1902 Encyclopedia > Cattack (Cuttack) district, India

Cattack (Cuttack) district, India




CATTACK [CUTTACK], a district of British India, in the province of Orissa, under the jurisdiction of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, in 20° N. lat, and 85° to 87° E. long. It is bounded on the N. by the district of Balasor, from which it is separated by the Baitarani and Dhamra rivers ; on the E. by the Bay of Bengal, on the S. by the district of Purf, and on the W. by the Orissa Tributary States. The district comprises the nucleus or middle portion of the great delta formed by the Mahanadf River, and consists of three distinct tracts ;—first, a marshy woodland strip along the coast, from 3 to 30 miles in breadth ; second, an intermediate stretch of rice plains; third, a broken hilly region, which forms the western boundary of the district. The marshy strip along the coast, like the Bengal Sundarbans, is covered with swamps and malaria-breeding jungles, but lacks their forest scenery. As one approaches the sea the solid land gives place to a vast network of streams and creeks, whose sluggish waters are constantly depositing silt, and forming morasses or quicksands. Cultivation does not begin till the limits of this dismal region are passed. The intermediate rice plains stretch inland for about 40 miles, and occupy the older part of the delta between the sea-coast strip and the hilly frontier. They are intersected by four large rivers, which dash down from the western mountains, and then split into innumerable branches on the level delta. Their distributaries, after tortuous interfacings, frequently rejoin the parent stream as it approaches the sea. This inter-mediate tract is a region of rich cultivation, dotted with great banyan trees, thickets of bamboos, exquisite palm foliage, and mango groves. The hilly frontier separates the delta of British Orissa from the semi-independent Tributary States. It consists of a series of ranges, 10 to 15 miles in length, running nearly due east and west, with densely-wooded slopes and lovely valleys between. The timber, however, is small, and is of little value except as fuel. The political character of these three tracts is as distinct as are their natural features. The first and third are still occupied by feudal chiefs, and have never been subjected to a regular land-settlement, by either the Musalman or the British Government. They pay a light tribute, now permanently fixed. The intermediate rice plains, known as the Mughulbandf, from their having been regularly settled by ths Muhammadans, have yielded to the successive dynasties and conquerors of Orissa almost the whole of the revenues derived from the province. The deltaic portions are of course a dead level; and the highest hills within the district in the western or frontier tract do not exceed 2500 feet. They are steep, and covered with jungle, but can be climbed by men. The most interesting of them are the Assa range, with its sandal trees and Buddhist remains; Udayagiri (Sunrise-hill), with its colossal image of Buddha, sacred reservoir, and ruins ; and Assagiri, with its mosque of 1719. The Mahavi-nayaka Peak, visible from Cattack, has been consecrated for ages to Siva-worship by ascetics and pilgrims.

Cattack district takes its character from its rivers. These issue in magnificent streams through three gorges in the hilly frontier. On the south, the Mahanadf, literally the Great Biver, rushes down upon the delta from a narrow gully at Naraj, about seven miles west of the town of Cattack. On the extreme north of the district, the sacred Baitaranf, the Styx of the Hindus, emerges from a more open country, and forms the boundary line between Cattack and Balasor. The Brahman! enters the district about half way between the two. The Cattack delta is thus divided into two great valleys, one of them lying between the Baitaranf and the Brahmanf, the other between the Brahmanf and the Mahanadf. The rivers having, by the silt of ages, gradually raised their beds, now run along high levels. During floods they pour over their banks upon the surrounding valleys, by a thousand channels which interlace and establish communication between the main streams. As the rivers enter the district by three great gorges in the hills, so, after numerous bifurcations they find their way into the sea by three principal mouths. On the north, the Baitaranf and Brahmanf debouch into the Bay of Bengal, under the name of the Dhamra, at Point Palmyras ; while the Mahanadf, after a variety of inter-lacings, forms two great estuaries,—one, bearing the name of the Mahanadf, at False Point, and the other, called the Devi, in the south-eastern corner of the district. Silt-banks and surf-washed bars render the entrance to these rivers perilous. The best harbour in Cattack district is at False Point, on the north of the Mahanadf estuary. It consists of an anchorage, land-locked by islands or sand-banks, and with two fair channels navigable towards the land. The Famine Commissioners in 1867 reported it to be the best harbour on the coast of India from the Hiigli to Bombay. The dearth of the preceding year (1866) had led to the discovery of its value as a port for throwing supplies into the starving province. The harbour is safe and roomy, and the channel properly buoyed. The Dhamra harbour, further up the coast, although not so well protected, is more resorted to by native ships. Four canals have been made through Cattack since 1862 for regulating and distributing the water supply by means of irrigation, and for navigation. They are—the High Level Canal, the Kendrapara Canal, the Taldanda Canal, and the Mach-hgaon Canal, with their respective distributaries. The High Level Canal is designed to provide a great trade-route between Cattack and Calcutta, and to irrigate the country through which it passes. The other three are intended for irrigation and as navigable channels within the district. The canals were undertaken by the East India Irrigation Company in 1862; but the company proving unable to continue the works, Government purchased them on the 31st December 1869 for £941,368. Cattack district is subject to destructive floods, and from time immemorial embankments have been maintained along the sides of the rivers. In 1870 their aggregate length was 680 miles.





The district has an area of 3178 square miles, with a total population of 1,494,784, 95 per cent, of whom, or 1,430,040, are Hindus. The rest consist of Muhammadans, 40,013; Christians, 2314; and persons of unspecified religion, 22,398. The last comprise the aboriginal tribes, who here, as elsewhere, cling to their mountains and jungles. They chiefly consist of the Bhumij, Tala, Kol, and Savar peoples, the Savars being by far the most numerous, numbering 16,589 souls. They are regarded by the orthodox Hindus as little better than the beasts of the wildernesses which they inhabit. Miserably poor, they subsist for the most part by selling firewood or other products of their jungle; but a few of them have patches of cultivated land, and many earn wages as day labourers to the Hindus. They occupy, in fact, an intermediate stage of degradation between the comparatively well-off tribes in the Tributary States (the stronghold and home of the race), and the Pans, Bauris, Kandras, and other semi-aboriginal peoples on the lowlands, who rank as the basest castes of the Hindu community. The great bulk of the Indo-Aryan or Hindu population consists of Uriyas, with a residue of immigrant Bengalis, Lala Kayets from Behar and Northern India, Telingas from the Madras coast, Marhattas from Central and Western India, a few Sikhs from the Punjab, and Marwarfs from Rajputana. The Muhammadans are chiefly the descendants of the Pathans who took refuge in Orissa after the subversion of their king-dom in Bengal by the Mughuls in the 16th century.

Only three towns in Cattack district contained in 1872 upwards of 5000 inhabitants, viz., Cattack, the capital, 50,878 ; Jajpur, 10,753 ; Kendrapara, 10,682. Jajpur was the capital of Orissa under its Hindu kings; it is still considered a sacred town, and thousands of pilgrims annually flock to it.

Rice forms the staple product of the district; its three chief varieties are bidli or early rice, sdrad or winter rice, and ddlua or spring rice. The other cereal crops consist of mdndud (a grass-like plant producing a coarse grain resembling rice), wheat, barley, and chind, a rice-like cereal. Sudn, another rice-like cereal, not cultivated, grows spon-taneously in the paddy fields. Pulses of different sorts, oilseeds, fibres, sugar-cane, tobacco, spices, and vegetables also form crops of the district. The cultivators consist of two classes—the resident husbandmen (Thdni), and the non-resident or migratory husbandmen (Pdhe). At the time of the last settlement of land revenue in 1837, the rights of the resident cultivators were formally recognized by Government, and secured to them by palm-leaf leases. They hold their homestead lands rent free, and are not liable to be ousted so long as they continue to pay the rents assessed on their cultivable lands. Nor can such rents be enhanced until the expiration of their leases, which run con-currently with the land-settlement to 1897. The non-resi-dent cultivators were formerly tenants-at-will, but since 1859 a large proportion of them have acquired rights of occupancy under the Acts of the Indian Legislature.

Weekly steamers ply between Calcutta and Dhamra. The High Level Canal, when completed, will afford ample means of communication inland towards Bengal. The revenues of the Cattack district have steadily increased under the British rule. The total revenue in 1829-30 was £139,642, the expenditure on civil administration £114,438 ; in 1870-71 the revenue was £243,958, the civil expenditure £223,659. In the latter year the land revenue amounted to £77,629. Excluding the indigenous village schools maintained by the people themselves, the schools inspected by the Educational Department in 1872-73 numbered 53, attended by 2435 pupils, and maintained at an outlay of £4081, to which Government contributed £2699. The hot season commences in March and lasts till about the middle of June; the rains con-tinue from the middle of June till the end of October, when the cold weather sets in. The average rainfall for five years previous to 1870 was 63"18 inches, the average temperature 84° Fahr. Intermittent fever, elephanti-asis, smallpox, and bowel complaints form the prevalent diseases. Cholera is always present among the natives, and occasionally assumes the epidemic type. The district of Cattack, with the rest of Orissa, passed into the hands of the English from the Marhattas in 1803. (w. w. H.)





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