1902 Encyclopedia > Central Provinces, India

Central Provinces

CENTRAL PROVINCES, a Chief-Commissionership of British India, situated between 17° 50' and 24° 30' N. lat., and between 76° and 85° E. long., comprising an area of 84,078 square miles, and a population returned by the census of 1872 at 8,201,519. The Chief-Commissioner-ship was constituted in 1861, when the territories previ-ously known as the Nagpur Province and the Sagar and Nerbudda Territories were united under the name of the Central Provinces. This large tract, comprising almost every variety of soil and of physical aspect, and in-habited by races of very diverse origin, is bounded on the N. by the feudatory state of Rewah, by the small native states of Bundelkhand, and by the district of Lalatpur in the North-Western Provinces ; on the N. and E. by the Chhota Nagpur division, the Orissa tributary states, and the northern districts of Madras; on the S. by the Godavari district; and on the S.W., W., and N.W. by the Nizam's dominions, the Berar districts, and the states comprising the Central India Agency. The Central Provinces are divided into four divisions or commissionerships,—Nagpur, Jabalpur, Nerbudda, and Chhatisgarh, comprising 19 British districts. Two districts, Sagar and Damoh, lie parallel to each other upon the Vindhyan table-land. To the south of them, in the valley of the Nerbudda and its tributaries, are the districts of Mandla, Jabalpur, Narsinhpur, Hoshangabad, and a part of Nimar, the rest of it being in the valley of the Tapti. The next range of districts continuing south-wards includes Betul, Chhindwara, Seoni, and Balaghat, occupying the Satpura table-land, and attaining a height of about 2000 feet. Still further to the south is the great Nagpur plain, formed by the valleys of the Wardha and Wainganga, and comprising the districts of Nagpur, Wardha, Bharidara, and Chanda. To the east is the Chhatisgarh plain, a low plateau of red soil, containing the districts of Raipur, Bilaspur, and Sambalpur. Last of all, in the extreme south, and almost cut off by forests and wild semi-independent states, is a long strip of territory lining the left bank of the Godavari, and known as the Upper Godavari district.

Physical Geography and Scenery.—The official compiler of the statistical account of the Central Provinces thus describes the physical aspects of the country :—" Within comparatively narrow limits, a plateau and a plain follow each other, and again, in similar sequence, a larger plateau and a larger plain, ending in a mass of hill and forest, which is probably the wildest part of the whole Indian peninsula. Even the continuously level portions of this area are broken by isolated peaks and straggling hill ranges ; while its rugged formation and rapid slopes give to the greatest rivers which rise in it, such as the Nerbudda and Tapti, something of the character of mountain torrents. Though the scenery is on too small a scale to compare in sublimity with that of the Himalayas, it is on the other hand as far removed from the monotony of the plains of Hindustan. Not only is it characterized by a constant variety of form and level, but it possesses a diversity of colour peculiar to itself. In no other part of India are the changes of soil and vegetation more rapid and marked than in the Nerbudda country. In the pleasant winter months, the eye may range over miles of green corn lands, only broken by low, black, boundary ridges or dark twisting footpaths. The horizon is bounded here and there by hill ranges, which seem to rise abruptly from the plains, but on coming nearer to them, the heavy green of their slopes is found to be divided from the softer hues of the young wheat by broad belts of gravelly soil studded with fine trees. On the Satpura plateau the alternations of scenery are even more frequent than in the low country. The hills are higher and more abrupt, the black soil deposits are deeper, and the water supply more abundant. Hence in the midst of the grim rolling plateaus of basalt, there may often be found little valleys cultivated like gardens,—oases of sugar-cane and opium, which, but for their inaccessibility, would tempt away the best cultivators of the plains. It is thought that in some of these upland basins, tea, coffee, and other delicate plants might be raised with success, but the obstacles which have so long retarded the settlement of these plateaus, though partially smoothed away, still exist, and can only be surmounted by patient and continued energy. Much has been done to open out the country of late years. Railways from both coasts now connect the plateau with the eastern and western seaboards, and form the central link of communication between Calcutta and Bombay."

The principal rivers of the Central Provinces are the Nerbudda, Tapti, Wardha, and Wainganga, but, owing to falls and rocky rapids, they are navigable only at certain times of the year and for short distances. As a means of communication they are practically useless. The chief lines of road are the following :—

(1) From Jabalpur to Sagar via Damoh; 116 miles; (2) from Jabalpur to Raipur via Mandla, 203 miles ; (3) from Sagar to Kareli on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, 76 miles ; (4) from Nar-sinhpur to Chhindwara, 91 miles ; (5) from Hoshangabad to Betul, 68\ miles ; (6) from Nagpur to Raipur, 174 miles ; (7) from Nag-pur to Chhindwara, 78 miles; (8) from Nagpur to Betul, 104^ miles ; (9) from Nagpur to Chanda, 96 miles ; (10) from Raipur to Sam-balpur, 167 miles ; (11) from Chanda to Sironcha, 121 miles.

The country is intersected by the Great Indian Peninsular and East Indian Railways. The Great Indian Peninsular Railway from Bombay enters the Central Provinces near Barhanpur, and runs north-east to Jabalpur, where it joins the East India line from Allahabad and Calcutta. A branch of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, which leaves the main line at Bhasawal in Kandesh, enters the Central Provinces at Wardha, and runs to Nagpur. A state line is in course of construction to connect this railway with the newly-opened coal-fields of Chanda.

The population of the 19 districts of the Central Provinces was returned by the census of 1872 at 8,201,519, made up as follows:—Hindus 5,879,950, or 7U69 per cent, of the total population; Muhammadans, 233,247, or2'84 per cent.; Buddhists and Jains, 36,569, or 0-45 per cent.; Christians, 10,477, or 0 13 per cent.; and "others" (consisting chiefly of Gonds and the original inhabitants of the country before they were driven back by their Hindu conquerors), 2,041,276, or 24-89 per cent. The census report of 1872 returns 39 towns containing upwards of 5000 inhabitants. Of these 26 have less than 10,000 inhabitants; 5 between 10,000 and 15,000; 3 between 15,000 and 20,000; 3 (Burhanpur, Sagar, and Kamthi) between 20,000 and 50,000; and only 2 (Nagpur and Jabalpur) over 50,000, the former having a population of 84,441, and the latter of 55,188.

Of the total surveyed and assessed area of the British territory 12,352,473 acres were returned in 1873-74 as actually under cultivation, 12,220,845 acres as cultivable but not under tillage, 1,365,071 acres as grazing lands, and 10,885,296 as uncultivable waste. Wheat, rice, and cotton are the principal agricultural staples. The recently-discovered coal-fields and iron-beds in the Wardhi, Valley and the Chanda district promise to open a new era of prosperity for the country.

The improved means of communication afforded by the railways and roads have rapidly developed the trade of the Central Provinces. In 1863-64 the imports and exports were valued at about four millions sterling. In 1868-69 their value had risen to six and three-quarter millions sterling. In 1873-74 the ascertained imports of the Central Provinces amounted to 117,761 tons, value £4,399,134, and the exports to 209,157 tons, value £3,148,598 ; total of imports and exports 326,918 tons, value £7,547,732.

Administration.—The executive authority at Nagpur vests in the chief-commissioner and agent to the Governor-General. He is assisted by a secretary and staff, a judicial commissioner, a settlement commissioner, a sanitary com-missioner, a commissioner of customs, four commissioners of revenue and circuit, an inspector-general of police, an in-spector-general of public instruction, an inspector-general of jails anddispensaries, a conservator of forests, and a registrar-general of assurances, who is also commissioner of excise and superintendent of stamps. A commissioner presides over each of the four divisions, with a deputy-commissioner and assistants in each of the nineteen districts, all sub-ordinate to the chief-commissioner at Nagpur. The total revenue of the Central Provinces in 1873-74 amounted to £1,260,977, of which £1,057,021 was derived from im-perial, and £203,956 from provincial taxation. The civil expenditure in the same year amounted to £904,670, of which £440,232 was on imperial, and £464,438 on provincial account. Of the total revenue £603,056, or just one-half, was derived from the land. There were 196 criminal and 119 civil courts at work in 1873-74. The regular police consisted of a force of 7539 officers and men, besides a municipal police of 988. The total cost of the regular and municipal police in 1873-74 amounted to £130,674. The troops quartered in the Central Pro-vinces are as follows :—Europeans—3 batteries of artillery (with 18 guns), and 2 regiments and 1 company of in-fantry ; natives—2 regiments of cavalry and 6f regiments of infantry. The European troops numbered 2462, and the native troops 5475, giving a total of 7937 officers and men, kept up at a cost of £277,781. For the education of the people Government maintains, or subsidizes under its grant-in-aid system, 1532 schools, attended in 1873-74 by 76,781 pupils, and maintained at a total cost of £55,734, to which the state contributed £31,628, or over one-half. These schools are exclusive of private institu-tions not receiving support from the state.

Besides the 19 British districts of the Central Provinces described in the foregoing paragraphs, and to which alone the above statistics refer, there are also 15 small feudatory states, comprising a total area of 28,834 square miles, with a population of 1,049,710 souls, made up as follows :—Hindus, 638,187 ; Muhammadans, 7718 ; Buddhists and Jains, 14 ; Christians, 5 ; and "others" (consisting of abori-ginal tribes), 403,786. The following are the details of area popula-tion, revenue, &c, of each of these states as officially returned in 1874-5 :—(l.)Bastar: area, 13,062 square miles; population, 78,856 ; supposed gross revenue, £9213, 10s.; annual tribute to the British Government, £305, 12s. (2.) Karond: area, 3745 square miles; population, 133,483 ; estimated revenue, £2000 ; tribute, £355. (3.) Raigarh-Bargariuarea, 1486 square miles ; population, 63,304 ; esti-mated revenue, £750 ; tribute, £40. (4.) Sarangarh: area, 540 square miles; population, 37,091; estimated revenue, £800; tribute, £135. (5.) Patna (under British management): area, 2399 square miles; population, 98,636; estimated revenue, £2500 ; tribute, £60. (6.) Sonpur: area, 906 square miles; population, 130,713 ; estimated revenue, £1800; tribute, £500. (7.) Raira Khol: area, 833 square miles; population, 12,660; estimated revenue, £600; tribute, £58. (8.) Bamra: area, 1988 square miles; population, 53,613; estimated revenue, £600; tribute, £35. (9.) Sakti: area, 115 square miles; population, 8394; estimated revenue, £813; tribute, £35. (10.) Kawardo: area, 887 square miles; population, 75,462; estimated revenue, £5356; tribute, £1600. (11.) Konda or Chhuikhadan: area, 174 square miles; population, 29,590; estimated revenue, £2203; tribute, £1100. (12.) Ranker: area, 1000 square miles; population, 43,552; estimated revenue, £1500; pays no tribute. (13.) Khaira-garh (under British management): area, 940 square miles; popula-tion, 122,264 ; estimated revenue, £11,763 ; tribute, £4700. (14.) Nandgaon: area, 884 square miles; population, 148,454; estimated revenue, £8595; tribute, £4600. (15.) Makrai: area, 215 square miles; population, 13,648; estimated revenue, £2200; pays no tri-bute.

Including the 19 British districts and the 15 small feudatory states, the Central Provinces comprise a total area of 113,797 square miles, and have a population of 9,251,229 souls, made upas follows :—Hindus, 6,518,137, or 70-46 per cent.; Muhammadans, 240,965, or 2'60 per cent.; Buddhists and Jains, 36,583, or 0'40 per cent.; Christians, 10,482, or O'll per cent.; and "others," 2,445,062, or 26-43 per cent. (w. w. H.)

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