Ruling the Countryside Class 8 History Chapter 3 Explanation, Question and  Answers

CBSE Class 8 History Lesson  Ruling the Countryside – Detailed explanation of the chapter ‘Ruling the Countryside‘ along with question answers. Given here is the complete explanation of the lesson, along with all the exercises, Questions and Answers given at the back of the lesson.

Class 8 History Chapter 3 – Ruling the Countryside

In this chapter, we will read how East India Company, after becoming Diwan of Bengal, earned its revenue by formulating some new methods of revenue collection.

So let’s begin our chapter.


On 12 August 1765, the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II granted the diwani rights of Bengal to East India Company. This was granted after battle of Buxar (1764). This was signed by Shah Alam II and Robert Clive. Now the company became the Chief Financial Administrator of Bengal.When the company achieved the right of diwani, the responsibility of administering the land and organizing its revenue also came on the shoulders of the company. Not only this, it had to ensure that it could buy the products it needed at cheaper rates and sell them at higher rates.

Over the years, the company had also learned how to play safe in an unknown land i.e. India. Now here what I mean is that company had to pacify those who were the early rulers of the countryside. It was not possible to eliminate them completely. So, the company did the following-

organize its revenue resources

To yield crops it needed

Colonizing the countryside

That’s what we are going to study further in this chapter

Revenue for the company

Though the company became Diwan of Bengal province, still it was working as a trading company. It was not interested in setting up any regular system of assessment and collection of revenue. Their main aim was to increase revenue so that they have plenty of money to buy cotton and silk but the prices of the goods had increased so far. Now, as we have studied in previous chapters that earlier the company was dependent upon the inflow of gold and silver from Britain for purchasing goods in India but after 1765 things changed and now the revenue from Bengal was enough to purchase goods.

But here also a big problem arose. What was this problem?

The economy of Bengal faced a deep crisis because of the following:

Artisans left Bengal as they were being forced by the company to sell their products at a cheaper rate.

Peasants were unable to pay the heavy dues laid on them.

Agriculture was collapsing.

Big famine of 1770 hit Bengal. This killed about 10 million population there, washing out about 1/3rd of the population of Bengal.

As such incidents took place which ruined the economy heavily, the company then felt the need of improving agriculture.

The need to improve agriculture

Most of the company officials were of the view that there was a great need of investing in land and agriculture in order to improve it because the fall in agriculture was resulting into great loss of revenue to the company.

Therefore, after a long thinking, in 1793, the company took the decision of introducing the revenue collection method known as ‘Permanent Settlement’. As per the settlement, the ‘rajas’ and ‘taluqdars’ were now known as the ‘zamindars’ and they had to collect the rent from peasants which was fixed permanently by the Britishers. The main aim behind this was that zamindars will only pay the fixed amount to Britishers since the demand of revenue will not increase and will invest into the improvement of agriculture to generate extra income for themselves.

It did not go as per the plan and the following problems arose-

The Problem

The ‘permanent settlement’ however didn’t prove to be that useful as thought by the company. Soon it was discovered that zamindars were not investing in the improvement of land because the rent fixed was so high that it became impossible for the zamindars to pay it off. As a result, they were deprived of zamindaris. Even the zamindaris were also put on auction by the company. Meanwhile, something new was noticed by the company that the situation was changing as the prices of the goods were increasing and slowly but gradually the agriculture was also expanding. This led to benefit of zamindars but for the company, it remained same as the revenue was fixed. Even the zamindars were not keen to invest in the improvement of agriculture because they were gaining a lot without putting any effort in the form of the rent that they obtained from the peasants.

On the other hand, the cultivators found it extremely oppressive as they had to pay very high rent to zamindars though they did not have ownership over the land that they worked on.

Now that we know the problems being faced by the company regarding generation of revenue, we should now move on to the solution it came up with.

A new system is devised

By early nineteenth century, many of the company officials felt that it was impossible for the company to survive on the fixed amount of rent that it was getting because now the expenses of the company had increased. They decided to develop a new method of revenue collection.

Mahalwari System

In 1822 an Englishman called Holt Mackenzie felt that village was an important social institution for north Indian society and needed to be preserved. Therefore, he developed a new method of revenue collection known as Mahalwari system. In this system following steps were taken:

Officers went to different villages for inspection of lands

Fields were measured

Customs and rights of the people were recorded

The estimated revenue of each plot within the village was added up to calculate the revenue that each village (mahal) had to pay.

The revenue was not permanently fixed. It was to be revised periodically.

Instead of zamindars, the village headman was made responsible of collecting and paying the revenue to the company.

While Mahalwari system of revenue collection was introduced in the northern part of the country, another method came into use in the southern part of India. This was famously known as Ryotwari system or Munro system. So let’s know about ryotwari system or Munro system.

The Munro system

In southern part of India also Britishers felt that the permanent settlement method was not beneficial enough and so, Thomas Munro (Governor of Madras 1819-26), developed a new method of revenue collection known as ryotwari system.

This system was actually based on a method which was applied by Captain Alexander Read on a small scale in some of the areas which were won over by the company after defeating Tipu sultan. Ryots here refers to the cultivators. As there was absence of zamindars in south India, both Read and Munro decided to directly deal with the ryots or the cultivators who were tilling the land from generations. Under this, the fields of ryots were carefully measured and assessed.

So, now we know that three systems of revenue collection were tried by the Britishers. Let’s compare them

Permanent Settlement
Mahalwari System
Ryotwari System
Introduced in the year 1793
Introduced in the year 1833
Introduced in the year 1820
revenue was fixed
revenue was not fixed. estimated revenue of each plot was added to the total revenue of the village
revenue was not fixed. Each field was carefully measured and assessed
zamindars were ordered to collect the revenue
instead of zamindars, the revenue was collected by the village headman
britishers collected the revenue
introduced in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa
introduced in north western frontier, Punjab, Gangetic valley, etc.
introduced in Madras, Bombay, Coorg, etc.
Zamindars were the owner of the land
peasants were the owner of the land
peasants were the owners.

Ok, now we know the difference between all the three systems of revenue collection. We know that Ryotwari system was also introduced by the Britishers But soon a new problem arised. What was that? Let’s find out

All was not well

Under the ryotwari system, peasants were charged with a very high rate of tax. They started deserting the countryside as it became impossible for them to pay tax. Many of the company officers were of the view that the new system of collection will help peasants in becoming rich. But this never happened.

Britishers were not solely dependant on the revenue generated from Indian territories in the form of taxes they levied but they also decided to use the crops of the country in order to earn profit in the trading business. This we will study further.

Crops for Europe

By the late eighteenth century, Britishers tried to expand the cultivation of opium and indigo in various parts of India. They also forced the cultivators to grow various other crops such as:

  • Jute in Bengal
  • Tea in Assam
  • Sugarcane in U.P
  • Wheat in Punjab
  • Cotton in Maharashtra and Punjab
  • Rice in Madras

So, basically, the more emphasis was laid on the cultivation of indigo but why was it so important to cultivate indigo?

First of all you should know what indigo is and why is it used?

 Indigo was so important because:

It can only be grown in tropical climate. So, climate of India was suitable for its growth.

India was the main exporter of indigo

It was of high demand in Europe because it gave a rich blue color to be used for dying the clothes.

In Europe, a plant named woad was cultivated which was used for dying clothes but the colour that it gave was not so rich, resulting into the high demand of indigo in Europe.

One interesting fact about woad and indigo is that the woad cultivators were so worried about the tough competition they were facing because of indigo, that they pressurized their respective governments to ban the import of indigo.

Not only English, but the French in Caribbean island, The Portuguese in Brazil, The Spanish in Venezuela also started cultivating indigo plants. While the demand for indigo was increasing, its supply fell to half between 1783 and 1789 due to various reasons.

As there was less supply, the British dyers became keener to procure indigo and at this point, they turned to India to meet their needs.

Britain turns to India

The demand for indigo was rising day by day in Europe.Therefore, the company decided to expand indigo cultivation in India. Bengal was the largest exporter of indigo to the Britain. In 1810 about 95% of the indigo imported by Britain was from Bengal. As the indigo trade grew, many of the commercial agents and company officials started investing in the indigo business. As this was a profitable business, many Englishmen settled in India and became indigo planters. Even loans were granted by the company and the banks for indigo cultivation.

How indigo was cultivated?

Indigo was cultivated under two systems. They were as follows:

  1. Nij – In this system the planter produced indigo on the land which was under his control. Either he was the owner or he had rented it for indigo cultivation but the nij cultivators found it difficult to grow indigo as it required a large fertile area which was not easily available as most of the land was densely populated. Even labourers were not available sometimes as they were busy with the rice cultivation. Thus, they were not interested in growing indigo any more.
  2. Ryoti – Under the ryoti system, the planters entered into contract with ryots or village headman, sometimes forcibly. According to the contract, 25% of land was exclusively kept for the cultivation of indigo and loans were provided for its cultivation. The planter used to provide the seeds and drill to the farmer and he in return had to take care of the plants. But soon, the ryots realized that this system was not an easy one because they got trapped in the cycle of loans which were unending and the income they received through indigo plantation was also very meager. Even the fertility of the land deteriorated. The land became unfit for the growth of rice after the cultivation of indigo.

As the system of the indigo plantation was very oppressive, all the peasants became rebellious.

The ‘Blue rebellion’ and after

In March 1859 a rebellion broke in Bengal. Many of the ryots refused to pay rents to the planters. Not only this, they attacked indigo factories. At some places the village headmen who were forced to enter into a contract by the planters, also supported this rebellion. Peasants at some places thought that they would get support from the Britishers but it was not so as the Britishers became cautious after the revolt of 1857. So, they brought military for safeguarding planters in the indigo districts.

Queen Victoria ordered Magistrate of Barasat, Ashley Eden to issue a notice stating that ryots would not be forced to enter into indigo contracts. An indigo commission was setup to look into the matter. The commission came up with the following conclusions:

  1. Planters were found guilty
  2. Planters were coercing (forcing) ryots to enter into contracts.
  3. Indigo cultivation was not profitable for ryots.
  4. The ryots were asked to fulfill the existing contracts but they got the right to refuse for indigo cultivation in future.

After the revolt, as production of indigo came to an end in Bengal, planters shifted to Bihar. There also, they faced similar revolt known as the Champaran revolt in year 1917 which was supported by Mahatma Gandhi.

NCERT Book solutions

Match the following-

cultivation on ryot’s land
cultivation on planter’s own land


cultivation on planter’s own land
cultivation on ryot’s land

Fill in the blanks.

(a) Growers of woad in Europe saw__________ as a crop which would provide competition to their earnings.

(b) The demand for indigo increased in late eighteen century Britain because of _______.

(c) The international demand for indigo was affected by the discovery of__________.

(d) The Champaran movement was against ___________.


(a) Growers of woad in Europe saw indigo as a crop which would provide competition to their earnings.

(b) The demand for indigo increased in late eighteen century Britain because of industrialization.

(c) The international demand for indigo was affected by the discovery of synthetic dyes.

(d) The Champaran movement was against indigo planters.

Question and Answers

Q. Describe the main features of the permanent settlement?

A. Officials of East India company believed  that in order to increase revenue there was a need to improve agriculture. So, they come up with the permanent settlement method in 1793.Its main features were as follows:

  1. Rajas and taluqdars were now known as zamindars.
  2. A revenue amount was fixed permanently and it was not to be increased in future.
  3. Zamindars were incharge of collecting the revenue from peasants.
  4. Company believed that as the revenue is fixed the zamindars would benefit by investing in improvement of agriculture.
  5. The revenue was very high and due to its nonpayment many zamindars lost their zamindari.

Question: How was mahalwari system different from the permanent system?


permanent system
mahalwari system
introduced in the year 1793
introduced in the year 1833
revenue was fixed
revenue of each plot was added to the totl revenue of the village
zamindars collected the revenue
village headman collected the revenue
introduced in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa
introduced in north (Punjab, gangetic valley, etc)
Zamindars were the owner of the land
peasants were the owner of the land

.Q. Give two problems which with the new Munro system of fixing revenue?

A. Under the Munro system, following were the two problems:

  1. The revenue fixed was very high.
  2. The peasants were unable to pay it so they deserted the countryside.

Q. Why were ryots reluctant to grow indigo?

A. Under the ryot system of indigo cultivation, the planters used to enter into contract with ryots forcefully. They were reluctant to grow the indigo for following   reasons:

I. As per the contract they had to keep 25% of their land exclusively for indigo cultivation.

II. Planters use to provide loan for indigo cultivation to ryots but soon they realized that they were trapped into a never ending cycle of loan.

III. The income they received in return of indigo cultivation was very less.

IV. Planters forced them to keep the best land for indigo cultivation which ryots want to keep for rice cultivation.

V. Land become infertile after indigo cultivation and become unsuitable for rice cultivation in future.

Q. What were the circumstances which led to the eventual collapse of indigo cultivation in Bengal?

A. There were a number of circumstances which led to the collapse of indigo cultivation in Bengal. They are as follows:

I. Ryots were fed up of the coercive methods used by the planters for indigo cultivation.

II. At some places local zamindars and headmen also supported them.

III. They attacked many of the indigo factories with swords and spears

IV. Worried by the rebellion the government brought military for protecting planters from assault.

V. The magistrate of Barasat issued a notice stating that no ryot will be forced for indigo cultivation.

VI. Indigo commission was setup to look into the matter and it found planters guilty. It stated that indigo cultivation was not profitable for ryots and they were asked to fulfill the existing contracts and were free to refuse indigo cultivation in future.