Bara Banki 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, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.


Physical aspects

District in the Fyzabad Division of the United Provinces, lying between 26 31' and 27 21' N. and 8o° 56' and 8i° 52" E., south-west of the Gogra, with an area of 1,758 square miles. It is bounded on the north-west by Sltapur ; on the north-east by the Gogra, which separates it from Bahraich and Gonda ; on the south-east by Fyzabad and Sultanpur; on the south by Rae Bareli ; and on the west by Lucknow. Bara Bank! consists of an almost level upland plain sloping gently from north-west to south-east. Physical Along the Gogra is found a strip of alluvial soil,

which in the north becomes broader and includes the whole valley of the Chauka as far as its junction with the Gogra at Bahramghat. This low area is liable to flooding, and exposes great areas of loose white river sand. The uplands, however, present a broad sheet of level cultivation, dotted with many small villages and hamlets, and set so thick with groves of mango that they seem to meet in every direction and form a background to a landscape full of quiet charm. The District is one of the most prosperous in the United Provinces. It possesses a fertile soil, excellent drainage, ample facilities for irrigation, and a thrifty and industrious peasantry. Exclud- ing the Gogra, the chief river is the Gumtl, whose winding course traverses the south of the District, while the central portion is drained by its two tributaries, the Reth and Kalyani. The banks of these streams are to some extent broken by ravines. Small shallow lakes and jhlls are numerous everywhere.

Bara Bank! exposes nothing but alluvium, and kankar is the only stony formation. The flora generally is that of the Gangetic plain. Scattered patches of dhdk (Butea frondosa) jungle occur, but their area has been much reduced by the spread of cultivation. A very large area is occupied by mango groves. Close cultivation has reduced the number and variety of wild animals. Hog are still numerous in the tamarisk jungle along the Gogra and Chauka, and nilgai are occasionally seen in the same region. Jackals are common everywhere. During the cold season geese and duck abound, but other game-birds are rare. Fish are caught in the tanks, but the plentiful supply in the rivers is hardly touched. Excluding the low-lying tracts near the Gogra, Bara Bankl has a very healthy climate. Statistics of temperature are not kept ; but the extremes of heat and cold are less marked than in the Districts farther west. The annual rainfall averages nearly 40 inches, the eastern portion receiving the largest amount. Large fluctuations occur, and the recorded fall has varied from 23 to 64 inches.


Nothing is known of the ancient history of the District ; but popular tradition connects the mounds, which are found in many places, with the Bhars. The Muhammadan conquest was effected earlier and more thoroughly than in most parts 01 Oudh. Saiyid Salar, the hero of many popular ballads, is said to have fixed his head-quarters for a time at Satrikh, and several Musal- man families assign the settlement of their ancestors to this period. Other settlements were made in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Bhars being gradually crushed. It is noticeable that traditions of the occupation of large tracts by clans of Rajputs are less frequent here than in other parts of Oudh ; and their conquests do not appear to have been made till the fifteenth century, when the country was the battle-ground between the kingdoms of Jaunpur and Delhi.

Under Akbar the present District was divided between the sarkdrs of Luck- now and Oudh in the Subah of Oudh, and Manikpur which belonged to Allahabad. Its later history is chiefly a chronicle of the varying fortunes of the great families. In 1751 the Raikwars, who had entered Bara Banki during the reign of Akbar, rose against the rule of the Nawab of Oudh, but were crushed after a fierce battle. For many years they remained out of possession of their former estates ; but in the first half of the nineteenth century the lax government of the Oudh kings enabled them to recover a larger domain than had been theirs in 1 75 1. The District, indeed, bore an evil reputation for turbulence and disorder. In jungles and ravines along the Gumti and Kalyani lay the strongholds of many banditti whose crimes are recorded in Sir W. Sleeman's Diary.

In 1856 the District, with the rest of Oudh, came under British rule. During the Mutiny of 1857-8 the whole of the Bara BankI tahikdars joined the mutineers, but offered no serious resistance after the capture of Lucknow. At the battle of Nawabganj (June, 1858) the Raikwar Zamindars of Sitapur and Bahraich fought and fell with all the historic heroism of Rajputs. The Begam of Oudh, driven from Lucknow, had fled for refuge to their fort at BaundT, and these chivalrous chiefs were devoted to her cause. ' I have seen,' wrote the British general, ' many battles in India and many brave fellows fighting with a determination to conquer or die; but I never witnessed anything more magnificent than the conduct of these zamlndai's? Order was re-established in July, 1858. In 1869-70 the District originally formed was increased by the addition of parts of Bahraich, Lucknow, Sultanpur, and Rae Bareli. The ancient sites of the District still await exploration. Numerous deposits of coins and a copperplate grant of Gobind Chand of Kanauj, dated in 115 1, have been discovered. There are many tombs, mosques, and buildings dating from the Muhammadan period, but none of importance to the archaeologist.


Bara Banki contains 1o towns and 2,052 villages. The population at the four enumerations was as follows: (1869) 1,113,430, (1881) lation 1,026,788, (1891) 1,130,906, and (1901)1,179,323. It opu " is probable that the Census of 1869 overstated the truth, but Bara Banki suffered from scarcity in 1877-8. The increase during the last decade was comparatively high in all parts of the District, which is very densely populated. There are four tahsils — Ramsanehighat, Nawabganj, Fatehpur, and Haidargarh. The last three are named from the places at which their head-quarters are situated, while the tahsildar of Ramsanehlghat resides at Chamierganj. The principal town is the municipality of Nawabganj, a mile from the town of Bara Banki, which contains the District courts and civil station. The following table gives the chief statistics of population in 1901 : —


Hindus form 83 per cent, of the total, and Musalmans 17 pet- cent. About 92 per cent, of the population speak the Awadhi dialect of Eastern Hindi, while Hindustani is used by the remainder. Kurmis (agriculturists), 162,000, are the most numerous of the Hindu castes. Others largely represented are : Ahirs (graziers and cultivators), 140,000; Pasis (toddy-drawers and labourers), 135,000; Chamars (tanners and labourers), 92,000; Brahmans, 86,000; Rajputs, 41,000; Lodhas (cultivators), 37,000 ; and Koris (weavers), 25,000. Musalmans include Shaikhs, 34,000: Julahas (weavers), 31,000; Behnas (cotton- carders), 14,000 ; and Pathans, 13,000. Agriculture supports 73 per cent, of the total population, and cotton-weaving nearly 3 per cent. Kurmis, Brahmans, Rajputs, Muraos, and Ahirs are the principal cultivators.

Out of 144 native Christians enumerated in 1901, 139 were Metho- dists. The American Methodist Mission commenced work soon after the Mutiny and is the only missionary body in the District. In the lowland area between the Chauka and the Gogra cultivation is very precarious, owing to the liability to flooding. West of the Chauka and lower down the Gogra the alluvial soil is better, especially in dry years. The central part of the District forms the valley of the KalyanI, which consists of rich loam or clay, plentifully supplied with means of irrigation. The soil becomes more sandy as the Gumtl is approached. In the extreme south a tract of clay land is found resembling that in the adjoining District of Rae Barell. The Gumtl valley is flooded after heavy rain, which occasionally damages the low land near the bed of the river, but recovery is rapid. The District is held on the tenures usually found in Oudh. Taluk- dari estates include about 47 per cent, of the total area, while sub- settlement holders have about 8 per cent. The main agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are given below, in square miles: —


Rice, gram, and wheat are the crops most largely grown, covering 339, 3 OI > an d 295 square miles, or 28 to 25 per cent, of the net culti- vated area, respectively. Pulses (171 square miles), kodon and small millets (166), barley (89), peas and masur (68), and maize (56) are also important. Poppy is grown on 44, and sugar-cane on 36 square miles. The large area under the more valuable crops, such as poppy, rice, and wheat, testifies to the high standard of cultivation, which is hardly surpassed in any District of the United Provinces. There has been a considerable increase in the cultivated area during the last forty years, amounting to 15 or 20 per cent., and this has been attended by a still larger rise in the area double cropped. Barley has been replaced by wheat, and jowdr by maize, while the area under rice, sugar-cane, and poppy has risen considerably. Drains have recently been made in one or two places where drainage was defective. Advances are readily taken under the Land Improvement and Agriculturists' Loans Acts, and amounted to a total of 4-9 lakhs during the ten years ending 1900, out of which i-6 lakhs was advanced in 1896-7. Increased prosperity accounts for the falling off in the next four years, when an average of Rs. 2,000 was lent.

The cattle bred locally are of inferior quality, and the best are imported from Bahraich. There is no horse-breeding. Sheep are kept in comparatively small numbers, but goats are largely bred for food and for their hair. Although it contains no canals, the District is unusually well protected by means of irrigation. In 1903-4 tanks axi&jkils supplied 268 square miles, wells 153, and other sources 12. Practically speaking, every field which requires water gets it. The jh'ih fail in exceptionally dry years, but temporary wells can be made in nearly all parts. Thus in the autumn of 1896 about 20,000 earthen wells were dug by tenants with their own resources, or by aid of loans from Government and from estates under the Court of Wards. Irrigation from wells is increasing, and the District is now much less dependent on tanks than formerly. The lever or the pot and pulley is used in most parts to raise water ; but in places where the spring-level is low a leathern bucket worked by bullocks is employed. Water is raised from tanks by the swing-basket. Kankar or calcareous limestone is common in all parts, and is used for metalling roads and for making lime. Glass is manufactured from saline efflorescences.

Trade and communication

The most important industry of the District is the weaving of cotton cloth. Cotton rugs are also manufactured, and an excellent class of cotton prints is turned out at Nawabganj. Iron su S ar - miIls made at a factory at Bahramghat j and brass vessels and small articles of metal, such as locks, betel-nut cutters, and tobacco-cutters, are made at one or two places. A little furniture is manufactured at Bahramghat. Bara Bank! exports grain, raw sugar, hides, and cotton cloth of local manufacture, while it imports piece-goods and yarn, metals and hard- ware, and refined sugar. The trade is chiefly carried by railway ; but there is also an immense traffic by cart with Lucknow, which absorbs much of the surplus grain of the District. A large quantity of timber passes through Bahramghat. Nawabganj is the most considerable commercial centre, but bazars are springing up at the railway stations and taking the place of the older markets.

The loop line of the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway from Benares to Lucknow passes across the District, and a branch from Nawabganj runs to Bahramghat on the Gogra. A narrow-gauge line belonging to the same railway runs from Lucknow to Burhwal, where it meets the Bengal and North-Western Railway, which crosses the Gogra by a magnificent bridge, 3,695 feet in length. A branch of the Bengal and North- Western Railway from Burhwal to Sltapur is under consideration. The District is well supplied with roads. Out of a total length of 632 miles, 161 are metalled. The latter are in charge of the Public Works department, but the cost of all but 47 miles is charged to Local funds. Avenues of trees are maintained on 274 miles. The chief routes are the roads from Lucknow to Fyzabad, and from Nawabganj to Fatehpur, Bahramghat, and Haidargarh.

The increase in well-irrigation and improved communications have prevented the District from suffering severely from the effects of Famine. drought. Tradition relates that in 1837 famine was intense. Bara Bank! escaped lightly in subsequent years of scarcity till 1877-8. Relief works were then opened, but the numbers never rose above 6,500 in a day, and distress was severe only in the tract south of the Gumtl. The failure of the rains in 1896 actually benefited the lowlands, which had recently been damaged by the excessive rain of 1894. Much loss was, however, caused in the central tract, and still more in the south. Relief works were opened and the numbers rose as high as 42,000 ; but the spring crop of 1897 was saved by the number of wells made, and the total expen- diture on relief was only 1-5 lakhs.


The Deputy-Commissioner is usually assisted by four Deputy-Col- lectors recruited in India. Two officers of the Opium department are stationed in the District, and a tahs'ildar resides at the head-quarters of each tahsil. There are two Munsifs and a Subordinate Judge for civil work. The District is included in the Civil Judgeship of Fyzabad and in the Sessions Judgeship of Lucknow. Crime is not on the whole of a serious nature, though rioting is more than usually prevalent, and murders occur with some frequency. Dacoities by regular gangs have taken place recently. Female infanticide was once common, but is not suspected now.

The first summary settlement involved the setting aside of talukdars to a large extent. After the Mutiny their estates were restored and a second summary settlement was made, the demand being fixed at 1 1 -9 lakhs. A survey was then carried out, which was followed by the first regular settlement between 1863 and 1868. The assess- ment was largely based on the actual rent-rolls, checked by rough estimates of the apparent value of each village and by rates applied to the area of different classes of soil. A revenue demand of 15-8 lakhs was proposed, which was reduced to 15-3 lakhs before con- firmation. The latest revision was made between 1893 and 1898, preceded by a partial resurvey. The pargana of Bhitauli is perma- nently settled with the Raja of Kapurthala State as a reward for services in the Mutiny. Assessment was based as usual on the actual rent-rolls, the rates of money rents being applied to value the ' assets ' of similar land where money rents were not paid. The result of the revision was to fix a revenue of 20-3 lakhs, the incidence being Rs. t-8 per acre, varying from Rs. 1-5 to Rs. 2-4 in different parganas. Collections on account of land revenue and revenue from all sources have been, in thousands of rupees : —


There is one municipality, Nawabganj, and nine towns are adminis- tered 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 1-3 lakhs, chiefly derived from rates, and an expenditure of 1-4 lakhs, of which Rs. 80,000 was spent on roads and buildings. The District Superintendent of police has under him a force of 3 inspectors, 85 subordinate officers, and 312 constables, distributed in 12 police stations, besides 142 municipal and town police, and 2,626 rural and road police. The District jail had a daily average of 425 prisoners in 1903.

Bara Bank! does not take a very high place as regards the literacy of its population, of whom 2-5 per cent. (4-8 males and o-i females) could read and write in 1901. The number of public schools fell from 145 in 1880-1 to 140 in 1900-1, but the number of pupils in- creased from 5,129 to 7,647. In 1903-4 there were 170 such schools with 8,317 pupils, of whom 401 were girls, besides 280 private schools with 1,998 pupils, including 96 girls. All of the pupils but 1,262 were in primary classes. Three schools are managed by Government and 127 by the District and municipal boards. The total expenditure on education was Rs. 54,000, of which Rs. 44,000 was provided from Local funds, and Rs. 8,000 by fees.

There are twelve hospitals and dispensaries, with accommodation for 68 in-patients. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 86,000, including 860 in-patients, and 3,881 operations were performed. The expenditure amounted to Rs. 17,000, chiefly met from Local funds. In 1903-4, 30,000 persons were successfully vaccinated, representing the low average of 26 per 1,000 of population. Vaccination is com- pulsory only in the municipality of Nawabganj. [C. W. W. Hope, Settlement Report (1899) 5 H. R. Nevill, District Gazetteer (1904).]

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