1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bastar

BASTAR, a feudatory state of British India, in the Chattisgarh division of the Central Provinces; area, 13,062 sq. m. In 1901 the population was 306,501, showing a decrease of 1% compared with an apparent increase of 58% in the preceding decade. Estimated revenue £22,000; tribute £1100. The eastern part of Bastar is a flat elevated plateau, from 1800 to 2000 ft. above the level of the sea, the centre and N.W. portions are very mountainous, and the southern parts consist of hills and plains. On the plateau there are but few hills; the streams run slowly and the country is a mixture of plain and undulating ground covered by dense sál forests. Principal mountains of the district: (1) a lofty range which separates it from the Sironcha district; (2) a range of equal height called the Bela Dila lying in the centre of the district; (3) a range running N. and S. near Narayanpur; (4) Tangri Dongri range, running E. and W.; (5) Tulsi Dongri, bordering on the Sabari river and the Jaipur state. There is also a small range running from the river Indravati to the Godavari. The Indravati, the Sabari and the Tal or Talper, are the chief rivers of the district; all of them affluents of the Godavari. The soil throughout the greater portion of Bastar consists of light clay, with an admixture of sand, suited for raising rice and wet crops. In the jungles the Marias, who are among the aboriginal tribes of Gond origin, raise kosra (Panicum italicum) and other inferior grains. Aboriginal races generally follow the migratory system of tillage, clearing the jungle on selected patches, and after taking crops for two or three years abandoning them for new ground. They do not use the plough; nor do they possess buffaloes, bullocks or cows; their only agricultural implement is a long-handled iron hoe. They are a timid, quiet, docile race, and although addicted to drinking not quarrelsome. They inhabit the densest jungles and are very shy, avoiding contact with strangers, and flying to the hills on the least alarm; but they bear a good character for honesty and truthfulness. They are very scantily dressed, wear a variety of trinkets, with a knife, hatchet, spear, bow and arrows, the only weapons they use. Their hair is generally shaved, excepting a topknot; and when not shaved it gets into a matted, tangled mass, gathered into a knot behind or on the crown. The Marias and the Jhurias are supposed to be a subdivision of the true Gond family. All the aboriginal tribes of Bastar worship the deities of the Hindu pantheon along with their own national goddess Danteswari.

Bastar is divided into two portions—that held by the Raja or chief himself, and that possessed by feudatory chiefs under him. The climate is unhealthy—fever, smallpox, dysentery and rheumatism being the prevailing diseases. Jagdalpur, Bijapur, Madder and Bhupalpatnam are the only places of any note in the dependency, the first (on the Indravati river) being the residence of the raja and the chief people of the state. The principal products are rice, oil-seeds, lac, tussur silk, horns, hides, wax and a little iron. Teak timber is floated down the rivers to the Madras coast. A good road has brought Jagdalpur into connexion with the railway at Raipur.