Malkanagiri (the largest, and at the same time the most sparsely-populated, taluk in the Presidency) occupies the southern third of the part of the district which lies immediately west of the main line of the Gháts; and forms a plateau which is from 1,000 to 1,500 feet lower than the rest of this. Its northern boundary is the crest of a sál-clad line of heights which run along the southern edge of the 2,000 feet plateau formed by Jeypore and Naurangpur taluks; but southwards from this it drops sharply down to the south-west, Malkanagiri village being only 641 feet above the sea and Mótu, at the southernmost corner, considerably less. On the west, Bastar State and the Saveri river form the boundary; to the south, the beautiful Siléru divides the taluk from the Gódávari Agency and joins the Saveri at Mótu; 'while on the east the frontier follows an ill-defined line running along the head of the gháts which uphold the 3,000 feet plateau and lying nearly parallel to the Machéru, as the upper waters of the Siléru are there called.
Malkanagiri differs widely from any other part of the Jeypore zamindari or the Vizagapatam district. Almost the whole of it is one vast jungle. As Las already been mentioned (p. 121), there is little good timber in this; but in places (between Balaméla and Kondakambéru and on to the Golgonda boundary, for example) the growth is exceedingly thick and contains much bamboo. Further south, beyond Venkatapálaiyam, are many square miles covered with coarse grass, ten feet high, among which are scattered saplings. As one approaches the extreme southern corner at Mótu, whence there is an outlet by the river to the Gódávari district, tho country becomes visibly more civilized, grass and jungle giving way to paddy-fields, dry crops and palmyras, the last of which are rare in other parts of Jeypore.
The south-west monsoon is heavier in this taluk than in any other in the district except Jeypore, and in the rains the country is impassably swampy. The north-east monsoon, on the other hand, is fended off by the hills and is very light. Consequently for half the year much of the taluk is under water and for the other half it is parched in the extreme. The hills similarly keep off the sea breeze, and the heat is sometimes terrific. Malaria, too, is probably worse here than in any other part of the district. Malkanagiri also differs from the rest of Vizagapatam in its inhabitants. In the north and north-west the people are largely Mattiyas; on the hills to the east, on either side of the Machéru, live the Banda (or 'naked') Porojas, whose women wear the irreducible minimum of clothing; round Malkanagiri and Korukonda are colonies of Ronas, who came here as paiks; while south of Malkanagiri village the prevailing caste are the easy-going Kóyas, who have pushed their way up from the Gódávari district and speak a language of their own. These various communities have already been referred to in Chapter III. They are even more nomadic in their ways than the rest of the agency population,and a Malkanagiri village is here to-day and gone to-morrow.
The dry crops are much the same as elsewhere. A little paddy is raised in the lower hollows, along the banks of the Siléru is a good deal of tobacco, and particularly sweet oranges are grown in places. Exceptional facilities for irrigation exist in the many streams which run from the hills on the east into the Saveri, but they are quite neglected.
Not much is known of the taluk's early history. Local tradition carries it back to the times of one 'Orjon Malik' who was set upon by a confederacy which included the Jeypore Rája and was slain in a fort near Kórukonda. Jeypore obtained the taluk, and granted it on service tenure to the Uriya paik who had shot Orjon Malik in the fight, whose family held it hereditarily until comparatively recently. They were called Tát Rájas and apparently did much for the country, old tamarind groves, deserted tanks and forgotten forts testifying to their efforts. About 1835 1 the last of the line, Paramánando, died; and his widow's díwán, Erramma Rázu, being overthrown by a faction, procured the aid of some Rohillas from Hyderabad, regained the upper hand, and cut off the noses of four of his chief opponents. These gentlemen went and complained to Mr. Reade, the Agent (who happened to be at Narasapatam), and he sent up a party of sibbandis who captured Erramma Rázu. The latter was sentenced to transportation for life, but died suddenly in the Vizagapatam jail in 1859.
Soon afterwards Paramánando's widow died, and her daughter Bangára Dévi succeeded. But all authority vested in one Sanyási Pátro, a very turbulent character, who gave trouble by refusing to pay any kattubadi to Jeypore and by insisting on collecting moturpha and sayar in spite of the Agent's orders to the contrary. He was eventually imprisoned in 1865, and about 1869 Bangára Dévi obtained a lease of the taluk for Rs. 3,500, though the usual figure had been only Rs. 750.
In 1870 it was realised that Malkanagiri required a sub-magistrate of its own, but as the Government of India said this must be arranged without making additions to the existing establishment, the deputy tahsildar of Nandapuram was moved thither and his charge was added to Koraput. The country at that time was divided into four dwáros or gates (each of which was supposed to lie under one of the gates of Malkanagiri village), was sub-divided into muttas, and was in charge of a nigamán. Round Malkanagiri and Kórakonda, land was held rent free by the paiks on the plea that they performed military service.
Bangára Dévi's exactions led to much discontent and emigration to the Golgonda hills; and in 1872, she was deposed and granted a village for maintenance, the Rája appointing a new manager. In the same year Mr. H. G. Turner and the Rája's díwán conducted a rough three-years ' settlement (by villages in the north and by muttas in the south) abolishing the former plough and hoe taxes and making the paiks pay for their fields. The demand under this was some Rs. 6,400. In 1877, and again in 1878, this figure was raised by the Rája's officers and the plough and hoe taxes were reintroduced, and in 1879 the discontent in Rampa not unnaturally spread to this taluk. It was fanned by the scandalous conduct of the local police. The Inspector had 'worried and insulted all the respectable people in the country by his violence, extortion, drunkenness and lechery. The constables of course followed suit.' Roads near the stations were deserted in consequence, and markets were closed. In April 1880 Tamma Dora, the great Kóya leader, entered the taluk and captured the Podeh police-station after a fight. Colonel Macquoid of the Hyderabad Contingent marched with 100 men to protect Mótu, but was attacked on 6th May and retreated. This set the country in a blaze, and Tamma Dora was hailed as the Rája of Southern Malkanagiri. Later on, however, he was driven back to the Rampa jungles and in July 1880, refusing to surrender, was attacked and shot by the police.
This outbreak resulted in the abandonment of many villages and set the taluk back for years. The Rája reintroduced the old settlement by muttas and reduced the demand to Rs. 6,300; but six months afterwards he appointed a new amin who at once began arbitrarily raising assessments and reviving discontent. The Agent intervened and had the man removed. In 1885 more trouble occurred a corrupt ámin again harassing the ryots. He was similarly removed on the motion of the Agent, who introduced a new three-years settlement. Of late years matters have gone on quietly, and in the decade 1891-1901 the increase of population in Malkanagiri (26.8 per cent.) was proportionately higher than in any other taluk in the district.
Three places in it deserve a note : —
Kondakambéru, a village of 122 souls containing a police-station and a travellers' bungalow, is most picturesquely placed among heavy bamboo jungle on a spit of land between the Machéru and the Páléru, which here unite. Through it runs the track from Malkanagiri (25 miles to the north-west) to the Golgonda hills. It is the chief place in the mutta of the same name, the muttadar of which was hanged for joining the 1880 fituri. About a mile to the north-east, amid the jungle, is a dilapidated stone shrine to Siva with an inscription in it, where worship is still maintained and into which every passer by tosses a flower. Tradition says it was once the centre of a flourishing village. Stone temples and inscriptions are rare things in this taluk.
Malkanagiri, the deputy tahsildar's and ámin's station, contains a dispensary and a bungalow and 1,025 inhabitants, most of whom live in thatched huts. Déva Dóngar, the hill about two miles to the east, contains remains of old ramparts; and other heights to the north-east are supposed to resemble an old man, his bundle of fried mohwa flower, his dog, and a hare the latter is chasing, and bear appropriate names.
Fifty years ago the village was described as 'a hot-bed of Meriah sacrifices'. Four victims were annually offered up at the four gates of the fort; six were killed triennially in the four dwáros; and other sacrifices were made on special occasions — the ráni, for example, slaying a girl of ten in May 1854, in fulfilment of a vow, on her recovery from illness. As many as one hundred meriahs were surrendered on one occasion to the authorities.
Mótu, which lies at the junction of the Saveri and Siléru in the southern corner of the taluk, contains only 163 inhabitants. Facing it, across the river, is Kunta, the head-quarters of a tahsildar of Bastar. The place has the advantage of being in communication, by the Saveri and the Gódávari, with Rajahmundry. Timber used to be exported by this route, but all that goes down now is a certain amount of minor forest produce. About 1890 a colony of Patháns settled in this village and began bullying the people round. In 1898 their leader, Róza Khát:(since dead), was put in jail for six weeks under an agency warrant, and since then they have given no trouble.
- 1 See Mr. Carmichael's Manual, 17.