Buldana 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.


Buldana District

Physical aspects

(Bulthana). — District in Berar, lying between 19° 51' and 21° \' N. and 75° 59' and 76° 52' E., with an area of 2,809 ■'square miles. This article describes the District as it existed up to 1905, but a statement at the end shows the additions then made. It is bounded on the north by the Puma river ; on the east by Akola and Basim Districts ; on the south by the Nizam's Dominions ; and on the west by the Nizam's Dominions and the Khandesh District of the Bombay Presidenc}-. Of the three taluks into which it is divided, Chikhli and Mehkar are in the Balaghat and Malkapur is in the Payanghat. The general contour of the country in the two former iahiks may be described as a succes- Physical sion of small plateaux, highest on the north, where they rise from the central valley of Berar, and gradually decreasing in eleva- tion towards the south. The town of Buldana is situated near the northern edge of the highest plateau, 2,190 feet above sea-level. Towards the eastern side of the District, the country consists of un- dulating highlands, favoured with soil of a high quality. The small fertile valleys between the plateaux are watered by streams during the greater part of the year, while wells of particularly good and pure water are numerous. These valleys contain all the best village sites. It is not necessary to describe in detail the Malkapur tdhik., for the description of the Payanghat in the article on Berar is in all respects applicable to its conditions.

The principal river which takes its rise in the District is the Penganga, which rises in the hills near Deulghat, runs in a south-easterly direction past Mehkar, and then enters Basim District. The Purna rises in the Ajanta Hills to the west of the District, enters it a little to the north of Deulgaon Raja, and traverses the Mehkar taluk in a south-easterly direc- tion, its course running parallel to, and south of, that of the Penganga. These two rivers are important members of the Godavari system, but they do not acquire their importance until after they have left the District. The other rivers of Buldana are the Nalganga, the Biswa or Vishvaganga, and the Ghan, all of which rise near the northern edge of the Buldana plateau, and flow southwards into the Piirna of the Berar valley, which is not to be confounded with the Godavari Puma already mentioned.

The District contains the only natural lake in Berar, the salt lake of LoNAR, situated in the south of the Mehkar idhtk. The two northern taluks are covered with the Deccan trap flow, which is, however, overlaid nearly everywhere, but especially in the valleys, with rich soil of varying depth. The hollow in which the Lonar lake lies exhibits some of the characteristics of a volcanic crater, but is believed to be due to a gaseous explosion, which occurred some time after the deposit of the trap. The Malkapur tdlnk, beyond the lower slopes of the Buldana plateau, is covered with a deep layer of rich and exceedingly fertile black loam.

The vegetation of the forest area will be described in the account of the forests. In cultivated tracts the commonest trees are the mango, the mahud {Bassia latifolid), the pipal {Ficus religiosa), the ban}an, the babiil {Acacia arabica), and the hiwar {Acacia leiuophloea). The weed vegetation in cultivated ground is that characteristic of the Deccan generally, and includes small Compositae, Leguminosae, Rubiaceae, and Ulalvaceae.

In the hills, bears, tigers, leopards, hyenas, wolves, sdmbhar, nl/gai, and wild hog are found; in the valleys wild hog and antelope; and, about the banks of the POrna, spotted deer and migai. The only monkey in the District is the langur.

The climate of the Malkapur taluk is intensely hot and dry in the months of March, April, and May ; but the nights are usually cool. For the next four months the temperature is considerably lower, but occa- sionally the combination of fairly high temperatures with humidity has an enervating effect. In the taluks of Chikhli and Mehkar, which are situated in the Balaghat, the climate is cooler than that of Malkapur ; the hot season sets in later, and the heat is never so intense as in the Payanghat. Buldana is, owing to its elevation, the coolest and most pleasant station in Berar. The rainy season in the Balaghat taluks is temperate and pleasant, and the cold season throughout the 1 )istrict, particularly in the Balaghat taluks, is cool and invigorating.

In respect of rainfall the District is divided into two natural divisions : the Malkapur tdluk in the Payanghat, and the Chikhli and Mehkar taluks in the Balaghat. Rainfall statistics for Malkapur are not avail- able, but the figure given for Akola (34 inches) may be accepted as correct for this area. In the fdluks of the Balaghat the rainfall is heavier, that recorded in 1901, which was a normal year, being 44 inches. For some years past there has been a failure, either partial or complete, of the late rains.


Buldana, though it has occasionally been the scene of historical events, has little or no connected history of its own. Roh.\nkhkd has been the site of two battles : one fought in 1437 between Khalaf Hasan Basri, commanding the army of Ala-ud-din Shah Bahmani II, and NasTr Khan Faruki, Sultan of Khande.sh; and the other in 1590, between Burhan Nizam Shah and J'lnial Khan the Mahdavi, who supported the claims of Ismail to the throne of Ahmadnagar against those of his father Burhan.

Burhan was victorious and Jamal Khan was slain. In 1724 Shakar- khelda was the scene of the battle to which it owes its present name of Fathkhelda. Mubariz Khan, governor of Malwa, instigated by a party in the Mughal court at Delhi, invaded Berar and attacked Asaf Jah, the first Nizam. Asaf Jah gained a complete victory and Mubariz Khan and his two sons fell. This battle established the virtual indepen- dence of the Nizams in the Deccan. Daulat Rao Sindhia and RaghujI Bhonsla were encamped at Malkapur when, in x^ugust, 1803, they allowed the British envoy to depart and received General Wellesley's declaration of war. A month or two later General Wellesley traversed the District while pursuing them from Assaye to Argaon. The condi tion of the country was at this time very unsatisfactory. During the next fifty years there was some improvement ; but the local oiificials were seldom strong enough to keep the peace, and the town of Malkapur was more than once the scene of faction fights which arose out of religious disputes.

After the Assignment in 1853 Buldana formed part of the West Berar District, but was formed in 1864 into an independent charge, styled the South-west Berar District — a clumsy designation which was changed in the following year to the Mehkar District. In 1867 Buld.ina was selected as the head-quarters of the District, to which it thenceforth gave its name.

Lonar and Mehkar contain two of the finest Hemadpanti temples in Berar, and there is an inferior temple in the same style at Kothali. The mosques of Fathkhelda and Rohankhed were built in 1581 and 1582, evidently from the designs of one architect, by Khudawand Khan the Mahdavi, the supporter of Jamal Khan and the young Ismail Nizam Shah.


The number of towns and villages in the District is 876. The popu- lation at each of the last four enumerations has been : (1867) 366,309, (1881) 439,763. (1891) 481,021, and (1901) 423»6i6. ^^ ulation The decline in 1901 was due to the famine of 1899-1900. The District is divided into the three taluks of ChikhlT, Mehkar, and Malkapur, the head-quarters of which are at the places from which each is named. The chief towns are Malkapur, Nandura, and Deulgaon Raja.

The table on the next page gives particulars of area, towns and villages, and population in 1901.

The District stands third among the six Districts of Berar in the density of its population, the two Balaghat taluks being less densely populated than the Payanghat taluk of Malkapur. More than 90 per cent, of the people are Hindus. The language of the District is MarathI ; but the Musalmans, -who number 34,579, speak a corrupt dialect of Urdu, which is generally understood by all.


The Kunbis (162,000) are the most numerous caste in Buldana, as in other Districts of Berar, and are more numerous in this District than in any other except Akola, and proportionately more numerous than in Akola. The Mahars (50,000) come second in point of num- bers, and the Musalmans (35,000) third. Malls number 27,000; Brahmans, 12,000; Rajputs, 9,000; Telis, 9,000; and Banjaras, 4,000. Buldana, like all other parts of Berar, is essentially an agricul- tural District, as is indicated by the very great preponderance of the agricultural castes. Of the total population nearly 74 per cent, are supported by agriculture and 13 per cent, by industries.

There are three Christian missions in the District, the Church Missionary Alliance, the Pentecostal Mission, and the Free Church Mission. Of the 178 Christians enumerated in 1901, 149 were natives.


The Mehkar and Chikhll /a/u/cs are situated in the Balaghat, and the Malkapur hi/uA in the Payanghat. The different agricultural conditions of these two natural divisions are described in the article on Berar, The only characteristic of the District which calls for special notice is the suitability of the rich land in the valleys between the plateaux in the Balaghat for the cultivation of ra^n crops, especially wheat. Owing, however, to the failure of late rains for some years past ra/>i cultivation in the District has declined, and the effect of this failure has naturally been felt more in Buldana than elsewhere in Berar.

The tenures on which the District is held are almost entirely rjof- wdri^jagtr villages covering only 90 square miles out of 2,809. Ihe principal agricultural statistics are shown below, areas being in square miles : — ■


The staple food-grain is jowar (great millet), the area under which in 1903-4 was 495 square miles. The area under cotton, the most profitable crop to the cultivator, was 615 square miles, and oilseeds occupied 205 and wheat 264 square miles.

The increase in the cultivated area during the last thirty years has been less than one per cent., the rich lands in this District being among the first to be reoccupied after the Assignment. It cannot be said that much improvement has been made in methods of cultivation or in the quality of the crops sown. On the contrary, the cultivator has now given up the fine long-stapled cotton for which Berar was formerly well- known, in favour of a coarser but more prolific short-stapled variety. The advantages offered by the Loans Acts were not much appreciated before the famine of 1899- 1900 ; but since that year they have become more generally known. In the three years ending 1902 the total advances amounted to 1-2 lakhs. Increased prosperity rather than any disinclination to apply for loans is responsible for a subsequent fall in the demand.

The principal breeds of cattle are the Khamgaon variety of the Berari breed in the Chikhli taluk, and the Umarda variety elsewhere ; but since the famine of 1 899-1900 large numbers of cattle of the Sholapuri and Nimari breeds have been imported, and in the south of the District the characteristics of the local varieties are much modified by the admixture of blood from cattle found in the northern Districts of Hyderabad State. Buffaloes are chiefly of the Nagpuri strain, except in the Mehkar tdliik, where the Dakhani breed prevails. l"he ponies, sheep, and goats bred locally are very inferior, and call for no special notice.

Irrigated land in Buldana, as elsewhere in Berar, bears a very small proportion to the area under cultivation ; the 9 square miles irrigated in 1903-4 were supplied entirely from wells, and were devoted chiefly to the raising of garden crops.

Forest lands are divided, as elsewhere in Berar, according as they are reserved for the supply of timber and fuel, for fodder, or for pasture. The area of these classes is 155, 4, and 174 square miles respectively. A belt of forest land of the first class, extending along the Ajanta Hills from west to east, is continuous with the forest lands of Khamgaon in Akola District. The principal trees are salai {Bostvellia thurifera), lendia {Lagerstroemia parviflord), khair {Acacia Catechu), her {Zizyphus Jujuba), char {Buchanania latifolid), and other species. Teak occurs along the crests of the ridges and in sheltered ravines, in which, as they widen, palds {Butea frondosa) and other species of little value appear. East of the Malkapur-Buldana road, the principal species are anjan {Hardwickia binata), salai, and khair. The rai/iuas, or fodder reserves, are grass lands with a scrub growth of acacia 2i\\^ palds ; and the tree vegetation of the grazing lands consists of acacias, paids, leudia, dhaura {Anogeissus /afifoh'a), bet; char, and fe/idfi {Diospyros melanoxylon).

No minerals are now of economic value. Salts and alkalis were formerly procured by evaporation from the Lonar lake, but the industry has long since been abandoned. In the Ain-i-Akbari it was thus described : ' It [the Lonar lake] contains the essential materials for the manufacture of glass and soap, and saltj)etre is here produced and yields a considerable revenue.'

Trade and Communication

Arts and manufactures are unimportant. In the larger villages of the Mehkar tdlitk cotton cloths and blankets, which conmiand a local sale, are woven on hand-looms, and there are similar iradeana looms, but in smaller numbers, in the more acces- communication.

sible taluks of Chikhli and Malkapur. The principal industry is naturally the preparation of cotton for the market, and the District contains nine ginning factories and three cotton presses, all worked by steam.

The principal exports are raw cotton, oilseeds, and grain and pulse ; and the principal imports are grain and pulse, coal and coke, sugar, and salt. The main trade is with Bombay, whither nearly all the raw cotton is exported by rail, and whence the imports, except coal and coke, are mainly received. The commerce of the District has hitherto been largely carried along the main roads to stations on the Nagpur branch of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway ; but the southern portion of the District is now accessible from Jalna on the Hyderabad and Godavari Valley Railway, and some of the trade has been diverted to this route, though Bombay still remains its objective. The weekly markets, held almost exclusively at old pargana towns, are the impor- tant centres of local trade ; and the principal classes engaged in com- merce are the Marwaris and the Vanls, though most classes are represented.

The Nagpur branch of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, which traverses the northern portion of the Malkapur fdlitk from west to east, has a length in this District of about 28 miles. The total lengtli of metalled roads is 107 miles and of unmetalled roads 82 miles. Except 36 miles of unmetalled roads maintained from Local funds, the rest are in charge of the Public Works department.


The District is neither more nor less fortunate than other parts of

Berar in respect of liability to famine, and has suffered equally with them in the past. The famine of 1803 was a very severe calamity, and there was then no government m a position to afford any relief. In 1896-7 the District suffered from scarcity, and the famine of 1 899-1900 was felt at least as severely in Buldana as in any part of the province. In July, 1900, when the famine was at its height, 117,409 persons were on relief works and 39,455 in receipt of gratuitous relief, and it is calculated that 28 per cent, of the cattle died.


The three' taluks, at the head-quarters of each of which there is a tahsllddr, have already been mentioned. Buldana town, though the head-quarters of the District, is not the head-quarters of a taluk, but is situated in the Chikhli taluk. The Administration, superior staff of the District consists of the usual officers, but the Forest officer has charge also of the forests in Akola District. An Assistant or Extra-Assistant Commissioner, exercising the powers of a first-class magistrate, holds his court at Malkapur.

For judicial purposes this District forms, with Akola, the Civil and Sessions District of West Berar, in which are stationed a District and Sessions Judge and an Additional District and Sessions Judge. Sub- ordinate Judges hold their courts at Buldana and Khamgaon, and Munsifs are stationed at Malkapur and Mehkar. Serious offences against property occur somewhat more frequently than elsewhere in Berar. Dacoity was very common in times past, owing to the number of Bhils in the District ; and at one time a corps of Hill Rangers, under a British officer, was maintained principally for the purpose of suppressing this class of crime. But organized dacoities by hereditary professional gangs are now a thing of the past, and the condition of the District as regards crime is in no way abnormal.

From the Ain-i-Akbari we learn that in Akbar's reign the demand on account of land revenue in the parganas which now compose the District of Buldana was 12-4 lakhs. At the time of the Assignment in 1853, the demand in these parganas was only a little more than 3 lakhs, so much had the province suffered from wars, disturbances, and mis- government. The demand in 1903-4 was 12 -2 lakhs, which sum is absolutely rather lower than Akbar's demand, and relatively very miich lighter. The first regular settlement of the District after the Assign- ment was begun in 1862 in the Malkapur taluk, and completed in 1870 in the Mehkar taluk, and this settlement was revised between 1891 and 1897. Land revenue at the revised rates of assessment has been levied for some years in the Malkapur taluk, and since 1900 in Mehkar ; but the new rates have only just been applied to Chikhli, where their introduction was delayed owing to the effects of the famine of 1899-1900. So far as 'dry' land is concerned, the new assessment has an average incidence of 1 5 annas 9 pies per acre, varying from 8 annas to Rs. 2-12-0. Land irrigated by channels from streams and tanks is assessed at a maximum combined soil and water rate of Rs. 8 per acre. Land served by wells sunk before the original settlement pay the highest rate levied on ' dry ' land in the village in which it is situated,

  • The District now (1907) contains five tdhiks.

but should the well have been made subsequently the land is treated in all respects as ' dry ' land. Rice lands are assessed at a maximum rate of Rs. 6 per acre.

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


Outside the municipality of Buldana, local affairs are managed by the District board and the taluk boards subordinate to it. The expenditure of these in 1903-4 was Rs. 98,000, of which Rs. 34,000 was spent on public works and Rs. 20,000 on education. The chief source of income is the land cess.

The District Superintendent of police has control over the police throughout the District, excepting those on the railway line in the Malkapur tCiluk^ who are subordinate to the District Superintendent of Akola. The District contains 26 police stations, including town stations. The only jail is at Buldana, which contained in 1903-4 a daily average of 56 prisoners.

Buldana stands fourth among the six Districts of Berar in regard to the literacy of its population, of whom 4 per cent. (8-o males and o-i females) were able to read and WTite in 1901. In 1903-4 the District contained 115 public, 69 aided, 7 unaided, and 3 private schools, with a total of 8,209 pupils, of whom 6,087 were in public schools and 369 were girls. Of the 115 institutions classed as public, all, except three managed by the Buldana municipality, were under the District board. The great majority of the pupils under instruction were only in primary classes, and no girls had advanced beyond that stage. Education has, however, made great progress in the District, though female education is not yet appreciated. Of the male popula- tion of school-going age more than 9 per cent., and of the female popu- lation of the same age o-6 per cent., were in the primary stage of instruction. The total expenditure on education in 1903-4 was Rs. 73,000, of which Rs. 4,000 was derived from fees.

The District possesses one hospital and seven dispensaries, with accommodation for 44 male and 10 female in-patients. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 56,203, of whom 850 were in-patients, and 1,983 operations were performed. The expenditure was Rs. 14,000, the greater portion of which was met from Provincial revenues.

In 1903-4 the proportion of persons successfully vaccinated was 39'i per 1,000, the mean for the province being 36-6. Vaccination is compulsory only in the Buldana municipality. On the reconstitution of the six Districts of Berar in August, 1905, Buldana received the Khanigaon and Jalgaon taluks from Akola District. The present area of Buldana District is 3,662 square miles, and the population of that area in 1901 was 613,756.

[F. W. Francis, Taluk Settlement Reports ; Malkdpur, Khdmgaon, •a.Vid Jalgaon {1892) ; Chikhli (1896) ; and Mehkar (1898).]

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