Balasore 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.


Balasore District

Northern District of the Orissa Division of Bengal, situated between 20 44' and 21 57' N. and 86° 16' and 87°3i' E., with an area of 2,085 ' square miles. The District of Mid- napore bounds it on the north-east ; the wooded hills of the Tributary States of Mayurbhanj, Nilgiri, and Keonjhar lie along the northern and western flank ; and on the south the Baitaranl river marks the boundary of Cuttack. The Bay of Bengal forms the eastern boundary.

Physical aspects

Balasore District consists of a strip of alluvial land lying between the sea and the hills which rise from the western boundary. This strip varies in breadth from about 30 miles at the north- east extremitv to 10 miles at the narrowest or central aspects.portion and 40 miles in the south. Along the coast is a belt of land about 3 miles broad, which is impregnated with salt and unfit for cultivation. The western portion which runs along the foot of the hills is jungly and uncultivable. Between these two extremes lies the fertile arable country which constitutes the greater part of the District. It is watered, proceeding from north to south, by the river systems of the Subarnarekha, Haskura, Saratha, Panchpara, Burha- balang, Kansbans, Salandl, and Baitaranl. The Subarnarekha., which rises in Chota Nagpur, pursues a winding course of some 60 miles in this District. It communicates with the coast canal at Jamkunda lock, and is largely used by country boats from Calcutta. The Haskura is a hill stream which rises in Mayurbhanj ; it contains very little water in the hot season, but during the rains it receives and carries away a great portion of the Subarnarekha floods.

The Saratha runs a course parallel to the Haskura. The Panchpara is formed by the confluence of several hill streams from Mayurbhanj, the principal being the Bans, Jamira, and Bhairingi, which unite, bifurcate, and reunite in the wildest confusion. The tide runs up only 10 miles; and although the inter- lacings constantly spread into open swamps, yet one of them, the Bans, is deep enough at certain parts of its course for boats of 4 tons burden.

The Burhabalang, on which Balasore town is situated,, runs a tortuous course of 35 miles ; the name signifies ' The old twister.' The tide runs up 23 miles ; and though sea-going steamers can no longer enter it, owing to the sand-bar across its mouth, it is navigable by brigs and sloops as far as Balasore town. The Kansbans, which is formed by the confluence of a number of small hill streams rising in the Tributary 1 The area shown in the Census Report of 1901 was 2,059 square miles; that given above is taken from figures supplied by the Surveyor-General.

States, is liable to sudden freshes, and eventually reaches the sea by two mouths, the lower of which is called the Gamai, while the northern retains its original name. The Baitarani, which rises in Keonjhar State, forms the boundary between Balasore and Cuttack. After its junction with the Brahmani", the united stream flows under the name of the Dhamra into the Bay of Bengal. The river is navigable as far as Olokh, 15 miles from the mouth; beyond this point it is not affected by the tide and becomes fordable during the hot season. It receives two tributaries on the Balasore bank — the Salandi and the Matai. A large weir has been constructed across the Baitarani at Akshaya- pada, to dam the water during the dry season for the supply of the portion of the High-level canal between Akshayapada and Bhadrakh.

The Nllgiri hills consist of granitoid gneiss, interfoliated with which are occasionally found bands of a chloritic rock approaching serpentine in texture. This rock yields a beautiful, compact, and very tough material, which is at the same time soft and easy to work. A few miles west and south-west of Jugjhuri the rocks alter considerably and assume a hard, tough, indistinctly crystallized hornblendic character.

Still farther to the south-west and near the Salandi river well-foliated quartz schist comes in. Laterite in a compact form occurs along the base of the Nllgiri hills Along the coast as far north as the Burhabalang river are large grassy plains, with occasional sparse patches of cultivation and low jungle on the sand ridges and near the tidal streams. North of the Burhabalang, especially round the mouth of the Haskura and Subamarekha, are numerous tidal creeks fringed with heavy jungle. The cultivated land has the usual rice-field weeds, while ponds and ditches are filled with floating water-weeds or submerged water-plants. Near human habita- tions shrubberies of semi-spontaneous shrubs are common, and are loaded with a tangled mass of climbing Convolvulaceae.

The arbor- escent portion of these village shrubberies includes the red cotton-tree (Bombax malabaricuni), jiyal (Odina Wodier), Tamarindus indica, Moringa plerygosperma, plpal (Ficus religiosa), banyan {Fiats benga- lends), and the palms Borassus flabellifer and khajur {Phoenix sylves- tris). There are no forests ; but in the west of the District, where the boundary approaches the hills and the lands are higher, patches of jungle occur, including a little sal (Shorea robustii), which rarely attains to any size. The usual bamboo is Bambusa arundinacea. Open glades are filled with grasses, sometimes of a reedy character. Sedges abound, and ferns are fairly plentiful.

Black bears are found in the north, and tigers, leopards, hyenas, 1 'The Geological Structure and Physical Features of the Districts of Bankura, Midnapore, and Orissa,' Memoirs, Geological Survey of Iniia, vol. i, pt. iii. spotted deer, antelope, hog deer, mouse deer, civet cat, and hare are common in the more jungly portions of the District.

The District is directly on the track of the cyclonic storms which frequently cross Orissa during the monsoon season, and the extremes of climate are more marked than in most parts of Bengal. In April and May the average maximum temperature is 98 . The mean tem- perature falls from 89 in the hot months to 83 in the monsoon and to 74 in February. Dry westerly winds often blow during the hot season, and these are followed by well-marked south-west monsoon conditions; the humidity thus ranges from 79 per cent, in April and May to 89 per cent, in August. The annual rainfall averages 60 inches, of which 5-1 inches fall in May, 9-0 in June, 12-1 in July, 11-5 in August, 1 1-2 in September, and 5-1 in October.

The District is subject to floods, due to the sudden rising of the rivers in the hills. Protective embankments have been built, the principal being the Bhograi and Salsa Pat on the lower reaches of the Subarnarekha ; but the protection afforded by them is far from complete.

An exceptionally high flood occurred in 1868; and there were floods of inferior height but more serious in results in 1892 and 1896, the latter causing a great loss of crops in the south of the District. Other years of high floods were 1855, 1866, 1872, 1883, 1886, 1888, 1894, 1897, and 1898. In October, 1900, the water rose 18 inches higher than in any flood previously recorded, and breached the railway line and destroyed crops and cattle, though it caused very little loss of human life. The cyclones to which Balasore is exposed are generally accompanied by irresistible storm-waves, which vary in height from 3 to 10 feet and sometimes penetrate as far as 10 miles inland. Such calamities occurred in 1823, 1831, 1832, 1848, and 1851. In the severest of these, the cyclone of 1831, 26,000 persons lost their lives. Cyclones have also occurred in 1872, 1874, and 1891; but these were not accompanied by storm-waves.


The early history of Balasore presents no special features of interest beyond such as are given in the article on Orissa. The English settlement in the District dates from 1633, when a factory was established in Balasore Town ; but the country did not pass into the hands of the British till the acquisi- tion of Orissa in 1803. It was created a separate District in 1828. There have been many minor changes of jurisdiction, but it is unneces- sary to detail them here.


The population of the present area increased from 770,232 in 1872 to 945,280 in 1881, to 994,675 in 1891, and to 1,071,197 in 1901. The great increase between 1872 and 1881 was due partly to improved enumeration, and partly to a re- covery from the losses caused by the famine of 1866. The District often suffers from severe epidemics of cholera. The worst outbreak took place in 1892, when this disease was responsible for a mortality of 15 per 1,000. Elephantiasis is extremely common. Fever prevails in the cold season ; but the country is singularly free from malaria, except in the Jaleswar thana, which is very unhealthy.

The principal statistics of the Census of 1901 are shown below :—


The two towns are Balasore, the District head-quarters, and Bhadrakh. The density of population is greatest in the Bhadrakh thana, where it rises to 662 persons per square mile. The largest increase in the decade ending 1901 took place in the Chandbali and Basudebpur thdnas in the south-east of the District, both of which contain much land fit for cultivation. The District send numerous emigrants to the Twenty-four Parganas and to Calcutta, where many of them are employed as domestic servants and cooks ; but otherwise there is little migration except to and from the neighbouring Districts and States. The vernacular is Oriya. Of the population, 1,033,166 (96-4 per cent.) are Hindus, 28,340 (2-6 per cent.) Musalmans, and o-8 per cent. Animists.

The most numerous castes are the Khandaits (211,000), originally the feudal militia of the Rajas of Orissa, Brahmans (120,000), Gauras (74,000), and Rajus (47,000). Gokhas (31,000) and Golas (34,000) are more numerous in this District than elsewhere, while other Orissa castes are Kandras, usually day-labourers and chaukldars (32,000), and Karans, the writer caste (26,000). Agriculture supports 79 per cent, of the population, industries 9-6 per cent., commerce 0-3 per cent., and the professions i-i per cent.

Christians number 1,274, of whom 1,110 are natives. Two missions are at work, a Roman Catholic and an American Free Baptist Mission. The latter, which has been in the District since 1832, has 6 stations. It maintains at Balasore a high school, an English school for European boys and girls, 5 Kindergarten lower primary schools, and a middle English school; and at other stations 2 middle English schools and one vernacular school, as well as 31 lower primary schools and one Kinder- garten school. Industrial work is taught, including farming, weaving, and carpentry. The mission also possesses three orphanages, and carries on medical work on a large scale. The Roman Catholic mission is a comparatively small one ; it works chiefly in the town of Balasore, where it possesses a large chapel and an orphanage for native girls.


The alluvial tract which extends through the centre of the District is fertile. The higher land on the west is for the most part rocky, but in some places where vegetable deposits occur it is very productive. Along the coast, except in years of excessive rainfall, the soil is generally infertile on account of the deposits of salt. Lands are ordinarily divided into three classes : Ja/d, or rice lands ; pal, or rich river-side lands growing tobacco, cotton, rabi crops, and the best rice : and kdld, the highlands of the homestead, which generally grow vegetables. The chief agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are shown below, areas being in square miles : —


Of the cultivated area only one per cent, is estimated to be twice cropped. Rice is the principal food-grain, and includes three crops : sarad or winter rice, bidli or autumn rice, and dalua or spring rice. Of these, winter rice is estimated to cover 1,025 square miles, or 77 per cent, of the whole area under cultivation. On the higher levels the crop is sown broadcast, but in low lands the seedlings are transplanted. The sowing takes place in May or June ; but the reaping seasons vary for different varieties, asu being reaped in August or September, kandd in September or October, and guru from November to January. Bidli rice, which is sown in May and reaped in August and September, covers 168 square miles, while the area under dalua, sown in November and December and reaped in March, is ordinarily very small. The other crops are of minor importance, pulses covering only 17 and oilseeds 16 square miles.

Cultivation has extended by 40 per cent, during the last seventy years, but owing to the innate conservatism of the Oriya little improve- ment is visible in the methods adopted. Various experiments have been made at the instance of Government with new crops and modern implements, but these have not found favour with the ryots. Little advantage has been taken of the Land Improvement Loans Act, but useful work has been done under the Agriculturists' Loans Act, par- ticularly in times of distress following floods.

The cattle are similar to those common in South Bengal. Fodder is scarce in the centre of the District, but extensive pasture lands along the coast and the higher land in the west afford good grazing. The only irrigation system is that provided by the High-level Canal, which has within the District a length of 19 miles, in addition to 50 miles of distributaries. It commands 90 square miles, of which 69 square miles are actually provided with means for irrigation. The area irrigated in 1903-4 was 63 square miles. In addition to this, water from the rivers is utilized in order to irrigate the crops near their banks.

Laterite is found along the west of the District, and is used for build- ing ; the honeycombed variety was largely used in former times for temples. Chlorite is also obtained from the hills in the western border, and is the material from which all ancient statues and idols were carved; at the present time it is used for the manufacture of plates and bowls. Cotton-weaving and mat-making are carried on, and brass and bell- metal articles are manufactured.

Trade and communication

The chief imports are European cotton piece-goods, oil, salt, and spices ; the principal export is rice, which in favourable seasons is dispatched in enormous quantities by sea, canal, and rail. Other exports are hides, jute, oilseeds, timber, communications, and stoneware. Rice is shipped to Ceylon and Mauritius, but otherwise trade is carried on chiefly with Calcutta and Madras. Balasore and Chandbali are the chief centres of the seaborne trade, other places of trade being Mandhata on the Coast Canal, Balia- pal on the Matai river, and Barabatia on the GuchTda river, a tributary of the Subamarekha.

A great deal of the rice exported was formerly carried by native coasting vessels, but the silting up of several of the smaller ports and the opening of the Coast Canal and the railway have recently caused a great decline in the volume of this trade. The imports which passed through the ports of Chandbali and Balasore in 1903-4 were valued at 28-9 lakhs and the exports at 25-7 lakhs, but these figures include a large amount of trade from Cuttack District. The Bengal-Nagpur Railway runs for 88 miles through the District, connecting it with Calcutta, Cuttack, and Madras.

A branch line, called the Mayurbhanj State Railway, from Rupsa junction to Baripada in the Mayurbhanj State, was opened in 1904. A survey for a branch from Balasore to ChandTpur on the coast is being made, and a light tramway from Balasore to tap the Nllgiri stone quarries is contemplated. The trunk road affords communication with Midnapore and Calcutta on the north, and with Cuttack, Puri, and Ganjam on the south. Apart from this road (95 miles), which is metalled and maintained from Pro- vincial funds, 41 miles of metalled and 268 miles of unmetalled roads, and 106 miles of village tracks, are maintained by the District board. The most important are those from Bhadrakh to Chandbali, from Bala- sore to Mitrapur in Nilgiri, from Kamarda to Baliapal, from Baliapal to Basta, from Kamarda to Jaleswar, and from Singla to Nangaleswar.

For purposes of navigation the most important rivers are the Subarnarekha, the Burhabalang, on which Balasore is situated, the Dhamra and Baitarani, which connect Chandbali with the sea, and the Salandi, on which Bhadrakh lies. The Coast Canal, which connects the Hooghly at Geonkhali with the Matai at Charibatia, has a length of 71 miles within the District; it was completed in 1887, but has not been a financial success. The High-level Canal has a course of 19 miles within this District; it is navigable, but has been little used for traffic since the opening of the railway. The Public Works depart- ment also maintains 46^ miles of protective embankments. A canal connecting the old port of Churaman with the Matai river has fallen into disrepair. A bi-weekly steamer service runs between Chandbali and Calcutta. The District contains eighteen ferries under the control of the District board, the most important being those where the trunk road crosses the Subarnarekha and Burhabalang rivers.


The District suffered grievously in the great Orissa famine of 1865-6. The rainfall of 1865 was scanty and ceased entirely after the middle of September, so that the out-turn of the winter rice crop on which the country depends was only one-third of the average. Stocks were moreover dangerously depleted, as unusually large quantities of grain had been exported. By November distress had begun to be acute, and in February, 1866, starvation appeared and relief operations were commenced ; but the works were to a great extent rendered inoperative for want of rice to feed the labourers. By the month of April even the well-to-do peasants had only a single scanty meal a day, while the poorer classes eked out their subsistence with roots, herbs, and leaves. Government succeeded in importing about 12,000 maunds of rice by the end of July, but the monsoon had begun and importation on any large scale was impossible.

Orissa was at that time almost isolated from the rest of India. The mortality reached its culminating point in August, when heavy rains caused great suffering among the people, who were then at the lowest stage of exhaustion, emaciated by hunger, and without sufficient shelter. Disastrous floods in the south-east of the District followed these rains; 83,000 acres were inundated, and in all the low-lying lands the crop was lost. The harvest in the higher lands was, however, a good one ; the new crop came into the market in September ; and though the rate of mortality continued high for some time owing to cholera, the famine came to a close in November. During the year the price of rice rose as high as 2\ seers to the rupee, and in the town of Balasore alone 10,000 paupers succumbed to starvation and disease. The total mortality was estimated at 217,608, 31,424 deaths being ascribed to diseases resulting from starvation; 29,558 persons emigrated; and the; total loss was, therefore, 247,166, or one-third of the population.

The daily average of persons relieved from June to November, 1866, amounted to 26,497 ; out of this number, 21,945 received gratuitous relief and 4,552 were employed on light work. The total expenditure on relief works from May to November, 1866, amounted to Rs. 73,356. In 1896 the out- turn of rice was estimated at barely half of a normal crop ; but though there was considerable local distress, very little relief was found necessary beyond such as was afforded by the facilities for obtaining earthwork on the railway.


For administrative purposes the District is divided into two sub- divisions, with head-quarters at Balasore and Bhadrakh. The Magistrate-Collector is assisted at Balasore by three Deputy-Magistrate-Collectors. The subdivisional officer of Bhadrakh, who is often a member of the Indian Civil Service, has a Sub-Deputy-Collector subordinate to him. The Executive Engi- neer of the Balasore division is stationed at Balasore, and the Port Officer of the Cuttack and Balasore ports at Chandbali.

For the disposal of civil judicial work, two Munsifs sit at Balasore and Bhadrakh, subordinate to the District and Sessions Judge, who is also Judge of Cuttack and Purl. The criminal courts include those of the District and Sessions Judge, the District Magistrate, three Deputy- Magistrates, the subdivisional officer of Bhadrakh, the Sub-Deputy-Col- lector of Bhadrakh, and the Port Officer of Balasore port. The District Magistrate is ex-offia'o Assistant to the Superintendent of the Orissa Tributary Mahals, in which capacity he exercises the powers of a Sessions Judge in Nilgiri, Mayiirbhanj, and Keonjhar. The District is singularly free from serious crime, and the majority of cases are of a petty character.

The early Hindu rulers of Orissa recognized no middlemen between them and their subjects, but the residents of each village paid their quota through a headman (pad/ian). The villages were grouped into large divisions (khand or bisi) of 10 to 50 square miles, the prototypes of the later Muha.inma.dan parganas ; over each division was an execu- tive officer {khandpati), who acted as the representative of the sovereign, and with the assistance of the divisional accountant {bhoimul or bishayt) collected the revenue and handed it over to the head of the district {desddhipati). The first regular settlement was begun in 1580 by Akbar's finance minister, Todar Mai.

In the central and most highly cultivated part of Balasore he made a detailed settlement, fixing the rates of rent in every village. He confirmed in possession the hereditary under- officials, the khandpatis and bhoimuh becoming chaudJiris and kdnungos, and being entrusted with the collection of revenue and the other rights and liabilities of zamindars for the area under their direct management. The village headmen he maintained under the appellation of mukaddam ; where there were no hereditary headmen or where the padhan had been dispossessed, collections were often made through an agent (karjl) or farmer (sarbardhkdr or mustajir) appointed by the talukddr, and many of these developed into hereditary tenure-holders with rights almost equal to those of mukaddams. The Marathas made no change in the character of the fiscal organization, and the above-mentioned tenures represent the most important of those found by the British Commis- sioners in 1803. A settlement made in 1834-5 should have expired in 1867 but was extended till 1897, when a new settlement was introduced for a term of thirty years, which will expire in 1927.

The revenue demand was raised from 3-85 to 6-28 lakhs. In 1903-4 the total current demand was 6-50 lakhs, of which 5-82 lakhs was payable by 1,463 temporarily settled estates, Rs. 42,000 by 152 permanently settled estates, and Rs. 26,000 by 14 estates held direct by Govern- ment. The total incidence of land revenue was nf annas per culti- vated acre. At the recent settlement the average area held by each ryot was found to be 5-48 acres, and the rates of rent ranged between Rs. 3-8-3 and R. 0-11-5 per acre, the average being Rs. 1-12-11. The following table shows the collections of land revenue and of total revenue (principal heads only), in thousands of rupees : —


Outside the municipality of Balasore, local affairs are managed by the District board, to which subdi visional local boards are subordinate. In 1903-4 its income was Rs. 1,05,000, of which Rs. 36,000 was obtained from rates ; and the expenditure was Rs. 96,000, including Rs. 43,000 spent on public works and Rs. 32,000 on education. The District contains 9 police stations and 13 outposts ; and the force subordinate to the District Superintendent consists of 2 inspectors, 28 sub-inspectors, 25 head constables, and 331 constables. In addition, there is a rural police force of 140 daffadars and 1,538 chaukiddrs. The District jail at Balasore has accommodation for 163 prisoners, and a subsidiary jail at Bhadrakh for 14.

Of the population in 1901, 7-8 per cent. (15-7 males and 0-4 females) could read and write. The number of pupils under instruc- tion increased from 22,737 in 1880-1 to 37,140 in 1892-3, but fell to 35>375 in I9 00 - 1 - In i9°3-4, 3°>°34 hoys and 4,447 girls were at school, being respectively 38-6 and 5-3 per cent, of the chilaren of school- going age. The number of educational institutions, public and private, in that year, was 1,671, including 34 secondary, 1,535 primary, and 102 special schools. The expenditure on education was Rs. 1,47,000, of which Rs. 17,000 was met from Provincial revenues, Rs. 31,000 from District funds, Rs. 1,300 from municipal funds and Rs. 71,000 from fees.

The chief schools are the Government and Baptist Mission high schools at Balasore ; other special institutions are an industrial school at Alalpur, a madrasa at Dhamnagar, and eight schools for depressed tribes' and castes. In 1903 the District contained n dispensaries, of which 3 had ac- commodation for 71 in-patients ; the cases of 43,000 out-patients and 600 in-patients were treated, and 1,700 operations were performed. The expenditure was Rs. 16,000, of which Rs. 600 was met from Government contributions, Rs. 6,000 from Local and Rs. 1,200 from municipal funds, and Rs. 3,000 from subscriptions.

The mortality from small-pox is comparatively high. Vaccination is compulsory only in Balasore municipality ; but the population is not averse to vaccination, and 24,000 persons, or 23-2 per 1,000 of the population, were successfully vaccinated in 1903-4. [Sir W. \V. Hunter, Orissa (1872), and Statistical Account of Bengal, vol. xviii (1877) ; S. L. Maddox, Final Report on the Survey and Settle- ment of Orissa (Calcutta, 1900).]

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