Arrah Town

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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.


Head-quarters of Shahabad District, Bengal, situated in 25 34' N. and 84 40' E., on the East Indian Railway, 368 miles from Calcutta. The population increased from 39,386 in 1872 to 42,998 in 1881, and to 46,905 in 1891, but fell to 46,170 in 1901, the decline being probably due to plague. Of the popula- tion in the last year, 32,903 were Hindus and 12,797 Musalmans, while among the remainder were 433 Jains.

The town of Arrah is invested with a special historical interest as being the scene of a stirring episode in the Mutiny of 1857. A body of rebels, consisting of about 2,000 sepoys from Dinapore and four times as many armed villagers under Kuar Singh, marehed in the end of July on Arrah. They reached the town on the 27th of that month, and forthwith released all the prisoners in the jail and plundered the treasury. The European women and children had already been sent away, but there remained in the town about a dozen Englishmen and three or four other Christians of different races. The Commissioner of Patna, Mr. Tayler, had supplied a garrison of 50 Sikhs. At this time the East Indian Railway was in course of construction, under the local superintendence of Mr. Vicars Boyle, who fortunately had some know- ledge of fortification. He occupied two houses, now known as the Judge's houses, the smaller of which, a two-storeyed building about 20 yards from the main house, was forthwith fortified and provisioned. The lower windows, &c, were built up, and sand-bags ranged on the roof. When the news came that the mutineers were advancing along the Arrah road, the Europeans and Sikhs retired to the smaller house. The rebels, after pillaging the town, made straight for Mr. Boyle's little fortress. A volley dispersed them, and forced them to seek the shelter of the larger house, only a few yards off, whence they carried en an almost continuous fire. They attempted to burn or smoke out the little garrison, and tried various other safe modes of attack ; but tiny had no guns. Kuar Singh, however, produced two small cannon which he had dug up, and artillery missiles were improvised out of the house furniture. In the small house there was no thought of surrender. Mr. Herwald Wake, the Magistrate, put himself in command of the Sikhs, who, though sorely tempted by their countrymen among the mutineers, remained faithful throughout the siege. A relieving party of 150 European troops, sent by water from Dinapore, fell into an ambuscade on landing in Shahabad ; and as time passed away and no help arrived, provisions and water began to run short. A bold midnight sally resulted in the capture of four sheep, and water was obtained by digging a well 18 feet deep inside the house. A mine of the enemy was met by countermining. On August 2 the besieged party observed an unusual excitement in the neighbourhood. The fire of the enemy had slackened, and but few of them were visible. The sound of a distant cannonade was heard. Before sunset the eight days' siege was at an end, and on the following morning the gallant garrison welcomed their deliverers — Major Vincent Eyre, with 150 men of the 5th Fusiliers, a few mounted volunteers, and 3 guns with 34 artillery- men. Major Eyre had dispersed Kuar Singh's forces on his way to Arrah, and they never rallied.

Arrah was constituted a municipality in 1865. The income during the decade ending 1901-2 averaged Rs. 52,000, and the expendi- ture Rs. 47,000. In 1903-4 the income was Rs. 55,000, including Rs. 21,000 derived from a tax on persons (or property tax), Rs. 11,000 from a water rate, Rs. 5,000 from a tax on vehicles, Rs. 4,000 from a municipal market, and Rs. 6,000 as special grants from Provincial and Local funds for medical purposes. The incidence of taxation was R. 0-14-3 P er head of the population. In the same year the expendi- ture amounted to Rs. 48,000, the chief items being Rs. 10,000 on conservancy, Rs. 5,000 on water-supply, Rs'. 8,000 on medical relief, and Rs. 5,000 on roads. The town is supplied with filtered water from the Son ; the works, which cost upwards of 4 lakhs, were opened in 1894. The town contains the usual public buildings of a District head-quarters. The District jail has accommodation for 278 prisoners, who are employed chiefly on oil-pressing, thread-twisting, and carpet- making.

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