1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Birbhum

BIRBHUM, a district of British India in the Burdwan division of Bengal, situated in the Gangetic plain and partly on the hills, being bounded on the south by the river Ajai. The administrative headquarters are at Suri, which is the only town in the district. The area comprises 1752 sq. m. The eastern portion of the district is the ordinary alluvial plain of the Gangetic delta; the western part consists of undulating beds of laterite resting on a rock basis, and covered with small scrub jungle. The Ajai, Bakheswar and Mor or Maurakshi, are the principal rivers of the district, but they are merely hill streams and only navigable in the rains. In 1901 the population was 902,280, showing an increase of 13% in the decade. The principal industry is the spinning and weaving of silk, chiefly from tussur or jungle silkworms. There are also several lac factories. The loop-line of the East Indian railway runs through the district, with a junction at Nalhati for Murshidabad.

History.—Birbhum in the early part of the 13th century was a Hindu state, with its capital at Rajnagar or Nagar. In the course of the century it was conquered by the Pathans and formed part of the Pathan kingdom of Bengal. At the beginning of the 18th century it appears as a kind of military fief held under the nawab of Murshidabad by one Asadullah Pathan, whose family had probably been its chieftains since the fall of the Pathan dynasty of Bengal in 1600. It passed into British possession in 1765, but the East India Company did not assume its direct government until 1787, when that course became necessary. In the interval it had been a prey to armed bands from the highlands of Chota Nagpur, with whom the raja was unable to cope, and who practically brought the trade of the Company in the district to a standstill. The two border principalities of Birbhum and Bankura were accordingly united into a district under a British collector, being, however, separated again in 1793. By 1789, after considerable trouble, the marauders were driven back into their mountains, and since that time (except during the Santal rising of 1855) the district has been one of the most peaceful and prosperous in India.

See Imperial Gazetteer of India (Oxford, 1908), vol. viii. s.v.