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CENTUMVIRI

dynasties from the 14th to the 16th centuries. The first of these is mentioned in 1398, when Narsingh Rai, raja of Kherla, is said by Ferishta to have ruled all the hills of Gondwana. He was finally overthrown and killed by Hoshang Shah, king of Malwa. The 16th century saw the establishment of a powerful Gond kingdom by Sangram Sah, who succeeded in 1480 as the 47th of the petty Gond rajas of Garha-Mandla, and extended his dominions so as to include Saugor and Damoh on the Vindhyan plateau, Jubbulpore and Narsinghpur in the Nerbudda valley, and Seoni on the Satpura highlands. Sangram Sah died in 1530; and the break up of his dominion began with the enforced cession to the Mogul emperor by Chandra Sah (1563–1575) of Saugor and Damoh and of that portion of his territories which afterwards formed the state of Bhopal.

About 200 years after Sangram Sah’s time, Bakht Buland, the Gond chieftain of a principality seated at Deogarh in Chhindwara, having visited Delhi, set about introducing the civilization he had there admired. He founded the city of Nagpur, which his successor made his capital. The Deogarh kingdom, at its widest extent, embraced the modern districts of Betul, Chhindwara, Nagpur, with parts of Seoni, Bhandara and Balaghat. In the south of the province Chanda was the seat of another Gond dynasty, which first came into prominence in the 16th century. The three Gond principalities of Garha-Mandla, Deogarh and Chanda were nominally subject to the Mogul emperors. In addition to the acquisitions made in the north at the expense of Garha-Mandla, the Moguls, after the annexation of Berar, established governors at Paunar in Wardha and Kherla in Betul. Having thus hemmed in the Gond states, however, they made no efforts to assert any effective sovereignty over them; the Gond rajas for their part were content with practical independence within their own dominions. Under their peaceful rule their territories flourished, until the weakening of the Mogul empire and the rise of the predatory Bundela and Mahratta powers, with the organized forces of which their semi-barbarous feudal levies were unable to cope, brought misfortune upon them.

In the 17th century Chhatarsal, the Bundela chieftain, deprived the Mandla principality of part of the Vindhyan plateau and the Nerbudda valley. In 1733 the peshwa of Poona invaded Bundelkhand; and in 1735 the Mahrattas had established their power in Saugor. In 1742 the peshwa advanced to Mandla and exacted the payment of chauth (tributary blackmail), and from this time until 1781, when the successors of Sangram Sah were finally overthrown, Garha-Mandla remained practically a Mahratta dependency. Meanwhile the other independent principalities of Gondwana had in turn succumbed. In 1743 Raghoji Bhonsla of Berar established himself at Nagpur, and by 1751 had conquered the territories of Deogarh, Chanda and Chhattisgarh. In 1741 Ratanpur had surrendered to the Mahratta leader Bhaskar Pant without a blow, and the ancient Rajput dynasty came to an end. In Chanda and Deogarh the Gond rajas were suffered by Raghoji Bhonsla and his successor to carry on a shadowy existence for a while, in order to give them an excuse for avoiding the claims of the peshwa as their overlord; though actually decisions in important matters were sought at Poona. Raghoji died in 1755, and in 1769 his son and successor, Janoji, was forced to acknowledge the peshwa’s effective supremacy. The Nagpur state, however, continued to grow. In 1785 Mudhoji (d. 1788), Janoji’s successor, bought from the Poona court the cession of Mandla and the upper Nerbudda valley, and between 1796 and 1798 this was followed by the acquisition of Hoshangabad and the larger part of Saugor and Damoh by Raghoji II. (d. 1816). Under this latter raja the Nagpur state covered practically the whole of the present Central Provinces and Berar, as well as Orissa and some of the Chota Nagpur states.

In 1803 Raghoji joined Sindhia against the British; the result was the defeat of the allies at Assaye and Argaon, and the treaty of Deogaon, by which Raghoji had to cede Cuttack, Sambalpur and part of Berar. Up to this time the rule of the Bhonsla rajas, rough warriors of peasant extraction, had been on the whole beneficent; but, soured by his defeat, Raghoji now set to work to recover some of his losses by a ruthless exploitation of the peasantry, and until the effective intervention of the British in 1818 the country was subjected to every kind of oppression. After Raghoji II.’s death in 1816 his imbecile son Parsaji was deposed and murdered by Mudhoji, known as Appa Sahib. In spite of a treaty signed with the British in this year, Mudhoji in 1817 joined the peshwa, but was defeated at Sitabaldi and forced to cede the rest of Berar to the nizam, and parts of Saugor and Damoh, with Mandla, Betul, Seoni and the Nerbudda valley, to the British. After a temporary restoration to the throne he was deposed, and Raghoji III., a grandchild of Raghoji II., was placed on the throne. During his minority, which lasted till 1840, the country was well administered by a British resident. In 1853, on the death of Raghoji III. without heirs, Nagpur lapsed to the British paramount power. Until the formation of the Central Provinces in 1861, Nagpur province, which consists of the present Nagpur division, Chhindwara and Chhatisgarh, was administered by a commissioner under the central government.

The territories in the north ceded in 1817 by the peshwa (parts of Saugor and Damoh) and in 1818 by Appa Sahib were in 1820 formed into the Saugor and Nerbudda Territories under an agent to the governor-general, and in 1835 were included in the newly formed North-West Provinces. In 1842, in consequence of a rising, they were again placed under the jurisdiction of an agent to the governor-general. Restored to the North-West Provinces in 1853, they were finally joined with the Nagpur province to constitute the new Central Provinces in 1861. On the 1st of October 1903 Berar also was placed under the administration of the commissioner of the Central Provinces (for history see Berar). In 1905 the greater part of Sambalpur district, with the feudatory states of Bamra, Rairakhol, Sonpur, Patna and Kalahandi, were transferred to Bengal, while the feudatory states of Chang Bhakar, Korea, Surguja, Udaipur and Jashpur were transferred from Bengal to the Central Provinces.

During the decade 1891–1901 the Central Provinces suffered from famine more severely than any other part of India. The complete failure of the rain in the autumn of 1896 caused scarcity to develop suddenly into famine, which lasted until the end of 1897. The total number of persons in receipt of relief reached its maximum of nearly 700,000 in May 1897. The expenditure on relief alone was about a million sterling; and the total cost of the famine, including loss of revenue, amounted to nearly twice that amount. During 1897 the death-rate for the whole province rose to sixty-nine per thousand, or double the average, while the birth-rate fell to twenty-seven per thousand. The Central Provinces were stricken by another famine, yet more severe and widespread, caused by the complete failure of the rains in 1899. The maximum of persons relieved for the whole province was 1,971,000 in June 1900. In addition, about 68,000 persons were in receipt of relief in the native states. During the three years 1899–1902 the total expenditure on famine relief amounted to about four millions sterling. Berar also suffered from the famines of 1897 and 1900.

See The Imperial Gazetteer of India (Oxford, 1908), x. 99, for list of authorities.


CENTUMVIRI (centum, hundred; vir, man), an ancient court of civil jurisdiction at Rome, probably instituted by Servius Tullius.[1] Its antiquity is attested by the symbol and formula used in its procedure, the lance (hasta) as the sign of true ownership, the oath or wager (sacramentum), the ancient formula for recovery of property or assertion of liberty. It is probably alluded to in Livy’s account of the Valerio-Horatian laws of 449 B.C. (Livy iii. 55, Consules ... fecerunt sanciendo ut qui tribunis plebis, aedilibus, judicibus, decemviris nocuisset, ejus caput Jovi sacrum esset). If the judices here mentioned are the centumviri, it is clear that they formed a tribunal which represented the interests of the plebs. This is in accordance with Cicero’s account (de Orat. i. 38. 173) of the sphere of their jurisdiction. He says this was mainly concerned with the property of which account was taken at the census; it was therefore in

  1. Mommsen (Staatsrecht, i³. 275, n. 4, ii³. 231, n. I, 590 f.) believed that the Centumviri were instituted about 150 B.C.