In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Hindustan, I have expanded the abbreviations for easier reading and added paragraphing and links. This mid-Victorian reference work has substantial sections on both India and Hindustan, and it is not always clear how Victorians distinguished between the two. The title-page bears the date 1856, but internal evidence in various entrees makes clear that the text dates from 1851 or 1852. This discussion of British India has particular importance because it immediately precedes the 1857 Mutiny.— George P. Landow]


The principal vegetable productions of Hindoostan are rice, maize, wheat, barley, cotton, indigo, sugar-cane, opium, tobacco, ginger, saffron, cardamoms, pepper, cocoa, areca, and other palms yielding nuts, which are exten sively consumed by the native population; anise, silk, various dyes, flax, hemp, c. The principal indigenous fruits are the mango, the finest of all the Indian fruits; pisang or plan tain, pomegranate, citron, date, almond, grape, pine-apple, and tamarind. In the north provinces, apples, pears, plums, apri cots, and other European fruits abound. Oranges and lemons are also to be met with, but are of an inferior quality.

Food Grains

It is pretty generally believed in Europe that the natives of India live chiefly upon rice. This is by no means the case; for, excepting Bengal, the number of those who seldom taste rice probably far exceed those who live upon that grain. Wheat, barley, jowary or common millet (Holcus sorghum), bajree or bajury (Holcus spicatus), sesamum, and several grains peculiar to the country, constitute the staple pro ducts forming <he nourishment of the Hindoos.

Male miller with two oxen, seated man in the background. 1780-1858. Watercolor gouache on mica, 105 x 151 mm. New York Public Library Digital Collections NYPL catalog ID: b13976376. Click on image to enlarge it.

Of wheat, several varieties are grown; some of very fine quality as the soft wheat, called pysee, and the hard, called jullalya. Indian corn or maize is cultivated, in small quantities, all over Hindoostan, but not as a corn crop; being eaten chiefly in a green state, and after the grains have been roasted.

The great millet, or dttrra of the Arabs, jowary of India (Holcus sorghum), occupies the place of maize in other parts of Asia. But, besides the cereals, a great variety of pulses [sic] are cultivated; also yams, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, &c. Sugar-cane is raised, less for the manufacture of sugar than the consumption of the cane itself, as a sweetmeat and article of food; though some of the finest grain sugar is produced in Hindoostan.


The opium-poppy is cultivated to supply opium for foreign exportation, exclusively in the provinces of Bahar, Benares, and Malwa; and is supplied by the cultivators, at fixed rates, to the Anglo-Indian government, to which it continues to yield a large revenue; being almost entirely exported by the British to the markets of China, and the Indian Archipelago.

Dyes and Spices

Indigo is raised in great quantities in the lower plain of the Ganges, particularly in Bengal, but also in other parts of Hindoostan; and it forms one of the most profitable of Indian crops. Cotton, of several kinds, is produced, chiefly on the table land of the Deccan; and if ready means of transit for it thence to the coast existed, India could be made to yield an all but inexhaustible supply, at prices which might defy competition.

Cardamoms and pepper are amongst the most valuable products of the Malabar coast; to which locality their culture is almost exclusively confined. Benzoin, camphor, sarsaparilla, and many other drugs, are indigenous.


The forests of Hindoostan contain an immense variety of large trees, little known in Europe; but capable of yielding valuable timber, and distinguished by their fragrance, luxu riant growth, or adaptation for manufactures. Teak, of the first quality, grows on the west Ghauts. Other forest trees, characteristic of Indian scenery, are the banian, sappan, saul (Shorea robusta), sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo), &C.; with which are seen the oak, cypress, poplar, &c. Large and beautiful flowering shrubs are in great variety. Forests of bamboo are numerous; and so rapidly does their growth proceed, that some of these reeds have been reported to attain a height of 60 feet in the course of five months! Extensive tracts of the country are covered with dense jungles, the re sorts of formidable wild animals; mangroves cover the swamps at the mouths of the rivers; and the whole of that wide tract, termed the Sunderbunds, at the united delta of the Ganges and Brahmapootra, is a rank forest, inhabited by tigers, deer, arid elephants; and the rivers traversing which are, in many parts, rendered impassable by ships, on account of the obstacles to which its thick vegetation gives rise. [II, 1217-18]

Related material


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 7 November 2018.

Last modified 11 December 2018