FAMINES IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, 1500 to 1767
|1759 (a) [from 1758; to 1761]: Punjab|
|Documented causes: drought + war|
|Documented effects: heavy mortality; migration; lack of official relief|
|"Punjab District Gazetteers: Lahore District, A" (1916)|
|pp170-1: "Before the Punjab came under British rule it experienced a number of famines which owing to their intensity and devastating effect are still remembered by the people. Many of these raged within the Lahore District, or at any rate were felt within the district. In 1759 there was a disastrous famine known by the name of Solah. For two years previously there had been no rain and the effects of the drought were aggravated by the invasion of Ahmad Shah Abdali. Most of the people fled and the cattle died. Human beings were forced to live on berries and leaves, and wheaten flour could only be obtained with difficulty at four sérs per rupee of two shillings. Relief measures were beyond the Government of the day, and the famine raged unchecked till the rains again fell in 1761. Far worse was the famine of 1783 known in the Lahore District as Chalia or Dahsera. ..."|
|[Earlier (draft) edition of the above] "Gazetteer of the Lahore District, 1883-4"|
|pp36-7: The famine which raged in A.D. 1759 was known by the name of Solah. For two years previously there had been a dearth of rain. This famine lasted for four years, and was considerably aggravated by the invasion of Ahmad Shah Abdali, which happened about this time, and caused agriculture to be neglected ; the inhabitants fled to the Jummoo and Kangra hills ; cattle died, and those that remained were only kept alive on the bark and leaves of trees; the people ate flour made from the jand berries, called sangri; and the flower of the karil, which flourishes best in dry weather, furnished them with a sort of vegetable of a very poor description; wheaten flour was four seers per rupee (8 lbs. for 2 shillings), and then only obtainable with difficulty. The government of the day could afford no assistance; and mercifully in A.D. 1761 a copious fall of rain averted further suffering; the people returned from the hills, and cultivation was again undertaken.
The second famine, which is still remembered, happened about twenty years after this, and was at its worst A.D. 1783. This was the most grievous of all, and was a very general one. ..."
|"Punjab District Gazetteers Vol.ii A. Hissar District And Lohar State" (1904)|
|p73: "… the Aráíns or Ráíns [now usually spelled Rayeens]|
… Their ancestors from Uch came and settled on the Ghaggar about Sirsa, and until the famine of 1816 Sambat (1759 A.D.), they held the whole of the Sotar or Ghaggar valley from Bhatner upwards to near Tohana, being at that time in possession of 117, or, according to some, of 360 villages. The famine of 1759 A.D. ruined many of them, and as the Mughal empire decayed they became more and more exposed to the predatory attacks of their neighbours, the Bhattis, and at last the famine of 1840 Sambat (1783 A.D.) broke them altogether, and drove most of them from the country to settle across the Jamna near Bareli and Rampur. The few who remained took refuge in Sirsa, Rania, Sikandarpur, Fatahabad and Ahrwan, and it was only when the country came under British rule that they ventured again to settle villages of their own."
|"Punjab District Gazetteers: Jullundur District, Part A" (1904)|
|p227: "Of early famines before the introduction of British rule only dim traditions are preserved. In 1759-60 (S. 1816) there was a famine during which grain is said to have sold at 6 sérs the rupee, and many villages were partially abandoned."|
|1759 (b) [some effects to 1760]: Kutch to Sindh|
|Documented causes: drought + war|
|Documented effects: many soldiers starved to death|
|Lieut. Col. A.T. Etheridge, "Report on Past Famines in the Bombay Presidency" (1868) [Reports collected by local officials in all districts]|
|p17 (Scinde, by Commissioner Havelock): "A famine occurred in A.D. 1759, caused by war, but it was neither severe nor of long duration."|
p41 (Ahmedabad, by Acting Collector Borradaile): "A famine is reported from Purantej only, to have occurred in the year A.D. 1759, known as 'Pandurotra.' Scarcity seems to have prevailed rather than famine. The price of the commoner kinds of grain was Rs. 1˝ per maund (Kutcha). The distress was caused by deficiency of rain, and seems to have been confined to Purantej and the Mahee Kanta. No measures of relief were adopted, nor were any apparently required."
p64 (Hoozoor, by the Hoozoor Deputy Collector, from the "Miratey Ahmedee"): "Hijree 1174, Sumvut 1816-17, A.D. 1759-60. This famine was caused by scarcity and war; grain was sold one seer for a Rupee in the Emperor's army, and one and a half seer in that of the Mahrattas. Other people could get two or three seers for a Rupee. 60,000 men died in the Emperor's army for want of food."
|1759 (c) [to 1760]: east Tamil Nadu|
|Documented causes: drought + war|
|Documented effects: British pay merchants for army food; but capture farmland from French|
|"Bengal and Madras papers. Vol. III: 1757-1795" (1928)|
|Madras Correspondence, autumn 1759, p 11: (orders from the Council at Madras to Eyre Coote, Commander in Chief of land forces on the Coromandel Coast, to proceed southward to attack Pondicherry): "The following are the several Renters of the Company’s Districts: — of Terpasore, Wolly Mahomed Cawn; of Conjeveram, Coveripauk, Chevantandelum &c. villages of Tervatore, Abdul Hy Cawn; of Changleput, Corpora Moodaly; of Carongoly Villages, Mahomed Auzem; and of Saneiwauk, Veeraredy; to these you will be pleased to give such assistance as they may have occasion to apply for and you can conveniently afford them, they on their part will do what they can to encourage the grain merchants in their several Districts to keep the Army well supplied with provisions by taking off occasionally the Juncans [=tolls], upon the Roads leading to the Camp, and as there is now a great scarcity of Grain in the Country we must recommend to your particular attention the encouragement of all the Inhabitants as well those of the French Districts as our own by seeing that they are punctually paid for all supplies brought into the Army, whether by themselves, or by Detachments sent out for that purpose, and by forbidding the Levying of any Tax or duty in the Camp Bazzar. We need not mention the necessity of punishing with severity any of your people that may plunder the Villages through which the Army may pass,- or any Injury that may be Committed against the persons or effects of the Inhabitants, your own humanity will sufficiently enforce this."|
|A.R. Pillai "The Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai: Translated From the Tamil ..." (vol. 11, 1927)|
|pp446-7 (entry for 3 Dec 1759): "There is famine in the town as there was no rain in the month of Karttigai [Footnote: "November-December"]. No rice can be had in the town at a measure and a half the fanam and people are therefore in great straits. When at Madras and thereabouts rice could not be had at a seer the fanam, and consequently there was famine, two or three ships brought rice from Bengal to Madras, until rice sold there at one and a half or two measures a fanam and people could live at ease. I hear that there is famine from Cuddapah to the northward as far as the banks of the Kistna and Nellore. Taxes are imposed not only here but also in Cuddapah, Kandanur and the countries on the banks of the Kistna to the northward. Moreover in the Muhammadan palaiyams as far as Setu [Footnote: "i.e. Ramesvaram"] to the southward, the poligars levy taxes proportionate to the wealth of the inhabitants. When the whole country is thus under the fatal influence of Saturn, no wonder that the people here are forced to pay dear."|
|A.R. Pillai "The Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai: Translated From the Tamil ..." (vol. 12, 1928)|
|p36 (entry for 7 Apr 1760): "As the English have captured Karikal at a time when there is famine at Madras, they are sending by ship to Madras the 500 or 600 garse of paddy taken in the place."|
|Francis Cyril Anthony (ed.) "Gazetteer of India: Union Territory of Pondicherry" (1982) [based on Pierre La Mazičre "Lally Tollendal" (1931) p165]|
|p539: "There was a severe famine again in Pondicherry in the year 1760. It is reported 'that there was not even a single dog or cat left in the town, all the creatures having been consumed by the hungry population.' Rats were sold at Rs. 2 each. Soldiers were obliged to sell their possessions in order to feed themselves."|
[This may have been caused by the general shortage of grain as well as the siege, which did not come into effect until September 1760, although the prior capture of French agricultural holdings limited their supplies.]