Aligarh Southernmost District, 1908

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Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts.Many units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

Aligarh Southernmost District

Southernmost District in the Meerut Division, United Provinces, lying between 27 degree 29' and 28 degree 11' N. and 77 degree 29' and 78 degree 38' E., with an area of 1,946 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Bulandshahr District ; on the east and south by Etah ; and on the west and south by Muttra. The Jumna separates the north-west corner from the Punjab District of Gurgaon, and the Ganges the north-east corner from Budaun. Bordering on the great rivers lie stretches ol low land called khadar. The Ganges khadar is fertile and produces sugar-cane, while the Jumna khadar is composed of hard unproductive clay, chiefly covered with coarse jungle grass and tamarisk. The rest of the District forms a fertile upland tract traversed by three streams. The most important is the Kali Nadi (East), which winds across the eastern portion. Between the Kali Nadi and the Ganges lies the Nim Nadi, with an affluent known as the Chhoiya. In the west of the District the Karon or Karwan flows through a wide valley. The centre is a shallow depression, the drainage of which gradually collects in two streams named the Sengar and the Rind or Arind.

The District is composed of alluvium ; but kankar or limestoneis found in nodules and also consolidated in masses, from which it is quarried for building purposes. Large stretches of land are covered with saline efflorescences.

The flora of Aligarh presents no peculiarities. At the commencement of British rule the surface of the country was covered with large tractsof jungle, chiefly of dhak (Butea frondosa). The jungle was rapidly cut as cultivation extended, and for many years was not replaced. Between 1870 and 1900, however, the area under groves doubled, and is now about 18 square miles. The principal trees are babul (Acacia arabica), nim (Melia Azadirachta), and mango. Better sorts of timber for building purposes have to be imported.

Wild hog are very numerous in the khadar, and are also found near the canal. Antelope are fairly common in most parts. In the cold season snipe and many kinds of duck appear on the swamps. Fish are plentiful, but are not much eaten, and there are no regular fisheries in the District. The climate of Aligarh is that of the Doab plains generally. The year is divided into the rainy season, from June till October; the cold season, from October till April ; and the hot season, from April to June.

The annual rainfall averages about 26 inches, and there is little variation in the District ; the north-east receives slightly more rain than the south-west. Fluctuations from year to year are considerable. In 1894-5 the fall was 33 inches, while in 1896-7 it was only 19 inches.

The few facts in the early annals of the District that can now be re- covered centre around the ancient city of Koil, of which the fort and station of Aligarh form a suburb. A popular legend informs us that Koil owes its origin to one Kosharab, a Kshattriya ol the Lunar race, who called the city after his own name ; and that its present designation was conferred upon it by Balarama, who slew the great demon Kol, and subdued the neighbouring regions of the Doab. Another tradition assigns a totally different origin to the name. The District was held by the Dor Rajputs before the first Muhammadan invasion, and continued in the hands of the Rajaof Baran until the close of the twelfth century. In A.D. 1194 Kutb-ud- din marched from Delhi to Koil, on which occasion, as the .Muham- madan historian informs us, 'those who were wise and acute were converted to Islam, but those who stood by their ancient faith were slain with the sword.' The city was thenceforward administered by Musalman governors, but the native Rajas retained much of their former power. The District suffered during the invasion of Timur in the fourteenth century, and participated in the general misfortunes which marked the transitional period of the fifteenth. After the capture of Delhi by the Mughals, Babar appointed his follower, Kachak All, governor of Koil (1526). Many mosques and other monuments still remain, attesting the power and piety of the Musalman rulers during the palmy days of the Mughal dynasty. The period was marked, here as elsewhere, by frequent conversions to the dominant religion. But after the death of Aurangzeb, the District fell a prey to the contending hordes who ravaged the Doab. The Marathas were the first in the field, closely followed by the Jats. About the year 1757, Suraj Mal, a Jat leader, took possession of Koil, the central position of which, on the roads from Muttra and Agra to Delhi and Rohilkhand, made it a post of great military importance. The Jats in turn were shortly afterwards ousted by the Afghans (1759), and for the next twenty years the District became a battle-field for the two contending races. The various conquests and reconquests which it underwent had no per- manent effects, until the occupation by Sindhia in 1784. The District remained in the hands of the Marathas until 1803, with the exception of a few months, during which a Rohilla garrison was placed in the fort of Aligarh by Ghulam Kadir Khan. Aligarh became a fortress of great importance under its Maratha master, and was the depot where De Boigne drilled and organized his battalions in the European fashion. When, in 1802, the triple alliance between Sindhia, the Raja ol Nagpur, and Holkar was directed against the British, the Nizam, and the Peshwa, Aligarh was under the command of Sindhia's French general, Perron, while the British frontier had already advanced to within 15 miles of Koil. Perron undertook the management of the cam- paign ; but he was feebly seconded by the Maratha chiefs, who waited, in the ordinary Indian fashion, until circumstances should decide which of the two parties it would prove most to their interest to espouse. In August, 1803, a British force under Lord Lake advanced upon Aligarh, and was met by Perron at the frontier. The enemy did not wait after the first round of grape from the British artillery, and Perron fled precipitately from the field. Shortly after he surrendered himself to Lord Lake, leaving the fort of Aligarh still in the possession of the Maratha troops, under the command of another European leader. On September 4 the British moved forward to the assault ; but they found the fortifications planned with the skill of French engineers, and defended with true Maratha obstheacy. It was only after a most intrepid attack and an equally vigorous resistance that the fortress, considered impregnable by the natives, was carried by the British assault ; and with it fell the whole of the Upper Doab to the very foot of the Siwaliks. The organization of the conquered territory into British Districts was undertaken at once. After a short period, during which the parganas now composing the District of Aligarh were dis tributed between Fatehgarh and Etawah, the nucleus of the present District was separated in 1804. Scareely had it been formed when the war with Holkar broke out, and his emissaries stirred up the dis- contented revenue-farmers who had made fortunes by unscrupulous oppression under the late Maratha. rule to rise in rebellion against the new Government. This insurrection was promptly suppressed (1805). A second revolt, however, occurred in the succeeding year; and its ringleaders were only driven out after a severe assault on their fortress of Kamona. Other disturbances with the revenue-farmers arose in 1816, and it became necessary to dismantle their forts. The peace of the District was not again interrupted until the outbreak of the Mutiny.

News of the Meerut revolt reached Koil on May 12, 1857, and was at once followed by the mutiny of the native troops quartered at Aligarh, and the rising of the rabble. The Europeans escaped with their lives, but the usual plunderings and burnings took place. Until July 2 the factory of Mandrak was gallantly held by a small body of volunteers in the face of an overwhelming rabble; but it was then abandoned, and the District fell into the hands of the rebels. A native committee of safety was formed to preserve the city of Koil from plunder ; but the Musalman mob ousted them, and one Naslm-ullah took upon himself the task of government. His excesses alienated the Hindu population, and made them more ready to side with the British on their return. The old Jat and Rajput feuds broke out meanwhile with their accustomed fury; and, indeed, the people indulged in far worse excesses towards one another than towards the Europeans. On August 24 a small British force moved upon Koil, when the rebels were easily defeated, and abandoned the town. Various other bodies of insurgents afterwards passed through on several occasions, but the District remained substantially in our possession ; and by the end of 1857 the rebels had been completely expelied from the Doab.

There are many ancient mounds in the District where carvings of the Buddhist and early Hindu periods have occasionally been exposed, but none of these has been explored. The principal Muhammadan buildings are at Aligarh and Jalali.

The District contains 23 towns and 1,753 villages. At the last four enumerations the population was as follows: (1872) 1,073,256, (1881) 1,021,187, (1891) 1,043,172, and (1901) Population 1,200,822. In 1876-7 the District suffered from famine, and in 1879 from fever. Owing to the extension of canal- irrigation, it escaped in 1896-7. There are six tahsils— Atrauli, Aligarh, Iglas, Khair, Hathras, and Sikandra Rao— the head quarters of each being at a place of the same name. The chief towns are the municipalities of Koil or Aligarh, the head-quarters of the District, Hathras, Atrauli, and Sikandra Rao. The following table gives the principal statistics of population in 1901 : —


The most numerous castes among Hindus are the Chamars (leather-workers and labourers), 223,000; Brahmans, 131,000; Jats, 108,000; Rajputs, 91,000; Banias, 45,000; Lodhas (cultivators), 40,000 ; Gadarias (cultivators and shepherds), 36,000 ; Koris (weavers), 30,000; Kachhis (cultivators), 22,000; and Khatiks (poulterers and gardeners), 21,000. Jats belong chiefly to the west of the United Provinces, and Kachhis and Lodhas to the centre. The Musalmans are for the most part descended from converted Hindus. Shaikhs number 26,000; Pathans, 20,000; Rajputs, 13,000; Saiyids, 6,000; and Mewatis, 6,000. Agriculturists form 47 per cent, of the total population. Rajputs own 23 per cent, of the total area, Jats 20 per cent., Brahmans 14 per cent., and Banias 13 per cent. Brahmans, Rajputs, and Jats hold the largest areas as cultivators. General labour supports 13 per cent, of the population, personal services 10 per cent., weaving 3 per cent., and grain-dealing 3 per cent.

Of the 4,900 native Christians, more than 4,700 belong to the Methodist Episcopal Church,- which started work here in 1885 and has ten branches in the District. The Church Missionary Society has had a station at Aligarh since 1863, and also has a branch at Hathras.

In the western tahsil, Khair and Iglas, there are distinct sandy ridges, and the eastern part of the District also contains light soil. There are other sandy tracts near the rivers. In the central depression the chief characteristic is the presence of extensive plains of barren land called usar. In many cases these are covered with saline efflorescences (reh). There is a sharp distinction between the homelands and the outlying portion of each village, the former receiving most of the manure. The best lands are double cropped, and sugar-cane is little grown. The tenures of the District are those commonly found, but a larger area than usual is held zamindari, which includes 2,199 mahals out of 3,334. Of the remainder, 649 mahals are pattidari and 486 bhaiyachara. There are also a few talukdari estates, the chief of which, Mursan, is described separately. Settlement is invariably made in these with the subordinate proprietors or biswadars, who pay into the treasury the amount due to the talukdars. The principal agricultural statistics for 1903-4, according to the village papers, are given below, in square miles : — The chief food-crops, with their area (in square miles) in 1903-4, are: wheat (386), barley (281), jowar (188), gram (203), maize (139), bajra (148), and arhar (78). The most important of the other crops is cotton (138).

Some experiments have been made in the reclamation ofusar land, but only with partial success. The most important of these was the establishmentol a dairy farm at Chherat near Aligarh. In some places plantations of babul trees have been made in barren soil. Satisfactory features are the increase in the area of wheat grown by itself for export, and in the double-cropped area. The area under gram is decreasing. From 1891 to 1900 the advances under the Agriculturists' Loans Act amounted to Rs. 61,000, of which Rs. 14,000 was lent in 1896-7. In 1903-4, Rs. 1,700 was advanced. Slightly larger advances have been taken under the Land Improvement Loans Act, amounting to'Rs. 72,000 during the ten years ending 1900, and to as much as Rs. 13,000 in 1903-4. A large agricultural show is held annually at Aligarh. Important drains have been made in several parts of the District, especially in the central depression ; but in the south-west the spring- level has sunk considerably.

There is no peculiar breed of cattle or sheep, and the best cattle are imported from beyond the Jumna. Horse-breeding has, however, become popular, and a number of stallions are maintained by Govern- ment. Since 1903 operations have been in charge of the Army Remount department.

The Upper Ganges Canal passes through the centre of the District- East of the Kali Nadi the Anupshahr branch oF the same work supplies part of the Atrauli tahsil, and west of the Karon the Mat branch supplies Khair. The Lower Ganges Canal crosses the east of the District, but supplies no irrigation to it. The Iglas and Hathras tahsils are at present practically without canal-irrigation, but two distributaries have been projected to water the tract east of the Karon. The total area irrigated from canals in 1903-4 was 229 square miles. Well-irrigation is at present still more important, the area supplied in this way being 515 square miles. Other sources are insignificant. The Irrigation department maintains about 330 miles of drains.

The chief mineral product of the District is kankar, which is used for road-making and for building. In the Sikandra Rao tahsil saltpetre and glass are manufactured from saline efflorescences.

The principal manufactures of the District are the weaving of cotton cloth and ofcotton rugs and carpets, the latter being especially noted. Since 1904 the manufacture of indigo has been almost abandoned ; and not one of seventy-five factories, which used to employ 4,500 hands, was working in that year. The postal workshops supply the Post Office department with numerous articles, and employ about 300 hands. There are three lock-works with 320 workmen. Although the area under cotton has decreased, there were more than twenty steam gins and presses with 1,781 hands in 1903, and one cotton-spinning mill with 516 hands. The District also contains an important dairy farm, and there is a small manufacture of dried meat for Burma. The most striking feature of the industries in Aligarh is the large extent to which they have been developed and maintained by native capital and management.

Grain and cotton are the principal articles of export ; but oil- seeds, saltpetre, and country glass are also considerable items. Sugar, rice, piece-goods, spices, metals, and timber form the chief imports. Hathras is by far the most important centre of trade, ranking second in the United Provinces to Cawnpore. The importance of Koil or Aligarh is, however, increasing, and Atrauli and Harduaganj are also thriving. The commerce of the District is largely with Cawnpore, Bombay, and Calcutta.

Aligarh is wellsupplied with means of communication. The East Indian Railway passes through it from south to north, and a branch of the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway from Moradabad and Bareilly meets it at Aligarh. The south of the District is crossed by the metre- gauge Cawnpore-Achhnera section of the Rajputana-Malwa Railway ; and Hathras, which lies on this line, is also connected by a broad- gauge line with the East Indian Railway.

There are 243 miles of metalled roads, all in charge of the Public Works department, though 125 miles are maintained at the cost of Local funds. Besides these, 338 miles of unmetalled roads are maintained by, and at the cost of, the District board. Every tahsil town is con- nected by metalled road with the District head-quarters. The through lines which cross the District are the grand trunk road, the Muttra- Kasganj road, and the Agra-Moradabad road. Avenues of trees are maintained on about 90 miles.

Aligarh suffered severely from famine in former times. In 1783-4 many villages were deserted, and the memory of this terrible famine long survived. Droughts periodically caused more or less severe scarcity in the early years of the nineteenth century, culminating in the great famine of 1837. By 1860-1 the canal had made its influence felt; and in 1868-9 distress was confined to the areas not protected, and grain was exported to the Punjab and Central Provinces. In 1887 there was considerable distress in the same areas; but in 1896-7 the District hardly suffered at all, owing to recent ex- tensions and improvements in the canal system. Private charity was sufficient to relieve the many immigrants from more distressed areas.

The Collector is usually assisted by a member of the Indian Civil Service, and by three or four Deputy-Collectors recruited in India.

A tahsildar is stationed at the head-quarters of each tahsil. Besides the ordinary staff, two Executive Engineers of the Upper and Lower Ganges Canals are stationed in the District.

There are three Munsifs, a Subordinate Judge, and an additional Subordinate Judge. The District and Sessions Judge is assisted by an additional Judge, and both of these have civil and criminal jurisdiction over the whole of Bulandshahr (excluding the Sikandarabad tahsil), Aligarh, and Etah Districts. Organized dacoities are common, especially in the south of the District. Cattle-lifting is still prevalent in the tract bordering on the Jumna, where many small Gujar and Jat landholders, in co-operation with receivers in the Punjab, levy blackmail from the owners of lost cattle, who prefer to recover their property in this way rather than call in the police. Haburas and Aherias are small criminal tribes, who are responsible for many thefts and burglaries ; but they differ widely, the former being mostly gipsies and the latter resident criminals. Infanticide was formerly prevalent, but no villages are now proclaimed.

A District of Aligarh was first formed in 1804, but several additions and alterations were made both before and after 1824, when the District approximately took its present shape. The early land revenue settle- ments were for the usual short periods, and were chiefly remarkable for the length of time during which the revenue was farmed, instead of being settled direct with the village zamindars. In 1833 the first regular settlement was commenced, and the circumstances of the talukas were carefully examined. Where village proprietors did not exist, the talukdar received full proprietary rights ; where the original proprietors survived, settlement was made with them, and the amount payable to the talukdar through Government was fixed. The settlement, which was based on assumed rent rates, amounted to 18.4 lakhs on the present area. The revenue at the next revision between 1867 and 1874 was also based on soil rates ; but these were tested by the recorded rates, though the latter were generally rejected as inadequate, and the standard rates were modified according to the circumstances of individual villages. The demand was fixed at 21.5 lakhs. Another revision was made between 1899 and 1903, when the rent-rolls were found to be generally accurate, but the competition rents were reduced in calculating the revenue, and the occupancy rents were enhanced. The new revenue amounts to 24.5 lakhs, and the incidence is Rs. 1.9 per acre, varying from Rs. 1.6 to Rs. 3.4 in different tahsils.

The total receipts, in thousands of rupees, on account of revenue from land and from all sources have been : —

There are four municipalities and nineteen towns administered under Act XX of 1856. Outside these, local affairs are managed by the District board, which has an income of about 2 lakhs, chiefly derived from local rates. The expenditure in 1903-4 was 2 lakhs, of which Rs. 73,000 was spent on roads and buildings.

The District Superintendent of police is in charge of a force of 4 inspectors, 96 subordinate officers, and 442 constables, besides 374 municipal and town police, and 2,033 rural and road police. The District jail contained a daily average of 350 prisoners in 1903.

In 1901 the number of persons able to read and write was 2.9 per cent. (5.2 males and 0.2 females), Musalmans showing a slightly higher percentage than Hindus. While the number of public institutions fell from 221 in 1880-1 to 204 in 1900-1, the pupils increased from 6,722 to 10,060. In 1903-4 there were 226 schools with 11,760 pupils, including 563 girls, besides 350 private schools with 5,592 pupils, of whom 27 were girls. The most important institution is the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh. Of the public institutions, 4 are managed by Government and 160 by the District and municipal boards, the rest being chiefly aided schools. In 1903-4 the total expenditure on education was 1.8 lakhs, of which Rs. 52,000 was met from fees, Rs. 45,000 from Local and municipal funds, and Rs. 25,000 from Provincial revenues.

There are 15 hospitals and dispensaries, with accommodation for 185 in-patients. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 126,000, of whom 2,591 were in-patients, and 5,963 operations were performed. The total expenditure was Rs. 23,000, chiefly met from Local funds.

About 42,000 persons were successfully vaccinated in 1903-4, repre- senting 35 per 1,000 of population. Vaccination is compulsory only in the municipalities.

[District Gazetteer (1875, under revision) ; W. J. D). Burkitt, Settlement Report (1903).]

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