FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1747 (a) [from 1746]: Gujarat to Rajasthan|
|Documented causes: drought|
|Documented effects: heavy mortality; migration; cannibalism|
|Lieut. Col. A.T. Etheridge, "Report on Past Famines in the Bombay Presidency" (1868) [Reports collected by local officials in all districts]|
|p32 (Pahlunpoor, by Lieut. Col. Arthur): "... there were some records, but these were either destroyed by fire or carried off by the Khossa and Marwar forces that attacked and plundered these States during the latter part of the past and the beginning of the present century. ... The only source now left of obtaining information required is therefore to invoke the aid of tradition, and trust to the accounts of those who either witnessed the more recent famines, or have heard of them from their forefathers. From such enquiry it appears that there had been total failures of rain in the years A.D. 1747, 1756, [etc. after 1767] ...|
Distress consequent on these bad seasons was felt by the people from want of grain, which was not grown at all in those years. The poorer portion of the population were the more affected, and many are said to have died from sheer want of food. There was no grass grown in these years, and consequently the rich, when possible, removed their animals to more favoured places, those belonging to the poor all dying from hunger. This, however, limited the source of subsistence to those who used animal food, viz., the Bheels, Kolees, &c. The result was that, notwithstanding that stores of the previous years in the possession of the Bunias and those of the upper class were used to mitigate the severity of the scarcity, yet the people migrated towards districts where grain was procurable."
p40 (Ahmedabad, by Acting Collector Borradaile, from "records of the former Padshahee Dewan" + "the Mamlutdar of Purantej"): "The next famine ... is the 'Tulotero,' Hijree 1161, A.D. 1747. Few such famines, he says, can ever have occurred in which not a drop of rain fell, nor did a blade of grass grow. On this occasion the people of the city turned out for three days to pray for rain, but without effect. Prices rose daily. A Rupee would purchase only three or four seers of grain. The people died in numbers, as did cattle. Many ate the flesh of cattle which had so died. Tanks and rivers were dried up. The people in the villages becoming restless like fish, for want of water, left their homes and wandered from jungle to jungle, numbers also going into Malwa and other places. No estimate can be formed of those that perished. The villages then depopulated were never again inhabited. The rain failed in the same way the next year. In this account the famine is ascribed to failure of rain; the Mamlutdar of Purantej, reporting of his own district for the same year, ascribes it to an excessive rainfall, and draws a much milder picture of the calamity. Common grain was there sold 8 or 10 seers (Kutcha) for a Rupee, while ghee was even cheaper; cattle thriving unusually well owing to the abundance of grass. Prices remained high during seven years, common kinds of grain never falling lower than 20 seers for a Rupee. During these seven years the people were free from sickness, which, however, prevailed for two months afterwards, during which many people died. Purantej is the only Talooka from which information has been received about this famine. It is merely alluded to in the Gogo report. This may be accounted for by its having occurred so long ago, for, from the Padshahee Dewan giving it so much prominence, it must have extended very widely. It does not appear that any measures of relief were adopted."
p60 (Unclesir & Hansote, Surat, by the District Deputy Collector, from "the old hereditary revenue officers"): "Sumvut Year 1803 (Corresponding Christian Year 1747). Great famine. Cultivators fled to Malwa for food. Government called them back and made remissions of rent, and also made advances in the shape of Tuccavee. During this year of great distress the then Government distributed grain free of charge; some portions of the Pergunnahs were notwithstanding desolated. The information is obtained from the old hereditary revenue officers. No record, private or public, is forthcoming."
|"A History of Gujarat: Vol. II. The Mughal Period from 1573 to 1758" (1957)|
|p495: "The rainy season of 1747 (Samvat 1803 [i.e. this season would be late 1746 to early 1747]) was an absolute failure and the crops perished. The distress that followed was beyond the memory of anyone then living. For three days, Jawan Mard Khan, accompanied by the citizens, high and low, offered public prayers, but in vain. People in the villages, who tried to satisfy their gnawing hunger by eating grass roots, perished in large numbers, and there was heavy mortality among the cattle for lack of fodder. The consumption of the flesh of dead people became a legitimate practice. Tanks and wells became dry and empty, so that water-famine accompanied food-famine, and the stream of the Sabarmati shrank into a thin line. The lack of water was particularly severe in the district of Patan, and owing to this dire distress the people left their homes in caravans for the adjoining parts of Malwa and entire villages became depopulated. The distress was not relieved till the advent of the rains in the following season."|
|Theodore Morison, "The economic transition in India" (1911)|
|p115-6: "1747. Bombay.- 'Letter from Surat advises "that it is well known the Calamities in and about Surat were so great that people perished daily for want, others sold their children to support themselves." ' ("Bombay Public Consultations Range 341," vol. xv.)"|
|Alexander Rogers, "The land revenue of Bombay; a history of its administration …" (vol. 1, 1892)|
|p57: [Contrasts observed in Parantej subdivision, Ahmadabad, Gujarat] "… The difference between the two divisions is marked in several ways, Parantej having a population of 203 to the square mile of comparatively well-to-do, industrious, and skilful cultivators, mostly Kunbis, and Modasa one of only 96, mostly poor and unskilful Kolis, only reclaimed from turbulence and habits of plunder since the advent of British rule. It was stated by Lieut. Melvill, under whom a so-called Revenue Survey was carried out in 1823-1824, as in other parts of the province, that according to tradition this part of the country had once been well populated and prosperous, but had been depopulated in the famine of 1747, since which time a large portion of Modasa and Bayad had relapsed into jungle, and had not been able to recover itself in the disturbed times of war between the Moguls and Mahrattas."|
|Sir Jadunath Sarkar, "Fall of the Mughal Empire" (3rd. ed., vol. 1, 1964)|
|p177: "In 1747 an unprecedentedly severe famine raged throughout Rajputana and Western India. There was an utter failure of the seasonal rains; no crop could grow; the water-courses dried up; not a green blade could be seen anywhere; month after month a dusty haze covered the horizon and never a drop of rain or dew. The cattle perished for want of fodder and men from the dearth of grain. As a Maratha observer wrote, 'Men, it seems, cannot get even water for washing their faces. The whole country has been desolated. Even Udaipur is gone; the Maharana has decided to vacate his city and go to the bank of the Dhebar lake and live there'. Ummed Singh was driven to sell his best elephant to meet his wants. In Gujarat this famine was popularly known as Trilotra (i.e., that of the Vikram year
1803) and the people ate up the seeds of grass and died of flux in consequence; many villages were utterly depopulated and remained untenanted for years afterwards. And yet the Rajputs did not cease their fratricidal contests. Ishwari Singh kept up his army on a war footing on the strength of his purse and the Maharana in reliance on the Peshwa’s backing." [Source: "S.P.D. [G.S. Sardesai (ed.), "Selections from the Peshwa Daftar"], ii. 4. xxi. 19; Mirat Ahm. [Mirat-i-Ahmadi?] ii. 364; Vam. Bh. [Suraj Mal Mishran, "Vamsha Bhaskar" (vol. 4, 1956 v.s.)] 3446."]|
p179: [In March 1747, Ishwari Singh's allies beat the Mahara's allies at the Battle of Rajmahal] "The Maharana then sued for peace, which was granted and Ishwari Singh returned in triumph to his own capital (April 1747). A continuation of the war was impossible; grain was selling at famine prices and even a bundle of grass cost a Rupee; the Maharana's war expenses had run up to Rs. 12,000 a day and his poor dominion could not bear the burden any longer." [Source: "Vam. Bh. 3472."]
|1747 (b) [from 1744 + 1746]: Coromandel Coast + inland to Mysore etc.|
|Documented causes: drought; French raids|
|Documented effects: business crisis; tax extortion|
|Francis Cyril Anthony (ed.) "Gazetteer of India: Union Territory of Pondicherry" (1982) [ based on "Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses- Mémoires des Indes" vol. 14, pp251-2]|
|p539: "There was another famine in the year 1747. A large number of dying children and others were converted and baptised."|
|A.R. Pillai "Private diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai : dubash to Joseph François Dupleix ... 1736 to 1761" (vol. 3, trans., 1914)|
|p244 (entry for 10 Jan 1747, summarising a letter from the capital, Arcot, giving orders to local rulers Mahfuz Khan and Muhammad Ali Khan): "The people are distracted, in consequence of the prevalence of famine. Owing to want of rain, the growing crops, throughout the province, have dried up, and here is no sign of the taxes being collected. The demands of the Nizam for money are pressing. Large arrears are outstanding against you. You had better return: I, myself, will advance on Pondicherry, and take such action as may be necessary."|
|A.R. Pillai "The Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai: Translated From the Tamil ..." (vol. 4, 1916)|
|p128 (entry for 19 Jul 1747, quoting letter from vakil Subbayan at Arcot, reporting from the ceremonial presentations to Nasir Jang, son and deputy to Nizam-ul-Mulk) ... "When Mahfuz Khan [ruler of Trichinopoly] appeared before Nasir Jang, the latter said in great wrath, 'You have stored up grain and sold it only at high prices and made a famine. Do not appear again in my presence.' So Mahfuz Khan is now keeping aloof and trying to make his peace."|
pp131-2 (entry for 29 Jul 1747, quoting another letter from vakil Subbayan): "Nasir Jang has been in Mysore, and as the arrears were not paid up, he ordered the country to be ravaged. On that they offered thirty lakhs of rupees, but he demands fifty lakhs of pagodas. They are negotiating. Mahfuz Khan is with the Nawab of Sirpi. He has written that he must pay fifteen lakhs of rupees else his business will not be settled. They have sent a draft on Kasi Das Bukkanji for five lakhs and about the balance have written that the rains have failed, famine has followed, many have died, and the revenues are in arrears; that the country is impoverished, and much damage has been done by the French ravaging a hundred and fifty villages; that under these circumstances they cannot pay more than the old rent, for, even if there should be good rains and harvests this year, it will be three years before the revenue is straight again. This is their answer to Nasir Jang’s report to Nawab Asaf Jah that their rent should be raised."
p147 (entry for 20 Sep 1747, recounting a conversational reply he made to the priest at St. Paul's Church, Pondicherry): "It is true ... there has been much distress these last three years, because no Europe ships have arrived, because trade has been bad, and because the famine has brought rice to only half a measure per fanam. But no one is to blame for that. Had it not been for the genius of M. Dupleix Maharaja the town would have been utterly ruined." [This conversation continues with an interesting discussion of religion and its social effects in the town]
p174 (entry for 20 Oct 1647, quoting another letter from vakil Subbayan, who is now in Nawab Anwar-ud-din's camp at Trichinopoly): "When Anwar-ud-din learnt that owing to the English requests Nasir Jang had resolved to come into these parts, he wrote to Mahfuz Khan to hinder this, saying that between French arrogance, English cowardice, and the famine, the country was ruined, and could not bear the expense of his army."
|Henry Dodwell (ed.) "Calendar Of The Madras Despatches 1744-1755" (1920)|
|p39 (report from the temporary headquarters at Fort St. David to the Company in London, 2 May 1747): "The customs have decreased as the French Squadron prevented the arrival of shipping. The grain customs were for a while taken off owing to a scarcity of grain." [It is not clear whether the shortage of grain was in any way due to the sea blockade]|
p49 (report from the temporary headquarters at Fort St. David to the Company in London, 13 Feb 1748): "… the Cuddalore Land customs are decreased 607 Pags. owing to the suspension of grain-duties in the late scarcity …"
|1747 (c): Osmanabad area, Maharashtra (+ to Nanded?)|
|Documented causes: drought|
|Documented effects: unspecified|
|"Report of the Fact Finding Committee for Survey of Scarcity Areas, Maharashtra State" (vol. 1, 1973)|
|p6: "In respect of Osmanabad and Nanded regions 1713, 1747 and 1787 have been mentioned as years of famine due to drought." [As the two places are some distance apart, it may be that not all the three famines affected both]|