Dhulia (Dhule) north latitude 21o10' and cast longitude 75o20' is the chief town of the district as also the headquarters with in 1961, a population of 98,893 persons, lying 57 km. north of Chalisgaon on the Bombay-Nagpur route of the Central Railway, with which it is connected by a broad gauge line. It is situated on the southern bank of the Panjhara on the outer side of the bend of the river near the extremity of the easterly course just before it turns northwards to join the Tapi making its way through the gap in the bounding dyke to its north. It is divided into various parts known as Devpur, Nehrunagar, Vishnunagar, Old Dhulia, New Peth. Madhavpura, Moglaipura, Kurnarnagar and the like. The town has to its north the Panjhara. to the south Laling hills and to the east and west a rather barren rolling plain.
The town and its suburbs, covering an area of nearly 10.3 sq. miles (26.68 km2) are well shaded by avenues of fine trees. The Bombay-Agra road now forms the central business thoroughfare, the core being located in the Gandhi chouk before this road crosses the Panjhara. However, now the through traffic has been diverted eastwards of this road within the city to avoid this busy section.
The earliest tangible remains of the existence of human habitation in the region belong to the Old Stone Age, when the early man fashioned large stone tools from large pebbles in river beds and appropriated them for hunting wild animals and digging herbs. Recent surveys of the Girna and Tapi valleys, especially at Prakashe and Dhulia along the Tapi and Panjhara respectively, have brought to light several palaeolithic tools which shed considerable light on the activities of the early man in this region. The excavations at Prakashe have yielded in the upper levels a kind of glass ware, popularly known as the Northern Black Polished Ware, attributed to 4th-3rd centuries B.C., roughly representing the period of Ashok, the Mauryan ruler. These belong to an epoch about which nothing is otherwise known of Khandesh. Inscriptions in the caves at Pitalkhora, incised during this period, go to show that the region had contacts with Paithan, the capital of the Satavahana dynasty.
Dhulia, undoubtedly formed a part of the Satavahana dominions during the early centuries of the Christian era. Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, [Schoff, Periplus of the Erythrean Sea (New York 192).] a work composed in A.D. 90.95, mentions that wagonloads of goods were brought down to Barygaza (Broach) from Paithan and Tagara (modern Ter in Osmanabad district). It is natural to conclude that the old trade route lay along the banks of the Tapi and through Dhulia. We have no definite knowledge about the history of Dhuha during the Satavahana period. It is likely that the territory was governed by Gautamiputra Satakarni [Epigraphia Indica, VIII, p. 60 ff., Luders List No. 1123] after a short Kshaharata interregnum, and remained in the hands of the Sata-vahanas till the decline of that dynasty in about 250 A.D.
No authentic history of Dhulia can be recorded till about the
beginning of the 4th century A.D. Shirpur plates of Maharaja
Rudradasa [Indian Antiquary, XVI, p. 98.] and other records [Cf. Epigraphia lndica, XV, p. 286.] indicate that certain rulers called
Svamidasa, Bhulunda and Rudradasa were ruling in Khandesh in
about A.D. 316-367; but the data is very meagre and hardly convincing. [Cf Mirashi "A New Dynasty in Khandesh". A chary a Pushpanjal Volume; and Samshedhana Muktavali, II pp. 72-78.] Towards the close of the 5th century A. D. the Chalukyas under Pulakeshi I extended their kingdom as far south as Yatapi (Badami) and Khandesh was probably held by their vassals, the Sendrakas. Immediately after the Sendrakas, of whom the last ruler Viradeva is known from a copper-plate charter dated Shaka 624 (A.D. 702) found at Mehunbare in Jalgaon, [Indian Archaeology- A Review for 1957-58, p. 56.] this region seems to have come in the possession of the Rashtrakutas. After the downfall of the Rashtrakutas several minor feudatory families are found to be ruling in Dhulia and who owed their allegiance to a new power viz., the Yadavas. The Yadavas of Devagiri came into prominence during the last quarter of the 13th century A.D. They had previously been ruling over Seunadesha (Khandesh) as feudatories of the Chalukyas of Kalyani. The Yadava dynasty produced a series of remarkable and capable rulers who gave peace and prosperity to the country. The Yadavas yielded to the onslaught of Ala-ud-din Khilji who invaded the kingdom in 1294. In A.D. 1318 the Hindu kingdom of Devagiri came to an end. The Khiljis retained their hold over that territory upto 1370. In that year the subhas of Thalner and Karavandi were granted to Malik Raja Faruqi by Sultan Firoz Tughlug and undoubtedly Dhulia was included in these subhas. During his days two forts or gadhis were built in Devpur and Old Dhulia areas respectively of which the one in Devpur was washed away in the 1872 floods of the Parjhara which caused considerable damage. It was controlled by the Faruqis till 1600. From its nearness to the important fort of Laling, Dhulia is probably a very old settlement. During the reign of Akbar, Khandesh, of which Dhulia formed a part, came to be dominated by the Moghals, and early in the 17th Century (1629) when the Delhi emperors were bringing Khandesh into order the village of 'Dholiya' is mentioned as the place where Khvaja Abul Hasan, Shah Jahan's general passed the rainy season. [ Badshah Nama in Elliot's History, VII, p. 10.]
In 1723, Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah I, who was the Moghal governor of Malva, revolted against that power and became independent. He died in 1748. His son Salabat Jung was the Nizam in 1752 when he was defeated by the Marathas at Bhalki. As per the terms of the treaty of Bhalki practically the entire Khandesh came under the control of the Marathas and remained so until 1818. In the
famine that befell the country in 1803, Dhulia was completely deserted. In the following year Balaji Balvant a dependent of Vitthal Narsing Vinchurkar repeopled the village and in return received from the Vinchurkar a deed granting him certain lands and privileges. [The deed states that the district had been ruined first by the rebels and then by a famine; that the few inhabitants had fled; that the country round was overgrown with brushwood and that Balaji had cleared the thickets and brought traders and husbandmen to settle, had helped them with money to build houses, had established a mart and had in other respects made the town habitable. Mr. Pollen. C. S.] At the same time he repaired the gadhi in Devpur and built the division known as Ganesh Peth in Old Dhulia. Being afterwards entrusted with the entire management of the districts of Songir and Laling, Balaji Balvant fixed his headquarters at Dhulia and continued to exercise his authority till 1818, in which year the country passed to the British. In 1819 Captain Briggs, the first political agent, probably for its central position and because it was on the high road between Poona and Hindustan, made Dhulia the district headquarters. The town was then very small, shut in by the water channel and the river, and without a workman to make even a simple screw. When Captain Briggs took over, the town had only three divisions, viz. Old Dhulia, Devpur and Moglai, New Dhulia and Peth, previously known as Briggs Peth, being his creations. Merchants and others were invited from Burhanpur; master carpenters and smiths were brought from Bombay and Surat and a residence and three offices were built. The building in which the sub-registrar's office is housed today was his head office. The ground for the new town was granted rent free, liberal advances were made to traders and others to enable them to build, and freedom from tax was promised. Public buildings gradually sprang up and old inhabitants returned and shop keepers and traders from all parts of the country came and settled. Gradually many industries were set up and thus Dhulia was once again put on the way to prosperity.
The framework of the city is made up of a number of parallel lanes, the Bombay-Agra road itself forming the third lane from the west, and cross streets at right angles to them. The easternmost of these north-south streets is known as the satvi galli or the seventh street mainly inhabited by persons engaged in spinning, weaving and dyeing industries, and adjoining to this is the Vadjai road where a great amount of weaving takes place on power looms. Ranoji Shinde road, the sixth street, is fairly broad and is mostly lined with two storied houses. The fifth street is comparatively narrow, being lined with old and dilapidated houses, hardly any of them being double storied. The fourth street, the one immediately to the east of the Bombay-Agra road, is a broad one flanked by prosperous looking houses chiefly inhabited by businessmen. Immediately west of the Agra road is the Kalyan Svami street which has again well built and roomy residences, most of them two or three storied. The public offices, the upper class residences and many of the educational
institutions are found in this higher western part of the town. Beyond the Panjhara bridge is the suburb of Devpur, in which is located the Arts and Science College of Dhulia.
The older part of the town with its quaintly grouped houses and hovels, is also the low lying area of the town and serves as poor class residences in general. As an example along Shankar Shet road running eastwards from the Gandhi chowk, old type of houses built of stone and mortar are to be found. The buildings along this road steadily deteriorate as one proceeds eastwards, the extreme north-east corner having only huts of mud walls. This part is rural in appearance with buffalo and cattle sheds near the Panjhara river. South of this is the road running towards Parola, on the northern side of which is the newly built Gandhinagar housing colony, with Phule housing colony for the poorer classes lying further north of this. The Parola road is the main timber market area of the town, there being several timber depots with their power driven saw mills. There are also a few cotton and oil mills. Some more oil nulls are to be found along the road to Chalisgaon. The principal industrial extension is to be found along the Bombay-Agra road to the south of the town. Here are located on both sides of the road several automobile repair shops, several large oil mills, and some ginning and pressing factories. There is also a spinning and weaving mill and an agriculture produce market committee in the town. The railway station lies in the south west corner of the town where are located the Burma Shell, Esso and other oil installations. Besides the railway connection Dhulia has fine roads linking it with many of the important commercial centres. It is served by the state transport bus service.
Though most of the country round is dull and barren, from the north side of the river with the bridge as a foreground and the Laling hills in the distance, the view of Dhulia with its temples and houses rising from among trees girt with gardens, watered fields and mango groves, is rich and picturesque. Pleasant during the cold season, Dhulia is very trying during the hot season, and in the rains though tempered with south-west winds, the air is hot and close.
Constitution : Established in 1862, [According to Old Khandesh Gazetteer, 1860, p. 445.] the Dhulia municipal jurisdiction extends over an area of 26.75 km2 (10.33 sq. miles). It has a committee presided over by a president. The committee looks after the municipal administration.
Finance: In 1963-64, the municipal income amounted to Rs. 31,60,868. It comprised municipal rates and taxes Bs. 20,09,911; revenue derived from municipal property and powers apart from taxation Rs. 3,35,159; grants and contributions Rs. 7,68,175 and miscellaneous Rs. 47,623. As against this the expenditure during the same year totalled Rs. 33,83,334. The items that comprised the
expenditure were general administration Rs. 5,89,883; public safety Rs. 1,60,114; public health and convenience Rs. 18,57,138; public instruction Rs. 6,11,959 and miscellaneous Rs. 1,64,240. Both the income as well as the expenditure figures given here do not include income accrued from or expenditure incurred due to extraordinary and debt heads.
Markets and Buildings : The town has been provided with four well built markets of which two are for vegetables and fruits, one for cloth and the other for grains and cereals. In 1967 yet another vegetable market was constructed at a cost of Rs. 1,10,000. It is the most modern and up-to-date market in the town. To facilitate traffic between the main town and the suburb of Devpur lying across the Panjhara, a causeway has been constructed across that river at a cost of three and a quarter lakhs of rupees. Thus far, only the Panjhara bridge over which the Agra road runs formed the connecting link between these two parts of the town. The buildings housing the municipal offices are of its own propriety. It has already provided the sweepers and the scavenging staff with residential accommodation. There is a proposal to build quarters for the administrative staff also.
Health, Sanitation and Water Supply: To cater to the medical needs of the comparatively poorer section of the population the town municipality has set up six dispensaries (five allopathic and one ayurvedic) and a maternity home. In some of these, arrangement is made for the honorary services of noted surgeons in order to give the public expert medical advice. Family planning centres have also been attached to some of these dispensaries. There are also a government civil hospital, a T. B. clinic, a mission hospital and quite a few well equipped private clinics and maternity homes. Separate arrangements are made to check the spread of diseases and outbreak of various epidemics as the occasion demands. The veterinary dispensary of the town is conducted by the Zilla Parishad.
As yet the town has no underground drainage system, except in a few localities. The drains consist of pucca open gutters. However, arrangement is made to collect the sewage water in septic tanks, from where it is supplied to the farms. To-day the area so covered stands at 40.47 hectares (100 acres). Compost manure is also prepared and sold in auction. Realising the need of keeping the town clean sanitarily, an underground drainage scheme estimated to cost approximately fifty lakhs of rupees has been prepared. The government sanction, as also a loan to the tune of Rs. 35 lakhs has already been obtained and will soon be implemented. A slum clearance scheme estimated to cost nearly Rs. 5,04,100 has also been drawn up. It will receive a grant of 15 per cent. each from the Union and the State Governments.
Two water-works, viz. Dedargaon water works, 11.26 km. (seven miles) distant from the town, and the Panjhara water-works
supply water to the town. While the former was built in 1892, the latter was constructed in two stages at a cost of rupees five and six lakhs respectively. A filtration plant consisting of six filtration galleries has also been installed. These two water-works meet the water needs of the people effectively.
Education: Compulsory primary education is enforced and looked after by the town municipality which alone conducts over fifty primary schools, besides the private ones and the montessories. Of these fifteen are housed in their own buildings, ten in the premises provided by government and the remaining in rented premises. Two middle schools are also maintained. Dhulia has comparatively better facilities as far as high school and college education is concerned. There are over eleven high schools, most of them conducted by private bodies, of which the Garud high school is the oldest. For higher education and courses in teaching there are the following institutions:
Arts and science college, commerce college, agricultural college, government basic training college, Aghava primary training college, industrial training institute, polytechnic and Dhulia Education Society's college of education.
The town has quite a few libraries but a special mention may be made of the following: Rajvade Samshodhan Mandir library, Garud library, Urdu library, Prani Rakshak Sanstha library and the one maintained by the municipality.
Fire Fighting Service: In all four well-equipped fire-lighters are maintained. Some of these are utilised to water the roads during summer.
Cremation and Burial grounds: One cremation ground in Devpur locality and three burial grounds in other localities of the town are maintained by the town municipality. Resides these, there are seven more cremation and burial grounds maintained and used by the various communities.
Amenities: Dhulia is a populous town and has many recreational facilities. It has many private clubs, associations and mandals and the like. Though not lacking in theatres, the municipality has constructed an open air theatre and a stadium at a cost of rupees one lakh and rupees one lakh ten thousand respectively. It has laid out and maintained four parks, of which the one named after Sardar Patel is the most modem and best of all. It has cost one lakh rupees.
The town has also research institutes like Rajwade Samshodhan Mandir, Shri Samarth Vagdevata Mandir carrying on and promoting research in historical studies.
There are a few religious buildings. On the left of the Agra road there is a small pretty Vithoba's temple, with a canopy, chhatri, very neatly carved in the style of a Muhamrnedan cupola. Its foundation and outer wall were much damaged during the 1872 floods of the Panjhara. On the other side of the road, on a lower level than the bridge and saved by it in the 1872 flood stand temples of Ram and Ganapati, built by one Bhagoji Naik a wealthy Vanjari. Though much hidden by buildings and trees their spires are seen from miles across the river. The temples were painted red, blue, yellow and geeen but the 1872 floods washed off the colour. Since then they have not been painted again. They are adorned with figures of animals and birds. In the old town is a temple sacred to Ekvira Devi, an ordinary two storied house with a strong wooden and tiled roof. In the new town are two Jain temples not differing in appearance from ordinary dwellings. On the Agra road is another temple sacred to Ram locally known as Pattabighi Rain built one Narayan Baba Brahmachari with the help of one Khushal Damodar-das at a cost of Rs. 40,000. The stone employed for its construction is told to have been brought from Nagpur. In the front is a verandah built on a plinth of carved stone with an upper storey used as a drum-chamber or nagarkhana. Inside of the verandah is a square chauk surrounded by a plinth of carved stone. Opposite the main door a flight of steps leads to the shrine. Besides these, there are temples dedicated to Nav Grahas, Dnyaneshwar and Narayan Maharaj Math. There is also a Trivikram temple of recent construction.
Of the Muslim places of worship besides many small mosques, including the well built mosque at the end of the Ganesh suburb, the most important is the one known as Anjan Shah Data. It is said to be over a thousand years old.
On the Panjhara are two well built ghats known as Patale Ghat and Jivanram Jodhram Ghat.
The gadhi in old Dhulia standing on the banks of Panjhara and built during the days of Malik Raja Faruqi is fairly in a good condi-tion. But for this gadhi which affords a sort of protection to the riverside part of the town, a part of old Dhulia would have been washed away in the 1944 floods.
There is also the Nakana tank, situated three miles (4.82 km.) west of Dhulia town. Its waters are taken to the fields by means of a canal which passes through the heart of the town. The municipality proposes to build a park there and name it as Javaharlal Nehru National Park.
Dhulia has also statues installed in honour of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhanshi, Maharana Pratap and Mahatma Gandhi.