BELLARY, or Ballari, a city and district of India, in the Madras presidency. The city is 305 m. by rail from Madras. Pop. (1901) 58,247. The fort rises from a huge mass of granite rock, which with a circumference of nearly 2 m., juts up abruptly to a height of 450 ft. above the plain. The length of this rock from north-east to south-west is about 1150 ft. To the E. and S. lies an irregular heap of boulders, but to the W. is an unbroken precipice, and the N. is walled by bare rugged ridges. It is defended by two distinct lines of works. The upper fort is a quadrangular building on the summit, with only one approach, and was deemed impregnable by the Mysore princes. But as it has no accommodation for a garrison, it is now only occupied by a small guard of British troops in charge of prisoners. The ex-nawab of Kurnool was confined in it for forty years for the murder of his wife. It contains several cisterns, excavated in the rock. Outside the turreted rampart are a ditch and covered way. The lower fort lies at the eastern base of the rock and measures about half a mile in diameter. It contains the barracks and the commissariat stores, the Protestant church, orphanage, Masonic lodge, post-office and numerous private dwellings. The fort of Bellary was originally built by Hanumapa, in the 16th century. It was first dependent on the kingdom of Vijayanagar, afterwards on Bijapur, and subsequently subject to the nizam and Hyder Ali. The latter erected the present fortifications according to tradition with the assistance of a French engineer in his service, whom he afterwards hanged for not building the fort on a higher rock adjacent to it. Bellary is an important cantonment and the headquarters of a military division. There is a considerable trade in cotton, in connexion with which there are large steam presses, and some manufacture of cotton cloth. There is a cotton spinning mill. In 1901 Bellary was chosen as one of the places of detention in India for Boer prisoners of war.
The district of Bellary has an area of 5714 sq. m. It consists chiefly of an extensive plateau between the Eastern and Western Ghats, of a height varying from 800 to 1000 ft. above the sea. The most elevated tracts are on the west, where the surface rises towards the culminating range of hills, and on the south, where it rises to the elevated tableland of Mysore. Towards the centre the almost treeless plain presents a monotonous aspect, broken only by a few rocky elevations that rise abruptly from the black soil. The hill ranges in Bellary are those of Sandur and Kampli to the west, the Lanka Malla to the east and the Copper Mountain (3148 ft.) to the south-west. The district is watered by five rivers: the Tungabhadra, formed by the junction of two streams, Tunga and Bhadra, the Haggari, Hindri, Chitravati and Pennar, the last considered sacred by the natives. None of the rivers is navigable and all are fordable during the dry season. The climate of Bellary is characterized by extreme dryness, due to the passing of the air over a great extent of heated plains, and it has a smaller rainfall than any other district in south India. The average daily variation of the thermometer is from 67° to 83° F. The prevailing diseases are cholera, fever, small-pox, ophthalmia, dysentery and those of the skin among the lower classes. Bellary is subject to disastrous storms and hurricanes, and to famines arising from a series of bad seasons. There were memorable famines in 1751, 1793, 1803, 1833, 1854, 1866, 1877 and 1896.
In 1901 the population was 947,214, showing an increase of 8% in the decade. The principal crops are millet, other food-grains, pulse, oil-seeds and cotton. There are considerable manufactures of cotton and woollen goods, and cotton is largely exported. The district is traversed by the Madras and Southern Mahratta railways, meeting on the eastern border at Guntakal junction, where another line branches off to Bezwada.
Little is known of the early history of the district. It contains the ruined capital of the ancient Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar, and on the overthrow of that state by the Mahommedans, in 1564, the tract now forming the district of Bellary was split up into a number of military holdings, held by chiefs called poligars. In 1635 the Carnatic was annexed to the Bijapur dominions, from which again it was wrested in 1680 by Sivaji, the founder of the Mahratta power. It was then included in the dominions of Nizam-ul-mulk, the nominal viceroy of the great Mogul in the Deccan, from whom again it was subsequently conquered by Hyder Ali of Mysore. At the close of the war with Tippoo Sultan in 1792, these territories fell to the share of the nizam of Hyderabad, by whom they were ceded to the British in 1800, in return for protection by a force of British troops to be stationed at his capital. In 1808 the "Ceded Districts," as they were called, were split into two districts, Cuddapah and Bellary. In 1882 the district of Anantapur, which had hitherto formed part of Bellary, was formed into a separate collectorate.
See Bellary Gazetteer, 1904.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)