1902 Encyclopedia > Cutch


CUTCH, or KACHII, a native state in the south-western extremity of Hindustan, situated between 68° and 72° E. long, and 22° and 25° N. hit. It is a peninsular tract of land, inclosed towards the W. by the eastern branch of the Indus, or the Koree, on the S. by the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Cutch, and on the N. and E., towards the interior, by the great northern Ran, or Runn, an extensive Bait morass or lake, which from May to October is flooded with salt water, and communicates in its greatest extent with the Gulf of Cutch on the west and the Gulf of Cambay on the east, these two gulfs being united during the monsoon.

The interior of Cutch is studded with hills of consider-able elevation, and a range of mountains runs through it from east to west, many of them of the most fantastic shapes, with large insulated masses of rock scattered in all directions. In the intervening valleys the country is not deficient in fertility and verdure, and is sufficiently pro-ductive in all cases where the nature of the government permits the cultivator to enjoy the fruits of his labour. But this very seldom happens. Many of the hills are covered with jungle, and with the strongholds and dens of petty chiefs, who sometimes protect, but more frequently issue forth to plunder the lower country. The general appearance of Cutch is barren and uninteresting. The greater part is a rock destitute of soil, and presenting the wildest aspect; the ground is cold, poor, and sterile ; the rains are generally scanty, and often fail altogether; and the whole face of the country bears marks of volcanic action. From the violence of tyranny, and the rapine of a disorderly banditti, by which this district has from time immemorial been infested, as well as from shocks of earth-quakes, the villages have a ruinous and dilapidated appear-ance ; and, with the exception of a few fields in their neighbourhood, the country presents a rocky and sandy waste, with in many places scarcely a show of vegetation. Water is scarce and brackish, and is chiefly found at the bottom of low ranges of hills, which abound in some parts; and the inhabitants of the extensive sandy tracts suffer greatly from the want of it. Owing to the uncertainty of the periodical rains in Cutch, the country is liable to severe famines, which, along with the internal broils by which it has been harassed, have greatly obstructed cultivation, and thinned the inhabitants, many of whom have been induced to emigrate to Bombay and Gujarat; and, in addition to all these evils, an uncommonly violent earthquake, which occurred on the 16th of June 1819, nearly destroyed Bhuj, the capital, and greatly injured the towns of Anjar, Mandavi, and Moondria or Mundra. The soil of Cutch produces grain, cotton, tobacco, ghee, &c. ; and iron and coal have been discovered, the latter near the surface of the ground, on the banks of one of the rivers, seven miles north-east of Bhuj, but it is not in general use as fuel.

The Ran, or Runn, which communicates with the Gulf of Cutch, and sweeps round the northern side of that province, is a very extensive salt morass, varying in breadth from five to eighty miles across, and during the rains nearly impassable for horsemen. The total area of this immense morass may be estimated at about 8000 square miles, without including any portion of the Gulf of Cutch, which is in many parts so shallow as to resemble a marshy fen rather than an arm of the sea. The Runn is said to be formed by the overflow of the rivers Pharan, Luni, Banas, and others, during the monsoon; but in December it is quite dry, and in most places hard. The wild ass is very common on the borders of this lake, being seen in herds of from 60 to 70 at a time.

The temperature of Cutch during the hot season is high, the thermometer frequently rising to 100° or 105°; and in the months of April and May, clouds of dust and sand, blown about by hurricanes, envelop the houses, the glass windows scarcely affording any protection. For nine months of the year the climate is comparatively temperate aud agreeable ; but the approach of October is equally dreaded by the native and European population as extremely unhealthy, and at the close of the monsoon the oppression of the atmosphere is described as being intoler-able. The influence of the monsoon is greatly moderated before it reaches this region, and the rains sometimes fail altogether; but although in this case the necessary conse-quences are want and misery to the great body of the people, these dry seasons are far more favourable to the health of Europeans. The monsoon generally sets in with great violence from the north-east before it settles in the south-west. The prevailing wind is westerly, and it blows west by south and west by north ten months in the year. The easterly winds, which do not blow more than a month in the year, are always unhealthy and unpleasant, and bring with them, if they continue long, epidemics and locusts. Cutch is considered unhealthy by the natives of other parts of the country; and Dr Burnes, who was stationed there, and gives an account of its medical topography, mentions that he has known many persons from Bombay, especially servants, who were perfectly useless from con-tinued sickness in Cutch, but who recovered their health the moment they left it. He also adds, that he never was at any station where recoveries from fever were so tedious and incomplete. The hospital returns do not, however, he adds, show any extraordinary sickness. Cholera has made no progress in Cutch. The most common diseases among the natives are fever and rheumatism ; and fever is also the prevailing disease among Europeans, the first attacks of which are always the most dangerous. These, however, are not ordinarily severe, and easily yield to the remedy of sulphate of quinine without any serious injury to the con-stitution. There are some stations at Cutch particularly noxious, such as Narrona, a village in a marsh 24 miles north-east of Bhuj, near the Runn, and Lakshpat Bandar, remarkable for the badness of its water.

The principal towns are Bhuj, Anjar, Jharra, Kantkot, and Kataria. The principal seaports are Mandavi and Mundra. The town best known to Europeans is Bhuj, which is situated inland, and is surrounded by an amphi-theatre of hills, some of which approach within three or four miles of the city. The hill of Bhuja, on which the fort is situated, and under the south-west angle of which is the cantonment of the Cutch brigade, rises to the height of 500 feet in the middle of the plain, and is detached from other high ground. The residency is four miles distant in a westerly direction. There are many mountain streams, but no navigable rivers. They scarcely contain any water except in the rainy season, when they are very full and rapid, and discharge themselves into the Bunn, all along the coast of which the wells and springs are more or less im-pregnated with common salt, and other saline ingredients.

Various causes have contributed to thin the population of this country. In 1812 it was ravaged by a famine and pestilence, which destroyed a great proportion of its inhabitants,—according to some accounts, nearly one-half. This, joined to the tyranny and violence of the Government until the year 1819, and more lately to a succession of un-favourable seasons, has forced many of the cultivators to remove to Sind and other countries. The inhabitants may be estimated at 500,000, of whom one-third are Mahometans and the remainder Hindus of various castes. The Jharija Bajputs form a particular class, being the aristocracy of the country; and all are more or less connected with the family of the Bao, or prince. There are in Cutch about 200 of these Jharija chiefs, who all claim their descent from Sacko Goraro, a prince who reigned in Sind about 1000 years ago. From him also the reigning sovereign is lineally descended, and he is the liege lord of whom all the chiefs or nobles hold their lands in feu, for services which they or their ancestors had performed, or in virtue of their relationship to the family. They are all termed the brotherhood of the Bao, and supposed to be his hereditary advisers, and their possessions are divided among their male children. To prevent the breaking down of their properties, the necessary consequence of this law of inheritance, there is no doubt that infanticide is common among them, and that it extends to the male as well as the female progeny. The Jharijas consider it unlawful to marry any female of their own tribe, being all descended from a common parent. They accordingly marry into the families of other Rajputs ; and to this unfortunate regulation may be chiefly ascribed the destruction of all the female children. The Jharijas have a tradition that when they entered Cutch they were Mahometans, but that they afterward adopted the customs and religion of the Hindus. It is certain, indeed, that they still retain many Mahometan customs. They take oaths equally on the Koran or on the Shastras ; they employ Mus-sulman books j they eat from their hands ; the Bao, when he appears in public, alternately worships God in a Hindu pagoda and a Mahometan mosque; and he fits out annually at Mandavi a ship for the conveyance of pilgrims to Mecca, who are maintained during the voyage chiefly by the liberality of the prince. The Mahometans in Cutch are of the same degenerate caste with those usually found in the western parts of India. The Mianas forms a par ticular class, who claim the same descent as the Jharijas, and boast of their constancy to the Mahometan creed, while the latter apostatized; but they have now entirely degener-ated, and are little better than banditti, always ready to commit outrages, and to sally out in disorderly bands to plunder the defenceless country. Such has been the weakness and tyranny of the rulers of Cutch, that they have frequently had recourse to these wretched auxiliaries in order to aid them in their inordinate exactions, while at other times they recruited the army from the same race. They were nearly extirpated under the rigor-ous rule of Fathi Muhammad, but of late years they have returned in considerable numbers to their villages among the hills. In the seasons of scarcity of 1823 and 1824, many of them emigrated to Sind, where, joining with other adventurers, they formed disorderly bands, who made forays into Cutch, several villages of which they plundered and burned. The natives are in general of a stronger and stouter make, and even handsomer, than those of Western India; and the women of the higher classes are also handsome. The peasants are described as intelligent, and the artizans are justly celebrated for their ingenuity and mechanical skill. The palace at Mandavi, and a tomb of one of their princes at Bhuj, are fair specimens of their architectural skill. In the manufacture of gold and silver ornaments they display great taste and nicety. The natives of this country are in general peace-able and obedient subjects, for robberies and murders are seldom committed except by the Mianas. The quantity of opium which they use is enormous ; its effects, accord-ing to Dr Burnes, are less deleterious to their constitution than might be supposed.

History.—The country of Cutch was invaded about the 9th century by a body of Mahometans of the Summa tribe, who under the guidance of five brothers emigrated from Sind, and who gradu-ally subdued or expelled the original inhabitants, consisting of three distinct races. The descendants of these five leaders assumed the name of Jharija, from a chief named Jharra, who set an example of female infanticide by putting to death his seven daughters in one day. Cutch continued tranquil under their sway for many years, until some family quarrel arose, in which the chief of an elder branch of the tribe was murdered by a rival brother. His son fled to Ahmadabad to seek the assistance of the viceroy, who was married to his sister, and who reinstated him in the sovereignty of Cutch, and Murvi in Kathiawar, in the title of Rao, or Rawul, in the year 1519.

The succession continued in the same line from the time of this prince until 1666, when a younger brother, Pragji, murdered his elder brother and usurped the sovereignty. This line of princes continued till 1760 without any remarkable event, when, in the reign of Rao Gor, the country was invaded four times by the Sinds, who wasted it with fire and sword. The reign of this prince, as well as that of his son Rao Rahiden, by whom he was succeeded in 1778, was marked by cruelty and blood. The latter prince was dethroned, and, being in a state of mental derangement, was during his life-time confined by Fathi Muhammad, a native of Sind, who continued, with a short interval (in which the party of the legal heir, Bhaiji Bawa, gained the ascendency), to rule the country until bis death in 1813. It was in the reign of Fathi Muhammad that a communication first took place with the British Government. During the contests for the sovereignty between the usurper and the legal heir, the leader of the royal party, Hansraj, the governor of Mandavi, sought the aid of the British. But no closer connection followed at that time than an agreement for the suppression of piracy, or of inroads of troops to the eastward of the Runn, or Gulf of Cutch. But the Gidf continued, notwithstanding to swarm with pirates, who Were openly encouraged or connived at by the son of Hansraj, wdio had succeeded his father, as well as by Fathi Muhammad. The latter left several sons by different wives, wdio were competitors for the vacant throne. Husain Miyan succeeded to a considerable por-tion of his father's property and power. Jugjevan, a Brahman, the late minister of Fathi Muhammad, also received a considerable share of influence ; and the hatred of these two factions was em-bittered by religious animosities, the one being Hindu and the other Mahometan. The late Rao had declared himself a Mahometan, and his adherents were preparing to inter his body in a magnificent tomb, when the Jharijas and other Hindus seized the corpse and consigned it to the flames, according to Hindu custom.

The administration of affairs was nominally in the hands of Husain Miyan and his brother Ibrahim Miyan. Many sanguinary broils nowensued, in the course of which Jugjevan was murdered, and the executive authority was much weakened by the usurpations of the Arabs and other chiefs. In the meantime Ibrahim Miyan was assassinated ; and after various other scenes of anarchy, the Rao Bharmulji, son of Rao Rahiden, by general consent, assumed the chief power. But his reign was one continued series of the grossest enormities ; his hostility to the British became evident, and accordingly a force of 10,500 men crossed the Runn in November 1815, and were within five miles of Bhuj, the capital of the country, when a treaty was concluded, by wdiich the Rao Bharmulji was confirmed in his title to the throne, on agreeing, among other stipulations, to cede Anjar and its depen-dencies in perpetuity to the British. He was, however, so far from fulfilling the terms of this treaty that it was determined to de-pose him; and an army being sent against him, he surrendered to the British, who made a provision for his maintenance, and elevated his infant son to the throne.

In 1822 the relations subsisting between the ruler of Cutch and the British were modified by a new treaty, under which the territorial cessions made by the Rao in 1816 were restored in considera-tion of an annual payment. The sum fixed was subsequently thought too large, and in 1832 the arrears, amounting to a consi-derable sum, were remitted, and all future payments on this account relinquished. From that time the Rao has paid a subsidy of £20,000 per annum to the British for the maintenance of the mili-tary force stationed within his dominions. Suttee has been prohibited in Cutch ; and, under British influence, various other measures of a salutary and beneficent character have been adopted.

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