1902 Encyclopedia > Hooghly (district), British India

Hooghly (district)
British India

HOOGHLY, a British district in the lieutenant-governor-ship of Bengal, lying between 22° 13' 45" and 23° 13' 15" N. lat., aud between 87° 47' and 88° 33' E. long. The area, including the magistracy of Howrah, amounted in 1878 to 1467 square miles. It forms the south-eastern portion of the Bardwan division, and is bounded N. by the district of Bardwan, E. by the Hooghly river, separating it from the districts of Nadiya and the Twenty-Four Parganas; S. by the Bupnarayan, separating it from Midnapur; and W. by the same river, separating it from Midnapur, aud by Bardwan district.

The district is fiat, with a gradual ascent to the north and north-west. The scenery along* the high-lying bank of the Hooghly has a quiet beauty of its own, presenting the appearance of a connected series of orchards and gardens, interspersed with factories, villages, and temples. The principal rivers are the Hooghly, the Damodar, and the Rtipnarayan. The Damodar is the only large river which intersects the district. As in other deltaic districts, the highest land lies nearest the rivers, and the lowest levels are found midway between two streams. There are in con-sequence considerable marshes both between the Hooghly and the Damodar and between the latter river aud the Riipnarayan.

The first regular census of the district (1872) showed a population of 1,488,556 persons, of whom 722,856 were males and 765,700 females. Of these 813 were Non-Asiatics, the great majority of them Europeans, and 557 were of mixed races (Eurasians). The Hindus numbered 1,186,435 ; Mahometans, 299,025 ; and the Christian community, 2583. Seven municipalities contain a popu-lation of over 5000 each, viz., Howrah, 97,784 ; Hooghly and Chinsurah given as one town, 34,761 ; Serampur, 24,448 ; Baidyabati, 13,332 ; Bansbaria, 7861 ; Bhadreswar, 7417 ; and Kotrang, 6811. HOWRAH (q.v.) is the largest and most important town in the district. Amongst other places of interest are— Tribeni, a place of great sanctity, and the scene of many religious gatherings ; Panduah, now a small village, but in ancient times the fortified seat of a Hindu raja ; Tarakeswar, a village containing a large and richly endowed shrine of great holiness, visited at all times of the year by crowds of pilgrims. The total revenue in 1870-71 was £239,452, and the expenditure £84,989. In 1870 there were 16 magisterial and 35 civil and revenue courts, with 8 covenanted English officers. The regular police force of Hooghly and Howrah consisted (1871) of 1140 men, maintained at a cost of £20,726. There was also in 1870 a municipal force (exclusive of Howrah) of 583 men, costing £4475, and a rural police of 7068 men, costing £17,856. The number of Government-aided schools in 1877-78 was 625, attended by 22,666 pupils. The principal educa-tional institution in the district is the Hooghly College, attended in 1872 by 3142 students, on which the expenditure was £5143.

Rice forms the staple crop of the district, occupying about thirteen-sixteenths of the cultivated area; the other cereals are barley, wheat, and Indian corn. The other crops consist of pease, pulses, oil-seeds, vegetables, jute, hemp, cotton, sugar-cane, indigo, mulberry, tobacco, and pan. Blights occasionally visit Hooghly and Howrah, but they have not affected any crop throughout the entire district. An exceptional case was that of the " Bombay sugar-cane," which was totally destroyed by blight in 1860. Droughts caused by deficiency of rainfall sometimes occur, but not to any serious extent. Floods are rare. The trade of the district is chiefly carried on by means of permanent markets. The prin-cipal exports are—fine rice, silk, indigo, jute, cotton cloth, and vegetables ; the chief imports are common rice, English piece goods, lime, timber, &c. The chief manufactures are silk and cotton. In 1870 there were 400 miles of road in Hooghly district, maintained at a cost of £4000. The East Indian Railway has its principal terminus at Howrah, and runs through the district for about 45 miles ; there are 10 stations in the district. There are six canals in Hooghly district used for water-carriage, of a total length of 33 miles.

The climate does not differ from that of Lower Bengal generally. The average maximum temperature is 92° F., the minimum 68° F., and the average annual rainfall about 70 inches. The diseases of the district are fever, cholera, dysentery, &c. An epidemic malarious fever has raged at intervals, and is said to have carried olf more than half the population and to have almost depopulated certain villages. There are 7 hospitals and dispensaries.

From an historical point of view the district possesses as much interest as any in Bengal, or indeed in India. In the early period of the Mahometan rule Satgaon was the seat of the governors of Lower Bengal and a mint town. It was also a place of great com-mercial importance. In consequence of the silting up of the Saraswati, the river on which Satgaon was situated, the town be-came inaccessible to large ships, and the Portuguese moved to Hooghly. In 1632 the latter place, having been taken from the Portuguese by the Mahometans, was made the royal port of Bengal; and all the public offices and records were withdrawn from Satgaon, which rapidly fell into decay. In 1640- the East India Company established a factory at Hooghly. This was the first English settle-ment in Lower Bengal. In 1685, a dispute having taken place between the English factors and the nawab of Bengal, the town was bombarded and burned to the ground. This was not the first time that Hooghly had been the scene of a struggle deciding the fate of a European power in India. In 1629, when held by the Portuguese, it was besieged for three months and a half by a large Mahometan force sent by the emperor Shah Jahan. The place was carried by storm ; more than 1000 Portuguese were killed, upwards of 4000 prisoners taken, and of 300 vessels only 3 escaped. But Hooghly district possesses historical interest for other European nations besides England and Portugal. The Dutch established themselves at Chinsurah in the 17th century, and held the place till 1825, when it was ceded to Great Britain in exchange for the island of Java. The Danes settled at Serampur, where they remained till 1825, when all Danish possessions in India were transferred to the East India Company. Chandarnagar became a French settle-ment in 1683. The English captured this town twice, but since 1816 it has remained in the possession of the French. (W. W. H.)

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