Acalpur City is the headquarters of Acalpur tahsil and is
situated at a height of about 366 metres (1200') above sea-level.
It lies more than 48.280 km. (30 miles) to the north-west of
Amravati, the district headquarters and has a population of
36,538 as per the 1961 Census. The town was formerly known
as Ellicpur. Its ancient name has recently been restored to it.The town was fortified in the days of its early Muslim rulers by
a huge and solid rampart wall of masonry with four gates. The
fortifications are still in good condition. The names of the
respective gates are Dulha gate, Tondgdnv gate, Bundelpura gate and Hirapura gate. Near the Dulha gate there is a window
known as Dulha Khidki.
In modern times no works have been undertaken for the supply of water. Water is mostly obtained from wells and small rivulets Sarpan and Bican which flow through the town. However, the Public Health and Engineering Department of the Government has prepared a plan to provide the city with tap water-supply. There is still in existence, though no longer in working order, an underground conduit of earthen pipes through which the oldest quarter of the town (that between the Dulha Darvaza and the Barkul gate) was formerly supplied with water from the Bican. In order to make a reservoir, a dam was constructed on the river Bican at a spot above the city. It is said that these water-works were constructed in the reign of Ahmad Sah Wali Bahamani (A.M. 829, A.D. 1425). The pipeline of these water-works is heavily silted and now it is inoperative.
Trade and Manufactures.
In the heyday of its prosperity, with a lavish court in the midst, Acalpur was an important centre of cotton and silk manufactures, and had a reputation also for wood-carving and stone-work which is borne out by the remnants of the old royal palaces and the court. To-day the latter industry is almost extinct, and those of weaving and dyeing, though their followers are still numerous, are steadily on the decline. In recent years, however, two co-operative societies for the manufacture of cotton materials have been formed. The carpets made here, though rough, are of a strong texture and find a ready sale all over the district; khadis, rumals, pagdis and patkas, and saris with silk borders are also produced, but the trade is in doldrums for the
earnings of a Kosti not only do not exceed those of an unskilled
workman, but are actually less and his goods are being steadily
ousted from the market by those of the powerloom. The al
dyeing or Acalpur was formerly famous, but the trade now is
extinct. The castes connected with these industries are the first to exhibit signs of distress in times of scarcity and require the promptest attention. A good many people of this community have given up the traditional industry of their forefathers and taken to agriculture and other trades which promise better returns. To-day the most important industry as elsewhere is that of raw cotton. A cotton mill known as the Vidarbha and Berar Mills, was established in 1926 and now affords employment to over 2,000 workers both skilled and unskilled. Raw cotton from many villages around Acalpur is brought here for sale, there being a big cotton market at Acalpur.
In the village lists and settlement papers Acalpur appears as
divided into eleven khels or nunds, each of which bears a Hindu name, being that of the family holding; the patelki, e.g., Khel Japmali, Khel Trirmbak Narayan, Khel Tikal, Khel Gummet and the like. The history of present-day Acalpur, however, is distinctly Muhammedan, and this is reflected as one might expect in the nomenclature of the place which was until recently called Ellicpur. The town was at one time surrounded by 54 puras or suburbs, of which about 35 exist to the present day, and the names of nearly all are of Musalman origin. All suburbs are within the municipal limits. A few of the more important ones are Samastpura formed by Samast. Khan in 1724, Sultanpura by Sultan Khan about the same time, Anvarpura named after Anvar Khatun, Salabat Khan's wife. Namdar Ganj, Nasibpura, Abbaspura, Jivanpura, and Raikabah, the last named being the headquarters of a bazar formed by Salabat Khan to accompany him on his military expeditions. There is no doubt that Acalpur was in the past a very large and prosperous city, and is said to have contained at one time as many as 40,000 houses. The number has now touched a low level of 8,000. Its prosperity depended upon two things, the presence of the court and the position of the city at one end of what must always have been a considerable, if not one of the most important, trade routes through the hills to Northern India. The court has vanished and with it the prosperity of the town and the railway has diverted all trade elsewhere. The former importance of Acalpur has declined and its interests are mainly of the past.
Public Buildings and Antiquities.
The history of the city could well be said to be the history of
Berar itself. The town is full of old buildings of greater or less
importance, which bear testimony to its fortunes under different
rulers. Its earliest Muhammedan invaders are commemorated
fitly enough in the bare but stately Idgdh of Sultan Imad-ul-
Mulk (A.D. 1347), the nephew of Muhammad Tughlak. ['So says local tradition which has dignified him with the title of " Sultan ",]
Idgah. jami Masjid.. Barkul Gate. Hauz Katora.
The idgdh is a wall built across, in an open ground, about
46 metres (150 ft.) in length and 15 metres (50 ft.) in height. In
the centre at the top of it there is a raised seat, crowned with a
gumbaz. The extreme ends of the idgdh were surmounted by
two tall and handsome mindrs but now only one stands, the
one to the left of the visitor having collapsed along with a small
part of that side. At one of the ends there are stairs leading to
the top affording a view of the Gavilgad fort, which is partly hidden by the dense forest growth. Muslims offer mass prayers on the day of Id. The Jami Masjid is a huge structure supported by about 108 pillars, each of a height of about 15 metres (50 ft.), constructed in the traditional style. The front row of pillars forms eleven arches. In front of the mosque is a spacious courtyard. There is also a small water tank. The Barkul gate is located in the killa locality of the town. It was a massive erection of stone divided into inner and outer wards and leading into the still older mud fort which dates from the Hindu times. The mud fort is no more in existence and even the Barkul gate lies amidst ruins. Only the brick structure remains, the stones and plaster having fallen asunder due to antiquity. But the remains suffice to give an idea of its grandeur and massivity. The gate had many carved stones in it taken perhaps from some of the pillaged temples and from its situation in the middle of the city it must have been a favourite ' cold harbour' in the hot weather. Recently the wall extensions of the gate were sold in auction and many houses have been constructed from the stones dug out of its foundations. The name Barkul is a corrupt form of the Persian word Birkud which means very big or lofty. From about the same period must date the Hauz Katora, a ruined octagonal tower of brick, mortar and sandstone, about 3 km. (2 miles) to the west of Acalpur. It is believed to have been built by Ahmad Sah Wali Bahamani. The architecture of it is in the style known as Pathan. and the tower stands in the midst of a supposedly circular tank the diameter of which was about 91 metres (100 yards) and depth about 4.572 metres (15 ft.). Now the tank is full of mud and has lost both its shape as well as depth. It is said, though not conclusively proved, that water was brought from Dhamanganv by means of an underground conduit system to feed the tank and in course of time the passage might have got silted with mud and the flow of water stopped. The tower stands 24.68 metres (81 feet) in height and has three storeys; it is said that a fourth and a fifth were removed by one of the Navabs to provide materials for his own palace. There were minars but "they were in ruins even during the time of Akbar. The tower is also believed to have a cellar which is now supposed to have sunk in the mud. On all the eight sides, there are open arch-shaped doors and inside there are designs of beautiful creepers carved in all exuberance. The edifice is long past repairs.
Darus Safa Mosque. Dulha sah Daugah.
The Bahamani dynasty and its tarafdars of Berar have left but little in the way of a memorial. To the Bahamanis we owe
the water-course already mentioned, the Dams Safa Masjid (A.D. 1340) and one or two unimportant minor buildings. The
mosque is said to have been built by one Abdul Kadar and is
located in the Farmanpura part of the town. The entrance is
through a gate constructed in the traditional style opening into
a courtyard which contains a small water tank. The mosque is
rectangular in shape having four rows of pillars forming five arches in the front. It measures 22x10 metres (75'x35'). and
has three domes. It is in a perfectly good condition. From the
same period dates the most famous of all the Acalpur antiqui-ties the tomb of Dulha Sah Abdul Rahman Ghazi Ghaznavi.
The legend tells us of a wandering Muhammedan fakir who was maltreated by a certain Raja of Acalpur and fled to Ghazni to appeal for help. The great Mahmud's nephew was celebrating his bridal when the holy man arrived; but he left the feast to lead a Jehad from beyond the Himalayas for the punishment of the king and died fighting amid untold slaughter of the king's soldiers cutting off, we are even told, his own head to make the victory secure. On the 10th Rabi-ul-aval an urus in honour of Dulha Sah, attended by over 25,000 persons is held. The buildings are picturesquely situated on the north-easterly bank of the Bican about 1.60 km. (1 mile) from the city and from a distance look almost imposing with the two great archways, the small lantern window overhanging the river and a cluster of white-domes behind. On closer scrutiny they are very disappointing: the apparent stone-lace-work is merely a mass of bricks and tiles placed edgeways and whitewashed and the whole effect is indescribably petty. Passing in through the large gate one finds a spacious courtyard containing the graves of many forgotten worthies. There is one in particular which has some very creditable stone tracery. Close at hand on the right lie the houses of the attendants and on the left a small mosque-built originally by Subhedar Miyan Manzur, two hundred and fifty years ago, but restored by Ghulam Husain the last of the Navabs. Through this one enters the holy of holies, the innermost court wherein are the resting places of the Ghazi himself and of his mother Malika-i-Jahan. These are said to have been erected by Safdar Khan Sistani, the lieutenant of Ala-ud-din Hasan, the first Bahaman Sah. They are covered with whitewash and are in no way interesting; the silver doors which they possessed a hundred years ago have been stolen, and though thev were once recovered by the police have since vanished. The largest enclosure of all is surrounded by a sandstone wall built by the brothers Raghuit and Mudhoji Bhosle of Nagpur in alternate thanks offering for their successes over each other. The eastern gate built by Mudhoji is the only erection in the whole crowd of buildings with any architectural beauty. It has a flight of stone steps on either side leading to a broad barah-dari on top. Half way up each flight is a small domed halting place. The barahdari has six windows and two doors and is surmounted by four small minors. Each gate of the wall has a Persian inscription commemorating its builder. Just outside the dargah 183 metres (two hundred yards) from the west bank of
the Bican lies a small but elegant cylindrical sandstone dome
supported on four sandstone pillars. It is commonly known as
the Moni foni Gumbaz, and said to commemorate the infant
daughters or Ahmad Sah Wall s Vazir who died here.
Moni joni Gumbaz.Mandal Sah Bath.Cauk Masjid.
After the fall of the Bahamani dynasty, the architectural history of Acalpur is blank for several hundred years. The Imad Sahi rulers, though they held the proud position of having been the only independent Kings of Berar, were in truth but insecurely seated on a tottering throne. Gavilgad, with its strong walls and precipitous approaches, was a capital far more to their liking than the ill-defended Acalpur. They have left no memorial. The Nizam Sahs were busy elsewhere, and the stir and turmoil of the Moghal invasions of the Deccan left them but little time for building. A few relics remain of the reigns of Akbar and Alamgir: of the former is the well or low-level reservoir known as Mandal Sah, said to have been built by Man Singh, the Raja of Jaipur. It is commonly known to the people as the Mandal Sah Bath and is situated not far from the idgah of Sultan Imad-ul-Mulk mentioned in the foregoing pages. Around the reservoir, which is a sort of a well, square in shape, are extensive meadows and a fine grove of tall tamarind trees. It has a platform where its princely owner could sit and be cool in the hot weather and niches opposite for the musicians to make him merry. The well is of masonry construction and even to-day it is in a perfectly good condition. On its bank, on a block of stone is carved in relief an image of Hanuman. It seems that the block with the image was deposited there at a later date. Alamgir is represented by the Cauk Masjid and a smaller mosque both built by Sayasta Khan or Mirza Beg Khan as he is also called, by the municipal office formerly a Divan-khana, which is now almost in ruins, and by the restoration of the farm Masjid. But the domes of the last-named edifice have collapsed. The Cauk Masjid is rectangular in shape and has three arches in the front. It was constructed in about 1653 A.D. and has three domes flanked by two minars. In the courtyard to the right there is a small talav.
Baiaji Temple.Ram Mandir.
But the most princely of all the dynasties that have ruled Acalpur was that of the Navabs of Sultan Khan's house, and though they were themselves the subordinates of the Nizam of Hyderabad they have done more to beautify the city than all the previous dynasties. In their time too, private munificence, whether that of other rulers such as Mudhoji Bhosle or of private persons, seems to have been turned to building and to such efforts we owe the Hindu temple of Balaji and Ramcandra and the tomb of Sah Ismail Fakir. The temple of Balaji is very old and is a plain edifice. The idol of Balaji is made of Asta Dhatu and is artistically shaped. In the month of Srdvan its utsava is celebrated. The temple of Ramcandra though as old as the temple of Balaji is a much stronger edifice. In the gabhara are placed the idols of Rama, Laksmana and Sita. It is crowned by a well-designed sikhar with a brass spire. It is
enclosed by a compound wall and immediately at the entrance
facing Rama, in a small structure, is the idol of Hanuman.
Inside to the left and right, there are similar shrines of Narsimha
and a Devi, respectively. At the back again there is a small temple of Vitthal Rakhumai.
Dargah of Sah Ismail.
The tomb of Sah Ismail Fakir is near the Dulha Darvaza, one of the entrance gates of the
fortified city. The building consists of two chambers the outer
or the main which contains the tomb of Sah Ismail Fakir with
a stately dome and the inner containing some more tombs. It is much smaller than the outer one. The dome on the outer tomb-chamber is decorated with four spires in the four coiners.
Sultan Khan, the first of this dynasty, built the fort in Sultanpura in about 1754. It is a strong edifice of sandstone on the south bank of the Sarpan. The approach is covered by a flanking wall and the outer gate stands at the head of a steep approach. It was used in the early days of British administration as a gaol. Much of the part of the fort is now in a completely dilapidated condition and has lost all its former strength.
Sultan Khan's son was Ismail Khan, the greatest of the Navabs, whose lofty ideas are clearly expressed in the strong sandstone wall which he built round the city. To-day it has developed many cracks but enough remains to show that the prince equally valued beauty and strength. The wall is studded with carved stones (said to have been taken from the ruined Jain temples of Rdjd II though their neat appearance gives the lie to this), its gates are richly ornamented, and one at least of its khirkis or foot gates, that just to the north of Dulha Darvaza, is extremely graceful.
To the same ruler and his sons Bahlol and Salabat Khan the town owes the commencement of the Navdb Mahal. The old Amravati District Gazetteer has the fallowing to say regarding the Navab Mahal. " It consists of a multiplicity of buildings of which many have fallen into decay. The four great courtyards with their deep verandahs and beautiful carvings both in wood and stone remain. Two of them are still used as dwelling houses by the representatives of the family, and two are lent to Government for schools." The Mahal is now completely deserted and has crumbled down. Only a small roofless part of it is standing. The solid wooden pillars and the work in wood remain to testify the strength, beauty and the grandeur of the Mahal.
Ghulam Husain Khan, the last of the line, built a large Imambara; but the most beautiful of all the buildings in Acalpur is the cemetery of the Navabs in Samastpura which contains a stately dome of Ismail Khan and various small buildings and some very fine jali, i.e., stone-lattice-work. The whole is surrounded by a strong wall with two lofty gateways. Close by is a small mosque and cemetery, dating from older times which also contains one or two handsome tombs. All the Navabs were fond of gardening and Acalpur is surrounded by the relics of many handsome gardens. Perhaps the finest is the Namdar Bag, not far from Dulha Rahman's Dargdh ; it is surrounded by a wall and has a large well for irrigation while one or two fine trees are still standing. Probably it could still be restored at a small cost, and the efforts would be worthwhile. Finally,
mention should be made of the graves of hygone English soldiers
at Acalpur. Just outside the north wall a marble slab com-
memorates Thomas Drew, "who for many years commanded a
Brigade in the service of Salabat Khan Bahadur, Navab of
Acalpur. " He died in 1815. Close to the municipal office are
buried Lieut-Colonel Kenny and another who died in Wellesley's
assault on Gavilgad, and beside the idgah lie Major Lane and
Captain Grant, who succeeded Major Drew in the command just
mentioned; the marble slabs of these last four have long since
been filched from the masonry.
Besides the objects described above the temples of Laksmi Narayan and that of Lord Dattatraya deserve a mention. Laksmi Narayan temple is very old with a spacious sabha-mandap. In the inner shrine on a pedestal are placed the idols of Laksmi and Narayan. In front of the temple there is a fine open courtyard about 10 x 9 metres (35' x 30'). The temple of Dattatraya is near the gadhi in the Sultanpura locality of the town and is said to have been established by Bhavsa Rangari, better known as Gulabrav Maharaj, one of the noted saints of Acalpur. In the gabhara on a pedestal is the idol of Dattatraya. Below the gdbhdrd there is a cellar, descended down by a narrow flight of steps, containing a Siva Linga. To the right of this in a similar but much smaller cellar is a shrine of Laksmi the Goddess of wealth with an idol of Gajanan nearby. Above it in a separate shrine is a Visnu Pancayatan. In the same way to the left of Siva Linga is a temple of Radha Krsna and above it is a Rama Pancayatan. All these shrines are inter-connected with narrow winding staircases. The arrangement is such that one has not to come out and go down again to visit the different shrines in different cellars.
The municipality at Acalpur was established in 1869. It has an area of 61.72 km. (23.83 sq. miles) under its jurisdiction.
The administration of the municipality vests in the municipal committee with the President as the head.
Income and Expenditure.
In 1961-62 the total income of the municipality including a sum of Rs. 26,708.08 as the closing balance of the previous year amounted to Rs. 3,41,819.93. The income sources were: municipal rates and taxes, Rs. 1,52,798.18; realisation under special acts. Rs. 458.93; revenue derived from municipal property and powers apart from taxation, Rs. 17,486.00; grants and contributions, Rs. 1,34,215.38; miscellaneous, Rs. 1,243.49 and extraordinary and debt heads, Rs. 8,909.87. In the same year the expenditure incurred on various items including that on extraordinary and debt heads was Rs. 3,31,886.65. The items of expenditure were general administration, Rs. 68,935.45; public safety, Rs. 13,400.43; public health and convenience, Rs. 1,20,722-86: public instruction, Rs. 1,15.984.69; contributions, Rs. 124.72; miscellaneous, Rs. 3,152.56 and extraordinary and debt heads, Rs. 9,565.94.
To facilitate easy flow of traffic two causeways have been
constructed across the rivers Sarpan and Bican flowing through
the town and dividing its contiguity. As the building, housing
the municipal offices, is in bad repairs, it is proposed to construct
a new one. The municipality has also built two slaughter houses, two meat markets, two cattle-pounds and a sarai. For holding a weekly market a tin shade has also been provided.
Cremation and Burial Places.
Cremation and burial grounds are maintained and used by the respective communities.
Health and Sanitation.
The town has only kutcha drains. However, arrangements
are made to remove night-soil and waste water out of the inhabited localities. A Committee known as the Dispensary Fund Committee conducts a dispensary and a civil hospital. It receives grants from the municipality as well as the Government. The town municipality incurs an annual average expenditure of Rs. 6,400 on medical aid. There is also a veterinary dispensary.
Primary education is compulsory in the town. It is managed
by the municipality. There are five primary schools in the town. In the academic year 1961-62 these schools had a strength of 2,109 pupils with 45 teachers on the staff. In the same year the municipality spent Rs. 57,604-90 on education and learning. It received a grant of Rs. 38,236.57 for the enforcement of primary education from the Education department of the State Government. There are five privately owned high schools. One of these, viz., Rastriya High School received a grant of Rs. 15,000 from the municipality in 1961-62. The Jagadarhba Mahavidya-laya with the faculties of Arts and Commerce was established in 1961. It received a grant of Rs. 5,000 from the municipality in 1962-63. There are two private libraries, viz., the Sarvajanik Vacanalaya and the Navayug Hindi Library, each receiving an annual grant of Rs. 200 from the municipality.
The town has very few good roads within the municipal
limits. Thus far the municipality has constructed nearly 18 kilometres of roads. Of these 9-452 km. are metalled and the remaining unmetalled.