THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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ARAVALLI HILLS, a range of mountains in India, running for 300 m. in a north-easterly direction, through the Rajputana states and the British district of Ajmere-Merwara, situated between 24° and 27° 10′ N. lat., and between 72° and 75° E. long. They consist of a series of ridges and peaks, with a breadth varying from 6 to 60 m. and an elevation of 1000 to 3000 ft., the highest point being Mount Abu, rising to 5653 ft., near the south-western extremity of the range. Geologically they belong to the primitive formation—granite, compact dark blue slate, gneiss and syenite. The dazzling white effect of their peaks is produced, not by snow, as among the Himalayas, but by enormous masses of vitreous rose-coloured quartz. On the north their drainage forms the Luni and Sakhi rivers, which fall into the Gulf of Cutch. To the south, their drainage supplies two distinct river systems, one of which debouches in comparatively small streams on the Gulf of Bay32975-h.htm'>CamBay, while the other unites to form the Chambal river, a great southern tributary of the Jumna, flowing thence via the Ganges, into the Bay of Bengal on the other side of India. The Aravalli hills are for the most part bare of cultivation, and even of jungle. Many of them are mere heaps of sand and stone; others consist of huge masses of quartz. The valleys between the ridges are generally sandy deserts, with an occasional oasis of cultivation. At long intervals, however, a fertile tract marks some great natural line of drainage, and among such valleys Ajmere city, with its lake, stands conspicuous. The hills are inhabited by a very sparse population of Mhairs, an aboriginal race. For long these people formed a difficult problem to the British government. Previously to the British occupation of India they had been accustomed to live, almost destitute of clothing, by the produce of their herds, by the chase and by plunder. But Ajmere having been ceded to the East India Company in 1818, the Mhair country was soon afterwards brought under British influence, and the predatory instincts of the people were at the same time controlled and utilized by forming them into a Merwara battalion. As the peaceful results of British rule developed, and the old feuds between the Mhairs and their Rajput neighbours died out, the Mhair battalion was transformed into a police force. The Aravalli mountaineers strongly objected to this change, and pleaded a long period of loyal usefulness to the state. They were accordingly again erected into a military battalion and brought upon the roll of the British army. Under Lord Kitchener’s scheme of 1903 they were entitled the 50th Merwara Infantry. The Aravalli hills send off rocky ridges in a north-easterly direction through the states of Alwar and Jaipur, which from time to time reappear in the form of isolated hills and broken rocky elevations to near Delhi.
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