CUTCH, or KACH, a native state of India within the Gujarat division of Bombay, with an area of 7616 sq. m. It is a peninsular tract of land, enclosed towards the W. by the eastern branch of the Indus, on the S. by the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Cutch, and on the N. and E. towards the interior, by the great northern Runn, a salt morass or lake. The interior of Cutch is studded with hills of considerable elevation, and a range of mountains runs through it from east to west, many of them of the most fantastic shapes, with large isolated masses of rock scattered in all directions. The general appearance of Cutch is barren and uninteresting. The greater part is a rock destitute of soil, and presenting the wildest aspect; the ground is cold, poor and sterile; and the whole face of the country bears marks of volcanic action. From the violence of tyranny, and the rapine of a disorderly banditti, by which this district long suffered, as well as from shocks of earthquakes, the villages have a ruinous and dilapidated appearance; and, with the exception of a few fields in their neighbourhood, the country presents a rocky and sandy waste, with in many places scarcely a show of vegetation. Water is scarce and brackish, and is chiefly found at the bottom of low ranges of hills, which abound in some parts; and the inhabitants of the extensive sandy tracts suffer greatly from the want of it. Owing to the uncertainty of the periodical rains in Cutch, the country is liable to severe famines, and it has suffered greatly from plague.
The temperature of Cutch during the hot season is high, the thermometer frequently rising to 100 or 105 F.; and in the months of April and May clouds of dust and sand, blown about by hurricanes, envelop the houses, the glass windows scarcely affording any protection. The influence of the monsoon is greatly moderated before it reaches this region, and the rains sometimes fail altogether. Bhuj, the capital of the state, is situated inland, and is surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills, some of which approach within 3 or 4 m. of the city. The hill of Bhuja, on which the fort is situated, rises to the height of 500 ft. in the middle of the plain, and is detached from other high ground. The residency is 4 m. distant in a westerly direction. There are many mountain streams, but no navigable rivers. They contain scarcely any water except in the rainy season, when they are very full and rapid, and discharge themselves into the Runn, all along the coast of which the wells and springs are more or less impregnated with common salt and other saline ingredients.
Various causes have contributed to thin the population of this country. In 1813 it was ravaged by a famine and pestilence, which destroyed a great proportion of its inhabitants, according to some accounts, nearly one-half. This, joined to the tyranny and violence of the government until the year 1819, and subsequently to a succession of unfavourable seasons, forced many of the cultivators to remove to Sind and other countries. The inhabitants numbered 488,022 in 1901, being a decrease of 13% during the decade, due to the famines of 1890-1900. One-third are Mahommedans and the remainder Hindus of various castes. The Jareja Rajputs form a particular class, being the aristocracy of the country; and all are more or less connected with the family of the rao or prince. There are in Cutch about 200 of these Jareja chiefs, who all claim their descent from a prince who reigned in Sind about 1000 years ago. From him also the reigning sovereign is lineally descended, and he is the liege lord of whom all the chiefs or nobles hold their lands in feu, for services which they or their ancestors had performed, or in virtue of their relationship to the family. They are all termed the brotherhood of the rao or Bhayad, and supposed to be his hereditary advisers, and their possessions are divided among their male children. To prevent the breaking down of their properties, the necessary consequence of this law of inheritance, there is no doubt that infanticide was common among them, and that it extended to the male as well as the female progeny, but it has been put down by the Infanticide Rules, which provide for the registration of Jareja children. The Jarejas have a tradition that when they entered Cutch they were Mahommedans, but that they afterward adopted the customs and religion of the Hindus. It is certain, indeed, that they still retain many Mahommedan customs. They take oaths equally on the Koran or on the Shastras; they employ Mussulman books; they eat from their hands; the rao, when he appears in public, alternately worships God in a Hindu pagoda and a Mahommedan mosque; and he fits out annually at Mandvi a ship for the conveyance of pilgrims to Mecca, who are maintained during the voyage chiefly by the liberality of the prince. The Mahommedans in Cutch are of the same degenerate class as those usually found in the western parts of India. The natives are in general of a stronger and stouter make, and even handsomer, than those of western India; and the women of the higher classes are also handsome. The peasants are described as intelligent, and the artizans are justly celebrated for their ingenuity and mechanical skill. The palace at Mandvi, and a tomb of one of their princes at Bhuj, are fair specimens of their architectural skill. The estimated gross revenue is 126,322. There are special manufactures of silver filigree-work and embroidery. The maritime population supplies the best sailors in India. There are cotton presses and ginning factories. The country of Cutch was invaded about the 13th century by a body of Mahommedans of the Summa tribe, who under the guidance of five brothers emigrated from Sind, and who gradually subdued or expelled the original inhabitants, consisting of three distinct races. Cutch continued tranquil under their sway for many years, until some family quarrel arose, in which the chief of an elder branch of the tribe was murdered by a rival brother. His son Khengayi fled to Ahmedabad to seek the assistance of the viceroy, who reinstated him in the sovereignty of Cutch, and Morvi in Kithiiwr, and in the title of rao, about the year 1540. The succession continued in the same line from the time of this prince until 1697, when a younger brother, Pragji, murdered his elder brother and usurped the sovereignty. This line of princes continued till 1760 without any remarkable event, when, in the reign of Rao Ghodji, the country was invaded four times by the Sinds, who wasted it with fire and sword. The reign of this prince, as well as that of his son Rao Rayadan, by whom he was succeeded in 1778, was marked by cruelty and blood. The latter prince was dethroned, and, being in a state of mental derangement, was during his lifetime confined by Fateh Mahommed, a native of Sind, who continued, with a short interval (in which the party of the legal heir, Bhaiji Bawa, gained the ascendancy), to rule the country until his death in 1813. It was in the reign of Fateh Mahommed that a communication first took place with the British government. During the contests for the sovereignty between the usurper and the legal heir, the leader of the royal party, Hansraj, the governor of Mandvi, sought the aid of the British. But no closer connexion followed at that time than an agreement for the suppression of piracy, or of inroads of troops to the eastward of the Runn or Gulf of Cutch. But the gulf continued notwithstanding to swarm with pirates, who were openly encouraged or connived at by the son of Hansraj, who had succeeded his father, as well as by Fateh Mahommed. The latter left several sons by different wives, who were competitors for the vacant throne. Husain Miyan succeeded to a considerable portion of his father's property and power. Jugjevan, a Brahman, the late minister of Fateh Mahommed, also received a considerable share of influence; and the hatred of these two factions was embittered by religious animosities, the one being Hindu and the other Mahommedan. The deceased rao had declared himself a Mahommedan, and his adherents were preparing to inter his body in a magnificent tomb, when the Jarejas and other Hindus seized the corpse and consigned it to the flames, according to Hindu custom.
The administration of affairs was nominally in the hands of Husain Miyan and his brother Ibrahim Miyan. Many sanguinary broils now ensued, in the course of which Jugjevan was murdered, and the executive authority was much weakened by the usurpations of the Arabs and other chiefs. In the meantime Ibrahim Miyan was assassinated; and after various other scenes of anarchy, the rao Bharmulji, son of Rao Rayadan, by general consent, assumed the chief power. But his reign was one continued series of the grossest enormities; his hostility to the British became evident, and accordingly a force of 10,500 men crossed the Runn in November 1815, and were within five miles of Bhuj, the capital of the country, when a treaty was concluded, by which the rao Bharmulji was confirmed in his title to the throne, on agreeing, among other stipulations, to cede Anjar and its dependencies in perpetuity to the British. He was, however, so far from fulfilling the terms of this treaty that it was determined to depose him; and an army being sent against him, he surrendered to the British, who made a provision for his maintenance, and elevated his infant son Desalji II. to the throne (1819).
In 1822 the relations subsisting between the ruler of Cutch and the British were modified by a new treaty, under which the territorial cessions made by the rao in 1816 were restored in consideration of an annual payment. The sum fixed was subsequently thought too large, and in 1832 the arrears, amounting to a considerable sum, were remitted, and all future payments on this account relinquished. From that time the rao has paid a subsidy of 13,000 per annum to the British for the maintenance of the military force stationed within his dominions.
Rao Desalji II. did much to suppress infanticide, suttee and the slave trade in his state. His successor Maharao Pragmalji in recognition of his excellent administration was in 1871 honoured with the title of knight grand commander of the Star of India. During his rule harbour works were built at Mandvi, an immense reservoir for rain water in the Chadwa hills was constructed, and many schools and colleges were endowed. In 1876 he was succeeded by Maharaja Rao Khengarji III., who was also a keen advocate for education and especially the education of women. He founded museums, libraries and schools, and inaugurated scholarships and a fund from which deserving scholars desirous of studying in England and America could obtain their expenses.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)