1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chota Nagpur

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21379131911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 6 — Chota Nagpur

CHOTA (or Chutia) NAGPUR, a division of British India in Bengal, consisting of five British districts and two feudatory states. It is a hilly, forest-clad plateau, inhabited mostly by aboriginal races, between the basins of the Sone, the Ganges and the Mahanadi. The five British districts are Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Palamau, Manbhum and Singhbhum. The total area of the British districts is 27,101 sq. m. The population in 1901 was 4,900,429. The tributary states are noticed separately below. The Chota Nagpur plateau is an offshoot of the great Vindhyan range, and its mean elevation is upwards of 2000 ft. above the sea-level. In the W. it rises to 3600 ft., and to the E. and S. its lower steppe, from 800 to 1000 ft. in elevation, comprises a great portion of the Manbhum and Singhbhum districts. The whole is about 14,000 sq. m. in extent, and forms the source of the Barakhar, Damodar, Kasai, Subanrekha, Baitarani, Brahmani, Ib and other rivers. Sal forests abound. The principal jungle products are timber, various kinds of medicinal fruits and herbs, lac, tussur silk and mahuá flowers, which are used as food by the wild tribes and also distilled into a strong country liquor. Coal exists in large quantities, and is worked in the Jherria, Hazaribagh, Giridih and Gobindpur districts. The chief workings are at Jherria, which were started in 1893, and have developed into one of the largest coal-fields in India. Formerly gold was washed from the sands in the bed of the Subanrekha river, but the operations are now almost wholly abandoned. Iron-ores abound, together with good building stone. The indigenous inhabitants consist of non-Aryan tribes who were driven from the plains by the Hindus and took refuge in the mountain fastnesses of the Chota Nagpur plateau. The principal of them are Kols, Santals, Oraons, Dhangars, Mundas and Bhumij. These tribes were formerly turbulent, and a source of trouble to the Mahommedan governors of Bengal and Behar; but the introduction of British rule has secured peace and security, and the aboriginal races of Chota Nagpur are now peaceful and orderly subjects. The principal agricultural products are rice, Indian corn, pulses, oil-seeds and potatoes. A small quantity of tea is grown in Hazaribagh and Ranchi districts. Lac and tussur silk-cloth are largely manufactured. The climate of Chota Nagpur is dry and healthy. The Jherria extension branch of the East India railway runs to Katrasgarh, while the Bengal-Nagpur railway also serves the division.

The Chota Nagpur States were formerly nine in number. But the five states of Chang Bhakar, Korca, Sirguja, Udaipur and Jashpur were transferred from Bengal to the Central Provinces in October 1905, and the two Uriya-speaking states of Gangpur and Bonai were attached to the Orissa Tributary States. There now remain, therefore, only the two states of Kharsawan and Saraikela. At the decline of the Mahratta power in the early part of the 19th century, the Chota Nagpur states came under British protection. Before the rise of the British power in India their chiefs exercised almost absolute sovereignty in their respective territories.

See F. B. Bradley-Birt, Chota Nagpore (1903).