1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kumaon

KUMAON, or Kumaun, an administrative division of British India, in the United Provinces, with headquarters at Naini Tal. It consists of a large Himalayan tract, together with two submontane strips called the Tarai and the Bhabhar; area 13,725 sq. m.; pop. (1901), 1,207,030, showing an increase of less than 2% in the decade. The submontane strips were up to 1850 an almost impenetrable forest, given up to wild animals; but since then the numerous clearings have attracted a large population from the hills, who cultivate the rich soil during the hot and cold seasons, returning to the hills in the rains. The rest of Kumaon is a maze of mountains, some of which are among the loftiest known. In a tract not more than 140 m. in length and 40 m. in breadth there are over thirty peaks rising to elevations exceeding 18,000 ft. (see Himalaya). The rivers rise chiefly in the southern slope of the Tibetan watershed north of the loftiest peaks, amongst which they make their way down valleys of rapid declivity and extraordinary depth. The principal are the Sarda (Kali), the Pindar and Kailganga, whose waters join the Alaknanda. The valuable timber of the yet uncleared forest tracts is now under official supervision. The chief trees are the chir, or three-leaved Himalayan pine, the cypress, fir, alder, sāl or iron-wood, and saindan. Limestone, sandstone, slate, gneiss and granite constitute the principal geological formations. Mines of iron, copper, gypsum, lead and asbestos exist; but they are not thoroughly worked. Except in the submontane strips and deep valleys the climate is mild. The rainfall of the outer Himalayan range, which is first struck by the monsoon, is double that of the central hills, in the average proportion of 80 in. to 40. No winter passes without snow on the higher ridges, and in some years it is universal throughout the mountain tract. Frosts, especially in the valleys, are often severe. Kumaon is occasionally visited by epidemic cholera. Leprosy is most prevalent in the east of the district. Goitre and cretinism afflict a small proportion of the inhabitants. The hill fevers at times exhibit the rapid and malignant features of plague.

In 1891 the division was composed of the three districts of Kumaon, Garhwal and the Tarai; but the two districts of Kumaon and the Tarai were subsequently redistributed and renamed after their headquarters, Naini Tal and Almora. Kumaon proper constituted an old Rajput principality, which became extinct at the beginning of the 19th century. The country was annexed after the Gurkha war of 1815, and was governed for seventy years on the non-regulation system by three most successful administrators—Mr Traill, Mr J. H. Batten and Sir Henry Ramsay.