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KUMAON

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 945 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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KUMAON, or KuMAUx, an administrative division of British India, in the United Provinces, with headquarters at Naini Tal. It consists of a large Himalayan tract, together with two sub-montane strips called the Tarai and the Bhabhar; area 13,725 sq. m.; pop. (2902), 1,207,030, showing an increase of less than 20'0' in the decade. The submontane strips were up to 185o an almost impenetrable forest, given up to wild animals; but since then the numerous clearings have attracted a large population from the hills, who cultivate the rich soil during the hot and cold seasons, returning to the hills in the rains. The rest of Kumaon is a maze of mountains, some of which are among the loftiest known. In a tract not more than 140 M. in length and 40 M. in breadth there are over thirty peaks rising to elevations exceeding 18,000 ft. (see HIMALAYA). The rivers rise chiefly in the southern slope of the Tibetan watershed north of the loftiest peaks, amongst which they make their way down valleys' of rapid declivity and extraordinary depth. The principal are the Sarda (Kali), the Pindar and Kailganga, whose waters join the Alaknanda. The valuable timber of the yet uncleared forest tracts is now under official supervision. The chief trees are the chir, or three-leaved Himalayan pine, the cypress, fir, alder, sal or iron-wood, and saindan. Limestone, sandstone, slate, gneiss and granite constitute the principal geological formations. Mines of iron, copper, gypsum, lead and asbestos exist; but they are not thoroughly worked. Except in the submontane strips and deep valleys the climate is mild. The rainfall of the outer Himalayan range, which is first struck by the monsoon, is double that of the central hills, in the average proportion of 8o in, to 40. No winter passes without snow on the higher ridges, and in some years it is universal throughout tllemountain tract. Frosts, especially in the valleys, are often severe. Kumaon is occasionally visited by epidemic cholera. Leprosy is most prevalent in the east of the district. Goitre and cretinism afflict a small proportion of the inhabitants. The hill fevers, at times exhibit the rapid and malignant features of plague. In 1891 the division was composed of the three districts of Kumaon, Garhwal and the Tarai; but the two districts of Kumaon and the Tarai were subsequently redistributed and renamed after their headquarters, Naini Tal and Almora. Kumaon proper constituted an old Rajput principality, which became extinct at the beginning of the 19th century. The country was annexed after the Gurkha war of 1815, and was governed for seventyyears on the non-regulation system by three most successful administrators—Mr Traill, Mr J. H. Batten and Sir Henry Ramsay. ' KUMASI, or CooMASSIE, the capital of Ashanti, British West Africa, in 6° 34' 50" N., 20 12' W., r68 m. by rail N. of Sekondi and r2o m. by road N.N.W. of Cape Coast. Pop. (rgo6), 628o; including suburbs, over 12,000. Kumasi is situated on a low rocky eminence, from which it extends across a valley to the hill opposite. It lies in a clearing of the dense forest which covers the greater part of Ashanti, and occupies an area about 1 in. in length and over 3 M. in circumference. The land immediately around the town, once marshy, has been drained. On the north-west is the small river Dah, one of the headstreams of the Prah. The name Kum-asi, more correctly Kum-ase (under the okum tree) was given to the town because of the number of those trees in its streets. The most imposing building in Kumasi is the fort, built in 1896. It is the residence of the chief commissioner and is capable of holding a garrison of several hundred men. There are also officers' quarters and cantonments outside the fort, European and native hospitals, and stations of the Basel and Wesleyan missions. The native houses are built with red clay in the style universal throughout Ashanti. They are somewhat richly ornamented, and those of the better class are enclosed in compounds within which are several separate buildings. Near the railway station are the leading mercantile houses. The principal Ashanti chiefs own large houses, built in European style, and these are leased to strangers. Before its destruction by the British in 1874 the city presented a handsome appearance and bore many marks of a comparatively high state of culture. The king's palace, built of red sandstone, had been modelled, it is believed, on Dutch buildings at Elmina. It was blown up by Sir Garnet (subsequently Viscount) Wolseley's forces on the 6th of February 1874, and but scanty vestiges of it remain. The town was only partially rebuilt on the withdrawal of the British troops, and it is difficult from the meagre accounts of early travellers to obtain an adequate idea of the capital of the Ashanti kingdom when at the height of its prosperity (middle of the 18th to middle of the 19th century). The streets were numerous, broad and regular; the main avenue was 70 yds. wide. A large market-place existed on the south-east, and behind it in a grove of trees was the Spirit House. This was the place of execution. Of its population before the British occupation there is no trustworthy information. It appears not to have exceeded 20,000 in the first quarter of the 19th century. This is owing partly to the fact that the commercial capital of Ashanti, and the meeting-place of several caravan routes from the north and east, was Kintampo, a town farther north. The decline of Kumasi after 1874 was marked. A new royal palace was built, but it was of clay, not brick, and within the limits of the former town were wide stretches of grass-grown country. In 1896 the town again suffered at the hands of the British, when several of the largest and most ancient houses in the royal and priestly suburb of Bantama were destroyed by fire. In the revolt of 1900 Kumasi was once more injured. The rail-way from the coast, which passes through the Tarkwa and Obuassi gold-fields, reached Kumasi in September 1903. Many merchants at the Gold Coast ports thereupon opened branches in Kumasi. A marked revival in trade followed, leading to the rapid expansion of the town. By 1906 Kumasi had supplanted the coast towns and had become the distributing centre for the whole of Ashanti.
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