Bankura 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.


Bankura District, 1908

District in the Burdwan Division of Bengal, lying between 22 38' and 23 38' N. and 86° 36' and 87 46" E., with an area of 2,621 square miles. The Damodar river on the north sepa- rates it from Burdwan ; while it is bounded on "the south by Midnapore, on the east by Burdwan and Hooghly, and on the west by Manbhum.

Physical aspects

The District forms part of the eastern fringe of the Chota Nagpur plateau. In the north and west it consists of broken rocky country with isolated spurs, of which the highest are the

Susunia hill (1,442 feet) and Bihari Nath. To the east the elevation is lower ; the country has an undulating park-like aspect, and eventually merges in the alluvial plains of the Gangetic delta. The chief rivers are the Damodar, which forms the northern boundary, and the Dwarkeswar or Dhalkisor, which traverses the centre of the District. They are insignificant streams during the hot season, but in the rains become navigable by boats of 50 to 60 tons burden. During this season they sometimes rise so suddenly, owing to the rapid drainage from the neighbouring hills, that a head wave is formed, called the hurpa ban, not unlike the bore or tidal wave in the Hooghly, which often causes loss of life and great destruction of property. The Silai and Kasai cross the south of the District.

Gneiss appears in the western hills, especially in the neighbourhood of Bankura town ; and in the north-west metamorphic rocks stand up boldly in well-marked hornblendic ridges, the general strike of which is nearly east and west. South of Bankura town veins of granite occur, especially in the metamorphic rocks along the Silai river, cutting through the gneissic rocks. The Gondwana system is represented in the north, on the banks of the Damodar river, by beds which belong to the Ranlganj group and may contain useful seams of coal. Elsewhere the surface consists of gently undulating ground, covered by laterite and alluvium. The former is invariably detrital, and contains such quantities of quartz pebbles as to resemble a coarse ferruginous conglomerate. The laterite is extensively overlaid by a sandy clay, which is often intermixed with kankar 1 .

The uplands are bare or clothed with a scrub jungle of Zizyphus and other thorny shrubs, which sometimes gives way to sal (Shorea robusta) forest, while the low hills are covered by a dense mixed forest, which contains species of Miliusa, Schrebera, Schleichera, and Diospyros. In the low-lying land to the east, the swamp vegetation of the West Bengal rice plain is found. In the neighbourhood of villages are thickets, in which the most common species are bamboos, pipal (Ficus religiosa), banyan (Ficus indica), red cotton-tree (Bombax malabaricum), Mangi- fera, Mormga, and Odina Wodier. The District contains no Govern- ment forests.

Black bears are common in the western jungles ; and hyenas, leopards, wolves, deer, and wild hog are also occasionally found. Pythons are often met with in the hills, while the cobra, karait, and other deadly snakes are common. Exceptionally high day temperatures are a feature of the hot months, the mean maximum rising to 93 in March and 102 in April. The mean temperature for the year is 8o°. The annual rainfall averages 56 inches, of which 10-4 inches fall in June, 12-7 in July, 12-4 in August, and 8-2 in September.

1 Memoirs, Geological Survey of India, vol. i, pt. iii, ' The Geological Structure and Physical Features of the Districts of Bankura, Midnapore, and Orissa'; also vol. iii, pt. i, < The Raniganj Coalfield,' by W. T. Blanford. This section was supplied by Mr. P. N. Bose, of the Geological Survey of India. In prehistoric times Bankura formed part of the old kingdom of Kama Suvarna, and subsequently of the Rarh division of Bengal. The local legends centre round Bishnupur. Here was founded, in the beginning of the eighth century a. d., one of the eight petty dynasties of Hindu rulers who formerly held the Bengal frontier against the jungle tribes of the western plateau.

Under Muhammadan rule the Bishnupur family appears sometimes as the enemy, sometimes as the ally, and sometimes as the tributary of the Musalman Nawab. In the rent-roll of Todar Mai in 1582 the country held by the family was assessed at a fixed tribute. In 1 715, under the administration of Jafar Khan, it was reduced to the status of a zamindari. It was at that time included within the chakla of Burdwan, and was with that District ceded to the East India Company in 1 760.

From that date the fortunes of the family rapidly declined. They were impoverished by Maratha raids, and the famine of 1770 left few inhabi- tants to till the soil. Meanwhile the British Government added to their public burdens and treated them as mere land stewards, and thus com- pleted their ruin. The present representative of the family is dependent for his subsistence on a few debottar estates. When the Bishnupur zamindari first passed into the hands of the British, it was administered from Murshidabad ; but its lawless condition soon necessitated a more direct administration, and in 1787 it was constituted, with Birbhum, into a separate District. In 1793 lt was separated from Birbhum and added to Burdwan ; but in 1805 it was incorporated with the newly constituted Jungle Mahals, of which it continued to form part until 1833. Bankura was created a separate revenue District in 1835; but discrepancies long existed between the revenue, judicial, and police jurisdictions, which were not completely removed until 1879. Interest- ing archaeological remains are found at Bishnupur.


The population of the present District area increased steadily from 968,597 in 1872 to 1,041,752 in 1881, to 1,069,668 in 1891, and to 1,116,411 in 1 90 1. The undulating uplands are well Population> drained and form one of the most salubrious tracts in Bengal. The Bishnupur subdivision is less healthy, and here the notorious Burdwan fever formerly caused great ravages. Mortality is chiefly due to fever. Cholera is always present in a sporadic form and sometimes becomes epidemic. Leprosy is more prevalent than in any other part of India, and more than 3 males per 1,000 were recorded as suffering from it in 1901. The principal statistics of the Census of 1 90 1 are shown in the table on the next page.

The District is less densely peopled than any other in the Burdwan Division. The population is very sparse in the south and west, where the land is undulating, rocky, and barren ; farther east, in the Bishnupur subdivision, the soil is alluvial and the density is much greater. The increase of population at the last Census is less than half what it would have been but for the large emigration which takes place. The emigrants are for the most part hardy aborigines from the south and west of the District, who are attracted by the high wages paid in the coal-fields of Asansol and in the Assam tea gardens, or who supplement their scanty harvests by working as labourers in the metropolitan Districts in the off-season. The three towns are Bankura, the head- quarters, Bishnupur, and Sonamukhi. The vernacular of the District is the dialect known as Rarhi boli or Western Bengali, but Santali is spoken by nearly 9 per cent, of the population. By religion 975,746 are Hindus, 51,114 Musalmans, and 89,157 Animists. The last mentioned are chiefly Santals of the head-quarters subdivision, who number altogether 106,000.


The Musalmans are almost all Shaikhs (44,000). Among Hindus the semi-aboriginal castes of Bauri (113,000) and Bagdi (91,000) are largely represented, the former predominating in the west and the latter towards the east of the District. Brahmans (93,000) and Telis (74,000) are also numerous. Of the total population, 60-7 per cent, are supported by agriculture, 15-9 per cent, by industries, 0-7 by commerce, and 2-2 by the professions. The proportion of agriculturists is considerably below the general average for Bengal.

Christians number 363. A Wesleyan mission, which commenced work in 1877, maintains several schools. It has opened classes in Bankura town to teach carpentry, weaving, and basket-making, and also built a public library in 1899 and a leper asylum with accom- modation for 72 inmates in 1902. An Armenian mission possesses an orphanage near Mejia.


The alluvial soil in the east of the Bishnupur subdivision is fertile ; elsewhere valleys are generally rich and productive, while the higher lands are comparatively barren, and are for the most part covered with jungle. The chief agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are shown in the table on the next page, in square miles. The chief crop is rice, covering 535 square miles. By far the most important harvest is the avian or winter rice, which is sown in April or May, after three or four ploughings, transplanted in July or August, and reaped in December. The aus or early rice is sown broadcast in May and reaped in September. Sugar-cane covers 20 square miles ; maize is cultivated on the higher lands, and oilseeds, pulses, wheat, flax, and cotton are also grown. Indigo, formerly an important crop, has now almost disappeared. Rich black mud, scraped from the bottom of tanks or reservoirs, is used as manure mixed with ashes and stubble, while for the more valuable crops cow-dung is added. In the case of lands growing sugar-cane and other exhausting staples, rotation is observed, sugar-cane being generally followed by til (Sesamum indicu/n), after which a crop of early rice is taken, followed by mustard and peas mixed.


The cultivated area is being gradually extended. During the last decade Rs. 62,000 was advanced under the Land Improvement and Agriculturists' Loans Acts for the excavation and re-excavation of irrigation tanks and other miscellaneous improvements. The local cattle are weak and poor, though the pasturage is ample except in the east of the District. Irrigation is necessary everywhere except in the low country to the east, and it is estimated that one-third of the cultivated area is artificially irrigated. The usual method is to throw a dam across a watercourse, but wells and tanks are also utilized.

There are two small coal-mines in the north of the District, the output in 1903-4 being 10,634 tons. Ferruginous laterite is common, and the quartz, sandstone, trap, gravel, and clay which it produces are largely utilized for road-making and brick-burning. Building stone exists in unlimited quantities in the hills. A white lithomarge is obtained under the laterite at a point about 12 miles north-east of Bankura town. Gold occurs in small quantities in the sands of the Dhalkisor and Kasai rivers.

Trade and communication

Silk-spinning, silk and cotton-weaving, the manufacture of brass and bell-metal ware, and the preparation of shellac are the principal industries. Bishnupur town contains a large weaving population, and is noted for its prettily embroidered commun i ca tions. scarves and fine silk cloth. Tasar silk is manu- factured at Bankura town, Bishnupur, and Blrsinghpur, and coarse cotton cloths at Bankura town, Goplnathpur, Barjora, Rajgram, and Blrsinghpur, though they are being ousted from the market by cheap Manchester goods. Sonamukhi is the centre of the shellac industry, but profits have been reduced by a fall in prices ; about 5,000 maunds were sent to Calcutta in 1903-4. Other industries are the manufacture of gold and silver ornaments, iron implements, shell bangles, and lac beads.

Rice, brass and bell-metal ware, silk stuffs, and hides are the chief articles of export, while the imports are tobacco, salt, spices, betel-nuts, poppy-heads, cotton and cotton twist, and European piece-goods. A small part of the trade passes through the Ranlganj and Panagarh stations of the East Indian Railway, but most of it is conveyed by the Midnapore-Jherria extension of the Bengal-Nagpur Railway, which passes through the District. There is some bullock-cart traffic with Ghatal in Midnapore District.

The East Indian Railway skirts the north-east boundary. The Mid- napore-Jherria extension of the Bengal-Nagpur Railway, which passes through the District, has recently been opened, and a chord-line from Howrah to Bankura is under construction. The chief roads are the Ranlganj-Midnapore road maintained from Provincial funds, the old military grand trunk road which runs across the District, the Bankura- Burdwan road via Sonamukhi, the Bankura-Raipur road, and the Bishnupur-Panagarh road. These are maintained by the District board, which has altogether under its charge 24 miles of metalled and 575 miles of unmetalled roads, in addition to 105 miles of village tracks. River-borne traffic is practically confined to the floating of long rafts (locally called mitrs) down the Damodar ; the trade is declining, owing to the supply of timber near the river having been practically exhausted.


The District is subject to drought and required Government relief in 1866 and 1874, and again in 1897. On the last occasion a daily . average of 2,377 persons were employed on relief works, and 6,528 were gratuitously relieved from May to September at a cost of Rs. 1,20,000, of which Rs. 35,000 was contributed by the District board, while the balance was met by Government.


For administrative purposes the District is divided into two sub- divisions, with head-quarters at Bankura and Bishnupur. The District Magistrate has at Bankura a staff of three Deputy-Magistrate Collectors, while a fourth, assisted by a Sub-Deputy-Collector, is in charge of the Bishnupur sub- division. For civil judicial work there are, subordinate to the District and Sessions Judge, a Sub-Judge and three Munsifs at Bankura, one Munsif at Khatra, one at Kotalpur, and two at Bishnupur, one of whom occasionally sits at Kotalpur. For many years past the District has been notorious as a centre of gangs of professional dacoits, one of which has been traced back as far as the Mutiny of 1857. These gangs, which mainly commit their crimes in the neighbouring Districts, are now being broken up.

Nearly the whole of the District, as at present constituted, was originally comprised in the Bishnupur pargana, which formed, the estate of the Raja. This was gradually broken up, owing to his unpunctuality in paying the land revenue; but in 1835-6, when Bankura was first constituted a separate Collectorate, it still contained only 56 estates. The number had by 1903-4 increased to 1,046, with a current demand of 4-74 lakhs. Of these, 983, paying a revenue of 4-73 lakhs, are permanently settled ; 51 are temporarily settled estates, consisting of the surplus side lands of the Ranlganj-Midnapore road ; and 12 petty estates are the property of Government. The incidence of the land revenue is lower than elsewhere in the Division, being only R. 0-12-4 per cultivated acre.

Tenures peculiar to the District are: nayabadi, under which a tenant who takes up waste land is allowed to hold a certain portion of it free of rent or to obtain a deduction from the rent of the entire tenure ; ja/sdsan, an improvement lease under which a tenant constructs tanks or reservoirs on similar terms ; and itmamdari, under which the tenure-holder enjoys the land rent-free as remuneration for performing the duties of a rent-collector. Ghdt- wali estates were formerly held for services rendered in defending the ghats or frontier passes against the inroads of Marathas and other plunderers. A quit-rent was originally payable to the Raja of Bishnu- pur, and was included in the ' assets ' of the Decennial Settlement, but on the Raja's application these lands were subsequently resumed by Government. The ghativals have now been abolished and their estates settled. The maximum, minimum, and average rates per acre assessed on the ghdtwali lands were Rs. 7-8, Rs. 3-12, and Rs. 5-10 for low lands, and Rs. 12, Rs. 3, and Rs. 7-8 for high lands. Through- out the District generally, the average holding of a tenant is 6 acres.

Rents rule higher in the east than in the west of the District, rice land bringing in from Rs. 3-12 to Rs. 6 an acre in the west, and from Rs. 4-8 to Rs. 7-8 in the Bishnupur subdivision. P'or rabi land the rates vary between Rs. 5-4 and Rs. 12 per acre, though as little as Rs. 3 per acre is paid for the less fertile lands in the north-west. The collections of land revenue and of total revenue (principal heads only), in thousands of rupees, are shown in the following table : —


Outside the municipalities of Bankura, Bishnupur, and Sona- mukhi, local affairs are managed by the District board and the two subdivisional local boards subordinate to it. The income of the board in 1903-4 was Rs. 1,31,000, of which Rs. 52,500 was derived from rates ; and the expenditure was Rs. 1,16,000, half of which was spent on public works and Rs. 40,000 on education.

The District contains 13 police stations and 9 outposts. The force subordinate to the District Superintendent in 1903 consisted of 2 inspectors, 27 sub-inspectors, 25 head constables, and 321 con- stables. There was in addition a village police consisting of 250 daffa- dars and 2,931 chaukidars, of whom 401 are remunerated by service tenures. The cost of maintenance of the regular force was Rs. 77,000, and there was one policeman to every io-i square miles and to every 4,327 persons. The District jail at Bankura has accommodation for 309 prisoners, and a subsidiary jail at Bishnupur for 15.

Education is making steady progress, and 9-3 per cent, of the popu- lation (18-3 males and 0-5 females) were literate in 1901. The total number of pupils under instruction increased from 38,512 in 1892-3 to 39,092 in 1900-1. In 1903-4 37,695 boys and 4,708 girls were at school, being respectively 45-7 and 5-5 per cent, of the chilaren of school-going age. The number of educational institutions, public and private, in that year was 1,388, including one Arts college, 65 secondary, 1,241 primary, and 81 special schools. The last-men- tioned institutions include two Santal schools under mission manage- ment, and two aided music schools at Bankura and Bishnupur, at which both vocal and instrumental music are taught. The total expenditure on education was Rs. 1,84,000, of which Rs. 22,000 was met from Provincial funds, Rs. 38,000 from District funds, Rs. 2,000 from municipal funds, and Rs. 84,000 from fees.

In 1903 the District contained 10 dispensaries, of which 3 had accommodation for 34 in-patients. The cases of 38,000 out-patients and 318 in-patients were treated, and 2,890 operations were performed. The expenditure was Rs. 11,000, of which Rs. 2,000 was met from Government contributions, Rs. 4,000 from Local and Rs. 3,000 from municipal funds, and Rs. 2,000 from subscriptions. A leper asylum is maintained at Bankura town.

Vaccination is compulsory only within municipal areas ; it appears to be gaining ground, though the number of operations varies widely from year to year. In 1903-4 the number of persons successfully vaccinated was 38,450, representing 36 per 1,000 of the population. [Sir W. W. Hunter, Statistical Account of Bengal^ vol. iv (1876); and Annals of Rural Bengal (1868).]

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