Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 612 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
UNITED PROVINCES OF AGRA AND OUDH (formerly known as the North-Western Provinces and Oudh), a province of British India, lying between 23° 52' and 31° 18' N., and between 77° 3' and 84° 39' E. The province, including native states, has a total area of 112,243 sq. m. It is bounded N. by Tibet; N.E. by Nepal; E. by Bengal; S. by Chota Nagpur, Rewa, the Bundelkhand states, and the Central Provinces; and on the W. by Gwalior, Rajputana and the Punjab. z The majority of this synod joined the Church of Scotland in 1839. The small minority which still retained the name joined the Original Seceders in 1842, the resultant body assuming the designation of United Original Seceders. A small majority (twenty-seven ministers in all) of the Synod of United Original Seceders joined the Free Church in 1852. A dissentient remnant (eight congregations) of the General Associate Synod united with the Constitutional Associate Presbytery in 1827, the resultant body being called the Associate Synod of Original Seceders. II Physical Aspects.—The province occupies, roughly speaking, the upper basin of the Ganges and the Jumna, corresponding to the Hindostan proper of the Mahommedan chroniclers. A large semi-circular tract, comprising the valleys of the Gogra and the Gumti, has long been separated from the remainder of the great plain as the kingdom of Oudh; and though since 877 it has been under the administrative charge of a lieutenant-governor, it retains certain features of its former status as a chief-commissionership. The province includes the whole upper portion of the wide Gangetic basin, from the Himalayas and the Punjab plain to the Vindhyan plateau, and the low-lying ricefields of Behar. Taken as a whole, the lieutenant-governorship consists of the richest wheat-bearing country in India, irrigated both naturally by the rivers which take their rise in the northern mountains, and artificially by the magnificent system of canals which owe their origin to British enter-prise. It is studded with villages, interspersed at greater distances with commercial towns. Except during the hot season, when the crops are off the fields, the general aspect in normal years is that of a verdant and well-tilled but very monotonous plain, only merging into hilly or mountainous country at the extreme edges of the basin on the south and north. The course of the great rivers marks the prevailing slope of the land, which falls away from the Himalayas, the Rajputaiia uplands, and the Vindhyan plateau south-eastwards towards the Bay of Bengal. The 'chief natural features of the province are thus determined by the main streams, whose alluvial deposits first formed the central portion of the United Provinces; while the currents afterwards cut deep channels through the detritus they brought down from the ring of hills or uplands. The extreme or north-western Himalayan region comprises the native state of Garhwal, with the British districts of Dehra Dun, Naini Tat, Almora and Garhwal. The economic value of this mountainous tract is almost confined to the export of forest produce. South of the Himalayas, from which it is separated by valleys or duns, is the Siwalik range, which slopes down to the fruitful plain of the Doab (two rivers), a large irregular horn-shaped tongue of land enclosed between the Ganges and Jumna. The great boundary rivers flow through low-lying valleys ertilized by their overflow or percolation, while a high bank leads up to the central upland, which, though naturally dry and unproductive except where irrigated by wells, has been transformed by various canal systems. This favoured region may be regarded as the granary of upper India. North of the Ganges, and enclosed between that river and the Himalayas and Oudh, lies the triangular plain of Rohilkhand. This tract presents the same general features as the Gangetic valley, varied by the damp and pestilential submontane region of the tarai on the north-east, at the foot of the Kumaon hills. South of the Jumna is the poor and backward region of Bundelkhand, comprising the districts of Jalaun, Jhansi, Hamirpur and Banda. The soil is generally rocky and unfertile, and, the population impoverished, scanty and ignorant. The southernmost portion of Bundelkhand is much cut up by spurs of sandstone and granite hills, running down from the Vindhyan system; but the northern half near the Jumna has a somewhat richer soil, and comes nearer in character to the plain of Doab. Below the junction of the Ganges and the Jumna at Allahabad the country begins to assume the appearance of the Bengal plains, and once more expands northwards to the foot of the Nepal Himalayas. This tract consists of three portions, separated by the Ganges and the Gogra. The division south of the Ganges comprises portions of Allahabad, Benares and Ghazipur, together with the whole of Mirzapur, and in general features somewhat resembles Bundelkhand, but the lowlands along the river bank are more fertile. The triangular tract between the Ganges and the Gogra and the boundary of Oudh is the most fertile corner of the Gangetic plain, and contains the densest population. The trans-Gogra region presents a wilder, submontane appearance. Oudh forms the central portion of the great Gangetic plain, sloping downwards from the Nepal Himalayas in the north-east to the Ganges on the south-west. For 60 m. along the northern border of Gonda and Bahraich districts the boundary extends close up to the lower slopes of the Himalayas, embracing the damp and unhealthy sub-montane region known as the tarai. To the westward of this the northern boundary recedes a little from the mountain tract, and the ',arm" in this portion of the range has been for the most part ceded to Nepal. With the exception of a belt of government forest along the northern frontier, the rest of the province consists of a fertile and densely peopled plain. The greatest elevation (600 ft.) is attained in the jungle-clad plateau of Khairagarh in Kheri district, while the extreme south-east frontier is only 230 It. above sea-level. Four great rivers traverse or skirt the plain of Oudh in converging courses —the Ganges, the Gumti, the Gogra and the Rapti. Numeroussmaller channels seam the whole face of the country carrying off the surplus drainage in the rains, but drying up in the hot season. All the larger rivers, except the Gumti, as well as most of the smaller streams, have beds hardly sunk below the general level; and in time of floods they burst through their banks and carve out new channels. Numerous shallow ponds or jhils mark the former beds of the shifting rivers. These jhils have great value, not only as preservatives against inundation, but also as reservoirs for irrigation. The soil of Oudh consists of a rich alluvial deposit, the detritus of the Himalayan system washed down into the Ganges valley. Usually a light loam, it passes here and there into pure clay, or degenerates occasionally into barren sand. The uncultivable land consists chiefly of extensive user plains, found in the southern and western districts, and covered by the deleterious saline efflorescence known as reh. Oudh possesses no valuable minerals. Salt was extensively manufactured during native rule, but the British government has prohibited this industry for fiscal reasons. Nodular limestone (kankar) occurs in considerable deposits, and is used as road metal. The villages lie thickly scattered, consisting of low thatched cottages, and surrounded by patches of garden land, or groves of banyan, pipal and pakar trees. The dense foliage of the mango marks the site of almost every little homestead, no less an area than i000 sq. m. being covered by these valuable fruit-trees. Tamarinds overhang the huts of the poorer classes, while the seat of a wealthy family may be recognized by cluanps of bamboo. Plantains, guavas, jack-fruit, limes and oranges add further beauty to the village plots. The flora of the government reserved forests is rich and varied. The sal tree yields the most important timber; the finest logs are cut in the Khairagarh jungles and floated down the Gogra to Bahramghat, where they are sawn. The hard wood of the shisham is also valuable; and several other timber-trees afford materials for furniture or roofing shingle. Among the scattered jungles in various parts of the province, the mahua tree is prized alike for its edible flowers, its fruits and its timber. The jhils supply the villages with wild rice, the roots and seeds of the lotus, and the singhara water-nut. The fauna comprises most of the animals and birds common to the Gangetic plain; but the wild elephant is now practically unknown, except when a stray specimen loses its way at the foot of the hills. Tigers are now only found in any numbers in the wilds of Khairagarh. Leopards still haunt the cane-brakes and thickets along the banks of the rivers; and nilgai and antelopes abound. Game birds consist of teal and wild duck, snipe, jungle fowl and peacock. Rivers.—The Ganges and its affluents, the Jumna, the Ramganga and the Gogra, rise in the Himalayas, and meet within the province. In addition there are the following secondary streams: the Kalinadi and the Hindan flow through the Doab ; the Chambal intersects the trans-Jumna tract; in Bundelkhand the principal streams are the Betwa and the Ken; the Ramgana, rising in Garhwal, pursues a tortuous course through Rohilkhand; the Gumti flows past Luck-now and Jaunpur to join the Ganges; the trans-Gogra, region is divided into two nearly equal parts by the Rapti. These rivers are constantly modifying the adjacent lands. A small obstruction may divert the stream from one side to the other. The deep stream corrodes and cuts down the high ground; but meanwhile alluvial flats are gradually piled up in the shallows. The tributary streams get choked at the mouth and assist the process of deposition. The deposit is greatest when the floods of the rainy season are sub-siding. Climate.—The climate as a whole is hot and dry. The Himalayan districts of course are cool, and have a much greater rainfall than the plains. They are succeeded by a broad submontane belt, the tarai, which is rendered moist by the mountain torrents, and is covered by forest from end to end. This region bears the reputation of being the most unhealthy in all India, and in many parts only the acclimatized aborigines can withstand its deadly malaria. The plain country is generally warm and dry, the heat becoming more oppressive as the general level of the country sinks towards Allahabad and Benares, or among the hills of Bundelkhand. There are three seasons. The cold changes gradually to the hot ; the hot season Fives way abruptly to the .rains ; and the rains again change gradually into the cold season. In point of humidity and temperature the province lies half-way between Bengal and the Punjab. The rainfall varies from 30 to 44 in. in the plains, increasing gradually towards the Himalaya. The temperature in the hot season ranges from 86° to 115° F., and even higher, in the shade. Minerals.—Owing to the loamy nature of the soil, few minerals of any kind are found. Iron and coal exist in the southern hills. A little coal was extracted from Mirzapur in 1896, but the enterprise was dropped. Iron, copper, sapphires, &c., are said to be obtain-able in the Himalaya. It has been suggested that the oily water known as telya Irani indicates the presence of petroleum. Agriculture.—Out of a total area of 104,075 sq. m, in the British districts of the province, over 54,000 sq. m. are under cultivation. The course of tillage comprises two principal harvests: the kharif, or autumn crops, sown in June and reaped in October or November; and the rabi, or spring crops, sown in October or November, and reaped in March or April. The great agricultural staple is wheat, but millets and rice are also largely cultivated. Speaking broadly, rice and oilseeds predominate in the eastern and sub-Himalayan districts, millets and cotton in Bundelkhand and wheat in the greater part of the Gangetic plain. The pulses mung, urd and moth are grown generally in the autumn alone, or in combination with millets; and gram, alone or in combination with wheat and barley, is an important spring crop. Sugar-cane, indigo, poppy and tobacco are locally important; and a little tea is grown in the submontane districts of Almora Garhwal and Dehra Dun. Land Tenure.—Owing to historical reasons, the system of land tenure is not uniform. In the Benares division, which was the first portion to come under British administration, the land revenue was permanently fixed in 1795, on the same principles that had been previously adopted in Bengal; and there a special class of tenants, as well as the landlords, enjoy a privileged status. Throughout the rest of the province of Agra, almost all of which was acquired between i8oi and 1803, temporary settlements are in force, usually for a term of thirty years, the revenue being assessed at one-half of the " assets " or estimated rental value. The settlement is made with the landholders or zamindars, who are frequently a group of persons holding distinct shares in the land, and may be themselves petty cultivators. No proprietary rights superior to those of the actual landowners are recognized. The only privileged class of tenants are those possessing " occupancy " rights, as defined by statute. These rights, which are heritable but not transferable, protect the tenant against eviction, except for default in payment of rent, while the rent may not be enhanced except by mutual agreement or by order of a revenue court. " Occupancy " rights are acquired by continuous cultivation for ten years, but the cultivation need not be of the same holding. All other tenants are merely tenants-at-will. In Oudh, after the convulsion of the Mutiny, all rights in land were confiscated at a stroke, and the new system adopted was in the nature of a treaty between the state and the talukdars, or great landlords. These talukdars had not all the same origin. Many were Rajput chiefs, ruling over their tribesmen by ancient hereditary right; while others were officials or court favourites, who had acquired power and property during the long period of native misrule. On all the same status was now conferred—a status that has no analogy in the rest of India. By sanad (or patent) and by legislation the talukdars were declared to possess permanent, heritable and transferable rights, with the special privilege of alienation, either in lifetime or by will, notwithstanding the limits imposed by Hindu or Mahommedan law. In addition mist of them follow the rule of primogeniture, while a power of entail has recently been granted. The estates of talukdars extend over more than half the total area of Oudh. No " occupancy " rights based on continuous cultivation are recognized in Oudh, but similar rights, here known as " sub-proprietary," were granted to all those who had possessed them within thirty years before annexation. On the other hand, there are no tenants-at-right in Oudh. Any person admitted to the cultivation of land is entitled to hold it for seven years at the same rent, which may not be advanced by more than 6; °o at the end of the term. Manufactures.—The principal manufactures are those of sugar, indigo and coarse cotton cloth. Ornamental metal-work is made at Benares. Among the factories on the English model are the Elgin and Muir cotton mills at Cawnpore, the Cawnpore tanneries and leather factories, the Shahjahanpur rum distillery, and breweries at Mussoorie and Naini Tal. There are also woollen and jute mills, iron and brass foundries, lac factories and oil-mills. The manufacture of synthetic indigo by German chemists has greatly affected the growth and manufacture of indigo, the indigo factories decreasing in 1904–1905 from 402 to 252. Trade: The export trade is chiefly confined to agricultural produce. The principal staples include wheat, oilseeds, raw cotton, indigo, sugar, molasses, timber and forest produce, dry-stuffs, ghee, opium and tobacco. The imports consist mainly of English piece-goods, metal-work, manufactured wares, salt and European goods. The chief centres of trade are Cawnpore, Allahabad, Mirzapur, Benares, Meerut and Moradabad. Irrigation.—The Doab is intersected by canals drawn from the great rivers. The major productive works are the upper and lower Ganges, the eastern Jumna, and the Agra canals. The greatest work in the province, and one of the greatest irrigation works in the world, is the upper Ganges canal, which is taken from the river where it leaves the hills, some 2 M. above Hardwar. In the first 20 m. of its course this gigantic canal crosses four great torrents, which bring down immense volumes of water in the rainy season. The first two are carried in massive aqueducts over the canal, the third is passed through the canal by a level-crossing, regulated by drop-gates, and the canal is taken over the fourth by an aqueduct. The total length of ,the main canal is 213 m., navigable through-out, and designed to irrigate 1,500,000 acres. The lower Ganges canal is taken from the river at Narora, 149 M. below Hardwar. After crossing in 55 M. four great drainage lines, it cuts into the Cawnpore, and 7 M. lower down into the Etawah, branches of the upper Ganges canal. These branches are now below the point of intersection, part of the lower Ganges canal system. The irrigating capacity of this canal is 1,250,000 acres. Railways.—The province is well supplied with railways. The main line of the East Indian runs throughout south of the Ganges, which is bridged at Benares and Cawnpore. North of the riverthe Oudh & Rohilkhand system connects with Bengal and with the Punjab. From Allahabad, Cawnpore and Agra trade finds an outlet to the sea at Bombay as well as at Calcutta. Administration.—The administration is conducted by a lieutenant-governor, with five secretaries and five under-secretaries. There is no executive council; but the board of revenue, consisting of two members, exercises important executive duties, and is also the highest court of appeal in revenue and rent cases. For legislative purposes the lieutenant-governor has a council, first constituted in 1886, and enlarged in 1909. It now consists of 48 members, of whom 28 are nominated, and the remainder are elected by local bodies, landholders, Mahommedans, &c. In Agra the chartered high court sitting at Allahabad, and in Oudh the court of the judicial commissioner, sitting at Lucknow, have final jurisdiction in both 'civil and criminal cases, subject to appeal to the privy council. The former is composed of a chief justice and six puisne judges appointed by the Crown; the latter of a judicial commissioner and two additional judicial commissioners. For ordinary purposes of administration the provinces are divided into nine divisions, each under a commissioner, and into 48 districts, each under a collector or deputy commissioner. Two native states are attached to the United Provinces—Rampur and Garhwal. Population.—Out of a total population in 1901 of 47,691,782 no fewer than 40,691,818, or over 85% were Hindus, and 6,731,034 or 14% Mahommedans. The total number of persons belonging to all the other religions—Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsees, Christians, Jews, Aryas and Brahmoswas only 268,930, or less than o.6%. While nearly fifty languages in all are spoken in the provinces, out of every 1o,00d people 4527 speak Western Hindi, 3125 Eastern Hindi, 2109 Bihari and 211 Central Pahari. History.—If the present limits be slightly extended in either direction so as to include Delhi and Patna, the United Provinces would contain the area on which almost the whole drama of Indian history has been played. Here lay the scene, known as Madhya Desa or middle country," of the second period of Aryan colonization, when the two great epics, the Mahabadrata and Ramayana, were probably composed, and when the religion of Brahmanism took form. Here Buddha was born, preached and died. Here arose .the successive dynasties of •Asoka, of the Guptas, and of Harshavardhana, which for a thousand years exercised imperial sway over the greater part of India. Here is Ajodhya, the home of Rama, the most popular of Hindu demigods; and also Benares and Muttra, the most sacred of Hindu shrines. Here too were the Mahommedan capitals—Delhi, Agra, Allahabad, Jaunpur and Lucknow. Here finally, at the crisis of the Mutiny, British dominion was permanently established in India. The political vicissitudes through which this tract of country passed in earlier times are described under INDIA: History. It will be sufficient here to trace the steps by which it passed under British rule. In 1765, after the battle of Buxar, when the nawab of Oudh had been decisively defeated and Shah Alam, the Mogul emperor, was a suppliant in the British camp, Lord Clive was content to claim no acquisition of territory. The whole of Oudh was restored to the Nawab, and Shah Alam received as an imperial apanage the province of Allahabad and Kora in the lower Doab, with a British garrison in the fort of Allahabad. Warren Hastings augmented the territory of Oudh by lending the nawab a British army to conquer Rohilkhand, and by making over to him Allahabad and Kora on the ground that Shah Alam had placed himself in the power of the Mahrattas. At the same time he received from Oudh the sovereignty over the province of Benares. Subsequently no great change took place until the arrival of Lord Wellesley, who acquired a very large accession of territory in two instalments. In 18o1 he obtained from the nawab of Oudh the cession of Rohilkhand, the lower Doab, and the Gorakhpur division, thus enclosing Oudh on all sides except the north. In 1804, as the result of Lord Lake's victories in the Mahratta War, the rest of the Doab and part of Bundelkhand, together with Agra and the guardianship of the old and blind emperor, Shah Alam, at Delhi, were obtained from Sindia. In 1815 the Kumaon division was acquired after the Gurkha War, and a further portion of Bundelkhand from the peshwa in 1817. These new acquisitions, known as the ceded and conquered provinces, continued to be administered by the governor-general as part of Bengal. In 1833 an act of parliament was passed to constitute a new presidency, with its capital at Agra. But this scheme was never fully carried out, and in 1835 another statute authorized the appointment of a lieutenant-governor for the North-Western Provinces, as they were then styled. They included the Delhi territory, transferred after the Mutiny to the Punjab; and also (after 1853) the Saugor and Nerbudda territories, which in 1861 became part of the Central Provinces. Meanwhile Oudh remained under its nawab, who was permitted to assume the title of king in 1819. All protests against gross misgovernment during many years having proved useless, Oudh was annexed in 1856 and constituted a separate chief commissionership. Then followed the Mutiny, when all signs of British rule were for a time swept away throughout the greater part of the two provinces. The lieutenant-governor died when shut up in the fort at Agra, and Oudh was only reconquered after several campaigns lasting for eighteen months. In 1877 the offices of lieutenant-governor of the North-Western Provinces and chief commissioner of Oudh were combined in the same person; and in 1902, when the new name of United Provinces was introduced, the title of chief commissioner was dropped, though Oudh still retains some marks of its former independence. See Gazetteer of the United Provinces (2 vols., Calcutta, 1908) ; and Theodore Morison, The Industrial Organization of an Indian Province (1906).
End of Article: UNITED PROVINCES OF AGRA AND OUDH (formerly known as the North-Western Provinces and Oudh)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.