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Although in the management of the greater portion of the public business immediately affecting the everyday interests of the 200 millions of people inhabiting British India the part of the so-called Government of India is comparatively small, this central power, administered by the Governor General in Council, under the supreme authority of the British Government at home, has, of course, from another point of view the highest importance. It regulates and harmonises the Governments of the British provinces, controls the Native States and our relations with foreign powers, provides for military defence, makes war and peace, and manages those branches of the administration which directly concern the general interests of the empire.
It must not be supposed that such bonds of union can in any way lead towards the growth of a single Indian nationality. However long may be the duration of our dominion, however powerful may be the centralising attraction of our Government, or the influence of the common interests which grow up, no such issue can follow. It is conceivable that national sympathies may arise in particular Indian countries; but that they should ever extend to India generally, that men of the Punjab, Bengal, the North-Western Provinces, and Madras, should ever feel that they belong to one great Indian nation, is impossible. You might with as much reason and probability look forward to a time when a single nation will have taken the place of the various nations of Europe.
I wish at the outset of these lectures to insist on the fact that you can never hope to arrive at any accurate knowledge of India until you properly appreciate the immense diversities of the countries included under that name, and understand that there is no part of the world
in regard to which it is more easy to be misled by generalisations.
India has an area of nearly 1,600,000 square miles, and contains about 258 millions of people. Excluding Burma, it
may be roughly divided into two regions. The first of these is a vast alluvial plain, lying immediately below the Himalaya, and stretching with an unbroken surface for some 1,700 miles across Northern India. Its eastern and central portions are watered by the Ganges and Brahmaputra and their tributaries, the northern and western portions by the river-system of the Indus. At its highest point, on the watershed between the feeders of the Indus and Ganges, it is not more than 1,000 feet above the sea. At its eastern end, it extends over the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, and includes the greater part of the province of Bengal. At its northern and western extremities, it spreads down the Indus to the Arabian Sea, over the Punjab, Rájputána, and Sindh. The central portion of the plain comprises the North-Western Provinces and Oudh. The alluvial deposits of which this vast tract is composed are, as General Strachey says, “so finely comminuted that it is no exaggeration to say that it is possible
from the Bay of Bengal up the Ganges, through the Punjab, and down the Indus again to the sea, over a distance of 2,000 miles and more, without finding a pebble, however small.'1 The Indo-Gangetic plain comprises the richest, the most fertile, the most populous, and historically the most famous countries of India. It covers more than 500,000 square miles, an area as large as France, the German and Austrian empires, and Italy, and it contains 150 millions of people. A glance at the map will show that the political
Encyclopædia Britannica, Art. “Asia.'
limits of the provinces that I have named-and the same may be said of India generally—have little connection with any physical characteristics. They have been fixed from time to time, as the British power advanced, or as the necessities of the moment required.
The greater part of the northern plain, excluding the countries on the extreme west, was formerly included, for certain purposes, in the so called Presidency of Bengal. I shall have to explain how the name Bengal has had, at different periods, different meanings, and how the term “Presidency, although still used in official papers, has almost ceased to have any special signification. British India is now divided not into the three presidencies of Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, but into provinces, eight of which are extensive countries under separate Governments.
The second region of India lies to the south of the Indo-Gangetic plain, and includes the great triangular peninsula which projects into the Indian Ocean. It has
area of about 1,000,000 square miles, with a population of about 100 millions.
The greater part of this tract consists of a hilly table-land, having an average elevation above the sea of about 1,500 feet, but rising in the south, in Mysore, to 3,000 feet. On the western and eastern sides of the peninsula, the table-land terminates in the ranges known as the Western and Eastern Ghats. Roughly speaking, they run parallel to the coast on the two sides of Southern India, leaving between them and the sea a more or less broad strip of low-lying land. The
1 I take the following note from Colonel Yule: 'A friend objects to this application of “ table-land" to so rugged a region of inequalities. But it is a technical expression in geography, applicable to a considerable area, of which the lowest levels are at a considerable height above the sea.'- IIobson Jobson, Art. "Tibet.'
Eastern Ghats are an ill-defined range of no great height. The Western Ghats rise steeply from the sea to about 4,000 feet, and near their southern extremity reach more than 8,000 feet in the Nilgiri mountains. Further north, nearly in the same line with the Western Gháts, the Aravali range, in which Mount Abu rises to 5,600 feet, forms the western border of the table-land. The northern border cannot be sharply defined; it is broken
up into hills which pass more or less gradually into the plains of the North-Western Provinces.
The Vindhia and Satpura ranges, the highest points of which have an elevation of more than 4,000 feet, run from west to east across the northern parts of the table-land of Central India. “Now pierced by road and railway (says Sir William Hunter), they stood as a barrier of mountain and jungle between Northern and Southern India, and formed one of the main difficulties in welding the whole into an empire. They consist of vast masses of forests, ridges, and peaks, broken by alternated valleys and broad high-lying plains.” 1
Through two deep and almost parallel depressions in this tract, the waters of the Narbada and Tapti flow westward to the Arabian Sea. With these exceptions, all the chief rivers of the central plateau, the Son, the Máhánadi, the Godáveri, and the Kistna, flow eastward, and excepting the Son, which joins the Ganges, they all fall into the Bay of Bengal. The high ranges of the Gháts, on the western edge of the plateau, throw off nearly the whole of its drainage to the eastward.
This table-land, with the low-lying tracts on its borders, comprises the British provinces of Madras and Bombay, the Central Provinces, and many of the chief Native States in India. Among the latter are the
Imperial Gazetteer of India, Art, ‘ India.'
Marátha States of Sindhia and Holkar, and those of the Nizam and Mysore.
Besides the countries that I have named, there remains the great province of Burma, the latest addition to our empire. Although a dependency of the Government of India, it is completely cut off and differs essentially from every part of India. Before the late conquests, the province known as British Burma had an area of nearly 90,000 square miles and a population of nearly 4 millions. The territories of Upper Burma, now united to it, cover nearly 200,000 square miles, and the population has been estimated at from 3 to 4 millions.
The provinces of British India cover more than 1,000,000 square miles, and contain more than 200 millions of people. The Native States cover 510,000 square miles, with a population of 55 millions. The Indian Empire has altogether an area of nearly 1,600,000 square miles, and a population of 258 millions. Excluding Russia, Europe is about equal in extent to India, but falls short of it in population.
If the main natural features of India are as simple as I have stated them to be, if India below the Himalaya can in general terms be said to consist of two welldefined regions, the most important of which is one vast unbroken plain, how does it happen that there are such remarkable differences between the climates and many of the physical conditions of its various countries, differences which I have declared to be greater than any to be found in Europe ? The explanation is not difficult.
Excepting in temperature, and in a rainfall the amount of which varies within no very wide limits, the general climatic conditions of the countries of Europe,