1902 Encyclopedia > Oudh, India


OUDH, a province of British India, now under the political administration of the lieutenant-governorship of the North-Western Provinces, but in respect of its land and courts still a distinct chief-commissionership. Lying between 25° 34' and 28° 42' N. lat. and between 79° 44' and 83° 9' E. long., it is bounded on the N.E. by Nepal, on the N.W. by the Bohilkhand division, on the S.W. by the Ganges river, on the E. and S.E. by the Benares division. The administrative headquarters of the province are at Lucknow.

Physical Aspects.—Oudh forms the central portion of the great Gangetic plain, sloping downwards from the Nepal Himalayas in the north-east to the Ganges on the south-west. For 60 miles along the northern border of Gonda and Bahraich districts the boundary extends close up to the lower slopes of the Himalayas, embracing the damp and unhealthy sub-montane region known as the tardi. To the westward of this, the northern boundary recedes a little from the mountain tract, and the tardi in this portion of the range has been for the most part ceded to Nepal. With the exception of a belt of Government forest along the northern frontier, the rest of the province consists of a fertile and densely peopled monotonous plain. The greatest elevation (600 feet) is attained in the jungle-clad plateau of Khairigarh in Kheri district, while the extreme south-east frontier is only 230 feet above sea-level. Four great rivers traverse or skirt the plain of Oudh in converging courses—the Ganges, the Gumti, the Gogra, and the Rapti. Numerous smaller channels seam the whole face of the country, carrying off the surplus drainage in the rains, but drying up in the hot season. All the larger rivers, except the Gumti, as well as most of the smaller streams, have beds hardly sunk below the general level; and in time of floods they burst through their con-fining banks and carve out new channels for themselves. Numerous shallow ponds or jhils mark the former beds of the shifting rivers. These jhils have great value, not only as preservatives against inundation, but also as reservoirs for irrigation. The soil of Oudh consists of a rich alluvial deposit, the detritus of the Himalayan system, washed down into the Ganges valley by ages of fluvial action. Usually a light loam, it passes here and there into pure clay, or degenerates occasionally into barren sand. The uncultivable land consists chiefly of extensive usar plains, found in the southern and western districts, and covered by the deleterious saline efflorescence known as reh. Oudh possesses no valuable minerals. Salt was extensively manufactured during native rule, but the British Govern-ment has prohibited this industry for fiscal reasons. Nodular limestone (kankar) occurs in considerable deposits, and is used as road metal.

The general aspect of the province is that of a rich expanse of waving and very varied crops, interspersed by numerous ponds or lakes. The villages lie thickly scattered, consisting of low thatched cottages, and surrounded by patches of garden land, or groves of banyan, pipal, and pdkar trees. The dense foliage of the mango marks the site of almost every little homestead,—no less an area than 1000 square miles being covered by these valuable fruit-trees. Tamarinds overhang the huts of the poorer classes, while the neighbourhood of a wealthy family may be recognized by the graceful clumps of bamboo. Plantains, guavas, jack-fruit, limes, and oranges add further beauty to the village plots. The flora of the Government reserved forests is rich and varied. The sal tree yields the most important timber; the finest logs are cut in the Khairigarh jungles and floated down the Gogra to Bahramghat, where they are sawn. The hard wood of the shisham is also valuable; and several other timber-trees afford materials for furniture or roofing shingle. Among the scattered jungles in various parts of the province, the mahud tree is prized alike for its edible flowers, its fruits, and its timber. The jhils supply the villages with wild rice, the roots and seeds of the lotus, and the singhdra water-nut. The fauna comprises most of the animals and birds common to the Gangetic plain; but many species, formerly common, have now almost, if [not entirely, disappeared. The wild elephant is now practically unknown, except when a stray specimen loses its way at the foot of the hills. Tigers are now only found in any numbers in the wilds of Khairigarh. Leopards still haunt the cane-brakes and thickets along the banks of the rivers ; and nilgai and antelopes abound. Game birds consist of teal and wild duck, snipe, jungle fowl, and peacock.

Climate.—The climate of Oudh is less damp than that of Lower Bengal, and has greater varieties of temperature. The year falls naturally into three seasons—the rainy, from the middle of June to the beginning of October; the cold weather, from October to February or March; and the hot season, from March to June. The mean temperature at Lucknow for the thirteen years ending 1880 was 78°; in 1881 it was the same, the maximum temperature on any one day during the year being 1110, and the minimum 35°. The heat proves most oppressive in the rainy season. The heaviest downpours occur in July and September, but are extremely capricious. The average annual rainfall at Lucknow for the fourteen years ending 1881 amounted to 37-57 inches.
Population (1881).
Population.—Oudh is probably more densely peopled than any other equal rural area in the world. The census of 1881 returned the population at 11,387,741 (5,851,655 males and 5,536,086 females), distributed over an area of 24,245 square miles. The following table exhibits the areas and populations of the districts separately.

== TABLE ==

Divided according to religion, the population consistedof 9,942,411 Hindus, 1,433,443 Mohammedans, 1154 Sikhs, 9060 Christians, and 1673 others. The Mohammedans are subdivided into the four classes of Sayyids, Shaikhs, Pathans, and Mughals, but they have lost greatly in social prestige since the downfall of the royal line. In the higher rank they still number seventy-eight tdlukddrs. Some of these, as the rajas of Utraula and Nanpara, trace their descent from local Mohammedan chieftains. Others belong to ancient Hindu families. The Mohammedans still furnish the ablest public servants in the province, and supply almost entirely the native bar. The lower orders make industrious cultivators and weavers. Among the Hindu population, the Brahmans preponder-ate, numbering 1,364,783, about one-eighth of the entire population. They include, however, only six tdlukddrs in the whole province, and two of these acquired their wealth during the later days of Mohammedan rule. Large numbers of them follow agriculture, but they make undesirable tenants, —most of them refusing to hold the plough, and cultivating their fields by hired labour. They supply good soldiers, however, and many are employed in trade. The Kshattriyas, or Rajputs, form the great landholding class, but the majority are now in decayed circumstances. The Mohammedans, Brahmans, and Kshattriyas compose the higher social stratum of society, and number altogether about a fourth of the entire popu-lation. Amongst the lower Hindus, the Kayasths, or clerk and scrivener class, number 147,432. The Siidras or lowest class of Hindus include 1,185,512 Ahirs, cattle graziers and cultivators. The best tenantry and most industrious cultivators are to be found amongst the Kurmis, who number nearly 800,000. Of the aboriginal or semi-Hinduized tribes some, such as the Pasis, who number 718,906, make good soldiers, and furnish the greater part of the rural police. Others, like the Bhars and Tharus, live in small isolated groups on the outskirts of the jungle or the hill country, and hold no communication with the outer world. The Nats and Kanjars wander like gipsies over the country, with their small movable villages or wigwams of matting and leaf-screens. The Koris and Chamars, weavers and leather-cutters, reach the lowest depth of all. In the northern districts many still practically occupy the position of serfs, bound to the soil, having seldom spirit enough to avail themselves of the remedy afforded by the courts of law. They hold the plough for the Brahman or Kshattriya master, and dwell with the pigs in a separate quarter of the village, apart from their purer neighbours.

Fifteen towns in the province have a population exceeding 10,000 persons, according to the census of 1881, namely—Lucknow, 239,773; Faizabad, 38,828 ; Lucknow Cantonment, 21,530 ; Bahraich, 19,439 ; Shahabad, 18,510 ; Tanda, 16,594 ; Sandila, 14,865 ; Khairabad, 14,217; Nawabganj, 13,933; Ajudhia, 11,643; Rudauli, 11,394 ; Bilgram, 11,067 ; Mallawan, 10,970; Laharpur, 10,437; Hardoi, 10,026. Thirty-six other towns have a population exceed-ing 5000. The general population is essentially rural, spread over the surface of the country in small cultivating communities. Over 90 per cent, of the population belong to the rural class.

Agriculture.—There are three harvests, reaped respectively in September, December, and March, while sugar-cane comes to maturity in February, cotton in May, and sclnwdn in almost any month of the year. The principal September crops are rice, Indian corn, and millets. Fine rice, transplanted in August from nurseries near the village sites, forms the most valuable item of the December harvest, the other staples being mustard-seed and pulses. Wheat forms the main spring crop. Sugar-cane occupies the land for an entire year; it requires much labour and several waterings, but the result in ordinary years amply repays the outlay.

At the date of the annexation of Oudh in 1856, 23,500 villages, or about two-thirds of the entire area of the province, were in the possession of the great tdlukddrs, heads of powerful clans and representatives of ancient families, a feudal aristocracy, based upon rights in the soil, which went back to traditional times, and which were heartily acknowledged by the subordinate holders. The new settlement paid no regard to their claims, and many landholders were stripped of almost their entire possessions. The mutiny of 1857 suddenly put a stop to this work of disinheritance, and it is hardly to be wondered at that throughout Oudh, the whole tdlukddri, with a very few isolated exceptions, joined the sepoys. On the restoration of order the principle adopted was to restore to the tdlukddrs all that they had formerly possessed, but in such a manner that their rights should depend upon the immediate grant of the British Government. About two-thirds of the number accepted an invitation to come to Lucknow, and there concluded political arrangements with the Government. On the one hand, the tdlukddrs bound themselves to level all forts, give up arms, and act loyally, to pay punctually the revenue assessed upon them and the wages of the village officials, and to assist the police in keeping order. On the other hand, the British Government conferred a right of property unknown alike to Hindu and to Mohammedan law, comprising full power of alienation by will, and succession according to primogeniture in case of intestacy. The land revenue demand was fixed at one-half the gross rental; subordinate tenure-holders were confirmed in their ancient privileges; and a clause was introduced to protect the actual cultivators from extortion. Such were the main features of the sanads issued by Sir C. Wingfield in October 1859, which constitute the land system of Oudh to the present day, subject to a few minor modifications. The detailed operations for giving effect to this settlement were carried out by a revenue survey, conducted both by fields and villages, begun in 1860, and finished in 1871. The total assessed area in 1881-82 was 14,877,020 acres, the total assessment as land revenue being £1,449,147, or an average of Is. lljd. per acre. The total culti-vated area is 8,274,560 acres ; cultivable and grazing lands are set down at 4,035,351 acres ; and uncultivable waste at 2,567,109 acres.

The estates on the revenue roll are divided into three classes :— (1) those held under the tdlukddri rules described above ; (2) those held by ordinary zaminddrl tenure; and (3) those held in fee-simple. There are altogether about 400 tdlukddrs in the province, of whom about two-thirds, with an area of about 2J million acres, hold their estates under the rule of primogeniture. The zaminddrl estates, locally known by the name of mufrdd, may be the undivided pro-perty of a single owner ; but far more commonly they are owned by a coparcenary community who regard themselves as descendants of a common ancestor. The fee-simple estates, which are very few in number, consist of land sold under the Waste Land Rules. The sub-tenures under the above estates are—(1) sub-settled villages comprised within tdlukddri estates; (2) lands known as sir, daswant, ndnkdn, and dihddrl, held by proprietors who have been unable to prove their right to the sub-settlement of a whole village; (3) groves held by cultivators, who, according to immemorial custom, give the landlord a certain share of the produce ; (4) lands granted, either by sale or as gifts, for religious endowments ; and (5) lands held rent-free by village servants and officials.

Commerce and Manufactures.—Under native rule the only exports were salt and saltpetre, while the imports were confined to articles of luxury required for the Lucknow court. Since the introduction of British authority, although Lucknow has declined, countless small centres of traffic have sprung up throughout the country. The staple exports consist of wheat and other food grains, and oil-seeds; the maiii imports are cotton piece goods, cotton twist, and salt. Cawnpur, though lying on the southern bank of the Ganges within the North-Western Provinces, is, in fact, the emporium for the whole trade of Oudh, by rail, road, and river. The enormous exports of wheat and oil-seeds from Cawnpur represent to a great extent the surplus harvest of the Oudh cultivator. A brisk trade is also carried on with Nepal, along the three frontier districts of Kheri, Bahraich, and Gonda. The policy of the Nepal court is to compel this traffic to be trans-acted at marts within its own dominions. At all of these a con-siderable number of Oudh merchants are permanently settled, whereas Nepalis rarely cross the frontier to trade except for the purchase of petty necessaries. The principal exports from Oudh into Nepal are Indian and European piece goods, salt, sugar, tobacco, spices, and chemicals. The imports from Nepal, which considerably exceed the exports in value, consist chiefly of rice, oil-seeds, ghi or clarified butter, metal-wares, timber, spices, drugs, and cattle.

No province of India is more destitute of wholesale manufac-tures than Oudh. Almost all manufactured articles of any nicety require to be imported. The only specialties are gold and silver lace-work, silver chasing, and rich embroidery, all confined to Lucknow, and the weaving of a peculiar class of cotton goods, which still flourishes at Tanda.

Communication.—The Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway forms the great trunk of communications. A branch runs from Lucknow through Unao to Cawnpur; and another diverges at Bara Biinki for Bahramghat on the Gogra. The whole railway forms a loop-line between the East Indian and the Sind, Punjab, and Delhi systems. Good roads connect all the principal towns, and much traffic passes along the rivers.

Administration.—The administration belongs to the non-regulation system, under which a single officer discharges both fiscal and judicial functions. The province contains twelve districts, each under a deputy-commissioner. The chief-commissionership is now amalgamated with the governorship of the North-Western Provinces. The high court, presided over by the judicial com-missioner, forms the ultimate court of appeal. The principal items of revenue consist of the land revenue, which stands at about £1,400,000; stamps, £116,770; excise, £100,411; forests, £31,114; and cesses over £101,000. In 1881 the total police force numbered 7634 officers and men, maintained at a cost of £95,815.

History. —At the dawn of history Oudh appears as a flourishing kingdom, ruled over from Sravasti by a powerful sovereign. In its capital Sakya Muni (Buddha) began his labours, and the city long remained a seat of learning for Buddhist disciples. For six centuries Sravasti maintained a high position among the states of northern India, but in the 1st century of our era the Buddhist monarch of Kashmir was defeated by the Brahmanical king of Ujjain, who restored the fanes and holy places of Ajodhya, the Hindu sacred city, which had fallen into decay. A long struggle between Buddhism and Brahmanism followed, and when the Chinese pilgrim Fa Hian (c. 400 A.D.) visited Sravasti, as one of the most famous historical places of his religion, he found the once populous city still marked by lofty walls, enclosing the rains of numerous temples and palaces, but inhabited only by a few destitute monks and devotees. In the 7th century the desolation was complete. According to local tradition, about the 8th or 9th century the Tharus, an aboriginal tribe, descended from the hills and began to clear the jungle which had overgrown the deserted kingdom, as far as the sacred city of Ajodhya. To the present day these aborigines are the only people wdio can withstand the influence of malaria, and so become the pioneers of civilization in the jungle tracts. About a century later, a family of Sombansi lineage, from the north-west, subjected the wild settlers to their sway. The new dynasty belonged to the Jain faith, and still ruled at or near the ruins of Sravasti at the time of the invasion of Mahnnid's famous general, Sayyid Salar. Towards the close of the 11th century Oudh was added to the kingdom of Kanauj by conquest. After its downfall Shahab-ud-din Ghori, or his lieutenant, overran Oudh in 1194. Mohammed Bakhtiyar Khilji was the first Mohammedan to organize the administration, and establish in Oudh a base for his military operations, which extended to the banks of the Brahmaputra. On the death of Kutb-ud-din he refused allegiance to Altamsh as a slave, and his son Ghiyas-ud-din established an hereditary governorship of Bengal. Oudh, however, was wrested from the Bengal dynasty, and remained an outlying province of Delhi. Although nominally ruled in the name of the Delhi empire by great Mohammedan vassals from Bahraich or Manikpur, Oudh continued to be a congeries of Rajput principalities and baronies, which made war, collected revenues, and administered justice within their territories at their own pleasure. During the early days of Mohammedan supremacy the Hindu chiefs of southern Oudh were engaged in a desultory warfare with the receding Bhars, an aboriginal tribe who had obtained a tem-porary ascendency after the first Moslem invasions. Upon their subjection the Mohammedan kingdom of Jaunpur arose in the valley of the Ganges. Ibrahim Shah Sharki, the ablest of the Jaunpur rulers, turned his attention to the fruitful province which lay in the direct path between his capital and Delhi. He attempted thoroughly to reduce Oudh to the condition of a Moslem country, and, as long as he lived, the people sullenly acquiesced. But on his death the national spirit successfully reasserted itself under the leadership of Raja Tilok Chand, probably a descendant of the Kanauj sovereigns ; and for a hundred years the land had peace.

During the troubled times which followed the death of Babar, the first Mughal emperor of Delhi, Oudh became a focus of dis-affection against the reigning house. After the final defeat of the Afghan dynasty at Panipat, and the firm establishment of Akbar's rule, the province settled down into one of the most important among the imperial viceroyalties. Under the Mughal dynasty in its flourishing days, the Hindu chieftains accepted their position without difficulty. But when the rise of the Mahratta power broke down the decaying empire of Aurangzeb, the chieftains of Oudh again acquired an almost complete independence. About 1732 Saadat An Khan, a Persian merchant, received the appointment of governor of Oudh, and founded the Mohammedan dynasty which ruled over Oudh down to our own days. Before his death, in 1743, Oudh had become practically an independent kingdom, the rulers retaining the title of nawab wazir, or chief minister of the empire. Saadat Khan was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Safdar Jang, under whose wise rule the country enjoyed internal prosperity, although exposed to constant attacks from the Rohillas on one side and the Mahrattas on the other. The next nawab, Shuja-ud-daula, who succeeded his father Safdar Jang in 1753, attempted to take advantage of the war in Bengal between the British and Mir Kasim to acquire for himself the rich province of Behar. He therefore advanced upon Fatna, taking with him the fugitive emperor Shah Alam and the exiled nawab of Bengal. The enter-prise proved a failure, and Shuja-ud-daula, retired to Baxar, where, in October 1764, Major Munro won a decisive victory, which laid the whole of upper India at the feet of the Company. The nawab fled to Bareli (Bareilly), while the unfortunate emperor joined the British camp.

By the treaty of 1765 Korah and Allahabad, which had hitherto formed part of the Ou.lh viceroyalty, were made over to the emperor for the support of his dignity and expenses, all the remain-ing territories being restored to Shuja-ud-daula, who had thrown himself upon the generosity of the British. A few years later, in 1771, the titular Mughal emperor, Shah Alam, was a virtual prisoner in the hands of the Mahrattas, who extorted from him the cession of Korah and Allahabad. This was considered to be contrary to the terms of the treaty of 1765, and, as the emperor had abandoned possession of them, the British sold them to the Oudh nawab. Saadat All Khan, threatened by Sindhia on the advance of Zaman Shah to the Indus, concluded a new treaty with the British in 1801, by which he gave up half his territories in return for increased means of protection. Rohilkhand thus passed under British rale, and the nawab became still more absolute-within his restricted dominions. Saadat's son, Ghazi-ud-dm... Haidar (1814), was the first to obtain the title of king. In 1847 Wajid Ali Shah, the last king, ascended the throne. The condi-tion of the province had long attracted the attention of the British Government. The king's army, receiving insufficient pay, recouped itself by constant depredations upon the people. The Hindui chiefs, each isolated in his petty fort, had turned the surrounding country into a jungle as a means of resisting the demands of the court and its soldiery. Before 1855 the chronic anarchy and. oppression had reduced the people of Oudh to extreme misery.

A treaty was proposed to the king in 1856, which provided that the sole civil and military government of Oudh should be vested in the British Government for ever, and that the title of king of Oudh should be continued to him and his heirs male, with certain privileges and allowances. He refused to sign the treaty, and on the 18th February 1856 the British Government assumed the administration of the province, Oudh thus becoming an integral part of the British empire. A provision of 12 lakhs a year was made to. the king, who resides in a palace at Garden Reach, a few miles south of Calcutta. Wajid Ali Shah has been allowed to retain the title of king of Oudh, but on his death the title will cease , absolutely, and the allowance will not be continued on its present , scale.

Immediately after annexation in 1856, Oudh was constituted into a chief-commissionership, and organized on the ordinary British model. In March 1857 Sir Henry Lawrence assumed the administration at Lucknow; and on the 30th of May five of the native-regiments broke into mutiny. The remainder of the events con-nected with the siege and recovery of the capital have been narrated in the article on LUCKNOW. Since 1858 the province has been administered without further vicissitudes. On the 17th of January 1877 Oudh was partially amalgamated with the North-Western Provinces by the unification of the two offices of chief-commissioner and lieutenant-governor.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries