Mineral resources of Rajpipla State

Rajpipla State had considerable mineral resources. The cornelian and agate mines of the State have been referred to since ancient times. Ptolemy’s “Mountain of Agates” is none other than Ratanpur of Rajpipla State. The famous Cup of the Ptolemies is known to have come from the agate mines of Limbodra, which later came to be called Ratanpur.

Cup of the Ptolemies (front). Image courtesy: Wikipedia.
Cup of the Ptolemies (back). Image courtesy: Wikipedia.

(According to Wikipedia: The Cup of the Ptolemies, also known as the Cup of Saint Denis, is an onyx cameo two-handled cup, or kantharos. The cup, decorated with Dionysiac vignettes and emblems, was carved at some point in Classical Antiquity, probably in Alexandria. Eventually, it found its way into the treasury of the French kingdom, before it was donated to the abbey of St. Denis. During the Middle Ages, it was used as a Christian chalice, and lavish mounts were added, with Latin inscriptions. In 1804, the cup was stolen, and the mounts were lost, although the cup itself was recovered. It is now in the Cabinet des Médailles at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.)

Later, early in the sixteenth century an Abyssinian merchant named Bawaghor established a cornelian factory at Limbodra. This Sidi merchant, while wandering from place to place on pilgrimage, did business in precious stones and, becoming skilled in agates, set up a factory at Limbodra where he prospered and died rich. A shrine was raised in his honour on a hill close to the Cornelian mines, now well known as the Bawaghor Hills in the Ratanpur forest of Rajpipla State. A fair of considerable importance is held at this place every year.

It was at Ratanpur that the Rajpipla forces under Maharana Verisal I, in alliance with the Maratha commander Dhanaji Jadhav, defeated the army of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1705.    

During Maharaja Vijaysinhji’s reign, negotiations were held in the 1930s with some well-known firms to work the mines on a scientific basis. This was despite the fact that they were handicapped by the general trade depression of the times and by the fact that cheap foreign articles made from artificial stones were available abundantly in the market. Considerable efforts were put in to work this industry on modern and scientific lines and put it on a sound financial basis.

Marble of good quality was found in the Garudeshwar Taluka of Rajpipla State. Basically black in colour. It took very good polish. Marble in white and in greyish and greenish tints was found occasionally.

There was excellent building stone near Jhagaria, in the Kadia Dungar and Bardaria Hills. It was greyish white and on the hard side. It took good polish and was suitable for carving.

The proper working of these quarries was handicapped by the difficulty of transport. To alleviate this, Maharaja Vijaysinhji constructed a light railway which helped in securing a good market for the stones.

Red and yellow ochre, and fire and pottery clays were available in abundance, and a factory for pottery works and tiles was established at Jhagadia in the 1930s. Cement stones and good quality limestone and gypsum were also found in large quantities in Rajpipla State.

With a view to the development of the State, including mining activity, Maharaja Vijaysinhji devoted much attention to the construction of railways and roads. Rajpipla town, the capital, was already connected by the State Railway with Ankleshwar, in the Bharuch district, on what was then called the Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway. The Rajpipla State Railway, 64 kilometres in length, was originally laid out by Maharana Chhatrasinhji between 1897 and 1899. In 1917, Maharaja Vijaysinhji built a bridge over the River Karjan, which brought the terminus right into Rajpipla town.

Maharaja Vijaysinhji also constructed a branch line of the Rajpipla State Railway from Jhagadia to Netrang, about 32 kilometres in length, opening up the forest area and the uncultivated tracts of land. An offshoot of this line ran up to the stone quarries of Kadia Dungar.

It was proposed to extend the Railway to Dediapara, a length of another 30-odd kilometres, and ultimately to carry it through to the extreme south-easterly boundary of the State, adjoining the British district of Khandesh. The plan could not come to fruition owing to merger of the State with the Union of India in 1948.

(Parts of this article have been sourced from The Illustrated Weekly Coronation Supplement 1937).

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