1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Singhbhum

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SINGHBHUM, a district of British India, in the Chota Nagpur division of Bengal. The administrative headquarters are at Chaibasa. Area 3891 sq. m. Its central portion consists of a long undulating tract of country, running E. and W., and enclosed by great hill ranges. The depressions lying between the ridges comprise the most fertile part, which varies in elevation above sea-level from 400 ft. near the Subanrekha on the E. to 750 ft. around the station of Chaibasa. S. of this an elevated plateau of 700 sq. m. rises to upwards of 1000 ft. In the W. is an extensive mountainous tract, sparsely inhabited by the wildest of the Hos; while in the extreme S.W. is a still grander mass of mountains, known as “Saranda of the seven hundred hills,” rising to a height of 3500 ft. From the Layada range on the N.W. of Singhbhum many rocky spurs strike out into the district, some attaining an elevation of 2900 ft. Among other ranges and peaks are the Chaitanpur range, reaching an elevation of 2529 ft., and the Kapargadi range, rising abruptly from the plain and running in a S.E. direction until it culminates in Tuiligar Hill (2492 ft.). The principal rivers are the Subanrekha, which with its affluents flows through the E. of the district; the South Koel, which rises W. of Ranchi, and drains the Saranda region; and the Baitarani, which touches the S. border for 8 m. About two-thirds of Singhbhum district is covered with primeval forest, containing some valuable timber trees; in the forests tigers, leopards, bears and several kinds of deer abound, and small herds of elephants occasionally wander from the Meghasani Hills in Mayurbhanj.

In 1901 the population was 613,579, showing an increase of 12% in the decade. More than one-half belong to aboriginal tribes, mostly Hos. The chief crop is rice, followed by pulses, oil-seeds and maize. There are three missions in the district—S.P.G., Lutheran and Roman Catholic—which have been very successful among the aboriginal tribes, especially in the spread of education. The isolation of Singhbhum has been broken by the opening of the Bengal–Nagpur railway, which has protected it from the danger of famine, and at the same time given a value to its jungle products.

Colonel Dalton, in his Ethnology of Bengal, says that the Singhbhum Rajput chiefs have been known to the British government since 1803, when the marquess Wellesley was governor-general of India; but there does not appear to have been any intercourse between British officials and the people of the Kolhan previous to 1819. The Hos or Larka Kols, the aboriginal race of Singhbhum, would allow no stranger to settle in, or even pass through, the Kolhan; they were, however, subjugated in 1836, when the head-men entered into engagements to bear allegiance to the British government. The country remained tranquil and prosperous until 1857, when a rebellion took place among the Hos under Parahat Raja. After a tedious campaign they surrendered in 1859, and the capture of the raja put a stop to their disturbances.