1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dacca

DACCA, a city of British India, giving its name to a district and division of Eastern Bengal and Assam. It was made the capital of that province on its creation in October 1905. The city is 254 m. N.E. by E. of Calcutta, on an old channel of the Ganges. Railway station, 10 m. from the terminus of the river steamers at Narayanganj. The area is about 8 sq. m. The population in 1901 was 90,542. The ruins of the English factory, St Thomas’s church, and the houses of the European residents lie along the river banks. Of the old fort erected by Islam Khan, who in 1608 was appointed nawab of Bengal, and removed his capital from Rajmahal to Dacca, no vestige remains; but the jail is built on a portion of its site. The principal Mahommedan public buildings, erected by subsequent governors and now in ruins, are the Katra and the Lal-bagh palace—the former built by Sultan Mahommed Shuja in 1645, in front of the chauk or market place. Its extensive front faced the river, and had a lofty central gateway, flanked by smaller entrances, and by two octagonal towers rising to some height above the body of the building. The Lal-bagh palace was commenced by Azam Shah, the third son of the emperor Aurangzeb. It originally stood close to the Buriganga river; but the channel has shifted its course, and there is now an intervening space covered with trees between it and the river. The walls on the western side, and the terrace and battlement towards the river, are of a considerable height, and present a commanding aspect from the water. These outworks, with a few gateways, the audience hall and the baths, were the only parts of the building that survived in 1840. Since then their dilapidation has rapidly advanced; but even in ruin they show the extensive and magnificent scale on which this princely residence was originally designed. It appears never to have been completed; and when Jean Baptiste Tavernier visited Dacca (c. 1666), the nawab was residing in a temporary wooden building in its court. The English factory was built about that year. The central part of the old factory continued to be used as a court-house till the 19th century, but owing to its ruinous state it was pulled down in 1829 or 1830; in 1840 the only portion that remained was the outward wall. The French and Dutch factories were taken possession of by the English in the years 1778 and 1781 respectively. In the mutiny of 1857 two companies of the 73rd Native Infantry which were stationed in the town joined in the revolt, but were overpowered by a small European force and dispersed. The city still shows some signs of its former magnificence. The famous manufacture of fine muslins is almost extinct, but the carving of shells, carried on from ancient times, is an important industry in the city. There are a Government college, a collegiate school and an unaided Hindu college. There is a large settlement of mixed Portuguese descent, known as Feringhis. Many of the public buildings, including the college, suffered severely from the earthquake of the 12th of June 1897; and great damage was done by tornadoes in April of 1888 and 1902.

The district of Dacca comprises an area of 2782 sq. m. In 1901 the population was 2,649,522, showing an increase of 11% in the decade. The district consists of a vast level plain, divided into two sections by the Dhaleswari river. The northern part, again intersected by the Lakshmia river, contains the city of Dacca, and as a rule lies well above flood-level.

Dacca is watered by a network of rivers and streams, ten of which are navigable throughout the year by native cargo boats of four tons burthen. Among them are the Meghna, the Ganges or Padma, the Lakshmia, a branch of the Brahmaputra, the Jamuna, or main stream of the Brahmaputra, the Mendi-Khali, a large branch of the Meghna, the Dhaleswari, an offshoot of the Jamuna, the Ghazi-khali and the Buriganga. The soil is composed of red ferruginous kankar, with a stratum of clay in the more elevated parts, covered by a thin layer of vegetable mould, or by recent alluvial deposits. The scenery along the Lakshmia is very beautiful, the banks being high and wooded. About 20 m. north of Dacca city, small ridges are met with in the Madhupur jungle, stretching into Mymensingh district. These hills, however, are mere mounds of from 20 to 40 ft. high, composed of red soil containing a considerable quantity of iron ore; and the whole tract is for the most part unproductive. Towards the city the red soil is intersected by creeks and morasses, whose margins yield crops of rice, mustard and til seed; while to the east of the town, a broad, alluvial, well-cultivated plain reaches as far as the junction of the Dhaleswari and Lakshmia rivers. The country lying to the south of the Dhaleswari is the most fertile part of the district. It consists entirely of rich alluvial soil, annually inundated to a depth varying from 2 to 14 ft. of water. The villages are built on artificial mounds of earth, so as to raise them above the flood-level.

The wild animals found in the district comprise a few tigers, leopards and wild elephants, deer, wild pig, porcupines, jackals, foxes, hares, otters, &c. The green monkey is very common; porpoises abound in the large rivers. The manufactures consist of weaving, embroidery, gold and silver work, shell-carving and pottery. The weaving industry and the manufacture of fine Dacca muslins have greatly fallen off, owing to the competition of European piece goods. Forty different kinds of cloth were formerly manufactured in this district, the bulk of which during many years was made from English twist, country thread being used only for the finest muslins. It is said that, in the time of the emperor Jahangir, a piece of muslin, 15 ft. by 3, could be manufactured, weighing only 900 grains, its value being £40. In 1840 the finest cloth that could be made of the above dimensions weighed about 1600 grains, and was worth £10. Since then the manufacture has still further decayed, and the finer kinds are not now made at all except to order. The district is traversed by a line of the Eastern Bengal railway, but most of the traffic is still conducted by water. It is a centre of the jute trade.

The division of Dacca occupies the delta of the Brahmaputra, where it joins the main stream of the Ganges. It consists of the four districts of Dacca, Mymensingh, Faridpur and Backergunge. Its area is 15,837 sq. m. Its population in 1901 was 10,793,988.