Agra 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.

Agra District, 1908

District in the Division of the same name in the United Provinces, lying between 26 degree 45' and 27 degree 24' N. and 77 degree 26' and 78 51' E., with an area of 1,845 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Muttra and Etah, and on the east by Mainpuri and Etawah; on the south lie the Native States of Gwalior and Dholpur, and on the west Bharatpur.

The District is divided into four distinct tracts by the rivers Jumna, Utangan or Banganga, and Chambal. North-east of the Jumna, which crosses the District with a very winding course from north-west to south-east, lie two tahsils with an upland area of productive loam, separated from the river by a network of ravines which are of little use except for grazing. Three smaller streams— the Jhirna (or Karon), Sirsa, and Sengar— cross this tract. The greater part of the District lies south- west of the Jumna and north of its tributary the Utangan.

This tract is remarkable for the uniformity of its soil, which is generally a fertile loam, with little clay or sand. The ravines of the two great rivers, and of the Khari Nadi, which flows into the Utangan, are the chief breaks, while in the west of Fatehpur Sikri a few ranges of low rocky hills appear. South of the Utangan lie two smaller tracts of markedly different appearance. In the south-west a low range and numerous isolated hills are found, and the country is traversed by many water- courses. The south-east of the District consists of a long strip of land, wider in the centre than at the ends, lying between the Utangan and Jumna on the north, and the Chambal on the south. Half of this area is occupied by the deep and far-spreading ravines of the rivers.

The District is almost entirely occupied by the Gangetic alluvium, which conceals all the older rocks, except in the west and south-west, where ridges of Upper Vindhyan sandstone rise out of the plain. Several divisions appear to be represented, from the lowest, known as the Kaimur group, to the highest, known as the Bhander. A boring at Agra was carried to a depth of 513 feet before striking the under- lying rock.

The flora is that of the Doab north of the Jumna, while south of the great river it resembles that of Rajputana. The former area is fairly well wooded, while in the latter trees are scarce.

Leopards and hyenas are found in the ravines and in the western hills, while wolves are common near the Jumna, and ' ravine deer ' (gazelle) frequent the same haunts. Antelope are to be seen in most parts of the District. Fish are plentiful in the rivers and are eaten by many classes.

Owing to its proximity to the sandy deserts on the west, Agra District is very dry, and suffers from greater extremes of temperature than the country farther east. Though cold in winter, and exceedingly hot in summer, the climate is not unhealthy. The mean annual temperature is about 75 degree ; the lowest monthly average being about 59 degree in January, and the highest 95 degree or 96 degree in May and June.

The annual rainfall averages about 26 inches. There is not much variation in different parts, but the tract near the Jumna receives the largest fall. Great variations occur from year to year, the amount ranging from n to 36 inches.

The District of Agra has scarcely any history, apart from the city. Sikandar Lodi, king of Delhi, had a residence on the left bank of the Jumna, which became the capital of the empire about 1501. It was occupied by Babar after his victory over Ibrahim Khan in 1526, and its foundations are still to be seen opposite the modern Agra. Babar fought a decisive battle with the Rajputs near Fatehpur Sikri in 1527. His son, Humayun, also resided at Old Agra, until his expulsion in 1540. Akbar lived in the District for the greater part of his reign, and founded the present city of Agra on the right bank. The town of Fatehpur Sikri, which owes its origin to the same emperor, dates from 1569 or 1570. A tank of 20 miles in circumference, which he con- structed in its neighbourhood, can now be traced in the fragmentary ruins of the embankment. The mausoleum at Sikandra, 5 miles from Agra, marks the burial-place of the great Mughal emperor.

It was built by his son, Jahangir, and has a fine entrance archway of red sand- stone. Jahangir, however, deserted Agra towards the close of his reign, and spent the greater part of his time in the Punjab and Kabul. Shah Jahan removed the seat of the imperial court to Delhi, but continued the construction of the Taj and the other architectural monuments to which the city owes much of its fame. The success of Aurangzeb's rebellion against his father was assured by the victory gained at Samogarh in this District in 1658, and the deposed emperor was then confined in the fort. From the year 1666 the District dwindled into the seat of a provincial governor, and was often attacked by the Jats. During the long decline of Mughal power, places in this District were constantly the scene of important battles. On the death of Aurangzeb his sons fought at Jajau near the Dholpur border.

Early in 1713 the fate of the Mughal empire was again decided near Agra by the victory of Farrukh Siyar over Jahandar. The importance of the District then declined; but in 1761 Agra was taken by the Jats of Bharatpur under Suraj Mai and Walter Reinhardt, better known by his native name of Sumru. In 1770 the Marathas overran the whole Doab, but were expelled by the imperial forces under Najaf Khan in 1773. The Jats then recovered Agra for a while, and were driven out in turn by Najaf Khan in the succeeding year. After passing through the usual con- vulsions which marked the end of the eighteenth century in Upper India, the District came into the hands of the British by the victories of Lord Lake in 1803. The city was the capital of the North- Western Provinces from 1843 until the events of 1857, and still gives its name to the Province of Agra.

The story of the outbreak of the Mutiny at Agra in May, 1857, is related under Agra City. As regards the District, the tahsils and thanas fell into the hands of the rebels, after the defection of the Gwalior Contingent on June 15. By July 2 the Nimach and Nasirabad mutineers had reached Fatehpur Sikri, and the whole District became utterly disorganized. On July 29. however, an expedition from Agra recovered that post, and another sally restored order in the Itimadpur and Firozabad parganas. The Raja of Awa maintained tranquillity in the north, and the Raja of Bhadawar on the eastern border. But after the fall of Delhi in September the rebels from that city, joined by bands from Central India, advanced towards Agra on October 6. Four days later Colonel Greathed's column from Delhi entered Agra without the knowledge of the mutineers, who incautiously attacked the city and hopelessly shattered themselves against his well-tried force.

They were put to flight easily and all their guns taken. The rebels still occupied Fatehpur Sikri, but a column dispatched against that place successfully dislodged them. On November 20 the villages remaining in open rebellion were stormed and carried; and on February 4, 1858, the last man still under arms was driven out of the District.

Fragments of Hindu buildings have been discovered at a few places, but none of any importance, and the archaeological remains of the District are chiefly those of the Mughal period. Among these must be mentioned the magnificent fort, with the buildings contained in it, and the beautiful Taj at Agra ; the tomb of Akbar at Sikandra ; the buildings near Agra on the opposite bank of the river; and Akbar's city at Fatehpur Sikri. The preservation and restoration of these splendid memorials has been undertaken by Government, and large sums have been spent, especially in recent years.

The District contains 1,197 villages and 9 towns. The population fell considerably between 1872 and 1881, owing to famine, and has not yet recovered its former level. The number at the last four enumerations was: (1872) 1,076,005, (1881) 974,656, (1891) 1,003,796, and (1901) 1,060,528. The District is divided into seven tahsils — Itimadpur, Firozabad, Bah, Fatehabad, Agra, Kiraoli, and Khairagarh — the head-quarters of each being at a place of the same name. The principal towns are the municipali- ties of Agra, the administrative head-quarters of the District, and Firozabad ; and the 'notified area' of Fatehpur Sikri.

The following table gives the chief statistics of population in 1901 : —


Hindus form 86 per cent, of the total, and Musalmans 12 per cent., while the followers ol other religion include 12,953 Jains, 5,522 Chris- tians, and 2,354 Aryas. The density is above the Provincial average, and the rate of increase during the last decade was also high. More than 99 per cent, of the population speak Western Hindi, the prevailing dialect being Braj.

The most numerous caste is that of Chamars (leather-workers and labourers), 175,000. Next come Brahmans, 110,000; Rajputs, 89,000 ; Jats, 69,000; Banias, 65,000; Kachhis (cultivators), 53,000 ; and Koris (weavers), 32,000. Gadarias (shepherds), Ahirs (cowherds), Gujars (graziers), Lodhas (cultivators), and Mallahs (boatmen and fishermen) each number from 30,000 to 20,000. More than a quarter of the Musalmans call themselves Shaikhs, but most of these art: descended from converts. Pathans number 11,000; and Bhishtis (water-carriers), Saiyids (converted Rajputs), Bhangis (sweepers), and Fakirs each number from 8,000 to 6,ooo. About 48 per cent, of the population are supported by agriculture, 10 per cent, by general labour, and 8 per cent, by personal services. Rajputs, Brahmans, Banias, Jats, and Kayasths are the principal landholders, and Brahmans, Rajputs, Jats, and Chamars the principal cultivators.

Out of 2,343 native Christians in 1901, 1,158 were Methodists, 774 Anglicans, and 346 Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic- Mission has been maintained continously since the sixteenth century, while the Church Missionary Society commenced work in 1813 and the American Methodist Mission in 1881.

The quality of the soil is generally uniform, and the relative facility of irrigation is the most important agricultural factor. Along the rivers there is usually a rich tract of low alluvial soil called kachhar ; but the area is very small, except on the bank of the Chambal. On the Gwalior border is found a black soil, resembling the mar of Bundelkhand and called by the same name.

In the tract north of the Jumna there has been some deterioration owing to the spread of the weed baisuri (Pluchea lanceolata), which is yet more common in Muttra District. The west of the District is subject to considerable fluctuations, owing to excessive or deficient rainfall, and was formerly ravaged by wild cattle from Bharatpur, which are now- kept out by a fence and ditch made in 1893.

The tenures found in the District are those common elsewhere. Zamindari mahals number 2,111, perfect pattidari 1,824, and imperfect pattidari 1,668. The last mentioned also include bhaiyachara or, as they are called here, kabzadari mahals. There are a few talukdari estates, but none ol importance. The main agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are given in the table on the next page, in square miles.

The staple food-crops, and the areas under each in 1903-4, are : bajra (283 square miles), gram, (237), jowdr (179), wheat (176), and barley (192). Cotton covered 118 square miles, being grown in all parts of the District.

There have been no improvements in agricultural practice of recent years. Since the last settlement, despite a slight increase in canal- irrigation, cultivation has fallen off. A steady demand exists for advances under the Land Improvement and Agriculturists' Loans Acts, which amounted to more than a lakh under each Act during the ten years ending 1900, including sums of Rs. 42,000 and Rs. 28,000, respectively, advanced in the famine year 1896-7. In 1903-4 the advances were Rs. 5,000.


No indigenous breed of cattle is found, and the best animals are imported from Central India or the Punjab. An attempt has been made to improve the breed of horses, and two stallions are maintained by Government. A fair is held at Batesar about November, to which large numbers of cattle, horses, and camels are brought by dealers from distant parts.

In 1903-4 the area irrigated was 368 square miles, out of a cultivated area of 1,272 square miles. Canals supplied 68 square miles and wells 299. The Upper Ganges Canal served about 5 square miles in the tract north of the Jumna, while the Agra Canal supplied the area between the Jumna and Utangan. The two tracts south of the Utangan are entirely dependent on wells, which are very deep and in places yield brackish water. The Utangan was once used as a source ol irrigation ; but in 1864 the works were closed, as the alterations in the natural channel had caused much damage.

The most valuable mineral product of the District is sandstone, which is quarried in the western tahsils of Kiraoli and Khairagarh, and is extensively used for building, while millstones and grindstones are also largely made. Block kankar is found in the Chambal ravines, and nodular kankar is common everywhere.

Agra city is the most important centre of arts and manufactures in the District. It is especially celebrated for marble articles beautifully inlaid with precious stones, and for the carving of stone or marble into screens of delicate pierced tracery. Cotton and woollen carpets are manufac- tured, and the silk and gold and silver embroidery of the city have some reputation. Hukka stems are also made, but the trade is decreasing. There were 8 cotton gins and presses in the District in 1903, employing 1,192 hands, and 3 spinning mills employing 1,562. Smaller industries include a flour-mill, a bone-mill, and a few indigo factories.

The city likewise monopolizes the greater part of the trade. It is a centre for the collection of grain, oilseeds, and cotton for export ; and also a distributing centre from which cotton goods, metals, sugar, and salt are sent to the surrounding tracts. Rajputana and Central India supply cotton, oilseeds, stone, and salt, taking in return sugar, grain, cotton goods, and metals. Grain and cotton are exported to Bombay and Calcutta.

Agra is wellsupplied with railways. The East Indian Railway passes through the tract north of the Jumna, and is connected by a branch from Tundla to Agra city with the Midland section of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. The narrow-gauge Rajputana-Malwa line runs west from Agra, and a branch from this at Achhnera joins Muttra and Hathras. A new broad-gauge line from Agra to Delhi has recently been completed. The total length of metalled roads is 177 miles, of which 70 are main- tained at the cost of Provincial revenues, while the remainder and also 434 miles of unmetalled roads are maintained from Local funds.

Avenues of trees are kept up on 232 miles. An old imperial route from Delhi to the east passed through Agra, and other roads lead towards Bombay through Dholpur, to Rajputana, and to the Doab.

The District has suffered much in periods of drought, and famines occurred in 1783, in 1813, in 1819, and in 1838. In the last-named year as many as 113,000 paupers were relieved in Agra city alone, while 300,000 starving people immi- grated into the District. In 1860-1 the District was again visited by severe scarcity, though it did not suffer so greatly as the country immediately to the north. In July, 1861, the daily average of persons on relief works rose to 66,000. Distress was felt in 1868-9, but did not deepen into famine. In 1877-8 the failure of the autumn crops following high prices in the previous year caused famine, and relief works were opened on the Achhnera-Muttra Railway and on the roads, the highest number employed at one time being 28,000.

The last famine was in 1896-7, when distress was felt throughout the District, most severely in the Bah and Khairagarh tahsils, which are not protected by canals and have exceptionally poor means of irrigation. The labouring classes were the chief sufferers, and the number on relief rose to 33,000, but many of these were the wives and children of persons employed in the city who added to the family income by working on the new park at Agra.

The District staff includes, besides the Collector, one or two members ol the Indian Civil Service and five Deputy-Collectors recruited in India. A tahsildar resides at the head-quarters of each ol the seven tahsils. There are two District Munsifs and a Judge of the Small Cause Court.

The Subordinate Judge and the District and Sessions Judge have jurisdiction throughout the two Districts of Agra and Muttra. Serious crime is not uncommon, and the District is noted for the large number of robberies and dacoities which occasionally take place. Cattle-thefts are also frequent, and the difficulty in detecting these offences is enhanced by the prox- imity of the borders of Native States. Infanticide was formerly prevalent, and the inhabitants of a few villages are still proclaimed and kept under observation.

After the acquisition of the District in 1803, settlements were made for short terms, the demand being fixed on a consideration of the offers made by persons for whole parganas ; but after the first year or two the demand was distributed over individual villages. The Bah tahsil was, however, farmed for some time. The first regular settlement was completed between 1834 and 1841, on the basis of a professional survey. Soils were classified and rent rates applied, which were derived by selection from actual rates ; and the revenue was fixed at two-thirds of the ' assets ' so calculated, but the estimates were also checked by comparison with the earlier assessments.

The revenue demand amounted to 162 lakhs. In 1872 a revision was commenced. The valuation was based, as before, on rent rates actually paid ; but several difficulties arose in fixing standard rates. Rents were usually paid in the lump, without any differentiation for different classes of soil. One- quarter of the cultivation was in the hands of the landlords, and in half the area rents had remained unchanged since the last settlement. The ‘assets ' calculated were revised by a comparison with the actual rent- rolls, but the assessment provided for prospective increases. The revenue fixed amounted to 18 lakhs, representing 50 per cent, of the 'assets'; the incidence fell at Rs. 17 per acre, varying from Rs. 11 in Bah to Rs. 2 in the Itimadpur tahsil. Extensive reductions of revenue were made in 1886 and 1891 in the Agra and Kiraoli tahsils owing to deterioration and a high assessment, but these tracts are now recovering. In 1903 it was decided that the settlement, which would ordinarily expire in 1907-9, should be extended for a further period of ten years. The receipts from land revenue and from all sources have been, in thousands of rupees : —


Besides the two municipalities of Agra and Firozabad, and the ' notified area ' of Fatehpur Sikri, there are six towns administered under Act XX of 1856. The income and expenditure of the District board is about 15 lakhs. The income is chiefly derived from and nearly half the expenditure is on roads and buildings.

The District Superintendent of police usually has 2 Assistant Super- intendents and 9 inspectors working under him, and in 1904 he had a force ol 158 subordinate officers and 840 men. There are also about 90 municipal and town police, and 2,300 rural and road police. The District contains thirty-three police stations, and a District and also a 'Central jail.

Agra takes a fairly high place in the United Provinces as regards literacy. At the Census of 1901 4 per cent, of the people (7 males and 0.5 females) were returned as able to read and write. The number of schools recognized as public fell from 245 in 1880-1 to 192 in 1900-1, but the number of pupils rose from 7,683 to 9,322. In 1903-4 there were 266 public institutions with 13,911 pupils, of whom 1,513 were girls, besides 102 private schools with 2,099 pupils. Of the public in- stitutions, five are managed by Government, and the rest chiefly by the District and municipal boards. There are three Arts colleges in Agra City, in two of which law classes are held, and also a normal school and a medical school. Out of a total expenditure on education in 1903-4 of 2.4 lakhs, Rs. 67,000 was received from fees.

The District contains 16 hospitals and dispensaries, with accom- modation for 333 in-patients. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 178,000, of whom 5,000 were in-patients, and 8,000 operations were performed. The expenditure amounted to Rs. 58,000, chiefly from Local and municipal funds. The Thomason Hospital is one of the finest in the United Provinces.

About 35,000 persons were vaccinated in 1903-4, representing 33 per 1,000 of the population. Vaccination is compulsory only in the municipalities and the cantonment.

[H. F. Evans, Settlement Report (1880); H. R. Nevill, District Gazetteer (1905).]

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