MANBHUM, a district of British India, in the Chota Nagpur division of Bengal. The administrative headquarters are at Purulia. Area, 4147 sq. m.; pop. (1901), 1,301,364, showing an increase of 9.1% since 1891. Manbhum district forms the first step of a gradual descent from the table-land of Chota Nagpur to the delta of lower Bengal. In the northern and eastern portions the country is open, and consists of a series of rolling downs dotted here and there with isolated conical hills. In the western and southern tracts the country is more broken and the scenery much more picturesque. The principal hills are Dalma (3407 ft.), the crowning peak of a range of the same name; Gangabari or Gajboro (2220 ft.), the highest peak of the Baghmundi range, about 20 m. south-west of Purulia; and Panchkot or Panchet (1600 ft.), on which stands the old fort of the rajas of Panchet. The hills are covered with dense jungle. The chief river is the Kasai, which flows through the district from north-west to south-east into Midnapore, and on which a considerable floating trade in sal timber is carried on. The most numerous aboriginal tribe are the Sontals; but the Bhumij Kols are the characteristic race. In Manbhum they inhabit the country lying on both sides of the Subanrekha. They are pure Mundas, but their compatriots to the east have dropped the title of Munda and the use of their distinctive language, have adopted Hindu customs, and are fast becoming Hindus in religion. The Bhumij Kols of the Jungle Mahals were once the terror of the surrounding districts; they are now more peaceful.
Three principal crops of rice are grown, one sown broadcast early in May on table-lands and the tops of ridges, an autumn crop, and a winter crop, the last forming the chief harvest of the district. Other crops are wheat, barley, Indian corn, pulses, oilseeds, linseeds, jute, hemp, sugar-cane, indigo, pan and tobacco. Owing to the completeness of the natural drainage, floods are unknown, but the country is liable to droughts caused by deficient rainfall. The principal articles of export are oilseeds, pulses, ghi, lac, indigo, tussur silk (manufactured near Raghunathpur), timber, resin, coal, and (in good seasons) rice. The chief imports are salt, piece goods, brass utensils and unwrought iron. Cotton hand-loom weaving is carried on all over the district. Manbhum contains the Jherria coalfield, in the Damodar valley, where a large number of mines have been opened since 1894. The United Free Church of Scotland has a mission at Pakheria, with a printing press that issues a monthly journal in Sonthali; and a German Lutheran mission has been established since 1864. The district is traversed by the Bengal-Nagpur railway, while two branches of the East Indian railway serve the coalfield.