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Cuttack

CUTTACK, a city and district of British India in the Orissa division of Bengal. The city is situated at the head of the delta of the Mahanadi. Pop. (1901) 51,364. It is the centre of the Orissa canal system, and an important station on the East Coast railway from Madras to Calcutta. It contains the government college, named after Mr Ravenshaw, a former commissioner; a high school, a training school, a survey school, a medical school and a law school. The city formed one of the five royal strongholds of ancient Orissa and was founded by a warlike Hindu prince, Makar Kesari, who reigned from 953 to 961. Native kings protected it from the rivers by a masonry embankment several miles long, built of enormous blocks of hewn stone, and in some places 25 ft. high. A fortress defended the north-west corner of the town, and was captured by the English from the Mahrattas in October 1803. It is now abandoned as a place of defence.

The DISTRICT OF CUTTACK lies in the centre of Orissa, occupying the deltas of the Mahanadi and Brahmani, together with a hilly tract inland. Its area is 3654 sq. m. It consists of three physical divisions: first, a marshy woodland strip along the coast, from 3 to 30 m. in breadth; second, an intermediate stretch of rice plains; third, a broken hilly region, which forms the western boundary of the district. The marshy strip along the coast is covered with swamps and malaria-breeding jungles. Towards the sea the solid land gives place to a vast network of streams and creeks, whose sluggish waters are constantly depositing silt, and forming morasses or quicksands. Cultivation does not begin till the limits of this dismal region are passed. The intermediate rice plains stretch inland for about 40 m. and occupy the older part of the delta between the sea-coast strip and the hilly frontier. They are intersected by three large rivers, the Baitarani, Brahmani and Mahanadi. These issue in magnificent streams through three gorges in the frontier hills. The Cuttack delta is divided into two great valleys, one of them lying between the Baitarani and the Brahmani, the other between the Brahmani and the Mahanadi. The rivers having, by the silt of ages, gradually raised their beds, now run along high levels. During floods they pour over their banks upon the surrounding valleys, by a thousand channels which interlace and establish communication between the main streams. After numerous bifurcations they find their way into the sea by three principal mouths. Silt-banks and surf-washed bars render the entrance to these rivers perilous. The best harbour in Cuttack district is at False Point, on the north of the Mahanadi estuary. It consists of an anchorage, land-locked by islands or sand-banks, and with two fair channels navigable towards the land. The famine commissioners in 1867 reported it to be the best harbour on the coast of India from the Hugli to Bombay.

The intermediate tract is a region of rich cultivation, dotted with great banyan trees, thickets of bamboos, exquisite palm foliage and mango groves. The hilly frontier separates the delta of British Orissa from the semi-independent tributary states. It consists of a series of ranges, 10 to 15 m. in length, running nearly due east and west, with densely-wooded slopes and lovely valleys between. The timber, however, is small, and is of little value except as fuel. The political character of these three tracts is as distinct as are their natural features. The first and third are still occupied by feudal chiefs, and have never been subjected to a regular land-settlement, by either the Mussulman or the British government. They pay a light fixed tribute. The intermediate rice plains, known as the Mogholbandi, from their having been regularly settled by the Mahommedans, have yielded to the successive dynasties and conquerors of Orissa almost the whole of the revenues derived from the province. The deltaic portions are of course a dead level; and the highest hills within the district in the western or frontier tract do not exceed 2500 ft. They are steep, and covered with jungle, but can be climbed by men. The most interesting of them are the Assa range, with its sandal trees and Buddhist remains; Udayagiri (Sunrise-hill), with its colossal image of Buddha, sacred reservoir, and ruins; and Assagiri, with its mosque of 1719. The Mahavinayaka peak, visible from Cuttack, has been consecrated for ages to Siva-worship by ascetics and pilgrims.

The population of the district in 1901 was 2,062,758, showing an increase of 6% in the preceding decade. The aboriginal tribes here, as elsewhere, cling to their mountains and jungles. They chiefly consist of the Bhumij, Tala, Kol and Savara peoples, the Savaras being by far the most numerous, numbering 14,775. They are regarded by the orthodox Hindus as little better than the beasts of the wildernesses which they inhabit. Miserably poor, they subsist for the most part by selling firewood or other products of their jungle; but a few of them have patches of cultivated land, and many earn wages as day labourers to the Hindus. They occupy, in fact, an intermediate stage of degradation between the comparatively well-to-do tribes in the tributary states (the stronghold and home of the race), and the Pans, Bauris, Kandras and other semi-aboriginal peoples on the lowlands, who rank as the basest castes of the Hindu community. The great bulk of the Indo-Aryan or Hindu population consists of Uriyas, with a residue of immigrant Bengalis, Lala Kayets from Behar and northern India, Telingas from the Madras coast, Mahrattas from central and western India, a few Sikhs from the Punjab and Marwaris from Rajputana. The Mahommedans are chiefly the descendants of the Pathans who took refuge in Orissa after the subversion of their kingdom in Bengal by the Moguls in the 16th century.

Rice forms the staple product of the district; its three chief varieties are Mali or early rice, sarad or winter rice, and dalua or spring rice. The other cereal crops consist of mand.ua (a grass-like plant producing a coarse grain resembling rice), wheat, barley, and china, a rice-like cereal. Suan, another rice-l : ke cereal, not cultivated, grows spontaneously in the paddy fie'ds. Pulses of different sorts, oilseeds, fibres, sugar-cane, tobacco, spices and vegetables also form crops of the district. The cultivatOiS consist of two classes the resident husbandmen (thani) and tLe nonresident or migratory husbandmen (pake).

The Orissa canal system, which lies mainly within Cuttack district, is used both for irrigation and transport purposes. The railway across the district towards Calcutta, a branch of the Bengal-Nagpur system, was opened in 1899. Considerable trade is carried on at the mouth of the rivers along the coast.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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