PURNLA.H, a district of British India in the Bhagalpur division of the lieutenant-governorship of Bengal, occupying an area of 4956 square miles, is situated between 25° 15' and 26° 37' N. lat. and 87° and 88° 33' E. long. On the N. it is bounded by the state of Nepal and the district of Darjiling, on the E. by the Jalpaiguri, Dinajpur, and Maldah districts, on the W. by Bhagalpur, and on the S. by the Ganges, which separates it from the districts of Bhagalpur and the Santal Parganas. Purniah is a level depressed tract of country, but for the most part of a rich loamy soil of alluvial formation ; it is traversed by several streams, which flow from the Himalayas lying to the north and afford great advantages of irrigation and water carriage, and is well cultivated ; but in the west the soil is thickly covered with sand deposited by the Kusi river, which rises in the Nepal mountains and flows southwards to the Ganges. The country is destitute of anything that can be called forest, but much scrub jungle is found in the neighbourhood of the more swampy tracts. Among other rivers of the district is the Mahananda, which rises in the mountains of Sikkim and flows through the east of Purniah into Maldah. Wild animals are not so numerous as in the neighbouring districts, but the tiger is found in all parts of Purniah, particularly along the banks and among the sandy islands of the Kusi, and also in the scrub jungle that runs along the north of the district. The climate of Purniah is of an intermediate character ; the average rainfall is 67 inches, and the mean temperature is about 76°.8.
The staple product of Purniah is rice, but jute and tobacco are also cultivated to a considerable extent. Its maidfactures include indigo, cottons, woollens, and silks, but the chief is that of indigo, which is mostly carried on in the south of the district. In 1882-83 the gross revenue amounted to X179,750, nearly two-thirds (C120,541) being derived from the land. By the census of 1881 the population numbered 1,848,687 (937,080 males, 911,607 females). The majority of the people are Hindus (1,076,539 in 1881) ; of Mohammedans in the same year there were 771,130, and of Christians only 327. PURNIA11, the capital, is the only town in the district with a population exceeding 10,000.
This district was conquered by the Mohammedans in the 13th century, but it was not until four centuries later that its value was realized. During the 17th century the frontier was considerably extended ; the country, however, remained in a state of anarchy until 1770, when it was governed by an English official with the title of "superintendent" Of late years the district has made considerable progress, and under all departments of local administration there has been steady improvement.