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almost unknown-countries have assumed great commercial importance. From the Central
Provinces cotton is now sent in large quantities to Europe ; and, indeed, through the city
of Jubbulpore more traffic is said to pass than through any Indian town, Bombay excepted.
The Provinces are governed by a Chief Commissioner, and comprise an area of $1,963
square miles, peopled by about 8,500,000 people, of very diverse origins. The country has
an equally varied soil and surface-table-land, river-valleys, and forest. « Within com-
paratively narrow limits a plateau and a plain follow each other, and again in similar
sequence a larger plateau and a larger plain, ending in a mass of hill and forest, which is
probably the wildest part of the whole Indian Peninsula,” are the words in which the
compiler of the official account of the Province sums up their physical geography. It
may be added that even the plateaux are broken up by isolated peaks and “straggling hill
ranges," and that the rivers which flow through it are, owing to the rugged character of
the ground in many cases, more of the nature of mountain-torrents than the placid floods
with which we are familiar in the plains of India. The scenery in sublimity cannot
compare with that of the Himalaya, but it is pleasing and varied when compared with the
monotony of the plains of Hindostan. In no other part of India is there such a variety
of soils, or such sudden transitions from the most fertile land to another tract which is
barren to the extent of utter unproductiveness. In the pleasant winter months the traveller
will pass through a region green with waving crops of corn; and while he is admiring the
wonderful fertility and beauty of the country he will suddenly come upon a strip of desert
land, or on belts of gravel studded with noble trees. On the Satpura plateau fine deposits
of black soil may be often seen in the hollow of the green rolling basalt, surrounded on
every side by regions uncultivated and unculturable. These valley-oases are often tilled
like gardens, and laden with such crops of opium poppies and sugar-cane that were it not
for their inaccessibility they would tempt away the best ryots of the plains. Tea, coffee,
and other delicate plants, it is thought, might be raised in these upland regions; but
yet the obstacles in the way of these experiments proving successful are so many that
the plateaux are as still sparsely peopled compared with the less healthy but more easily
reached country at their base. Railways and roads are, however, opening up the Central
Provinces, and the recently discovered coal-fields and iron-beds promise to give new life
to the wheat, rice, and cotton growers, and to the herdsmen, for whose cattle there is,
owing to the great number of the inhabitants being Hindoos, little home market. In
addition to the region directly under British rule, there are in the Central Provinces fifteen
small feudatory States, with a population of 1,019,710 souls, the greater number Hindoos
and aborigines of various tribes. The Central Provinces comprise the old Sagur and Ner-
budda districts, the lapsed Mahratta state of Nagpore, and portion of Bundelcund. The latter
country is peopled by Ilindoo tribes, and, in addition to the part under the British Crown,
contains a cluster of petty native States, some of whom remained staunchly loyal to us
during the Mutiny. Jubbulpore, Sagur, Nagpore, and Raipore may be mentioned among
the towns of the Central Provinces. Some of them are of importance, and the first
we have already noticed as a great commercial entrepot for the cotton and other crops of
the country; but Nagpore, a large trading-place celebrated for its cloths, is the capital,
and the residence of the Chief Commissioner.


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British Burmah has already been described (pp. 123–126), but its close neighbour is daily becoming of greater importance. This is the province of Assam, which was in 1825 ceded by Burmah, and in 1874 formed into a Government distinct from that of Bengal, of which up to that date it formed a part.

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This is an outlying province, comparatively thinly peopled, and as yet but little developed, and consequently yielding but a trifling revenue compared with some of the older Governments of India. The last census gave 4,132,019 souls as its population ; and as the area of the country is 41,798 square miles, the number of inhabitants to the square mile cannot be more than 90, while in some of the more densely peopled parts of Bengal from 500 to 573 persons crowd the same space.

Assam Dr. Hunter has aptly characterised as a series of fertile valleys, through which flow the Brahmapootra (p. 187), and the sixty-one smaller streams which swell its flood, after it has entered British territory from its source in the Tibetan plateau. It enters Assam by a series of waterfalls and rapids, “amid vast boulders and accumulations of rock," and the gorge through which its southern branch makes its appearance into the Lakhimpore District has been long a favourite place of pilgrimage for pious Hindoos. In its course through Assam the river will often during the rainy season flood extensive districts, and in its course several islands have been formed. It finally passes into Bengal; and after spreading itself out over the alluvial districts, and changing its name several times, it ends its course of 1,800 miles in the Bay of Bengal, close by the place where the still more celebrated Ganges pours its sacred waters into the same sea. The upper part of the great Assam Valley is “varied and picturesque, walled in on the north and east by the Himalayas, and thickly wooded from the base to the snowline. On either bank of the Brahmapootra a long narrow strip of plain rises almost imperceptibly to the foot of the hills. Gigantic reeds and grasses occupy the lowlands near the banks of the great river ; expanses of rice-land come next; a little higher up, dotted with villages encircled by groves of bamboos and fruit-trees of great size and beauty, the dark forests succeed, covering the interior table-land and mountains. The country in the vicinity of the large rivers is flat, and impenetrable from dense jungle, with the exception of some very low-lying tracts, which are either permanent marshes or are covered with water during the rains. Jungle will not grow in such depressions, and they are covered either with water, reeds, high grasses, or ricecultivation. On or near such open spaces are collected all the villages. As the traveller proceeds further down the valley the country gradually opens out into wide plains. In the western district of Kamrup the country forms one great expanse, with a few elevated tracts here and there, varying from 200 to 800 feet in height.”

The soil of Assam is for the most part black loam, and there are few parts of the country which cannot be cultivated. The hills form the locale of some of the most flourishing tea-plantations, the valleys out of reach of the ordinary floods are favourite haunts of the native cultivators, and the delta, or low lands liable to be overspread by the rising of

the Brahmapootra, attract at certain seasons great herds of elephants and buffaloes, as well as human inbabitants. Rice is the crop which covers most of the cultivated land, but

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it is used entirely within the Province. Tea is, however, extensively exported, though the plant was only discovered to be native to the country as late as 1823, and the first twelve chests of the product of the young plantations received in England fifteen years

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