This article has been extracted from
THE IMPERIAL GAZETTEER OF INDIA , 1908.
OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.
Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.
North-western District of the Gorakhpur Division, United Provinces, lying north of the Gogra river, between 26° 25' and 27° 30" N. and between 82° 13' and 83° 14' E., with an area of 2,792 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Nepal territory ; on the east by Gorakhpur District ; on the south by the Gogra, which divides it from Fyzabad ; and on the west by Gonda. BastI lies entirely in the submontane plain, with no natural elevations to diversify its surface. It is traversed by a consider- able number of small streams, and the north-west corner resembles the rice swamps of the Nepal tarai. The whole of the drainage ultimately reaches the Gogra, but not within BastI District. The northern portion, extending 14 to 20 miles from the Nepal frontier to the Rapti, has a much greater rainfall than the rest. Many small streams rushing down from the lower hills or rising in the Nepal tarai water this tract, chief among them being the Burhi or 'old' Rapt!, the Banganga, and the Jamwar. South of the RaptI the central plateau of the District extends almost to the Gogra, and is drained chiefly by the Kuwana, which has a course parallel to the Rapti and Gogra. The Katnehia, Rawai, and Manwar are the principal tributaries of the Kuwana. Another small river, the Ami, crosses the upland between the Rapti and Kuwana. There are many natural lakes or depressions, often formed in the old beds of rivers, the largest being the Bakhira, Chandu, Pathra, Chaur, and Jasoia Tals.
As is usual in the submontane tracts, kankar or nodular limestone is scarce. No other rock of any kind is found in the alluvium of which the District is composed.
The flora resembles that of the submontane tracts. Forests formerly existed, but have been cut down. The District is, however, well pro- vided with clumps of mango, bamboo, and niahiid (Bassia latifolia).
Wild hog, nilgai, wolves, and jackals are common. Spotted deer are occasionally seen. During the cold season wild-fowl and snipe abound in the numerous lakes and swamps. Fish are plentiful, and are much used for food. Snakes and crocodiles are also common.
The climate of Basti is distinctly milder than that of the more western Districts, and extremes of heat and cold are less marked. It is, how- ever, not specially unhealthy, except at the close of the rains.
The annual rainfall averages 49 inches, ranging from 46 in the south-west to 52 towards the north. Near the Nepal frontier the fall is still heavier. Large variations occur from year to year. In 1877 only 24 inches were received, compared with 76 in 1894.
Materials for the history of the tract included in BastI District are unusually scarce. It possibly formed part of the great kingdom of Kosala. For some years Kapilavastu, the birth- place of Gautama Buddha, was believed to have been situated at Bhuila, 15 miles northwest of Basti town; but this identification has been abandoned in favour of a site just outside the north-east angle of the District, in Nepal. The northern part had certainly relapsed into jungle by the fifth century a. d., when it was visited by Fa Hian, though the ruins of earlier buildings were numerous. The traditions of the Rajput clans who now hold the District point to the conclusion that they began to enter it late in the thirteenth century, displacing the Bhars and the Domkatars ; but little reliance can be placed on them. A number of petty Rajas held the country and fought with each other. In Akbar's reign the Muhammadans penetrated the District after taking Gorakhpur, and maintained a garrison at Maghar ; and Basti was included in the Subah of Oudh. About 1610 the Muslims were expelled; but they returned in force in 1680, and opened up the country. Most of the Dis- trict was included in the Gorakhpur sarkdr, and its later history is that of Gorakhpur District, from which it was only separated in 1865, though ceded to the British by the Nawab Wazir of Oudh in 1801.
Many ancient mounds are found in the District, but few have been excavated. Bhuila, already referred to, was examined by General Cunningham and his assistant '. A stFtpa at Piprahwa in the north of the District was recently excavated, and yielded an interesting find of relics in an inscribed casket 2. Gupta coins are occasionally found in various localities. The only Muhammadan building of interest is the shrine of Kabir at Maghar.
Basti contains 4 towns and 6,903 villages. Population is increasing steadily. The numbers at the last four enumerations were as follows : (1872) 1,473,029, (1881) 1,630,612, (1891) 1,785,844, and (1901) 1,846,153. There are five tahsils — Domariaganj, Bansi, Haraiya, Basti, and Khalilabad — the head-quarters of each being at a place of the same name. Basti, the District head-quarters, is the largest town. The following table gives the chief statistics of population in 1901 : —
Hindus form nearly 84 per cent, of the total and Muhammadans 16 per cent. The District is densely populated, and supplies a con- siderable number of emigrants to the West Indies and to Eastern Bengal and Assam. During the last decade it probably gained by immigration from the more distressed Districts south of the Gogra. Almost the whole population speak Bihari.
The most numerous Hindu castes are : Chamars (leather-workers and cultivators), 278,000; Brahmans, 195,000; Ahars (graziers and cultivators), 185,000; KurmTs (agriculturists), 148,000 ; Banias, 52,000; Rajputs, 50,000 ; KAhars (domestic servants and cultivators), 48,000 ; and Kewats (cultivators), 40,000. The aboriginal Bhars, who once held the land, are now depressed and number only 50,000. Among Musalmans may be mentioned Shaikhs, 50,000 ; Julahas (weavers), 43,000 ; Pathans, 34,000 ; and Rajputs, 34,000. Agriculture supports 66 per cent, of the total population, and general labour 9 per cent. Brahmans and Rajputs or Chhattris hold about two-thirds of the land, and Brahmans occupy a larger area than any other caste. Rajputs, Ahars, Kurmis, and Chamars are also large cultivators, while the Koirls are noted for their skill.
There were only 53 native Christians in 1901, of whom 24 belonged to the Anglican communion. The Church Missionary Society has a high school at BastI, and there is also a Zanana mission.
The climate and soil are suitable for the growth of nearly all the more valuable products, and the comparatively heavy rainfall is especially favourable to rice. Wheat and poppy do best in the lighter loams, and are accordingly grown between the Rapti and Gogra. North of the Rapti late rice is the principal crop. In the inferior light soils barley takes the place of wheat, and kodon of rice. There is a tract of peculiar calcareous soil, known as bhat, along both banks of the Rapti, which is very retentive of moisture and produces good crops without irrigation. In the bed of the Gogra strips of alluvial soil are liable to flooding in the rains, but are cultivated for the spring harvest.
About one-third of the District is included in Zamindari mahdis, and two-thirds m pattiddri, the area of bhaiyachara tiiahdls being very small. A great many under-proprietors are found, called birtids. One class of biri is peculiar to the District, having been originally granted to a military colony of Rajputs or Chhattris who were settled on the border as guardians against invasion. The main agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are given in the table on next page, in square miles.
Rice is the crop most largely grown, covering 1,000 square miles, or 50 per cent, of the net cultivated area, in 1903-4. The other food-crops of importance are wheat (377 square miles), peas and masur (325), gram (237), barley (208), and arhar (185). The most valuable crops are, however, poppy, grown on 2,2) square miles, and sugar-cane, grown on 68. Oilseeds are also important, covering 136 square miles.
At the time of its cession to the British in 1801, the District was in a very depressed condition. A settled government soon gave an impetus to cultivation, and led to the introduction of the more valuable crops, sugar-cane and poppy. During the thirty years preceding the last settlement the cultivated area increased by 13 per cent., or, including the jungle grants in the north of the District, by 20 per cent. In the last fifteen years there has been a further small increase of about 2 per cent, and a still larger rise in the area double cropped. There has been no appreciable change in the staples grown. Advances are taken freely under the Agriculturists' Loans Act, and amounted to a total of 1-2 lakhs during the ten years ending 1901, of which Rs. 51,000 was lent in the famine year 1896-7. From Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 3,000 has been advanced annually since 1900.
The cattle of the District are generally inferior, but those bred in the Mahuli pargana are a little above the average. Buffaloes are largely kept for milk. Ponies are used a good deal both for riding and as pack-animals, but are of a very poor stamp. Sheep and goats are chiefly kept for the supply of wool, skins, and manure.
In 1903-4, 323 square miles were irrigated from wells, 435 from tanks and swamps, and 211 from other sources. Wells are chiefly important in the southern half of the upland area between the Gogra and Rapti, and their use decreases as the latter river is approached. North of the Rapt! they are hardly used at all. Water is invariably raised from them by the lever or by two pots slung on a wheel. The natural ponds and swamps, which are so numerous in the District, are everywhere used for irrigation, in addition to the small tanks which have been excavated. The swing-basket is used to raise water from these sources of supply. The larger rivers are not used at all for irrigation, as their beds lie too low ; but the smaller streams are held up by small temporary earthen dams, and their water is turned into the rice-fields as required. In the north-east of the District two European grantees have constructed a series of works which effectu- ally protect about 52,000 acres of rice land. The valleys of several small rivers have been dammed with earthen embankments provided with weirs and gates, so that sudden floods can be allowed to escape. Water is conducted by 82 miles of main canals and about 250 miles of distributaries to all parts of the estates. No water rates are charged, but the cultivators voluntarily keep the works in repair. This is the only considerable system of private canals in the United Provinces, and has been imitated with success by a native zamlnddr, who owns an estate close by. Except in the case of rice-fields, irrigation is chiefly required for the spring harvest. Water is usually sprinkled over the land with a wooden shovel ; but poppy and garden crops are flooded.
The chief mineral product is kankar or nodular limestone, which is used for metalling roads and making lime. It is, however, scarce and of poor quality, and lacustrine shells are also used for making lime. Saltpetre is manufactured from the saline efflorescence called reh.
Trade and Communications
The District is exceptionally poor in industrial enterprise. Sugar- refining alone is of some importance. Agricultural implements, coarse cotton cloth, and the ordinary communications utensils for household use are made locally. Brass vessels are made at Bakhira, but these and also cloth are largely imported. A little chintz is made at Nagar and Bahadurpur.
The trade of the District with other parts of India is chiefly in agri- cultural produce. Rice, sugar, opium, saltpetre, oilseeds, and hides are exported ; and cloth, metals, salt, cotton, and tobacco are im- ported. The through trade with Nepal is also of importance. Iron, drugs, spices, ghi, fibres, and rice come from Nepal ; and raw sugar, salt, hardware, tobacco, coco-nuts, cotton yarn, and cloth are sent to that State. Uska and Mehndawal are the chief marts for the traffic of the north of the District with Nepal. The commerce of the south is partly carried by the Gogra ; but the railway has largely replaced the river, as is usual where the two means of carriage compete, Cawn- pore in the west and Calcutta in the east attract most of the trade of the District.
The Bengal and North- Western Railway main line crosses BastI from east to west, and Uska in the north-east corner is at present the terminus of a branch from Gorakhpur. It is, however, being connected with Tulsipur in Gonda District by a line which will pass very close to the border of Nepal and may be expected to increase the traffic with that State. Communications byroad are not good. Out of 682 miles, only 113 are metalled. The metalled roads are in charge of the Public Works department; but the cost of all but 62 miles is charged to Local funds. The main lines are those from Gorakhpur to Fyzabad, from Basti town to Bansi, and from Uska towards the Nepal frontier. Bridges are still required on most of the unmetalled roads, which cross many small streams by fords and ferries. Avenues of trees are main- tained on 127 miles of road.
Mention of the famines experienced in Basti District up to 1865, when it became a separate Collectorate, will be found in the article on Gorakpur District. In 1868-9 only slight scarcity was felt. The rains of 1873 were light and the following spring crop could not be sown. Relief works were opened, and in May, 1874, the daily muster rose to 127,000; but it was held afterwards that relief had been too lavish. A similar failure of the rains in 1877 caused distress in 1878, and relief works were again required. In 1896-7 distress was felt ; but this was due to the pressure of high prices on the labouring classes rather than to a failure of the crops. Relief works were opened, but the proportion of the popu- lation who came to them was small.
The Collector is usually assisted by five Deputy-Collectors recruited in India, and a tahsildar is stationed at the head- quarters of each tahsil. There are two District Munsifs, and the system of Village Munsifs was introduced in 1902. Basti is comprised within the Civil and Sessions Judgeship of Gorakhpur ; but sessions cases are tried by the Judge of Jaunpur, who is a Joint Sessions Judge for this purpose. Crime is on the whole light, and the District is not noted for any particular form. Infanticide was formerly suspected, but no villages are now proclaimed under the Act.
Basti was acquired by cession in 1801, but up to 1865 it formed part of Gorakhpur District. The quarrels of the Rajas and the failure of the Oudh government to introduce any system of administration had reduced the country to a miserable state. The early settlements, based chiefly on the previous collections, were for short periods, and at first were made with the Rajas or large proprietors at lump sums for whole estates. In 1838-9 the first regular settlement was made under Regu- lation IX of 1833. It was based on a survey, and it recognized the birtias or under-proprietors, from whom engagements were taken direct for the first time. The revenue fixed was 9.7 lakhs, which was more than double the former revenue. This settlement was revised between 1859 and 1865 by various officers working on different methods, but principally relying on estimates of the rental 'assets,' and the demand was increased to 12.8 lakhs. The latest revision was made between 1883 and 1890, and Bast! was one of the first Districts to be resettled on the basis of the actual rents paid. The revenue demand amounted to 19.4 lakhs, or 46 per cent, of the corrected rent-roll, the incidence per acre being Rs. 1-1, varying from R. o-8 to Rs. 1.7.
Collections on account of land revenue and revenue from all sources have been, in thousands of rupees : —
There are no municipalities, but three towns are administered under Act XX of 1856. Beyond the limits of these, local affairs are adminis- tered by the District board, which in 1903-4 had an income of 1.6 lakhs, chiefly derived from local rates. The expenditure was also 1.6 lakhs, including Rs. 92,000 spent on roads and buildings.
The District Superintendent of police is assisted by 4 inspectors, and has a force of 97 subordinate officers and 378 constables, besides 52 town police and 3,201 rural and road police. There are 26 police stations. The District jail had a daily average of 247 prisoners in 1903.
The District contains few towns, and the proportion of literate persons is not very high; only 2-8 per cent. (5-5 males and o-i females) could read and write in 1901. Hindus (3 per cent.) were better edu- cated than Musalmans (2 per cent.). The number of public schools increased from 154 with 5,037 pupils in 1880-1 to 290 with 11,286 pupils in 1900- 1. In 1903-4 there were 308 such schools with 16,844 pupils, including 426 girls, besides 36 private schools with 459 pupils. The primary classes contained all but 1,400 pupils in both public and private schools. Two schools are managed by Government and 135 by the District board. Out of a total expenditure on education of Rs. 46,000, Local funds supplied Rs. 42,000, and the receipts from fees were only Rs. 3,800.
There are 8 hospitals and dispensaries, with accommodation for 51 in-patients. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 90,000, including 417 in-patients, and 3,562 operations were performed. The expenditure in the same year amounted to Rs. 26,000, chiefly met from Local funds.
About 50,000 persons were successfully vaccinated in 1903-4, giving a proportion of 27 per 1,000 of population, which is below the Provincial average.
[District Gazetteer (1881, under revision); J. Hooper, Settlement Report (1891).]