1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Salem (India)

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SALEM, a city and district of British India, in the Madras presidency. The city is on both banks of the river Tirumanimuttar, 3 m. from a station on the Madras railway, 206 m. S.W. of Madras city. Pop. (1901), 70,621. There is a considerable weaving industry and some manufacture of cutlery. Its situation in a green valley between the Shevaroy and Jarugumalai hills is picturesque.

The District of Salem has an area of 7530 sq. m. Except towards the south it is hilly, with extensive plains- lying between the several ranges. It consists of three distinct tracts, formerly known as the Talaghat, the Baramahal and the Balaghat. The Talaghat is situated below the Eastern Ghats on the level of the Carnatic generally; the Baramahal includes the whole face of the Ghats and a wide piece of country at their base; and the Balaghat is situated above the Ghats on the tableland of Mysore.

The western part of the district is mountainous. Amongst the chief ranges (5000-6000 ft.) are the Shevaroys, the Kalrayans, the Melagiris, the Kollimalais, the Pachamalais and the Yelagiris. The chief rivers are the Cauvery with its numerous tributaries, and the Ponniar and Palar; the last, however, only flows through a few miles of the north-western corner of the district. The forests are of considerable value. The geological structure of the district is mostly gneissic, with a few irruptive rocks in the form of trap dikes and granite veins. Magnetic iron ore is common in the hill regions, and corundum and chromate of iron are also obtainable. The qualities of the soil differ very much; in the country immediately surrounding the town of Salem a thin layer of calcareous and red loam generally prevails, through which quartz rocks appear on the surface in many places. The climate, owing to the great difference of elevation, varies considerably; on the hills it is cool and bracing, and for a great part of the year very salubrious; the annual rainfall averages about 32 in.

The population in 1901 was 2,204,974, showing an increase of 12% in the decade. The principal crops are millets, rice, other food grains and oil-seeds, with a little cotton, indigo and tobacco. Coffee is grown on the Shevaroy hills. The chief irrigation work is the Barur tank system. Salem suffered severely from the famine of 1877-1878. The Madras railway runs through the district, with two narrow-gauge branches. The chief industry is cotton-weaving, and there is some manufacture of steel from magnetic iron ore. There are many saltpetre refineries, but no large industries. The district was acquired partly by the treaty of peace with Tippoo Sultan in 1792 and partly by the partition treaty of Mysore in 1799. By the former the Talaghat and Baramahal were ceded, and by the latter the Balaghat or what is now the Hosur taluk.