Surga'na, in the south-west corner of Khandesh, has an area of 360 square miles, a population of 8200 inhabitants, and an estimated gross yearly revenue of £1150 (Rs. 11,500). It is bounded on the north by the Dangs, on the east by the Sahyadri hills partly in Nasik partly in Khandesh, on the south by Peint in Nasik, and on the west by Bansda and Dharampur in Surat. Like the Dangs, it is full of spurs of hills and waving uplands once covered with dense forest, now partly cleared and stripped of most of their valuable timber. There is only one mountain stream, which, rising in the Sahyadris, flows west. Except in the months of April and May, the climate is very unhealthy both to Enropeans and natives; and even in those months the water is very scarce and bad. The prevailing diseases are ague, fever, colic, and spleen.
The chief forest trees are, teak sag Tectona grandis, blackwood sisu Dalbergia sissoo, khair Acacia catechu, and tivas Dalbergia njainensis. The teak is knotted, gnarled, and stunted, much inferior to Dang teak. Other forest products are fruit, gums, honey, lac, and tree roots.
There were, according to the 1872 census, 8094 inhabitants of
whom 4390 were males and 3704 females. Most of them are Bhils and almost all are very poor.
The soil chiefly consists of a loose rich black loam, which, though
generally of little depth, is very fertile. The richest spots are at the
bottoms of deep valleys. The staple article of food is nagli Eleusine coracana, an early crop raised on the slopes of hills by hand labour. Qther crops grown in the Btate are, rice bhat Oryssa sativa, tur Cajanusindicus, sava Panicum miliaceum, kodra or barti Paspalum scrobiculatum, uaid Phaseolus mungo, vari Panicum miliare, and kharsani Verbesina sativa.
Roads, passable for beasts of burden, run from Hatgad in the
Nasik sub-division of Belgian to Balsar in Surat. There is a cart track from Surgana to Bansda. The only traffic is in timber.
The ancestors of the Surgana deshmukh appear to have been
Kolis who lived in the fastnesses round Hatgad. During Muham-madan rule a nominal allegiance was claimed from them, and they were entrusted with the charge of preventing the wild Bhils and Kolis of the Dangs passing above the Sabyadris,of rendering military service when required, and of keeping open the roads that ran through their territory. The fort of Hatgad, eight miles east of Surgana, was once of great importance ; and one of its gateways was placed in permanent charge of the chief. Afterwards the chief, having shown considerable activity and loyalty, was entrusted with the charge of the line of the Sahyadris from Ravla to Shribhuvan. Several villages in Surgana were granted to him in reward for his service and for the support of his irregular troops. Some time after, the head of the family represented to the Government that his want of a title lessened his influence in the Dangs and the country round. He was thereupon given the title of deshmukh with leave to seal in all matters connected with the Dangs and the Surgana frontier. Under Maratha rule, as the deshmukh refused to pay any revenue, his country along with the Dangs was included in rebel land, bandimulak. But as Surgana lay on one of the high roads between the Deccan and Surat, great efforts were made to conciliate the chief. He was allowed to collect the revenue of Government villages in Surgana, and, when he chose, to pay it to a Maratha officer at Hatgad. [In the Peshwa's old records Surgana is entered as a division, taraf, of Hatgad, and the jaghir villages as taraf Suigana.] The Surgana deshmukh continued independent until 1818, when the British Government led an expedition against Malharji to punish him for an attack made on a party stationed at Surgana. In 1819 Malharji was seized and hanged, and his cousin Bhikaji who had helped Government against Malharji, was recognised as the head of the estate and vested with the chief authority. Malharji's mother, who after ;her son's death lived at Vani in the Nasik district, stirred up her brother-in-law Pilaji who raised a disturbance and murdered Bhikaji. In 1820 a force was sent against Pilaji, who, for a time, sought refuge in Peint, but was seized, and with five of his accomplices hanged. Yashvantrao, son of Bhikaji, then a lad of ten years, was recognised as the representative of the chief branch and appointed to manage the state through a diwan chosen by Government. But the younger branch refused to acknowledge Yashvantrao, and separating from him continued in a state of bitter enmity. In 1842, the disputes between
the two branches rose so high that Government had to interfere. An inquiry showed that Morarrav the head of the younger branch was to blame. He was for some time placed under surveillance, but in 1848, on furnishing security for his future good conduct, he was allowed to return to his estate. In 1854, Yashvantrao died and was succeeded by his cousin Ravirav. The question as to which was the senior branch was again raised. It was decided in favour of Ravirav who was given the chief power, while Morarrav the head of the younger branch was to carry on the state affairs in concert with Ravirav, and enjoy an equal share in the state revenue. Ravirav was succeeded by his son Shankarrav, the present deshmukh.
On Morarrav's death his branch was represented by his son Bhaskarrav. He was weak-headed and easily led astray by his advisers, who induced him to defy the authority of his cousin. In 1873, he died leaving three sons under the guardianship of his widow Salubai.
In 1877, in consequence of the deshmukh's highhandedness, a serious quarrel took place between him and the guardian widow Salubai. The diwan, who was unable to manage things properly, was for a time removed, and the dispute was peacefully settled. The present (1879) deshmukh, Shankarrav, a Koli by caste and thirty years old, manages his own affairs, with the help of his diwan, who acts under the orders and instructions of the Khandesh Political Agent. He lives at Surgana where are the court treasury and prison; while Salubai his cousin's widow, lives at a village two miles distant. Three of her sons are being taught in the vernacular school at Dhulia. The deshmukh does not pay tribute either to the British Government or to any other state. The chiefs title is a misnomer and is granted by courtesy only, the family really being hereditary deshmukhs of the Hatgad division of Baglan in Nasik. [Mr. Bell's Letter 364 of 15th July 1844 to Townsend.] They do not hold a patent allowing adoption, and in matters of succession, follow the rule of primogeniture.
The land revenue of the state is raised on the plough, autbandi, system, two bullocks representing one plough. As there are no carts, every bullock whose neck shows marks of wear is considered a plough bullock and is assessed accordingly. No account is taken of the amount of land tilled by each plough or of the nature of the crop raised. In each village not more than one-fourth or one-fifth of the whole population pay rent.
Civil disputes and petty offences are, according to custom, settled by the deshmukh with the help of the diwan. Criminal charges are tried without any regular procedure or fixed rules, and offenders
punished by fine or whipping.
Serious cases are referred to the political Agent. The one school in the place is often closed for want of pupils.
There is no dispensary. The prevailing diseases are ague, fever,
spleen, small-pox, and colic. The people object to vaccination, believing that small-pox is a scourge sent by their deity.