Saturday, March 06, 2021

Fascinating Figures: Census report 1911, data over a century ago gives interesting insight about demographic and religious trends in India

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The latest Census for us is still 2011 Census, as the results of next count would take a few more years.
The change witnessed in the region in a century is reflected in the difference between Census reports in 1911 and 2011.

A century ago, undivided India's population was 31.35 crore. That included India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Barma.

The Census report 1911 makes interesting observations and reveals facts that are mentioned below. Of the 31.35 crore population of India, Hindus numbered 21.73* crore apart from 2.43 lakh Hindu (Arya) registered and 5,500 Brahmo.

Muslim population in 1911 Census report was 6,66,47,299 i.e. 6.66 crore or 21.24%** of the country's population. Sikh were just 30.14 lakh. The total number of Hindus in India was 217.3 millions or 2/3rd of population. In British territory, the proportion is 67% and in native states, 78%. 


The proportion of Hindus in UP was 85%. In Bihar and Orissa and CP and Berar, about 82%. This remains more or less the same even now. In Bombay it was 76%. In the west of Punjab, only 1/8th of inhabitants are Hindus, said the report. 

In Bengal, Hindus are 45%, says this pre-partition report. "Jain population has been diminishing. In quite recent times, many Jains have joined the Arya Samaj". It further points out, "In Punjab, UP and Bombay they are prone to take part in Hindu festivals..."

"... and are thus often disposed to regard themselves as Hindus and are likely gradually to become merged in the religion", the report later adds. "The Kasars of Akola and Jain Kalars attorned to Hinduism". 


Muhammadans number 66.6 million or more than 1/5th of the total population of India. In NWFP and Baluchistan, Muslims number 93% and 91% respectively. In Punjab 55%, Bengal 53%".

The proportion of Muslims falls to 28% in Assam, 20% in Bombay and 14% in UP of Agra and Oudh. 'Bihar and Orissa' province is the only other state where it exceeds 10 percent. In CP and Berar it is only 4% and in Burma 3.5%. 

In native states, the proportion is much smaller but they are very numerous in Baluchistan and Kashmir and fairly so in states of Punjab, Bengal and UP. About half of Bombay Muhammedans are found in Sindh. 

Half of those in Burma are in northern coast districts where they form 1/7th of population. The single district of Purnea contains one quarter of Muhammadans of Bihar and Orissa, and Malabar, one third of Madras. 

Bengal contributes to 24 million or 36 percent, to total number of Muhammadans in India.  Muhammadans number has risen due to partly, more nourishing dietary, their social customs. fewer marriage restrictions, widows remarry more freely. 


There is a difficulty in classifying tribes--animists or Hindu. In some, tribal system is breaking down, they are coquetting to a varying extent with Hindu gods. There is quite an interesting observation in the report.

"Tthe decision depends on idiosyncrasy of enumerator and on the exact wording of the instructions laid down for his guidance. A high caste Hindu enumerator might record as animists those whom a Christian or aboriginal enumerator might enter as Hindus. There is a considerable element of uncertainty. 


There are 38.76 lakh Christians in India, says the report. Of these, 35.74 lakh are Indian Christians. Remainder are European and Anglo Indian. About 3/5th of the total number of Indian Christians are found in Madras and its native states, including Cochin and Travancore. 

Though number of Christians is still small, it is increasing very rapidly. During last ten years it has grown by 32.6%, and it has more than doubled since 1881. the number of Indian Christians has multiplied nearly 3 fold since 1872 [observations in the report of the Census 1911]


*All the figures and percentage need to be readjusted if India-Pakistan-Bangladesh are to be compared with today's geographical boundaries, because this included Burma.

**The percentage will be slightly different as this Census takes Myanmar into account. 

***This is an old representative map and shows pre-independence era boundaries, not present era or national- international boundaries, it is just for illustrative and educational purpose.