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MADRAS, a presidency of British India—officially styled Fort St George—occupying, with its dependencies, the entire south of the Indian peninsula. The north boundary is extremely irregular. On the extreme N.E. is the Bengal province of Orissa; then the wild highlands of the Central Provinces; next the dominions of the nizam of Hyderabad; and lastly, on the N.W., the Bombay districts of Dharwar and North Kanara. Geographically Mysore and Coorg lie within the bounds of Madras, and politically it includes the Laccadive Islands, off the Malabar coast, in the Indian Ocean. Its total area, including native states, is 151,695 sq. m., and its population in 1901 was 42,397,522, showing an increase of 7.7% in the decade. The seat of government is at Madras city.

History.—Until the British conquest the whole of southern India had never acknowledged a single ruler. The difficult nature of the hill passes and the warlike character of the highland tribes forbade the growth of great empires, such as succeeded one another on the plains of Hindustan. The Tamil country in the extreme south is traditionally divided between the three kingdoms of Pandya, Chola and Chera. The west coast supplied the nucleus of a monarchy which afterwards extended over the highlands of Mysore, and took its name from the Carnatic. On the north-east the kings of Kalinga at one time ruled over the entire line of seaboard from the Kistna to the Ganges. Hindu legend has preserved marvellous stories of these early dynasties, but our only authentic evidence consists in their inscriptions on stone and brass, and their noble architecture (see India). The Mahommedan invader first established himself in the south in the beginning of the 14th century. Ala-ud-din, the second monarch of the Khilji dynasty at Delhi, and his general Malik Kafur conquered the Deccan, and overthrew the kingdoms of Karnataka and Telingana, which were then the most powerful in southern India. But after the withdrawal of the Mussulman armies the native monarchy of Vijayanagar arose out of the ruins. This dynasty gradually extended its dominions from sea to sea, and reached a pitch of prosperity before unknown. At last, in 1565, it was overwhelmed by a combination of the four Mahommedan principalities of the Deccan. At the close of the reign of Aurangzeb, although that emperor nominally extended his sovereignty as far as Cape Comorin, in reality South India had again fallen under a number of rulers who owned no regular allegiance. The nizam of the Deccan, himself an independent sovereign, represented the distant court of Delhi. The most powerful of his feudatories was the nawab of the Carnatic, with his capital at Arcot. In Tanjore, a descendant of Sivaji ruled; and on the central table-land a Hindu chieftain was gradually establishing his authority and founding the state of Mysore, destined soon to pass to a Mahommedan usurper.

Vasco da Gama cast anchor off Calicut on the 20th of May 1498, and for a century the Portuguese retained in their control the commerce of India. The Dutch began to establish themselves on the ruin of the Portuguese at the beginning of the 17th century, and were quickly followed by the English, who established themselves at Calicut and Cranganore in 1616. Tellicherry became the principal English emporium on the west coast of Madras. The Portuguese eventually retired to Goa, and the Dutch to the Spice Islands. The first English settlement on the east coast was in 1611, at Masulipatam, even then celebrated for its fabrics. Farther south a fort, the nucleus of Madras city, was erected in 1640. Pondicherry was purchased by the French in 1762. For many years the English and French traders lived peacefully side by side, and with no ambition for territorial aggrandisement. The war of the Austrian succession in Europe lit the first flame of hostility on the Coromandel coast. In 1746 Madras was forced to surrender to La Bourdonnais, and Fort St David remained the only English possession in southern India. By the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle Madras was restored to the English; but from this time the rivalry of the two nations was keen, and found its opportunities in the disputed successions which always fill a large place in Oriental politics. English influence was generally able to secure the favour of the rulers of the Carnatic and Tanjore, while the French succeeded in placing their own nominee on the throne at Hyderabad. At last Dupleix rose to be the temporary arbiter of the fate of southern India, but he was overthrown by Clive, whose defence of Arcot in 1751 forms the turning point in Indian history. In 1760 the crowning victory of Wandewash was won by Colonel (afterwards Sir Eyre) Coote, over Lally, and in the following year, despite help from Mysore, Pondicherry was captured.

Though the English had no longer any European rival, they had yet to deal with Mahommedan fanaticism and the warlike population of the highlands of Mysore. The dynasty founded by Hyder Ali, and terminating in his son Tippoo Sultan, proved itself in four several wars, which terminated only in 1799, the most formidable antagonist which the English had ever encountered (see Hyder Ali and India). Since the beginning of the 19th century Madras has known no regular war, but occasional disturbances have called for measures of repression. The pálegárs or local chieftains long clung to their independence after their country was ceded to the British. On the west coast, the feudal aristocracy of the Nairs, and the religious fanaticism of the Moplahs, have more than once led to rebellion and bloodshed. In the extreme north, the wild tribes occupying the hills of Ganjam and Vizagapatam have only lately learned the habit of subordination. In 1836 the zamíndarí of Gumsur in this remote tract was attached by government for the rebellious conduct of its chief. An inquiry then instituted revealed the wide prevalence among the tribe of Kondhs of human sacrifice, under the name of meriah. The practice has since been suppressed by a special agency. In 1879 the country round Rampa on the northern frontier was the scene of riots sufficiently serious to lead to the necessity of calling out troops. The same necessity arose three years later, when the Hindus and Mahommedans of Salem came into collision over a question of religious ceremonial. A more serious disturbance was that known as the “Anti-Shanar riots” of 1899. The Maravans of Tinnevelly and parts of Madura, resenting the pretensions of the Shanans, a toddy-drawing caste, to a higher social and religious status, organized attacks on Shanan villages. The town of Sivakasi was looted and burnt by five thousand Maravans. Quiet was restored by the military, and a punitive police force was stationed in the disturbed area.

The different territories comprising the Madras presidency were acquired by the British at various dates. In 1763 the tract encircling Madras city, then known as the Jagir now Chingleput district, was ceded by the nawab of Arcot. In 1765 the Northern Circars, out of which the French had recently been driven, were granted to the Company by the Mogul emperor, but at the price of an annual tribute of £90,000 to the nizam of Hyderabad. Full rights of dominion were not acquired till 1823, when the tribute was commuted for a lump payment. In 1792 Tippoo was compelled to cede the Baramahal (now part of Salem district), Malabar and Dindigul subdivision of Madura. In 1799, on the reconstruction of Mysore state after Tippoo’s death, Coimbatore and Kanara were appropriated as the British share; and in the same year the Mahratta raja of Tanjore resigned the administration of his territory, though his descendant retained titular rank till 1855. In 1800 Bellary and Cuddapah were made over by the nizam of Hyderabad to defray the expense of an increased subsidiary force. In the following year the dominions of the nawab of the Carnatic, extending along the east coast almost continuously from Nellore to Tinnevelly, were resigned into the hands of the British by a puppet who had been put upon the throne for the purpose. The last titular nawab of the Carnatic died in 1855; but his representative still bears the title of prince of Arcot, and is recognized as the first native nobleman in Madras. In 1839 the nawab of Kurnool was deposed for misgovernment and suspicion of treason, and his territories annexed.

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Physical Aspect.—The Madras presidency may be roughly divided into three tracts: (1) the long and broad east coast, (2) the shorter and narrower west coast, and (3) the high interior table-land. These divisions are determined by the great mountain ranges of the Eastern and Western Ghats (q.v.). Between these two ranges lies the central table-land, with an elevation of 1000 to 3000 ft., which includes the whole of Mysore, and extends over about half a dozen districts of Madras. The Anaimudi mountain (8837 ft.) in Travancore is the highest in southern India. The Nilgiri hills, which join the Ghats, culminate in Dodabetta (8760 ft.). There are besides many outlying spurs and tangled masses of hills, of which the Shevaroys, Anamalais and Palnis are the most important. The Godavari, Kistna and Cauvery rivers, each having a large tributary system, all rise in the Western Ghats, and run across the peninsula in a south-east direction into the Bay of Bengal. In the upper parts of their course they drain rather than water the country through which they flow, and are comparatively valueless either for navigation or irrigation; but before reaching the sea they spread over alluvial deltas. Smaller rivers of the same character are the Pennar and South Pennar or Ponniar, Palar, Vaigai, Vellar and Tambraparni. The principal lake is that of Pulicat on the east coast, which is 37 m. long from north to south, and forms an important means of communication between Madras city and the northern districts. On the west coast are a remarkable series of backwaters or lagoons, fringing the seaboard of Kanara, Malabar and Travancore. The largest is the backwater of Cochin, which extends 120 m. from north to south.

Geology.—By far the greater part of Madras is occupied by granitic and gneissic rocks of very ancient date. Among them are the “charnockites,” a series of associated eruptive rocks characterized by the presence of rhombic pyroxenes. In Bellary and Anantapur districts, as well as in Mysore and Hyderabad, several long narrow strips of a later formation, known as the Dharwar system, are folded or faulted into the gneissic floor. They run from N.N.W. to S.S.E., and consist of conglomerates, lavas and schists. All the quartz reefs which contain gold in paying quantities are found within these Dharwar bands, those of the Kolar goldfield in Mysore being the most important. The gneissic and Dharwar rocks are overlaid unconformably by the sandstones, limestones, shales, &c., of the Cuddapah and Kurnool series. It is in the sandstones and shales of the Kurnool group that most of the diamonds of southern India are found; but as these rocks are of sedimentary origin, it is probable that the diamonds were originally derived from some still unknown source. A strip of Gondwana beds follows approximately the course of the Godavari. In Hyderabad it includes the important Singareni coalfield, but in the Presidency no good coal seams have yet been found. Upper Gondwana beds also occur in small patches at several other places near the east coast. Marine cretaceous deposits are found in three detached areas, near Trichinopoly, Viruddhachalam and Pondicherry. Some of the coastal sandstones may be of late Tertiary age, but Tertiary fossils have not been found except in a few small patches on the west coast, the most southerly being near Quilon in Travancore.

Climate.—The climate varies in accordance with the height of the mountain chain on the western coast. Where this chain is lofty, as between Malabar and Coimbatore, the rainclouds are intercepted and give a rainfall of 150 in. on the side of the sea, and only 20 in. on the landward side. Where the range is lower, the rainclouds pass over the hills and carry their moisture to the interior districts. The Nilgiri hills enjoy the climate of the temperate zone, with a moderate rainfall. The Malabar coast has a rainfall of 150 in., and the clouds on the Western Ghats sometimes obscure the sun for months at a time. Along the eastern coasts and central table-lands the rainfall is low and the heat excessive. At Madras city the average rainfall is 50 in., but this is considerably above the mean of the east coast.

Minerals.—The mineral wealth of the province is undeveloped. Iron of excellent quality has been smelted by native smiths in many localities from time immemorial; but attempts to work the beds after European methods have proved unsuccessful. Carboniferous sandstone extends across the Godavari valley as far as Ellore, but the coal has been found to be of inferior quality. Among other minerals may be mentioned manganese in Vizagapatam, and mica in Nellore. Garnets are abundant in the sandstone of the Northern Circars, and diamonds of moderate value are found in the same region. Stone and gravel quarries are very numerous. Forests.—The forest department of Madras was first organized in 1856, and it is estimated that forests cover a total area of more than 19,600 sq. m., the whole of which is under conservancy rules. An area of about 1500 sq. m. is strictly conserved. In the remaining forests, after supplying local wants, timber is either sold direct by the department or licences are granted to wood-cutters. The more valuable timber trees comprise teak, ebony, rosewood, sandal-wood and redwood. The trees artificially reared are teak, sandal-wood, Casuarina and eucalyptus. The finest teak plantation is near Beypur in Malabar. At Mudumalli there are plantations of both teak and sandal-wood; and the eucalyptus or Australian gum-tree grows on the Nilgiris in magnificent clumps.

Fauna.—The wild animals include the elephant, bison, sambur and ibex of the Western Ghats and the Nilgiris. Bison are found also in the hill tracts of the Northern Circars. In Travancore state the black leopard is not uncommon. The elephant is protected by law from indiscriminate destruction. The cattle are small, but in Nellore and along the Mysore frontier a superior breed is carefully kept up by the wealthier farmers. The best buffaloes are imported from the Bombay district of Dharwar.

Population.—The population in 1901 was divided into Hindus (37,026,471), Mahommedans (2,732,931), and Christians (1,934,480). The Hindus may be subdivided into Sivaites, Vishnuvites and Lingayats. The Sivaites are most numerous in the extreme south and on the west coast, while the Vishnuvites are chiefly found in the northern districts. The Lingayats, a sect of Sivaite puritans, derive their name from their practice of carrying about on their persons the linga or emblem of Siva. The Brahmans follow various pursuits, and some of them are recent immigrants, who came south in the train of the Mahratta armies. A peculiar caste of Brahmans, called Nambudri, is found in Malabar. The most numerous of the hill tribes are the Kondhs and Savaras, two cognate races who inhabit the mountainous tracts of the Eastern Ghats, attached to several of the large estates of Ganjam and Vizagapatam. On the Nilgiris the best known aboriginal tribe is the Todas (q.v.). The Mahommedans are subdivided into Labbai, Moplah, Arab, Sheikh, Sayad, Pathan and Mogul. The Labbais are the descendants of Hindu converts, and are traders by hereditary occupation, although many now employ themselves as sailors and fishermen. The Moplahs are the descendants of Malayalam converts to Islam—the head of the tribe, the raja of Cannanore, being descended from a fisher family in Malabar. They are a hard-working, frugal people, but quite uneducated and fanatical, and under the influence of religious excitement have often disturbed the public peace. Christians are more numerous in Madras than in any other part of India. In Travancore and Cochin states the native Christians constitute as much as one-fourth of the population. The Roman Catholics, whose number throughout southern India is estimated at upwards of 650,000, owe their establishment to St Francis Xavier and the famous Jesuit mission of Madura; they are partly under the authority of the archbishop of Goa, and partly under twelve Jesuit vicariates. Protestant missions date from the beginning of the 18th century. The Danes were the pioneers; but their work was taken up by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, under whom laboured the great Lutherans of the 18th century—Schultz, Sartorius, Fabricius and Schwartz. The Church Missionary Society entered the field in 1814; and subsequently an American mission joined in the work.

Languages.—Broadly speaking, the entire population of Madras belongs to the five linguistic offshoots of the great Dravidian stock, dominant throughout southern India. At an early period, before the dawn of history, these races appear to have accepted some form of the Brahmanical or Buddhist faiths. Many storms of conquest have since swept over the land, and colonies of Mogul and Mahratta origin are to be found here and there. But the evidence of language proves that the ethnical character of the population has remained stable under all these influences, and that the Madras Hindu, Mahommedan, Jain and Christian are of the same stock. Of the five Dravidian languages in British territory Telugu is spoken by over 14,000,000 persons; Tamil by over 15,000,000 persons; Kanarese by over 1,500,000 persons; Malayalam by nearly 3,000,000 persons; and Tulu by about 500,000 persons. Oriya is the native tongue in the extreme north of Ganjam, bordering on Orissa; and various sub-dialects of Dravidian origin are used by the hill tribes of the Eastern Ghats, of whom the Kondhs may be taken as the type.

Agriculture.—Over the greater part of the area of Madras artificial irrigation is impossible, and cultivation is dependent upon the local rainfall, which rarely exceeds 40 in. a year, and is liable to fall irregularly. The Malabar coast is the only part where the rainfall brought by the south-west monsoon may be trusted both for its amount and regularity. Other districts, such as Bellary, are also dependent upon this monsoon; but in their case the rainclouds have spent themselves in passing over the Western Ghats, and cultivation becomes a matter of hazard. Over the greater part of the presidency the rainy season is caused by the south-east monsoon, which breaks about the end of September. The deltas of the Godavari, Kistna and Cauvery rivers are the only spots on the east coast which artificial irrigation is able to save from the risk of occasional scarcity. The principal food staples are rice, cholam, cambu, ragi and varagu (four kinds of millet). The most common oil-seed is gingelly (sesamum). Garden crops comprise tobacco, sugar-cane, chillies, betel-leaf and plantains. Sugar is chiefly derived from the sap of palms. The fruit trees are coco-nut, areca-nut, palmyra palm, jack, tamarind and mango. Special crops include cotton, indigo, coffee, tea, cinchona. The best cotton is grown in Tinnevelly. The principal coffee tract stretches along the slopes of the Western Ghats from the north of Mysore almost down to Cape Comorin. The larger portion of this area lies within Mysore, Coorg and Travancore states, but the Wynaad and the Nilgiri hills are within Madras. The first coffee plantation was opened in the Wynaad in 1840. Many of the early clearings proved unprofitable, and the enterprise made little progress till about 1855. Coffee, which is much cultivated on the Nilgiris, covers about 100 sq. m., though the area fluctuates. The tea plant was also introduced into the Nilgiri hills about 1840, but was not taken up as a commercial speculation till 1865, and is still unimportant. The cinchona plant was successfully introduced into the Nilgiri hills by the government in 1860, and there are now a few plantations belonging to private owners.

The greater part of the soil in Madras is held by the cultivators direct from the government under the tenure known as ryotwari. Besides these lands in the hands of the government, there are also proprietary or zamindari estates in all parts of the country. These estates are either the remains of ancient principalities, which the holder cannot sell or encumber beyond his own life interest, or they are creations of British rule and subject to the usual Hindu custom of partition. The total area of the zamindari estates is about 26 million acres, more than one-fourth of the whole presidency. The peshkash or tribute payable to government in perpetuity amounts to about £330,000 a year. Ináms, revenue-free or quit-rent grants of lands made for religious endowments or for services rendered to the state, occupy an aggregate area of nearly 8 million acres.

Manufactures.—Madras possesses few staple manufactures. The chief industries of the presidency are cotton-ginning, coffee-curing, fish-curing, indigo-pressing, oil-pressing, printing, rice-curing, rope-making, sugar-refining, tanning, tile and brick-making, and tobacco-curing. Up to the close of the 18th century cotton goods constituted the main article of export. Masulipatam, where the first English factory on the Coromandel coast was established in 1620, enjoyed a special reputation for its chintzes, which were valued for the freshness and permanency of their dyes. There is still a small demand for these articles in Burma, the Straits and the Persian Gulf; but Manchester goods have nearly beaten the Indian exporter out of the field. Native looms, however, still hold their own in the local market, in face of strenuous opposition. After weaving, working in metals appears to be the most widespread native industry. Among local specialities which have attracted European curiosity may be mentioned the jewelry of Trichinopoly, ornaments of ivory and horn worked at Vizagapatam, and sandal-wood carving in Kanara.

Commerce and Trade.—The continuous seaboard of the Madras presidency, without any natural harbours of the first rank, has tended to create a widely diffused trade. Madras city conducts nearly one-half of the total sea-borne commerce; next comes Malabar, containing the western railway terminus near Calicut; then Godavari, with its cluster of ports along the fringe of the delta; Tinnevelly, with the harbour at Tuticorin, which has opened large dealings with Ceylon and Burma; Tanjore, South Kanara, Ganjam and Vizagapatam. As compared with the other provinces, the trade of Madras is broadly marked by the larger proportion assigned to coasting trade with other Indian ports and with Ceylon. The chief staples of the export trade are hides and skins, coffee and raw cotton. Railways and Irrigation.—The presidency is well supplied with railways, which naturally have their centre in Madras city, the chief seaport. The broad-gauge line of the Madras & Southern Mahratta railway connects with Bombay and Bangalore, and also crosses the peninsula to Calicut on the western coast. The South Indian (narrow-gauge) serves the extreme south, with its terminus at Tuticorin, and branches to Tinnevelly, Negapatam, Erade, Pondicherry and Nellore. The narrow-gauge line of the Madras & Southern Mahratta railway traverses the Deccan districts; and the East Coast line (broad-gauge), through the Northern Circars, has brought Madras into direct communication with Calcutta. The Madras system of irrigation has been most successful in the case of the three great eastern rivers, the Godavari, Kistna and Cauvery. Each of these is intercepted by an anicut or dam at the head of its delta, from which canals diverge on each side for navigation as well as irrigation. The scheme for diverting the waters of the Tungabhadra (a tributary of the Kistna) over the thirsty uplands of Kurnool proved a failure. The bold project of leading the Periyar river through a tunnel across the watershed of the Travancore hills on to the plain of Madura has been more successful. Administration.—The Madras presidency is administered by a governor and a council, consisting of two members of the civil service, which number may be increased to four. There is also a board of revenue of three members. The number of districts is 24, each under the charge of a collector, with sub-collectors and assistants. The districts are not grouped into divisions or commissionerships, as in other provinces. For legislative purposes the council of the governor is augmented by additional members, numbering 45 in all, of whom not more than 17 may be nominated officials, while 19 are elected by various representative constituencies. Members of the legislative council enjoy the right of interpellation, of proposing resolutions on matters of public interest, and of discussing the annual financial statement. The principle of local devolution is carried somewhat further in Madras than in other provinces. At the bottom are union panchayats or village committees, whose chief duty is to attend to sanitation. Above them come taluk or subdivisional boards. At the head of all are district boards, a portion of whose members are elected by the taluk boards.

Education.—The chief educational institutions are the Madras University, the Presidency College, Madras Christian College, and Pachayyappa’s College at Madras; the government arts colleges at Combaconum and Rajahmundry; the law college, medical college and engineering college at Madras; the college of agriculture at Coimbatore; the teachers’ college at Saidapet; the school of arts at Madras; and the military orphanage at Ootacamund, in memory of Sir Henry Lawrence. In 1907, the total number of pupils at all institutions was 1,007,118, of whom 164,706 were females, and 132,857 were learning English.


See Madras Manual of Administration, 3 vols. (Madras, 1885 and 1893); S. Ayyangar, Forty Years’ Progress in Madras (Madras, 1893); J. P. Rees, Madras (Society of Arts, 1901); Madras Provincial Gazetteer (2 vols., Calcutta, 1908).

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 17. pp. 288-291.

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