Rajmahal - Encyclopedia

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RAJMAHAL, a former capital of Bengal, India, now a village in the district of the Santal Parganas, situated on the right bank of the Ganges, where that river makes a turn to the south. Pop. (1901) 2047. It was chosen for his residence by Man Singh, Akbar's Rajput general in 1592, but the capital of the province was shortly afterwards transferred to Dacca. It contains many palaces and mosques, now in ruins and overgrown with jungle. It has a station on the loop line of the East Indian railway, but trade has declined since the Ganges abandoned its old bed; and Sahibganj has taken its place. Rajmahal has given its name to a range of hills, almost the only hills in Bengal proper, which here come down close to the bank of the Ganges. They cover a total area of 1366 sq. m., and their height never exceeds 2000 ft. They are inhabited by an aboriginal race, known as Paharias or "hill-men," of whom two tribes may be distinguished: the Male Sauria Paharias and the Mal Paharias; total pop. (1901) 73,000. The former, if not the latter also, are closely akin to the larger tribe of Oraons. Their language, known as Malto, of the Dravidian family, was spoken by 60,777 persons in 1901. The Paharias have contributed an element to the administrative history of Bengal. Augustus Clevland, a civilian who died in 1784 and whose name is still honoured, was the first who succeeded in winning their confidence and recruiting among them a corps of hill-rangers. The methods that he adopted are the foundation of the "nonregulation" system, established in 1796; and the hills were exempted from the permanent settlement. The Santals, a different aboriginal race, have since immigrated in large numbers into the Daman-i-koh, or "skirts of the hills"; but the Paharias alone occupy the plateaux on the top, where they are permitted to practise the privilege of shifting cultivation, which renders scientific forestry impossible. The approach from the plains below to each plateau is guarded by a steep ladder of boulders.

See E. W. Dalton, Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal (Calcutta, 1872); F. B. Bradley-Birt, The Story of an Indian Upland (1905).

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