PLACES

BALAPUR

Situation: Balapur town, the headquarters of the tahsil bearing the same name, is situated in 20 35' north latitude and 76 45' east longitude at the junction of the rivers Man and Mhais six miles to the south-west of the Paras railway station on the Bombay-Nagpur broad gauge route of the Central Railway. The old Akola District Gazetteer published in 1910 states 'No revenue village of Balapur exists, but the town is formed by the houses of five separate villages Kasarkhed, Kalbai, Babulkhed, Gajipur and Mudhapur (deserted) in close proximity; the name is taken from a temple of Bala Devi situated between the rivers close to their junction.'

Being the headquarters of the Sub-Division as also the tahsil, there are the offices of the Deputy Collector (Sub-Divisional Officer) and the Tahsildar. The office of the Block Development. Officer is also located at Balapur, it being the headquarters of the Balapur Panchayat Sairuti. The police station at Balapur had under it 49 villages according to the Census of 1964. Medical facilities to the people of this municipal town are provided by the Primary Health Centre of the Zilla Parishad and the municipal dispensary besides private medical practitioners. The primary schools conducted by the municipality and Smt. Dhanabai Vidyalaya, the Anjuman Anwarul Islam High School and the Government Indian english Middle School cater to the educational needs of the towns people. It has a post and a telegraph office. Telephone facilities also exist. The town is electrified and has a Government rest house. The branch of the Akola District Central Co-operative Bank is also located at Balapur. The weekly market is held on every Saturday. 'The cotton market committee was established at Balapur in the year 1918, cotton being the only commodity regulated. It is a historical town and has a population of 21,381 souls as per the Census of 1971. The river and wells form the main source of water supply and inadequacy of drinking water is often felt.

History: Balapur is a historical town mentioned in Ain-i-Akbari as one of the richest paraganas in the Subah of Berar. The town, therefore, probably existed long before the Moghal invasion. Prior to the war between Ala uddin Ahmad Shah who succeeded to the Bahamani throne after the death of his father Ahmad Shah and Nasir Khan of Khandesh in 1430, Khan Jahan, the Subhedar of Berar, who escaped confinement, sent the army of southerners to Balapur and Ellichpur with clear instructions to obstruct the armies of the Gonds and the Korkus who were the allies of Nasir Khan, who was drawn out of the fort of Laling and defeated in Rohinkheda pass by Khalaf Hasan Basil. In 1577 a quarrel ensued between Salabatkhan and Sayyad Murtiza Sabzavari, the Subhedar of Berar, and the latter attacked Salabatkhan with Berar armies. But Salabatkhan defeated him. Sayyad took refuge with Akbar who had already granted asylum to Burhan Nizam Shah, the brother of Murtaza Nizam Shah, the reigning Sultan of Ahmadnagar. Akbar ordered Mir Azam Khan alias Khan Azam, the Subhedar of Malva to move his armies in Berar for action. He captured Balapur and Ellichpur in the year 1594.

The entire province of Berar was finally made over to the Moghals by the agreement that Chandbibi entered into with Murad, the. son of Akbar who had besieged Ahmadnagar. Murad accompanied by Khankhanan settled at Balapur and established the town 0f Shahapur near-by, now in Buldhana district, in 1595. The military station of the Moghals was established at Balapur which was famous at that time for artistic articles manufactured from the stone quarried from the local river. In 1616, Shahanavazkhan, the Subhedar of Berar was camping at Balapur. the defeated Malik Ambar attacking him near Kirkee by way of Rohinkheda pass. But he could not hold for long and had to retreat to Balapur. Aurangzeb, after ascending the imperial throne at Delhi, appointed Raja Jaysing as the Governor of the Deccan. He constructed a very pretty chhatri, umbrella-shaped pavilion, 25 feet square and 33 feet in height at Balapur. Azam Shah, son of Aurangzeb, is said to have lived here and to have built a mud fort. It may be noted that as per the treaty of Purandar in 1665, Balapur pargana alongwith the Avandhe pargana was given in the name of Sambhaji as a jahagir and he was made a commandant of 5,000.

In 1720 a bloody battle was fought between Nizam-ul-Mulk and the imperial troops 6 or 8 miles west of the town. Alam Ali Khan was slain on the battlefield. In this battle Sambhaji of Kolhapur and Chandrasen Jadhav who were opposed to Shahu took the side of the Nizam while Shahu had ordered Santaji Shinde, Khanderav Dabhade, Damaji Gaikvad, Shankraji Malhar, Kanhoji Bhosle and others to go to the aid of Alam Ali Khan. Shankraji Malhar died of the wounds he received in the battle. It is believed that Peshva Baji Rav [Varhadcha Itihasa by V. M. Kale, 1923.] was also present on the battlefield. Balapur was the main centre where quality cloth was manufactured. As per the treaty of Kanakpur made in 1769 between the Nizam and Peshva Madhavrav, it was stipulated that Raghuji Bhosle should present to the Peshva every year cloth manufactured at Vashim and Balapur worth 5000 in terms of the currency in vogue.

Before General Wellesley attacked the Bhosles, the Shindes and the Holkars separately, not allowing them to come together in 1803, Raghuji Bhosle II advised his brother Vyankoji Bhosle and Madhavrav Nilkanth to settle at Balapur. Vyankoji directed Vitthal Ballal, the Subhedar of Berar, to send his army to Balapur.

During the period 1831 to 1839 the contract for the collection of land revenue of Berar was with a money lender Puranmal by name. Afterwards it was given to one Mr. Pestonji. It was taken away from him in 1845. But he was unwilling to hand over the charge to the Nizam's officials as the Nizam had yet to pay him Rs. 40 lakhs. Nizam took the charge forcibly by attacking the personnel employed by Pestonji at Balapur. This incident took place in 1845.

It may be noted that the Subhedari of Ellichpur was given to Ismail Khan and his jurisdiction extended over Sindhkhed and Mahur besides Balapur. He finished the tort at Balapur in 1757. Ismail Khan maintained friendly relations with Mudhoji Bhosle. The Nizam, and the Marathas were at the cross roads as usual. So the Nizam's army reached Balapur and the keys of the fort were handed over to the Nizam. The Nizam returned the keys to the commandant of the fort. However, Ismail Khan was later killed on he battlefield as a result of some misunderstanding. Namdar Khan ceded Balapur and the surrounding areas to the Nizam in lieu of the payment that he was to make to him on account of the maintenance of the Contingent army.

By the middle of the 19th century Balapur was the famous centre where quality cloth and paper were produced. Papar manufactured at Balapur was used extensively in Berar region as also outside. When the battle was fought between the Nizam, Nizam All" and the Peshva Nanasaheb in 1757, the payment to be made to the army by the Nizam was in arrears. So his Divan Vitthal Sunder went to Balapur with 500 horse and secured a loan of Rs. two lakhs from a person whose name is not yet known, which episode speaks of the wealth of the town.

Municipality: The municipality was established at Balapur in the year 1934 and is now governed under the Maharashtra Municipalities Act, 1965. The municipality covers an area of 16.84 square Km. as per the Census of 1971. The municipal council is composed of 13 members with no seat either reserved or the scheduled castes or the scheduled tribes or for women.

Dining 1961 the total receipts of the municipality amounted to Rs. 2,03,737 of which the receipts from the municipal taxes were Rs. 1,12,788, the per capita municipal tax being Rs. 6.79. The total expenditure of the municipality during the same year amounted to Rs. 1,99,704.

During the year 1965-66 [During 1973-74, the income and expenditure stood at Rs. 5,51,000 and. Rs. 5,87,000, respectively.] the total income of the municipality was Rs. 2,13,076 and was composed of municipal rates and taxes, Rs. 1,06,237, revenue derived from municipal property and pouters apart from taxation, Rs. 18,890; grants and contributions from the Government. Rs. 79,887 and income from miscellaneous sources, Rs. 8,062.

During the same year the total expenditure of the municipality came to Rs. 2,09,346 and comprised general administration, Rs. 22,221; collection charges, Rs. 31,272; public safety, Rs. 11,317; public health and convenience, Rs. 59,253; public works, Rs. 10,356; public instruction, Rs. 61,147 and miscellaneous expenditure, Rs. 13,780.

The municipality conducts primary schools and maintains a dispensary. Underground drainage system has not yet been introduced in the town and the arrangements are made by the municipality to carry away the refuse and the night soil. The cremation ground and burial places are managed by !he respective communities.

Objects of interest: The main objects of interest in the town are the chhatri, (umbrella shaped pavilion) said to have been constructed by Raja Jaysing who was the Governor of the Deccan aim Aurangzeb ascended the throne, and the fort constructed by Ismail Khan, the first Navab of Ellichpur in 1757. Beside these two, the other objects of interest in the town, as mentioned in the old Gazetteer are the haveli built by a local saint called Sayyad Amjad and a mosque in Kasarpura.

The chhatri, (umbrella shaped pavilion,) a mausoleum constructed by Raja Jaysing is a 25 feet square and has a height of 33 feet. Its foundations were much damaged in a great flood called the dhvdya pur which occurred more than 100 years ago, but after some years the damage was repaired at a cost of Rs. 3,000 received from Jaipur.

The old Gazetteer states, "People are sufficiently educated to scrawl their names on all parts of the chhatri, and a stone in the middle has been coloured with the ubiquitous sacred red. The frivolous say that visitors to the chhatri must do three thing Firstly, they should note the char bot ki patthar, four-fingers stone, which has been set in near the top of a pillar on the soul; no one has visited the chhatri who has not seen this. Secondly, they should count the pillars, a confusing operation. Thirdly they should try to throw a stone from the platform on which the chhatri stands to the far bank of the river, which requires some skill".

It is a graceful building on a high plinth, resembling in plan. what is called by heralds a cross quadrate, that is to say, the four arms of a cross issuing from the four sides of a square. It is surmounted by five Pathan domes, one large one in the centre. over the square, surrounded by four small ones. The superstructure is supported by twenty pillars and lintels. The ornament is principally of the leaf and dart pattern, with conventional lotus flowers, and the interior of the domes is line. A light of steps formerly led from the pavilion down to the river, but these have since disappeared.

Fort.- The construction of the present fortress of Balapur which is in ruined condition now, was started by Azam Shah, die son of Emperor Aurangzeb and was completed by Ismail Khan, the Navab of Ellichpur in 1757.

It is massively built of brick and is the largest and probably the strongest fort in Berar, the hill forts of the Melghat exceeded. It crowns a small hill at the junction of the Man and the Mhais and during the rains is actually surrounded by water except at one point, where a causeway generally keeps the road dry. the fort has three gateways, one within the other. The middle one has doors studded in their upper parts with long spikes to resist elephants. The innermost one has elephants and a horse, besides some flowers, cut in the stone beside it; it is a common thing in important Muhammedan buildings in different parts of Berar for some such small ornaments to be carved; the idea is said to be not so much to provide adornment as to give the visitor some special characteristic to carry in his memory. Inside the fort are one mosque and three wells. The highest and innermost walls are ten feet thick and their ramparts are pierced with numerous slits at three different angles for the discharge of missiles. It is a curious point that a stone stand for a flagstaff, to carry a Muhammedan ensign, has been made a flower stand for a tulsi, basil plant, such as is grown for religious motives in almost every Hindu house; but on the other hand a tomb and a flag in honour of the Muhammedan saint Chandkhan are very prominent both here and in Hindu forts. A path has been trodden through the vegetation all around tin ramparts, a testimony to the interest which the fort excites in country people- who come to Balapur for weddings and other festivities or who have to visit the tahsil offices situated in the fort. The office of the Panchayat Samiti is also located in the fort. Whether or not this is altogether desirable the tahsil has a very striking situation; it also contains some line carved woodwork which is said by some to have been brought from Wyala when the fort there was dismantled.

The fort at Balapur is interesting rather on account of its structure than of its age, but it is a building well worth preserving. It crowns the high ground between the two branches of the river on which Balapur stands, and its walls and bastions, which are very lofty, are built entirely of the best brickwork of the period to which the fort belongs. The outer or lower fort is a decagon, with a bastion at each angle, and above it rises, by the whole height of its walls, the inner fort, which is a pentagon, each angle terminating with a bastion, as in the lower fort. Both the outer and the inner forts are entered by fine Moghal gateways, above the former of which is an inscription, now illegible, which recorded the building of the fort in 1757 by Ismail Khan, Navab of Ellichpur.

The temple of Bala Devi from which the town has derived its name lies just under the fort on the southern side. The old Gazetteer mentions., 'It was much extended, and steps leading from it to the river Man were built, about 15 years ago by Rakhumabai, the childless widow of Vithoba, a Rangari, but it still looks small and unimposing beside the fort.'

The old Gazetteer also mentions that the town contained a mosque of 1737 in Kasarpura. It further states, 'The mosque in Kasarpur is a fair specimen of later Mughal architecture, but the arches arc too squat to be graceful; a long and somewhat bombastic inscription, exceedingly well executed and well preserved, gives as the date of construction of the mosque the year A.H. 1150 (A. D. 1737). The mosque is known as the Ranzah Masjid, for it contains the tomb of a local saint Maulvi Masum Shah.'

The old Gazetteer also states, 'A fine haveli in the town was built by a local saint, Sayyad Amjad, and an inscription over the principal gateway, a good specimen of Mughal architecture, conveys the information that it was built in A. H 1115 (A. D. 1703).'

 

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