NOAKHALI, a town and district of British India, in the Chittagong division of eastern Bengal and Assam. The town, also known as Sudharam, is on a small river channel 10 m. from the sea. Pop (1901) 6520. The District of Noakhali has an area of 1644 sq. m.; pop. (1901) 1,141,728. The district consists of an alluvial tract of mainland, together with several islands at the mouth of the Meghna. In general, each homestead is surrounded by a thick grove of beteland coco-nut palms, and in the north-western tracts dense forests of betel-nut palms extend for miles. Rice is the great staple of cultivation. The district is very fertile; and, with the exception of some sandbanks and recent accretions, every part of it is under continuous cultivation. The process of alluvion is gradually but steadily going on, the mainland extending seawards. Noakhali is peculiarly liable to destructive floods from the sea, generally caused by southerly gales or cyclones occurring at the time when the Meghna is swollen by heavy rains, and at flood-tides - the tidal bore being sometimes 20 ft. high, and moving at the rate of 15 m. an hour. The cyclone and storm-wave of the 31st of 'October 1876 was terribly disastrous, sweeping over the whole delta of the Meghna. The loss of human life was estimated at 100,000. The east of the district is served by the Assam-Bengal railway.
The Mahommedan population of the islands at the mouth of the Meghna practised piracy up to a comparatively recent date, and at the beginning of the 17th century Portuguese pirates, under Sebastian Gonzales, occupied Sandwip. They were ultimately reduced to subjection by Shaista Khan, the governor of Bengal, about the middle of the century; and their descendants have sunk to the level of the natives surrounding them, whose dress, customs and language they have, for the most part, adopted. They are Christians, and retain the old Portuguese names. About 1756 the East India Company established factories in Noakhali and Tippera, the ruins of some of which still remain.
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