Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Railways in India serve different purposes—the ordinary purpose of trade and passenger communication, and also the special purposes pf the safeguarding the internal and external peace of the country, and of protecting Railways. special districts against famine by facilitating the movement of grain. For this reason the interest on capital expended on all the lines cannot be judged by a purely commercial standard. They are administered in three separate ways—as guaranteed, state or assisted lines. In the early days of railway enterprise the agency of private companies guaranteed by the state was exclusively employed, and nearly all the great trunk lines were made under this system, but the leases of the last three of these lines, the Great Indian Peninsula, the Bombay Baroda and Central India, and the Madras companies, fell in respectively in 1900, 1905 and 1907. In 1870 a new policy of railway development by the direct agency of the state was inaugurated; and in 1880 the system of encouraging private enterprise by state assistance was again resorted to. Both agencies are now employed side by side. The administration of railways was formerly under a secretary in the public works department; but since 1905 it has been placed in charge of a railway board, consisting of a president and two members, which is connected with, though not subordinate to, the department of commerce and industry. In 1908 the total length of railways open in India was 30,578, m., which carried 330 million passengers and 64 million tons of goods, and yielded a net profit exceeding 4%.

Facilities for irrigation (q.v.) vary widely, and irrigation works differ both in extent and in character. The main distinction arises from the fact that the rivers of northern India are fed by the Himalayan snows, and, therefore, afford Irrigation. a supply of water which surpasses in constancy and volume any of the rivers of the south. In Bombay and Madras almost all the irrigation systems, except in the deltas of the chief rivers, are dependent on reservoirs or “tanks,” which collect the rainfall of the adjacent hills. In Sind and the Punjab there are many canals which act merely as distributaries of the overflow of the great rivers at the time of inundation; but where the utility of the canals has been increased by permanent head-works the supply of water is perennial and practically inexhaustible, thus contrasting favourably with the less certain protection given by tanks. The Irrigation Commission of 1901 advised an expenditure of 30 millions sterling, spread over a term of twenty years, and irrigating 6½ million acres in addition to the 47 millions already irrigated at that time; but it was estimated that that programme would practically exhaust the irrigable land in India, and that some of the later works would be merely protective against the danger of famine, and would not be financially productive.

In addition to the provision and maintenance of roads and the construction of public buildings, the department of public works also provides all works of a public nature, such as water-supply, sanitation, embankments, lighthouses, ferries and bridges, Buildings and roads. which require technical skill. Road-making is an ordinary form of relief work in times of famine. In the famine of 1896-1897, for instance, 579 m. of new roads were made in the Central Provinces alone, and 819 m. were repaired. One of the finest roads in the world is the Grand Trunk Road which stretches across India from Calcutta to Peshawar, and which is metalled most of the way with kankar, a hard limestone outgrowth. The great buildings of ancient India are described under the names of the different cities which contain them.

The post-office of India is under the control of a director-general, in subordination to the department of commerce and industry; and this officer has under him a postmaster-general or deputy postmaster-general in each province. In 1906 the district post, Post Office. originally provided for local convenience and maintained by a local cess, was amalgamated with the imperial post. The mileage over which mails are carried by railway has been constantly increasing with the development of the railway system, but a far larger number are still carried by runners and boats. The total number of letters, &c., carried by the post exceeds 800 millions, and the service yields a small profit to the state. In connexion with the post-office there are inland money order and savings-bank businesses; and in addition the value-payable system, by which the post-office undertakes to recover from the addressee the value of an article sent by post and to remit the amount to the sender, has found great popularity.

Excluding the Indo European telegraph wire, the whole telegraph system of India forms an imperial charge, administered through a Telegraphs. director-general. The total length of line is about 69,000 m., and the net profits of the service approximately pay for new expenditure on capital account.

Telegraphic communication with Europe is maintained by the cable of the Eastern Telegraph Company via Aden, and by the Indo-European system, of which the eastern portion from Teheran and Fao to Karachi belongs to the government of India. The administration of the Indo-European department is in London under the direct control of the secretary of state. The system comprises two sections. The first, called the Persian Gulf section, runs from Karachi to Bushire, from Jask to Muscat, and from Bushire to Fao, where a connexion is made with the Ottoman government line. It includes also the Makran coast lines, running from Jask to Guadur, and thence to Karachi. The second section, known as the Persian section, consists of land lines running from Bushire to Teheran. These land lines, as well as the Makran coast lines, are worked under a treaty with the Persian government. A connexion for extending the system through Persia was signed in 1901, the route to be followed being from Kashan near Teheran to the Baluchistan frontier via Yezd and Kerman.

Bibliography.Imperial Gazetteer of India (new edition, 1907-1909); Census of India (1901); Statistical Atlas of India (1895); G. A. Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India (1903); Sir Thomas Holdich, India (“Regions of the World” series) (1902); Sir John Strachey, India (1903); W. Crooke, Natives of Northern India (1907); W. S. Lilly, India and its Problems (1902); Sidney Low, A Vision of India (1906); R. D. Oldham, Geology of India (1893); W. T. Blanford, Geology of India (1880), and Fauna of British India (1888); R. Lydekker, Great and Small Game of India (1900); Sir J. D. Hooker, Flora of British India (1875); J. S. Gamble, Manual of Indian Timbers (1902); Indian Land Revenue Policy (Calcutta, 1902); B. H. Baden-Powell, The Indian Village Community (1896); Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Life and Labour of the People of India (1907); Theodore Morison, Industrial Organization of an Indian Province (1906); Professor Wyndham Dunstan, Coal Resources of India (Society of Arts, 1902); Sir George Watt, Dictionary of Economic Products of India (1908); Sir George Birdwood, Industrial Arts of India (1880); R. H. Mahon, Iron and Steel in India (1899); Lord Curzon in India (1906); India Office List; The Statesman’s Year-Book; and the government of India’s annual reports.


For an orthodox Hindu the history of India begins more than three thousand years before the Christian era with the events detailed in the great epic of the Mahabharata; but by the sober historian these can only be regarded as legends. See the article Inscriptions: section Indian, for a discussion of the scientific basis of the early history. It is needless to repeat here the analysis given in that article. The following account of the earlier period follows the main outlines of the traditional facts, corrected as far as possible by the inscriptional record; and further details will be found in the separate biographical, racial and linguistic articles, and those on the geographical areas into which India is administratively divided.

Our earliest glimpses of India disclose two races struggling for the soil, the Dravidians, a dark-skinned race of aborigines, and the Aryans, a fair-skinned people, descending from Legends. the north-western passes. Ultimately the Dravidians were driven back into the southern table-land, and the great plains of Hindustan were occupied by the Aryans, who dominated the history of India for many centuries thereafter.

The Rig-Veda forms the great literary memorial of the early Aryan settlements in the Punjab. The age of this primitive folk-song is unknown. The Hindus believe, without evidence, that it existed “from before all time,” or at least 3001 years B.C.—nearly 5000 years ago. European scholars have inferred from astronomical dates that its composition was going on about 1400 B.C. But these dates are themselves given in writings of later origin, and might have been calculated backwards. We only know that the Vedic religion had been at work long before the rise of Buddhism in the 6th century B.C. Nevertheless, the antiquity of the Rig-Veda, although not to be expressed in figures, is abundantly established. The earlier hymns exhibit the Aryans on the north-western frontiers of India just starting on their long journey. They show us the Aryans on the banks of the Indus, divided into various tribes, sometimes at war with each other, sometimes united against the “black-skinned” aborigines. Caste, in its later sense, is unknown. Each father