Azamgarh 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.


Azamgarh District

Southern District of the Gorakhpur Division, United Provinces, lying between 25 38' and 26 27' N. and 82 40' and 83 52'E., with an area of 2,207 square miles, of which 52 square miles were added in 1904. It is bounded on the north by Fyzabad and Gorakhpur ; on the east by Ballia ; on the south by Ghazlpur and Jaunpur ; and on the west by Jaunpur and Sultanpur. The graeter part forms an elevated plain which lies

south of the Gogra. Besides the Gogra, the principal rivers are the Tons and Chhoti Sarju, the former flowing from west to east across the District, while the Chhoti Sarju flows south-east from the Gogra. Along the Chhoti Sarju and Gogra are tracts of low alluvial land. The upland area south of the Tons differs from the area between the Tons and the Gogra. The southern tract is made up of a series of narrow parallel sections of country lying east and west. These are separated by lines of swamps which gradually become definite drainage channels. The whole area contains many depressions, which are filled with water in the rains, but gradually dry up. Nowhere does any long continuous expanse of cultivation occur, marshes and saline plains (usar) interrupting the cropped lands. In the northern portion the water- courses keep more closely to their channels, and swamps are less frequent, the expanses of cultivation more continuous, and hamlets with their attendant groves more thickly scattered. The Gogra, also known as the Great Sarju, Deoha, or Dehwa, has a valley varying in width from half a mile to ten miles, and constantly shifts its channel. The Tons after a tortuous course joins the Chhoti Sarju near the eastern boundary. It is remarkable for the heavy floods which occur in its valley. There are about twenty large lakes or swamps, the principal being the Gamhlrban, Kotail, Jam wa wan, Salona, Pakri-Pewa, Narja, and Ratol.

The District consists entirely of alluvium, and kankar or calcareous lime is the only form of stone. Saline efflorescences are found in many parts.

The flora is that of the Gangetic valley. Few large areas are covered with trees ; but near the Tons and other streams there are some patches in which palas or dhdk (Butea frondosa) predominates. In the north mango groves abound ; but there are few in the south, especially in the swampy area to the south-west. The alluvial tracts or kachhdr are, however, the barest of trees.

The wolf, jackal, and fox are common, and wild hog and nilgai are occasionally met with. The rivers and lakes abound in fish, and in the winter are the haunt of geese, duck, and snipe.

The climate is on the whole healthy, though fever is prevalent during the rains and immediately after. With the commencement of the hot season in April westerly winds spring up ; but in May the wind changes to the east and the climate becomes very relaxing.

The annual rainfall averages 41 inches, the distribution in different parts of the District being fairly uniform. Variations from year to year are, however, considerable. In 1894 the fall was 68 inches, and in 1896 only 18 inches.


Tradition points to the Bhars, Soerls, and Cherus as the aboriginal inhabitants of the District, and asserts that these were superseded first by the Rajputs and then by the Bhuinhars. When the tide of Muhammadan conquest flowed eastwards, Azamgarh was included in the great kingdom of Kanauj and passed with the neighbouring country under Delhi rule. In the fifteenth cen- tury the Shark! kings of Jaunpur usurped authority over Azamgarh. On the fall of that dynasty, the District was reannexed to the Delhi domi- nions, and the fort of Sikandarpur was built by, and named after, Sikandar Lodi. In the seventeenth century a family of Gautam Rajputs rose to influence, and before the close of the century they had embraced the faith of Islam and possessed themselves of nearly the whole District as feudatory chiefs. About 1731 Mahabat Khan, head of the family, refused payment of revenue ; but after some success in resisting the forces of the Oudh government, he was forced to fly. His successors gradually lost their estates, and in 1758 Azamgarh became a chakld or district of Oudh till its cession in 1801.

On June 3, 1857, the 17th Regiment of Native Infantry mutinied at Azamgarh, murdered some of their officers, and carried off the Govern- ment treasure to Fyzabad. The Europeans fled to Ghazlpur; but on June 16 two planters, Messrs. Venables and Dunne, returned to Azam- garh, and, troops being sent from Ghazlpur, the town was reoccupied. On July 18 the civil officers returned, and Mr. Venables attacked the rebels, but was forced back on the town ; and on July 28, after the mutiny at Dinapore, all the Europeans returned to Ghazlpur. The Pal- wars held Azamgarh town from August 9 to 25 ; but they were expelled by the loyal Gurkhas on August 26, and on September 3 the civil officers returned again. On September 20 BenI Madho and the Palwars were defeated, and British authority to a great extent re-established. The rebels were driven out of Atraulia in November ; and in January, 1858, the Gurkhas, under Jang Bahadur, marehed from Gorakhpur towards Fyzabad, driving the rebels back into Azamgarh. Kuar Singh entered the District in his flight from Lucknow in the middle of February, and was attacked by our troops at Atraulia ; but the latter were repulsed and fell back on Azamgarh, which was besieged by Kuar Singh till the middle of April, when he was defeated by a force under Sir E. Lugard, and the siege raised. Kuar Singh fled, and lost his life in crossing the Ganges ; but bands of rebels roamed about attacking the tahsills and thanas till October, when a force under Colonel Kelly was sent to clear the District.

Ruins of numerous forts exist in many parts, which are locally attri- buted to the Bhars. A copperplate inscription of Harshavardhana of Kanauj, dated in a.d. 631, was found at Madhuban l , and an inscrip- tion on a tank records its construction in 1 144. There are few remains of arehitectural interest, the chief being an old Rajput fort at Mehnagar.


In 1 90 1 the District contained 12 towns and 4,688 villages. Popu- lation increased considerably between 1872 and 1891 ; but during the next decade fell by a larger amount than in any other District in the United Provinces. The numbers at the four enumerations were as follows : (1872) 1,317,626, (1881) 1,604,654, (1891) 1,728,625, (1901) 1,529,785. Fever, emigration, and famine are responsible for the decrease between 1891 and 1901. Up to 1904 there were five tahsils — Deocaon, Azamgarh, Mahul, SaorT, and Muhammadabad — each named from its head-quarters, except Sagrland Mahul, the head-quarters of which are at Jianpur and Atraulia respec- tively. A sixth taksit, named Ghosi, was constituted in 1904. The principal towns are the municipality of Azamgarh, the District head- quarters, and Mau and Murarakpur. The table on the next page gives the chief statistics of population in 1901.

1 Epigraphia Tndica, vol. i, p. 67.


The total population has been increased to 1,548,683, by a transfer of 52 square miles from Gorakhpur District in 1904. Details of the alterations will be found in the articles on Sagri, Muhammadabad, and GhosI iahsils. Nearly 86 per cent, of the population are Hindus and 14 per cent. Muhammadans. The density of population is very high, and the District supplies a large number of emigrants. About 94 per cent, of the population speak Biharl 1 .

The most numerous Hindu castes are : Chamars (leather-workers and labourers), 257,000; Ahlrs (graziers and cultivators), 219,000; Brahmans, 108,000 ; Rajputs or Chhattris, 99,000 ; Bhars (labourers), 70,000) ; Koirls (cultivators), 60,000 ; Bhuinhars (agriculturists), 56,000 ; Lunias (saltpetre workers and labourers), 52,000 ; and Banias, 38,000. More than half of the Musalmans are included in the two divisions of Julahas (weavers) and Shaikhs, 54,000 each ; while Pathans number 27,000. Agriculture supports more than 60 per cent, of the total population, and general labour nearly 12 per cent., while weavers form 3 per cent. Rajputs or Chhattris own about one-third of the land, Brahmans one-tenth, and Bhuinhars one-sixth. The same three castes cultivate one-seventh of the District ; Kurmis, Chamars, and Ahlrs occupy a large area as tenants, while Koirls are noted for their skill in the cultivation of the most valuable crops.

In rgol the District contained 104 native Christians, of whom 48 belonged to the Anglican communion. The Church Missionary Society, which has laboured at Azamgarh since 181 8, supports the principal school.


In the southern portion of the District, which is badly drained, the prevailing soil is clay, chiefly producing rice. In the deeper or central portions of the depressions this becomes almost black from the amount of organic matter which it contains, and the soil is sticky and hard to wo'rk. Loam is more common in the northern portion, though clay soil and rice lands are also found there.

1 For a grammar of the dialect spoken in Azamgarh, see Settlement Report, by J. R. Reid, Appendix II.

There are small ravines along the Tons, the soil in which has suffered from denudation. The kachhar land contains large stretches of light sandy soil along the ChhotI Sarju, and sandbanks near the Gogra. These produce but scanty crops, and along the Gogra are often covered with long grass or tamarisk, and are liable to be cut away by the river. Even the more permanent parts of the kachhar are exposed to inun- dation, and this part of the District is less productive than the rest.

The District is held on the usual tenures found in the United Provinces ; but a large number of mahals or revenue units are com- plex, extending over a number of mauzas or villages. Proprietary rights are very minutely subdivided. In a few villages inferior proprietors are also found, called mushakhkhasldars. The main agricultural statistics are given below, in square miles : —


Note. — Owing to settlement operations, these statistics are for various years from 1897 to 1901.

The staple food-crops are rice (422 square miles) and barley (359). Peas were grown on 181 square miles ; and kodon, wheat, arhar, gram, maize, and marua are also largely cultivated. Sugar-cane is the most valuable crop (roi square miles) ; indigo (29) and poppy (10) are also important.

There has been no extension of the net cultivated area in recent years, and the rice lands are so dependent on rainfall that fluctuations are considerable. The most striking change has been the large increase in the area bearing two crops in the same year, which has nearly doubled within the last thirty years. Advances under the Agriculturists' and Land Improvement Loans Acts are rarely taken, except in bad seasons. Out of a total of 1-4 lakhs lent during the ten years ending 1900 more than a lakh was advanced in two years, and only Rs. 2,400 has been lent in four years since 1900.

The cattle bred locally are inferior, and buffaloes are largely used to supply milk. Ponies are also of a poor stamp, and the best are imported. Many of the wealthier zamltidars keep elephants. Sheep are chiefly kept for wool and manure, and goats for milk and flesh.

Out of 740 square miles irrigated, 416 were supplied from wells, 214 from tanks and swamps, and no from small streams. The upland area requires much more irrigation than the kachhar, in which even sugar- cane can be grown without irrigation. Artificial tanks number more than 15,000, but all are of small size. The larger rivers are not utilized at all, owing to the cost of raising water ; but every natural hollow and swamp which holds water is made use of. The upper courses of the smaller streams are regularly dammed, and embankments are also con- structed wherever possible in fields to hold up water for rice. Water is generally raised from swamps and tanks by the swing-basket. In many parts of the District the spring-level is sufficiently high to allow the use of the lever and pot to raise water ; but in other places a leathern bucket worked by hand labour, or less commonly by bullocks, takes the place of these. Water is generally sprinkled over the soil instead of being allowed to flood it, except in the case of garden crops.

Kankar or nodular limestone is found in many places, and is used for making lime and metalling roads. Where it occurs in block form it is used for building. Saltpetre and carbonate of soda are largely extracted from saline efflorescences called reh.

Trade and Communication

The most important industries of the District are sugar-refining and the weaving of cotton-cloth, which are carried on in all parts. The cloth-weaving industry has suffered from the compe- tition of European piece-goods and also of the mills of India ; but coarse varieties are still made for local use, and finer qualities from imported yarn for export. The District is the most important centre of cotton-weaving as a hand industry in the United Provinces, and about 13,000 looms are at work. Silk and satin are also largely produced. Mubarakpur, Mau, and Kopaganj are the chief centres of the weaving industry. The manufacture of indigo was formerly important, but is fast declining under the competition of artificial indigo. Pottery of a rather poor style is produced at Nizamabad.

The chief imports are grain, European piece-goods and yarn, cotton, silk, tobacco, salt, metals and hardware, and drugs ; and the exports are sugar, opium, cloth, oilseeds, indigo, and saltpetre. Grain is largely imported from the country north of the Gogra. The trade routes have been considerably altered by recent railway extensions. Traffic still continues on the Gogra, where Dohrighat is the chief emporium, and there is some trade during the rains on the Chhoti Sarju. Shahganj in Jaunpur attracts a good deal of the produce of the west of the District.

The Oudh and Rohilkhand loop line just touches the extreme west of the District, while the Bengal and North- Western branch from Gorakhpur to Benares traverses the eastern portion. These have now been linked up by a line from Shahganj on the former through Azamgarh town to Mau, which crosses the centre of the District. A branch connects Kopaganj with Dohrighat, and another branch from Kopaganj to Ballia has a very short length in the District. Road com- munications are fairly good. Out of a total length of 708 miles, 193 miles are metalled and are maintained by the Public Works depart- ment ; but the cost of all but 86 miles is charged to Local funds. The main lines are the roads from Dohrighat to Jaunpur with a branch to Benares, and from the same place to Ghazlpur, but the cross-road from Mau through Azamgarh town to Shahganj is also important. Avenues of trees are maintained on 79 miles of road.


From the commencement of British rule till almost the close of the nineteenth century, no drought which could be called famine was known in the District. Hailstorms, frost, floods, and drought had occasionally caused scareity in various parts.

The early part of the decade 1891-1900 was very unfavourable. Excessive and unseasonable rain damaged the harvests for three conse- cutive years, and in 1896 drought caused famine. The construction of a branch of the Bengal and North-YVestern Railway gave employment to 6,000 or 8,000 persons ; relief works were also opened and the highest number of workers rose to 11,000. Nearly 4 lakhs of revenue was remitted, and the cost of all kinds of relief amounted to about 4-3 lakhs.


The Collector is usually assisted by one member of the Indian Civil Service, and by five Deputy-Collectors recruited in India. An officer of the Opium department is stationed in the District, and there is a tahsildar at the head-quarters of each tahsil.

There are two District Munsifs and a Sub-Judge for civil work, and the District Judge is also Sessions Judge. Azamgarh is noted for the tension of religious feeling between Hindus and Musalmans, which not infrequently causes trouble. In 1893 serious riots accompanied by bloodshed took place over the slaughter of kine. The people are also litigious, and agrarian disputes are not infrequent. Cattle-poisoning by Chamars for the sake of hides is perhaps more common in Azamgarh than elsewhere in the United Provinces. Infanticide was formerly suspected, but no measures are now required for its prevention.

At the cession in 1801, Azamgarh was included in the large District of Gorakhpur then formed. In 1820 part of it was transferred to Jaunpur and part to Ghazlpur. Three years later a Sub-Collectorate of Azamgarh was formed out of the Jaunpur pargatias ; and in 1832 a separate District of Azamgarh was constituted, to which for many years part of the present Ballia District was also attached. The early settlements were for short periods and were carried out in Gorakhpur District. Operations were commenced under Regulation VII of 1822, but were never completed ; and the first regular settlement was made between 1834 and 1837 by Mr. Thomason, afterwards Lieutenant- Governor of the North-Western Provinces, and Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Montgomery. Land was classified according as it produced only rice or all kinds of crops, and average rates were assumed for each class of soil. The rental ' assets ' so calculated were checked by assumed average pargana rates. The proportion taken as revenue varied between 50 and 66 per cent., and the revenue demand was fixed at 12-4 lakhs. This settlement was revised between 1866 and 1875. The land was again classed according to the crops it produced, and the rice land was divided into four or five classes according to its quality, while the ordinary land was subdivided according to its position near the village site or remote from it. Rent rates were selected for each class of soil at inspection, and were applied to the areas of each class, deductions being made in the case of land held by high-caste tenants, who pay lower rates than those of low caste, and in the case of villages where rents were difficult to collect. The revenue fixed amounted to 16-6 lakhs, while the assumed rental 'assets' were 34-8 lakhs. The revenue demand in 1903-4 was 17-8 lakhs, the incidence being Rs. 1-5 per acre, varying in different parganas from R. 1 to Rs. i-6. This figure includes the revenue of 176 villages which are permanently settled, as they formerly belonged to the Benares province. The District is at present (1906) being resettled.

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


Azamgarh is the only municipality, but ten towns are administered under Act XX of 1856. Beyond the limits of these, local affairs are managed by the District board, which in 1903-4 had an income of 1-2 lakhs, chiefly derived from local rates. The expenditure was also i-2 lakhs, and included Rs. 43,000 spent on roads and buildings.

The District Superintendent of police has a force of 4 inspectors, no subordinate officers, and 408 constables, besides 117 municipal and town police, and 2,260 rural and road police. There are 23 police stations. In 1903 the District jail contained a daily average of 239 inmates.

Azamgarh is above the Provincial average as regards the literacy of its inhabitants, of whom ^'Z P er cent. (6-8 males and 0-2 females) could read and write in 1901. The number of public schools has risen from 184 with 7,591 pupils in 1880-1 to 224 with 11,183 pupils in 1900-1. In 1903-4 there were 265 such institutions with 14,216 pupils, of whom 162 were girls, besides 114 private schools with 1,285 pupils, including 34 girls. One of the schools is managed by Government, and 133 by the District and municipal boards. Out of a total expenditure on education of Rs. 41,000, Rs. 35,000 was charged to Local funds, and the receipts from fees were Rs. 4,000.

There are 8 hospitals and dispensaries, with accommodation for 66 in-patients. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 71,000, including 745 in-patients, and 2,559 operations were performed. The expenditure amounted to Rs. 10,000, chiefly met from Local funds.

About 42,000 persons were successfully vaccinated in 1903-4, repre- senting a proportion of 27 per 1,000 of population. Vaccination is compulsory only in the municipality of Azamgarh.

[J. R. Reid, Settlement Report (1877) ; District Gazetteer { 1883, under revision).]

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