This article has been extracted from
THE IMPERIAL GAZETTEER OF INDIA , 1908.
OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.
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.
A petty Koli State situated in the north-west corner of Nasik District, Bombay, with an estimated area of 360 square miles. Like the Dangs, Surgana State is full of spurs of hills and waving uplands, once covered with dense forest, now partly cleared and stripped of most of their valuable timber. The chief forest trees are teak, black-wood, khair, and ttvas. Minor forest products include fruit, gums, honey, lac, and roots. Except in April and May the climate is unhealthy, and in the hot season water is scarce and bad. The annual rainfall averages 70 inches.
The ancestors of the Surgana deshmukh appear to have been Kolis, who lived in the fastnesses round Hatgarh. During Muhammadan rule a nominal allegiance was claimed from them, and they were entrusted with the duties of preventing the wild Bhils and Kolls of the Dangs from passing above the Western Ghats, of rendering military service when required, and of keeping open the roads that ran through their territory. Under Maratha rule, on the deslmitikh refusing to pay any revenue, his country, along with the Dangs, was reckoned as rebel land. But as Surgana lay on one of the high roads between the Deccan and Surat, great efforts were made to conciliate the chief. The Surgana deshmukh continued independent until 1818, when the British Government, in retaliation for an attack made on a British party, sent an expedition against the chief, who was seized and hanged, his cousin being recognized as the head of the State. This led to disputes about the succession, which were not settled till 1842. The chiefship descends in the line of one brother, while the descendants of another brother have an equal share in the revenues, independent of all control. The eldest son is not necessarily chosen to succeed. The chief manages the State in person and resides at Surgana (population, 959), 52 miles from Nasik city. The State contains 61 villages, of which 15 are alienated. The population was 12,398 in 1891 and 11,532 in 1901, representing a density of 32 persons per square mile. The Hindus (11,222) are chiefly Kolis (4,000) and Kunbis (6,000). Their language is a dialect of Marathi.
The soil chiefly consists of a loose rich black loam, which, though generally of little depth, is very fertile. The richest tracts are at the bottom of the valleys. The staple of food is iidgli, an early crop raised on the slopes of the hills by hand labour ; kodra, rice, and sdva are also grown. About 20,000 acres are under cultivation. There are no special forest reserves. The roads passable for beasts of burden are from Hatgarh in Nasik District to Bulsar in Surat ; there is also a cart track from Surgana to Bansda. The only traffic is in timber. The deshmukh rules the State with the help of his dlwdn, subject to the orders and instructions of the Collector of Nasik as Political Agent, Civil disputes and petty offences are settled by the deshmukh with the dlwdn. Criminal charges are tried without any regular procedure or fixed rules. Serious cases are referred to the Political Agent.
The revenue in 1903-4 exceeded Rs. 19,000, the average being Rs. 28,000, chiefly derived from excise (Rs. 8,000). The land revenue of the State (Rs. 4,000) is raised by a tax on ploughs, according to the system known as autbandi. Survey operations were commenced in 1895-6, but were suspended in the famine years and are still in abeyance. The forest revenue is Rs. 3,000. The police number 13. The deshmukh pays no tribute. Since 1881 the State has allotted about Rs. 7,500 to public works. The expenditure on education is limited to the maintenance of one school with 22 pupils in 1903-4. Surgana contains no dispensary, but the deshmukh himself keeps a few medicines for free distribution.