Bakarganj (Backergunge)

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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.



(Bakarganj, ' Mart of Agha Bakar '). — Southern- most District of the Dacca Division, Eastern Bengal and Assam, lying between 21 49' and 23 5' N. and 89 52' and 91 2' E., with an area of 4,542 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Fandpur ; on the east by the Meghna and Shahbazpur rivers, whi ch separate it from Noakhali ; on the south by the Bay of Bengal ; and on the west by the Baleswar river and its estuary the Haringhata, which divide it from Khulna.

Physical aspects

Backergunge is a typical part of the alluvial delta formed by the three great river systems of Eastern Bengal. The District consists partly of mainland and partly of islands in the estuary of the Meghna, the largest being Dakhin Shahbazpur, and sweets forms an unbroken plain intersected by a network of sluggish and muddy tidal rivers and channels, with a slight decline from the east towards the west and north-west. Along the coast-line of the Bay lie the Sundarbans, a group of half-reclaimed islands separated by tidal creeks, which cover an area in this District of 897 square miles. The Meghna estuary, here some 8 miles in breadth, sweeps past the east of the District, and is divided by the Dakhin Shahbazpur island into an eastern branch called the Shahbazpur, and a western known as the Tetulia river. The Arial Khan is a branch of the Ganges ; it crosses the north-east coiner of the District, and joins the Meghna through the Mashkata and Kalinga channels. The river system consists of offshoots from the Meghna estuary and the tributaries and distributaries of the Arial Khan and Baleswar (as the MadhumatI is called in its lower reaches), which ramify into channels intersecting the District in every direction.

A perplexing multiplicity of names extends even to the smaller watercourses, which are often known by different names to villagers living on opposite banks, while the Meghna estuary itself is known in different parts of its course as the Satbaria, the Ilsa, the Tetulia, and the Shahbazpur. Most of the rivers and water-channels are navigable throughout the year and are subject to tidal action, which however is powerless during the freshes of the rainy season to arrest the seaward flow of the immense volume of rain-water pouring down the big rivers. Alluvion and diluvion are constantly taking place, especially towards the east, where the District is washed by the Meghna. On the north and east of the island of Dakhin Shahbazpur, the land is being rapidly cut away, while on its western shore a corresponding formation is taking place and large alluvial accretions are being thrown up in the estuary, the names of which indicate their recent origin. There is a very strong bore at spring tides in the estuary of the Meghna, and at that season boatmen seldom venture on the river.

The District lies low and, except in the east, most of the country is inundated during the rains. There are extensive depressions in the north and north-west, where the water remains all the year round, the principal being the Satla, Dalbaira, Jhanjhania, Rampur Chechri, Adampur, and Kalaraja bits or swamps.

The District is covered by recent alluvium, consisting of sandy clay and sand along the course of the rivers and fine silt consolidating into clay in other parts of the river plain, while in the marshes beds of impure peat commonly occur. During the rainy season, only the river banks and the artificial mounds on which habitations are situated escape inundation. Where not occupied by gardens, these patches of high ground are densely covered with a scrubby jungle of semi-spontaneous species, from which rise bamboos, areca and coco-nut palms, with a few taller trees, among which the commonest is Odina Wodier and the most conspicuous the red cotton-tree {Bombax malabaricum).

The surface of the marshes either shows huge stretches of inundated rice or is covered by matted floating islets of sedges and grasses, and with various water-lilies, the most striking of these being the makana {Euryale ferox). Backergunge contains no Government forests, but the Sundarbans in the south pro- duce many kinds of timber and an abundant supply of firewood. The chief trees are the sundri [Heritiera littora/is), haritakl ( Terminalia Chebu/a), gab (Diospyros embryopteris), keord {Sonneratia apetaed), kripa {Lumnitzera racemosa), gardn (Ceriops Boxbitrghianus), gamhdr (Gmclifia arborea), and karanj (Galedupa indica).

Tigers, leopards, deer, buffaloes and wild hog abound in the Sun- darbans, and crocodiles swarm in the rivers and are very destructive. Nearly 300 persons are killed annually by wild beasts and snakes.

Backergunge is remarkable for its uniform temperature and for the high humidity prevailing from April to October ; the mean temperature remains almost stationary between 83°and 85°from April to September, but falls in the cold season to 67 . The annual rainfall averages 83 inches, of which 8-i inches fall in May, 16-3 in June, 18-7 in July, 15-3 in August, io-6 in September, and 5-9 in October.

Backergunge is peculiarly liable to cyclones accompanied by storm waves. The most disastrous in recent times were those of 1822 and 1876. In the former, 40,000 human beings and 100,000 cattle perished, and the Collectorate records were swept away. In the latter, Dakhin Shahbazpur and some thanas of the Patuakhali subdivision were sub- merged to a depth of from 10 to 45 feet, and 124,000 persons were drowned or died in the cholera epidemic which ensued ; there was also an enormous mortality among the cattle.


In prehistoric times Backergunge appears to have formed part of the old kingdom of Banga or Samatata. Its people, who are described in the Raghubansa as living in boats, were clearly the ancestors of the Namasudras or Chandals, who are still numerous in the north-west of the District. Authentic history dates only from the fifteenth or sixteenth century. Pargana Chandradwlp, or Bakla, was long the seat of a line of Hindu zambidars, belonging to the group of chiefs known as the Bara Bhuiya, who were poetically known as ' the twelve suns of Bengal.' These zamindars first ruled in Kachua and subsequently in Madhabpasa, where the Durga Sagar, a large tank still in existence, is associated with them. One of the scions of their family married a daughter of the famous Raja Pratapaditya of Jessore.

When or how Musalmans first came into the District in any numbers is uncertain, but relics of their early settlements exist in the ruins of mosques at Blbl Chini and Kasba. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Arakanese (locally known as Maghs) made regular raids in fleets of armed vessels up the rivers of Eastern Bengal ; and as late as 1770, when Major Rennell surveyed the District, he described the southern half of it as a wilderness devastated by the Maghs. In order to defend the country against these incursions, the Mughal governor of Bengal in 1608 transferred his capital to Dacca, and his successor Shah Shuja, the brother of Aurangzeb, built a fort (since completely washed away by the Nalchiti river) at Shujabad, 5 miles south-west of Barisal. Early in the eighteenth century, pargana Buzurgumedpur came into the hands of Agha Bakar, a servant of the Nawab of Murshidabad, who has given his name to the village and District of Backergunge. After Agha Bakar's death, Raja Raj Ballabh of Rajnagar, one of the most famous men of his time, got possession of the property ; and it was he who first invited Portuguese Christians from Bandel and Goa in order to coerce his refractory tenants, and settled them in the Sibpur taluk, where their descendants, known as Firinghls, still reside.

British rule in the District dates from the Company's accession to the Dlwani in 1765. Until 181 7 the District formed part of the Dacca Collectorate, but was administered by a Judge and Magistrate of its own, who was stationed at the town of Backergunge near the junction of the Krishnakati and Khairabad rivers. In 1801 the administrative head-quarters were transferred to Barisal. Numerous changes of jurisdiction have since occurred, the most important being the transfer of the island of Dakhin Shahbazpur from Noakhali to Backergunge in 1859, and that of the greater part of the Madarlpur subdivision from this District to Farldpur in 1874.


The population increased from 1,887,586 in 1872 to 1,900,889 in 1881, to 2,153,965 in 1891, and to 2,291,752 in 1901. Progress Population. was checked between 1872 and 1881 by the disastrous cyclone of 1876. During the decade ending 1901 the greatest increase of population took place in the swampy thanas in the north (Gaurnadi 14-8 per cent, and Swarupkati 13-7), where reclamation is steadily going on as fresh deposits of silt gradually replace water by mud. Two of the three Sundarban thanas, Amtali and Galachipa, in which cultivation is rapidly extending, also showed large increases. The climate is not unhealthy, except after the close of the rains, when fever is prevalent. The chief statistics of the Census of 1901 are shown below : —


Includes 897 square miles comprised in the Sundarbans, which are not included in the subdivisional figures.

The District contains a large but sparsely inhabited tract in the Sundarbans. If this be excluded, the density of population rises from 505 to 629 per square mile ; it is greatest in the Pirojpur and Jhalakati thanas, where there are respectively 1,128 and 1,193 inhabitants to the square mile. The principal towns are Barisal, the head-quarters, Pirojpur, Jhalakati, and Patuakhali. A great influx of labourers takes place at the winter rice harvest from Farldpur, Dacca, and Noakhali. The language of the District is the dialect of Bengali known as Musalmanl. Musalmans number 1,565,024, or more than 68 per cent, of the total, and Hindus 713,800 ; among the remainder there are 7,220 Buddhists and 5,591 Christians.

Of the Musalmans more than ii millions call themselves Shaikhs, and are doubtless in the main derived from the aboriginal race repre- sented at the present day by the Hindu Namasudras, who number 318,000 and live an almost amphibious life in the swamps in the north- west of the District. After the Namasudras, Kayasths (78,000), Brahmans (52,000), Napits and Sudras (each with 36,000), and Kaibarttas (26,000) are the most numerous Hindu castes. The Buddhists are Maghs who have resided in this part of the Sundarbans for more than a century ; they adhere to their own mode of living, intermarry strictly among themselves, and build their dwellings on piles on the model of Burmese houses. Of the total population, no less than 81 per cent, are dependent on agriculture; industries support 9-6 per cent., commerce 0-5 per cent., and the professions 2-3 per cent.

Missions of various denominations are active ; the number of native Christians has nearly doubled since 1881 and now exceeds 5,000. They are mainly recruited from the ranks of the despised Namasudras. The Portuguese colony at Sibpur has already been mentioned ; a Roman Catholic mission was established at this place 200 years ago under the patronage of the King of Portugal, and there is another more recent mission subordinate to the Bishop of Dacca. The Baptist Mission has some 3,000 converts, and connected with it is a Zanana Mission, which maintains a large boarding-school for girls at Barisal. The Bengal Evangelistic Mission, whose head-quarters are at Farldpur, and the Oxford Mission have branches in this District ; and a sisterhood is engaged in medical, educational, and proselytizing work among native women in Barisal.

The higher ground in the east produces sugar-cane, pulses, the pan creeper {Piper Beth), and a little jute ; the rest of the District is fertilized by rich deposits of silt A e nculture - and forms with Noakhali the most important rice-producing tract in Eastern Bengal.

The chief agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are shown below, areas being in square miles : —


Includes 897 square miles in the Sundarbans. Rice is grown over an area of 2,205 square miles, or 83 per cent, of the total cultivated area. The winter rice, which covers 78 per cent, of the net cropped area, is sown in April or May, transplanted from the beginning of June to the middle of August, and reaped in November and December. The early rice crop is sown in spring and the early part of the hot season, and reaped in August ; in some parts it is transplanted, but in the north it is sown broadcast. The spring crop, although not equal in importance to the others, is cultivated to a con- siderable extent on the alluvial accretions along the river banks and in the swamps. It is generally sown broadcast in December and reaped in April or May ; it is sometimes transplanted. Pulses are sown in the cold season and harvested in the spring. Til {Sesamum indicum) and linseed are also cultivated, the latter chiefly in the Dakhin Shahbazpur subdivision. There is very little jute, but betel-nut and coco-nut palms are grown extensively all over the District ; and it is estimated that the number of betel-nut trees is altogether about 2 7 millions, and that the annual out-turn is 6,000 million nuts.

The area under cultivation is spreading rapidly as the swamps silt up in the north and the jungle is reclaimed in the south. The area not available for cultivation is returned at 1,121 square miles; it lies mainly in the Sundarbans, and much of it is covered with the water of the great estuaries. In Wards' and Government estates European vegetables and improved varieties of native crops have been introduced to a small extent. Owing to the fertility of the soil and the general prosperity of the cultivators, there is little need for Government loans, but Rs. 17,000 was advanced under the Agriculturists' Loans Act after the cyclone of 1893.

The District cattle are poor. Attempts have been made by Govern- ment and public bodies to improve them by importing bulls from Bihar, but without success.

Trade and Communication

Backergunge is not a manufacturing District ; but oil, coarse cloth, mosquito nets, gunny-bags, sacrificial knives and other iron instruments, mats of various kinds, earthenware, agricultural im- communications pigments, and molasses are manufactured for local con- sumption. The weavers of Wazlrpur and Banaripara make dhotis of the Dacca pattern ; the mosquito nets manufactured at Madhabpasa command a large sale among the middle classes, and the Maghs weave coloured cloth for their own use. Machine-made cloth is gradually driving the local weavers from their looms, and the rapidly growing taste for European pottery and enamelled ironware is depriving the local potters of their best customers. Wazlrpur and its neighbour- hood has a local reputation for daos and other iron implements, and boats are built all over the District. Brick-making is carried on to a considerable extent in the neighbourhood of Barisal, and a large oil-mill at Jhalakati has an annual out-turn valued at Rs. 25,000.

Rice is exported to the Twenty-four Parganas, Dacca, and Mymen- singh, and 2,000,000 tons of rice find their way annually to the Calcutta market; other articles exported are betel-nuts and coco-nuts to Calcutta, Dacca, Noakhali, and Chittagong, and timber and mats to Calcutta. The betel-nut crop is especially large and profitable ; and it is estimated that the trees in the District bring in annually nearly 44 lakhs of rupees to the growers. Most of the crop is sent to Calcutta, but some portion of it is also prepared for the Burmese market. The principal imports are salt, kerosene oil, coal, European piece-goods, cotton twist, molasses, sugar, corrugated iron, oil, tobacco, and flour. The chief trade centres are Jhalakati and Nalchiti on the main steamer route to Calcutta,

Daulatkhan, and Sahibganj ; rice is also exported from Baga, Bauphal, Niamati, Bhandaria, Kaukhali, Kalaia, Chaulakati, Chara- maddi, and Bhuria. Large annual fairs are held at Kalisuri, Kalaskati, and Lakutia. The traders belong chiefly to the Gandhabanik, Saha, Teli, and Patikar castes. Goods are carried by both country boats and steamers, the main trade route being via the Sundarbans to Calcutta.

There is no railway in the District, and the roads are little used for goods traffic except in the Dakhin Shahbazpur subdivision. Wherever constructed, they are largely used by foot-passengers, especially on market days. Excluding 487 miles of village tracks, the District con- tains only 307 miles of road, of which 17 miles are metalled. The most important road runs from the northern boundary via Barisal and Backergunge to Patuakhali. Barisal is also connected on the west with Banaripara and Nabagram, and on the south-west with NalchitI and Jhalakati, while another main road runs from Pirojpur to Sapleja, via Tushkhali, along the west of the District. A good road traverses the island of Dakhin Shahbazpur.

The drains along the side of many of the roads are used as waterways ; and throughout the greater part of the District there are few villages which cannot be reached by boat, especially during the rains. In Dakhin Shahbazpur, however, few villages are accessible by boats, except in the rainy season. Regular lines of steamer ply along the larger rivers, the most important being the daily Sundarbans dispatch service from Cachar to Calcutta, via Narayanganj, Chandpur, Barisal, NalchitI, and Jhalakati, and another which carries the mails between Barisal and Khulna. Daily services connect Barisal with Narayanganj, Madari- pur, and Patuakhali. A steamer runs to Noakhali four times a week. There are numerous ferries across the principal rivers and to the islands.


For general administrative purposes the District is distributed into four subdivisions, with head-quarters at Barisal, Pirojpur, Patua- khali, and Dakhin Shahkazpur. At Barisal is stationed the District Magistrate-Collector, who is also ex-officio collector of tolls and supervisor of the additional navigable channels under (Bengal) Act V of 1864. He is assisted by a staff of one Joint Magistrate or Assistant Collector and five Deputy-Magistrate- Collectors. Each of the other subdivisions is under a 1 )eputy-Magis- trate-Collector, and a Sub-deputy-Collector is in charge of the sub- treasury at Pirojpur. There are also three kdnungos, and a special Deputy-Collector in charge of the Government estates.

The civil courts, besides that of the District and Sessions Judge, are those of an additional District and Sessions Judge, of two Sub-Judges, and of sixteen regular Munsifs, of whom six are stationed at Barisal, two at Bhola, three at Pirojpur, four at Patuakhali, and one wherever the pressure of work is greatest. Criminal courts include those of the District and Sessions Judge, the District Magistrate, and the above- mentioned Deputy-Magistrates. The practice of subinfeudation has brought into existence a large body of middlemen between the revenue- payer and the actual cultivators, who are continually fomenting land disputes, and the District is notorious for agrarian riots. These were so frequently attended by gun-shot murders that the District was disarmed in 1896, a measure which was attended with remarkable success. The order was relaxed in 1904, and gun licences are now granted to persons of position and good character. Many crimes of violence also arise out of marriage disputes, which are rife among the lower classes Muhammadans.

In the first settlement of Bengal, made in 1582 by Raja Todar Mai, Backergunge was included in sarkar Bakla ; but at the subsequent settlements, made by the Muhammadan rulers, it was comprised in the province of Dacca. It was constituted a separate District in 1797 by Regulation VII of that year, but it was not till 181 7 that an indepen- dent Collector was first appointed. In 1903-4 the current land revenue demand was 16-94 lakhs, payable by 3,634 estates, of which 3,019 with a demand of 10-05 lakhs were permanently settled, 278 paying 2-65 lakhs were temporarily settled, and the others were managed direct by Govern- ment. At the time of the permanent settlement there were extensive areas of waste land which remained unsettled. These have since been largely brought under cultivation and now form valuable Government estates. Owing to this circumstance, the incidence of revenue is Rs. 1-2-6 per cultivated area, as compared with only R. 0-8- iS in Farldpur and R. 0-6-1 1 in Dacca.

Subinfeudation is carried to extreme lengths, and there are said to be as many tenures as there are ryoti holdings. The system was originated by zamlndars and ta/ukddrs, who, finding themselves unable to clear the large tracts of unreclaimed land included in their properties, divided them into lots and placed each lot in the haola or charge of an indi- vidual ; the haoldddr repeated the process to sub-lessees, who in their turn sublet portions of their tenures, until these became of manageable size. This system of reclamation tenures is universal in the half-cleared tracts of Eastern Bengal, but in Backergunge it has been overlaid by a bewildering maze of more or less fictitious tenures, which owe their origin to land-jobbing. The grant of a tenure of any description com- mands a heavy salami or premium ; and a landlord's favourite method of raising money is to create an intermediate tenure between himself and the ryot or tenure-holder immediately subordinate to him, at a rent slightly lower than he has been receiving, the premium paid to him being equivalent to the capitalized value of the reduction in rent.

The new lessee makes a profit by squeezing an extra cess out of the man below him ; and the result is that an undue share of the produce of the soil goes to feed an army of middlemen who have no rightful place in the rural economy. This process is being constantly repeated by all grades of tenure-holders ; and there seems to be no limit to its develop- ment, save the capacity of the actual cultivator to bear the increased burden falling upon him. In spite of this, however, the system tends to diffuse wealth widely among the people ; many of the tenure-holders are men of the cultivating class and cultivate some portion of their tenures themselves ; they generally hold these tenures at fixed rates, the rents are moderate, and, as a class, they are very prosperous. The ryot again is only rack-rented where the tenure immediately above him is held by a strong and unscrupulous man, and such rack-renting is confined to certain localities in which the lowest grade of tenure is in the hands of a bad class of landlord. When the ryot finds his rent enhanced more than he can bear, or if he is influenced by attractive promises held out by an outsider, he will deny his relationship as tenant to his real land- lord, and will place himself under the protection, or zimba, of the outsider, acknowledging the latter as his landlord. This, with the infinitesimal division of shares, where no actual partition of the land can take place, has led to the agrarian riots and murders for which this District is notorious. To obviate these disputes, a general survey and record-of-rights is now being carried out throughout the District. The latest survey papers show that the rent per acre paid by the actual culti- vator to his immediate landlord for arable land varies from Rs. 2 to Rs. 10 per acre, the average being Rs. 5. High land suitable for homesteads commands a still higher rate.

The following table shows the collections of land revenue and of total revenue (principal heads only), in thousands of rupees : —


Outside the five municipalities of Barisal, Nalchiti, Jhalakati, Patuakhali, and Pirojpur, local affairs are managed by the District board, with subordinate local boards in each subdivision. In 1903-4 its income was Rs. 3,32,000, of which Rs. 2,26,000 was derived from rates; and the expenditure was Rs. 3,21,000, including Rs. 1,96,000 spent on public works and Rs. 61,000 on education.

The District contains 16 police stations or thanas, and 11 outposts. The force subordinate to the District Superintendent in 1903 consisted of one Assistant District Superintendent, 8 inspectors, 66 sub-inspectors, 38 head constables, and 541 constables ; 76 town chaukidars are employed for watch and ward duty in the five municipal towns, and there is also a rural police force consisting of 5,293 village watchmen and 508 head watchmen. The District jail at Barisal has accom- modation for 580 prisoners, and the subsidiary jails at the other subdivisions for 99.

Education is widely diffused, and in 1901, 7-9 per cent, of the population (14-7 males and 0-9 females) could read and write. Musal- mans are more backward than Hindus, only 10 per cent, of their males being literate, compared with 24 per cent, in the case of Hindus. The total number of pupils under instruction rose from 75,859 in 1892-3 to 86,456 in 1900-1, while 81,554 boys and 7,189 girls were at school in 1903-4, being respectively 46-2 and 4-2 per cent, of the children of school-going age. The number of educational institutions, public and private, in that year was 3,074, including an Arts college, 98 secondary schools, and 2,497 primary schools. The expenditure on education was 3-51 lakhs, of which Rs. 27,000 was met from Provincial funds, Rs. 61,000 from District funds, Rs. 1,500 from municipal funds, and i-88 lakhs from fees. The chief educational institutions are in Barisal Town.

In 1903 the District contained 41 dispensaries, of which 5 had accommodation for 68 in-patients. The cases of 331,000 out- patients and 1,060 in-patients were treated during the year, and 8,913 operations were performed. The expenditure was Rs. 34,000, of which Rs. 2,000 was met from Government contributions, Rs. 21,000 from

Local and Rs. 4,000 from municipal funds, and Rs. 6,000 from subscriptions. Though vaccination is compulsory only within the five municipalities, it has made great progress in recent years, the number of successful vaccinations in 1903-4 being 122,000, or 54-2 per 1,000 of the population.

[Sir W. W. Hunter, Statistical Account of Bengal, vol. v, and

Geographical Notes appended to vol. i (1875) ; H. Beveridge, Backer- gunge (187 6) ; P. M. Basu, Settlement Reports of the Dakhin Shahbaz- pur and Tushkhali Government Estates (Calcutta, 1896 and 1898).]

In 1931

Glued Ideas

The population was returned in 1931 at 2,939,050. Seven-tenths are Mohammedans, among whom the Farazi sect is numerous. There is a Buddhist section consisting of Maghs, as the Arakanese are called in Bengal, who first settled in Backergunge about i800, and have made themselves very useful in the clearing of the Sundarbans. The soil is fertile, being annually enriched by the silt brought down by the rivers, and yields abundant harvests of rice, while the produce of coconut and betel-nut trees is a valu able source of income. Jhalakati is an important centre of trade, especially in betel-nuts. The climate is one of the healthiest in Eastern Bengal, owing to the flushing of the rivers and creeks by the tides, while the strong south-west monsoon, which comes up directly from the Bay of Bengal keeps the atmosphere cool. Barisal, the headquarters station had a population in 1921 of 35,716.

Backergunge in 1946

Tathagata Roy, Bengal Voice

The coastal district of Barisal, also known as Backergunge, consisted [in 2008] of the districts of Barisal, Bhola, Pirojpur, Barguna, Patuakhali and Jhalakati of present-day [2008] Bangladesh. Barisal is literally a maze of perennial rivers, canals and water courses, with the result that it was one of the very few districts of British India without an inch of Railway line.

Before 1947, to reach Barisal from the provincial capital of Calcutta one had to take a train to Khulna, and at Khulna board a steamer for an overnight voyage to Barisal.

[Around AD 1900: Barisal was the head-quarters of the great rice-growing District of Backergunge, situated 187 miles east of Calcutta. There were three alternative routes to Barisal. The one generally followed is along the Bh�ngar canal and Sibsa river to Khulna, and thence by the Bhairab river to Pirojpur and Barisal. An alterna- tive route between Calcutta and Kaliganj on the Ichamat� river follows Tolly's Nullah and the Bidyadhari river to Port Canning, and then strikes north-eastward. This is called the Outer route, and two similar alternative routes branch off southwards in Khulna District. The main steamer route follows the Hooghly river as far as the Baratala creek, and then turns east and north-east, meeting the two routes pre- viously described at Pirojpur.]

The soil of the district is incredibly fertile, and being close to the sea, conducive to cultivation of coconut, a cash crop. Everybody in the district who had even a chhitak (about 45 square feet) of land would grow paddy and coconut in profusion, without any fertiliser, with the minimum of labour. As a result, the people of the district were relatively well-to-do, the Hindus more so because of their white-collar occupations coupled with their landed wealth.

The Hindu middle-class in 1946 Barisal was the abode of the intellectual clans of the Guha Thakurta-s and the Ghosh Dastidars of Banaripara and Gabha villages respectively. It also had a strong Baidya community, with the names of Sengupta and Dasgupta, the only caste of doctors to be found anywhere in Hindu India. These people followed the hereditary practice of Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu science of medicine, which had given the world legendary physicians like Susruta and Charaka, and pathbreaking drugs such as Sarpagandha (Rawoulfia Serpentina), one of the first drugs to combat hypertension.

The Baidyas had migrated in large numbers to cities like Calcutta and Dacca, and had become a very urbane and sophisticated people, a large number among whom followed intellectual pursuits. The district was also the home of a large number of lower-caste [sic[ Namahsudras and Kaibartas who were into fishing and allied trades.

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