of the Madras presidency; and on the E. by these latter estates and the tributary states of Bengal. In October 1905 most of Sambalpur and five Oriya-speaking hill-states were transferred from the Central Provinces to Bengal, while the Hindi-speaking states of Chota Nagpur were transferred from Bengal to the Central Provinces. The province, therefore, now consists of the five British divisions of Jubbulpore, Nerbudda, Nagpur, Chhattisgarh and Berar, which are divided into the twenty-two districts of Saugor, Damoh, Jubbulpore, Mandla, Seoni, Narsinghpur, Hoshangabad, Nimar, Betul, Chhindwara, Wardha, Nagpur, Chanda, Bhandara, Balaghat, Raipur, Bilaspur, Amraoti, Akola, Ellichpur, Buldana and Wun; and the fifteen tributary states of Makrai, Bastar, Kanker, Nandgaon, Kairagarh, Chhuikhadan, Kawardha, Sakti, Raigarh, Sarangarh, Chang Bhakar, Korea, Sirguja, Udaipur and Jashpur.

The Central Provinces are divided into two parts by the Satpura range of hills (q.v.), which runs south of the Nerbudda river from east to west; so that, speaking generally, it consists of districts north of the Satpuras, districts on the Satpura plateau, and districts south of the Satpuras. North of Central Provinces.the Satpuras is the rich valley of the Nerbudda, which may be said to begin towards the north of the Jubbulpore district and to extend westward through the district of Narsinghpur as far as the western limit of Hoshangabad, a distance of nearly 300 m. The elevation of the valley above the sea varies from 1400 ft. at Jubbulpore to 1120 at Hoshangabad. In breadth it is about 30 m., extending between the Satpuras and the southern scarp of the Vindhyas. This great plain, 10,613 sq. m. in extent, contains for the most part land of extreme fertility. The continuation of the valley west of Hoshangabad forms the northern portion of the district of Nimar, the farther limit of which touches the Khandesh district of the Bombay presidency. Towards the river, though rich in parts, this tract of country is generally wild and desolate, but nearer the base of the hill range there is a large natural basin of fertile land which is highly cultivated. South of the Satpuras lies the great plain of Chhattisgarh at a mean elevation above the sea of 1000 ft.; it has an area of 23,000 sq. m., and forms the upper basin of the Mahanadi. Farther to the west and again divided off by hills is the great plain of Nagpur, extending over 24,000 sq. m. Its general surface inclines towards the south from 1000 ft. above the sea at Nagpur to 750 ft. at Chanda. To the south the province is shut in by the wide mountainous tract which stretches from the Bay of Bengal through Bastar to the Godavari, and west of that river is continued onward to the rocky ridges and plateaus of Khandesh by a succession of ranges that enclose the plain of Berar along its southern border.

Berar consists mainly of the valley lying between the Satpura range of mountains in the north and the Ajanta range in the south. The Gawilgarh hills, a range belonging to the Satpura mountains, form the northern border. On the east the frontier is marked by the Wardha river down to its confluence with Berar.the Penganga, and on the south by the Penganga for about two-thirds of the frontier’s length. The tract is half surrounded on the east, north and north-west by the Central Provinces, with which it is amalgamated. In addition to the Melghat mountain tract which walls it in on the north, Berar is divided into two sections, the Payanghat or lowland country, bounded on the north by the Gawilgarh hills, and on the south by the outer scarps of the Ajanta range, and the Balaghat or upland country above the Ajanta ridge, sloping down southwards beyond the ghats or passes which lead up to it. The Payanghat is a wide valley running up eastward between this ridge and the Gawilgarh hills, varying in breadth from 40 to 50 m., and broader towards the end than at its mouth. It contains all the best land in Berar; it is full of deep, rich, black alluvial soil, of almost inexhaustible fertility, and it undulates sufficiently to maintain a natural system of drainage, but there is nothing picturesque about this broad strip of champaign country. The upland tract, on the contrary, is diversified with low-lying plains, high plateaus, fertile bottoms and rocky wastes, and is rendered picturesque by rivers and groves.

Natural Features.—The provinces may be divided into two tracts of upland and three of plain, consisting of the Vindhya and Satpura plateaus, and the Berar, Nagpur and Chhattisgarh plains. To the north the districts of Saugor and Damoh form the southern boundary of the Vindhyan escarpment. In this region the sandstone rocks are generally overlaid with heavy black soil formed from the decaying trap, which is principally devoted to the cultivation of the spring crops, wheat and grain, while rice and hill millets are sown in the lighter and more sandy soils. Next, the long and narrow valley of the Nerbudda from Jubbulpore to Hoshangabad is formed of deep alluvial deposits of extreme richness and excellently suited to the growth of wheat. To the south of the Nerbudda the Satpura range stretches across the province, containing the greater part of five districts, its crystalline and sandstone rocks rising in places through the superficial stratum of trap, and with large areas of shallow stony land still covered to a great extent with forest interspersed by black-soil valleys of great fertility. In the latter are grown wheat and other spring crops, while the lighter kinds of rice and the hill millets are all that the poorer land can bear. To the south of the Satpuras and extending along its base from west to east lie successively the Berar, Nagpur and Chhattisgarh plains. The surface soil of Berar is to a great extent a rich black vegetable mould; and where this surface soil does not exist, there are muram and trap with a shallow upper crust of inferior light soil. The Nagpur country, drained by the Wardha and Wainganga rivers, contains towards the west the shallow black soil in which autumn crops like cotton and the large millet, juar, which do not require excessive moisture, can be successfully cultivated. The eastern part of the Nagpur country and the Chhattisgarh plain, comprising the Mahanadi basin, form the great rice tract of the province, its heavy rainfall and hard yellowish soil rendering it excellently adapted for the growth of this crop.

Climate.—As regards climate the districts of the Central Provinces are generally divided into hot and cool ones. In the latter division are comprised the two Vindhyan districts of Saugor and Damoh, Jubbulpore at the head of the Nerbudda valley, and the four Satpura districts of Mandla, Seoni, Betul and Chhindwara, which enjoy, owing to their greater elevation, a distinctly lower average temperature than the rest of the province. The ordinary variation is from 3 to 4 degrees, the mean maximum reading in the shade in a cooler district being about 105° as against 108° in the hotter ones for the month of May, and 79° as against 83° for the month of December. In the cold weather the temperature in Nagpur and the other hot districts is about the same as in Calcutta and substantially higher than that of northern India. The climate of Berar differs very little from that of the Deccan generally, except that in the Payanghat valley the hot weather may be exceptionally severe. The rainfall of the province is considerably heavier than in northern India, and the result of this is a cooler and more pleasant atmosphere during the monsoon season. The average rainfall, before it was affected by the abnormal seasons which followed 1892, was 51 in., varying from 33 in. in Nimar to 65 in Balaghat. In the autumn months malarial fever is prevalent in all thickly forested tracts and also in the rice country; but on the whole the province is considered to be healthy, and as the rains break fairly regularly in June and produce an immediate fall in the temperature, severe heat is only experienced for a period of from two to three months.

Agriculture.—Broadly speaking, the northern districts of the province produce principally cold weather crops, such as wheat and grain, and the eastern ones principally rice. At the beginning of the decade 1891–1901 wheat was the staple product of the Vindhyan and Nerbudda valley districts, and was also grown extensively in all the Satpura districts except Nimar and in Wardha and Nagpur. Cotton and juar were produced principally in Nimar, Nagpur, Wardha and the southern portion of Chhindwara, and the latter also in Chanda. In the Satpura districts the inferior soil was and is principally devoted to hill millets. Rice is an important crop in Damoh, Jubbulpore, Mandla, Seoni and Chanda, and is the chief staple of Bhandara, Balaghat, and the two eastern districts of Raipur and Bilaspur. The staple crops of Berar are cotton and juar. The succession of bad seasons which marked the end of the decade affected the distribution of the principal crops, but with the advent of more prosperous seasons things tend to return to their old level.

Industries.—The only important industries are connected with cotton and coal. In 1904 the total number of factories was 391, almost entirely cotton presses and ginning factories, which received an immense impetus from the rise in cotton prices. In 1896 a brewery was established at Jubbulpore. Two coal-mines are worked in the Central Provinces, at Warora and Mopani, to each of which there is a branch line of railway. In 1903–1904 there was a total yield of 160,000 tons, valued at about £45,000. In connexion with the Warora colliery there is a fire-clay business. The Mopani colliery, which dates back to 1860, is worked by a joint-stock company.

Trade.—The trade of the Central Provinces is conducted mainly by rail with Bombay and with Calcutta. The chief imports are cotton piece goods, cotton twist, salt, sugar, provisions, railway materials, raw cotton, metals, coal, tobacco, spices and kerosene oil. The chief exports are raw cotton, rice, wheat, oil-seeds, hides and lac. The exports of wheat are liable to extreme fluctuations, especially during famine periods.

Railways.—Until recently, the only railway in the Central Provinces was the Great Indian Peninsula, with two branches, one terminating at Nagpur, the other at Jubbulpore, whence it was continued by the East Indian system to Allahabad. The Bengal-Nagpur line has now opened up the eastern portion of the country, bringing it into direct connexion with Calcutta; and a new branch of the Indian Midland, from Saugor through Damoh, has been partly constructed as a famine work. Large portions, however, in the hilly centre and in the south-east, are still remote from railways.

Administration.—The administration of the province is conducted by a chief commissioner on behalf of the governor-general of India in council, assisted by members of the Indian civil service, provincial civil service, subordinate civil service, district and assistant superintendents of police, and officers specially recruited for various departments. The form of the administration of Berar was in 1903 entirely reorganized. Under the original settlement concluded by the treaties of 1853 and 1860 the revenues of the province were assigned primarily for the maintenance of the Hyderabad contingent, such surplus as accrued from year to year being made over to the nizam, while the province itself was administered in trust by the government of India through the resident at Hyderabad. In November 1902 a fresh settlement was arranged and Berar was leased in perpetuity to the British government in return for an annual rental of 25 lakhs. It remained under the administration of the resident until the 1st of October 1903, from which date it was amalgamated with the Central Provinces for administrative purposes. As the immediate result of this change the offices of heads of departments in Berar, except the judicial commissionership and the conservatorship of forests, were amalgamated with the corresponding appointments in the Central Provinces, and Berar is now treated as one of the divisions of that province for purposes of revenue administration, with a divisional commissioner as its immediate head.

Population.—The population of the Central Provinces and Berar as now defined according to the census of 1901 was 10,847,325, and is of very diverse ethical construction, having been recruited by immigration from the countries surrounding it on all sides. There are six main divisions of the people: the Dravidian tribes, who formerly held the country; Hindi-speaking immigrants from the north and north-west into Saugor, Damoh, the Nerbudda valley and the open country of Mandla and Seoni; Rajasthani-speaking immigrants from Central India into Nimar, Betul and parts of Hoshangabad, Narsinghpur and Chhindwara; Marathi-speaking immigrants from Bombay into Berar, the Mahratta districts and the southern tahsil of Betul; the Telugu castes in the Sironcha and Chanda tahsil of Chanda and the south of Bastar; and the Hindu immigrants into Chhattisgarh, who are supposed to have arrived many centuries ago when the Haihaya dynasty of Ratanpur rose into power.

Language.—Owing to the diversity of race, the diversity of language is equally great. Thirty languages and a hundred and six dialects are found in the Central Provinces alone, and twenty-eight languages and sixty-eight dialects in Berar. The chief of these languages are Western Hindi, Eastern Hindi, Rajasthani, Marathi, Oriya, Telugu and Dravidian dialects. Of these last the chief dialects are Gondi, Oraon or Kurukh, Kandhi and Kanarese, of which Gondi is by far the most important. There are also the Munda languages, of which the chief are Korku, Kharia and Munda or Kol. The chief languages of Berar are Marathi, Urdu, Gondi, Banjari, Hindi, Marwari, Telugu, Korku and Gujarati.

History.—The authentic history of the greater part of the country embraced in the Central Provinces does not begin till the 16th century A.D. By the people of northern India the country was known as Gondwana, after the savage tribes of Gonds by whom it was inhabited. The Mussulman invaders of the Deccan passed it by, not caring to enter its mountain fastnesses and impenetrable forests; though occasional inscriptions show that parts of it had fallen from time to time under the dominion of one or other of the great kingdoms of the north, e.g. of Asoka, of the Guptas of Maghada, or of the ancient Hindu kingdom of Vidarbha (Berar); and inscriptions and numerous discoveries of coins prove that, during the middle ages, the open spaces were occupied by a series of Rajput dynasties. Of these the most important was that of the Haihayas of Ratanpur, a family which, settled from time immemorial in the Nerbudda valley, had towards the close of the 10th century succeeded the Pandava dynasty of Maha Kosala (Chhattisgarh) and ruled, though from the 16th century onwards over greatly diminished territories, until its overthrow by the Mahrattas in 1745. The second ruler of this dynasty, Ratnaraja, was the founder of Ratanpur.

The inscriptional records cease abruptly in the 12th century, and no more is known of the country until the rise of the Gond dynasties from the 14th to the 16th centuries. The first of these is mentioned in 1398, when Narsingh Rai, raja of Kherla, is said by Ferishta to have ruled all the hills of Gondwana. He was finally overthrown and killed by Hoshang Shah, king of Malwa. The 16th century saw the establishment of a powerful Gond kingdom by Sangram Sah, who succeeded in 1480 as the 47th of the petty Gond rajas of Garha-Mandla, and extended his dominions so as to include Saugor and Damoh on the Vindhyan plateau, Jubbulpore and Narsinghpur in the Nerbudda valley, and Seoni on the Satpura highlands. Sangram Sah died in 1530; and the break up of his dominion began with the enforced cession to the Mogul emperor by Chandra Sah (1563–1575) of Saugor and Damoh and of that portion of his territories which afterwards formed the state of Bhopal.

About 200 years after Sangram Sah’s time, Bakht Buland, the Gond chieftain of a principality seated at Deogarh in Chhindwara, having visited Delhi, set about introducing the civilization he had there admired. He founded the city of Nagpur, which his successor made his capital. The Deogarh kingdom, at its widest extent, embraced the modern districts of Betul, Chhindwara, Nagpur, with parts of Seoni, Bhandara and Balaghat. In the south of the province Chanda was the seat of another Gond dynasty, which first came into prominence in the 16th century. The three Gond principalities of Garha-Mandla, Deogarh and Chanda were nominally subject to the Mogul emperors. In addition to the acquisitions made in the north at the expense of Garha-Mandla, the Moguls, after the annexation of Berar, established governors at Paunar in Wardha and Kherla in Betul. Having thus hemmed in the Gond states, however, they made no efforts to assert any effective sovereignty over them; the Gond rajas for their part were content with practical independence within their own dominions. Under their peaceful rule their territories flourished, until the weakening of the Mogul empire and the rise of the predatory Bundela and Mahratta powers, with the organized forces of which their semi-barbarous feudal levies were unable to cope, brought misfortune upon them.

In the 17th century Chhatarsal, the Bundela chieftain, deprived the Mandla principality of part of the Vindhyan plateau and the Nerbudda valley. In 1733 the peshwa of Poona invaded Bundelkhand; and in 1735 the Mahrattas had established their power in Saugor. In 1742 the peshwa advanced to Mandla and exacted the payment of chauth (tributary blackmail), and from this time until 1781, when the successors of Sangram Sah were finally overthrown, Garha-Mandla remained practically a Mahratta dependency. Meanwhile the other independent principalities of Gondwana had in turn succumbed. In 1743 Raghoji Bhonsla of Berar established himself at Nagpur, and by 1751 had conquered the territories of Deogarh, Chanda and Chhattisgarh. In 1741 Ratanpur had surrendered to the Mahratta leader Bhaskar Pant without a blow, and the ancient Rajput dynasty came to an end. In Chanda and Deogarh the Gond rajas were suffered by Raghoji Bhonsla and his successor to carry on a shadowy existence for a while, in order to give them an excuse for avoiding the claims of the peshwa as their overlord; though actually decisions in important matters were sought at Poona. Raghoji died in 1755, and in 1769 his son and successor, Janoji, was forced to acknowledge the peshwa’s effective supremacy. The Nagpur state, however, continued to grow. In 1785 Mudhoji (d. 1788), Janoji’s successor, bought from the Poona court the cession of Mandla and the upper Nerbudda valley, and between 1796 and 1798 this was followed by the acquisition of Hoshangabad and the larger part of Saugor and Damoh by Raghoji II. (d. 1816). Under this latter raja the Nagpur state covered practically the whole of the present Central Provinces and Berar, as well as Orissa and some of the Chota Nagpur states.

In 1803 Raghoji joined Sindhia against the British; the result was the defeat of the allies at Assaye and Argaon, and the treaty of Deogaon, by which Raghoji had to cede Cuttack, Sambalpur and part of Berar. Up to this time the rule of the Bhonsla rajas, rough warriors of peasant extraction, had been on the whole beneficent; but, soured by his defeat, Raghoji now set to work to recover some of his losses by a ruthless exploitation of the peasantry, and until the effective intervention of the British in 1818 the country was subjected to every kind of oppression. After Raghoji II.’s death in 1816 his imbecile son Parsaji was deposed and murdered by Mudhoji, known as Appa Sahib. In spite of a treaty signed with the British in this year, Mudhoji in 1817 joined the peshwa, but was defeated at Sitabaldi and forced to cede the rest of Berar to the nizam, and parts of Saugor and Damoh, with Mandla, Betul, Seoni and the Nerbudda valley, to the British. After a temporary restoration to the throne he was deposed, and Raghoji III., a grandchild of Raghoji II., was placed on the throne. During his minority, which lasted till 1840, the country was well administered by a British resident. In 1853, on the death of Raghoji III. without heirs, Nagpur lapsed to the British paramount power. Until the formation of the Central Provinces in 1861, Nagpur province, which consists of the present Nagpur division, Chhindwara and Chhatisgarh, was administered by a commissioner under the central government.

The territories in the north ceded in 1817 by the peshwa (parts of Saugor and Damoh) and in 1818 by Appa Sahib were in 1820 formed into the Saugor and Nerbudda Territories under an agent to the governor-general, and in 1835 were included in the newly formed North-West Provinces. In 1842, in consequence of a rising, they were again placed under the jurisdiction of an agent to the governor-general. Restored to the North-West Provinces in 1853, they were finally joined with the Nagpur province to constitute the new Central Provinces in 1861. On the 1st of October 1903 Berar also was placed under the administration of the commissioner of the Central Provinces (for history see Berar). In 1905 the greater part of Sambalpur district, with the feudatory states of Bamra, Rairakhol, Sonpur, Patna and Kalahandi, were transferred to Bengal, while the feudatory states of Chang Bhakar, Korea, Surguja, Udaipur and Jashpur were transferred from Bengal to the Central Provinces.

During the decade 1891–1901 the Central Provinces suffered from famine more severely than any other part of India. The complete failure of the rain in the autumn of 1896 caused scarcity to develop suddenly into famine, which lasted until the end of 1897. The total number of persons in receipt of relief reached its maximum of nearly 700,000 in May 1897. The expenditure on relief alone was about a million sterling; and the total cost of the famine, including loss of revenue, amounted to nearly twice that amount. During 1897 the death-rate for the whole province rose to sixty-nine per thousand, or double the average, while the birth-rate fell to twenty-seven per thousand. The Central Provinces were stricken by another famine, yet more severe and widespread, caused by the complete failure of the rains in 1899. The maximum of persons relieved for the whole province was 1,971,000 in June 1900. In addition, about 68,000 persons were in receipt of relief in the native states. During the three years 1899–1902 the total expenditure on famine relief amounted to about four millions sterling. Berar also suffered from the famines of 1897 and 1900.

See The Imperial Gazetteer of India (Oxford, 1908), x. 99, for list of authorities.