1902 Encyclopedia > Balasor

Balasor (district)
Orissa, British India

BALASOR, a district of British India in the Orissa division, under the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, lies between 20° and 21° N. lat., and in 86° and 87° E. long., and is bounded on the N. by the district of Midnapur ; on the S. by Cattack district, from which it is separated by the Baitaranf river; on the W. by the tributary states of Keun-jhar, Nilgiri, and Morbhanj; and on the E. by the Bay of Bengal. Balasor district forms a strip of alluvial land between the hills and the sea, varying from about 9 to 34 miles in breadth; area, 2066 sq. miles. The hill country rises from the western boundary line. The district natu-rally divides itself into three well-defined tracts—(1.) The Salt Tract, along the coast; (2.) The Arable Tract, or rice country; and (3.) The Submontane Tract, or jungle lands. The Salt Tract runs the whole way down the coast, and forms a desolate strip a few miles broad. Towards the beach it rises into sandy ridges, from 50 to 80 feet high, sloping inland, and covered with a vegetation of low scrub jungle. Sluggish brackish streams creep along between banks of foetid black mud. The sand hills on the verge of the ocean are carpeted with creepers and the wild convol-vulus. Inland, it spreads out into prairies of coarse long grass and scrub jungle, which harbour wild animals in plenty ; but throughout this vast region there is scarcely a hamlet, and only patches of rice cultivation at long inter-vals. From any part of the Salt Tract one may see the boundary of the inner arable part of the district, fringed with long lines of trees, from which every morning the villagers drive their cattle out into the saliferous plains to graze. The Salt Tract is purely alluvial, and appears to be of recent date. Towards the coast the soil has a distinctly saline taste.

Salt is largely manufactured in this tract by evaporation. The following is the process followed :—At the beginning of December the contractor selects his locality, about a quarter to half a mile from the sea, and engages a class of men called chuliyds, or heads of salt gangs. These men receive Is. a cwt. for whatever amount of salt they turn out. They, in their turn, engage working parties of malangis, who are paid at the rate of 3d. to 5d. a day. The ground is first marked out by a shallow trench, and the grasses and bushes are carefully dug up and removed. A deep ditch is next dug from the sea, by means of which, twice a month, the spring tides overflow the salt-field, and fill a number of reservoirs, 4 feet in diameter, and 2 or 3 feet deep. A mound of earth is then piled up to the height of 2 feet, and from 3 to 4 in diameter. It is next hollowed out into the shape of a bowl, plastered inside with clay, and furnished with a hole at the bottom, covered with a layer of grass 6 inches thick. The salt-makers fill this bowl with saline earth scraped off the adjacent land, and pour the sea-water on it from the top. By the end of six hours the water has drained through into a pit at the bottom, and runs down a thatched trench towards a reser-voir, whence it is transferred to the evaporators. The latter consist of from 160 to 200 little unglazed earthenware pots, fastened together by stiff tenacious mud, and holding two quarts each. The neighbouring plains supply grasses for the fuel Six hours' boiling completes the process. The brine, which consisted in the first place of sea-water charged to its maximum power of solution by percolating through the bowls of salt earth, subsides into dirty crystals at the bottom of the pots. It is then ladled out in spoons made of half cocoa-nuts. The whole process is as rude and careless as can well be imagined. The total cost of manufacture is estimated at 2s. Id. a cwt., which with the Government duty of 8s. 8d., makes a total cost of 10s. 9d.

The Arable Tract lies beyond the salt lands, and embraces the chief part of the district. It is a long dead level of rich fields, with a soil lighter in colour than that of Bengal or Behar; much more friable, and apt to split up into small cubes with a rectangular cleavage. A peculiar feature of the Arable Tract is the Pats, literally the Cups, or depressed lands near the river banks. They were probably marshes that have partially silted up by the yearly overflow of the streams. These Cup-lands bear the finest crops. As a whole, the Arable Tract is a treeless region, except around the villages, which are encircled by fine mango, pipal, banyan, and tamarind trees, and intersected with green shady lanes of bamboo. A few palmyras, date palms, and screw pines (a sort of aloe, whose leaves are armed with formidable triple rows of hook-shaped thorns) dot the expanse, or run in straight lines between the fields. The Submontane Tract is an undulating country with a red soil, much broken up into ravines along the foot of the hills. Masses of laterite, buried in hard ferruginous clay, crop up as rocks or slabs. At Kopari, in Kila Ambohati, about 2 square miles are almost paved with such slabs, dark red in colour, perfectly flat, and polished like plates of iron. A thousand mountain torrents have scooped out for themselves picturesque ravines, clothed with an ever-fresh verdure of prickly thorns, stunted gnarled shrubs, and here and there a noble forest tree. Large tracts are covered with Sal jungle, which nowhere, however, attains to any great height.

Balasor district is watered by six distinct river systems : 1. The Subanrekha, literally the streak of gold, forms the boundary between Balasor and Midnapur, flowing in a tortuous southern course, with gigantic bends from east to west till it reaches the sea in lat. 21° 36' N. and long. 87° 28' E. It is navigable by country craft as high as Kalfkapur, about 16 miles from the mouth, to which point the tide also runs. Rice boats of 2 tons' burden can make their way up to the end of the Balasor district, and during the rains far into the tributary state of Morbhanj. 2. The intermediate country on the south of the Subanrekha and the north of the Burabalang, forms a great line of drainage down from Morbhanj. It is watered by a number of small streams, of which the principal are the Jamiri, Bins, and Bhairingf. They unite, bifurcate, and re-unite in the wildest confusion, and at length enter the sea as the Panchpara, in lat. 21° 31' N. and long. 87° 10' E. 3. South of this network of rivers is the Burabalang, literally the Old Twister. It rises among the Morbhanj hills, in lat. 21° 24' and long. 86° 36', and after receiving two small tributaries, the Gangahar and Sunaf, wriggles into the sea in lat. 21° 28' and long. 87° 5'. Brigs, sloops, and sea-going steamers can navigate this river as far as the town of Balasor, about 16 miles up its twisting course, but the sand-bar across the mouth of the river renders the entrance difficult 4. South of the Burabalang, a network of rivers, known as the Jamka, find their way down the line of drainage from the western Nilgiri hills, and enter the sea by many channels. 5. The Kansbdns, ris-ing in Kila Ambohata, runs in a south-easterly direction, at first almost parallel with the Nilgiri hills, and receives from them a number of nameless drainage streams on its northern bank. At Birpaxa it bifurcates, the northern branch retaining its original name, and entering the sea in lat. 21° 12' 25", long. 86° 52 10". The southern branch receives the name of Gammai, and falls into the sea 6 miles south of the Kansbans. This river is navigable only few miles up, but is celebrated for its sudden floods and the vast extent of country which it submerges in the rainy season. 6. The Baitarani enters the district at the village of Balipur, and flows for about 45 miles in a south-westerly direction till it joins the Dhamra,, 6 miles from its mouth. The united stream enters the sea under the name of the Dhamra, in lat. 20° 47', long. 87°. The Dhamra is a fine navigable estuary, but, like all the Orissa rivers, it is ren-dered perilous by a bar across its mouth.

Population of Balasor in 1872, 770,232 souls, residing in 3266 villages, and 138,913 houses ; persons per square mile, 378; vil-lages per square mile, 1'68; persons per village, 236; houses per square mile, 67; persons per house, 5'5. Of the total population 738,396, or 95'9 per cent., were Hindus ; 18,878, or 2'4 per cent., Mahometans ; 530, or -1 per cent., Christians ; 1 Buddhist ; and 12,427, or 1'6 per cent., of aboriginal origin. The proportion of males to the total district population was 49'2 per cent.; number of male adult agriculturists, 150,391, and male adult non-agricul-turists, 82,542. Brahmans, Karans, Khandaits, and other castes, compose the Hindu population. There are two settlements of Christian missionaries in the district belonging to the Freewill Baptists, from Dover, New Hampshire, U.S.

The district contains only one town with upwards of 5000 inhabitants, viz., Balasor itself, with 18,263. Almost the whole population of the district lives by agriculture. Rice forms the staple crop of the district, and is divided into 5 great genera, and 49 principal varieties. Pulses, oil-seeds, hemp, tobacco, cotton, sugar-cane, &c, makeup the other agricultural products of Balasor. Balasor husbandmen consist of two classes, thani or cultivators, with a right of occupancy, and pdhl, or tenants at will. Roughly speaking, one half of the district is under tillage, and the other half incapable of cultivation.

Exports —Grain, sugar, oil-seeds, timber, hides, horns, &c.

Imports—_ Native cloths, English piece-goods, &c.

Total revenue of the Bala-sor district in 1870-71, £102,052, of which £41,408, or 40 percent., was from land ; total expenditure in the same year, £51,620.

In 1872 the police force of the district consisted of 566 officers and men of the regular police, maintained at a total cost of £8879, 8s.; 32 officers and men of the municipal police, maintained at a cost of £224,12s ; and 2320 men of the village watch, maintained by grants of service lands and by subscriptions from villages, which amounted to £2745 in 1872 ; total strength of police, 2918 men ; total cost, £11,849. Balasor contained 1053 schools in 1872, attended by 11,538 pupils. The Government and aided schools were 43 in number, attended by 1631 pupils, and maintained at a total cost of £1559, to which Government contributed £748, 16s. The climate of Balasor greatly varies according to the seasons of the year. The hot season lasts from March to June, but is tempered by cool sea breezes ; from June to September the weather is close and oppressive; and from October to February the cold season brings the north-easterly winds, with cool mornings and evenings. (W. W. H.)

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