1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jhansi
JHANSI, a city and district of British India, in the Allahabad division of the United Provinces. The city is the centre of the Indian Midland railway system, whence four lines diverge to Agra, Cawnpore, Allahabad and Bhopal. Pop. (1901), 55,724. A stone fort crowns a neighbouring rock. Formerly the capital of a Mahratta principality, which lapsed to the British in 1853, it was during the Mutiny the scene of disaffection and massacre. It was then made over to Gwalior, but has been taken back in exchange for other territory. Even when the city was within Gwalior, the civil headquarters and the cantonment were at Jhansi Naoabad, under its walls. Jhansi is the principal centre for the agricultural trade of the district, but its manufactures are small.
The District of Jhansi was enlarged in 1891 by the incorporation of the former district of Lalitpur, which extends farther into the hill country, almost entirely surrounded by native states. Combined area, 3628 sq.m. Pop. (1901), 616,759 showing a decrease of 10% in the decade, due to the results of famine. The main line and branches of the Indian Midland railway serve the district, which forms a portion of the hill country of Bundelkhand, sloping down from the outliers of the Vindhyan range on the south to the tributaries of the Jumna on the north. The extreme south is composed of parallel rows of long and narrow-ridged hills. Through the intervening valleys the rivers flow down impetuously over ledges of granite or quartz. North of the hilly region, the rocky granite chains gradually lose themselves in clusters of smaller hills. The northern portion consists of the level plain of Bundelkhand, distinguished for its deep black soil, known as mar, and admirably adapted for the cultivation of cotton. The district is intersected or bounded by three principal rivers—the Pahuj, Betwa and Dhasan. The district is much cut up, and portions of it are insulated by the surrounding native states. The principal crops are millets, cotton, oil-seeds, pulses, wheat, gram and barley. The destructive kans grass has proved as great a pest here as elsewhere in Bundelkhand. Jhansi is especially exposed to blights, droughts, floods, hailstorms, epidemics, and their natural consequence—famine.
Nothing is known with certainty as to the history of this district before the period of Chandel rule, about the 11th century of our era. To this epoch must be referred the artificial reservoirs and architectural remains of the hilly region. The Chandels were succeeded by their servants the Khangars, who built the fort of Karar, lying just outside the British border. About the 14th century the Bundelas poured down upon the plains, and gradually spread themselves over the whole region which now bears their name. The Mahommedan governors were constantly making irruptions into the Bundela country; and in 1732 Chhatar Sal, the Bundela chieftain, called in the aid of the Mahrattas. They came to his assistance with their accustomed promptitude, and were rewarded on the raja’s death in 1734, by the bequest of one-third of his dominions. Their general founded the city of Jhansi, and peopled it with inhabitants from Orchha state. In 1806 British protection was promised to the Mahratta chief, and in 1817 the peshwa ceded to the East India Company all his rights over Bundelkhand. In 1853 the raja died childless, and his territories lapsed to the British. The Jhansi state and the Jalaun and Chanderi districts were then formed into a superintendency. The widow of the raja considered herself aggrieved because she was not allowed to adopt an heir, and because the slaughter of cattle was permitted in the Jhansi territory. Reports were spread which excited the religious prejudices of the Hindus. The events of 1857 accordingly found Jhansi ripe for mutiny. In June a few men of the 12th native infantry seized the fort containing the treasure and magazine, and massacred the European officers of the garrison. Everywhere the usual anarchic quarrels rose among the rebels, and the country was plundered mercilessly. The rani put herself at the head of the rebels, and died bravely in battle. It was not till November 1858, after a series of sharp contests with various guerilla leaders, that the work of reorganization was fairly set on foot.