Belgaum - Encyclopedia

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BELGAUM, a town and district of British India, in the southern division of Bombay. The town is situated nearly 2500 ft. above sea-level; it has a station on the Southern Mahratta railway, 245 m. S. of Poona. It has an ancient fortress, dating apparently from 1519, covering about loo acres, and surrounded by a ditch; within it are two interesting Jain temples. Belgaum contains a cantonment which is the headquarters of a brigade in the 6th division of the western army corps. It is also a considerable centre of trade and of cotton weaving. There are cotton mills. Pop. (1901) 36,878.

The district of Belgaum has an area of 4649 sq. m. To the north and east the country is open and well cultivated, but to the south it is intersected by spurs of the Sahyadri range, thickly covered in some places with forest. In 1901 the population was 993,97 6, showing a decrease of 2% compared with an increase of 17% in the preceding decade. The principal crops are millet, rice, wheat, other food-grains, pulse, oil-seeds, cotton, sugarcane, spices and tobacco. There are considerable manufactures of cotton-cloth. The town of Gokak is known for its dyes, its paper and its wooden and earthenware toys. The West Deccan line of the Southern Mahratta railway runs through the district from north to south. Two high schools at Belgaum town are maintained by government and by the London Mission. The Kurirs, a wandering and thieving tribe, the Kamais, professional burglars, and the Baruds, cattle-stealers and highwaymen, are notorious among the criminal classes.


The ancient name of the town of Belgaum was Venugrama, which is said to be derived from the bamboos that are characteristic of its neighbourhood. The most ancient place in the district is Halsi; and this, according to inscriptions on copper plates discovered in its neighbourhood, was once the capital of a dynasty of nine Kadamba kings. It appears that from the middle of the 6th century A.D. to about 760 the country was held by the Chalukyas, who were succeeded by the Rashtrakutas. After the break-up of the Rashtrakuta power a portion of it survived in the Rattas (875-1250), who from 1210 onward made Venugrama their capital. Inscriptions give evidence of a long struggle between the Rattas and the Kadambas of Goa, who succeeded in the latter years of the 12th century in acquiring and holding part of the district. By 1208, however, the Kadambas had been overthrown by the Rattas, who in their turn succumbed to the Yadavas of Devagiri in 1250. After the overthrow of the Yadavas by the Delhi emperor (1320), Belgaum was for a short time under the rule of the latter; but only a few years later the part south of the Ghatprabha was subject to the Hindu rajas of Vijayanagar. In 1347 the northern part was conquered by the Bahmani dynasty, which in 1473 took the town of Belgaum and conquered the southern part also. When Aurungzeb overthrew the Bijapur sultans in 1686, Belgaum passed to the Moguls. In 1776 the country was overrun by Hyder Ali, but was retaken by the Peshwa with British assistance. In 1818 it was handed over to the East India Company and was made part of the district of Dharwar. In 1836 this was divided into two parts, the southern district continuing to be known as Dharwar, the northern as Belgaum.

See Imp. Gazetteer of India (Oxford, ed. 1908), s.v.

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