His ideals spoke a new line of history

His ideals spoke a new line of history

Lewin Bentham Bowring

One of the well-known commissioners of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom is Lewin Bentham Bowring. Bowring’s work is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, he had a strong conviction to modernise bureaucracy. Secondly, he tried to
experiment with his experiences in the administration of the princely state of Mysore. These helped him carve a niche in the annals of the 19th-century Mysore kingdom.

Lewin Bentham Bowring was born on July 15, 1824, in Britain. After completing his formal education, he came to India in 1842. In 1843, he joined Bengal Civil Service. Soon, he was selected to Punjab administration.

He first served as an assistant Resident of Lahore in 1847. From 1849 to 1854, he served as a deputy commissioner. It was during this period, he acquired more knowledge in the affairs of civil administration.

After the suppression of Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, he worked as the private secretary to the then Viceroy of India, Earl Canning, from 1858 to 1862. In April 1862, he took over as the commissioner of the Mysore province. With this, a colourful chapter begins in the annals of the Mysore kingdom.

Laudable efforts

Being influenced by the Punjab Model of administration, he organised the administration of Mysore princely state. One of the principles under the British expansionist policy was the policy of annexation. Punjab which was divided into six administrative divisions under this policy enabled the smooth running of administration.

Hence, Bowring decided to implement this in Mysore province. With this Mysore entered a period of ‘Regulation System.’

The Revenue Survey and Settlement policy was the greatest contribution of Bowring to the Mysore Province. Revenue Survey and Settlement Department which came to be established in November 1863 began its work. It is considered as the first scientific survey with the help of surveyors from the Bombay Presidency, including
local villagers. Records testify that the work was completed by 1870.

Another interesting feature of the time was the constitution of Inam Commission and a department to seize different kinds of inam, jagirs, koduge that did not pay revenue in the Mysore province. There were about 1500 such institutions in Mysore receiving maintenance grant, tasdik from the Government.

Compilers of gazetteers and chroniclers of Mysore province have very much appreciated Bowring for laying the strong foundations for assessment and collection of revenue.

Bowring paid much preference to reforms in the judiciary. A simple ‘Code of Procedure’ connected with civil suits based partly on Punjab rules and partly on the Act VIII of Government of India, 1859 came to be compiled.

It later served the purpose of the Amildars at taluk levels. For the first time, both legislative and executive functions came to be bifurcated. Courts were established and the highest court served for revision or appeal.

Nearly 22 Acts were enacted during this time. The other field which made progress was the police department. The traditional 'Kandachar Police Force' came to be disbanded and alternate jobs were provided to villagers who served as police. 

The period witnessed marvellous growth in the field of education. In early 1854, a scheme called ‘Devereaux’ was introduced to rejuvenate the education system. In this way, Benjamin Lewis Rice, an educationist, in 1868 made a proposal to the Mysore government which came to be known as ‘Hobli School Scheme’ where illiterate children within every hobli were provided education.

The Government generated sources including a cess on education to fund the education. To accommodate offices of the Government, the Secretariat was constructed in Bangalore, which was very well known as Attara Kacheri.

The Central Jail at Bangalore was also constructed during his time. Coffee plantations were also encouraged. Lewin Bentham Bowring was an accomplished writer too. He wrote Eastern Experiences which was published in 1871 in London. 

One of the interesting chapters in the book is  ‘Chit Chat’. It also contains letters of Lady Bowring to her friends from Bangalore, Fraser town, Belgode,
Nandidoorg and other places during her tour.

It is certainly a piece of a memoir of his oriental experiences.