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The Indian Princes and Their States 

Although the princes of India have been caricatured as Oriental despots and 
British stooges, Barbara Ramusack’s study argues that the British did not 
create the princes. On the contrary, many were consummate politicians 
who exercised considerable degrees of autonomy until the integration of 
the princely states after independence. Ramusack’s synthesis has a broad 
temporal span, tracing the evolution of the Indian kings from their pre- 
colonial origins to their roles as clients in the British colonial system. The 
book breaks new ground in its integration of political and economic devel- 
opments in the major princely states with the shifting relationships between 
the princes and the British. It represents a significant contribution, both to 
British imperial history in its analysis of the theory and practice of indirect 
rule, and to modern South Asian history, as a portrait of the princes as 
politicians and patrons of the arts. 

BARBARA N. RAMUSACK is Charles Phelps Taft Professor of History 
at the University of Cincinnati. Her publications include Women in Asia: 
Restoring Women to History (1999), and The Princes of India in the Twilight 
of Empire: The Dissolution of a Patron—Client System, 1914-1939 (1978). 

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General editor GORDON JOHNSON 
President of Wolfson College, and Director, Centre of South Asian Studies, 
University of Cambridge 

Associate editors C. A. BayLy 
Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, University of Cambridge, 
and Fellow of St Catharine’s College 

and JOHN F. RicHaRDS 

Professor of History, Duke University 

Although the original Cambridge History of India, published between 1922 and 
1937, did much to formulate a chronology for Indian history and describe the 
administrative structures of government in India, it has inevitably been overtaken 
by the mass of new research over the past sixty years. 

Designed to take full account of recent scholarship and changing conceptions 
of South Asia’s historical development, The New Cambridge History of India is 
published as a series of short, self-contained volumes, each dealing with a separate 
theme and written by one or two authors. Within an overall four-part structure, 
thirty-one complementary volumes in uniform format will be published. Each will 
conclude with a substantial bibliographical essay designed to lead non-specialists 
further into the literature. 

The four parts planned are as follows: 

I The Mughals and their Contemporaries 
I Indian States and the Transition to Colonialism 
UI The Indian Empire and the Beginnings of Modern Society 
IV The Evolution of Contemporary South Asia 

A list of individual titles in preparation will be found 
at the end of the volume. 

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Il: 6 

The Indian Princes and Their States 

University of Cincinnati 


Cambridge Histories Online © Cambridge University Press, 2008 

For Margaret, Roberta, Jerry and George 

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© Cambridge University Press 2004 
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First published 2004 
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A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library 
National Library of Australia Cataloguing in Publication data 
Ramusack, Barbara N. 
The Indian princes and their states. 
Includes index. 
ISBN 0 521 26727 7. 
1. Princes —India. 2. India — History — British 
occupation, 1765-1947. 3. India — Kings and rulers. 
4. India — Politics and government — 1765-1947. _I. Title. 
(Series: New Cambridge history of India ; III, 6). 

ISBN 0 521 26727 7 hardback 

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List of illustrations page vi 
General editor’ preface vill 
Acknowledgments x 
List of abbreviations xii 
Map xiv 
1 Introduction: Indian princes and British imperialism 1 
2 Princely states prior to 1800 12 
3 The British construction of indirect rule 48 
4 The theory and experience of indirect rule in colonial India 88 
5 Princes as men, women, rulers, patrons, and Oriental 
stereotypes 132 
Princely states: administrative and economic structures 170 
Princely states: society and politics 206 
8 Federation or integration? 245 
Epilogue 275 
Bibliographical essay 281 
Glossary 294 
Index 299 

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Princely States and British Indian Provinces in 1912. 
Amber Palace with view toward Jaigarh Fort. © Doranne Jacobson 
View of planned city of Jaipur. © Doranne Jacobson 
Begum Shah Jahan of Bhopal. Photo 2/3 (1) By Permission 
of the British Library 

Her Highness the Begum Secunder, India and Princess Shah Jehan, 
India. By permission of Joyce and Dr. Kenneth Robbins 

Temple of Sri Padmanabha in Trivandrum during Attukal Pongal 
Festival. © Doranne Jacobson 

British Residency at Hyderabad by Captain Grindlay. 
Collection of the author 

Lord Wellesley by James Heath. Print 789. By Permission 
of the British Library 

Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Marwar-Jodhpur with Star of India. 
Photo 784/1 (43) By Permission of the British Library 

Sir Charles U. Aitchison. Photo 2 (16a) By Permission of the British 

Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia II of Gwalior and Lord Curzon 
in 1899 after shikar. Photo 430/17 (33) By Permission of the 
British Library 

Maharaja Sayaji Rao of Baroda in 1899. Photo 430/24 (1) 
By Permission of the British Library 

Lakshmi Vilas Palace in Baroda. © Doranne Jacobson 
Courtyard and City Palace, Jaipur. © Doranne Jacobson 

Victoria Diamond Jubilee Hospital, opened on 8" December 
1900 by Lord Curzon. Photo 430/41 (80) By Permission of the 
British Library 

Central Jail at Junagarh, c. 1900. Photo 430/38 (9) By Permission 
of the British Library 


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page xiv 














Prince George Jivaji Rao and Princess Mary Kamlaraja of Gwalior at 

March Past during visit of Prince of Wales, 8-12 February 1922. 

Photo 10/2 (38) By Permission of the British Library 159 
Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia seated among tigers with Prince 

of Wales, 8-12 February 1922. Photo 10/2 (54) By Permission 

of the British Library 160 
Wrestling match at Patiala, c. 1930. Collection of the author 163 
View of famine relief work at Gajner, c. 1900. Photo 430/25 (9) By 

Permission of the British Library 178 
Plenary session of the first Round Table Conference. Photo 784/1 (83) 

By Permission of the British Library 253 

Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Maharaja Jai Singh of Alwar, and Prime Minister 
Ramsey MacDonald at the first Round Table Conference. Photo 
784/1 (85) By Permission of the British Library 254 


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The New Cambridge History of India covers the period from the beginning of 
the sixteenth century. In some respects it marks a radical change in the style 
of Cambridge Histories, but in others the editors feel that they are working 
firmly within an established academic tradition. 

During the summer of 1896, E W. Maitland and Lord Acton between them 
evolved the idea for a comprehensive modern history. By the end of the year the 
Syndics of the University Press had committed themselves to the Cambridge 
Modern History, and Lord Acton had been put in charge of it. It was hoped 
that publication would begin in 1899 and be completed by 1904, but the first 
volume in fact came out in 1902 and the last in 1910, with additional volumes 
of tables and maps in 1911 and 1912. 

The History was a great success, and it was followed by a whole series of dis- 
tinctive Cambridge Histories covering English Literature, the Ancient World, 
India, British Foreign Policy, Economic History, Medieval History, the British 
Empire, Africa, China and Latin America; and even now other new series 
are being prepared. Indeed, the various Histories have given the Press notable 
strength in the publication of general reference books in the arts and social 

What has made the Cambridge Histories so distinctive is that they have never 
been simply dictionaries or encyclopaedias. The Histories have, in H. A. L. 
Fisher’s words, always been ‘written by an army of specialists concentrating 
the latest result of special study’. Yet as Acton agreed with the Syndics in 
1896, they have not been mere compilations of existing material but original 
works. Undoubtedly many of the Histories are uneven in quality, some have 
become out of date very rapidly, but their virtue has been that they have 
consistently done more than simply record an existing state of knowledge: 
they have tended to focus interest on research and they have provided a massive 
stimulus to further work. This has made their publication doubly worthwhile 
and has distinguished them intellectually from other sorts of reference book. 
The editors of The New Cambridge History of India have acknowledged this in 
their work. 

The original Cambridge History of India was published between 1922 and 
1937. It was planned in six volumes, but of these, volume 2 dealing with the 


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period between the first century aD and the Muslim invasion of India, never 
appeared. Some of the material is still of value, but in many respects it is now 
out of date. The past fifty years have seen a great deal of new research on India, 
and a striking feature of recent work has been to cast doubt on the validity of 
the quite arbitrary chronological and categorical way in which Indian history 
has been conventionally divided. 

The editors decided that it would not be academically desirable to prepare 
a new History of India using the traditional format. The selective nature of 
research on Indian history over the past half-century would doom such a 
project from the start and the whole of Indian history could not be covered in 
an even or comprehensive manner. They concluded that the best scheme would 
be to have a History divided into four overlapping chronological volumes, each 
containing short books on individual themes or subjects. Although in extent 
the work will therefore be equivalent to a dozen massive tomes of the traditional 
sort, in form The New Cambridge History of India will appear as a shelf full of 
separate but complementary parts. Accordingly, the main divisions are between 
1. The Mughals and their Contemporaries, 11. Indian States and the Transition to 
Colonialism, 1. The Indian Empire and the Beginnings of Modern Society, and 
1v. The Evolution of Contemporary South Asia. 

Just as the books within these volumes are complementary so too do they 
intersect with each other, both thematically and chronologically. As the books 
appear they are intended to give a view of the subject as it now stands and to 
act as a stimulus to further research. We do not expect the New Cambridge 
History of India to be the last word on the subject but an essential voice in the 
continuing discussion about it. 


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A fellowship year at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina during 
1986-87 (when the earth was young) gave the great gifts of time, intellectual 
companionship and a congenial environment for the initial stages of thinking, 
organising and writing this book. I greatly appreciate the support of Charles 
Blitzer, then the director, whose passion for India was inspiring; and Kent 
Mullikin, the ever accommodating and resourceful associate director. All the 
Center staff, but especially the bibliographical and electronic expertise of Allan 
Tuttle and Rebecca Vargas, were extraordinary and are much appreciated. 
My colleagues at the Center, especially in the seminar on “The Other’, and 
the Triangle Seminar on South Asia, particularly David Gilmartin and John 
Richards, enlarged my interdisciplinary horizons. That year enabled me to 
recharge my intellectual batteries and renew my historiographical capital. 
The genealogy of this volume begins with the suggestion of John Broomfield 
and D. Anthony Low that my dissertation research might focus on the Chamber 
of Princes. They launched my continuing interest in the princes, a topic long 
on the margins of South Asian historiography. Richard and Donna Park offered 
crucial support and friendship while I wrote that dissertation and later revised 
it for publication. My debt is great to the directors and staffs of the numerous 
archives where I have worked over the past decades. They include the National 
Archives of India and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, 
the National Library of India in Calcutta, the Punjab State Archives in Patiala, 
the Karnataka State Archives in Bangalore, and the India Office Library in its 
many incarnations from King Charles Street to the British Library. My research 
was supported by fellowships and grants from the American Institute of Indian 
Studies, the Fulbright-Hays program of the US Department of Education, the 
Fulbright program of the US Department of State, the National Endowment 
for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, the Charles Phelps 
Taft Memorial Fund, and the University Research Council at the University 
of Cincinnati. As will be quickly evident, this volume is shaped by and also 
owes substantial debt to the uneven but recently enhanced historiography 
on the princes and princely states of India. The path-breaking work of Ian 
Copland, Edward Haynes, John Hurd II, Robin Jeffrey, Karen Leonard, James 
Manor, John McLeod, Mridula Mukherjee, William Richter, Lloyd Rudolph, 


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Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, and Robert Stern has crucially shaped my synthesis. 
The research of newer entrants to the still marginal arena of princely states, 
especially that of Manu Bhagavan, Shail Mayaram, Janaki Nair, Mridu Rai, 
Satadru Sen, Nandini Sundar, and Chitralekha Zutshi, has stimulated me to 
rethink older paradigms. I greatly appreciate the willingness of many scholars 
who provided offprints, pre-publication copies of articles, and abstracts of 
books. Kenneth and Joyce Robbins have been extraordinarily liberal in sharing 
their hospitality, their knowledge and their superb collection of art, artefacts, 
books, documents and medals from the princely states of India. 

A synthetic overview of the Indian princes and their states emerged as a 
much more complex intellectual venture than I had initially thought it would 
be. Personal issues and administrative responsibilities further delayed the writ- 
ing and revising processes. Marigold Acland was the most patient and en- 
couraging editor an author could want, while John Richards, Christopher 
Bayly and Gordon Johnson sustained me when I wondered if this project 
was feasible. I am most grateful for their trust and gentle prodding. The 
generosity of Christopher Bayly, Ian Copland, John McLeod, John Richards, 
William Richter and Tanika Sarkar, who read draft chapters or the whole of the 
manuscript, substantially improved this book. They urged me to clarify argu- 
ments, cautioned me to correct errors, suggested pertinent sources and provided 
prompt answers to my queries. Although their research does not focus on the 
princes, Sanjam Ahluwalia, Richard Bingle, Judith Brown, Antoinette Burton, 
Geraldine Forbes, Doranne Jacobson, Carol Jean and Timothy Johnson, Sanjay 
Joshi, Mrinalini Sinha and Sylvia Vatuk tolerated my complaints and urged 
me to continue when I was most discouraged. In Cincinnati my colleagues and 
friends, but especially Roger Daniels, Katharina Gerstenberger, Sigrun Haude, 
Gene Lewis, Zane and Janet Miller, Maura O’Connor, Thomas Sakmyster, 
Willard Sunderland and Ann Twinam, sustained me during extended periods 
of administrative commitments. At crucial junctures Judith Daniels was an as- 
tute and sympathetic editor; John Waldrodt provided computer expertise and 
a beautiful map on exceedingly short notice; Doranne Jacobson responded 
quickly and generously to my requests for information and permission to use 
her photographs, and Venetia Somerset was a most helpful copyeditor whose 
eagle eye is much appreciated. I am grateful to the Charles Phelps Taft Memorial 
Fund for grants to undertake the research for the illustrations and to support 
the costs of their reproduction. This book is dedicated to my brothers and 
sisters for their love and support. In the end I, of course, remain responsible 
for any misinterpretations or errors in this volume. 


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Agent to the Governor-General 

All-India States’ People’s Conference 

Asian Review 


Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 

Bulletin of the History of Medicine 

Bharatiya Janata Party 

Comparative Studies in Society and History 
Cincinnati Enquirer 

Contributions to Indian Sociology 

Crown Representative Records at the Oriental and India Office 


Economic and Political Weekly 

Foreign and Political Department of the Government of India 
Gender and History 

Great Indian Peninsular Railway 

Government of India 

Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 
Indian Annual Register 

Indo-British Review 

Indian Civil Service 

Indian Economic and Society History Review 

Indian States’ People’s Conference 

Journal of the Association of Medical Women in India 
Journal of the American Oriental Society 

Journal of Asian Studies 

Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 

Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 
Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 
Joint Political Congress 

Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society 

Journal of World History 


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Karnataka State Archives, Bangalore 
Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, United 

Modern Asian Studies 

National Archives of India, New Delhi 

Nizam’s Guaranteed State Railway 

National Library of India, Calcutta 

Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi 
Nizam’s State Railway 

Nair Service Society 

Oriental and India Office Collections at the British Library, 

Pacific Affairs 

Patiala and East Punjab States Union 

Punjab State Archives, Patiala 


Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh 

Round Table Conference 

succeeded to the gaddi 

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South Asia Library Notes & Queries 

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Studies in History 

Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana 

Tata Iron and Steel Company 

Travancore State Congress 

Vishwa Hindu Parishad 


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British Province 
Princely State 
Princely State mentioned in text 


and BERAR ~~ 


200 400 600 800km 

200 400 miles 


Princely States and British Indian Provinces in 1912 


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Air India, the overseas airline of the independent Government of India (GOD), 
chose a bowing, smiling, turbaned maharaja or prince as its mascot during the 
1950s. Why did a democratic government choose this image as an icon for its 
most modern means of transportation when a decade earlier its prime minister 
had castigated the princes as rulers whose states were ‘very backward and many 
of them. .. still in the feudal age’?! This rotund, red-coated figure epitomises 
the profoundly ambivalent attitudes towards the Indian princes among suc- 
cessive governments in India. British colonial officials had claimed them as 
faithful military allies, denounced them as autocrats, praised them as natural 
leaders of their subjects, chided them as profligate playboys, and taken advan- 
tage of their lavish hospitality. During the struggle for independence, Indian 
nationalists had initially cited the princes as evidence of the ability of Indians to 
govern effectively; they had occasionally sought their financial patronage of po- 
litical organisations and collaboration during constitutional negotiations, but 
ultimately had assailed them as arbitrary autocrats. In independent India and 
Pakistan, governments have appointed them to positions ranging from state 
governors to ambassadors; political parties have co-opted erstwhile princes as 
candidates for the central and state legislatures and appointed them as min- 
isters; public corporations and private entrepreneurs have promoted former 
princely capitals as destinations for international and domestic tourists; and 
popular media have represented them as an integral part of Indian culture. 
In the public sphere, princes were and are portrayed in newspapers, maga- 
zines, novels, newsreels and feature films as benevolent paternalists, remnants 
of feudalism ensconced in romantic forts, sexually ravenous predators, fierce 
hunters, audacious sportsmen, especially in cricket and polo, and extravagant 
clients of jewellers and luxury hotels in India and Europe. However, in the 
historiography of South Asia, the princes and their states have remained on 
the margins of the dominant narratives of Indian nationalism and its alter ego 
of religious communalism. 

The synthetic overview presented in this book joins a growing effort to inte- 
grate the princes into the grand sweep of modern Indian history. Its underlying 

! What are the Indian States? Foreword by Jawaharlal Nehru (Allahabad, n.d. 19392), p. 5. 

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argument is that many princes represented a continuity of traditional state 
formation in India and remained autonomous rulers, exercising substantial 
authority and power within their states, until 1948. In other words, British 
imperialists did not create the princely states as states or reduce them to theatre 
states where ritual was dominant and governmental functions relegated to im- 
perial surrogates. Indeed, British power gradually restrained sovereign princely 
authority, especially in defence, external affairs and communications. Indian 
princes nevertheless taxed their subjects, allocated state revenues, had full crim- 
inal and civil judicial powers, maintained internal law and order to varying 
degrees, patronised traditional and modern cultural activities and institutions, 
and synthesised elements of rajadharma or indigenous kingly behaviour with 
those of British models. 

Much of the muddled tedium in histories of the princely states of India 
may be traced to the use of the label of princely states for diverse political en- 
tities. The development of an inclusive, reputedly rationalised list of princely 
states was a colonial venture. Beginning during the 1820s when the English 
East India Company was consolidating its territorial possessions, this endeav- 
our was pursued more diligently once the British Crown formally assumed 
responsibility for the rule of India in 1858. The British categorisation of indi- 
rectly controlled areas as native states may be seen as one aspect of their project 
to understand the history, the extent and the present condition of the empire 
that they now formally acknowledged. Thus here as in their discussions of caste, 
indigenous legal systems and local customs, British administrators and schol- 
ars were creating a category of native or Indian states that did not necessarily 
correspond to Indian conceptions of what constituted viable political states. 
The /mperial Gazetteer of India listed 693 states, including the Shan states in 
Burma as well as Nepal, but the Report of the Indian States Committee in 
1929 reduced the number to 562.” 

During the 1960s Bernard Cohn articulated an influential typology useful 
for understanding different levels of statehood. He delineated four levels of 
political organisation during the eighteenth century: 

1. the imperial, represented by the continuing authority but not power of the 
Mughal emperors, whose territory gradually contracted to Delhi; 
2. the secondary states ruled by Mughal-appointed governors who extended 
their autonomous control over a historically or culturally defined area; 
? Imperial Gazetteer of India, The Indian Empire vol. 4, Administrative (Oxford, 1909), pp. 92-103. 
East India (Indian States). Report of the Indian States Committee 1928-1929 (London, 1929), pp. 10— 

11. The states were divided into three groups: 108 states had rulers in the Chamber of Princes, 127 
states had rulers represented in the Chamber; and 327 were estates, jagirs and others. 


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3. the regional spheres, where leaders were granted the authority to rule from 
the imperial or secondary level after they had secured military control; and 

4. the local level, which Cohn labelled ‘little kingdoms’. 

The founders of little kingdoms frequently started with one or more of three 
offices: zamindar, meaning a holder of zamin or land who acquired a right 
to a share of the produce of the land for fostering its cultivation; jagirdar, 
indicating the possessor of a jagir or the right to collect revenue from a tract 
of land granted by a superior power in return for service or acknowledgment 
of suzerainty; or taluqdar, the leader of a taluga or area controlled by a male 
lineage. As these ambitious men extended their authority into administrative 
as well as military spheres, they took the title of raja, which means king in 
Sanskrit, even though British sources labelled them chiefs or princes.? Edward 
Haynes claims that this translation of raja was part of the British effort to 
create Indian rulers as a subordinated category.’ But Indian rajas legitimated 
their ruling status by religious and social rituals and symbols of sovereignty, 
the latter being granted from any of the three superior levels of authority. 

In subsequent scholarship Cohn’s classification has been compressed to three 
levels: the imperial, the regional (which incorporates both the secondary and 
the regional), and the local or little kingdoms.’ As the power of the Mughal 
Empire was dissipated through succession struggles, territorial overextension 
and economic limitations during the eighteenth century, the lower two lev- 
els augmented their power under the tattered imperial umbrella of Mughal 
suzerainty. The proportion of little kingdoms to regional states is impossible 
to quantify. Highlighting their regional concentration, Ian Copland pointed 
out that 361 out of the 620 claimed by Lee-Warner were located within the 
Bombay Presidency and comprised one-third of its territory excluding the area 
of Sind.° Several of these ‘princely states’ in western India were less than one 
square mile, with a population of fewer than 200 people that could be one 
large extended family and servants. A common joke was that houses here were 
constructed with the front door opening into one state and the back door 

3 Bernard S. Cohn, ‘Political Systems in Eighteenth Century India: The Benares Region’, JAOS 83 
(1962), pp. 313-14. 

4 Edward Haynes, ‘Rajput Ceremonial Interactions as a Mirror of a Dying Indian State System, 1820- 
1947’, MAS 4 (1990), n. 1, p. 459. 

> Cohn himself had previously set the pattern of discussing only three levels of political organisation 
in his “The Initial British Impact on India: A Case Study of the Benares Region’, JAS 19 (1960), 
pp. 418-24. 

6 Jan Copland, The British Raj and the Indian Princes: Paramountcy in Western India 1857-1930 
(Bombay, 1982), pp. 1-2. 

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into another. The anomaly of including these units in the category of princely 
states is put into sharper perspective when one remembers that some zamin- 
dars or estate-holders such as the maharaja of Darbhanga, who controlled 
2400 square miles in Bihar and had magisterial powers, were excluded. This 
book concentrates on those princely states that survived after 1858, possessed 
some attributes, both indigenous and colonial, of sovereign status, and had 
their superior rank recognised in the twentieth century by their inclusion in 
the Chamber of Princes, a British-instituted advisory assembly. Thus most of 
the little kingdoms of western India as well as Bengal, Awadh (Oudh) and 
Punjab, although major Indian states during the eighteenth and early nine- 
teenth centuries but British provinces by 1858, will receive only brief notice 
in this volume. 

Chapter 2 traces the evolution of the major princely states before British 
officials articulated their goal of creating an imperial state in the early nine- 
teenth century. States are grouped into three categories: the antique, the suc- 
cessor, and the warrior or conquest. Antique states are mostly Rajput-ruled 
entities that predated the Mughal Empire founded in 1526. They generally 
entered alliances with the Mughals, continued as internally autonomous units, 
began to act independently as Mughal power atrophied, and expanded ter- 
ritorially during the eighteenth century. Subadars or governors of Mughal 
provinces, principally those of Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad, created the 
second category when they transformed themselves into autonomous rulers. 
Their states ‘presided over a redistribution of agrarian resources which favoured 
local gentry and magnates . . . [and they] adapted more successfully to the cul- 
tural assumptions of their rural and Hindu subjects’ than had the Mughals.’ 
Although military force was essential to political dominance in most princely 
states, conquest states are deemed a third category to designate polities that 
warrior groups established by offering military protection to local populations 
against other competitors. This category ranges from the Maratha states in 
the west, to Travancore and Mysore in the south, to the Sikh-ruled states in 
Punjab. The chapter concludes with a delineation of patterns of state forma- 
tion by which ambitious leaders asserted their autonomy, expanded their ter- 
ritory and legitimated their claims to sovereignty and kingship by performing 

According to Hindu political treatises and religious texts, rajadharma in- 
cluded offering protection to prospective subjects; adjudicating disputes among 

7 C. A. Bayly, Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars: Northern Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion 
1770-1870 (Cambridge, 1983), p. 12. 

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social groups including kinspeople, clans and castes; patronising religious 
leaders and institutions; and distributing gifts, or what Pamela Price has la- 
belled ‘dharmic largesse’,® to other cultural activities and social groups claiming 
kingly support. Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph have elaborated the notion that a 
key responsibility of Indian rulers was to preserve and protect social formations 
that existed prior to the state, such as ‘the customs, activities, and prerogatives 
of communities, castes, sects, status orders, and guilds (craft and commercial)’.? 
A king was also to manifest certain personal qualities. The relevance for both 
kings and gods of the Hindu concept of darshan (the auspiciousness of seeing 
and being seen by a superior being) indicated the overlap between secular and 
sacred spheres in Indian society. In a discussion of medieval Hindu kingship, 
Ronald Inden declared: ‘A view of the king, handsome, in good health, bathed, 
anointed, crowned, decked with ornaments, and seated in state was believed 
to be auspicious and to please (rafij) the people.’!° 

Many historical empires from Pharaonic Egypt onward have employed in- 
direct rule to extend their influence over disparate peoples with a minimum 
expenditure in material and human resources. When the English East India 
Company secured the diwani right to collect the revenues of Bengal in 1765, 
they embarked on a lengthy transformation from trading enterprise to imperial 
power. Chapter 3 traces how the British first devised and then sustained a system 
of indirect rule that enabled them to emerge by 1858 as the paramount power 
in control of approximately three-fifths of the territory and four-fifths of the 
population of the Indian subcontinent. The frequently asked questions about 
indirect rule are why did the Indian states first ally themselves with the British 
and then why did the British maintain these alliances with Indian regional 
states and even petty chieftains after British military and political superiority 
was clearly established? How much did British policies of indirect rule and 
annexation reflect individual agency, contemporary political, economic and 
social conditions, or institutional constraints? What motivated Indian rulers 
to enter alliances with the British? The answers are that dynamic tensions char- 
acterised British policies of indirect rule and annexation, imperial intervention 
and non-intervention in Indian state affairs, and princely collaboration and 
overt or covert non-cooperation with British policies and advice. The British 

8 Pamela G. Price, Kingship and Political Practice in Colonial India (Cambridge, 1996), p. 190. 

9 Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, “The Subcontinental Empire and the Regional 
Kingdom in Indian State Formation’. In Paul Wallace (ed.), Region and Nation in India (New Delhi, 
1985), p. 46. 

10 Ronald Inden, ‘Ritual, Authority, and Cyclic Time in Hindu Kingship’. In J. F. Richards (ed.), 
Kingship and Authority in South Asia (Madison, 1978), p. 54. 


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and the princes used each other to achieve their own objectives with vary- 
ing degrees of success. While the British pursued imperial dominance, Indian 
princes sought greater control over their internal allies and challengers and a 
larger share of local revenues. Although British power could be both arbitrary 
and oppressive, shrewd Indian princes centralised their administrations and 
enlarged their share of local revenues. 

After 1858, when Queen Victoria resolved that the British Empire would 
encompass both directly and indirectly ruled areas, British administrators in 
India set out to codify policies towards the princely states based on precedents, 
labelled political practices, that were reinforced with expediency. Chapter 4 
analyses both the construction of British theories and operation of indirect rule 
and the diverse experiences of Indian princes as participants in that system. 
Officials in the foreign, later the foreign and political, department of the GOI 
emerged as authorities on doctrines, regulations and rituals that would govern 
British and princely relations into the twentieth century. Although significant 
annexation of territory no longer occurred, the British continued to intervene, 
most dramatically in the deposition or exile of recalcitrant princes, but more 
regularly in relation to succession and minority administrations and conflicts 
between a ruler and his kinspeople or nobility. As the nature of challenges to 
British imperial power changed, the British and the princes themselves evolved 
new roles for the princes in the public spheres both in India and the broader 

In her study of two zamindaris in south India, Pamela Price cogently ar- 
gues for the agency ‘of persons meeting historical contingencies with the use of 
both indigenous and colonial categories and concepts, with the manipulation of 
indigenous and colonial institutions and ideologies to achieve personally con- 
structed goals’.!’ After exploring the life cycle of princes, Chapter 5 examines 
how many rulers synthesised and adapted the injunctions of rajadharma to 
changing British and Indian nationalist conventions of political authority and 
political and social reforms. Thus princes continued to patronise holy men 
and religious institutions but now sustained colleges that combined indige- 
nous religious learning and western science. They extended dharmic largesse 
to underprivileged groups ranging from scholarships for untouchables (later 
called scheduled castes) to medical relief for Indian women. They nourished 
Indian music, dance and the visual arts in their durbars (courts) and in the 
public sphere of local museums and all-India festivals. Simultaneously, princes 

1] Price, Kingship, p. 6. 

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assimilated elements of the British gospel of social improvement through 
disciplinary institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons. This creative 
synthesis, which evolved in myriad formats, nourished the complex and some- 
times conflicting perceptions of the princes mentioned earlier. It also reflects 
the fact that many princes were adroit politicians whom both British imperi- 
alists and Indian nationalists had to accommodate, and that colonial cultural 
forms and power structures did not efface indigenous ones. 

Indian princely states were diverse in their administration, economic struc- 
ture, social composition and politics. Chapter 6 focuses on three major aspects 
of the development of princely states as political and economic entities from 
the 1860s to the 1940s. First, the administrative frameworks that existed in the 
princely states provided the parameters in which other elements functioned. 
Examining the governmental structures first is not meant to imply that they 
were the dominant factor but merely reflects the available scholarship. Second, 
although the states were autocracies, the rulers had to rely on indigenous and 
‘foreign’ collaborators to administer them. A scrutiny of the formation and 
activities of these elites underscores the bureaucratisation of the late nine- 
teenth and early twentieth centuries in the princely states. This trend shifted 
the internal balance of power to princes who had greater control over paid 
bureaucrats than nobles with independent incomes and kinship ties. Third, 
the economic configuration of the princely states determined the resources 
available to the administration, the elites who contended for dominance, and 
the people at the base. But economic activities and development highlight 
the imperial restrictions on the autonomy of states and their rulers. Enter- 
prising rulers and merchants nevertheless crafted opportunities for economic 

The ethnic origins, social structures and religious affiliations of the peoples 
in the Indian princely states were extraordinarily intricate and have attracted 
relatively little scholarly attention. Although much remains to be done, some 
historians are now studying popular politics. Chapter 7 begins with an analysis 
of how treaties, maps and physical markers constructed the territorial bound- 
aries of the states that contained heterogeneous populations and goes on to 
delineate the efforts of elite and non-elite subjects to gain material benefits and 
legal rights. Simultaneously, princes used their social and religious status as well 
as autocratic power to buttress their internal political control as concepts of 
nationalism, communalism and political reform challenged their dominance. 
Although the borders of princely states were as porous to political ideas as 
to smuggled goods, it was local leaders rather than nationalists from British 

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India who actively organised informal campaigns and associations that sought 
a greater share of scarce resources such as education and government jobs for 
caste, religious and ethnic groups, the exercise of civil rights such as freedom 
of assembly, association and speech, and improved economic conditions. In 
states where rulers shared their religion with a minority of their subjects and 
favoured their co-religionists with generous patronage or protective legislation, 
popular political activity could quickly become communal, that is, seeking to 
enhance a particular religious or social community, rather than being more 
broad-based. However, there has been relatively little consideration of what 
constituted nationalist ideology or politics among either princes or their sub- 
jects within the internally autonomous states. 

By the late 1920s, Indian princes as well as Indian nationalists were seeking 
dramatic revisions in their relationships with the British imperial structure. 
Chapter 8 examines the constitutional negotiations from 1930 to 1948 that 
led to the integration of the princely states into either India or the newly created 
state of Pakistan. It argues that their relatively quick and smooth integration 
was not foreseen. There have been various answers to the question of when the 
demise of the princes as autonomous rulers became inevitable. James Manor, 
who argues that ‘the fate of the princely order was sealed long before 1935’, 
represents one extreme.!* In my own earlier work, I proposed a later date, 
namely the suspension of negotiations over federation in 1939, as the beginning 
of the end. However, subsequently opened government records, memoirs of 
participants, and research, most notably by Robin Moore, Michael Witmer 
and Ian Copland, indicate that until at least mid-1947 both British officials 
and Indian politicians were anxious about the future of the Indian princes and 
the possible balkanisation of the British Empire in India. 

About sixty to ninety of the supposedly 600-odd princes of India exer- 
cised significant power in local, regional, all-India and imperial politics dur- 
ing the British colonial period. Some remained politically prominent during 
the initial decades of independence. The fact that in early 2003 Captain 
Amarindar Singh, the scion of the Patiala dynasty, and Virbhadra Singh of 
Bashahr are serving as chief ministers of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh illus- 
trates the possible residual value of a princely heritage in electoral politics. 
Consequently an intellectual and cultural puzzle is why there is a historical 
lacuna when the princes themselves and their states, some of which were larger 
than many European countries, presented such an enticing array of images, 

12 James Manor, ‘The Demise of the Princely Order: A Reassessment’. In Robin Jeffrey (ed.), People, 

Princes and Paramount Power: Society and Politics in the Indian Princely States (Delhi, 1978), p. 306. 


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controlled substantial wealth and power, and survived for so long. The fol- 
lowing speculations are meant to stimulate more research and more cogent 

First, scholars and the general public frequently, though certainly not al- 
ways, are interested in events and personalities, phenomena that seem relevant 
to their daily concerns. Before 1947 British historians, who were often off- 
cials or associated with imperial institutions, studied aspects of Indian politics 
and culture that provided legitimacy and perhaps guidance for British poli- 
cies. When they noticed the princes, these scholars extolled them as faithful 
allies or castigated them for misgovernment that justified annexation or de- 
position. Indian historians produced either hagiographical accounts of the 
princes as astute political leaders and social reformers or acerbic censures of 
princely oppression. After 1947 British historians concentrated on the dilem- 
mas that confronted colonial officials in the governance of India. Many Indian 
and some North American historians told the story of a triumphant Indian 
National Congress and the selfless ideological commitment of nationalist lead- 
ers, most notably Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, to the struggle 
for freedom. After the princely states were quickly integrated into the in- 
dependent nation-states of India and Pakistan (with the fateful anomaly of 
Jammu and Kashmir), there was some interest in why the princely rule had 
collapsed so quickly. The usual explanations were princely political ineptness 
and personal degeneracy, the political shrewdness of Indian negotiators, and 
the lack of viable alternatives for the princes. In other words the princes were 
losers, and immediately after a contest winners attract more historians than the 

Second, because British administrators had reneged on earlier promises to 
protect them from external and internal opponents, their princely clients be- 
came an embarrassment to the departing imperialists and a disconcerting topic 
for historical analysis. Indian nationalist leaders were equally chagrined by the 
princes. Some Indian nationalist and communal leaders had sought princely 
patronage, but they directed their political activity and rhetoric against the 
British colonial administration. They neglected organising a political base in 
the princely states among their rulers or subjects until the final decades of colo- 
nial rule. The partition that accompanied independence for India and Pakistan 
made their leaders wary of further balkanisation. The reluctance of the rulers, 
especially of Hyderabad and more significantly of Jammu and Kashmir, to ac- 
cede to India rendered the princes problematic for Indian politicians, who were 
now constructing new nation-states under the chaotic conditions of collapsing 
colonial structures and unprecedented internal migration marked by death and 


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destruction. Since both imperial officials and South Asian nationalists, who 
were initially concentrated in colonial port cities, had struggled largely within 
British Indian territory, historians forging the dominant narratives of colonial 
benevolence or exploitation and nationalist triumphs or communal challenges 
relegated the princes to footnotes. 

Third, primary sources, the bricks of historical scholarship, on the princes 
and their states were not easily available. The archives of most princely states 
were not as well catalogued and well preserved as colonial ones. In some cases 
officials in princely states had treated the documents they generated during 
their ministerial tenure as personal property and removed them when they 
left office.!* What their descendants did not later sell as scrap paper, humidity 
and insects destroyed. Many princes were equally reluctant to place documents 
that they deemed personal or politically dangerous in any archive. Maharaja 
Yadavindra Singh of Patiala was a striking exception. The last Chancellor of 
the Chamber of Princes, he preserved the Chamber’s records at his capital and 
supported the effort to gather available records from the erstwhile states in 
the Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) created in 1948.'4 During 
the tumultuous years of integrating autonomous units into larger entities, 
officials in former princely state territory accorded a low priority to the es- 
tablishment of archives. Consequently the records of the princely states were 
geographically scattered, often in locations difficult to reach and lacking facil- 
ities for researchers, and access could be difficult to obtain. On the imperial 
side, some British officials handling relations with the princes destroyed records 
that might prove politically or economically injurious to the princes in inde- 
pendent India.!> Records deemed sensitive because they dealt with personal 
issues, political manipulations or communal politics were transferred to the 
India Office Library in London, where a fifty-year rule on when documents 
became open precluded early research. In the late 1960s a reduction to thirty 
years stimulated more research. Scholars began to portray princes as political 
leaders who assessed opportunities and choices; negotiated compromises with 
British officials, recalcitrant nobles and popular political leaders; initiated re- 
forms; jailed critics; and survived as rulers. A few analysed particular groups 
or associations within the states and contributed to the complex mosaic of 

13 Daya Kishan Kaul, ‘Care and Preservation of Old Records in Northern Indian States’, Indian 
Historical Records Commission, Proceedings, 2 (January 1920). 

'4 Barbara Ramusack, ‘The Princely States of Punjab: A Bibliographic Essay’. In W. Eric Gustafson 
and Kenneth W. Jones (eds), Sources on Punjab History (New Delhi, 1975), pp. 374-449. 

5 Conrad Corfield, The Princely India I Knew: From Reading to Mountbatten (Madras, 1975), 
p. 155. 


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social history in South Asia. Their work undergirds this synthesis and will be 
acknowledged in subsequent chapters that plot the indigenous origins of the 
princely states, their fluctuating fortunes within the British imperial systems 
and the nature of their administrations, economies, societies and politics in 
order to restore the princes and their states to the history and the future of 


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Political chaos disrupts the status of many, but for others it provides opportu- 
nities for political advancement, social mobility and economic gain. During 
the eighteenth century the Mughal Empire, the largest, most extensive po- 
litical organisation to evolve in India, suffered an attenuation of its power 
and its territory. Even so, the Mughal emperor continued to be a source of 
legitimacy through the bestowal of offices and titles, and Mughal patterns of 
administration and elite culture persisted in emerging states. Until the 1980s, 
historians taking a bird’s-eye view from European and Mughal sources have 
often lamented the political turmoil and economic disruption during the eigh- 
teenth century. Only the expanding political power of the British supposedly 
created stable conditions. During more recent decades scholars have taken 
a worm’s-eye view from the ground of local and regional records in Indian 
languages, and the political landscape of eighteenth-century India has been 
significantly altered. 

Current scholarship indicates that while the Mughals may have been los- 
ing their power to accumulate economic resources and control the actions of 
subordinate personnel, new political formations emerged and implemented, 
with varying success, centralising reforms that would enable them to control 
the resources of the countryside more effectively than the Mughals had. These 
robust challengers were the successor states to the Mughals, most importantly 
Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad, and warrior states, the creations of military en- 
trepreneurs, more specifically Maratha states in the west, Mysore in the south 
and the Sikhs in the north. Other beneficiaries were Hindu trading groups 
such as Jagat Seths in Bengal and Marwaris from Rajasthan, who were forging 
interregional trade networks; and Muslim revenue farmers with contracts to 
collect revenue who amassed capital that they lent to aspiring indigenous kings 
and encroaching foreign commercial ventures, most notably the English East 
India Company. Thus the eighteenth century, once shrouded in the gloom of 
Mughal decline and deemed too politically fragmented for coherent historical 
analysis, has now become an era of strong states and aggressive indigenous capi- 
talists. This revisionism provides a dynamic background for the study of Indian 
political entities known as the native (the word ‘native’ meaning Indian) states 
during the nineteenth century and as the princely states during the twentieth 


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century. In this book I will use the term ‘princely’ rather than ‘native’ state ex- 
cept where it would be anachronistic. Indian princely states that survived from 
1858 to 1947 may be grouped into three categories: antique states, successor 
states, and warrior or conquest states. 


Antique states: the Rajputs 

Antique, archaic or vintage states originated from the thirteenth century on- 
ward and their judicious incorporation into the Mughal administrative and 
military system prefigured their subsequent accommodation within the British 
Empire. Rajput-ruled states dominated this category. The specific historical 
ancestors of the Rajputs (from the Sanskrit rajaputra, which means son of 
a raja or king) remain contested. An evolving consensus postulates that the 
Rajputs represent an integration of diverse elements ranging from Central 
Asian groups who accompanied the Scythians into the Indian subcontinent in 
the early centuries of the Christian era to indigenous, pastoral warrior groups.! 
A lively scholarly debate has ensued whether ascriptive, genealogical status or 
occupational activity as soldiers was the determining factor in constituting 
Rajput identity. In western scholarship the emphasis on genealogy begins with 
the bardic traditions of the Rajputs, which Lieutenant-Colonel James Tod 
(1782-1835), the first British political agent in Mewar and western Rajputana 
from 1818 to 1822, encoded in his frequently cited Annals and Antiquities of 
Rajasthan (1829-32). It continues in British official records and extends into 
modern anthropological analysis. But Dirk Kolff has argued that as pastoral 
bands achieved landed status from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries and 
acquired a group identity, they took the name Rajput, which indicated warrior 
status and association with a king. Thus until at least the seventeenth century 
and perhaps into the eighteenth century, Rajput was an open-ended category 
based on a military career undertaken in alliance with a regional or impe- 
rial power through the agency of a jamadar or military jobber-commandetr. 
According to Kolff, it was only during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries 
that some Rajput rulers and their charans (bards) developed myths of origins 
that established their status as Ashatriyas and legitimated their political power 
and social status ‘exclusively in the language of descent and kinship’ rather than 

1B. D. Chattopadhyaya, ‘The Emergence of the Rajputs as Historical Process in Early Medieval 
Rajasthan’, in Karine Schomer et al. (eds), The Idea of Rajasthan: Explorations in Regional Identity, 
vol. 2 (New Delhi, 1994), pp. 161-91. 


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through occupational activity as warriors.” Under this genealogical formula, 
the most basic definition of Rajput is one to whom other Rajputs will give 
their sisters or daughters in marriage. My approach uses the typology of Tod 
while simultaneously recognising the contested nature of Rajput origins and 

According to their charans, the Rajputs arose after Parashurama, an incar- 
nation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and an alternative form of Rama, the hero 
of the pan-Indian epic of the Ramayana, nearly exterminated the kshatriya or 
warrior-ruler varna (division) of the caste order. After a few surviving kshatriyas 
emerged from hiding, brahmans questioned their kshatriya status and labelled 
them ‘sons of kings’ rather than ‘kings’. These ‘sons of kings’ became the ances- 
tors of the Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi Rajputs, claiming descent from the 
sun and the moon gods respectively. When disorder became endemic because 
of an absence of kshatriyas, the gods created four supernatural warriors from 
a fire-sacrifice. They were the ancestors of the Agnikula (Fire) Rajputs. Thus 
three vams or mythological units of inclusiveness for Rajputs emerged. This 
classification does not have a direct social function such as defining marriage 
boundaries but possibly serves to link the Rajputs to the ancient Vedic gods of 

By the sixth century ap there are historical indications of groups calling 
themselves Rajputs settled in the Indo-Gangetic plain. Over the course of 
ten centuries they came to control land and people, working the land in an 
irregular crescent from Saurashtra on the edge of the Arabian Sea through 
the Thar or Great Desert of northwestern India. Skipping across the invasion 
route of Muslim armies from the Khyber Pass to Delhi, the Rajputs emerged 
again in the foothills of the Himalayas that bordered Punjab and finally curved 
down into the present states of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. By the sixteenth 
century Rajput conquests of waste land or underpopulated areas on the borders 
of larger political states had evolved into little kingdoms and regional states. 
Little kingdoms predominated in the Gangetic Plain, where Muslim conquest 
states functioned first as regional kingdoms and then as the Mughal imperial 
overlord, and in the Himalayas, where a restricted resource base could not 
sustain elaborate political organisations. 

The geographically broad sweep of Rajput political and social prominence 
was reflected as late as 1931 in census statistics. Rajputs as a social group formed 
a higher percentage of the population in four British Indian provinces and the 

2 Dirk H. A. Kolff, Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military Labour Market in 

Hindustan, 1450-1850 (Cambridge, 1990), p. 72. 


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princely state of Jammu and Kashmir than in the area known in the British 
colonial period as Rajputana.? Deryck Lodrick argues that it was only during 
the sixteenth century that the Mughals defined the boundaries of the region 
that is the contemporary state of Rajasthan.’ In their efforts to establish their 
political legitimacy, the Rajput rulers of Rajputana-Rajasthan, who sprawled 
from the Thar Desert across the Arvalli Mountains into the plains drifting into 
central India, became the exemplars of genealogical orthodoxy. Consequently 
they challenged the claims of rulers of regional states and little kingdoms in 
Saurashtra and in central India to Rajput status and became more reluctant 
to enter matrimonial alliances with them. The category of Rajput, however, 
remained elastic into the twentieth century. 

Two broad groups of Rajput rulers existed on the eastern end of the crescent 
of Rajput settlement. First, there are those on the Gangetic Plain itself in 
eastern Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar. Richard Fox has emphasised the 
significance of kinship in the formation of Rajput states on the Gangetic 
Plain and has seen the rajas ‘as a hinge linking the local stratified lineage with 
state authority’.> Here resilient Rajput zamindars and taluqdars who helped 
to populate their lands and acquired rights to a share in its products would 
survive as collaborators, first with the Mughal Empire, then with the nawabs 
of Awadh, and eventually with the British imperial power.° 

The second cluster is situated on the jungly border between present-day 
Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and extends into the Malwa Plateau of 
central India. It includes the princely states of Baghelkhand, where Rewa was 
most prominent, Bundelkhand, and Malwa. In his analysis of Bundelkhand, 
Dirk Kolff contends that the so-called ‘spurious’ Rajputs in the persons of the 
Bundela rulers of Orchha, Chanderi and Datia, who combined landowning 
status with military entrepreneurship, claimed Rajput identity because of their 
occupation as soldiers.’ In the early 1600s Bir Singh Deo, who had displaced 
a brother as the ruler of Orchha, received a jagir and eventually the title of 

3 Deryck O. Lodrick, ‘Rajasthan as a Region: Myth or Reality?’ In Karine Schomer et al., The Idea 
of Rajasthan: Explorations in Regional Identity, vol. 1 (New Delhi, 1994), pp. 6-7 and note 7. Kashmir, 
Punjab, the United Provinces, Central India and Bihar had higher percentages of Rajputs than did 

4 Tbid., p. 9. Doris Kling has advised me that ‘Rajasthan’ was first used in “Tarikh-i-Rajasthan,’ a history 
of Jaipur, Mewar, Marwar, and Bundi/Kota commissioned by Maharaja Pratap Singh of Jaipur and 
written in 1794. 

> Richard G. Fox, Kin, Clan, Raja and Rule: State-Hinterland Relations in Preindustrial India (Berkeley 
CA, 1971), p. 47. 

© Thomas R. Metcalf, Land, Landlords, and the British Raj: Northern India in the Nineteenth Century 
(Berkeley CA, 1979). 

7 Kolff, Naukar, pp. 117-58. 


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maharaja (great king) from the Mughal emperor Jahangir, who also married 
one of his daughters. Bir Singh further justified his status as a ruler by the 
construction of palace-forts as physical symbols of power and by religious 
activities such as pilgrimages to Hindu temple sites located in major recruiting 
areas, the building of temples, and generous charitable donations. Despite 
these symbols of sovereignty and continuing activity as military labour 
contractors, the Orchha Rajput rulers were unable to achieve the transition to 
the genealogical orthodoxy linked to descent, and so western Rajputs denied 
them matrimonial alliances. The Orchha rulers, however, never ceased to claim 
Rajput status. 

The Malwa Plateau in central India presented variations of Rajput iden- 
tity. Perhaps the best known states in this region are Dewas Senior and Junior 
founded in 1730 by Tukoji Rao and Kiwaji Rao, two Maratha brothers who 
claimed Rajput ancestry.® Their situation provides evidence of some fluidity 
of ethnic categories and kinship ties among Marathas and Rajputs before the 
nineteenth century.’ Ratlam and its two breakaway states of Sailana and Sita- 
mau, whose rulers traced their descent from a younger branch of the Rathor 
ruling family in Jodhpur, illustrate how able men might experience rapid po- 
litical mobility and gain symbolic legitimacy. As a young man of 23, Ratan 
Singh, the founder of Ratlam, armed only with a dagger, boldly attacked a 
mad elephant rampaging in the streets of Delhi. An impressed Shah Jahan, the 
Mughal builder of the Taj Mahal, inducted him into the mansabdari (impe- 
rial administrative system), where the Rathor Rajput served with distinction. 
In 1648 Ratan Singh received a jagir in Malwa, a mansab rank of 3000, the 
emblem of the Mahi Maratib (Order of Fish), and settled in Ratlam village as 
his capital. 

Kolff challenges the intense weight assigned to kinship and descent as the 
basis for Rajput identity. Both the Mughals and the British fostered this ge- 
nealogical focus since it enhanced the status of their Rajput collaborators and 
thereby undergirded their imperial authority.'° The alliances between Mughal 
overlords and Rajput rulers waxed and waned according to material circum- 
stances. André Wink has labelled this strategy fitna, a combination of concil- 
iation and competition which a centralised empire viewed as rebellion, in the 

8 Manohar Malgonkar, The Puars of Dewas Senior (Bombay, 1963); E. M. Forster, The Hill of Devi 
(Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1965, first published in 1953). 

° Norbert Peabody, in “Tod’s Rajasth’an and the Boundaries of Imperial Rule in Nineteenth-Century 
India’, MAS 30 (1996), note 54, pp. 208-9 argues that the ‘precolonial divide between Maratha 
and Rajput . . . [was] labile and contextually contingent’. 

10 Kolff, Naukar, pp. 72-4. 


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context of Muslim and later Maratha state formation.'’ Rajput state formation 
in central India required military entrepreneurship — activities that reflected 
common ideas about rajadharma — and legitimating and mutually beneficial 
alliances with superior powers. Kinship was only one among several factors in 
this process. 

Probably the most long-lived Rajput-ruled states were in the Punjab hills of 
the Himalayas.'* Some of these states traced their establishment from either 
the sixth and seventh centuries when Rajputs initially reached India or the 
eleventh and twelfth centuries when Rajput ruling families fled from Turkish 
Muslim invaders. Rajput leaders from the more productive Indo-Gangetic 
plains moved into this less desirable area and established conquest states over 
the indigenous populations. There are three broad groupings of Rajput-ruled 
hill-states according to geographical locations: the western in the doab or land 
between the Indus and the Jhelam Rivers and centred on Kashmir, whose 
Rajput ruler was displaced by Muslims during the fourteenth century; the 
central between the Jhelam and Ravi focused on Jammu; and the eastern 
between the Ravi and the Sutlej ranging from the states of Kangra and Guler, 
later annexed by the British, to the more remote states such as Chamba, Suket 
and Mandi, which managed to retain their autonomy, as did Jammu and 
Kashmir, until 1948. 

Jammu and Kashmir were the only remnants of once powerful states in 
the Himalayas to survive the British onslaught, but to the present day they 
remain a tragically contested site. These two entities were linked in 1846 be- 
cause of British strategic needs. Kashmir is an ancient state whose history of 
Buddhist and Hindu rulers is recorded in the Rajatarangini, a Sanskrit chron- 
icle. After 1339 Muslims ruled there as a regional kingdom until Akbar added 
Kashmir to the Mughal Empire in 1586. He and his successors used Srina- 
gar as their summer capital. Kashmir regained its autonomy, as did Jammu, 
in 1762. Kashmir was then effectively under the control of Muslim gover- 
nors until the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh conquered it in 1819. Jammu’s history 
is less well documented. Petty chiefs called ranas and thakurs are thought 
to have ruled it until Dogras, asserting Rajput status that was not acknowl- 
edged in the crucial test of marriage, established a regional state. By the early 
nineteenth century, the Dogra ruler of Jammu was in the service of Ranjit 


1 André Wink, Land and Sovereignty in India: Agrarian Society and Politics Under the Eighteenth-century 
Maratha Svarajya (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 23-41 and passim. 

12 J, Hutchison and J. P. Vogel, History of the Panjab Hill States, 2 vols (Lahore, 1933) is the basis for 
the following narrative. 


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Among the eastern Himalayan group of Rajput-ruled states, Chamba 
claimed to be founded about ap 550 and enjoyed an unusual historical source. 
Its thakurs, exercising rajadharma, supported brahmans and Hindu temples 
with land grants recorded on copper plate title deeds dated as early as ap 700. 
Suket asserted its descent from the Pandavas of the Mahabharata, the other 
pan-Indian epic, but more historically from the Sena dynasty of Bengal, a 
branch of which moved into the Himalayan foothills about the eighth century 
AD. Mandi state broke off from Suket during the eleventh century, and these 
two states fought a see-saw battle in an effort to define borders. Southwest of 
Delhi are five major states of Rajasthan deemed the core of Rajput political 

James Tod is probably as responsible as anyone for initiating the compari- 
son of the Rajput polity to European feudalism. In the first volume of Annals 
and Antiquities of Rajasthan, published in 1829, Tod declared: ‘there is a mar- 
tial system peculiar to these Rajpoot states, so extensive in its operation as 
to embrace every object of society. This is so analogous to the ancient feudal 
system of Europe, that I have not hesitated to hazard a comparison between 
them.’!> Tod became required reading for later generations of British politi- 
cal agents and for scholars whose research analysed documents produced by 
those officers. Some British administrators and later scholars have disputed his 
characterisation of Rajputs as feudal;!4 others castigated him for attributing 
essential qualities to Rajputs that justified British intervention;)> and Indian 
nationalists used his ideas as ‘a call for Indian resistance against the British’. 
Tod was also instrumental in propagating the idea that Mewar was the pre- 
mier Rajput state, despite declining territory and revenues, because its rulers 
followed most assiduously the Rajput chivalric code. 

The ruling house of Mewar, which means central region, allegedly gained 
possession of the commanding plateau of Chitor by ap 714.!” Beyond their 
exalted genealogical origins of descent from the sun god, the Sisodias of Mewar 
declared their pre-eminence for maintaining Rajput honour in two key areas. 

13 James Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajast‘han or, the Central and Western Rajpoot States of India, 
2 vols (New Delhi, 1971, reprint of 1914 edition), vol. 1, p. 107. 

14 Alfred C. Lyall, ‘The Rajput States of India’, in Asiatic Studies, Religious and Social (London, 1882) 
is representative of British officials and Robert W. Stern, The Cat and the Lion: Jaipur State in the 
British Raj (Leiden, 1988), pp. 23-62 is a perceptive overview of the scholarly debate on Rajput 

15 Ronald Inden, Imagining India (Oxford, 1990). 

16 Peabody, “Tod’s Rajast’han’, p. 217. Peabody argues that Tod claimed that their feudal institutions 
made the Rajput similar to the English, distinct from other Indian groups such as the Mughals and 
Marathas, and served as a basis for Rajput nationality: pp. 185-220. 

17 Tod, Annals, vol. 1, p. 188. 


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First, they had refused to give daughters in marriage to Muslim rulers. Frances 
Taft has argued that the Mewar dynasty broadcast their resistance to Mughal 
overtures and to Rajput peers who entered marriage alliances with Mughals to 
enhance their position in Rajput clan and state rivalries.'® 

Second, the Mewar rulers committed jauhar in 1303, 1534 and 1567 when 
resisting superior Muslim forces. Jauhar is probably a Rajput custom from 
Central Asia that was practised when confronted with certain defeat. To pre- 
serve their honour, Rajput women and children were consigned to death by 
fire, and then Rajput men purified themselves, donned saffron-coloured robes 
symbolising martyrdom, and fought until death. The bravery of the Rajputs 
was affirmed, but the material costs were high. The Sisodias saw their terri- 
tory shrink and entered the eighteenth century ensconced in their capital of 
Udaipur with much reduced resources compared to their two major rivals, 
Marwar and Amber, which were more willing to share power and daughters 
with the Mughals. 

During the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Kachhawaha clan migrated into 
an area known as Dhoondar, south of Delhi and north of Mewar.!? Dulha Rai, 
a Kachhawaha leader, supposedly granted estates to indigenous Minas in return 
for their allegiance, and their symbiotic relationship was acknowledged in two 
practices: first, a Mina placed the zi/ak, an auspicious mark, on an incoming 
Jaipur ruler during the installation durbar or ceremony, and second, the Minas 
were the hereditary guards of the Jaipur treasury.” This is another instance 
of the process described by Wink among the Marathas whereby neighbouring 
tribal groups are employed as watchmen and plunder specialists and thus ‘the 
complementarity of order and disorder . . . made possible the establishment of 

Amber was a relatively minor chieftainship until the Mughals incorporated 
itand other Rajput rulers, through marriage ties as well as rank, within the elite 
administrative hierarchy.” Bihar Mal of Amber was the first Rajput ruler to 
pay tribute to the Mughals, to give his eldest daughter in marriage to Akbar in 
1562, and to have his grandson Man Singh! becomea prominent administrator 

18 Erances H. Taft, ‘Honor and Alliance: Reconsidering Mughal—Rajput Marriages’, in Schomer, /dea, 
vol. 2, pp. 217-41, esp. pp. 230-3. 

19 Jadunath Sarkar, A History of Jaipur c. 1503-1938, revised and edited by Raghubir Sinh (Delhi, 
1984), pp. 20-7. Highly critical of the negative views of Tod about Jaipur, Sarkar completed his 
manuscript in 1940, but according to the dust jacket, ‘Rajput sensitivity towards incidents depicting 
Mughal-Rajput relations, and other obstacles, prevented publication’. 

20 Tbid., pp. 22-4. 7! Wink, Land, p. 194. 

22 Norman P. Ziegler, ‘Some Notes on Rajput Loyalties during the Mughal Period’, in Richards, 
Kingship, pp. 229-31; Norman P. Ziegler, Action, Power and Service in Rajasthani Culture: A Social 
History of the Rajputs of Middle Period Rajasthan, PhD thesis, University of Chicago (1973). 


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or mansabdar under Akbar. As a Mughal general, Man Singh led the cam- 
paign that defeated Maharana Pratap Singh of Mewar-Udaipur at Haldighat 
on 18 June 1576 and ended the effective Rajput resistance to the extension of 
Mughal control into Rajasthan. These two Rajput rulers illustrated the con- 
sequences of two Rajput responses to an expanding imperial system. Amber’s 
acceptance of a client relationship with a Mughal patron yielded an increase 
in territory, jagirdari rights to collect land revenue around his capital, and 
bardic condemnation, while Mewar’s refusal brought loss of territory but poetic 

Amber reached a peak in the early eighteenth century under Jai Singh II 
(1700-43), who used military force to capture it from a rival protégé of the 
Mughals. The victorious ruler proceeded to enlarge his territorial base by se- 
curing djara or tax-farming rights to parganas or districts surrounding his jagir 
from the impotent Mughal emperor.”4 In 1727 the foundation of a new capital 
city named Jaipur on the plain below Amber provided ‘a center uniting local 
[Rajput] and Mughal organisational and ceremonial features’. 

Jai Singh reaffirmed his dual heritage as a Hindu-Rajput ruler and a mem- 
ber of the Mughal imperial mansabdari hierarchy. First, he achieved Mughal 
recognition of Jaipur as his capital in 1733, and then he consecrated it through 
the ancient Hindu ritual of the horse sacrifice, which asserted his sovereignty. 
He endowed Jaipur with Mughal-style gardens and palaces for the performance 
of Mughal-style celebrations, but also Hindu temples and lively bazaars that 
attracted Hindu and Jain merchants as well as jewellers, craftsmen and mu- 
sicians from Delhi. Jai Singh made annual processions and occasional tours 
through the broad streets of Jaipur that provided, ‘in an era before mass media 
and instant communications, a ceremonial relationship to his people parallel 
to that created in the darbar and halls for public audience’.”° 

Jaipur was not unique among Rajput states in its acceptance of Mughal 
suzerainty in return for confirmation of their local control. Three other key 
states in western Rajasthan, Marwar-Jodhpur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer, paid their 
homage to Akbar in 1570. In the sandy hills of the western Thar Desert known 
as Marwar, meaning region of death, a lineage of the Rathor clan founded a 

23 Susannne Hoeber Rudolph and Lloyd I. Rudolph, ‘The Political Modernization of an Indian Feudal 
Order: An Analysis of Rajput Adaption in Rajasthan’, in Essays on Rajputana: Reflections on History, 
Culture and Administration (New Delhi, 1984), pp. 41-5. 

24 Satya Prakash Gupta, The Agrarian System of Eastern Rajasthan (c. 1650-c. 1750) (Delhi, 1986), 

. 12-27. 

25 a L. Erdman, Patrons and Performers in Rajasthan: The Subtle Tradition (Delhi, 1985), p. 29; 
Sten Ake Nilsson, ‘Jaipur: In the Sign of Leo’, Magasin Tessin 1 (1987), pp. 49-51. 

26 Erdman, Patrons, p. 42. 


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Amber Palace with view towards Jaigarh Fort. 

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View of planned city of Jaipur. 

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state during the thirteenth century. In 1459 Rao Jodh established a new capital 
called Jodhpur, the city of Jodh, and its name became an alternative to Marwar. 
Until the Mughal period, Marwar was second in importance to Mewar in 
Rajasthan and frequently in conflict with Amber-Jaipur, with whom it shared 
a shifting border. Norman Ziegler has linked the transformation of Marwar into 
a centralised state with a shift from patrimonial domain, where control over 
land is inherited through membership ina kinship group, to prebendal domain, 
where control is granted in return for service to the state and is not inheritable. 
This process began around the mid-sixteenth century and was linked to the 
increased use of horses for warfare, which required greater resources but also 
enabled rulers to extend their territorial control because of the mobility that 
improved breeds of horses provided.’” Eventually Jodhpur grew to be the 
largest state in Rajasthan. Although much of its territory was economically 
unproductive and its population remained limited, Marwar-Jodhpur was a 
valued ally of the Mughals. However, it became less prominent during the 
British period as the fortunes of a neighbouring state rose. 

Bikaner was an offshoot of Marwar-Jodhpur. Its creation occurred during 
the first stage of the cycle outlined by Fox, when the absence of a strong im- 
perial state allowed ambitious sons or brothers to take over new territories and 
thereby remove one potential threat to a newly established lineage. Rao Bika, 
the second and eldest surviving son of Rao Jodh, proclaimed himself king in 
1472 in the inhospitable desert area northwest of Marwar. Karni Singh, the last 
maharaja of Bikaner and a historian, has argued that Bikaner’s relations with 
the Mughals ‘were forged by the needs of the rulers of Bikaner for protection 
against the invasion of the sister-State of Jodhpur and brigandage of the in- 
digenous elements and the realisation of the Central Powers [Mughals] of the 
potential help that Bikaner could afford in consolidating their territories’.”8 
Rao Kalyanmal of Bikaner and his son, Rai Singh, entered relations with Akbar 
in 1570 and received a mansab rank of 2000. Bikaner fared well until the eigh- 
teenth century when the absence of a strong central power intensified strife 
among the Rajput states themselves.”? Brigands from the west ravaged Bikaner 
and Marwar, and Amber challenged it for dominance. Bikaner’s location in 
the barren Thar Desert, however, saved its rulers from having to pay tribute to 
the more formidable Marathas. 

27 Norman P. Ziegler, “Evolution of the Rathor State of Marvar: Horses, Structural Change and 
Warfare’, in Schomer, Idea, vol. 2, pp. 193-201. 

28 Karni Singh, The Relations of the House of Bikaner with the Central Powers 1465-1949 (New Delhi, 
1974), pp. 41-2. 

29 Tbid., pp. 99-120; Fox, Kin, p. 124. 


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The last major Rajput state to enter the Mughal system was Jaisalmer, whose 
ruling clan claimed descent from Krishna. They are Yadu or Jadon Bhatti 
Rajputs and their bardic genealogy makes allusions to a possible retreat into 
Central Asia and then re-entrance to India accompanying Scythian invaders. 
In 1156 Jaisal, the putative founder, erected a fort on a commanding ridge 
situated near a water supply and caravan routes between Afghanistan and the 
western coast of India. In frequent conflict with Marwar-Jodhpur, Jaisalmer 
entered the Mughal mansabdari system to prevent the encroachment of other 
Rajput clients of the Mughals. Ultimately such loyalty to the Mughal Empire 
would serve as a prototype for their subsequent alliances with the British. 

Successor states 

Although Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad, as former Mughal provinces, are 
considered the classic successor states, some antique states, most particularly 
Amber-Jaipur, which had been an active participant in the Mughal mansab- 
dari/jagirdari administrative system for over a century, had similar characteris- 
tics. S. P Gupta has described how closely the Jaipuri revenue administration 

conformed to the Mughal model.*° 

In many ways the Jaipur state followed 
the prototypical successor state in both its structure and the process of its ex- 
pansion and illustrates the arbitrary nature of any typology of princely states. 
Because of its pre-Mughal origins, however, I have not treated it as a successor 

In his pioneering analysis of Awadh, Richard Barnett outlined seven criteria 

of autonomy that marked the metamorphosis from province to successor state: 

1. The provincial governor or the imperial military officer in a little kingdom 
nominates or appoints his own revenue officers. 

2. Regional governors appoint their own successors. 

3. Revenues are used within the region and only ceremonial remittances are 
made to the centre. 

4, Governors engage in independent diplomatic and military activity. 

5. Ruling families establish their principal residences at their provincial capitals 
rather than at the Mughal court. 

6. A coinage is minted at least in silver to replace the imperial silver rupees. 

7. Delivery of the khutbah, the Friday congregational sermon in the principal 

mosque, is in the name of the governor rather than the emperor.*! 

30 Gupta, Agrarian System, pp. 1-26, 163-86. 
3! Richard B. Barnett, North India Between Empires: Awadh, the Mughals, and the British 1720-1801 
(Berkeley CA, 1980), pp. 21-2. 


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Most successor states appropriated the first five functions in a sequential order, 
but only a few minted coins and practically none took the seventh step. 

The classic model for the development of a successor state is Awadh. In 1720 
Saadat Khan, a relatively late Shi'a immigrant from Nishapur in Iran seeking 
his fortune at the Mughal court, was appointed subahdar of Agra but was later 
demoted to the less remunerative Awadh. Despite this reduction in income, 
he took the first four steps that Barnett outlined. Marriage alliances created a 
network of support.** Then Saadat Khan became the first governor of Awadh 
to appoint his revenue officers; to nominate his successor, his son-in-law and 
nephew, Safdar Jang; to reduce the portion of revenue remitted to Delhi; and 
to engage in direct military and diplomatic negotiations with a foreign invader, 
Nadir Shah. Safdar Jang and Shujaud-Daula, his son and heir, continued this 
transformation of a state. 

In 1764 at Buxar, the upstart English East India Company defeated an 
alliance of Shujaud-Daula, the Mughal emperor, and Mir Kasim, the deposed 
nawab of Bengal. Shujaud-Daula yielded territory, paid an indemnity, and 
concluded a treaty with the British but also laid out an impressive capital at 
Faizabad complete with palaces, zoo, aviary and marketplaces to demonstrate 
his status as the ruler of a regional state.*? Awadh would enjoy a reprieve until 
1856. Bengal, the successor state that Alivardi Khan so brilliantly crafted, was 
much more short-lived.** After their victory in 1764, the British received the 
diwani or revenue-collecting rights in Bengal. Thus the East India Company 
emerged as a regional Indian state and the Nawab of Bengal became their 
pensioner. One successor state, however, would survive until 1948. 

The third and most long-lived successor state was among the last territories 
to be incorporated into the Mughal Empire. Mir Kamar-ud-din, who is better 
known by his titles of Nizam-ul-Mulk and Asaf Jah I, was appointed subahdar 
of the Deccan Plateau province in 1713. After settling at the Mughal capital of 
Aurangabad, Asfar Jah campaigned against the Marathas and briefly served as 
wazir, the chief Mughal revenue minister. Disgusted with the political infight- 
ing in Delhi, Asfa Jah I returned to the Deccan where he eventually exercised 
the first four of Barnett’s criteria for autonomy. After his death, rival claimants 
allied themselves with the French and English companies during their struggle 
over succession. Salabat Jang, with French support, emerged triumphant in 

32 Michael H. Fisher, ‘Political Marriage Alliances at the Shi’i Court of Awadh’, CSSH 24 (1983), 
pp. 598-601. 

33 Barnett, North India, pp. 67-95. 

4p J. Marshall, Bengal: The British Bridgehead Eastern India 1740-1828, The New Cambridge History 
of India, II, 2 (Cambridge, 1987). 


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1751 and remained in power for a decade. In 1761 he was deposed by Nizam 
Ali Khan, a younger brother, whose reign extended from 1762 to 1803. He 
evolved a distinctive political system, reduced hostilities with the Marathas, 
defined firmer boundaries, and established a new capital at Hyderabad city, 
near the former seat of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda. 

The political system in Hyderabad was relatively complex. While high- 
lighting the Mughal pattern of its administrative institutions, Karen Leonard 
argues that these Mughal-named institutions operated differently in the Dec- 
can.*° More recently, Sunil Chander has asserted that Hyderabad cannot be 
considered a successor state since a ‘criss-cross pattern of alliances between 
small kings at the local level, “intermediaries” at the supra-local level, and 
foreign powers at the inter-regional level’ moulded the central government of 
Hyderabad.*° But he contends that Hyderabad became more like a successor 
state in the nineteenth century, so I have chosen to treat it as such. The nizam, 
as the head of state, controlled the largest territorial base and used revenues 
from it to support his personal household, his administration, and his mili- 
tary establishment. But the nizam and his nobles were revenue receivers and 
expenders since they farmed out revenue collection to intermediaries. Military 
campaigns, administrative commitments, the patronage of cultural clients such 
as poets, religious men and artisans, and their precarious fiscal base led this 
ruling elite to resort to loans from private bankers, frequently outsiders from 
northern and western India.*” 

Intermittent warfare with the Marathas (to be discussed later) dominated 
diplomatic and military affairs in Hyderabad. The nizams held these Deccani 
rivals at bay by allowing them to levy taxes in certain districts and by entering 
alliances with the English Company. In 1766 Nizam Ali Khan concluded 
an initial treaty with the British, on the basis of equality, which promised 
tribute from Hyderabad in return for support from Company troops when 
that was requested. Although Edward Thompson’s claim that “Hyderabad was 
saved only by the coming of the British’** overstated British power, Hyderabad 
benefited territorially from a subsidiary alliance in 1798. This treaty marked 
the beginning of unequal status. Hyderabad had to agree to disband its foreign 
troops and to support a regular, subsidiary force to be used only at the direction 

3> Karen Leonard, ‘The Hyderabad Political System and Its Participants’, JAS 30 (1971), pp. 569-82. 

36 Sunil Chander, From a Pre-Colonial Order to a Princely State: Hyderabad in Transition, c. 1748— 
1865, PhD Thesis, University of Cambridge (1987), p. 5. 

37 Leonard, ‘Hyderabad System’, pp. 569-82. 

38 Edward Thompson, The Making of the Indian Princes (London, 1978, first published in 1943), 
p. 14. 


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of the Company.*? Hyderabad purchased a century and a half of continued 
existence by accepting a new patron. As Peter Wood succinctly stated, the price 

of survival was submission.*° 

Warrior or conquest states 

Although the use of military force to establish political dominance was a key 
factor in the formation of most princely states, here conquest states will be 
construed as a third category. It designates states established by warrior groups 
who contested with an overarching authority to establish new political entities 
by offering military protection to local populations. Burton Stein asserts that 
Vijayanagara was a warrior state of the old regime that served as a structural 
precursor of the Maratha states.*! The founders of conquest states were usually 
clan leaders who performed extraordinary services fora dominant ruler. These 
military entrepreneurs gained compensation ranging from rights to the produce 
of land, to clothing worn by the ruler, to honours such as titles, banners and 
other emblems of sovereignty. In south India Nicholas Dirks has described 
how the next step to assert one’s legitimacy to rule was for such warrior chiefs 
to give gifts, especially of land, to Hindu temples and brahmans.” In north 
India, Hindu temples were less central to the political cosmology, but Hindu 
and Sikh as well as Muslim rulers also patronised a variety of religious, social 
and artistic institutions. At times, rising rulers agreed to nominal incorporation 
into the Mughal structure as mansabdars, but generally they did not participate 
in the governance of the empire on either provincial or imperial level, as 
had the successor states of the subahdars of Awadh, Bengal or Hyderabad. 
To validate their conquest or rebellion against their sometime acknowledged 
overlord, these emergent kings avowed divine sanction from myths as well as 
secular confirmation from a Mughal authority who did not have the power to 

Conquest states are the most diverse of the three categories of princely states. 
Although the victories of the Persians under Nadir Shah and the Afghans under 
Ahmad Shah Abdali of the Durrani clan were external signals of the decline 
of the Mughal power, these foreign protagonists did not themselves establish 

% Sarojini Regani, Nizam—British Relations 1724-1857 (Hyderabad, 1963), pp. 187-213. 
40 Peter Wood, Vassal State in the Shadow of Empire: Palmer’s Hyderabad, 1799-1867, PhD thesis, 
University of Wisconsin-Madison (1981), p. 39. 
41 Burton Stein, Vijayanagara, The New Cambridge History of India, I, 2 (Cambridge, 1989), 
. 146. 
42 Nicholas B. Dirks, The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of a Little Kingdom in South India (Cambridge, 
1987), pp. 128-38, 285-90. 


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states in India. Rather they served as new arbitrators of regional conflicts and 
new sources of legitimation to aspiring rulers who could also be supportive 
clients. A few Afghans nevertheless founded states that would remain internally 
autonomous until 1948. One was Rampur in western Uttar Pradesh, the sole 
remnant of Rohilla Afghan power after the revolt of 1857. A larger one was 
Bhopal in central India. 

Dost Muhammad Khan, the Afghan founder of Bhopal state, whose capital 
is approximately 200 miles south of Delhi, entered Mughal service in 1703. 
Four years later he began his career as an independent military entrepreneur 
with an ever expanding band of mercenary troops, many of whom were his 
relatives. During the 1720s he broadcast his political aspirations by taking 
the title of mawab, but Nizam-ul-Mulk, still ostensibly in Mughal service, 
defeated him. However, the future founder of Hyderabad state granted a sanad 
(letter, decree, contract) to Dost Muhammad Khan that recognised his right 
to collect revenues in return for a fort, the payment of Rs 50 000, and the 
pledge of 2000 troops. Upon the death of Dost Muhammad in 1728, the 
nizam again intervened by designating Yar Muhammad Khan, an elder but 
illegitimate son, as heir. Stewart Gordon has labelled this action as the “weak 
candidate strategy” in Indian politics’.“4 Someone ambitious for suzerainty 
supported a vulnerable nominee who would then be willing to pay tribute 
because he could stay on the throne only with external support. A war of 
succession erupted after the death of Yar Muhammad Khan and eventually 
his widow, Mamola Begum, secured a compromise that gave actual power to 
a wazir. By 1763 Mamola Begum emerged as the de facto ruler of this state 
and remained so until the 1780s. She was the first of five formidable women 
who would be both rewarded with British honours such as the Star of India 
and lampooned on cigarette cards as savage rulers along with native American 
leaders. * 

The Hindu ruling dynasty of Mysore traditionally dates its origin to 1399 
and so it might possibly be considered an antique state.*° However, because 
its greatest territorial and governmental expansion occurred from the late 
seventeenth century onward, Mysore seems more similar to warrior/conquest 
states such as Bhopal. Located in peninsular India, the rulers of Mysore were 

43 EI. Brodkin, ‘Rampur, Rohilkhand, and Revolt: The Pathan Role in 1857’, JBR 15 (1988), 
pp. 15-30. 
Stewart Gordon, ‘Legitimacy and Loyalty in Some Successor States of the Eighteenth Century’, in 
Richards, Kingship, p. 291. 

% Shaharyar M. Khan, The Begums of Bhopal: A Dynasty of Women Rulers in Raj India (London, 2000). 

466, Hayavadana Rao, Mysore Gazetteer Compiled for Government, new edn, 5 vols (Bangalore, 1930), 
vol. 1. 


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Begum Shah Jahan of Bhopal, ruled 1868-1901. 

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W5:Kimball & Gos 

Her Highness the Begum Secunder, India and Princess Shah Jehan, India, cigarette 
cards of Savage and Semi-Barbarous Chiefs and Rulers of W. S. Kimball & Co. 

petty chieftains in the Vijayanagara state where the ruler held ritual sovereignty 
over little kings (known to the British as poligars) who collected the revenue 
and maintained law and order.” By 1610 the last agent of the Vijayanagara 
king sold the Srirangapatanam fortress to Raja Wadiyar (1578-1617), who 
began the transition from petty chief to little king.“ 

By the mid-eighteenth century, disputes over succession to the Mysore gaddi 
(literally a cushion and by extension a throne) had led one claimant, Krishnaraja 
I] (1734-65), to seek the assistance of Haidar Ali (c. 1722-82), a Muslim gen- 
eral who had fought effectively in wars between rivals for the nawabship of 
the Carnatic, the area south of the Gundlekamma and Krishna Rivers that 
extended almost to Madras. After a successful coup in 1761, Haidar Ali be- 
came the effective ruler of Mysore, though the Wadiyar king remained his 
nominal suzerain. Once again an aspirant to autonomy retained a militarily 
impotent source of legitimacy, much as the governors of successor states used 
the Mughal emperor. Haidar Ali sought to create a centrally controlled military 
force that would enable him to subdue the petty chieftains within his state and 
to oppose external threats. Although he had to depend on tribute payments and 

47 Burton Stein, Peasant State and Society in Medieval South India (New Delhi, 1980) and ‘State 
Formation and Economy Reconsidered: Part One’, MAS 19 (1985), pp. 387-413. 
48 Tbid., pp. 400-1. 


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prebendial obligations, Haider Ali strengthened his military prowess by dom- 
inating the market for horses, cannon and foreign military officers — especially 
the French, who trained his troops in western techniques.” 

When Tipu Sultan (1753-99) succeeded his father in 1782, he bolstered 
revenues to support a centralised military machine and intensified state con- 
trol downward into local political units. Burton Stein has applied the concept 
of military fiscalism to his program while arguing that the same process had 
already begun from the local political base of petty chiefs and enterprising 
temples.°” The state’s share of the land revenue was maximised with the ap- 
pointment of central officials as collectors in place of petty chiefs who had 
siphoned off much of the land revenue. To gain new sources of wealth, 
commercial crops such as sugar cane were encouraged and state-supported 
trade centres were developed that enabled the regional state to penetrate more 
deeply into the local economy and to undermine the position of intermediary 
chiefs and revenue farmers. Finally, imams (gifts or assignments of revenues 
from parcels of land to support notable people or institutions) were carefully 
regulated. Tipu Sultan set in motion trends towards military centralisation 
and administrative modernisation, which the British and a restored Wadiyar 
dynasty would continue.?! 

As a Muslim ruler in a predominantly Hindu kingdom and a staunch op- 
ponent of the East India Company, Tipu Sultan has multiple personae in 
the historical record. Some British depicted him as a cruel, fanatical Muslim 
usurper; Pakistani historians claimed him as a defender of Islam; Indian histo- 
rians have represented him as a prototypical nationalist; and in the 1980s some 
right-wing Hindu populist leaders have castigated him as a temple-destroying 
Muslim zealot. Kate Brittlebank has explored his diverse strategies to establish 
the legitimacy of his kingship, which was grounded on the material resources 
of a strong military force, an expanded tax base, and extended penetration of 
local politics. First, Tipu acted as a king, claiming universal kingship authorised 
by a farman (decree) from the Ottoman Caliph and minting coins in his own 
name. Second, he incorporated former enemies, neighbours and officials into 

49 Tbid. and Devadas Moodley, ‘War and the Mysore State: Men and Materials 1760-1800’. Paper 
presented at the Ninth European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Heidelberg University, 
9-12 July 1987 and provided by the author. 

°° Martin Wolf first developed the concept of military fiscalism in the context of fifteenth-century 
Renaissance France, and Stein is careful to underline the differences between Renaissance France 
and eighteenth-century India: Stein, ‘State Formation’, pp. 387-413. 

>! Ibid. and Mary Doreen Wainwright, ‘Continuity in Mysore’, in C. H. Philips and Mary Doreen 
Wainwright (eds), Indian Society and the Beginnings of Modernisation c. 1830-1850 (London, 1976), 
pp. 165-85. 


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a hierarchy of subordination through gifts offered as a superior to subordinates 
and exchanges of women as marriage partners, concubines and possibly slaves. 
Third, although he destroyed some Hindu temples connected to his enemies, 
he extended protection and patronage to Hindu as well as Muslim sacred sites. 
Tipu Sultan also appealed to both Hindus and Muslims by his use of the tiger 
and the sun as royal emblems.” A potent symbol of secular and sacred power, 
the tiger appeared in various forms, as a tiger head, as stripes, or in calligraphy, 
on buildings, weapons, clothing and thrones. 

It took four wars before, in 1799, the British defeated Tipu at Srirangap- 
atanam, where he was killed. Subsequently the British appropriated many of 
Tipu’s icons and possessions as war trophies to be displayed first in private col- 
lections and then in museums as testaments to imperial glory. The best-known 
image of Mysore’s formidable challenge, now housed in the Victoria and Albert 
Museum, is the mechanical tiger with a British soldier in its mouth which is 
equipped with an organ that growled as the tiger opened its mouth. Pursuing 
a policy inaugurated in Awadh in 1764, the British concluded a treaty, to be 
discussed in Chapter 4, that did not annex Mysore but restored the displaced 
Wadiyar dynasty to the gaddi. 

Another remnant of the Vijayanagara state was the small principality of 
Pudukkottai (meaning new fort) created by the Tondaiman kallars.>4 By the 
mid-seventeenth century a Tondaiman chief had developed a military relation- 
ship with the Tamil Maravar Sethupati rulers of Ramnad. He then engaged in 
marriage politics by marrying a sister to his Sethupati ally and thereby elevating 
his status above that of rival kallar clans. In an innovative and elaborate analy- 
sis that combines archival research and ethnological fieldwork, Nicholas Dirks 
has traced the rise of the Tondaimans from petty chiefs with a reputation for 
banditry to little kings. Because of timely military service, in 1801 the British 
acknowledged them as an internally autonomous princely state. Eventually 
Pudukkottai became a theatre state as hegemonic British colonial officials di- 
rected rituals and bestowed honours in a play devoid of actual participation by 
the subordinate Pudukkottai prince. 

>2 Kate Brittlebank, Tipu Sultan’ Search for Legitimacy: Islam and Kingship in a Hindu Domain (Delhi, 

3 Two major British collections of artefacts associated with Tipu Sultan are at Powis Castle in Wales 
and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Mildred Archer, Christopher Rowell and Robert 
Skelton, Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle (London, 1987); C. A. Bayly, The 
Raj: India and the British 1600-1947 (London, 1990), pp. 152-60. 

54 Dirks, Hollow Crown. > Thid., parts 4 and 5. 


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In the mid-eighteenth century Martanda Varma created Travancore, and 
an elaborate foundation myth is held to account for several distinctive cul- 
tural features in this state. The god Parasurama was exiled from India, and 
Varuna, god of the sea, allowed the homeless god to throw his axe and reclaim 
the land from the sea that his axe covered. It went from Cape Comorin at 
the tip of the Indian subcontinent to Cochin and covered a narrow strip of 
land 70 to 80 miles wide that arose between the Arabian Sea and the western 
Ghats. Parasurama created the nambudiris, brahmans who were given owner- 
ship of the land and distinctive customs so that they would not migrate back 
to India over the Ghats. Then the god provided nayars, who were sudras who 
functioned as their servants and bodyguards. The nayars had a matrilineal 
system of family organisation and inheritance but no formal marriage, and 
their women were to satisfy the sexual desires of nambudiri brahmans. The 
historical ancestor of Travancore was the Chera Empire, but after its disso- 
lution around 1100, petty chiefs ruling over little kingdoms dominated the 

Martanda Varma (r. 1729-58) became the raja of Venad in 1729. Prepared 
to ignore traditional modes of warfare and governance, he sought to create a 
new type of centralised state. Martanda executed nayar chiefs, sold their wives 
and children into slavery, and conquered and absorbed the territories of neigh- 
bouring chiefs. He then imported ‘foreign’ Tamil and Maratha brahmans to 
administer these newly conquered territories and displaced the local chiefs. 
He employed a Belgian soldier, Eustace de Lannoy, to reorganise his military 
into a salaried, drilled and dependent army composed of diverse groups in- 
cluding Deccani and Pathan Muslims, Tamil Hindu warriors and local Syrian 

Susan Bayly has pointed out the importance of the Kerala states in linking 
traditional warrior lineages and kadari martial training groups to the European- 
style military system. The central civil and military administration was largely 
paid with revenues from state monopolies in export crops such as pepper, car- 
damom and wood products, which made Travancore one of the most commer- 
cialised states during the eighteenth century.°” This new structure represented 
a diminution of the powers of the local nayars and their dependants, but as 
Robin Jeffrey has analysed it, they were not excluded from power as long as 

56 A. Sreedhara Menon, A Survey of Kerala History (Kottayam, 1967); K. M. Panikkar, A History of 
Kerala 1498-1801 (Annamalainagar, 1960). 

7 Susan Bayly, ‘Hindu Kingship and the Origin of Community: Religion, State and Society in Kerala, 
1750-1850’, MAS 18 (1984), pp. 186-202. 


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they were willing to participate in the government on the terms that Martanda 
Varma dictated.*8 

Besides the need to maintain armies trained and equipped by Europeans, 
religious patronage and leadership in the establishment of states were of the 
utmost importance throughout south India in the eighteenth century.” To gain 
legitimacy and to conciliate the strongest opposition group, Martanda Varma 
dedicated the state to the tutelary deity Sri Padmanabha, an incarnation of 
Vishnu, in an act that incorporated all classes in his gift. But as his European- 
style military was ecumenical in membership, the aggressive ruler adjudicated 
leadership succession disputes among the Syrian Christians within his state 
and patronised brahmans.° 

By 1758 Travancore included around 7000 square miles of territory. Under 
Maharaja Rama Varma (r. 1758-98) it became the focus of unwanted attention 
from Mysore. In 1795 the Travancore ruler expediently concluded a treaty of 
subsidiary alliance with the Company to secure additional protection from 
Tipu Sultan’s aggrandising embrace. By 1800 Travancore had to accept its first 
British resident and reconfirmed its commitment to the British with another 
treaty in 1805.°! 

Cochin, a much smaller state of about 1500 square miles, shared with 
Travancore a legendary descent from the Chera Empire and the matrilineal 
system of family organisation and inheritance. It was, however, less successful 
than its southern neighbour in resisting external and internal challengers. The 
Portuguese arrived in the sixteenth century and the Dutch in the next century. 
When the latter left in the middle of the eighteenth century, the zamorin of 
Calicut invaded the state and was only repulsed with the aid of troops from 
Travancore. In 1775 Haidar Ali compelled the raja of Cochin to pay an annual 
tribute. Then in 1791 the raja shifted his allegiance and his tribute to the 

André Wink has maintained that following the process begun by Rajputs 
in the fourteenth century, the Marathas, along with the Jats, Bundelas and 
Sikhs, represented the gentrification of India. As the Mughal Empire advanced 
southward, Maratha military entrepreneurs were able to expand their political 
control through the skilful negotiation of alliances with the contending Muslim 

°8 Robin Jeffrey, The Decline of Nayar Dominance: Society and Politics in Travancore, 1847-1908 
(London, 1976), pp. 2-5. 

59 Susan Bayly, Saints, Goddesses and Kings: Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society 1700-1900 
(Cambridge, 1989). 

6 Susan Bayly, ‘Hindu Kingship.’ 

61 Susan Bayly’s revisionist arguments in ‘Hindu Kingship’ and Saints are the basis for my interpretation, 
along with Jeffrey, Decline. 


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powers during the middle decades of the seventeenth century. Shivaji (1630— 
80), the founder of the Maratha state, came from a deshmukh family. Stewart 
Gordon has delineated the obligations and rights of deshmukhs, who as village 
headmen gradually achieved financial, military, judicial and ritual rights and 
obligations through the process of colonisation in abandoned or waste lands. 
As the ‘hinge’ between a king and cultivators, a successful deshmukh needed 
administrative and military skills.°? By his death in 1680, Shivaji, a man of 
great personal courage, had built up a powerful base through adroit military 
campaigning, administrative reforms and ritual innovation. His main sources 
of revenue were chauth, a tax of one-fourth of the land revenue, which might be 
deemed tribute or fees for military protection, and sardeshmukhi, an assessment 
of about 10 per cent of the produce. Payment of the sardeshmukhi implied 
recognition of Shivaji as head of the deshmukhs, the dominant families in the 

By the early 1700s, Shivaji’s political association had evolved into what 
Indian nationalists have labelled the Maratha Empire and British historians 
the Maratha Confederacy. Neither term is fully accurate since one implies a 
substantial degree of centralisation and the other signifies some surrender of 
power to a central government and a longstanding core of political administra- 
tors.°? Maratha power was fragmented among several discrete elements. They 
included the raja of Satara, the nominal head and source of legitimacy; the 
peshwa, a brahman bureaucrat who became the de facto leader; and five major 
military leaders of whom three would survive until 1948. Shinde, who is fre- 
quently referred to as Scindia in British sources, was based at the ancient Hindu 
sacred site at Ujjain and later at the Rajput-constructed fort of Gwalior, south 
of Agra and the Chambal River. Holkar, a leader from a pastoralist background 
in the Vindhya Mountains and technically not a member of the Maratha caste 
group, eventually established his capital at Indore in central India. The gaekwad 
in Baroda remained on the periphery of Maratha politics because of his distant 
base in Gujarat. Bhonsle overcame the Gonds of central India and settled at 

Just as the Rajput states had their British chronicler in Tod, the states of 
Central India had Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833). His account about the 
origin of the Scindia and Holkar families illustrates features common to other 
Maratha ruling families. Ranuji, the founder of the political good fortune of 
the Scindias, came from cultivators who were sudras and held the hereditary 

62 Stewart Gordon, The Marathas 1600-1818, The New Cambridge History of India, II, 4 (Cambridge, 
1993), pp. 22-34. 
3 Tbid., pp. 178-9. 


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office of patel or headman of a village. Ranuji had supposedly entered the 
service of Baji Rao I, peshwa from 1720 to 1740, as slipper-bearer. One night 
Baji Rao came out from a long audience and discovered Ranuji asleep with the 
peshwa’s slippers clasped tightly to his chest. The peshwa was impressed with his 
servant’s faithfulness in small matters and promoted him to his bodyguard. A 
similar story is related about the Holkar family. These foundational myths have 
common features: their natal or adoptive families had some sign of superior 
authority such as a village headman or the maintenance of armed supporters; 
despite low-status occupations, the founders performed some extraordinary 
act which attracted the attention of a superior political authority anxious to 
recruit talented, loyal supporters; and during the decline of a central power 
shrewd individuals at the right place at the right time could create their own 
political base with great speed. 

During the eighteenth century the core of the Maratha political entity was 
the peshwas of Poona (now Pune) and the Scindias of Gwalior, the latter 
being intermittently challenged by the Holkars of Indore.® As the Mughal 
imperial structure lost the support of local elites, the Marathas spread out from 
their Deccan stronghold into a broad arc from the fringes of the Portuguese 
settlement at Goa across central India to the outskirts of the British enclave 
at Calcutta. They did not always seek direct control of land but were often 
content with indemnities and the right to collect chauth and sardeshmukhi.© 
However, Gordon has emphasised that in much of Malwa and the Khandesh, 
the Maratha state at the village and pargana level collected its revenue on the 
basis of extensive contracts specifying the amount of revenue in return for 
political stability.°” 

As the Marathas moved north they encountered the Rajputs, some of whom 
initially asked for their assistance as allies in succession struggles, first in Bundi 
in 1734 and later in Mewar, Marwar, Amber and Alwar. Wink has described 
these forays as ‘conquests on invitation’.°* The Rajput rulers soon discovered 
that Maratha demands for tribute to pay their expensive but potent military 
units could never be fully satisfied. Yet these princes could not form a successful 

64 Sir John Malcolm, A Memoir of Central India including Malwa and Adjoining Provinces, 2 vols (New 
Delhi, 2001, first published in 1823), vol. 1, pp. 116-17. 

6 Gordon, Marathas, pp. 132-77. 

66 Stewart N. Gordon, ‘Scarf and Sword: Thugs, Marauders, and State-formation in 18th Century 
Malwa’, JESHR 6 (1969), pp. 403-30. 

67 Stewart Gordon, Everyday Resistance and Negotiation in the Eighteenth Century Maratha King- 
dom. Unpublished paper presented at the American Historical Association, Washington, D.C., 
December 1987. 

68 Wink, Land, p. 75. 


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alliance against the Marathas, even after the Afghans had defeated them in 
1761.° The Rajputs might gain interludes of indifference when the forces 
of the Scindias and Holkars fought each other. But they were plundered for 
resources when a dynamic, able ruler like Mahadji Scindia concentrated on 
collecting tribute from the Rajputs not only on his own behalf but also that 
due to his nominal overlord, the Mughal emperor. Here is another instance 
of a rebel prince invoking the authority of the Mughal emperor ostensibly 
to protect the emperor but in reality to enable the nominal subordinate to 
strengthen his own military establishment. Mahadji was using the emperor, as 
had Saadat Khan and Safdar Jang of Awadh. Mahadji’s death in 1794 provided 
a respite for the Rajputs, but in ten years they would be subjected to attacks by 
the pindaris, who were attempting to form their own resource base from the 
disarray of the Maratha possessions.’° 

By the 1790s the Maratha polity was debilitated by ineffective leadership and 
had lost what little internal cohesion it had earlier possessed. Like his nominal 
overlord in Satara, the peshwa had been reduced to a political cipher by his 
chief minister, Nana Fadrnavis. In Indore, Ahilyabai, the daughter-in-law of 
Malhar Rao Holkar, who had thoroughly trained her in administration and 
military strategy, assumed the throne in 1765 when her husband became 
mentally unbalanced, and kept Indore politically stable. Her executive skills, 
her recruitment of a supportive elite, and her kingly dharmic gift-giving to 
brahmans and pilgrimage sites from Kedarnath in the Himalayas to Rame- 
saram in the south reflected a possible pattern by which a few princely wives, 
widows or mothers were politically active in the public sphere.”! Her death in 
1795, however, left Indore in a politically weakened condition similar to that 
of Nagpur and Baroda. By 1805 the latter was a British-protected state and 
disengaged from its Maratha peers by treaty and by geography. 

C. A. Bayly has characterised the Sikhs as a social movement like the 
Marathas, which derived strength from their ability ‘to incorporate pioneer 
peasant castes, miscellaneous military adventurers and groups on the fringes of 
settled agriculture’.’” Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of Sikhism as a 
religious movement, proclaimed that his followers should approach the One, 
Formless God directly and live in the world on the product of their own labours. 
Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708; the tenth guru 1675-1708) instituted the 

6 §.C. Misra, Sindhia-Holkar Rivalry in Rajasthan (Delhi, 1981). 

70 R.K. Saxena, Maratha Relations with the Major States of Rajputana (1761-1818 A.D.) (New Delhi, 
1973), pp. 260-72. 

71 Gordon, ‘Legitimacy’, pp. 293-6, and Malcolm, Memoir, vol. 2, pp. 175-95. 

7 C. A. Bayly, Rulers, p. 20. 


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khalsa as the community of those who were baptised and accepted social prac- 
tices such as not cutting their hair. W. H. McLeod has argued that these customs 
came from the Jats,’? pastoralists who had moved into settled agriculture and 
were attracted to Hinduism and Islam as well as Sikhism. The Sikh community 
also acquired a commitment to political domination embodied in the slogan 
raj karega khalsa (the khalsa will rule).”4 

During the eighteenth century, Sikh jathas, military bands based on varying 
degrees of personal, kinship and regional bonds, coalesced into larger units 
called mists that extended protection over tracts in central Punjab in return for 
a share in the produce from the land. By 1799 Ranjit Singh had incorporated 
most of the misls into a kingdom of Punjab based at Lahore, which resisted 
British annexation until 1848. A few Sikh misldars or rulers, mainly those 
south of the Sutlej, survived as allies of the British for another century. The 
principal ones controlled the three Phulkian states of Patiala, Nabha and Jind. 
The Phulkian clan traced their ancestry remotely to Jaisal, the Jadon Bhatti 
Rajput founder of Jaisalmer state, and would maintain their right to Rajput 
status even in the twentieth century. 

In return for supporting the Mughal emperor Babur during the battle of 
Panipat in 1526, Bariam, a Phulkian Jat, acquired chaudhriyat, or the right to 
collect revenue from a wasteland southwest of Delhi. When a descendant, Phul 
(d. 1652), was introduced to Har Govind, the sixth Sikh guru, the religious 
leader is reputed to have prophesied that Phul, whose name means ‘flower’ in 
Hindi, would bear many blossoms and satisfy the hunger of many. Phul had 
seven sons by two wives; the two by his first wife were Tilokha, the ancestor 
of the rajas of Nabha and Jind, and Rama, who was the ancestor of the Patiala 
ruling house. Ala Singh (1691-1765), the third son of Rama, was the first to 
take the name of Singh and is considered to be the founder of Patiala state. By 
1765 the Afghan king-maker Ahmad Shah Durrani granted Ala Singh the title 
of raja, a robe of honour, and the right to coin money in return for an annual 
tribute. Indu Banga has emphasised that political expediency was Ala Singh’s 
guiding principle in external relations,”° and it is apparent that Sikh sardars or 
local leaders generally were profiting from judicious negotiations of alliances in 
an area where more powerful opponents were contesting for dominance. Amar 
Singh (b. 1748, r. 1765-82), the grandson of Ala Singh, accepted Sikh baptism 

73 WH. McLeod, The Evolution of the Sikh Community: Five Essays (Delhi, 1975), pp. 51-2. 

4 J. S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, New Cambridge History of India, II, 3 (Cambridge, 1990), 
ch. 5. 

> Indu Banga, ‘Ala Singh: The Founder of Patiala State’, in Harbans Singh and N. Gerald Barrier 
(eds), Punjab Past and Present: Essays in Honor of Dr. Ganda Singh (Patiala, 1976), p. 155. 


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and continued the expansion of Patiala state through strategic alliances and 
successful military actions. A series of succession disputes after his death left 
Patiala vulnerable to better organised rival Sikh misldars and northward-bound 

In the 1790s female relatives of Patiala rajas, most notably Rani Rajindar 
(d. 1791), a cousin of Amar Singh, and Rani Sahib Kaur (d. 1799), the sister 
of Raja Sahib Singh (1773-1813), actively rallied the troops of Patiala against 
Maratha incursions. Lepel Griffin, a late-nineteenth-century British official in 
Punjab and hardly a feminist, remarked that ‘it would almost appear that the 
Phulkian Chiefs excluded, by direct enactment, all women from any share of 
power, from the suspicion that they were able to use it far more wisely than 
themselves’.”° The Phulkian states were soon to acknowledge the suzerainty 
of Ranjit Singh, but in 1809 Patiala, Nabha and Jind entered treaty relations 
with the English Company to secure protection from annexation by their 
formidable Sikh overlord. Yet again, Patiala would gain from its geographical 
position between two expanding states, the British and the kingdom of Punjab. 

After Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, a series of rapid successions weakened the 
resistance of the kingdom of Punjab to British encroachment and the loyalty of 
petty chieftains of ‘little kingdoms’. During the Anglo-Sikh war of 1845-46, 
the responses of the Sikh states varied. Patiala, Jind and Faridkot committed 
their resources to the British, willing to come to terms with whoever controlled 
Delhi. Nabha and Kapurthala hesitated or joined the Punjab kingdom and 
suffered losses but not extinction. The Anglo-Sikh war of 1848 meant the 
annexation of Punjab and confirmed the anomalous creation of the kingdom 
of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the British felt unable to defend an extended and 
remote frontier area in 1846, they transferred Kashmir, which Ranjit Singh 
had annexed to Punjab, to Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu, a Dogra who 
claimed Rajput status, in return for a payment of Rs 75 lakhs.’” Thus a Hindu 
military ally of Ranjit Singh was made the ruler of the Muslim majority area 
of Kashmir for imperial strategic reasons. 

Like their Phulkian counterparts, the Hindu Jat rulers of Bharatpur and 
Dholpur claimed Rajput origins. The ruling family of Bharatpur, located south- 
east of Delhi, reputedly forfeited its Rajput status when an ancestor Bal Chand, 
having no children by a Rajput wife, produced sons with a Jat woman. One 

76 Lepel H. Griffin, The Rajas of the Punjab: Being the History of the Principal States in the Punjab and 
Their Political Relations with the British Government, 2nd edn, 2 vols (Patiala, 1970, first published 
in 1870), vol. 1, p. 67. 

77 Bawa Satinder Singh, The Jammu Fox: A Biography of Maharaja Gulab Singh of Kashmir 1792-1857 
(Carbondale IL, 1974). A lakh = 100 000. 


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of their scions banded together with other Jats and offered protection to lo- 
cal populations as Mughals and Marathas fought around Delhi. By 1752 the 
Mughal emperor was compelled to recognise Badan Singh as a hereditary raja 
controlling a little kingdom near Delhi. As he rose from petty chieftain to 
raja, the Bharatpur ruler sought legitimation through his patronage of Vaish- 
navite ascetics and acknowledged their power to confer benediction.’® On the 
material level Badan Singh constructed palaces, other kingly amenities in his 
newly founded capital of Bharatpur, and a fort. After shifting alliances with the 
British and the Marathas, in 1805 his descendant, Raja Ranjit Singh (d. 1805), 
calculated that his interests would be best served by a treaty with the British, 
who were more threatening than the Marathas. Dholpur, the other Hindu 
Jat-ruled state, captured the great Rajput fort at Gwalior after the defeat of the 
Marathas in 1761. After several exchanges of Gwalior fort among the British, 
Scindia and Dholpur, in 1805 the Dholpur ruling family were confirmed in 
their possession of the districts of Dholpur, Bari and Rajakhera. 

No typology will ever include all examples, and Bahawalpur state followed 
perhaps a singular pattern of state formation.”? Situated in barren desert ter- 
ritory along the left banks of the Indus and its tributaries between Jaisalmer 
in Rajasthan and Multan in Punjab, it was populated largely by Muslim Jats 
and had a pastoral-nomadic economy until the eighteenth century. Then war- 
rior chieftains known as Daudputra (sons of Daud) and claiming descent 
from Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as the Abbasid 
caliphs of Baghdad, expanded during the 1730s from a territorial base at the 
confluence of the Chenab and Indus Rivers. Soon the Daudputras devoted 
themselves to the promotion of agriculture, first by sustaining the construc- 
tion of a simple but effective earthen canal network and then by supportive 
tax policies. Flourishing food and cash crops stimulated pan-Indian trade and 
the development of urban centres. Successfully resisting envious Rajput neigh- 
bours at Jaisalmer and Sikh states advancing from the north, Bahawalpur 
demonstrated the viability of indigenous forms of irrigation based on appro- 
priate levels of technology. At the same time the rulers of Bahawalpur did 
not incorporate any imperial Mughal ideologies, administrative patterns, or 
cultural habits but rather ‘were simply conducting business as usual, carving 
niches for themselves’ and thereby reflecting the multiplicity of models for state 


78 C. A. Bayly, Rulers, p. 185. 

79 Richard B. Barnett, ‘The Greening of Bahawalpur: Ecological Pragmatism and State Formation in 
Pre-British Western India, 1730-1870’, JBR, 15 (1988), pp. 5-14. 

80 Thid., p. 12. 


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An analysis of the preceding early histories of groups of states reveals some 
broad patterns in the processes of state formation in India during the late 
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Aspiring rulers of Indian states had 
to undertake three major tasks if they were to achieve political autonomy. 
First, they assembled supporters who would assist them in the initial conquest 
and the subsequent administration of their newly acquired territory. This elite 
generally comprised three elements: kinsmen and others who had participated 
in the military triumphs, indigenous elites, and administrators who possessed 
the literacy and management skills needed to implement the policies that 
ensured the penetration of the state. 

Kinsmen of the ruler provided varying levels of support. Rajput rajas gen- 
erally conquered their states with the assistance of warbands and kinsmen, 
who were rewarded with jagirs or ijaras in the classic Mughal pattern. Among 
Rajputs, a ruler was frequently considered the first among equals and faced 
continuing competition from his kinsmen. Thus many Rajput rulers sought 
emblems of sovereignty from some external source such as the Mughal Empire 
and later the English Company to differentiate themselves from their kinsmen. 
When a ruler showed signs of weakness, ambitious kinsmen, especially siblings, 
either seized power or left to create new states. During the fifteenth century, 
when the Lodis of Delhi exerted little control beyond Punjab, Bikaner split 
from Jodhpur. Later, during the Mughal decline in the eighteenth century, 
Alwar broke off from Jaipur and the states of Patiala, Nabha, Jind and Faridkot 
evolved from the Sikh Phulkian misl. 

Many rulers of eighteenth-century states had moved into territories where 
they shared few cultural bonds such as language, religion, history or extended 
residence with those they governed. Consequently, to reduce active opposi- 
tion to their new regime, they incorporated local elites who retained symbols 
of authority or the loyalty of subordinate social and economic orders. Most 
states eventually came to follow the Mughal model of granting or reaffirm- 
ing jagirs or the right to collect revenue or receive a certain portion of the 
revenue from a specific tract of land to local elites. Some indigenous elites con- 
tinued to perform bureaucratic or military services for the new ruler. Others 
received pensions that acknowledged past services and tried to ensure present 
loyalty. Although these older elites survived physically, their political power 
was usually diluted in an expanded pool of elites that included the kinsmen 
of the ruler, non-indigenous bureaucrats, and pan-Indian and local merchant 


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Newly emergent rulers also recruited external groups with literacy and ad- 
ministrative abilities. These outsiders were sought for two reasons. First, the 
ruling elite and local land-controllers often did not possess the requisite skills. 
Second, newcomers would be more dependent on the ruler for their power 
and authority than kinsmen or locally based elites. Thus the Marathas em- 
ployed Chitpavan brahmans; Travancore imported brahmans from Tamilnadu 
and north India; the nizams of Hyderabad recruited kayasths (a kshatriya caste 
group with a tradition of administrative work in an imperial language such 
as Persian) from north India. These non-indigenous administrative elites were 
one of many strands that tied princely states to other parts of India. Although 
they were limited in number, some of these administrators came to form an 
informal, pan-Indian cadre comparable to the Indian Civil Service (ICS) of 
British India since they might spend much of their career in one state or region 
but could also move to posts throughout India. 

Second, whether conquest states that relied heavily on military power to 
establish themselves, successor states that avowed imperial appointmentas their 
basis, or states evolving from social movements, eighteenth-century states had 
to devote significant resources to the maintenance of an effective military force. 
Here was a significant change from earlier patterns of state formation. Rulers 
now needed more disciplined armies that were uniformed, drilled, equipped 
and paid according to European and Ottoman models. From the Seven Years 
War in the mid-eighteenth century onward, the French and English trading 
companies demonstrated the value of using Indian troops organised according 
to more efficient models. The importance of artillery and European techniques 
of sapping in waging successful seige warfare also became apparent. Initially 
the European mercantile companies themselves offered such military expertise 
to a few aspiring states, and then European mercenary officers provided it as 
individual consultants. 

These new armies required cash for payrolls and the purchase of new 
weapons, equipment and uniforms. Rulers needed more revenue. First, they 
restricted the percentage that intermediaries claimed as their share of the rev- 
enue collected from agricultural production. Second, they penetrated local 
agricultural society more deeply by pensioning off some layers of intermedi- 
aries and establishing their own collection structures, which procured a larger 
percentage of the revenue for the state. Third, they extended their territory to 
gain new sources of revenue. Fourth, they provided protection to new client 
groups who would supply extraordinary sources of tributes. Fifth, they fostered 
expanded economic activities that generated new sources of revenues, such as 
the development of cash crops, the production of specialised goods, and the 


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establishment of markets to facilitate the exchange of such goods and surplus 
agricultural produce. 

Most states tried these strategies in varying combinations. In Mysore a 
Muslim usurper secured more revenue, and in Travancore rulers encouraged 
new crops and markets, as did some in north India including Bahawalpur. 
Marathas augmented their territories and exacted tribute from client groups 
such as the pindaris, mobile bands who accumulated resources through ir- 
regular expeditions among unprotected peasants. During the early eighteenth 
century Jaipur city attracted wealthy bankers and merchants, and artisans from 
Delhi in Jaipuri workshops fashioned luxury products that found a ready mar- 
ket beyond state territory. 

Those who lacked a strong material resource base such as the western Rajputs 
or were unable to unite in order to use their limited resources more effectively 
could not create a military force comparable to their more favourably situated 
neighbours. Succession disputes and clan feuds fragmented the Rajputs, and 
the lack of modernised military forces weakened the Rajput defence against 
the Marathas. Consequently the western Rajputs were generally eager to secure 
alliances with external powers such as the British. 

After aspiring rulers had created a diverse group of collaborators that in- 
cluded kinsmen, local elites and competent administrators, and enhanced their 
finances to support a modernised military force, they sought ideological legiti- 
mation of their power and increasing autonomy. Antique states, basically those 
ruled by Rajputs, had long supported bards who elaborated genealogies that 
traced descent from pan-Indian epic heroes; they had recorded compromises 
with indigenous inhabitants and had reconciled claims to high ritual caste status 
with their present positions through stories of marriages, usually undertaken 
to secure heirs, that inadvertently lowered ritual or caste status. Moreover, 
these antique states as well as successor and conquest states buttressed their 
right to rule with grants of legitimation from external sources and by personal 
dharmic actions, with patronage and gifts being a crucial link between the two 

Perhaps the most potent external source of legitimation was a supernatural 
injunction to rule. Thus several Hindu rulers declared that they were deputies 
of a divinity. As mentioned earlier, Martanda Varma of Travancore gave his 
state to its tutelary deity Sri Padmanabha, whose temple was a centrepiece 
of the fort in the capital of Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram). In the 
distant Himalayan foothills, the Rajput ruler of Mandi declared that he ruled as 
the diwan of Vishnu and that Tehri Garhwal was the speaking personification 
of the deity of the Hindu temple at Badrinath. Among the Sikh misls, the 


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Phulkian rulers affirmed the blessing of the tenth Guru on their founder. 
Muslim rulers might view themselves as shadows of Allah’s authority on earth. 

More earthly sources of external legitimation were recognition by the 
Mughal emperor, aspirants to imperial power such as Ahmad Shah Abdali, 
or the English Company. Most states became adept at using ties to the Mughal 
emperor to enhance their legitimacy and their claims to greater autonomy, even 
though such demands diminished the authority of the Emperor himself. Thus 
the nawabs of Awadh, as wazirs of the emperor, obtained grants of territory 
and possessions that reduced the resource base of the Mughal Empire while 
enhancing that of Awadh. Other rulers, such as Ala Singh of Patiala, did not 
see any incongruity in paying a ransom to Ahmad Shah Abdali and then 
accepting symbols of sovereignty from him. Rebel states such as the Marathas, 
which arose in opposition to the Mughal Empire, also saw no contradiction 
in seeking Mughal titles and eventually becoming protectors of the Mughal 
emperor when he had only authority and not power. 

Rulers could also achieve legitimacy by acting according to established norms 
of kingly conduct. Following models recorded as early as the Arthashastra, they 
mediated disputes among castes and other social and religious groups. Here 
the work of Nicholas Dirks on Pudukkottai highlights the role of the rulers in 
settling caste disputes and thus the priority of political power in determining 
caste boundaries. Later the British census would reinforce a hierarchy among 
castes and indirectly resolve the claims of caste groups to particular statuses. 
Such activity was not limited to Hindu groups. In a discussion of Muslim com- 
munities in south India, Susan Bayly has remarked that ‘eighteenth-century 
rulers had to use every possible strategy to reconcile disparate interest groups 
and associate valuable allies and client communities with their regimes’.°! Even 
Martanda Varma of Travancore, a most Hindu ruler, arbitrated disputes over 
the leadership of the Syrian Christian community in Travancore.*? 

Another aspect of kingly dharma was to give gifts to and generally patronise 
religious institutions, whether Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and dargahs 
(tombs of Sufi saints), or Sikh gurudwaras (repositories of the Sikh sacred 
scripture). Religious scholars and people with the aura of sanctity were also 
prime recipients of kingly largesse. As might be expected, rulers nourished 
religious institutions and persons within their states and at varying points in 
state formation. For example, the Marathas did not begin such patronage until 
late in the eighteenth century, while south Indian rulers tended to give major 
gifts much earlier. 

81 Susan Bayly, Saints, p.173.  ® Ibid., pp. 269-70. 


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Temple of Sri Padmanabha in Trivandrum during Attukal Pongal Festival. 

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What is more striking is how several rulers extended their patronage 
across political and sectarian boundaries. During the early nineteenth century 
Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab was especially catholic in his endowments to 
Hindu and Muslim institutions as well as to Sikh ones; his aid ranged from 
gilding the central Sikh gurudwara at Amritsar with gold leaf to generous grants 
to Sikh scholars. Moreover, there were other notable patrons on a pan-Indian 
scale. Jai Singh I of Jaipur constructed his great astronomical observatories 
on the basis of knowledge accumulated from Hindu, Muslim and European 
sources (the last generally transmitted by Jesuits) at major Hindu pilgrimage 
sites such as Banaras, Ujjain and Mathura and political centres such as Delhi. 
Martanda Varma of Travancore made gifts to north Indian Hindu pilgrimage 
centres as well as temples in Tamilnadu. The Maratha rulers of Tanjore sup- 
ported a Muslim dargah at Nagore. Much research remains to be done on the 
extent and impact of such pan-Indian patronage, which continued into the 
twentieth century, but it clearly constituted another strand in the web of rela- 
tionships among individual regional states and cultural institutions throughout 

A third type of personal action affirming legitimacy was for the ruler to live 
like a ruler. Thus during the eighteenth century many regional rulers, whether 
of antique states such as Jaipur or successor states such as Awadh, constructed 
new capital cities or embellished older ones with elaborate palaces, gardens and 
walls and erected profit-making markets. These urban sites provided a stage for 
enhanced court rituals and the display of consumption that proclaimed one’s 
status as ruler. Maratha and Sikh rulers as leaders of peasant bands were slower 
to erect complex capitals and to develop enhanced court rituals, but by the 
early 1800s Ranjit Singh would impress both his Indian rivals and the English 
Company with lavish public rituals such as the use of a gold chair as a gaddi. 
C. A. Bayly has pointed out that what western observers viewed as ‘a frivolous 
misappropriation of the peasant surplus . . . was the outward mark by which 
rulers were recognised — the circulating life-blood of the traditional kingdom 
which nourished the princely, commercial and agrarian economies’.*? From 
the 1760s to the 1810s, many servants of another regional state, the English 
East India Company, imitated this lifestyle of the so-called nawabi culture. 
Possibly the most extraordinary was David Ochterlony, the British resident at 
Delhi (1803-25), who also oversaw Rajputana. Bishop Heber has described 
Ochterlony as a ‘tall and pleasing-looking old man, but was so wrapped up 
in shawls, kincob, fur, and a Mogul furred cap, that his face was all that was 

83 CLA, Bayly, Rulers, p. 57. 


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visible’, while others remarked on his reputation for having thirteen elephants 
and thirteen wives.*4 

Thus the eighteenth century, which witnessed the declining power of the 
Mughal Empire and some Mughal elites, was also an era of creative state for- 
mation that extended into the early nineteenth century. Successor states, those 
formed by appointees of the Mughal Empire, and warrior states such as the 
Marathas, Mysore and the Sikhs, formed powerful entities. Their bases were 
a synthesis of a collaborative elite that included kinsmen, outside adminis- 
trators, and the remnants of indigenous elites; important merchant groups; 
a modernised army; and the economic capacity to raise necessary revenue by 
penetrating the local society. Political power had been decentralised during 
the eighteenth century, but individual states intervened more directly in local 
communities than had any Mughal emperor or governor. Gradually the British 
Indian regional state, first established in Bengal, evolved a new political struc- 
ture to incorporate their other Indian rivals. 

84 Reginald Heber, Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India, from Calcutta to Bombay, 
1824-25, 2 vols (London, 1829), vol. 2, pp. 392-3; Thompson, Making, pp. 182-5. 


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Many empires, from the Roman to the Soviet Union, have employed indirect 
rule in an effort to extend their influence over disparate peoples and regions 
with a minimum of expenditure in material and human resources. This chapter 
delineates how the British devised and then sustained a system of indirect rule 
that reputedly provided a model that was adapted to many other imperial 
situations. In his comprehensive study of the British residency system, Michael 
Fisher has defined indirect rule in India as ‘the exercise of determinative and 
exclusive political control by one corporate body over a nominally sovereign 
state, a control recognised by both sides’. The four key elements are that: 

1. both sides must recognise the control as effective; 

2. only one entity can exercise control; 

3. all other rivals must be excluded; and 

4, the dominant power must recognise some degree of sovereignty in the local 

Debate continues over the degree of the sovereignty or autonomy of the 
Indian princes before and after they concluded treaties with the British. Since 
its publication in 1943, Edward Thompson's classic work, The Making of 
the Indian Princes, about British relations with Mysore and the Marathas from 
the 1790s to the 1820s has been the bedrock of arguments that without the 
British the princely states would not exist. But this thesis has outlived its 

In most cases the British did not create the Indian princes as political lead- 
ers. Although many were coerced into subordination, princes usually sought 
political and material benefits from their agreements with the British. As dis- 
cussed in the preceding chapter, most Indian kings or rulers who would come 
to be labelled princes during the nineteenth century had existed before the 
advent of the British or had evolved along with the British as regional pow- 
ers. Their treaties with the British, however, would acutely affect their political 
futures. These agreements defined territorial boundaries, rendering them com- 
pact or diffuse but generally more restricted; they regulated relationships with 

! Fisher, Indirect Rule, p. 6. 


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both stronger or weaker neighbours, and to varying degrees modified relation- 
ships within a state between a ruler and his or her kinspeople, administrators, 
merchant groups and peasants. Most importantly, the treaties appropriated 
resources of Indian states, including revenues in the form of subsidies or trib- 
ute, subjects as soldiers, and commercial goods, for the benefit of the English 
East India Company. So while British treaties did not beget Indian princes or 
princely states, they did shape their future form and activities by establishing 
parameters that increasingly restricted princely options. 

Second, the British experimented with various political arrangements. 
Anxious to maximise their commercial profits, to limit their political liabili- 
ties, and to reduce their operational expenses, they first tried to collect revenues 
through the administration of the nawab of Bengal. The Company soon dis- 
covered that this system enriched its servants but did not produce the income 
needed to meet its expenditures in India or in England. Consequently Warren 
Hastings, governor of Bengal (1772-73), and the first governor-general of India 
(1773-85), introduced a more direct system of revenue collection through 
British officers, which culminated in the Permanent Settlement of 1793. Now 
the British acted as did other eighteenth-century Indian rulers such as Tipu 
Sultan of Mysore and enlarged their share of revenue from peasants in order 
to maintain an efficient army. This military strength would undergird a grow- 
ing centralisation of political functions and a corresponding penetration by 
the state into local society. With the recognition of zamindars as tax-paying 
landlords in Bengal in 1793, the British sought to create a loyal, dependent 
intermediary group that would supply an assured revenue. But the British 
soon found that they had to protect their expanded territorial base from other 
assertive regional powers. Their mercantile corporation was being drawn into 
wider relationships by their operational objectives, and they soon sought new 
means of extending their political control. 

Third, indigenous states had multiple reasons for allying with external in- 
vaders as well as other Indian states. They sought to achieve dominance in 
succession disputes, to establish a superior position vis-a-vis their kinspeople, 
and to gain needed support in military confrontations with other regional 
states. Succession disputes occurred before, during and after the entrance of 
the British into India. Multiple wives and concubines and the lack of any firm 
commitment to primogeniture among both Hindu and Muslim rulers could 
precipitate a contest among sons, each allied with mothers, male relatives, and 
ambitious job-seekers. Despite or perhaps because of assorted sexual relation- 
ships, some rulers and dynasties repeatedly lacked direct male heirs. In those 
cases the struggle would be among illegitimate or adopted heirs and cadet 


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branches of the ruling family. For example, during the 1740s the Marathas 
were active in Rajput states as allies of one side or the other in succession 

Fourth, rulers including both Rajputs and Marathas would appeal for signs 
of their pre-eminence over their kinspeople from powerful external rulers. 
The East India Company would gradually assume this function from the 
increasingly bereft Mughal emperor. 

Finally, military attacks, such as those by the Marathas on Hyderabad, led 
the latter to forge alliances with the British, who would provide badly needed 
military assistance. Consequently treaties with the English Company fit into 
a pattern of political behaviour that initially did not appear to be particularly 
innovative or dangerous for beleaguered regional states and little kings. But the 
situation would soon change dramatically. By 1820 the British had created a 
monopolistic military despotism funded by resources acquired from peasants 
in the most productive areas of India and from Indian commercial groups.” 


Five elements were fundamental in the creation and maintenance of the British 
system of indirect rule from 1764 to 1857: a growing monopoly of expanded 
military forces; legal documents ranging from treaties to sanads to proclama- 
tions and letters of understanding; maps and surveys; political officers, called 
residents, and political agents who translated policies and documents into prac- 
tice; and concepts of legitimation that included suzerainty, paramountcy, and 
a chain of succession from the Mughal emperor. 

Military resources 

The War of Austrian Succession (1740—48) and the Seven Years War (1756-63) 
transplanted European rivalries to India. The British military presence in 
India expanded to counter a European antagonist, namely the French, and 
then Indian rivals, most notably Mysore and the Marathas. The English 
Company initially maintained its own meagre military units to protect its 
coastal settlements, but by the 1740s it had limited use of British royal troops. 
From the 1760s, the Company increasingly came to rely on sepoys or Indian 
troops trained and officered by Europeans and equipped with European-style 
weapons. Each presidency maintained its own army centred on infantry units 

2C.A. Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire, New Cambridge History of India, 
II, 1 (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 103, 110. 


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but also including cavalry, artillery and sappers, the last of which were partic- 
ularly effective in siege warfare. 

Following the example of Joseph Dupleix, the governor of the French East 
India Company in Pondicherry, Robert Clive began to extract support from 
Indian rulers for military contingents. Theoretically these units were to protect 
the rulers from internal and external threats as well as to safeguard the interests 
of the English Company. After the object lesson of the British military victory at 
Baksar in 1764 against the forces of Awadh, Indian rulers would pay a subsidy 
or tribute to support what became known as subsidiary contingents. During the 
late 1700s some rulers mobilised these contingents against external enemies; for 
example, Awadh did so against the Rohilla Afghans. Sometimes troops were 
used internally to extract revenue payments. By the early 1800s the British 
increasingly reserved these contingents for the pursuit of their own strategic 
goals in India. Meanwhile the British would curb the power of Indian rulers 
to maintain independent military forces through treaty provisions, and their 
continuing and inflexible demands for subsidies would restrict the economic 
ability of Indian rulers to sustain more than a palace guard. Thus by the 1820s 
the British controlled one of the largest standing armies in the world through 
the three armies of its presidencies and the subsidiary contingents financed by 
Indian rulers. This formidable force defeated major indigenous rivals and then 
guaranteed general, though not uniform, compliance with treaty provisions 
among most Indian rulers. 

Treaties, sanads and letters 

Initially Mughal emperors, who did not consider foreign merchants to be their 
equals, declined to conclude treaties guaranteeing trading privileges to the 
English East India Company. Rather, in 1613 Jahangir granted a farman or 
imperial edict that extended permission to trade at Surat to the Company and 
thereby incorporated the British within the authority of the Mughal emperor. 
Since the farman was unilaterally issued and not a contract in the English 
legal sense, in theory it could be unilaterally withdrawn. By the 1730s lesser 
Indian rulers began to conclude treaties with the English Company, and from 
the 1760s the Mughal emperor and his nominally subordinate subadars or 
governors entered treaties on a basis of equality with the Company. 
Although British indirect rule is sometimes called the treaty system, no 
more than forty Indian states actually signed a treaty with the Company or 
its successor, the British Crown.? A few states account for a disproportionate 

3 T am grateful to John McLeod for sharing his computations on the states with treaties. 


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number of treaties. Rulers of major states such as Awadh and Hyderabad 
were compelled to sign new treaties upon their accessions to the gaddi. Each 
subsequent treaty conceded more territory or subsidy to the Company. Most 
treaties focused on specific concerns related to a particular point in time, but 
many issues were not addressed. The interpretation of these treaties became 
arenas of manoeuvre and negotiation among British political officers, Indian 
rulers and their ministers, and British and Indian lawyers until the demise 
of the states in 1948. The attempt to codify treaty provisions and practices 
intensified in the late nineteenth century and will be discussed in Chapter 4. 

The British actually issued greater numbers of sanads and letters to Indian 
states than treaties. Sanads were certificates or testimonials of protection or 
recognition that the British unilaterally extended, much as Mughal emperors 
had earlier dispensed farmans. The British also bestowed letters of understand- 
ing that formulated, again unilaterally, the conditions of relations between 
themselves and an Indian state. 

Maps and surveys 

Simultaneously with their use of military force and legal instruments to extend 
their control over Indian states, the British undertook mapping and survey ex- 
peditions based on post-Enlightenment techniques of measurement and visual 
representation to create a scientific, rational and uniform geographic archive.‘ 
Although the Great Trigonometrical Survey focused on directly controlled ar- 
eas, British maps came to define visually their indirect rule over Indian states 
for British and Indian audiences. Ironically, the alleged rationalisation of such 
mapping fostered the seemingly irrational intertwining of princely state bound- 
aries. As Matthew Edney has argued, ‘boundaries were no longer vague axes of 
dispute (frontiers) between core areas of Indian polities but were configured as 
the means whereby those core areas were now defined. Political territories were 
no longer delineated with respect of the physical features that characterised or 
bounded them; nor were they defined by the complex feudal interrelationships 
of their rulers’.> Plotting boundaries on paper erased intricate affiliations and 

By 1833 Captain James Sutherland, a retired deputy surveyor-general, striv- 
ing for precision, estimated that ‘the area of native states who had signed a treaty 
of alliance with the Company amounted to 449 845 square miles, and terri- 
tory under direct British rule, including small quasi-autonomous states, made 

4 Matthew H. Edney, Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843 
(Chicago, 1997). 
> Ibid., p. 333. 


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up 626 746 square miles’.° According to this calculation, the princely states 
constituted slightly more than 41 per cent or two-fifths of the territory of the 
British Empire in India, although the boundaries of many frontier states, rang- 
ing from western Rajputana to Himalayan hill-states, would not be physically 
established until well after 1833. Moreover, Sutherland attempted to divide 
princely states into six classes on the basis of their relationship to the British 
and then to categorise them by religion and region.’ This British intellectual 
exercise served to reify the princely states as political, religious and ethnic en- 
tities, with serious implications for popular political activity in the twentieth 


The Mughal emperor, his governors, and autonomous, indigenous rulers such 
as those of the Rajput states had conducted relations through vakils. These 
agents transmitted communications between rulers and reported to their rulers 
daily events at the courts to which they were attached based on official court 
akhbars (newspapers), public knowledge, and covert intelligence. The number 
of vakils resident at a court was a visible mark of its importance. Initially the 
Company sent its officers to conclude treaties with Indian rulers, frequently 
after military encounters. Consequently many early British diplomatic agents 
were military officers rather than commercial or civil employees. These men 
came to be known as political officers and had the title of residents when 
posted to major states and political agents when assigned to less important 
ones. More intrusive than vakils, since they did not confine themselves to 
handling interstate relations or intelligence-gathering, political officers became 
involved in the internal administration of states and extended British control 
in myriad ways. While serving with the resident to Scindia in 1806, James Tod 
began a geographical and mapping survey of western Rajputana, which was 
completed in 1815.8 Maps, revenue settlement reports, ethnographic reviews 
and genealogical accounts contributed to the colonial intellectual construction 
of Indian society in areas of indirect as well as direct rule. Besides being used 
by the British to conquer and control Indians and to legitimate their own 
policies and actions, these texts influenced Indian intellectuals, administrators 
and rulers of Indian states in their constitution of political reality. 

6 ‘Computation of the Area of the Kingdoms and Principalities of India’, JASB 20 (August 1833), 
pp. 488-91, cited in Sudipta Sen, Distant Sovereignty: National Imperialism and the Origins of British 
India (New York, 2002), p. 81. 

7 Tbid., p. 82. 

8 Anil Chandra Banerjee, The Rajput States and British Paramountcy (New Delhi, 1980), pp. 5-7. 


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Only within recent decades have historians focused on the impact of the 
residents themselves. The pioneers include K. N. Panikkar, who analysed the 
role of the Delhi Residency from 1803 to 1857 when it handled British relations 
with both the Mughal emperor and neighbouring clients such as Rajputana 
and cis-Sutlej states.” Robin Jeffrey has defined a typology of the modes of 
interaction among maharajas, diwans, and residents based on his research in 

(i) the ‘dominant Resident’, in which the Resident controlled the Minister and reduced 
the Ruler to a cipher; (ii) the ‘balanced’ system, in which British governments, impressed 
by anglicised Rulers and Ministers, instructed Residents to achieve an equitable division of 
functions and responsibilities among the three principals; (iii) ‘laissez faire’, in which Rulers 
and Ministers were left largely alone, providing that the state remained free of blatant 
disturbances or misrule; (iv) the ‘imposed Minister’, in which an anglicised, trustworthy 
‘native’ from outside the state — or sometimes a European — was established as Minister.'° 

In this last scheme a resident participated indirectly through control of a chief 
minister or the appointment of an imposed minister. There were, moreover, 
cases elsewhere in which a political officer might share directly in the adminis- 
tration of an Indian state as a minister or as a member of a council of regency 
for a ruler during his or her minority. 

In his study of the residency system in India from 1764 to 1857, Michael 
Fisher explores its institutional origins, its British personnel and their varying 
goals, and, most innovatively, the Indian employees of the residents who were 
the principal means of contact with their counterparts within the princely 
administration and other elements of local society.'! When Warren Hastings 
appointed the first residents in the 1770s, he sought direct control of residents 
and faced challenges from his own Council and the governors of Bombay and 
Madras. Although governors-general were ultimately successful in achieving 
jurisdiction over the major residents, the Indian political service continued to 
be fragmented between the central and the provincial levels until the eve of in- 
dependence. Besides these organisational divisions, Fisher’s analysis emphasises 
how the variations between policy and practice illustrate the differing attitudes 

and objectives of the men who created and operated the British Empire in 

°K. N. Panikkar, British Diplomacy in North India: A Study of the Delhi Residency 1803-1857 
(New Delhi, 1968). 

10 Robin Jeffrey, ‘The Politics of “Indirect Rule”: Types of Relationship among Rulers, Ministers and 
Residents in a “Native State”’, CCP 13 (1975), p. 262. 

1] Fisher, Indirect Rule. 

12 Michael H. Fisher, ‘Indirect Rule in the British Empire: The Foundations of the Residency System 
in India (1764-1858)’, MAS 18 (1984), pp. 393-428. 


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Concepts of legitimation 

In a system of indirect rule, the superior power must concede some degree 
of sovereignty to the dependent ally. To provide a theoretical justification 
for this anomalous legal and constitutional situation, the British evolved two 
key concepts of suzerainty and paramountcy. A suzerain power had superior 
sovereignty or control over states that possessed limited sovereign rights. In 
the context of indirect rule in India, the sovereign rights that each Indian ruler 
possessed were partially defined by treaty but were more generally in a state of 

As the first British governor-general who sought to implement an overt 
imperial policy in India, Lord Wellesley and his extraordinary subordinates 
acted as if they were the acknowledged dominant power of India.!* During 
the 1810s his successor, Lord Hastings, and some of the British officials who 
had served under Wellesley began to use the word ‘paramount to describe their 
perceived position in India. Hastings also encouraged several Indian regional 
states including Hyderabad and Baroda to declare themselves independent of 
the Mughal Empire so that they then might enter a new and more direct ‘feudal’ 
relationship with the British. Nawab-Wazir Ghazi al-Din Haydar of Awadh 
was the only Indian ruler to respond by having himself crowned padshah or 
emperor on 9 October 1819, but his action did not significantly improve 
his position with the British.!4 Edward Thompson has claimed that the first 
formal articulation of paramountcy as a doctrine occurred in a letter from 
David Ochterlony, the nawabi-style resident at Delhi, to Charles Metcalfe in 
1820 and that the latter was the first to use it to justify intervention during a 
succession dispute at Bharatpur in 1825.!> Metcalfe claimed: 

We have by degrees become the paramount State of India. Although we exercised the 
powers of this supremacy in many instances before 1817, we have used and asserted them 
more generally since the extension of our influence by the events of that and the following 
years... [OJur duty requires that we should support the legitimate succession of the Prince, 
while policy seems to dictate that we should as much as possible abstain from any further 
interference in their affairs.'© 

Metcalfe’s caution about intervention in the internal affairs of so-called pro- 
tected states would be increasingly abandoned as British officials invoked 

13 Thompson, Making, pp. 27-30; C. A. Bayly, Indian Society, ch. 3. 

14 Michael H. Fisher, A Clash of Cultures: Awadh, the British and the Mughals (Riverdale MD, 1987), 
pp. 120-41. 

5 Thompson, Making, pp. 283-4. 

16 Minute by Sir Charles Metcalfe, 1825, Document 28 in Adrian Sever (ed.), Documents and Speeches 
on the Indian Princely States, 2 vols. (Delhi, 1985), vol. 1, pp. 145-6. 


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paramountcy to justify whatever course of action they judged expedient for 
British interests. The definition of paramountcy and what it entitled the British 
to do remained contentious until 1947. 


The tyranny of periodisation 

British apologists and historians from many nations have long sought to discern 
distinct phases in the evolution of the relationships between the British and 
Indian rulers. I argue that the British policies of indirect rule and annexation 
existed ina dynamic tension with one or the other strategy in greater ascendancy 
but that neither was ever fully dominant. C. A. Bayly has pointed out how 
the inflexible demands of the British subsidiary alliance system frequently 
created conditions that then led to British annexations of indirectly ruled 
Indian territory as a solution to a problem initially created by the British.!7 
Most annexations incorporated specific strategic or economic objectives, but 
at no point did the British have the resources to administer all of India directly. 
Even in Saran district of Bihar, part of the Bengal province under direct British 
rule since 1765, Anand Yang has revealed the limited nature of the British 
raj, which collaborated with the maharaja of Hathwa, a zamindar. In this 
case the British were willing to enhance the resources of this landholder, who 
maintained local control over the peasantry that produced the revenue on which 
both the zamindar and the British existed.'® At the same time the British felt 
they had the right to intervene in the administration of both zamindari estates 
and princely states when it suited their interests. 

My second premise is that intervention and non-intervention as British 
policies also persisted in close association. British officials interfered or did 
not interfere because of particular political imperatives, intellectual constructs, 
economic needs and Indian responses. Thus while a scheme of periodisation is 
useful for the purpose of justifying an imperial policy or organising a historical 
narrative, it should not obscure the persistent, underlying juxtaposition of 
indirect rule and annexation and British non-intervention and intervention in 
the internal structure and policies of Indian states. 

Once Queen Victoria renounced annexation as a policy in 1858, some 
British officials sought to legitimate the system of indirect rule and to cod- 
ify British practices towards the princely states. They forged an intellectual 
TCA. Bayly, Indian Society, pp. 104-5. 

18 Anand A. Yang, The Limited Raj: Agrarian Relations in Colonial India, Saran District, 1793-1920 
(Berkeley CA, 1989), pp. 67-97. 


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framework that many historians of the Indian princes used. Before present- 
ing an alternative periodisation, I will examine the formulations of William 
Lee-Warner (1846-1914), one of the most influential systematisers of the 
history of princely states. A member of the Indian Civil Service from 1869 
to 1895, Lee-Warner served mainly in the Bombay secretariat with brief as- 
signments in Kolhapur and Mysore. This consummate bureaucrat concluded 
his career in London at the India Office and then with membership on the 
Council of India from 1902 to 1912. He wrote the widely cited constitutional 
history first entitled Protected Princes of India when published in 1893 and 
then retitled, more ‘neutrally’, The Native States of India in a second edition of 
1910. He differentiated ‘[t]hree distinct periods in filling in the Treaty map’ 
created by the British in India. The first one began when Warren Hastings 
inaugurated the ‘ring fence’ policy of non-intervention by the British in the 
internal affairs of Indian states, which supposedly prevailed until the exit of 
Lord Minto as governor-general in 1813. During this phase allied states were 
few and supposedly ‘[w]ithin the Company’s ring-fence or on its borders’. The 
key phrases in treaties were ‘mutual alliance’ and ‘reciprocal agreement’. 

The second stage commenced in 1813 when these expressions of interde- 
pendence were exchanged for those of dependence, for example ‘subordinate 
alliance or co-operation’ and ‘protection’.!? Lee-Warner labelled the governor- 
generalship of Lord Hastings from 1813 to 1823 as one of ‘subordinate iso- 
lation when ‘[t]he large, indefinite blocks of Foreign Territory left by Lord 
Minto, with no external frontiers delimited and no internal divisons fixed, were 
now brought under elaborate settlement; and the multitude of principalities, 
which still claim separate and direct relations with the British Government, 
were classified and protected’.”? Subsequently the British allegedly pursued 
a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of its dependent allies, which al- 
lowed the princes to exploit their subjects. According to this interpretation, 
because of British reluctance to intervene at earlier stages of misgovernment, 
Lord Dalhousie, governor-general from 1848 to 1856, was forced to annex 
delinquent states. The third era was one of union and stability after 1858. 

Other British officials and assorted scholars have proposed more finely 
detailed chronologies that continue to associate vacillation between indirect 
rule and annexation with specific governors-general. Thus we have the ‘ring 
fence’ policy associated with Warren Hastings from 1772 to 1785; the sub- 
sidiary alliance with Lord Wellesley from 1798 to 1805; the achievement of 

19 Sir William Lee-Warner, The Native States of India (New Delhi, 1979, first published as a second 
edition in 1910), pp. 43-5. 
20 Tbid., p. 96. 


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paramountcy with Lord Hastings and his immediate successors from 1813 to 
1828; and the triumph of annexation with Lord Dalhousie from 1848 to 1856. 
Aggressive use of both indirect and direct rule was punctuated with eras of re- 
treat, consolidation or non-involvement, with Lord Cornwallis (1786-93), 
Sir John Shore (1793-98) and Lord Minto (1807-13) being the leading non- 
interventionist governors-general. 

These periodisations are important since they have influenced British of- 
ficials in their relations with Indian princes as well as the historiography on 
the princely states. But they obscure the overall continuities in British poli- 
cies, which balanced direct and indirect rule to serve an expanding empire. 
From the Company’s acquisition of the rights to collect revenue in Bengal un- 
til 1858 when the Crown assumed formal control in India, British governors- 
general used the strategies of indirect rule and of direct rule through annexation 
with varying frequency and effectiveness. For example, the non-interventionist 
Minto offered protection to the cis-Sutlej Sikh states. Labels can obscure the 
longue durée as well as highlight briefer trends. 

British officials divided states into various categories based on their treaty- 
cum-legal relationships with the Company. Lord Hastings had separated them 
into feudatories and allied states.?! Sir Richard Jenkins, who had extensive 
experience with Maratha rulers, first as acting resident with Scindia and then 
as resident at Nagpur from 1807 to 1827, drew the line between the sub- 
sidiary states who entered treaty relations as equals and the subordinates who 
accepted British protection through a sanad or unilateral proclamation. By the 
late 1840s Lord Dalhousie designated as independent states those that existed 
before the coming of the British, as tributary or dependent those that survived 
through British protection, and as subordinate those that the Company sup- 
posedly created or revived by sanads. But later Lee-Warner argued that the 
‘[d]ifferentiation of states as allied, tributary, created, or protected is illusory. 
All are alike respected and protected’.?* Contemporary scholars such as Urmila 
Walia have also pointed out that many states do not fit into these categories 
with any consistency.”? Consequently I will not use these terms in my narrative 
to signify categories. 

A provisional scheme 

Starting with my premise that indirect rule through Indian princes and direct 
rule by Company officers consequent upon annexation coexisted in dynamic 

21 M.S. Mehta, Lord Hastings and the Indian States (Bombay, 1930). 
22 Lee-Warner, Native States, p. 51. 
23 Urmila Walia, Changing British Attitudes Towards the Indian States, 1823-1835 (New Delhi, 1985). 


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tension from 1765 until 1858, I propose a scheme of three major periods when 
client states were incorporated into the British system of indirect rule: 1765-85, 
years dominated by Robert Clive and Warren Hastings; 1798-1805, the era of 
Lord Wellesley as governor-general; and 1813-23, when Lord Hastings pre- 
vailed. But annexations occurred simultaneously with the expansion of indirect 
rule and extended into a fourth period under Lord Dalhousie. From 1848 to 
1856 no new states were brought into the system of indirect rule, and non- 
intervention continued to be practised along with the extensive annexations 
of Dalhousie. 

Before embarking on a survey of the transformation of Indian kings into 
Indian princes and clients in a system of indirect rule, readers must be fore- 
warned that the existing scholarly charts for the journey supply many details 
and few sweeping vistas. Charles Lewis Tupper, one of most cited British of- 
ficers writing on the evolution of British indirect rule in India, remarked that 
‘the tediousness of Indian history is proverbial’.*4 The dullness is not in the 
history but in the telling of it. To try to reduce the tedium, I will not trace the 
evolution of relationships between the British and individual states but will 
rather use specific examples to illustrate general patterns. 


From the 1740s, the French and then the English East India Companies 
began to ally themselves with Indian regional states when the latter sought 
their assistance during succession disputes, internal confrontations between 
rulers and elites, and external attacks. The French and British were differ- 
ent, however, from possible indigenous allies in that they operated from 
very limited territorial and revenue bases in India but had potential access 
to much larger resources beyond India. In addition, events in Europe and 
throughout the world impacted on the policies of the French and the British 
more forcefully than on those of Indian regional powers. For example, the 
advent of Napoleon stimulated French interest in India and his defeat in- 
creased the number of unemployed French mercenaries seeking employment in 

Following the French example of Joseph Dupleix, the English Company 
offered military support to Indian contenders in succession disputes and to 

24 Charles Lewis Tupper, Our Indian Protectorate: An Introduction to the Study of the Relations between 
the British Government and Its Indian Feudatories (London, 1893), p. 25. 


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other allies threatened by rival regional powers. Treaties, usually but not al- 
ways, stipulated the extent of and conditions under which such aid was ex- 
tended. In a manner that reflects the imbricated relationship between power 
and knowledge, which Edward Said and Michel Foucault have so forcefully 
explicated, British treaty relations with Indian states have been extensively 
described. British political officials such as Charles Aitchison, William Lee- 
Warner and Charles Tupper during the nineteenth century, British historians, 
most notably Edward Thompson during the 1940s, and Indian historians such 
as A. C. Banerjee, Sukumar Bhattacharyya, M. S. Mehta and Urmila Walia all 
participated in this project.?> While officials codified British practices, histo- 
rians evinced disciplinary biases for the analysis of wars and treaties and for 
working with accessible primary sources. 

Initially the British sought to restrict relations, first between Indian rulers 
and the French and then among Indian rulers. Gradually their influence per- 
meated the internal administrations of the princely states. To illustrate how 
the treaty system evolved, I will trace the British relationship with Hyderabad 
over five crucial decades. 

The British treaty system with one successor state: Hyderabad 

During the War of Austrian Succession, first the French and then the English 
Companies allied themselves with rival candidates in a dispute over the succes- 
sion to the nawabship of the Carnatic, a little kingdom north of their respective 
enclaves at Pondicherry and Madras. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) 
brought a brief hiatus in overt European hostilities in India, but eventually 
the British-backed candidate, Muhammad Ali, was victorious in 1751 over the 
French-supported Nawab Chanda Sahib. The British had acquired their first 
political ally in India. Meanwhile, in 1748 the death of Nizam ul-Mulk Asaf 
Jah I, the nawab of the Carnatic’s nominal overlord, launched a succession 
dispute with higher stakes, which tempted the Marathas as well as the French 
and the British to intervene.7° 

Renewed military engagements during the Seven Years War culminated in 
the British defeat of the French and the first treaty between the British and 
Salabat Jang, the nizam of Hyderabad, who had been an ally of the French. 
Concluded on 14 May 1759, this treaty was one between equals. Although 

25 Thompson, Making; Banerjee, Rajput States; Sukumar Bhattacharyya, The Rajput States and the East 
India Company from the Close of the 18th Century to 1820 (New Delhi, 1972); Mehta, Lord Hastings; 
Walia, Changing British Attitudes. 

26 Much of the following account is based on Regani, Nizam-British Relations and Zubaida Yazdani, 
Hyderabad during the Residency of Henry Russell, 1811-1820 (Oxford, 1976). 


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the nizam was a major regional power and the British were petty chieftains, 
the latter had the more formidable military force. Thus the nizam had little 
choice but to cede certain districts to the British, to employ no French, and 
to prohibit them from settling in the districts transferred to the British. The 
British in turn pledged not to assist or protect any of his enemies. The European 
orientation of the British is apparent. The Indian perspective of the nizam led 
to the isolation of his principal Indian rival, the Marathas. 

Nizam Ali Khan, the diwan of Hyderabad who deposed his brother Salabat 
Jang to become nizam from 1762 to 1803, sought British aid against the 
Marathas. Despite having been bested by the Afghan forces in 1761, the 
Marathas could still inflict two major defeats on Hyderabad forces in 1760 and 
1763, winning the right to collect chauth and sardeshmukhi from Hyderabad. 
Nizam Ali Khan thus agreed to a new treaty with the British in 1766 that 
confirmed the Company in possession of the Northern Circars (Sarkars), a 
string of districts on the eastern coast of India, which provided a key link 
between the British base in Bengal and their outpost at Madras. In return, 
the Company consented to assist the nizam with troops in ventures that were 
not in conflict with their pre-existing commitments in the Carnatic and to an 
annual rent of Rs 9 lakhs, which could be used to pay for troops supplied to the 
nizam. The Company further pledged to place troops at his disposal. When the 
nizam attacked the Marathas at Kharda in 1795, the British governor-general 
refused any support since the peshwa was an ally of the British. After having 
to surrender territories and pay tribute to the victorious peshwa, the nizam 
decided to solicit the assistance of French officers in forming European-style 

Arriving in 1798, Lord Wellesley (1760-1842) was the first governor-general 
to aspire to imperial power in India. To augment his limited resources for 
military expeditions, Wellesley concluded another treaty with Hyderabad in 
1798 that became a template for subsequent subsidiary alliances. The treaty 
required that the nizam dismiss all French officers and pay Rs 24 lakhs for a 
subsidiary force or contingent of six battalions that would be integrated with 
the British military. The British were to arbitrate between the nizam and the 
Marathas at Poona. The British ability to exact cash from Hyderabad and other 
Indian states for military forces has led Sunil Chander to argue that military 
fiscalism was the main impetus to foreign intervention in India during the 
eighteenth century.”” Moreover, Fisher’s criterion of exclusive control by one 
corporate body over another was met. 

27 Chander, ‘Pre-Colonial Order to State’. 


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After the British defeated Tipu Sultan in 1799, they concluded another treaty 
with Hyderabad in 1800 that more clearly registered the latter’s subordinate 
status. The nizam’s subsidiary force was increased by two battalions of infantry 
and one regiment of cavalry, and the British agreed to protect the nizam from 
enemies such as the Marathas, their erstwhile allies. The nizam also had to 
cede more territory, to abstain from open warfare, and to submit any disputes 
with other princes to British arbitration. He thus could not exercise one of 
the prime functions of external sovereignty, the conduct of foreign affairs. 
Moreover, he had accepted a major constraint on his internal sovereignty since 
the subsidiary force was to be a constant, inflexible drain on his revenues. 
The objectives of the Company and their attitudes towards their princely ally 
are reflected in Wellesley’s despatch dated 4 February 1804 to his Resident at 

The fundamental principle of His Excellency the Governor-General’ policy in establishing 
subsidiary alliances with the principal states of India is to place those states in such a degree 
of dependence on the British power as may deprive them of the means of prosecuting any 
measures or of forming any confederacy hazardous to the security of the British empire, 
and may enable us to preserve the tranquillity of India by exercising a general control 
over those states, calculated to prevent the operation of that restless spirit of ambition and 
violence which is the characteristic of every Asiatic government, and which from the earliest 
period of Eastern history has rendered the peninsula of India the scene of perpetual warfare, 
turbulence and disorder. The irremediable principles of Asiatic policy, and the varieties 
and oppositions of character, habits and religions which distinguish the inhabitants of this 
quarter of the globe, are adverse to the establishment of such a balance of power among 
the several states of India as would effectually restrain the views of aggrandisement and 
ambition and promote general tranquillity. This object can alone be accomplished by the 
operation of a general control over the principal states of India established in the hands of a 
superior power, and exercised with equity and moderation through the medium of alliances 
contracted with those states on the basis of the security and protection of their respective 

The restless ambition and violence that had characterised British policy 
since the mid-1750s were ascribed solely to Asian governments. Furthermore, 
unspecified characters, habits and religions foreclosed the possibility of the bal- 
ance of power that supposedly regulated interstate relations in Europe. Based on 
this racist construction of Indian politics, Wellesley claimed moral justification 
for the British assumption of superior controlling authority in India. 

Once the British assumed control of Hyderabadi foreign relations, they be- 
gan to penetrate the internal administration of Hyderabad in 1803 through the 

28 Despatch of 4 February 1804 quoted in Tupper, Indian Protectorate, pp. 40-1. 


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appointment of a sympathetic diwan. After the British rewarded Hyderabad 
with the fertile Berar province they had appropriated from Nagpur and other 
Maratha districts, Nizam Sikander Jah had to accept the British-suggested ap- 
pointment of Mir Alam as diwan. As their external and internal sovereignty was 
being curtailed, Sikander Jah and his successors retreated to their inner palace 
or zenana, where they exerted influence through the manipulation of factions 
at their courts.”? The British came to view the nizams as indifferent to affairs 
of state that diwans controlled through alliances with domineering residents 
such as Henry Russell (1811-20), Charles Theophilus Metcalfe (1820-25) 
and James Stewart Fraser (1838-53). Here is an early instance of a continu- 
ing phenomenon where an Indian ruler withdraws from active involvement 
in administrative affairs when a British-sponsored diwan, or later a coterie of 
skilled bureaucrats, monopolises power within a state administration. A later 
example of an eclipsed ruler in Hyderabad occurred when Salar Jung served 
from 1853 to 1883 as chief minister of Hyderabad. He enjoyed such firm 
British support that they permitted his son, even though he was a minor, to 
succeed him as diwan.*° Similar arrangements materialised in other states and 
will be discussed in subsequent chapters. 

Further treaties refined the relationship between Hyderabad and the Com- 
pany. In 1822 a treaty ended the obligation to pay to the British the chauth that 
Hyderabad theoretically owed to the Marathas, and it established well-defined 
boundaries for Hyderabad through an exchange of territories. One in 1829 
guaranteed British non-intervention, but another in 1853 leased the revenue 
of Berar to the British as payment for the Hyderabad Contingent and gained 
them access to the raw cotton of Berar sought by both Chinese markets and 
Manchester textiles mills.>! 

From 1759 to 1853 the British concluded numerous treaties with Hyderabad 
that extended British control and reduced the nizam’s autonomy. The four 
criteria of indirect rule were clearly met. Both sides acknowledged British con- 
trol as effective; the British were undoubtedly the dominant power; all rivals, 
both foreign (French) and domestic (Mysore and Marathas), were excluded; 
but the Hyderabad administration still exercised significant sovereign rights 
such as the collection of revenues and legal jurisdiction over its subjects within 
its territories. Although Hyderabad had to concede substantial resources in 

29 Peter Wood, ‘Vassal State’, pp. 40, 64. 

30 Vasant K. Bawa, ‘The Interregnum in Hyderabad after the Death of Salar Jung I: 1883-1884, JBR 
15 (1988), pp. 79-89. 

3! Tara Sethia, ‘Berar and the Nizam’s State Railway: Politics of British Interests in Hyderabad State, 
1853-1883,’ IBR 15 (1988), pp. 59-61. 


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British Residency at Hyderabad by Captain Grindlay, from Views in India, China and on the shores of the Red Sea. 

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men, revenue and commercial products to its British suzerain, the state and 
particular subjects gained some benefits. 

Several of the early treaties increased and then consolidated the territory 
of Hyderabad. Even the controversial lease of 1853 might have reduced the 
likelihood of full annexation by Dalhousie. Many Hyderabadi military offi- 
cers, revenue farmers and peasants suffered, but other groups profited from 
the British-induced reforms. Sunil Chander has described how the British pro- 
motion of military fiscalism in Hyderabad extended centralised state control 
over many intermediaries and benefited those willing to serve as collectors 
and officials for British-inspired land settlements that raised funds to pay for 
British-imposed military forces.*” The system of indirect rule extended and 
reinforced British power, but Hyderabad continued to exist as a state. 

From treaties to subsidiary alliances to indirect rule 

Ring fence or first phase of treaties among equals, 1759-85 

The earliest treaties that the Company negotiated with Indian states during 
the 1730s — two with the small coastal states of Sawantwadi and Janjira and 
one with the peshwa — regulated maritime and commercial affairs, especially 
the suppression of piracy. However, the first major phase of the treaty system 
is more appropriately dated to the turbulent years 1759-65. Then treaties 
did not include any formal mechanisms of intervention in internal affairs or 
restrictions on the external sovereignty of the Indian states. The earliest treaty 
of friendship and alliance, with vague promises of military assistance, was the 
one concluded with Hyderabad in 1759, described above. 

In 1765 Robert Clive allied with Shuja ud-Daula of Awadh to maintain a 
buffer state between the Company’s new base in Bengal and the Marathas. He 
laid the foundation for what Lee-Warner labelled the ring fence policy of using 
a barrier of Indian allies to insulate the trading and territorial frontiers of the 
Company from potentially hostile groups. Warren Hastings elaborated this 
policy in 1773 when he rented a subsidiary force to Shujaud-Daula of Awadh. 
Subsequently the nawab attacked the Afghan Rohillas, who had not paid their 
tribute to him, since as Richard Barnett has pointed out, “The Rohillas thus 
became to Awadh what Awadh was to the Company, and when they failed 
to pay their installments on time, they provided a ready-made justification 
for annexation’.** Hastings’ acquiescence would be one issue leading to his 
impeachment. Responding to contemporary critics who claimed that he loaned 

32 Chander, ‘Pre-colonial Order to State,’ pp. 89-140. 33 Barnett, North India, p- 93. 


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troops to Awadh solely to obtain the rental payment, the governor-general 
asserted that he 

engaged to assist the Vizier [Shuja-ud-Daula] in reducing the Rohilla country under his 
dominion, that the boundary of his possessions might be completed by the Ganges forming 
a barrier to cover them from the attacks and insults to which they are exposed by his enemies 
either possessing or having access to the Rohilla country. Thus our alliance with him, and 
the necessity for maintaining this alliance, so long as he or his successor shall deserve our 

protection, was rendered advantageous to the Company’s interest, because the security of 

his possessions from invasion in that quarter is in fact the security of ours.*4 

In other words, Hastings assisted the nawab of Awadh in order to allow this 
faithful ally to expand at the expense of a mutual enemy. Strategic interests, 
clearly not moral superiority, informed British policy. 

After his governor in Bombay undertook inconclusive military action against 
the Marathas, Hastings concluded treaties of friendship and military alliance 
with two Maratha rivals, Bhonsle and Scindia, in 1781. Madhaji Scindia agreed 
to intercede in negotiating peace with Haider Ali of Mysore and the peshwa at 
Poona, and the British pledged to remain neutral in the face of Scindia’s expan- 
sion north and westward that would gain Gwalior as his capital.*° The next 
year Scindia served as a guarantor for the Treaty of Salbai between the British 
and the peshwa, which established a status quo between those two powers. At 
the same time the British repudiated earlier treaties with the gaekwad of Baroda 
(1780) and with the Jat ruler of Dholpur which offered ‘perpetual’ friendship 
(1779). These reversals clearly revealed that the Company would sacrifice lesser 
allies to achieve accommodation with more powerful rivals. While the treaties 
with Bhonsle, Scindia, and the peshwa were made between equals for ostensi- 
bly strategic objectives, the British were influencing internal Maratha politics. 
For example, their treaties of 1781 and 1782 provided legitimation for Scindia 
as an autonomous power. 

Lord Cornwallis, an aristocratic general whose political and military rep- 
utation survived the surrender of the British force at Yorktown in 1783 to 
the victorious American colonists, succeeded Hastings as governor-general in 
1786. He had specific instructions to avoid costly military expeditions and 
annexations and to pursue a policy of non-intervention. Most sources view 
him as following instructions explicitly. Cornwallis nevertheless concluded a 

34 GW. Forrest (ed.), Selections from the State Papers of the Governors-General of India, 4 vols (Oxford, 
1910), vol. 1, p. 50. 

35 A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads relating to India and Neighbouring Countries, com- 
piled by C. U. Aitchison, vol. 5; The Treaties, &c., Relating to Central India (Part II — Bundelkhand 
and Baghelkhand) and Gwalior, rev. edn of 1929 (Delhi, 1933), p. 379. 


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Triple Alliance with the peshwa and the nizam against Tipu Sultan in July 
1790 and embarked on the Third Anglo-Mysore War from 1790 to 1792, 
personally taking command on the battlefield. He also concluded treaties of 
friendship and alliance with Coorg in 1790, which was annexed in 1834, and 
with Cochin in 1791 to secure his flanks against Mysore. Thus a desire to 
isolate Mysore, arguably the strongest antagonist of the British, spawned new 
treaties, commitments, and even military confrontations. 

The record of Sir John Shore, the Company servant who succeeded Corn- 
wallis as governor-general (1793-98), reveals that strategic opportunities could 
tempt another non-interventionist to expand the Company’s political commit- 
ments. B. B. Srivastava admits that Shore ‘did not possess the boldness of Lord 
Cornwallis or the initiative and aggressiveness of Lord Wellesley’ but that his 
‘cautious non-intervention’ did not preclude assertive actions.*° In one in- 
stance, territorial considerations, namely the need to protect the districts on 
the Malabar coast recently acquired from Mysore, and the desire to counter 
the French, led Shore to accept the proposal of the raja of Travancore for a 
permanent treaty of friendship and defensive alliance in 1795. 

In another case Shore deposed Wazir Ali, the adopted son and proclaimed 
heir of Nawab Asaf ud-Daula of Awadh, only four months after he had suc- 
ceeded his putative father in 1798. The British masked their suspicions that 
Wazir Ali was engaged in anti-British activities by allegations regarding his 
legitimacy. Shore himself went to Lucknow and placed Sa’adat Ali Khan, the 
brother of Asaf, who had been living in Banaras under Company protection, on 
the gaddi. The grateful victor in this succession dispute entered a treaty with the 
Company in 1798 that accelerated Company penetration into Awadh affairs, 
granted the key fort at Allahabad to the British, and enhanced the annual sub- 
sidy of Awadh to Rs 76 lakhs.*” These two incidents indicate that even under 
a reticent governor-general, the policies of intervention and non-intervention 
in the internal affairs of Indian states were not mutually exclusive. Rather, they 
were deployed with differing emphases or frequencies in response to politi- 
cal circumstances in Europe, to political visions of governors-general, and to 
strategic and financial imperatives of British power in India. 

Lord Wellesley and subsidiary alliances, 1798-1805 
The arrival of Lord Wellesley in 1798 inaugurated the second major phase of 
the evolution of the treaty system. The significance that he ascribed to this 

36 B. B. Srivastava, Sir John Shore’ Policy Towards the Indian States (Allahabad, 1981), pp. 244, 234, 
239; Barnett, North India, pp. 230-2. 
37 Fisher, Clash, pp. 90-3. 


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policy is represented in a print of 1807 where Wellesley stands before copies 
of subsidiary treaties with Hyderabad and Mysore on a nearby table.*8 

The subsidiary alliance system entrenched the superior position of the Com- 
pany and the subordinate one of the princes by restricting their exercise of key 
sovereign powers, especially the waging of war and direct communication with 
other rulers. Wellesley had imperial ambitions for the Company and followed 
different policies towards the Marathas and Mysore, whom he deemed his two 
principal protagonists. 

To defeat Mysore militarily and to contain the Marathas by treaties, Wellesley 
sought to isolate both from possible allies and then to acquire the military assis- 
tance needed to achieve his objectives.*? Since the Court of Directors in London 
wanted to minimise expenses and maximise profits, this ambitious governor- 
general sought aid from the two Mughal successor states, with differing con- 
sequences for Hyderabad and Awadh. The treaty of 1798 with Hyderabad 
described earlier produced military support through a subsidiary force. Because 
the nizam became in arrears of payment for the so-called Hyderabad Contin- 
gent, the state contracted extensive debts to the Palmer & Sons Bank. Michael 
Fisher has emphasised that these obligations to the British bank and to British 
officials operating in their private capacity ultimately reduced the possibility of 
an annexation of Hyderabad.*° Such action would kill a goose that laid golden 
eggs. Asa result, Hyderabad would survive as a princely state but Awadh would 
not. Although the 1798 treaty, as discussed earlier, had obtained an increased 
subsidy from Awadh, Wellesley made new demands. After threatening to an- 
nex the entire Awadh state, in 1801 he concluded a treaty with Sa’adat Ali 
Khan that effectively ended the independent Awadhi army, imposed an en- 
larged subsidiary force, and annexed the districts of Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur 
and the Doab (the territory between the Ganges and the Jumna) as payment 
for the subsidiary force even though the nawab had been current in his tribute 
payments.*! Although Sa’adat Ali Khan was able to consolidate his control 
over his one remaining province of Awadh and to develop a new capital at 
Lucknow, the British annexed Awadh in 1856. 

After the defeat of Mysore in 1799, the British treaty added some 
Mysorean districts to their expanding Madras Presidency and rewarded their 
ally Hyderabad with other districts. As noted earlier, the British then returned a 

38 Robert Home (1752-1834) painted several portraits of Wellesley during his tenure in India, most 
of which included copies of the treaties with Hyderabad and Mysore: Mildred Archer, India and 
British Portraiture 1770-1825 (London, 1979), pp. 314-17. 

39 This section relies heavily on Thompson, Making. 

40 Fisher, Indirect Rule, pp. 388-90; Peter Wood, ‘Vassal State’. 

41 Barnett, North India, pp. 235-7; Fisher, Clash, pp. 90-107. 


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Lord Wellesley by James Heath after portrait by Robert Home, 
London 1807. 

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truncated but geographically compact Mysore to the Wadiyars, the Hindu 
dynasty that had been usurped in 1761 by its Muslim military ally, Haider 
Ali. They emphatically proclaimed the subordinate position of the restored 
infant ruler, Krishnaraja Wadiyar, by mandating the exclusion of all French 
influence and the stipulation that Mysore could not communicate with 
any foreign power without the prior knowledge and sanction of the British. A 
more onerous sign of Mysore’s subordination was the imposition of an annual 
subsidy of Rs 24.5 lakhs, which represented 57 per cent of the presumed 
state revenue. This sum came to constitute 50 per cent of the British tribute 
collected from 198 princely states. Burton Stein has argued that the need to 
secure revenues to pay this subsidy was one of the factors that led the durbar to 
reform its tax-farming system. Subsequently this extension of central control 
into previously semi-autonomous local areas in Mysore provoked the Nagar 
1.” The British then used their suppression of this 
disorder to legitimate their direct management of Mysore state for the next 
fifty years. 

With Mysore subdued with golden cords, Wellesley confronted the 
Marathas. Although entitled as a member of the Triple Alliance to a share of 
the territory taken from Mysore by the British in 1799, the peshwa refused in 
order to avoid the imposition of a subsidiary alliance. Wellesley then proceeded 

insurrection in 1830—3 

to deal separately with the individual members of the Maratha confederacy. 
His action reflected an imperial strategy of divide and rule. It was, however, 
facilitated by the longstanding rivalries among the Maratha states, the lack 
of astute Maratha leaders after the deaths of Mahadji Scindia and Ahilyabai 
of Indore, their geographical dispersion, and the diminished authority of the 

In Gujarat, where the gaeckwad was geographically isolated from the Maratha 
home base in Poona, asuccession dispute after 1800 gave Wellesley an easy entry 
into Baroda state. The governor of Bombay sent a force of 2000 troops under 
Major Alexander Walker (1764-1831) to arbitrate between two contenders for 
the Baroda gaddi, and this veteran of the Mysore campaigns decided in favour 
of Anandrao and his diwan, Raoji Appaji. After crushing the other rivals and 
replacing Arab mercenaries as guarantors of government measures and loans, 
Walker and his superior concluded a subsidiary alliance in 1802 with the newly 
enthroned gaekwad that imposed a subsidiary force in return for a cession of 
territories. Additional fertile districts were ceded in 1803 and 1805. A novel 

42 Burton Stein, ‘Notes on “Peasant Insurgency” in Colonial Mysore; Event and Process’, SAR 5 
(1985), p. 22 and note 8 on page 25 based on work of Sebastian Joseph, ‘Mysore’s Tribute to the 
Imperial Treasury: A Classic Example of Economic Exploitation’, Q /MS 70 (1979), pp. 154-63. 


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feature at this stage was a British guarantee to Raoji Appaji that his heirs would 
be diwans of Baroda. They would later regret this promise, but it gave the 
British useful leverage in the internal administration of Baroda. Walker, the 
first British resident in Baroda, reorganised its revenue collection and military 
organisation, disbanding the disruptive Arab mercenaries and re-forming the 
subsidiary force into an efficient unit.” 

Meanwhile the peshwa himself became more amenable to a subsidiary al- 
liance after Holkar had defeated the combined forces of his nominal overlord 
and Scindia. The Treaty of Bassein in 1802 imposed a subsidiary force of six 
battalions, the obligation to submit disputes with the nizam and the gaekwad 
to the British, and the need to consult with the British before negotiating 
with any other powers. A few months later, the British confronted Scindia 
and the bhonsle of Nagpur in the Second Maratha War. The British victory 
at Assaye, where Arthur Wellesley, brother of the governor-general and the 
future Duke of Wellington, was in command, led to the treaties of 1803 
with both Scindia and Holkar. The former was removed from his position 
in the Ganges-Jumna doab in the north and from the Deccan to the south 
and accepted a subsidiary force that was stationed in British territory near his 
frontier. Here again, these treaties confirmed the independent status of Scindia 
and Bhonsle from their Maratha overlord while not yet making them tributary 
to the British since cession of territory paid for the subsidiary force. As a conse- 
quence of the campaign against Holkar, who had expanded northward beyond 
Delhi, Wellesley as a matter of expediency offered an offensive and defensive 
alliance to the relatively new Rajput state of Alwar, recently separated from 
Jaipur, and of perpetual friendship to the vacillating Jat ruler of Bharatpur in 
1803. The other major Jat-ruled state of Dholpur entered the treaty map in 
1806. These three allies would provide a friendly frontier on the western side of 

Far to the south, 1803 witnessed an example of how timely assistance to 
the British created anomalies in the treaty map. When the British assumed the 
administrative powers of its longstanding ally, the nawab of Carnatic at Arcot 
in 1801, it claimed the overlordship of his petty tributaries, the poligars or 
palaiyakkarars. The Permanent Settlement of 1803 in the Madras Presidency 
transformed these poligars into zamindars with extensive rights over the pro- 
duce of the land but also regular revenue obligations to the British. The one 
Tamil poligar to escape this process was in Pudukkottai. He had rendered both 

43 John Edmond McLeod, The Western India States Agency 1916-1947, PhD thesis, University of 
Toronto (1993), pp. 16-24. 
44 Thompson, Making, pp. 43-124. 


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military assistance and badly needed supplies to the British from 1751 to their 
last campaigns against Mysore.*? The lack of any treaty or sanad defining the 
status of Pudukkottai illustrates the haphazard process of incorporation of In- 
dian political entities into the British treaty map. When Pudukkottai asked for 
certain honours that the nawab had granted, the British allowed him to have a 
white umbrella and gold chubdar sticks, Hindu symbols of sovereignty, carried 
before him as well as a fort and a district that the raja of Tanjore had seized 
some years before. The British demanded one elephant a year ““as a mark of 
homage for the tenure”’, but the Tondaiman ruler avoided paying this tribute 
until it was excused in 1839.*° Thus the British revealed a willingness to deal 
in the indigenous coin of honours as well as their imported specie of treaties, 
especially when stakes were deemed negligible. 
Continuing British extension during an era of 
non-intervention, 1805-13 

Lord Minto, the governor-general from 1807 to 1813, is usually characterised as 
a pacific interlude between two expansionists. Thompson has described Minto 
as ‘quiet and friendly’ and a writer of letters that were ‘witty and observant, 
strangely modern in tone’.4” While Minto remained steadfast in not extending 
Company protection to the Rajput states, he transplanted several clumps of 
smaller chiefs into the soil of British indirect rule. Perhaps other historians 
have played down this intervention since few treaties were concluded. Bonds, 
proclamations and sanads were the usual instruments. In the interregnum 
between Wellesley and Minto, the Company had first extended its protection 
and then recognition of their internal autonomy to little kings in Bundelkhand 
such as Baoni, Chhatarpur, Maihar in 1806, and Ajaigarh, Datia, Panna, Sarila 
in 1807. These client states barred any advances by Holkar against recently 
acquired British territory on the Jumna. 

Another example of British aggrandisement during a supposedly non- 
interventionist era occurred in Gujarat, particularly in Saurashtra, the penin- 
sula known as Kathiawar (from its Kathi rulers) during the British period.“* 
Analysing the Bombay Presidency, Ian Copland has applied Cohn’s structural 
model. Until 1756 the imperial authority was the Mughal emperor, whom 
the peshwa then replaced. At the secondary level the provincial governors 

45 Dirks, Hollow Crown, pp. 192-9, 385-9. 

46 Thid., p. 387. 47 Thompson, Making, p. 150. 

48 Saurashtra was the ancient name and after 1947 was again used for this peninsula. Major sources are 
Copland, British Raj; John E. McLeod, Sovereignty, Power, Control: Rulers, Politicians, and Paramount 
Power in the States of Western India, 1916-1947 (Leiden, 1999); Harald Tambs-Lyche, Power, Profit 
and Poetry: Traditional Society in Kathiawar, Western India (New Delhi, 1997). 

49 Copland, British Raj, pp. 19-25. 


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deriving their authority from the imperial level were the gaekwads of Baroda 
in the north and the rajas of Satara and Kolhapur in the south. The regional 
level in Gujarat consisted mainly of Rajput-ruled states such as the Jhala in 
Dhrangadhara, Limbdi, Wankaner and Wadhwan; the Jadeja ones of Kutch, 
Nawanagar, Rajkot, Dhrol, Gondal and Morvi; the Jethwa at Porbandar; and 
the Gohels of Bhavnagar and Palitana. Some Kathi-ruled states, such as Jasdan 
as well as Jungadh, a successor state founded by a Mughal official, also belong 
in this category. Bhayad (the brotherhood) and girassia (petty chiefs) consti- 
tuted the fourth level of petty chiefs and landholders and were overlapping 
categories. Girassia were those to whom a ruler granted land, in return for 
which the recipients had obligations of military or religious service. Bhayad 
were younger sons to whom Rajput, and sometimes Kathi, rulers granted the 
right to collect revenue from a group of villages and to dispense criminal justice. 
Thus bhayad were a subset of girassia and distinguished by their hereditary ties 
to rulers. As provincial and regional rulers confronted aggressive challenges in 
the late 1700s, some bhayad and girassia developed little kingdoms. 

After their 1802 treaty with Baroda, the British sought to stabilise condi- 
tions in western Gujarat. Recognising the inefficiency and destructiveness of the 
mulkgiri or yearly military expedition that the gaekwad used to extract tribute 
from subordinate rulers, Walker, the British resident, attempted to rationalise 
the system with two kinds of bonds. One pledged the regional or petty 
chief to promote peace, to protect the possessions of the British, the peshwa 
and the gaekwad, including their merchants, and not to give sanctuary to 
thieves. The other required fixed annual tributes in return for abolition of the 
mulkgiri. Bards were to be the guarantors of the payment since they could 
enforce payment by threatening to kill themselves, and Rajputs considered 
causing the death of a bard a grievous sin.°’ Most of the regional states signed 
such bonds in 1807. Further agreements pledged the Rajput chiefs to prohibit 
female infanticide within their realms and piracy on their coasts. 

Although the Walker Settlement re-established order, it also provided the 
basis for extensive fragmentation of political authority in western India. Walker 
initially invited twenty-nine regional rulers to sign the bonds. But to secure all 
previous sources of revenue, he then concluded bonds with whoever was pay- 
ing tribute, whether they paid directly to a regional ruler or to the higher levels 
of gaekwad or peshwa. John McLeod has argued that Walker and the bhayads 
had thought that the bonds maintained the status quo of the latter as petty 
landlords. However, later British officials, unaware of the diffused nature of 

50 McLeod, Sovereignty, pp. 17-18. 


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power in Rajput states, either consciously or unconsciously, misinterpreted the 
bonds and created 153 supposedly sovereign rulers from subordinate bhayad 
and girassia.*! Despite the absorption of eighty of these little kingdoms into 
other estates, according to various authorities their number expanded during 
the nineteenth century from around 350 to 418. Rajput ruling families fol- 
lowed primogeniture, with younger sons receiving a small number of villages 
in giras, but Kathi ruling families divided states equally among all sons. In 
1903 and 1904 the British attempted to impose the practice of primogeni- 
ture on Kathi-ruled states, but because of Indian resistance, they compromised 
in 1908 and agreed to consider each instance of succession on its merits.” 
Western India had the largest numerical concentration of princely states, but 
only a small percentage exercised internal sovereignty. The significance of this 
blurring of the broad category of princely states will figure in subsequent 

To maintain law and order and to ensure a fixed amount of revenue that 
would allow for both a reduced military force and a more rationalised adminis- 
tration since the Baroda durbar would now be able to plan expenditures — one 
should not use the word budget — with greater regularity, Alexander Walker 
presaged the later British emphasis on the establishment of efficient adminis- 
tration within the princely states. At the same time he undercut the authority 
of the gaekwad by introducing the British as an alternative source of authority 
for the regional powers who paid tribute to the gaekwad. 

As the British now allowed the gaekwad to collect his tribute independently 
of the peshwa, so now regional rulers could appeal to the British, thereby 
affirming their autonomy from their tributary lord, Baroda. Mani Kamerkar 
highlights the example of Morvi, a Jadeja Rajput-ruled state, which appealed to 
the British for remission of tribute in 1817 because of alleged natural disasters 
and lack of law and order. After extended deliberations, Captain Barnwell, the 
British resident, urged that Morvi make full payment to Baroda. His superior, 
the Government of Bombay, however, granted Morvi the concession of paying 
only a third of the arrears and decreed that in the future Baroda would continue 
to receive only one-third while the other two-thirds should go to the Company 
to whom the peshwa had yielded his claim.*? Yet again, Indian rulers learned to 
appeal to differing levels of the British hierarchy to achieve a favourable decision 

51 McLeod, ‘Western India’, ch. 2. 

>2 C. U. Aitchison (comp.), A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads relating to India and 
Neighbouring Countries (Calcutta, 1932), vol. 6, pp. 1-30. 

>3 Mani Kamerkar, British Paramountcy: British-Baroda Relations 1818-1848 (Bombay, 1980), 
pp. 35-6. 


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ona request. Simultaneously, British residents undercut the authority of their 
subsidiary allies by supporting claims of subordinates against the prerogatives 
of their allies. 

Ultimately the British affirmed their political sovereignty in Gujarat by an 
agreement in 1820 with Baroda. Although it made no treaties with other states 
in Saurashtra, the Company further extended its political authority with the 
establishment of a Criminal Court of Justice at Rajkot in 1831. The political 
agent presided and three or four chiefs served as assessors to try capital cases 
and crimes by one chief against another. 

Further to the north, Charles Theophilus Metcalfe (1785-1846), a seri- 
ous, circumspect young man of 23, was sent by Minto in June 1808 to the 
Lahore court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the 28-year-old ruler of Punjab. 
Metcalfe’s instructions were to negotiate a treaty of offensive and defensive 
alliance to create a barrier against a British-imagined French advance towards 
India through Persia and Afghanistan. When the wily Ranjit Singh scoffed at a 
French threat and marched to Faridkot to demonstrate his dominance with an 
uncomfortable Metcalfe in tow, Minto and his envoy decided to stand forth 
as the protector of the cis-Sutlej, Sikh-ruled states which had earlier received 
a noncommittal reply to their plea for protection from their ambitious Sikh 
neighbour. Thus on 25 April 1809, Metcalfe and Ranjit Singh signed a treaty 
affirming a British attitude of laissez-faire towards any expansion by Ranjit 
north of the Sutlej. The Sikh ruler was therefore free to advance northward to 
Himalayan hill-states such as Kashmir and westward to Multan and Peshawar 
near the Khyber Pass. In return he agreed not to encroach southward. Eight 
days later the British proclaimed to the chiefs south of the Sutlej: 

It is clearer than the sun, and better proved than the existence of yesterday, that the de- 
tachment of British Troops to this side of the Sutlege was entirely in acquiescence to the 

application and earnest entreaty of the Chiefs, and originated solely through friendly con- 

siderations in the British to preserve the Chiefs in their possessions and independence.” 

Besides obtaining British protection, the cis-Sutlej rulers were exempted 
from the payment of tribute but obliged to provide military assistance to 
the British when requested. Lee-Warner contended that ‘[t]his treaty, which 
was practically forced upon Lord Minto, as much by the old scare of French 
aggression as by the bold policy of the ruler of the Punjab, fitly closed the 

54 Edward Thompson, Life of Lord Metcalfe (London, 1937) in Metcalfe and Grewal, Sikhs of Punjab, 
ch. 6. 

°C. U. Aitchson (comp.), A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads Relating to India and 
Neighbouring Countries, vol. 1 (Nendlem, Lichtenstein, 1973, reprint of edition published in 1931), 
p- 156. 


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first period of the policy of non-intervention’.*° Although Edward Thompson 
also emphasised the motivating factor of the French threat,”” the cis-Sutlej 
states gained British protection because of political expediency. They were a 
functional buffer between British-controlled territory near Delhi and Agra and 
an astute, energetic Indian ruler who had demonstrated the power of troops 
officered, trained and equipped by Europeans and supported by solid revenues 
from agriculture and commerce. 

In the same year Minto signed a vague treaty of eternal friendship with the 
Amirs along the Indus River, who pledged not to ‘allow the Establishment 
of the tribe of the French in Sind’.°® In 1812 the governor-general concluded 
treaties of alliance with Nawanagar in Kathiawar and the Rajput-ruled states of 
Orchha and Rewa in Bundelkhand. Minto probably acquired his reputation for 
non-intervention because his treaties did not follow military expeditions except 
for an invasion of Nawanagar. His actions, nonetheless, demonstrate that any 
British governor-general was prepared to risk criticism from the authorities in 
England to buttress the expanding Company state against Indian rivals. 

The triumph of paramountcy, 1813-23 

The arrival of Lord Moira, later to become Lord Hastings, as governor-general 
in 1813 accelerated the incorporation of the Indian states onto the treaty map of 
India and inaugurated the era of subordinate isolation for Indian princes. Lee- 
Warner portrayed Hastings as lacking Cornwallis’ faith that stronger Indian 
states would encompass weaker ones and become good neighbours, on the 
model of Ranjit Singh, but also not believing as Lord Dalhousie would ‘that 
the good of the people required annexations’.°? Although most commenta- 
tors mention that Hastings concluded more treaties than any other governor- 
general, they are less apt to point out that despite his alleged lack of interest in 
annexation, he was a major participant in rounding out the Company’s directly 
controlled territories. 

Hastings first had to confront the expansionist Gurkha rulers of Nepal. 
After the short but costly Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814—16, both sides accepted 
the need to compromise.® A treaty in 1816 allowed the British to recruit 
Gurkha soldiers for its military, but Nepal remained an internally au- 
tonomous state able to pursue independent relations with bordering states.°! 
Neighbouring Bhutan and Sikkim were more clearly subordinated to Company 

> Lee-Warner, Native States, p. 88. °7 Thompson, Making, pp. 157-66. 

8 Tbid., p. 156. >) Lee-Warner, Native States, pp. 102-3. 

60 J. Premble, The Invasion of Nepal: John Company at War (Oxford, 1971); C. A. Bayly, Empire and 
Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870 (Cambridge, 
1996), pp. 97-113. 

61 Thompson, Making, pp. 188-200. 


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control. Further west in the Himalayan foothills, the British made several small 
political units south of the Sutlej independent of their larger neighbours, cre- 
ating several minuscule states. Finally the British fed tidbits of the Himalayan 
foothills to newly acquired allies including the raja of Patiala. 

After this curtain-raiser on the Company’s northern frontier, Hastings per- 
formed his main act in the Maratha-dominated heartland of central India. His 
immediate antagonists were the pindari bands who accumulated the produce of 
the cultivating peasants through irregular marauding rather than bureaucratic 
land revenue settlements. Characterising state formation in Malwa, Stewart 
Gordon stresses that “states” and “marauders” were not different in kind, 
but only in relative degrees of success in conquest, revenue collection, and 
infrastructure-building. All were involved in the same process, with the same 
ends, using the same sources of legitimatization’.© The British would even be 
willing to assist at least two pindari leaders, Tonk and Jaora, in the process of 
state formation. 

Pindari raids into the British presidency of Madras in 1816 and 1817 hard- 
ened British resolve to terminate this recurring threat. The British invited its 
Maratha allies, who functioned as protectors to various pindari leaders, to join 
their efforts, which involved an army of over 100 000 including 13 000 Euro- 
peans.® This British force was divided into two units, a northern one under 
the personal command of Hastings and a southern one under the commander- 
in-chief of Madras, who was accompanied by John Malcolm as a military and 
political officer. Malcolm, whom Thompson judged the most popular man 
in India,“ had an unusually wide range of experiences, from military service 
in Mysore to a diplomatic mission to Persia. He had eagerly sought this joint 
appointment, which reflected a continuing link between military and political 
service by Company officers who dealt with Indian states. 

As Hastings advanced against the pindaris, he was able to invest much 
of Scindia’s territory and so the most powerful Maratha leader agreed to a 
subsidiary alliance. This treaty of 5 November 1817 allowed Scindia to retain 
the tribute from his subordinate states after giving it up for three years to 
the British; it required him to fight in a coordinated manner with the British 
against the pindaris, not to shelter any of the pindaris, and to give two forts as 
security for lines of communications. The British obtained the right to make 
treaties with the Rajput states who had been tributary to Scindia. Afterwards 
the peshwa sarcastically advised Scindia that ‘it is befitting you to put bangles 

62 Stewart Gordon, ‘Scarf and Sword: Things, Maranders, and State-formation in 18th Century 
Malwa’, JESHR 6 (1969), p. 425. 
63 Thompson, Making, pp. 208-23; S. Sen, Distant Sovereignty, pp. 52-4. 64 Tbid., p. 167. 


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on your arms, and sit down like a woman’.© The bhonsle raja at Nagpur 
and belatedly Holkar at Indore tried to strengthen their position by ill-timed 
attacks on British stations; they paid for their ineffective resistance. 

Four days later, the British formally invested Amir Khan, a prominent pin- 
dari leader, as the nawab of Tonk and confirmed his possession of the districts 
he had detached from Indore state. In their generosity to Tonk with Indore’s 
territory, the British added the fort and district of Rampura. On 6 January 1818 
two key political officers concluded treaties with the two remaining principal 
Maratha military rulers. Richard Jenkins negotiated with the bhonsle raja of 
Nagpur. Territory yielding Rs 24 lakhs was divided with the nizam, but Bhonsle 
Appa Sahib remained on his gaddi. Hastings had intended to dethrone Appa 
Sahib, but the political officer in the field exercised formidable authority. The 
governor-general soon had his way as Appa Sahib continued to intrigue against 
the British, and by March 1818 he was deposed and replaced by Raghuji I, a 
maternal grandson of his predecessor and brother. Malcolm dealt with the boy 
ruler of Indore. He had to accept the creation of Tonk, to cede further territo- 
ries to the British, to discharge his army, to agree not to employ any Europeans 
or Americans, and to transfer his tributary Rajput states to the Company. 

Malcolm then negotiated with Peshwa Baji Rao II, who was the last to 
surrender. The peshwa lost his title and his right to live in the Deccan, being 
asked to move to a sacred Hindu site on the Ganges. He eventually selected 
Bithur near Kanpur. A sympathetic Malcolm granted him a pension of Rs 8 
lakhs, earning the censure of Hastings for this generosity. After the death of 
Baji Rao in 1851 his adopted son, Dhondo Pant, better known as Nana Sahib, 
was denied this pension and became one of the leaders of the revolt of 1857. 
Hastings in turn confirmed the descendants of the elder son of Shivaji as the 
rulers of Satara and is usually lauded as a king-maker for this action. 

With Maratha power circumscribed by their treaty system and superior 
military force, the British extended their protection to many states tributary 
to the Marathas. Charles Metcalfe invited the Rajput chiefs, who had long 
sought protection, to become British feudatories and thereby transfer payment 
of any tribute owed to the Marathas to the Company. Karauli, Kotah, Marwar- 
Jodhpur, Mewar-Udaipur and Bundi joined in January 1818; Jaipur agreed in 
April 1818; Partabgarh, Dungarpur and Jaisalmer closed the circle by the end 
of 1818. 

In central India the British concluded a treaty with Nawab Nazar Muham- 
mad of Bhopal, who had been an informal ally of the British against the 

6 Surendra Nath Roy, A History of the Native States of India (Calcutta, 1888), vol. 1, p. 325. 


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pindaris. He agreed to furnish a military contingent and received five districts 
in Malwa. Bhopal now became the third most populous Muslim-ruled state in 
India. Finally Malcolm recognised 143 chieftainships by sanads, and thus the 
second major concentration (after that in western India) of little kings became 
allies of the Company. Malcolm’s assessment of the British work in central 
India was optimistic. 

With the means we had at our command, the work of force was comparatively easy: the 
liberality of our Government gave grace to conquest, and men were for the moment satisfied 
to be at the feet of generous and humane conquerors. Wearied with a state of continued 
warfare and anarchy, they hardly regretted even the loss of power: halcyon days were antic- 
ipated, and men prostrated themselves in hopes of elevation. All these impressions, made 

by the combined effects of power, humanity, and fortune, were improved to the utmost by 

the character of our first measures. 

What Malcolm viewed as anarchy were conditions that the British partially 
spawned when they reduced indigenous military forces and left many armed 
men underemployed. Furthermore, the inflexible British demands for tributes 
and subsidies to fund their military machine led many Indian rulers to in- 
crease their demands on hard-pressed peasants, whose resistance contributed 
to disorder in the countryside. 

When Lord Hastings left India in 1823, the broad outline of what came to be 
known as princely or Indian India, in contrast to British India, had been defined 
on British maps. There were three great blocks of what were called native state 
territories. The largest one was the massive conglomeration of Rajput- and 
Maratha-ruled states, which spread from Gujarat in the west through Rajasthan 
to Malwa and Rewa in central India. This broad band included the states and 
estates of Saurashtra; the deserts of Rajasthan with Rajput rulers and large 
populations of aboriginal tribal groups; northern central India with the small 
states of Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand; and the Maratha holdings of the 
northern Deccan. In the east there was Maratha-ruled Nagpur and the Orissan 
states, constituting the Tributary Mahals of Chota Nagpur. With significant 
tribal populations, petty chieftains ruled in the latter states and came under 
British jurisdiction from 1817 to 1825. In the south, Hyderabad and Mysore 
dominated the interior, with Travancore and Cochin on the southwestern 
coast. There was also the outlying group of smaller states north of Delhi: 
the cis-Sutlej states of Punjab and some Rajput-ruled states in the Himalayan 
foothills. Historical contingencies were partly responsible for which areas were 
annexed and which remained under princes. The British were nevertheless 

66 Malcolm, Memoir, vol. 2, pp. 264-5. 


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anxious to control most coastal tracts, the hinterland of their major entrepdts, 
and economically productive areas such as the Gangetic Plain. 

Not only had Hastings concluded more treaties than any other governor- 
general, but the relationships inscribed in the treaties had changed. The British 
now aggressively declared themselves the superior power. Lee-Warner high- 
lighted this transition with a comparison between the 1803 treaty with the 
relatively new Rajput state of Alwar and the 1818 treaty with Mewar-Udaipur, 
which enjoyed ritual superiority among many Rajput groups and some British 
officers. The British specifically engaged to protect Udaipur but plainly enunci- 
ated its subordination in article 3, which demanded that the Udaipur ruler 
‘will always act in subordinate co-operation with the British Government and 
acknowledge its supremacy, and will not have any connexion with other Chiefs 
or States’.°” The next article imposed isolation and prohibited any negotiation 
with other states without British sanction. Hastings, however, legally guaran- 
teed British non-intervention in the internal affairs of the state, but opportu- 
nities for British interference abounded. The imposition of a subsidiary force 
and the transfer of tribute owed by the Marathas to the British made the irreg- 
ular payment of such dues a pretext for intervention. The posting of British 
residents and political agents provided a channel for observation, and both 
overt and covert intervention. This topic will be explored in the next chapter. 

An era ended in 1823. Afterwards governors-general would not take com- 
mand on the battlefield, as Cornwallis and Hastings had done, and then sign 
treaties the day after they were concluded. Since the major Indian states, with 
the exception of Punjab, were now in treaty relations with the British, political 
officers would no longer participate in battles or negotiate treaties. The extraor- 
dinary galaxy of distinctive stars in the political firmament such as Malcolm, 
Jenkins and Metcalfe would not recur. Circumspect bureaucrats superseded the 
flamboyant David Ochterlony and the adventurous and empathic Malcolm. 

Consolidation and rounding out borders, 1823-56 
Although administrative rationalisation and social reforms were dominant 
British concerns after 1823, annexations continued, especially on the bor- 
ders of the Company domains, with provinces of lower Burma in 1826 and 
Sind on the lower Indus in 1843 being the major acquisitions. Moving into 
the heartland of Punjab, in 1846 the British fought a short but successful war 
with the heirs of Ranjit Singh. As a result they acquired the districts between 
the Beas and the Indus including Kashmir, the hill areas east of the Beas, and 

67 Lee-Warner, Native States, p. 125. 


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control over traffic on the Beas and the Sutlej to the Indus and then the Indus 
to Baluchistan. 

The arrival of Lord Dalhousie (1812-60), at 36 the youngest man to be 
appointed governor-general (1848-56), did not reintroduce a policy of annex- 
ation but rather intensified it.° Lee-Warner argued that by 1848 annexation 
was the only possible response to ‘a scrupulous avoidance of interference in 
the internal affairs of a multitude of isolated principalities’.”° In other words, 
British restraint had allowed such princely misrule that annexation was the only 
means of improvement. However, the British protection of their allies from 
internal challengers was surely a form of intervention in the internal politics 
of states, where tensions between rulers and their relatives or nobility were a 
critical aspect of a dynamic political process. Dalhousie’s policy of annexation 
was informed by strategic concerns and ‘revenue maximisation’.’! 

Pragmatic, autocratic, hard-working, Dalhousie used military victories, the 
denial of the right to adopt heirs to rulers whose states he classified as British 
creations, and allegations of misgovernment as the bases for annexation.’ 
Economic and strategic concerns are reflected in his support for a second war 
against the now dependent kingdom of Punjab in 1848, even supervising the 
military operations to the dismay of his commander-in-chief in the field, and 
his decision to annex the remainder of Punjab in 1849. In contrast to his 
predecessors, Dalhousie tended to consume all the territory of a defeated state 
rather than nibbling morsels. In 1852 he returned to the piecemeal approach 
after the defeat of the Burmese in 1852 with the informal acquisition of Pegu 
province. Upper Burma would be annexed in 1885. 

Dalhousie’s other acquisitions of Indian territory were more controversial 
because of their justifications and because they were later deemed to be imme- 
diate causes of the revolt of 1857. They began three months after he arrived in 
India. The first state was small but symbolically significant. The Maratha ruling 
house of Satara, which descended from the elder son of Shivaji, had adopted 
several times to maintain the dynastic line, as did many Hindu families. When 
Raja Appa Sahib of Satara adopted a son a few hours before he died on 5 April 
1848, Dalhousie recommended against recognition of the adopted heir and 
for annexation. His argument was that the British had essentially created the 
Satara state in 1818 when they reconstituted it with territory captured from the 

68 Aitchison, Collection of Treaties, vol. 1, pp. 50-4. 

6 William Lee-Warner, The Life of the Marquis of Dalhousie K. T., 2 vols (Shannon, Ireland, 1972, 
first published 1904). 

70 Lee-Warner, Native States, p. 129. 71 C. A. Bayly, Indian Society, p. 134. 

72S. N. Prasad, Paramountcy under Dalhousie (Delhi, 1963); Muhammad Abdur Rahim, Lord 
Dathousies Administration of the Conquered and Annexed States (Delhi, 1963). 


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peshwa. However, arrogant imperialism is clearly reflected in the often quoted 
minute of 30 August 1848: 

I cannot conceive it possible for anyone to dispute the policy of taking advantage of every 
just opportunity which presents itself for consolidationg the territories that already belong 
to us, by taking possession of states which may lapse in the midst of them; for thus getting 
rid of these petty intervening principalities, which may be made a means of annoyance, but 
which can never, I venture to think, be a source of strength, for adding to the resources of 
the public treasury, and for extending the uniform application of our system of government 
to those whose best interests, we sincerely believe, will be promoted thereby. 

Strategic and revenue gains are more sharply articulated in the less well known 
article 32, which noted that the territories of Satara 

are interposed between the two principal military stations in the presidency of Bombay; and 
are at least calculated, in the hands of an independent sovereign, to form an obstacle to safe 
communication and combined military movement. The district is fertile, and the revenue 
productive; the population, accustomed for some time to regular and peaceful government, 
are tranquil themselves, and prepared for the regular government our possession of the 
territory would involve.” 

In defending the lapse or annexation of three other states when they sought 
British recognition of an adopted heir, Dalhousie cited both pragmatic and 
political reasons. Sambalpur, now a district on the western border of Orissa state 
and then a little chieftainship astride the Mahanadi River on the road between 
Bombay and Calcutta, was swallowed up in 1849. With a brahman ruling 
family from Maharashtra, Jhansi had been carved from Orchha, southwest of 
the British Northwestern Provinces. A buffer between the territories of Scindia 
of Gwalior and the Rajput-ruled states of Bundelkhand, Jhansi had first entered 
treaty relations with the British in 1804, and had assisted them against the 
Marathas and Burmese. Such support did not prevent extinction to secure the 
border of a British province.”4 

The 1854 annexation of Nagpur was the most substantial and most con- 
tentious one justified by the doctrine of lapse. Since it encompassed 80 000 
square miles with an annual revenue exceeding Rs 40 lakhs and a population 
of more than 4 million, Nagpur could not be classified as a ‘petty intervening 
principality’. Dalhousie, perhaps feeling the need for legitimation, cited three 
additional reasons. First and foremost, he argued that ‘the prosperity and hap- 
piness of its [Nagpur] inhabitants would be promoted by their being placed 

73 As cited in Sever, Documents, vol. 1, p. 200 from Minute by Lord Dalhousie dated 30 August 1848 
in House of Commons (Sessional Papers), 1849, vol. 39, pp. 224-8. ‘Papers Relative to the Raja of 

74 Rahim, Dathousie’s Administration, ch. 7, especially pp. 206-14. 


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permanently under British rule’. Second, the essential interests of England 
would be served by ready access to ‘the best and cheapest cotton grown in 
India . . . in the valley of Berar’. Third, the general interests of India — by 
which he obviously meant the British establishment in India — would benefit 
territorially by making British possessions contiguous by providing a direct 
line of communication between Calcutta and Bombay and by surrounding 
the nizam’s state with British territory; economically by adding a large and 
wealthy province; and militarily since ‘the present army of Nagpore was or- 
ganised by ourselves, and still retains much of the form and of the feelings 
it received under British command’.”” Despite all these supposedly positive 
outcomes, Dalhousie faced opposition from British as well as Indian sources. 
Colonel Sir John Low, a distinguished political officer who after extensive ser- 
vice in Rajputana and as a resident in Hyderabad had risen to membership 
on the Council of the Governor-General (1853-58), thought that additional 
annexations were inappropriate. He stressed that British rule would not be 
safe and prosperous ‘till there shall be among its native subjects a much more 
general attachment to the ruling powers than there is at present among the 
inhabitants of British India’ and that the British should seek ‘to remove from 
the minds of those princes their present feelings of uncertainty and distrust’, 
which had arisen because of the conquest of Sind, an attack on Gwalior, and 
the annexation of Satara.”° 

Dalhousie, possibly in response to such critics, elaborated on the principles 
guiding his exercise of the doctrine of lapse. He categorised the Hindu-ruled 
states into independent, dependent and subordinate. Independent states had 
never been subordinate to a paramount power and were not tributary. Here he 
placed the Rajput states and ignored their incorporation into the Mughal struc- 
ture, their payments of tribute to the Marathas, and sometimes to the British. 
Dependent states were subordinate to the British as the paramount power in 
its role as successor to the Mughal emperor or the peshwa. The payment of 
tribute or a subsidy was a sign of their dependency. Subordinate states were 
those which the British created or revived through its treaties or sanads. Over 
the first category the British had no right to refuse adoptions; over the second 
they had a right to refuse but usually agreed; and over the third they should 
never allow succession by adoption.’” He classified Nagpur as both dependent 
and subordinate and so any adoption required British ratification. Dalhousie 

75 As cited in Sever, Documents, vol. 1, p. 213 from House of Commons (Sessional Papers), 1854, 
vol. 48, pp. 337-52. ‘Papers relating to the Rajah of Berar’. 

76 As cited in ibid., Minute dated 10 February 1854, pp. 216-18 and HC Rajah of Berar, pp. 355-9. 

77 Lee-Warner, Life, vol. 2, pp. 115, 155-6; Rahim, Dalhousies Administration, pp. 372-3. 


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therefore decided not to sanction the adoption and to annex the state.’® It 
became the basis for the sprawling Central Provinces, now conveniently linked 
to the Northwestern Provinces through the corridor of the recently annexed 

Maladministration had been cited in the decision on Jhansi along with 
lapse, but it was the only rationale for the annexation of Awadh in 1856. The 
British had long pursued contradictory policies towards one of their oldest 
allies. On the one hand the British had encouraged the nawab to establish 
his independence of his suzerain, the Mughal emperor. Thus they abetted 
Nawab Ghazi al-Din Haydar’s efforts to declare his independence, first by 
minting coins in his own name in 1818 and then by crowning himself king 
of Awadh in 1819.’? On the other hand the British resident extended his 
protection over groups at court and society at large. These British clients 
included Europeans employed by the nawab; ‘natives’ of Awadh who were 
employed by the Company, especially the soldiers or sepoys in its armies; 
and Awadh officials whose pensions were to be paid from the interest the 
British owed on loans extorted from nawabs. Michael Fisher has pointed out 
that the Company had already gained crucial political adherents in Awadh 
before the actual annexation occurred in 1856.°° Earlier historians writing on 
the events of 1857 would castigate Dalhousie for pursuing a reckless policy 
of annexation, while subsequent apologists such as Lee-Warner viewed him 
as a great humanitarian for extending the benefits of British rule to India — 
including the misgoverned masses of Awadh.*! 

A searing shock to the British in both India and at home, the events of 
1857 provoked an extensive and ongoing literature. The precipitating action 
of sepoys at Meerut meant that for many British historians, 1857 was a mutiny. 
Other historians have focused on civilian involvement, especially of peasants,°” 
landlords®? and a few Indian princes, and their work labelled 1857 as the first 
war of Indian independence, a rebellion, or a revolt. Nana Sahib of Satara and 
Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi were highly visible leaders whom both British and 

78 Tbid., pp. 229-34; Lee-Warner, Life, vol. 2, pp. 176-81. 

79 Michael H. Fisher, ‘The Imperial Coronation of 1819: Awadh, the British and the Mughals’, MAS 
19 (1985), pp. 254-5, 258-75. 

80 Michael H. Fisher, ‘British Expansion in North India: The Role of the Resident in Awadh,’ JESHR 
18 (1981), pp. 69-82, esp. pp. 81-2. 

81 Lee-Warner, Life, vol. 2, pp. 363-73, 381. 

82 Eric Stokes, The Peasant and the Raj: Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial 
India (Cambridge, 1978); Gautam Bhadra, ‘Four Rebels of Eighteen-Fifty-Seven’, in Ranajit Guha 
(ed.), Subaltern Studies IV (Delhi, 1985), pp. 229-75. 

83 Metcalf, Land. 


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Indian historians have constructed as heroes of Indian resistance to colonial 

Although some troops from princely states, notably Gwalior and Indore, 
joined rebel contingents, the loyalty of Hyderabad, most Maratha and Rajput 
rulers, and especially the cis-Sutlej princes, confined military resistance to the 
Gangetic Plain. Some princes aided the British more directly. Besides pro- 
viding supplies and protecting Europeans, the rulers of Patiala, Nabha, Jind, 
Kapurthala and Faridkot personally led their troops to maintain civil order in 
Punjab or in military engagements further afield.®* Moreover, a newswriter for 
Jind at the Delhi court became a key source for British intelligence.®° Once 
the military revolt was suppressed in 1858, British officials and apologists reaf- 
firmed the strategic value of indirect rule. Indian princes were deemed natural 
leaders of their Indian subjects and valuable British allies. A grateful impe- 
rial government fed them morsels of territory, new honours, and occasionally 
monetary rewards.*” 


The British did not create the Indian princes. Before and during the European 
penetration of India, indigenous rulers achieved dominance through the mil- 
itary protection they provided to dependants and their skill in acquiring rev- 
enues to maintain their military and administrative organisations. Major Indian 
rulers exercised varying degrees and types of sovereign powers before they en- 
tered treaty relations with the British. What changed during the late eigh- 
teenth and early nineteenth centuries is that the British increasingly restricted 
the sovereignty of Indian rulers. The Company set boundaries; it extracted 
resources in the forms of military personnel, subsidies or tribute payments, 
and the purchase of commercial goods at favourable prices, and limited oppor- 
tunities for other alliances. From the 1810s onward as the British expanded 
and consolidated their power, their centralised military despotism dramatically 
reduced the political options of Indian rulers. The latter could not easily ma- 
nipulate the corporate British Government of India, which did not experience 
the succession struggles or division of resources among heirs that had plagued 

84 Joyce Lebra-Chapman, The Rani of Jhansi: A Study in Female Heroism in India (Honolulu, 1986). 

85 Lepel H. Griffin, The Rajas of the Punjab (Patiala, 1970, reprint of 1873 2nd edn), pp. 213-18 on 
Patiala, pp. 355-8 on Jind, pp. 422-4 on Nabha, pp. 526-8 on Kapurthala, and p. 526 on Faridkot. 

86 C. A. Bayly, Empire, pp. 327-8. 

87 Thomas R. Metcalf, The Aftermath of Revolt: India, 1857-1879 (Berkeley CA, 1964); Bhupen 
Qanungo, ‘A Study of British Relations with the Native States of India, 1858-62,’ JAS 26 (1967), 
pp. 251-65. 


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earlier overlords such as the Mughals and the Marathas and which offered 
attractive possibilities for ‘conquest by invitation’. Indian rulers had to learn 
how to exploit the interstices of the increasingly bureaucratic British structure 
in order to gain political, ritual and economic advantages. Thus they might 
appeal to a sympathetic resident for concessions that a more distant governor- 
general in Calcutta or Company directors in London might not grant, or vice 
versa to the remote official over the objections of a hostile man on the spot. 

British policies towards Indian rulers are an excellent prism for viewing the 
complex interaction of varying views, priorities and resources of the multiple 
levels of the British hierarchy in India, which portrayed itself as a monolith 
to outsiders. In reality the British never were able to enforce a tight chain 
of command from the metropolitan authority in London to local officials 
in India. Further, the scholarly debate over British annexation is an example 
of the British efforts to categorise Indian political phenomena in order to 
conquer, to control, and to justify. Wellesley and Hastings uninhibitedly used 
imperialist and strategic explanations. Dalhousie’s particular contribution was 
to combine economic, political, moral and legal arguments in an age when 
reform was a prominent motif in British domestic political discourse. In the 
face of increasing Indian challenges to the British right to rule in India, later 
nineteenth-century commentators such as Tupper and Lee-Warner shifted the 
emphasis from material causes such as desirable access to superior cotton to 
moral and legal rationales. Twentieth-century scholars underscore economic 
and political arguments and do not allow moral and legal principles to have any 
role in the decision-making of nineteenth-century British administrators. This 
purely materialist approach simplifies the decision-making process of these 
men in an ahistoric mannet. 

A recent trend to an institutional approach promises a more balanced expla- 
nation. Thus a good start would be more exploration of the growing central- 
isation of decision-making within the Government of India, which allowed 
a confident, strong-willed governor-general such as Dalhousie to ignore the 
advice of experienced men on the spot such as Low. While the British GOI 
was becoming more centralised, its growing bureaucratisation rewarded those 
who implemented policy and frequently penalised those who challenged it. 
Dalhousie was possibly no more of an imperialist than Wellesley or Hastings. 
But he was not balanced as they were by brilliant, independent-minded political 
officers such as Mountstuart Elphinstone, John Malcolm and Charles Metcalfe, 
who were sympathetic to Indian rulers, willing and able to suggest alternative 
policies, and even to make commitments to Indian rulers that would be hon- 
oured even though a governor-general might disagree with them. 


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The British treaty system created a structure in which the British directly 
ruled a combination of those parts of India held by any major aspirant to a 
centralised imperial status, from the Mauryan Empire to the Congress Party, 
with those parts of India prized by seaborne traders, whether foreigners such as 
Arabs or indigenous south Indian kings. Thus British India was an innovator 
in its administrative integration of the Indo-Gangetic Plain with the ports and 
coastal plains of the triangular subcontinent, from the mouth of the Indus to 
the mouth of the Ganges. But no state at Delhi ever sought to govern directly 
the Thar desert area of Rajasthan, the remote salt flats of Cutch, or the jungly 
tracts of central India and Orissa. The British system of indirect rule over 
Indian states and a limited raj even in directly ruled areas such as Bihar and the 
United Provinces provided a model for the efficient use of scarce monetary and 
personnel resources that could be adopted to imperial acquisitions in Malaya 
and Africa. Thus there were multiple reasons why the British continued a 
system of indirect rule after they were clearly the dominant power in India. 
Moreover, the dialectic between British intervention and non-intervention in 
princely states continued to exist until 1947. 


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Throughout their imperial tenure in India, British administrators described 
and categorised Indian legal practices, religious beliefs and rituals, social struc- 
tures and customs, and languages and literatures. British officials in India and 
in the metropole used these data to construct a static, underdeveloped India 
that legitimated British political dominance. This knowledge was not disin- 
terested or objective but imbricated with political power. Analysed by Edward 
Said as Orientalism, this information has also been termed colonial sociology 
or, more broadly, colonial knowledge.’ More recently, C. A. Bayly has argued 
that Indians participated significantly in the creation of the British information 
order, which remained contested and incomplete.” Although these intellectual 
constructions and scholarship have focused on the directly ruled territory and 
peoples of British India, several subsumed the indirectly ruled domains and 
peoples of princely states. They included gazetteers that were compendia of 
geographical, historical and statistical data; the Great Trigonometrical Survey 
that supposedly provided a scientific skeleton for surveys, mapping and a spa- 
tial conception of India; and decennial censuses issued from 1871.3 After 1858 
colonial knowledge specifically targeted the princes and their states. 

Initially British officials discovered that there were relatively few documen- 
tary bricks with which to erect the intellectual framework of indirect rule. 
Treaties had been concluded depending on the exigencies of war, financial need, 
personal inclinations of men on the spot, internal politics of the Company, and 
a state’s relationship to the Mughal Empire or other indigenous political enti- 
ties. There were few documents of explication and no comprehensive collection 
of treaties or other legal documents such as sanads and letters of understanding. 
There was no accepted definition of an Indian prince and no authoritative list 
of those recognised as princes. Using data from archives, surveys, maps and 

! Two influential sources are Bernard S$. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in 
India (Princeton NJ, 1996) and Inden, /magining India. 

2 C. A. Bayly, Empire, ch. 2 and conclusion. 

3 Edney, Mapping, pp. 318-40; Bernard S. Cohn, ‘The Census, Social Structure and Objectification 
in South Asia’, Folk 26 (1986), pp. 30-8. 


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censuses, British officials defined and enumerated Indian princes; naturalised 
princely associations with their British sovereign in London and her represen- 
tatives in India; and demarcated appropriate relationships between princes and 
their subjects. 

During the second half of the nineteenth century the number of Indian 
princes multiplied, and it remains difficult to trace the chronology of this 
inflation and the reasons for it. As mentioned in Chapter 3, the British had 
concluded treaties with about forty princes. When Lord Canning, governor- 
general and the first viceroy from 1856 to 1862, extended sanads guaranteeing 
the right of princes to adopt heirs subject to British confirmation, the need 
to limit them to ruling princes was widely discussed. Approximately 140 such 
sanads were granted on 11 March 1862.‘ Later another twenty were tendered, 
mainly in Kathiawar. However, by the last decades of the nineteenth century, 
references to 500-600 Indian princes began to appear in both official and 
popular publications. The largest concentrations were in western and central 
India where the British policy to treat petty chieftains as rulers created many 
princes lacking much internal autonomy. Like the diverse and supposedly 
divisive caste and religious groups of India, this large number of disparate, 
dependent rulers was one more justification for a strong, impartial overlord, 
namely the British GOI, to maintain order. 

The British also tallied the population of the princely states. By 1881 the 
largest had their own census commissioners, initially someone loaned from the 
Indian Civil Service and increasingly an Indian officer; census officials from 
neighbouring British Indian provinces counted the smaller ones. The princes 
now had extensive data on their subjects. But there is little research on how 
the princes used this newly acquired information to enhance their control 
within their states or their relationship to their British overlord. There is one 
exception to this: Robin Jeffrey, who has illuminated how the subjects of one 
prince employed such data. In Travancore the first ‘scientific’ census of 1875 
disclosed that nayars constituted about 20 per cent of the population instead 
of the 30 per cent that earlier censuses had estimated. Subsequently Syrian 
Christians and lower-caste groups used census data to claim their civil rights 
and a greater share of government positions.° 

Besides formulating a hierarchy of numbers, the British regularised a salute 
table that ranked both Britons and Indians, including princes, by gun salutes 
in relation to their common suzerain, the British Crown. At the pinnacle, 
Queen Victoria had a salute that rose to 101 guns when she acquired the title 

4 Quanungo, ‘Study,’ pp. 264. 5 Jeffrey, Decline, passim but esp. p. 14. 


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of Empress of India in 1877. The governor-general, who assumed the title of 
viceroy in 1858 as the representative of the monarch within the GOI, came 
next, along with other members of the British royal family, with a more modest 
salute of thirty-one guns. The rank of twenty-one guns eventually included five 
princes: the rulers of Hyderabad, the most populous state; Kashmir, the largest 
in territory; Mysore, third in size and population; and Baroda and Gwalior, 
the principal remnants of the Maratha polity. Nine was the lowest level. Each 
succeeding category included more princes, so the salute table resembled a 
pyramid with 9-gun princes at the base. (Interestingly, the governors of the 
three British presidencies were assigned seventeen guns, lieutenant-governors 
of the other British provinces fifteen until the 1920s when they were granted 
the title of governor and elevated to seventeen, and residents had thirteen 
guns.) Rulers and states were assigned salutes according to diverse criteria: 
historical importance such as relationship to the Mughal Empire; regional 
status; extent of territory; size of population; conspicuous service to the British; 
and later modernising reforms. There were anomalies at all levels that neither 
the British nor the princes, despite their shared aptitude for classification, could 
ever resolve. Gradually the British resorted to a system of local salutes enjoyed 
within a state and personal salutes that were granted to a ruler for his or her life 
as a reward or possibly a sop to silence a clamorous petitioner. Salutes became 
particularly contentious as princes and the British met more often in formal 
settings where salutes would be fired. 


Durbars, the formal occasions when the princes met with British represen- 
tatives — either local political agents, the viceroy, or more rarely members of 
the royal family — encoded British ideas about their relationships with Indian 
princes. As durbars became more frequent with easier transportation by rail- 
way, their protocol became more precise. Regulations evolved about where a 
prince greeted the British official upon arrival, how many officials accompa- 
nied the British official and the prince, seating arrangements, and appropriate 
dress. These rituals were most elaborate for the highly coveted status symbol 
of a visit by a viceroy or a member of the British royal family to an individ- 
ual princely state. Earlier governors-general such as Lord Amherst (1823-28) 
had made extended tours, but Lord Canning (1856-62) was the first to visit 
systematically the princely states after 1858 in order to distribute rewards for 
faithful service during the revolt. In 1869 the Duke of Edinburgh was the 


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first member of the royal family to tour India, and in 1875-76 the Prince 
of Wales undertook a highly publicised tour that stopped in several princely 
states.° States developed distinctive attractions to entertain visitors, such as the 
keddah or elephant round-ups in Mysore and sand grouse shoots in Bikaner. 
Although these staged events were financially burdensome for their subjects, 
princes esteemed them as signs of imperial favour. The British in turn used 
such excursions as rewards and withheld them in retaliation for alleged misbe- 
haviour. Moreover, these meetings could serve British political purposes, as in 
1920-21 when the Prince of Wales gained a respite from nationalist protests in 
British India in the princely states, where he could also display his masculinity 
in pig-sticking, polo and tiger-shooting.’ But the most significant ritual arenas 
for the articulation of British ideas about their relationship to the princes were 
the Imperial Assemblage of 1877 and the Imperial Durbars of 1903 and 1911 
at Delhi. 
Bernard Cohn has argued that after 1858 the British enunciated 

two divergent or even contradictory theories of rule: one which sought to maintain India 
as a feudal order, and the other looking towards changes which would inevitably lead to 
the destruction of this feudal order . . . If India were to be ruled in a feudal mode, then an 
Indian aristocracy had to be recognized and/or created, which could play the part of ‘loyal 
feudatories’ to their British queen.® 

For Cohn, the Imperial Assemblage at Delhi on 1 January 1877, when Queen 
Victoria was declared Kaiser-i-Hind or Empress of India in a carefully orches- 
trated gathering of British and Indians that prominently displayed sixty-three 
ruling princes, was the cynosure of this feudal mode. Disraeli as prime minister, 
Lord Salisbury as secretary of state for India, and Lord Lytton, the recently ar- 
rived viceroy, were the principal architects of this spectacle. Specialists designed 
the site, its structure, uniforms for the participants, and even created banners 
with coats of arms for the princes. These banners, with both British and Indian 
iconography, replaced the earlier Mughal exchange of nazar (gold coins) and 
peshkash (valued objects) with clients for khilats (robes of honour that had 
been touched to the superior’s body). The Mughal practice had symbolised 
the incorporation of the recipient into the person of the ruler, but the British 

© Two eyewitness accounts are J. Drew Gay, The Prince of Wales in India: From Pall Mall to the Punjaub 
(New York, 1877) and Val. C. Prinsep, /mperial India: An Artist’ Journal (London [1877?]). Gay was 
a correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph, and Prinsep, from an old Anglo-Indian family, was 
commissioned to paint a portrait of the Imperial Assemblage for Queen Victoria. 

7 L. E Rushbrook Williams, The History of the Indian Tour of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales 1921-22 
(Calcutta, 1922); Bernard C. Ellison, H. R. H. The Prince of Wales’ Sport in India (London, 1925). 

8 Bernard S. Cohn, ‘Representing Authority in Victorian India’, in Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger 
(eds), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 1983), p. 166. 


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one indicated a linear hierarchic order in which princes now owed fealty and 
obedience to their liege lord, the empress, from whose representative they had 
received their banners.? 

A third arena that reinforced the notion of a feudal hierarchy was the new 
orders of royal knighthoods that the British had instituted in the aftermath of 
1857 to reward loyal Indian allies as well as status-conscious British officials. 
The Order of the Star of India, which included both princes and British military 
and civilian officers, was established in 1861 with twenty-five members. The 
maharajas of Gwalior and Patiala, who remained loyal in 1857, were its first 
princely initiates. The insignia included a necklace with alternating Tudor roses 
and Indian lotuses with the image of the Queen on a pendant. 

Some rulers, such as the nizam of Hyderabad, refused to wear the insignia 
because of Muslim injunctions against any representation of the human form.!° 
But many other princes as well as British officials sought inclusion in the 
Order, and after 1865 the Star of India Order was expanded to three levels 
to accommodate hundreds of knighthoods. Subsequently more orders were 
instituted to recognise other categories of aspiring Britons and Indians. 

Salute tables, imperial orders, and imperial rituals such as the Imperial 
Assemblage of 1877 and visits of British officials to the states are key evidence 
for David Cannadine’s argument that bonds of class and status linked the 
empire to the metropole. However, his description of imperialism as ornamen- 
talism, which he defines as ‘hierarchy made visible, immanent and actual’,'! 
ironed flat the wrinkled texture of the cloth of British perceptions and poli- 
cies towards the princes of India and how these changed over time and place. 
Imperial officials attempted to constitute the princes into a feudal hierarchy 
and promoted them as natural leaders; they also constrained, pressured, re- 
stricted and deposed them when it was expedient to strengthen or maintain 
their political power and to gain economic benefits. 


Bureaucratic codifications 

Although the salute table, durbar rituals and honours provoked reams of cor- 
respondence requesting higher positions from disgruntled princes and British 

? Ibid., pp. 185-96. 
10 Bernard S. Cohn, ‘Cloth, Clothes and Colonialism: India in the Nineteenth Century,’ in Colonialism, 
pp. 119-20. 
11 David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (New York, 2001), p. 122. 


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= ~ . Po 

Maharaja Jaswant Singh of Marwar/Jodhpur with Star of India. 

officials, they were a concrete, multifaceted ranking system, as Cannadine has 
asserted, that both British and princely participants understood. It was far more 
difficult to achieve agreement on the codification of the theory and the prece- 
dents that reputedly guided British policies. When some foreign department 
officials confronted this task after 1858, they found little besides a survey of the 


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Company’s relations with selected states that John Sutherland, who had served 
in the major posts of Hyderabad, Delhi, Gwalior and Rajasthan, had compiled 
in 1833; a few departmental memoranda; letters from governors-general and 
British political agents to individual princes which enunciated principles that 
became precedents for other cases; speeches by governors-general; and scattered 
treaties. To provide a basic reference, Sir Charles U. Aitchison (1832-96), the 
foreign secretary from 1870 to 1877 and lieutenant-governor of Punjab from 
1882 to 1888, edited a Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sanads Relating 
to India. 

It first appeared in 1862, was continually updated, and eventually reached 
fourteen volumes by the fifth edition published from 1929 to 1933. Each 
volume focused on particular states or regions including frontier and border 
areas extending from Siam in the east to Aden in the west. Besides including 
legal documents, each section began with a narrative of British relations with 
that particular state which appeared as potted histories in other reference works 
such as the Memorandum on Indian States issued periodically as a handbook 
for political officers. As a complement to Aitchison, Sir H. Mortimer Durand 
(1850-1924), another foreign secretary (1885-93) best known for his service 
in Afghanistan and Persia and as a boundary-maker, compiled Leading Cases, a 
selection of past decisions in disputes between the British and individual states. 
His collection yielded precedents that the British had introduced as concepts 
into Indian law in areas where treaties were silent. 

Other British officials developed theoretical justifications for both past and 
future British policies. In an 1864 minute on the Kathiawar states, Sir Henry 
Maine (1822-88), the noted legal scholar and law member of the governor- 
general’s Executive Council (1862-69), argued that sovereignty was divisible. 

Sovereignty is a term which, in international law, indicates a well-ascertained assemblage of 
separate powers or privileges. The rights which form part of the aggregate are specifically 
named by the publicists, who distinguish them as the right to make war and peace, the 
right to administer civil and criminal justice, the right to legislate, and so forth. A sovereign 
who possesses the whole of this aggregate of rights is called an independent sovereign, but 
there is not, nor has there ever been, anything in international law to prevent some of those 
rights being lodged with one possessor and some with another. Sovereignty has always been 
regarded as divisible.'? 

This interpretation of sovereignty meant that the British, as the only ‘indepen- 
dent’ sovereign, suzerain or paramount power, had exclusive control over such 

12 Minute by Sir Henry Maine dated 22 March 1864 in Sever, Documents, vol. 1, p. 251. Emphasis in 

the original. 


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Sir Charles U. Aitchison 


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sovereign rights as war and foreign relations, while Indian princes could collect 
revenues and administer justice within their states. If sovereignty were indivis- 
ible, then the British would not have any legal ground to maintain alliances 
with the princely states. ! 

The convenient concept of usage was elaborated in 1877. T. H. Thornton, 
briefly the acting foreign secretary but without any service in a princely state, 


For a proper understanding of the relationship between the British Government and the 
Natives States regard must be had to the incidents of the de facto supremacy as well as to the 
treaties and charters in which the reciprocal rights and obligations have been recorded... A 
uniform and and long-continued course of practice acquiesced in by the party against whom 
it tells. . . must be held to exhibit the relations which in fact subsist between them.'4 

Princely toleration of practices implied consent, and thus the precedent 
of usage was created. According to Lee-Warner, usage ‘amends and adapts 
to circumstances duties that are embodied in treaties of ancient date, and 
it supplies numerous omissions from the category of duties so recorded’.'* 
Besides providing flexibility in a haphazard collection of treaties that had been 
concluded in particular times and circumstances, usage enabled the British to 
reinterpret inconvenient clauses and promises to serve current strategic needs. 
In short, usage could rationalise breaking promises made in treaties and sanads. 

Discussed in Chapter 3 with regard to their periodisation of the relations 
between the British and the princely states, William Lee-Warner and Charles 
Lewis Tupper worked ‘to bring system and uniformity into the disordered world 
of Indian feudatory policy’.!° Competitors for official favour, both men had 
limited service in the princely states and worked mainly at provincial capitals — 
Tupper in Punjab and Lee-Warner in Bombay. So their theories tended to be 
based on documentary evidence and not direct field experience. Asserting that 
the ties between the British and the princes were constitutional, Lee-Warner 
based much of his argument on Durand and sought the assignment to revise 
Durand’s compilation. 

In Our Indian Protectorate, published in 1893, Tupper contended that the 
relationship between the states and the British Raj was essentially a feudal 
one since ‘the Indian Protectorate rests on ideas which are fundamentally 
indigenous ... There were many tendencies making for feudalism in the India 
of our predecessors; and... our protection has been sought in India as vassals 

13 | am grateful to an anonymous reviewer who pointed out the significance of this distinction. 
18 Quoted in Copland, British Raj, pp. 214-15. 
5 Lee-Warner, Native States, p. 204. 16 Copland, British Raj, p. 217. 


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sought the protection of their lords’. Tupper cited Charles Metcalfe, who wrote 
of the requests of Rajput princes for treaties in 1816 that Rajputs ‘say that there 
has always existed some power in India to which peaceable states submitted, 
and in return, obtained its protection’.!” Since the vision of princes as feudal 
vassals was congenial to many officials, Tupper was chosen to update Durand. 
He eventually produced the three volumes, plus an index, of Indian Political 
Practice, printed privately in 1895 for the use of British political officers.'® 

Tupper’s work was to remain the classic reference, but later documents and 
manuals reflected evolving British theories and practices. Sir Harcourt Butler, 
the foreign secretary from 1907 to 1910, who had never been in the political 
service before being appointed its head, issued an influential handing-over note 
for his successor that strongly advocated less interference in princely affairs. In 
1917 anew edition of the Manual of Instructions for Political Officers attempted 
to regularise procedures. These documents were particularly important in the 
absence of any formal training for political officers. 

Definitions of paramountcy and usage 

During the late nineteenth century, British officials invoked paramountcy and 
usage to justify diverse policies. In 1877 Lytton advised Lord Salisbury, his su- 
perior in London, that “[t]he paramount supremacy of the British Government 
is a thing of gradual growth; it has been established partly by conquest; partly 
by treaty; partly by usage’.!? Thus paramountcy would buttress the British 
right to confirm all successions to the gaddi in princely states; the extension 
of British jurisdiction over railway lines that crossed the borders of states; in- 
tervention in struggles between princes and their nobles; and the extension of 
advice to princes about the need to improve or reform their administrations. 
Although many Indian princes had complained individually throughout the 
nineteenth century against British encroachment in their internal affairs, by 
the beginning of the twentieth century some began to protest collectively in 
new sites of constitutional debate and legal inquiry. The Chamber of Princes 
(to be discussed below) was the primary locus of this challenge. Another was 
the Indian States Committee that Lord Irwin, viceroy from 1926 to 1931, 
appointed in 1928 to investigate princely grievances. Chaired by Harcourt 
Butler, an advocate of minimal interference in princely state affairs, with 
W. H. Holdsworth, a distinguished jurist, and Sidney Peel, a financier with 

7 Tupper, Indian Protectorate, p. 240. 

18.6. L, Tupper (comp.), Indian Political Practice: A Collection of the Decisions of the Government of 
India in Political Cases, 4 vols. (Delhi, 1974 reprint of 1895 edn.) 

9 Despatch dated 11 June 1877, in Tupper, Practice, vol. 1, p. 7. 


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experience in the City and in Parliament, as the other members, this Com- 
mittee refused to define paramountcy. It concluded that ‘[p]aramountcy must 
remain paramount; it must fulfil its obligations, defining or adapting itself 
according to the shifting necessities of time and the progressive development 
of the States’.”° It rejected the contractual basis for the British relationship 
with the princes that Lee-Warner had advanced and that the princes and Leslie 
Scott, their expensive King’s Counsel, had revived. The British made their 
last effort to resolve the constitutional relationship between themselves and 
the princes and the princely states and British Indian provinces in a federal 
structure enshrined in the Government of India Act of 1935 that promised re- 
sponsible government with fully elected ministries in British Indian provinces. 
This aborted solution will be discussed in Chapter 8. 

British officials were not the only group constructing images and theories 
of the native states. Indians produced histories and reference works on the 
Indian princes and their states. Surendra Nath Roy, a vakil at the high court in 
Calcutta, published one volume on Gwalior of an incomplete multi-volume 
project entitled History of the Native States of India. Roy sought ‘to let war- 
like nations know that among our “imbecile” princes and chiefs could yet be 
found brave and patriotic men who would prove matches for any warriors 
of ancient and modern times who could be named’.*! In some cases the au- 
thors or editors appear to be oriented to profit rather than policy. A. Vadivelu 
produced The Ruling Chiefs, Nobles and Zamindars of India, a compendium 
whose uneven quality might be related to subventions from individuals listed 
or to possibly unacknowledged collaborators. His inclusion of large landlords 
and zamindars blurred the category of what constituted an Indian prince. His 
volume, however, provided a counterpoint to such British references as G. R. 
Aberigh-Mackay’s The Native Chiefs and Their States in 1877.” 



Although Company servants called political officers negotiated with Indian 
rulers from the 1760s onward, they were only organised into a formal Indian 

20 Report of the Indian States Committee, p. 31. 

21 Surendra Nath Roy, A History of the Native States of India, vol. 1, Gwalior (Calcutta, 1888), p. ii. 

22 A Vadivelu, The Ruling Chiefs, Nobles & Zamindars of India, vol. 1 (Madras, 1915); G. R. Aberigh— 
Mackay (comp.), The Native Chiefs and Their States in 1877: A Manual of Reference, 2nd edn with 
index (Bombay, 1878). 


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Political Service in 1937 on the eve of their demise.?> Cornwallis initiated 
bureaucratic specialisation to eliminate corruption and to increase efficiency. 
Company officers had to choose between the commercial and the adminis- 
trative branches, the latter including revenue collection, judicial work, and 
relations with Indian states. Those who negotiated with Indian states were 
called foreign or political officers and the three presidencies appointed them 
as needed. Michael Fisher has outlined three broad phases in the development 
of the political service under Company rule. From 1764 to 1797 residents and 
political agents were diplomatic agents negotiating between equals. By 1840 
there were 116 political officers who exercised increasing hegemony vis-a-vis 
the princes. From 1841 to 1856 their number contracted to fifty-one as fewer 
political officers were posted to Indian states.”4 In 1843 the GOI organised 
a foreign department that oversaw relations with frontier areas and external 
states such as those in the Persian Gulf as well as the princes. In 1914 this 
entity was renamed the foreign and political department. 

Despite the efforts of governors-general to consolidate political officers un- 
der central control, the Bombay Political Service was only the most prominent 
of the continuing provincial cadres of political officers.” A major confrontation 
between the GOI at Calcutta and the Bombay Government during the 1870s 
over affairs in Baroda epitomised the ongoing tensions within the imperial 
structure over policy and its implementation.”° When the Bombay Govern- 
ment appointed Colonel Robert Phayre as resident in Baroda in 1873, he 
embodied the Bombay orientation to a mission civilisatrice and tactlessly in- 
tervened in internal affairs of the Baroda durbar, even seeking the dismissal 
of the eminent Indian nationalist Dadabhai Naoroji from the post of diwan. 
Gaekwad Malhar Rao vigorously opposed the resident's activities, and the 
GOI’s commitment to non-intervention led them to demand that Bombay 
dismiss Phayre. After an alleged attempt by the Baroda durbar to poison the 
resident with diamond dust, the GOI secured Phayre’s removal, took over 
control of Baroda from Bombay, and eventually deposed Malhar Rao. This 
episode highlights the inconsistencies between theory and practice as well as 

23 Terence Creagh Coen, The Indian Political Service: A Study in Indirect Rule (London, 1971), a general 
overview by a former political officer; W. Murray Hogben, The Foreign and Political Department 
of India, 1876-1919: A Study in Imperial Careers and Attitudes, PhD thesis, University of Toronto 

24 Fisher, Indirect Rule, pp. 54-9, 72-7. 

25 Tan Copland, The Bombay Political Service, 1863-1924, PhD thesis, Oxford University (1969); 
Copland, British Raj, chs 2, 4. 

26 LES. Copland, ‘The Baroda Crisis of 1873-77: A Study in Governmental Rivalry’, MAS 2 (1968), 
pp. 97-123. 


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the existence of continuing bureaucratic rivalries within the British imperial 

The final act in this bureaucratic drama occurred four decades later. In 
1919 when the Indian Councils Act introduced some elected Indian minis- 
ters into provincial governments, Edwin S. Montagu, the secretary of state 
for India (1917-22), and Lord Chelmsford, the governor-general (1916-21), 
recommended that states in direct relationship with provincial governors be 
transferred to the central government. Ostensibly this change would consoli- 
date lines of communication, but there was growing concern within the GOI 
about the impact of elected, responsible Indian ministers in the provincial gov- 
ernments on relations with the Indian princes. Two governors argued strongly 
against the transfer: Sir George Lloyd of Bombay (1918-23), who conducted 
relations with numerous states, estates and shareholders of western India and 
the Deccan, and Sir Michael O’ Dwyer of Punjab (1913-19), who had served 
in several states before his greater notoriety as the civilian authority condoning 
the firing at Amritsar in 1919. They countered that the GOI would be too 
distant from the smaller states, whose territories were often dispersed within 
their respective provinces, and that governers feared the loss of status for their 
governorships if the princes were transferred, of control over these safe havens 
from nationalist agitators, and of patronage over the political appointments in 
these states. After some vacillation, the princes generally endorsed direct rela- 
tions. Upon the departure of O’ Dwyer and Lloyd from India, the bureaucratic 
continuity of the GOI effected the transfer of the Punjab states in 1921 and 
the western Indian states in 1924.7 

Because of the special relationship between the British Crown and the 
princes, the governor-general headed the foreign department, with a secre- 
tary supervising its daily operation. Usually the foreign or, after 1914, the 
political secretary had had a career in the provincial and central secretariats 
of British India, such as Lee-Warner, rather than service in princely states. 
Personal contact paved the way to such promotions, and extensive field ex- 
perience might make it difficult to formulate a supposedly rational code for 
universal application. The influence of political secretaries varied. Under an 
authoritarian viceroy such as Lord Curzon, they were faceless bureaucrats. But 
Harcourt Butler, who had no experience in the princely states, was a forceful 
foreign secretary from 1907 to 1910 since Lord Minto (1905-10) was more 
willing than Curzon to delegate authority and responsibility. Finally, the post 

27 Barbara N. Ramusack, The Princes in the Twilight of Empire: Dissolution of a Patron—Client System, 

1914-1939 (Columbus OH, 1978), pp. 85-8; Copland, British Raj, pp. 250-62. 


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could also serve as a dumping ground for controversial officials such as J. P. 
Thompson (1873-1935), the chief secretary of the Punjab Government dur- 
ing the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919, who was political secretary from 
1922 to 1927. 

The hierarchy within the political service mirrored the British ranking of 
their princely allies. At the apex, four to eight first-class residencies were re- 
sponsible for major states (those with a 21-gun salute) or large clusters of 
states such as those in Rajputana or Central India. The titles of these offi- 
cers changed over time; those who were responsible for one large state were 
termed residents and those overseeing several states were known as agents to 
the governor-general (AGGs). In 1937 the title of AGG was abolished and 
usually replaced by resident. With overall responsibility for as many as thirty 
states, AGGs were assisted by political agents in charge of smaller groups of 
states. On the next level were second-class residents, and on the third was the 
pool that supplied political agents and assistants to the residents. Recruits to 
the political service came from both the military and the ICS cadres. They had 
no formal training in either administration or the conduct of relations with 
the princes beyond a rudimentary examination on some departmental refer- 
ences such as Butler's Manual of Instructions*® and historical works, chiefly 
the ubiquitous Tod and Malcolm. The political service trusted to on-the-job 

Recruitment and personnel 

From the late eighteenth century there was an ongoing debate over the ap- 
propriate ratio of military and civilian officers in the political service.”? The 
Company's Court of Directors in London and many governors-general pre- 
ferred civilians to be dominant, as they were during the first phase of the 
Company’s expansion. However, as the newly annexed provinces under di- 
rect rule absorbed civilian officers, the military element in the political service 
climbed to 80 per cent during the 1830s before levelling off to 55 per cent 
during the 1850s. Both ICS and military officers frequently owed their ap- 
pointments more to patronage, either from a relative who had been a political 
officer or a mentoring senior officer at the provincial or central secretariat, than 
to any personal combination of talents. 

For military personnel accustomed to regimental duties, a transfer to the 
political service was a more crucial career change than for their civilian 

28 Manual of Instructions to Officers of Political Department, 2nd edn (Simla, 1924). 
29 Tan Copland, “The Other Guardians: Ideology and Performance in the Indian Political Service’, in 
Jeffrey, People, pp. 275-305. 


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counterparts, for whom the administrative work in a British Indian district 
had many similarities to political service, particularly if one were acting as re- 
gent for a minor ruler. Thus military men tended to stay in the political service 
while civilians moved more easily back into administration in British India. 
Although they were frequently denigrated by their civilian counterparts and 
their military brethren as either narrow or soft respectively, military men could 
be effective. Those with strong personalities and initiative could shape institu- 
tional relationships both within and between states and the British Raj. Others 
such as James Tod, who entered the Company’s army as a cadet in 1798 before 
he chronicled the Rajputs, produced regional histories and ethnographies that 
influenced generations of officials and historians. 

After the reorganisation of the GOI in 1858, military men remained domi- 
nant within the political service despite renewed pleas for more civilians. Lepel 
Griffin, author of The Rajahs of the Punjab (1873), argued for dividing the 
appointments equally after all had served a probation of two years in a British 
district. He emphasised the importance of selecting ‘patient, intelligent, self- 
reliant and discreet’ officers since they had a special influence in forming Indian 
opinions of the virtues of the British Government in princely states, ‘where 
the political agent is often the only Englishman with whom chief and people 
come in contact’.*” Based on his experience as AGG for the central Indian 
states (1881-88), Griffin also declared that the people there looked ‘to the 
English officer as their last and surest refuge against oppression, with the result 
that the people in India most attached to the Government, and most ready to 
obey its slightest wish, are often to be found among the population of native 

Such appeals were futile, and the basic ratio within the political service sta- 
bilised at 70 per cent officers from the Indian Army and 30 per cent civilian 
officers from the ICS.*” Copland has argued persuasively that the Bombay 
Government preferred military men because they were cheaper. Moreover, 
British officials alleged that men with military bearing, good character and 
athletic ability were needed to impress and influence the princes under their 
control.*? Expense, however, remained a significant factor. First, military offi- 
cers were carried on the army budget and not that of the GOI. Second, ICS 
officers received a higher pay equal to their level in the ICS, until 1925 when 
both military and civilian officers received equal pay for equal work but not 

3° Lepel Griffin, ‘Native India, AR 1 (April 1886), pp. 454-5. 3! Ibid., p. 452. 

32 W7, Murray Hogben, ‘An Imperial Dilemma: The Reluctant Indianization of the Indian Political 
Service,’ MAS 15 (1981), p. 752. 

33 Copland, British Raj, pp. 70-5. 


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equal pensions because of the differing formulae of the ICS and the Indian 

An even more vexatious question was the recruitment of Indians for the 
Indian political service. With limited personnel and little knowledge of the 
Persianised court ritual that governed relations with the Mughal Empire and 
the major princely states, the early British residents relied heavily on Indian 
employees for their language and literary skills and knowledge of court rituals. 
During the 1770s and 1780s Indians were occasionally allowed to function 
independently as vakils or agents for the British in negotiations with individual 
princes, but by the 1790s the British generally excluded Indians from the 
political service.*4 

Although Indians in the ICS only gradually increased from two in 1869 to 
367 (with 894 Europeans) in 1929, they were practically invisible in the politi- 
cal service. Despite the prodding of Indian members of the Central Legislative 
Assembly and supportive British members of the British Parliament, in 1921 
it was noted in the Legislative Assembly that Indians held less than 1 per cent 
of the posts above the Rs 1000 salary level in the foreign and political service. 
These few appointments were exclusively in the Northwest Frontier Province. 
Privately, British officials argued that the Indian princes objected to their re- 
lations being handled by Indians rather than British officials.*° In postings 
abroad, the British Foreign Office were concerned about the trustworthiness 
of Indian officers with access to cipher files and codes. Many British officials 
also held racial assumptions that Indian candidates lacked the decisiveness 
needed for success. The Lee Commission recommended that Indians should 
gradually constitute 25 per cent of the political service. By July 1947 there were 
124 political officers out of a cadre with an authorised strength of 180, and 
Indians held only seventeen posts, all on the northwest frontier or in the newly 
created external affairs ministry. W. Murray Hogben has analysed this phe- 
nomenon and concluded that the British political officers allowed their sense 
of racial-cum-moral superiority and their conservative departmental ethos to 
influence their policy decisions.*© 

This analysis overlooks two additional issues. First, during the twentieth cen- 
tury British ICS officers who disliked the growing democratisation in Britain 
and in India were attracted to the political service, where such democrati- 
sation was less evident.*” For example, Edward Wakefield (1903-69) trans- 
ferred from Punjab to the princely states because political service ‘opened up 

34 Fisher, Indirect Rule, chs 7, 8. 35 Hogben, ‘Imperial Dilemma’, pp. 757-8. 

36 Tbid., pp. 755-6, 766-8. 37 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 238-40. 


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a pleasing vista of possibilities and uncertainties’ and in the princely states 
he ‘would be out of range of irresponsible criticism from a hostile Legislative 
Assembly’.°8 The Jewel in the Crown, Paul Scott’s epic portrayal of the last years 
of the British rule in India, maintains a post-colonial fascination with the 
princely states as a refuge for many Britons and some Indians. Through the 
patronage of a well-connected aunt in Britain, Nigel Rowan gained an ap- 
pointment to the political service and worked to secure the accession of the 
Nawab of Mirat to independent India. Ronald Merrick, the anti-hero, sought 
refuge in the police service of the states where, as an authoritative father, he 
could treat Indians as children. Guy Perron, the sceptical observer, later wrote 
a dissertation on the princely states from 1830 to 1857; he was enchanted 
with hawking, a princely pastime, as was Sarah Layton. As independence ap- 
proached, Layton retreated to life in the princely state of Mirat and a relation- 
ship with one of its officials, Ahmad Kasim. Although his father was a promi- 
nent Congress Muslim politician and his brother joined the Indian National 
Army organised by Subhas Chandra Bose, Ahmad Kasim had remained in the 
political backwater of Mirat rather than becoming involved in British Indian 

Second, superior British officials who professed support of the demands for 
Indianisation acquiesced in the foot-dragging of conservative political officers 
and the sensitivities of the princes. Secretaries of state and viceroys were pos- 
sibly ready to accede to such requests when they deemed such concessions 
would not have major repercussions in British India. Thus Indianisation of 
the political service was a symbolic issue on which the British were willing to 
concede to their princely clients since they could respond to critics by saying 
that there was increasing Indianisation in the cadre serving in British Indian 

The viceroy, advised by his political secretary, had primary responsibil- 
ity for assignments in the political service. After 1858 many British offi- 
cials felt that political service was not the avenue to achieving administrative 
plums, although O’Dwyer and Bertrand J. Glancy (1941-47), who were gov- 
ernors in Punjab, and Francis Wylie, who served as governor in the Central 
Provinces (1938-40) and the United Provinces (1945-47), indicated that such 
mobility was possible. Within the political service, it was patronage, men- 
tors and seniority rather than initiative that facilitated promotions. Princes 
also influenced the placement and sometimes the appointment of political 

38 Edward Wakefield, Past Imperative: My Life in India, 1927-1947 (London, 1966), p. 81. 


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Political officers were, first and foremost, representatives of the Company and 
later the British Crown. Yet they were janus-faced functionaries. On the one 
hand they implemented policies decided in London, Calcutta and, after 1911 
Delhi, and practices codified in Calcutta and Delhi designed to enhance and 
protect British prerogatives. On the other hand they represented the princes 
within their jurisdicions to the GOI. During the Mughal period, nobles and 
allied princes maintained vakils as intermediaries and intelligence-gatherers 
at the imperial and provincial courts. Initially the British had allowed Indian 
rulers, especially pre-eminent ones such as Hyderabad, Mysore and Gwalior, 
to maintain vakils in Calcutta. During the 1790s restrictions were placed on 
this practice, until by the 1820s British political officers were to handle all 
relations between a ruler and the Company. 

These dual functions spawned continual disagreements within the British 
hierarchy. Political officers might judge policy formulated in distant capitals 
to be unworkable or destructive of British hegemony in the field. Extended 
service in a particular state might create sympathy for a ruler, his subjects 
and his culture that made it difficult to implement harsh policies. During the 
early nineteenth century some political officers such as John Malcolm were 
noted for their clement attitude towards their charges; James Tod retired from 
his post in Rajputana in 1822 because of growing criticism of his pro-Rajput 
orientation.*? Others such as Colonel Phayre in Baroda supervised state af- 
fairs more rigorously than the GOI thought expedient. During the twentieth 
century some political officers would prejudice princes against proposed con- 
stitutional reforms, especially federation during the 1930s. But such dissidents 
became less influential as the avenue to promotion lay through the secretariat 
and conformity to policy from above. 


Queen Victoria’s proclamation in November 1858 that there would be no 
further annexations and that indirect and direct rule would coexist has been 
considered a major shift in British policy towards the princes. In practice, 
however, elements of continuity persisted since transfers of territory did oc- 
cur. First, Lord Canning rewarded some princes who had actively assisted the 
British during 1857 with grants of territory. Jind, Patiala, Rampur, Gwalior, 

39 Banerjee, Rajput States, pp. 226-37. 


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Hyderabad and Bhopal received districts adjacent or near their states and 
Kapurthala gained two confiscated estates in Awadh.‘° New princely entities 
emerged with the formal recognition of Cooch Behar as a state in 1873, the 
designation of the maharaja of Banaras as an internally autonomous prince in 
1911, and the creation of Swat from tribal territory on the Afghan frontier 
between 1916 and 1926. The Wadiyar ruling family was reinstalled in Mysore 
in 1881. There were realignments of Kathi states in Saurashtra and lapses of 
estates such as Peint in Maharashtra to direct British rule.*! 

Although no major shifts in territory occurred, the territorial basis for state- 
hood was reaffirmed as boundaries were frozen and made more precise. Anoma- 
lous situations were created where districts of princely states swam in the sea of 
British India, chiefly in western and central India and in eastern Punjab. The 
often heard remark is that some princely states were so intertwined that they 
shared two sides of a street. But while the British would no longer use annex- 
ations or fear of annexations to intimidate princes, they had no intention of 
relinquishing their right to intervene in princely states to secure their imperial 

British policies about when and how to intervene in the princely states 
had long vacillated. In the early 1800s the Court of Directors in London, 
desiring cheap administration, enjoined its servants ‘not to interfere in the 
internal affairs of other states’. Its officers in India often thought otherwise. 
In 1825 Charles Metcalfe, then resident at Delhi and proposing intervention 
in a disputed succession at Bharatpur, claimed ‘we are continually compelled 
to deviate from this rule, which is found untenable in practice’.4* During 
the 1830s and 1840s the British remained ambivalent. In Rajputana the 
British, alarmed by the influence of militant Nath ascetics over Maharaja Man 
Singh II of Jodhpur, actively pursued the expulsion of the Naths.*? However, 
they refused to mediate in the more isolated states of Jaisalmer and Bikaner. 
This oscillation between intervention and laissez-faire continued after 1857. 
While they assumed a less overt profile in princely states affairs, the British 
argued that they retained the right and responsibility to mediate to ensure 
good government. The occasions for such interference form three clusters: 
succession, especially when adoption or minor rulers were involved; disputes 

40 Quanungo, ‘Study’, p. 262; Metcalf, Aftermath, pp. 222-3. 

4l Tam grateful to John McLeod for pointing out several of these transfers to me. 

42 Minute by Sir Charles Metcalfe, 1825, in Sever, Documents, vol. 1, p. 145. 

43 Daniel Gold, ‘The Instability of the King: Magical Insanity and the Yogis’ Power in the Politics 
of Jodhpur, 1803-1843’, in David N. Lorenzen (ed.) Bhakti Religion in North India: Community 
Identity and Political Action (Albany NY, 1995) pp. 120-32. 


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between princes and their nobility; and rationalisation of a state’s admin- 
istration. The British methods of intervention included ‘advice’ to a ruler, 
participation in a minority administration, the education of young princes, 
and ‘suggestions’ about the appointment of ministers. In practice there was 
considerable overlap among causes for interventions as well as the means of 
doing so. 

The politics of succession, adoption, and minority administrations 

The princes eagerly received the sanads of 1862, which permitted the adop- 
tion of children in accord with Hindu and Muslim customs and laws. But 
adoption sanads were a double-edged boon. While they assured the preserva- 
tion of princely dynasties, they also proclaimed that ‘[t]he British Government 
will recognise and confirm any adoption of a successor made by yourself or 
by any future Chief of your state’.“4 Invoking the authority of paramountcy 
and usage, the British gradually claimed that no succession, whether or not 
adoption was involved, would be valid without their assent. A state might not 
lapse, but the British could exert significant influence at the crucial transfer 
of power from one generation to another. Critical issues were the timing of 
adoptions, the appropriate role of widows, nobility (jagirdars and thakurs), 
and state officials in selecting heirs when there was no natural or adopted heir, 
and the principles on which the British approved adoptions and posthumous 

One of the most famous adoption cases occurred in Baroda. While a com- 
mission of inquiry was investigating charges of misgovernment and attempted 
assassination against Gaekwad Malhar Rao, Maharani Jamnabai, the widow 
of Malhar Rao’s predecessor, was ‘allowed to adopt... [anyone] whom the 
Government of India “may select” as the most suitable person’.*° The British, 
desiring to rationalise the administration, and the maharani, wanting to delay 
any challenge to her authority, both preferred to have a minor adopted. They 
agreed on a young village boy from the Kavlana branch of the Gaekwads who 
was renamed Sayaji Rao (b. 1863, r. 1881-1939) upon his adoption in 1875. 
Other adoptions that would set precedents included those at Kolhapur in 1871; 
Udaipur in 1874 where the maharani and the state council selected the heir 
(Sajjan Singh), the Maharana Sambhu Singh having died without adopting 
an heir; Alwar in 1874-75 where an election was held among female relatives 

44 Canning to Hindu Rulers, Sever, Documents, vol. 1, p. 245. 

45 Tupper, Practice, vol. 2, pp. 81-116. 

48 Fatesinghrao P. Gaekwad, Sayajirao of Baroda: The Prince and the Man (Bombay, 1989), p. 41. 
Emphasis in the original. 


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and jagirdars of the late ruler;#” Dhar in 1890; and Jhabua in 1893. At the 
other end of the political spectrum, in Mysore the British reluctantly agreed 
to recognise the adoption of an heir (Chamarajendra Wadiyar [d. 1894]) in 
1865 even though the maharaja had not received a sanad granting the right 
to adopt in 1862 since he was not then a ruling prince. Eventually the British 
returned control of Mysore state in 1881 to the adopted heir after an extended 
period of minority administration. 

K. M. Panikkar credits Lord Mayo, governor-general from 1869 to 1872, 
with establishing the practice of forceful intervention during minority admin- 
istrations.”? British officials frequently denigrated local appointees to councils 
of regencies as motivated by self-interest.°° Their most caustic criticism was 
directed at the minor ruler’s female relatives. Since the British did not have 
direct access to the zenana or women’s quarters, they were particularly anxious 
to reduce the influence of Indian women, whom they stereotyped as super- 
stitious and of doubtful morality. Here the British conflated their Orientalist 
concepts of the exoticism of Asian women, especially an uncontrolled sexuality 
and lack of intelligence, with British disdain for alternative sources of identity 
for young princes. 

Ostensibly to counter the zenana’s impact in the public sphere and to pre- 
serve the patrimony of young princes, British policy was to appoint a local 
political agent to the council of regency or to approve its membership. Such 
councils frequently rationalised princely administrations according to British 
models that furthered British economic and political interests. Their measures 
included reorganised administrative structures and judiciaries, state-managed 
forests and, most importantly, land revenue settlements. These settlements 
measured land, defined who was responsible for land taxes, the major source of 
state income, and set rates. They were crucial in shaping economic and social 
hierarchies in the princely states where agriculture was even more dominant 
than in British India, as well as in enhancing state revenues at the expense of 
both nobles and peasants. 

In western India during the peak year of 1876-77, almost half of the to- 
tal princely area, twenty-eight states with a combined area of 24000 square 

47 Edward S. Haynes, “The British Alteration of the Political System of Alwar State: Lineage Patrimo- 
nialism, Indirect Rule, and the Rajput Jagir System in an Indian “Princely” State, 1775-1920’, SH 
5, n.s. (1989), pp. 27-71. 

8, Hayavadana Rao (ed.), Mysore Gazetteer, 5 vols., new edn (Bangalore, 1930), vol. 2, part 4, 
pp. 2923-60. 

49 K_M. Panikkar, Indian States and the Government of India (London, 1930), p. 56. 

30 Ajit K. Neogy, The Paramount Power and the Princely States of India, 1858-1881 (Calcutta, 1979), 
pp. 76-7. 


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miles, was under minority administration.*! During the Baroda minority from 
1875 to 1881, the late Maharaja Fateh Singh Rao lamented that the British- 
sponsored diwan, T. Madhava Rao, was unnecessarily responsive to British 
requests for concessions in such areas as the manufacture of arms, opium, 
1°? For example, in 1880 the British secured Baroda’s 
agreement to implement a tax on toddy trees. Raising the price of toddy in 

salt, and even alcoho 

Baroda was designed to discourage smuggling from Baroda districts into south 
Gujarat, where the British were attempting to limit the consumption of alcohol 
through economic disincentives.” 

In Hyderabad, Mir Mahbub Ali Khan succeeded to the gaddi in 1869 
at the age of 2 and was only invested with full powers in 1884. Although 
Salar Jung, the diwan, and Nawab Shams-ul-Umra Amir-i-Kabir, a prominent 
noble, were to be co-administrators, the diwan recognised the British right 
‘to associate themselves with the education of the Nizam and the mode of 
administration of the state during his minority’.°4 Indeed the British secured 
substantial economic concessions during this period. One of the most con- 
sequential was to have Hyderabad underwrite at ruinous financial terms the 
construction of a broad-gauge railway connecting it with the Great Indian 
Peninsula Railway along a route that served British military strategy and not 
the economic growth of the state.*” Hyderabad also consented to prohibit the 
export of salt to British India, tightening the British monopoly on salt and 
increasing British revenues from this regressive tax. 

Frequent minority administrations in Rajputana and in the Punjab states 
and extensive British involvement raised other issues. During the minority 
of Mangal Singh in Alwar from 1874 to 1877, Alfred Lyall, the AGG for 
Rajputana, cautioned his superiors in Calcutta: 

The natural tendency of a system which makes the Political Agent necessarily responsible 
for good government during a minority is, I think, to draw the whole conduct of affairs 
more and more within his personal control... This tendency should, if possible, be to a 

certain degree guarded against, in order that the transfer of power at the end of the minority, 

should not involve a radical change of system.” 

31 Copland, British Raj, pp. 138, 300, 316. >2 Gaekwad, Sayajirao, pp. 67-73. 

>3 David Hardiman, ‘From Custom to Crime: Politics of Drinking in Colonial South Gujarat’, in 
Guha, Subaltern Studies IV, p. 126. 

>4 Vasant Kumar Bawa, The Nizam between Mughals and British: Hyderabad under Salar Jang 1 
(New Delhi, 1986), p. 52. 

>> Bharati Ray, ‘The Genesis of Railway Development in Hyderabad State: A Case Study in Nineteenth 
Century British Imperialism’, JESHR 21 (1984), pp. 45-59; Sethia, ‘Berar’, pp. 59-78. 

°6 AGGR to FSGOI, Camp Ajmer, 24 December 1874, Pol. A Progs, February 1875, 133, quoted in 
Haynes, ‘British Alteration’, p. 66. 


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To prevent a sharp break, Colonel P. W. Powlett, the political agent on the 
spot, interpreted this warning as a good reason for developing a state bureau- 
cracy that would continue the British-influenced system inaugurated during a 
minority. Thus he accelerated the trend towards the employment of western- 
educated Indian administrators from outside the state who grew in power at the 
expense of local jagirdars. This course was accelerated during the minority of 
Maharaja Jai Singh from 1892 to 1903 and widened the gulf between nobles 
and prince. 

Patiala state had minority administrations for thirty of the fifty years from 
1860 to 1910. Ajit Neogy discusses how the British felt that Indian members of 
the Regency Council during the minority of Mohinder Singh during the 1860s 
had ruined the character of the ruler and the quality of the administration.*” 
The British kept a tighter control over subsequent councils of regency, and 
under Curzon, loaned British officers effected changes that enhanced state 
control in Patiala. During the minority of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh (b. 1891, 
s. 1895, r. 1910-38), Major F Popham Young revised the land settlement in 
1901 and J. O. Warburton reorganised the police department. Although the 
British were not directly responsible for princes being unable to produce male 
heirs or being short-lived, they readily seized the opportunities offered. 

While ministers constructed centralised administrative and economic insti- 
tutions during minority regimes, British officials debated how best to prepare 
young princes to rule. Education that synthesised a British-style curriculum 
with indigenous elements so as not to estrange princes from their cultural her- 
itage and subjects became a panacea. It would reduce the zenana influence, 
broaden the horizons of the princes, and most importantly motivate rulers to 
continue the reforms and practices once the regency ended. The British tried 
two methods. One was the approval of British tutors for the princes if education 
within the state was deemed most appropriate. There was particular concern 
regarding the heirs of major states such as Nizam Mahbub Ali of Hyderabad, 
whose education was a contentious issue between Salar Jung, residents, and 
viceroys. The British desired a rigorous, western education while Salar Jung 
wanted instruction in Arabic as well as Urdu and English, in Muslim religious 
subjects, and control over the appointment of the British tutor.°® An alterna- 
tive occurred in Baroda when F. A. H. Elliot, an ICS officer, set up a small 
school in which the newly adopted, non-literate Sayaji Rao would be educated 
with eight to ten carefully selected pupils.” 

57 Neogy, Paramount Power, p. 76. 8 Bawa, Nizam, pp. 107-11. 
59 Stanley Rice, Life of Sayaji Rao III Maharaja of Baroda, 2 vol. (London, 1931), vol. 1, pp. 33-5. 


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By the 1870s the British decided that princes might be better educated as 
‘traditional’ rulers and partners in the imperial enterprise in the Indian equiv- 
alent of a British public school. The activist Mayo inaugurated the policy 
with the founding of Rajkumar College at Rajkot in 1870 for the education of 
princely sons from Kathiawar. The princes and gentry of Rajputana established 
Mayo College at Ajmer two years later. Its Indo-Saracenic campus was a synthe- 
sis of architectural elements from Dig, the eighteenth-century Jat capital near 
Agra that combined indigenous Hindu, Bengali and Mughal elements with 
British ones. The distinctive modern element was a prominent clock tower 
whose height symbolised British dominance, as the Qutb Minar in Delhi did 
the Muslim conquest. The clock’s hourly tolling would supposedly promote 
punctuality, discipline and order and a desirable modernity.©° Subsequently 
Aitchison College (1886) was erected at Lahore for princes from Punjab, Daly 
College (1898) at Indore for those from central India, and Rajkumar College 
at Raipur. Both British and Indians were critical of their graduates. Many felt 
that the young princes acquired the veneer of a public school education with 
its addiction to sports, some unfortunate vices, and little of the substance of a 
classical education or commitment to duty. In 1913 Lord Hardinge, viceroy 
from 1911 to 1916, called the first of two conferences of princes to discuss 
the establishment of a Higher Chiefs’ College in the new imperial capital of 
Delhi. Although this institution, intended to provide an all-India perspective 
for princes, never came into being, these conferences served as a stepping stone 
towards the Chamber of Princes. 

Balancing princes and nobles 
During the eighteenth century the relationship between a prince and his aris- 
tocracy was dynamic. A prince required military and civil support, but a fol- 
lower skilful in forming alliances, military leadership and the acquisition of 
material resources could become a ruler himself. Expanding British power 
reduced opportunities to create new states and restricted the latitude for no- 
bles to augment their political and material resources at the expense of their 
rulers. Many British officials who saw their relationship with the princes as a 
feudal one between lord and vassal inherited from the Mughal Empire were 
reluctant to interfere on behalf of vassals of their vassals. Others, using the 
analogy of the feudal barons and the Magna Carta, characterised the nobility 

60 Thomas R. Metcalf, An Imperial Vision: Indian Architecture and Britain’s Raj (Berkeley CA, 1989), 
pp. 66-80. 


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within a state as rightful co-sharers of power and a check on the autocracy 
of the princes. Once committed to the maintenence of the princes as al- 
lies after 1858, the British did not want civil war or brigandage threatening 
the survival of client princes. The imperial suzerain tried to mediate internal 
power struggles while it simultaneously pursued policies that exacerbated such 

Appealing to their role in the establishment of the state, nobles resented their 
loss of political clout, economic privileges and ritual status. As princes sought 
to rationalise their administrations, to extend control over their subjects and 
to enhance revenues, nobles became increasingly restive. They attempted to 
protect their interests by participating in the adoption of heirs, the education 
of minor heirs and the appointment of officials. Sometimes they resorted to 
poison for the quiet despatch of a ruler or to armed insurrections that could 
degenerate into outlawry, especially in more remote areas such as Saurasthra, 
the deserts of Rajputana and the rugged ravines of central India. The British de- 
risively labelled these processes court intrigues, perhaps because they reminded 
them of their own domestic politics in earlier eras or seemingly substanti- 
ated their Orientalist construction of Indian politics as the incoherent Other 
demonstrating the superiority of British institutions. 

But the British efforts to rationalise administrations heightened friction be- 
tween rulers and nobles. Centralised administrations employed an educated 
elite and required a secure financial base to pay for railways, telegraph sys- 
tems, roads, irrigation projects and disciplinary institutions such as schools, 
hospitals and prisons. The older aristocracy was affected in two ways. First, 
they frequently lacked the educational qualifications required for bureaucratic 
positions. By the 1870s Travancore and Hyderabad began to replace minis- 
ters drawn from a local nobility, who had an independent power base in their 
landholdings and networks of relatives, with western-educated Indians.°! In 
other states British as well as Indian officers were used. Second, the incomes of 
nobles were largely derived from lands that the ruler had alienated to them. As 
princes bolstered their income by restricting and if possible resuming jagirdari 
or zamindari rights and increasing rates of land revenue, the incomes of nobles 
as well as peasants were reduced. Scholarship has so far uncovered more op- 
position from nobles than from peasants — until the rise of popular agitations 
during the 1930s and 1940s. 

Gl Jeffrey, Decline; Karen Leonard, ‘Hyderabad: The Mulki-Non-Mulki Conflict’, in Jeffrey, People, 
pp. 65-106. 


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Different levels of the British hierarchy had conflicting ideas about how to 
handle disputes between rulers and their nobles. In Alwar bureaucrats from 
British India exacerbated the relationship between the ruler and his jagirdars.© 
In 1858 there was a jagirdari uprising against the so-called ‘Delhi diwans’ (two 
Muslim brothers), who were assuming significant control as officials within the 
state and allegedly attempting to convert to Islam Sheodan Singh, a minor who 
had succeeded as raja in 1857. After stifling the dispute, the British appointed 
a ruling council of jagirdars, but these lacked education, experience, and the 
required commitment to a modern-style administration. By 1870 brigandage 
and the possibility of open warfare intensified as some senior jagirdars protested 
their deteriorating status as marked in durbar ceremonies, the recruitment of 
non-Rajputs for a state military force in place of their jagirdari levies, and an 
alleged anti-Hindu stance of the prince as well as the growing authority of 
bureaucrats. Posted as political agent to Alwar to prevent civil war, Thomas 
Cadell advocated the removal of Sheodan Singh, who was imputed to have 
serious personal flaws: 

His removal would, I think, be a step toward the solution of the great ‘Chief versus Thakoor’ 
question. It would show that we are ready and able to punish a Chief, who, after repeated 
warnings, drives his nobles into rebellion... and it would be a lesson which, I am sure, is 
needed in many parts of Central India and Rajpootan.® 

The more distant Lord Mayo, while admitting that the raja’s acts were 
‘contemptible, spiteful and discreditable’, declared that Cadell ‘must make 
up his mind to put up with his [Sheodan Singh’s] petty annoyances, for I am 
determined to carry forbearance to its utmost limit’.4 Even an aborted assas- 
sination attempt on Cadell did not evict Sheodan Singh from remaining on 
the Alwar gaddi until his death in 1874. In contrast, Malhar Rao of Baroda 
was deposed the following year, partly because of a similar assault on a politi- 
cal officer. Not only did assorted levels of the British hierarchy have differing 
attitudes towards intervention, but the incidence of deposition varied. 
Meanwhile the jagirdars of Alwar would suffer further diminution of 
their prerogatives as ‘foreign’ administrators extended state authority through 
reformed land revenue settlements that ended jagirdari exemption from such 

62 Edward S. Haynes, ‘Alwar: Bureaucracy versus Traditional Rulership: Raja, Jagirdars and New 
Administrators, 1892-1910’, in ibid., pp. 32-64. 

63 Demi-official (confidential letter), PAA (Cadell) to AGGR (Keatinge), 1 September 1870, Pol. A 
Progs., October 1870, 167, quoted in Haynes, ‘British Alteration’, p. 55. 

64 Note which was a ‘Keep-with’ (KW) by Viceroy, 18 May 1871, Pol. A Progs., June 1871, quoted 
in ibid., p. 56. 


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taxes and forest policies brought grazing and common lands under state juris- 
diction. The British argument that these measures were a boon rather than 
a deliberate extension of state control is reflected in the memoirs of Sir 
Michael O’Dwyer, who revised the land settlements in Alwar and Bharat- 
pur from 1897 to 1901. Claiming that he ‘had experienced some difficulty 
in getting the State authorities to agree to my limiting the State share to 
two-thirds or three-fourths of the estimated rental’, O’Dwyer related that 
he ‘imposed an assessment about double of what I should have imposed on 
them if they had been British districts’. He asserted that ‘my assessments were 
welcomed by the people, and were regarded as decidedly moderate in com- 
parison with other Native States’.©° In contrast, Shail Mayaram criticises the 
British for their land and forest settlements, which created oppressive condi- 
tions for jagirdars and peasants alike and eventually precipitated Meo peasant 
revolts and British charges of financial mismanagement against Maharaja Jai 
Singh in Alwar.°° 

Support for social reform and rational administration 

Britain’s ambivalence about intervention or laissez-faire pervaded its promotion 
of social reform and efficient administration in the princely states. Although 
British officials claimed that after 1858 Indians themselves would have to in- 
augurate social reforms, the imperialists continued to exhort princes to take 
action on certain issues. In 1861 the GOI warned its AGG in Rajputana that 
the durbars under its jurisdiction should more vigorously prohibit sati, still 
practised in Rajputana. If a prince neglected his duty, the GOI threatened 
to ‘consider the propriety of reducing the number of guns with which the 
Chief of the State is saluted’, to demonstrate the displeasure of the Queen’s 
Government.” These instructions indicate the continuing British obsession 
with sati, which afflicted far fewer women than the less public practice of fe- 
male infanticide. The proposed punishment also indicates how the threat of 
a demotion subtly inculcated among the princes the value the British over- 
lord placed on salutes and titles as a system of rank. Rudyard Kipling satirised 
the fetishisation of honours and disparaged Indian indifference or opposi- 
tion to modernising, disciplinary institutions in ‘A Legend of the Foreign 


65 Sir Michael O'Dwyer, India as I Knew It 1885-1925, 3rd edn (London, 1926), p. 97. 

66 Shail Mayaram, Resisting Regimes: Myth, Memory and the Shaping of a Muslim Identity (Delhi, 1997), 
pp. 75-82. 

67 GOI to AGG in Rajputana, 20 December 1861 as quoted in Tupper, Practice, vol. 1, p. 78. These 
directives were also sent to the AGG in Central India. 


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Rustum Beg of Kolazai 
slightly backward Native State 
Lusted for a C.S.I. 

so he began to sanitate. 

Built a Gaol and Hospital 
nearly built a City drain 

Till his faithful subjects all 

thought their ruler was insane.°8 

Although Canning had hesitated to preach the doctrine of ‘good govern- 
ment’ to the princes, some of his successors did not. Both John Lawrence, 
governor-general from 1864 to 1869, who energetically proclaimed the gospel 
of public works, and Lord Mayo, his successor, fostered greater state con- 
trol through modernising institutions. The desired reforms included metalled 
roads and railways; public health measures, especially piped water, vaccina- 
tion campaigns and medical dispensaries; and elementary schools. Although 
some subsequent viceroys were more low-key, Lord Curzon, viceroy from 1899 
to 1905, epitomised British intrusion in princely administrative affairs and 
personal lives. 

Curzon’s ambivalent attitudes towards them indicate some of the problems 
created by the contradictory aims of British policy for the Indian princes. 
On the one hand this ambitious viceroy glorified the feudal image of the 
princes during the great imperial durbar held in 1903 to commemorate the 
coronation of Edward VII and considered the conservative Madho Singh II of 
Jaipur to be the ideal prince. On the other hand he wanted princes to be hard- 
working administrators but not too efficient. His personal favourite among 
the princes was Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior (b. 1876, s. 1886, 
r. 1894-1925) since, as he commented to the secretary of state in London, ‘In 
his (Scindia’s) remorseless propensity for looking into everything and probing 
it to the bottom, he rather reminds me of your humble servant’.”? David 
Cannadine uses an iconic photograph of Curzon and Madho Rao Scindia as a 
frontispiece in Ornamentalism to represent the ways in which Britons accepted 
the princes as their social equals and both sought to broadcast their hierarchical 
superiority through spectacular public rituals and buildings.”! 

68 T am indebted to Edward Haynes for this reference, Rudyard Kipling, ‘A Legend of the Foreign 
Office’, in Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Definitive Edition (Garden City NJ [1940]), p. 8. Originally 
published in Departmental Ditties, 1885. 

69 §.R. Ashton, British Policy towards the Indian States 1905-1939 (London, 1982), pp. 23-5, 45-7. 

7° Curzon to Lord George Hamilton, 26 November 1899, OIOC, MSS Eur F111/159 as quoted in 
ibid., p. 16. 

71 Cannadine, Ornamentalism, pp. 45-57. Despite the visual prominence given to Madho Rao of 
Gwalior, Cannadine later confuses him with Sayaji Rao of Baroda on p. 147. 


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Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia II of Gwalior and Lord Curzon in 1899 after shikar. 

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Although Sayaji Rao of Baroda was hailed for his progressive administration 
and social services, which included universal compulsory primary education, 
by Curzon’s standards the latter prince indulged in too frequent, extended 
stays in Europe at spas and first-class hotels. Some princes apparently retreated 
to Europe to avoid having to respond to British demands, much as Nawab 
Sa’adat Ali Khan of Awadh went on hunting trips in the 1810s to avoid 
such confrontations. Curzon responded as had the British resident in Awadh 
by requiring his personal permission before princes journeyed to Europe.’” 
Curzon and many British officials were racist in their desire to have the princes 
conform to British constructions of paternalistic and hard-working rulers and 
in their disdain for princes who challenged the self-image of the British as the 
only progressive administrators in India.” 

Under Curzon’s successor, there was a perceived shift to a policy of laissez- 
faire regarding governmental reforms. In an often quoted speech at a durbar 
in Udaipur on 3 November 1909, Lord Minto (1905-10) announced that 
he was ‘opposed to anything like pressure on Durbars with a view to intro- 
ducing British methods of administration’ and ‘preferred that reforms should 
emanate from Durbars themselves and grow up in harmony with the tra- 
ditions of the State’. Curzon and generations of political officers must have 
turned red with rage when Minto asserted that ‘[i]t is easy to overestimate 
the value of administrative efficiency’ and then added that ‘administrative ef- 
ficiency, if carried out on lines unsuited to local conditions, would lessen or 
impair the personal loyalty of the people to his rulers’. The viceroy tried to 
assuage wounded egos by claiming that he spoke ‘in no spirit of criticism’ but 
wanted to remind political officers ‘that they are not only the mouthpiece of 
Government and the custodians of Imperial policy’ but they are ‘to interpret 
the sentiments and aspirations of the Durbars’.”4 This speech reflected Minto’s 
aristocratic sentiments and those of his foreign secretary, Harcourt Butler, who 
had strongly supported the taluqdars of Awadh when governor of the United 

Many princes considered Minto’s speech to be their Magna Carta setting lim- 
its on their British suzerain. Most political officers committed to the promotion 

72 Fisher, Clash, p. 105. 

73 Manu Bhagavan, ‘Demystifying the “Ideal Progressive”: Resistance through Mimicked Modernity 
in Princely Baroda 1900-13’, MAS 35 (2001), pp. 385-409; Ian Copland, ‘Sayaji Rao Gaekwar 
and “Sedition”: The Dilemmas of an Indian Prince’, in Peter Robb and David Taylor (eds), Rule, 
Protest, Identity: Aspects of Modern South Asia (London, 1978), pp. 28-48. 

ie Quoted from Speeches by the Earl of Minto (Calcutta, 1911), pp. 321-6 in Sever, Documents, 
vol. 1, pp. 376-7. 

7> Ashton, British Policy, pp. 42-5; Copland, ‘Sayaji Rao Gaekwar’, pp. 30-1. 


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of reforms within the states saw it as an unwise constraint. S. R. Ashton agrees, 
arguing that non-interference permitted ‘a rapid deterioration of administra- 
tive standards in the states’ and made them ‘wholly unreliable allies’ since they 
no longer had the support of their subjects.”° But he ignores the fact that popu- 
lar expectations of governments changed dramatically from 1910 to the 1940s 
and that in 1947 many state subjects still respected and supported their rulers. 
Morever, Minto was responding to the immediate, strategic need to renew 
bonds between the British and the princes in the face of nationalist challenges 
that erupted dramatically in the agitation over the partition of Bengal in 1905 
and would escalate with Gandhian civil disobedience and peasant protests over 
economic hardship. By the late 1920s, Lord Irwin, the Conservative viceroy 
(1926-31) who was sympathetic to the princes, acknowledged the disadvan- 
tages of the ‘sledge-hammer’ policy of intervention and tried to persuade the 
princes to undertake significant internal reforms, particularly the establish- 
ment of an independent judiciary and a designated portion of state revenues 
as a privy purse, to head off political protests. Irwin met with the princes in 
Simla in 1927, circulated a note on the basics of good government, and tried to 
achieve through persuasion what Curzon sought through harangue.’” Laissez- 
faire remained a dominant motif in British policy but more subtle forms of 
intervention stayed in the British arsenal. 

Alternatives to annexation for trangressive princes 

Despite their overwhelming military power and the pervasiveness of their in- 
formal instruments of intimidation, the British still had to confront princely 
refusals to perform their expected roles on the imperial stage. There were two 
major issues. One was to delimit the boundaries between appropriate, inap- 
propriate and unacceptable princely behaviour. While arguing that ‘to draw a 
hard-and-fast line between cases for punishment and cases to be ignored would 
be impolitic in a high degree’, in 1895 Tupper declared: 

fost, that the British Government holds Ruling Chiefs responsible for the prevention and 
punishment of such barbarous practices as mutilation, torture, sati, samadh, impalement 
and the like; and secondly, that the British Government will not recognise the right of a 
Ruling Chief to order or secretly compass without trial the death of any person in his 
territories who has committed no offence, but has simply become obnoxious to him.’8 

76 Ashton, British Policy, pp. 197-8. 

77 Minutes of Conference at Simla on 6 May 1927, NAI, GOI, F&P, 1928, Pol, File No. 201—R and 
Note by Lord Irwin dated 14 June 1927, NAI, GOI, F&P, 1927, Pol, File No. 727. 

78 Tupper, Practice, vol. 1, p. 74. Emphasis in the original. 


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As with paramountcy, it was inexpedient to define and thereby limit what 
might be considered princely misconduct. At times political officers and some 
viceroys were prepared to tolerate behaviour unacceptable by British standards 
but bearable in Indian clients who, according to racist ideas, could not be 
expected to measure up to such lofty models. During the twentieth century 
the British would expand misconduct to include financial malfeasance and 
oppressive treatment of state subjects, particularly when it triggered popular 
protests that threatened neighbouring British Indian provinces. Even so, such 
misconduct might be overlooked if the prince had political value for the British 
or had forged a supportive network among political officers and viceroys in 
India or members of Parliament in London. 

The second concern was to develop effective deterrents once annexation 
was no longer a viable threat. Low-level sanctions ranged from the posting of 
a political agent to the denial of a viceregal visit, the demotion of a prince 
in the salute table, or the refusal of permission for a prince to travel outside 
his state. The next level was to require the appointment of an external official, 
either an Indian trained in British India or a British ICS officer, to a major post 
such as diwan or finance minister in the state administration. Some prominent 
examples were the British support initially for Salar Jung (diwan from 1853 to 
1883) and for his son in Hyderabad and for T: Madhava Rao (1828-91), an 
astute, western-educated Maratha from Thanjaur (Tanjore), in Baroda in 1875. 
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the British frequently 
used Indian surrogates in princely administrations with only an occasional 
British political officer. By the 1930s and 1940s, the number of British officers 
serving as prime minister in princely states had increased. They included M. 
Frederick Gauntlett as financial minister in Patiala during the 1930s, Francis 
Wylie as prime minister in Alwar in 1933, and Edward Wakefield as minister 
in charge in Rewa in 1943. Once again, Paul Scott reflects that reality in the 
person of Tusker Smalley, an unambitious, efficient army officer, who was 
deputed to Mudpore state, which his wife proclaimed as ‘the real India’.”” 

The appointment of a British prime minister could presage the more dras- 
tic measure of a commission of inquiry to investigate grievances against a 
ruler. The threat of such a commission sometimes impelled a ruler to relin- 
quish his powers temporarily or to abdicate permanently. Ashton has docu- 
mented fifteen princes who so reacted during the viceroyalty of Lord Curzon.®° 
Accusations of either public or private misbehaviour continued to trigger such 

79 Paul Scott, Staying On (London, 1978), p. 86. Emphasis in the original. 

80 Ashton, British Policy, p. 24. 


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responses until 1947. Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha (b. 1883, r. 1911- 
23), who was charged with abduction and illegal detention of prisoners from 
Patiala and British India, first moved outside his state and then abdicated 
in 1928.°! Maharaja Tukoji Rao III of Indore (b. 1890, r. 1911-1926, d. 1978) 
abdicated in 1926 rather than face a commission investigating his alleged in- 
volvement in the murder of the husband of a woman rumoured to be his 

Several princes were scrutinised by such commissions, and the varied conse- 
quences indicate how theory and practice diverged. A few survived after agree- 
ing to internal changes in government or spending patterns. Two prominent 
examples are Bhupinder Singh of Patiala and Hari Singh (b. 1895, r. 1925— 
48, d. 1961) of Jammu and Kashmir, who benefited from British and Indian 
advocates. After they advised Bhupinder Singh to curb his financial commit- 
ments and to appoint a finance minister who would oversee the payment of 
state debts, the British launched an official inquiry in 1930 in response to a 
highly critical report from the All-India States’ People’s Conference (AISPC) 
entitled Indictment of Patiala.®> They selected J. A. O. Fitzpatrick, the AGG 
for Punjab, who was certainly familiar with the state but someone the ma- 
haraja had suggested. Although his report exonerated the ruler, Fitzpatrick 
urged reforms in the judiciary and police. Despite vociferous campaigns by the 
AISPC and the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal (the local states’ people’s group), 
Bhupinder Singh retained his gaddi because of sympathetic British support- 
ers, his prominence in constitutional negotiations regarding the princes, and 
his shrewd participation in Sikh politics, where he divided his attackers.** As 
Harold Wilberforce-Bell, then officiating deputy-secretary in the political de- 
partment, noted, “We cannot afford to see a state of importance & position of 
Patiala crack’.®° 

In July 1931 Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir confronted 
demonstrations protesting at discriminatory measures towards the Muslim 
majority. The opposition escalated as the Ahmadiyyas, a heterodox Muslim 

81 Barbara N. Ramusack, ‘Incident at Nabha: Interaction between Indian States and British Indian 
Politics, JAS 28 (1969), pp. 563-77. 

82 Lord Reading, the governor-general, proposed an inquiry to Lord Birkenhead, secretary of state for 
India, 4 December 1925, OIOC, MSS Eur E 238/14. 

83 Indictment of Patiala: Being a Report of the Patiala Enquiry Committee Appointed by the Indian States’ 
People’s Conference (Bombay, 1930). 

84 Barbara N. Ramusack, ‘Punjab States: Maharajas and Gurdwaras: Patiala and the Sikh Community’, 
in Jeffrey, People, pp. 188-90; Ian Copland, The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire 1917-1947 
(Cambridge, 1997), pp. 81-2. 

85 Note by Wilberforce-Bell, 31 December 1929, OIOC, CR, R/1/19/509. 


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sect based in Punjab, and the Ahrars, an urban political party in Lahore, sent 
jathas to join Muslim comrades in Kashmir.*° B. J. Glancy, a senior political 
officer, chaired a commission of inquiry that included two Muslim and two 
Hindu members.*” Their report satisfied neither the Hindus nor the Muslims. 
Initially the GOI appeared ready to appoint a British administrator for the 
state, but lobbying by Nawab Hamidullah of Bhopal and two Kashmiri brah- 
mans, Tej Bahadur Sapru, a leading Liberal lawyer based in Allahabad, and K. 
N. Haksar, his relative through marriage, persuaded Hari Singh to dismiss key 
officials and Lord Willingdon, the viceroy (1931-37), to agree to the milder 
but still significant alternative of the appointment of E. J. Colvin as prime 
minister of Kashmir.8® Hari Singh faced an even more tumultuous future and 
would eventually be forced to live outside Kashmir in 1949 and to accept his 
son, Karan Singh (b. 1931), acting as his regent and then as head of state from 
1952.®° A third ruler, Maharaja Jai Singh (b. 1882, r. 1903-33, d. 1937) of 
Alwar, confronted popular resistance by the sizeable Meo Muslim minority 
beginning in 1932 over the state imposition of Hindi, the lack of educa- 
tional facilities for Muslims, and most importantly, oppressive taxation. After 
he refused to implement recommendations from a British commission and 
A. C. Lothian, the local political officer, the maharaja was deposed and exiled 
in 1933 and died in Paris in 1937.”° Having developed a reputation for cruelty 
to animals and people as well as irrational demands for deference, Jai Singh 
could expect little indulgence. 

The ultimate British sanction of recalcitrant princes was deposition. The 
most prominent deposition was that of Gaekwad Malhar Rao of Baroda. As 
discussed earlier, this ruler had been caught in bureaucratic crossfire between 
differing British policies towards the princely states. Lord Salisbury, the secre- 
tary of state in London, even proposed to make an example of Malhar Rao’s 
misgovernment by transferring some of Baroda’s territory to a prince ‘who had 
behaved well’.?! Despite opposition from Bombay and London, Lord North- 
brook, a liberal viceroy (1872-76), appointed a commission of three British 
officials and three Indians, the rulers of Jaipur and Gwalior and Sir Dinkar Rao, 

86 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 171-4; Ian Copland, ‘Islam and Political Mobilization in Kashmir, 1931-34’, 
PA 54 (1981), pp. 228-59. 

87 Prem Nath Bazaz, The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir (New Delhi, 1954), pp. 151-71. 

88 KN. Haksar to T. B. Sapru, 7 February 1932, NLI, Sapru MSS, I, H 51. 

89 Karan Singh, Heir Apparent: An Autobiography (Delhi, 1982), pp. 77-102. 

9° Arthur Lothian, Kingdoms of Yesterday (London, 1951), pp. 124-6; Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, ch. 
4; Ramusack, Princes, pp. 179-80. 

°1 Salisbury to Northbrook, 22 January 1875, as quoted in Copland, British Raj, p. 148. 


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the former prime minister of Gwalior, to investigate the charges of misgov- 
ernment. After the commission split on racial lines, with the Indian members 
declaring the gaekwad not guilty, the GOI deposed Malhar Rao on grounds 
of ‘gross misrule’ in 1875.” This action probably prompted other princes to 
take evasive action rather than risk an inquiry and to decline to serve on such 

Although not frequent, depositions occurred until the British departure. 
In 1867 Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan (d. 1895) of Tonk was deposed for 
his collusion in an attack on the uncle of a tributary. In 1891 the ruling 
family of Manipur was debarred from the gaddi after an attack in which five 
British officers were killed, and the state was regranted to a collateral branch. 
The last major deposition reflects that the fluctuations in British attitudes 
between laissez-faire and intervention continued into the 1940s. In the difficult 
atmosphere of early 1942, the British appointed a commission of inquiry to 
investigate charges including fraud, bribery, the obstruction of justice and 
being an accessory to murder against Maharaja Gulab Singh of Rewa (b. 1903, 
s. 1918, r. 1922-45, d. 1950). Their verdict was not guilty and the prince 
remained in power while the British dealt with the Quit India movement 
and peasant demonstrations as well as the war effort. But in 1945 Francis 
Wylie (1891-1970), amore determined and aggressive political officer, deposed 
Gulab Singh as an example to other princes of the need for reform.?? Long 
before 1945, however, the British were devising new roles for ambitious princes 
on the broader stages of all-Indian and imperial politics. 


Manly military allies 

Initially the princes had concluded treaties as military allies and supplied troops 
and funds during the Company’s expansionist wars. After 1857 British military 
power precluded further internal military challenges, so the British fashioned 
new duties for these military allies. Since the British viewed India as the centre, 
the reputed jewel in the crown, of their far-flung empire, they commandeered 
Indian resources to defend this empire. When a Russian contingent defeated an 
Afghan army near Panjdeh in 1885 and reignited smouldering British concern 
about the security of its frontiers, the GOI launched the Imperial Service 
Troops scheme to upgrade the military capability of the princes’ troops. Selected 
princely states would be given the ‘honour of maintaining a contingent of state 

92 Tbid., pp. 141-53; Copland, ‘Baroda Crisis’. 93 Copland, Princes, pp. 187-8, 198. 


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subjects trained and inspected by British officers and supplied with British 
equipment. Paid from state revenues, these units could be used only for the 
defence of British imperial interests. The objective was to have units that could 
efficiently coordinate with British Indian units in battle. First employed along 
Indian borders in military expeditions to sites such as Chitral and Tirah, the 
Imperial Service Troops would fight in the Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion and 
the two world wars. Some princes such as Madho Singh of Jaipur would parlay 
his support for Imperial Service Troops into British backing in his struggles 
with his thakurs.”4 

Extending the commitment of their ancestors, some princes crossed the 
kala pani or black waters to safeguard the empire. The 19-year-old Maharaja 
Ganga Singh (b. 1880, r. 1898-1943) of Bikaner went to China during the 
Boxer Rebellion, along with Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior and 
Maharaja Pratap Singh (1845-1922), first a minister in Jodhpur, then ruler 
of Idar from 1902 to 1911, and twice regent of Jodhpur. Numerous princes 
including Ganga Singh, Pratap Singh and Maharaja Ranjitsinhji (b. 1872, 
r. 1907-33) of Nawanagar, who was most renowned for his exploits on the 
cricket field, enthusiastically volunteered during the First World War. However, 
these princes served for only brief periods as they lacked modern military 
training and were fairly ineffective in the field. 

Consequently the British sought to transmute personal services from the 
princes into financial contributions and recruiting activities. Nizam Osman 
Ali Khan (b. 1886, r. 1911-48, d. 1967) of Hyderabad donated over Rs 35 
lakhs to the war effort. Others funded aeroplanes and hospital ships, and 
some provided buildings for convalescing soldiers.”> Equally important were 
recruiting efforts. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, whose state contained so many 
of the Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims characterised by the British as martial races, 
was a zealous recruiter. In one speech he proclaimed that it was far better to die 
a manly death on the field of battle than to remain at home and meet the angel 
of death through the unmanly diseases of cholera and plague.?° Some princes 
also served during the brief third Afghan war in 1919. But by the Second 
World War few princes were on active duty, although some such as Maharaja 
Yadavindra Singh (b. 1913, r. 1938-48, d. 1974) of Patiala made inspection 
tours of units from Patiala that were serving in North Africa.” 

94 Stern, Cat, pp. 198-203. 95 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 38-40. 

96 Khalsa Advocate, 28 October 1916, p. 4. 

97 John McLeod has pointed out that Maharao Raja Bahadur Singh of Bundi (b. 1920, r. 1945-48, 
d. 1977) fought and was wounded in the Burma campaign a few months before his ascension to 

the gaddi. 


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Faithful feudatories 

After 1857 British officials extolled the princes as ‘natural leaders’ and as faith- 
ful feudatories. The Imperial Assemblage at Delhi in 1877 inaugurated a series 
of ritual representations in which the British proclaimed the breadth of their 
imperial enterprise and sought to reaffirm ties with loyal clients through the dis- 
pensation of honours. Subsequently, princes provided opulence characterised 
as native at the even more elaborate Imperial Durbars held in India in 1903 and 
1911 to mark the coronations of British sovereigns. King George V and Queen 
Mary were the first British monarchs to visit India for the 1911 Durbar, where 
most but not all princes competed in the lavishness of their dress, jewels and 
accommodations. It was here that Maharaja Sayaji Rao of Baroda achieved 
notoriety by allegedly challenging the British ritual order. His sartorial sins 
were to wear a simple white Maratha dress without the jewellery the British 
deemed appropriate for a prince, not to don his sash of the Order of the Star 
of India, and to carry a walking stick rather than a sword. Even more egre- 
gious was his perceived insult when he turned his back on his suzerain in less 
than the designated distance after performing a bow.?® Charles Nuckolls says 
that this incident, which was initially labelled seditious, was transformed into 
‘bad manners’ as then it could remain in the feudal context which the British 
felt able to control.?? However, in an analysis of the newsreels of the Durbar, 
Stephen Bottomore shows that several rulers, including Begam Sultan Jahan 
of Bhopal, turned their back after bowing to their suzerain.!” 

Many scholars assert that the British fabricated their Indian feudal order 
by appropriating elements of both European and Indian traditions in order 
to appeal to the Indian mind — a mind that the British themselves had con- 
structed.!°! The British also incorporated the princes (as well as Canadian 
and Antipodean politicians and African chiefs) into ceremonies held in Britain 
that were designed to affirm British superiority when Germany and the United 
States began to challenge it. Some princes travelled to the metropole to attend 
the Jubilee Celebrations of Queen Victoria in 1887 and 1897, where they 
would meet their suzerain in person and could appeal to her over the heads 
of her officials in India. These visits also helped the princes to predicate a 

98 Charles W. Nuckolls, ‘The Durbar Incident,’ MAS 24 (1990), pp. 529-59. In an authorised 
biography, the maharaja’s action is described as an accident: Rice, Sayaji Rao IIL, vol. 2, pp. 16-18. 
°9 Nuckolls, ‘Durbar Incident’, p. 559. 

100 Stephen Bottomore, ‘ “Have You Seen the Gaekwar Bob?”: Filming the 1911 Delhi Durbar’, HJFRT 
17 (1997), pp. 330-5. On 24 November 1998 Queen Elizabeth II agreed that the Lord Chancellor, 
after handing her the government’s speech at the opening of Parliament, could turn his back when 
walking away instead of walking backward: CE, 25 November 1998, p. A4. 

101 Cohn, ‘Representing Authority’, pp. 165-209: Nuckolls, ‘Durbar Incident’. 


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Maharaja Sayaji Rao of Baroda in 1899. 

special relationship with the British Crown. Several were present at the coro- 
nations in 1902, 1911 and 1937. They ranged from the youthful Ganga Singh 
of Bikaner, educated at Mayo College, who aspired to a broader role in the 
imperial political arena and attended both the 1902 and 1911 ceremonies, to 
Madho Singh of Jaipur who took two huge brass containers of Ganges water to 


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London for purification rituals in 1902. In Westminister Abbey and Bucking- 
ham Palace, Indian and African clients were prized tokens of the submission 
of exotic peoples to British rule. 

Constitutional counterweights 

After 1857 the British attempted to include the princes as least peripherally in 
the constitutional structure they evolved for British India.!°? In 1861 Maharaja 
Narinder Singh (r. 1845-62) of Patiala had been appointed to the Imperial 
Legislative Council, and from 1906 to 1908 Ripudaman Singh, then heir of 
Nabha state, also served on the Council. Neither prince distinguished himself 
in this forum. In 1876 Lord Lytton had proposed a privy council of princes, but 
the India Office in London feared that it would not be possible to secure par- 
liamentary approval for the enabling legislation. In 1905 Lord Curzon revived 
the proposal, linking it to princely contributions as military allies since the 
twenty-five members were to be princes who had maintained Imperial Service 
Troops. Lord Minto suggested a council of nobles as a possible counterweight 
to Congress activities during the agitation over the Partition of Bengal in 1905. 
Although some princes, most notably Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior, lobbied 
for such a council, the resistance of leading rulers such as those of Hyderabad 
and Mysore, as well as political turmoil in British India, led Minto to drop this 

As mentioned earlier, Lord Hardinge had twice assembled some princes to 
discuss a Higher Chiefs College. Lord Chelmsford, his successor from 1916 to 
1921, continued to hold conferences of princes but broadened the topics of 
discussions. Princes began to meet informally with British Indian politicians 
and some British officials argued that these gatherings constituted a major and 
ill-fated shift in the policy of ‘subordinate isolation’. Michael O’Dwyer even 
characterised them as ‘encouraging them [the princes] to form themselves into 
a sort of trade union’ and asserted that ‘it is bound to lead to intrigue between 
the Chiefs and the political leaders of British India’.!°? In fact the isolation 
of the princes had long been breached informally both by British-sponsored 
rituals such as the imperial assemblage and coronation durbars and by private 
princely ceremonies such as marriage celebrations and religious pilgrimages. 

102 This section is based largely on Ashton, British Policy, chs 1-2; Copland, Princes, ch. 1; Gerard 
Douds, Government of Princely India, 1918-39, PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh (1979), 
chs 1-2; Ramusack, Princes, chs 1-3. 

103 J.P Thompson, Chief Secretary, Punjab Govt, to J. B. Wood, Political Secretary, GOI, 28 December 
1917, Pro. No. 28, NAI, GOI, F&P, S-I, February 1918, Pro. Nos 28-34. 


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In a fascinating study of marriage patterns in Rajasthan, Frances Taft Plunkett 
has called attention to the importance of marriage alliances among the polygy- 
nous Rajput princes in maintaining ties with other states, not only in Rajasthan 
but elsewhere in Gujarat.!°4 More recently, Indira Peterson has analysed how 
Serfoji II (x. 1798-1832) of Thanjaur used the private act of pilgrimage to 
Banaras from 1820 to 1822 to reaffirm his status within the framework of 
British colonial authority and among other princes as well as to collect reli- 
gious and scientific manuscripts.! 

There was renewed princely lobbying for a forum to discuss common prob- 
lems during the negotiations preceding the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 
1919. In response, the British inaugurated the Chamber of Princes, a con- 
sultative, advisory body, in 1921. Composed of 108 princes with salute of 
eleven guns or more and twelve princes who were selected to represent 127 
other states, the Chamber did not fulfil most British or princely expectations. 
There were structural weaknesses. The viceroy was the presiding officer and 
set the agenda, so the princes rarely discussed what they considered difficult 
and sensitive issues such as minority administrations. Their resolutions were 
only advisory to the GOI and were subject to endless circulation within its 

Among the princes there were debilitating differences. Once again promi- 
nent princes, especially those from southern regions such as Hyderabad, Mysore 
and Travancore, disdained to participate in a group venture that they viewed 
as an encroachment on their sovereignty. Subsequently a coalition of western- 
educated princes from medium-sized states in Rajputana, western India and 
Punjab, most notably Ganga Singh of Bikaner, Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, 
Jai Singh of Alwar, Ranjitsinhji of Nawanagar, and later Nawab Hamidullah 
(b. 1894, r. 1926-49, d. 1960) of Bhopal, dominated the deliberations of the 
Chamber and its standing committee. British officials and others soon ques- 
tioned the representativeness of the Chamber, some claiming it was a preserve of 
Rajput princes. Princely factions and personal jealousies, particularly between 
Ganga Singh and Bhupinder Singh, the first two chancellors of the Chamber, 
meant that the princes rarely spoke with a unified voice on controversial issues 
such as the need for a codification of British political practices to preclude what 
the princes perceived as excessive British intervention. 

104 Frances Taft Plunkett, ‘Royal Marriages in Rajasthan’, CJS, n.s. 6 (1972), pp. 64-80. 

105 Indira Viswanathan Peterson, ‘Subversive Journeys? Travel as Empowerment in King Serfoji II of 
Tanjore’s 1820-22 Pilgrimage to Benares’, New England Conference of the Association for Asian 
Studies, Brown University, 30 September 2000. 


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Throughout the 1920s some assertive princes laboured to achieve a defi- 
nition of paramountcy and greater security in an era of political challenges. 
In 1926 Lord Reading alarmed the princes with his reply to the nizam’s re- 
quest for the reincorporation of Berar into Hyderabad when he claimed that 
‘where Imperial interests are concerned or the general welfare of the people of 
a State is seriously and grievously affected by the action of its Government, 
it is with the Paramount Power that the ultimate responsibility of taking re- 
medial action must lie’.!°° Princes feared that the welfare of state subjects 
opened endless opportunities for intervention. Simultaneously, some Cham- 
ber stalwarts raised economic issues. One was the impact of increased cus- 
toms duties because of the institution of a protective tariff in 1922 on goods 
imported through British Indian ports but destined for princely states. An- 
other was a more equitable distribution of the salt revenues collected by 
the GOI. 

The report of the Indian States Committee appointed in 1928 by Irwin 
to assuage princely grievances shocked both princes and Indian nationalists, 
though for different reasons. Disappointed by the committee’s refusal to define 
paramountcy, the princes were even more startled by the claim that interven- 
tion might be justified if there was a widespread popular demand within the 
states for changes. Although the Butler Report, so named after its chair, reaf- 
firmed the treaty relationship of the states with the British Crown and therefore 
recommended that the states should not be transferred without their agreement 
to a responsible GOI (thereby frustrating Indian nationalists), the princes were 
dejected at what they saw as increased opportunities for British encroachment 
on their rights and prerogatives.'°” The princes had contradictory aims: want- 
ing the benefits of closer economic ties with British India but safeguards from 
British interference in their internal affairs. For varying reasons the princes and 
the British soon viewed federation as a viable arrangement for resolving these 
longstanding constitutional debates. 

Political partners 
As Indian nationalists intensified their challenge to the British, the imperialists 
exploited the princes as political collaborators in all-India politics. Some princes 
had aroused British apprehensions because of their support for Indian national- 
ist leaders. The most notable example was Sayaji Rao of Baroda, who employed 

106 Reading to Nizam, 27 March 1926, NAI, GOI, F&P, No. 13-Political (Secret), 1924-26, 
Nos 1-49. 
107 Copland, Princes, pp. 65-71; Ramusack, Princes, pp. 143-52. 


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Indian nationalists ranging from Romesh Chandra Dutt, the moderate Bengali 
economist, to Aurobindo Ghose, the Bengali political philosopher who was 
vice-principal at Baroda College, and lesser-known Maratha activists.'°% In 
1909 Minto asked residents to consult the princes on cooperative measures to 
contain seditious activities within their states. Several princes replied that they 
had strengthened their police and intelligence services and tightened control 
over the circulation of literature deemed seditious. They also requested the 
exchange of intelligence information, protection from negative press attacks 
on themselves and their administrations, and restrictions on religious aspects 
of political activities.! 

During the 1910s the princes emerged overtly as political allies of the British, 
especially in the arena labelled communal politics.!!° As the British were not 
Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, they lacked the legitimacy that princes possessed as 
religious spokespersons. Thus the nizam of Hyderabad could issue a farman 
declaring that since the First World War was not a jihad, it was religiously 
permissible for Muslims to fight for the Allies against the Central Powers, 
who included the Ottoman Empire headed by the Muslim Caliph. When 
orthodox Hindus in 1917 protested against the construction of an irrigation 
channel at Hardwar where the sacred Ganges emerges from the Himalayas 
onto the north Indian plain, the British invited princes from Alwar, Banaras, 
Bikaner, Gwalior, Jaipur and Patiala to participate in the resolution of the 
dispute. All of them, except Alwar, who quoted Sanskrit legal texts that Banaras 
claimed were irrelevant, eventually supported a compromise that allowed a 
channel of free-flowing water past the bathing ghais, while a parallel channel 
serviced the irrigation system. During the early years of the war, the Punjab 
princes, especially Bhupinder Singh, implemented various measures to control 
disturbances related to the Ghadr movement, a Punjabi effort to secure German 
support for the overthrow of the British Government. After 1919 the Patiala 
ruler would increasingly collaborate with the British as Sikhs who followed 
the prescriptions of Guru Gobind Singh sought to wrest control over Sikh 
gurudwaras from Hindu mahants. Bhupinder Singh frequently functioned as 
an intermediary between the British and the leaders of the Shiromani Gurdwara 
Prabhandhak Committee, which achieved legal recognition and control in 
1925 of Sikh gurudwaras in Punjab.'!’ Not all princes participating in British 
Indian associations and politics served British strategies, but some continued 
as political collaborators until 1947. 

108 Copland, ‘Sayaji Rao’, pp. 33-40. 1°? NAI, GOI, F&P, S-I, March 1910, Pro. Nos 42-45. 
110 Ramusack, Princes, ch. 4. 11 Ramusack, ‘Punjab States’, in Jeffrey, People, pp. 183-7. 


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From 1858 to the 1920s, the British developed a theory of indirect rule that 
helped to maintain hegemony in India without any further annexation and 
with the least possible expenditure of personnel and economic resources. Key 
elements included a hierarchy with the British at the apex and the princes as 
vassals, a system of honours, most notably the Order of the Star of India, and 
the salute table, which established one’s rank in the hierarchy. Although the 
British frequently argued that such honours had particular appeal to Indians, 
they themselves devoted much attention to their own position in these ranking 
systems, which affirmed their superior status in India during a period of growing 
democratisation at home. Next, British officials constructed legal arguments 
to legitimate and to provide precedents for policy decisions regarding their 
princely clients. Major components were the semi-official histories by Tupper 
and Lee-Warner, the collections of treaties by Aitchison, the political manual 
by Butler, and finally the Indian States Committee Report of 1928-29. These 
documents would be adapted to changing imperial interests through concepts 
such as usage. 

Although they eschewed annexation, the British continued to intervene in 
the internal politics of the princely states for political or economic advantage. 
Such intrusion ranged from advice about policies and appointments of state 
officials, to control over minority administrations, to the deposition of a ruler. 
The education of princely heirs according to British models was a more subtle 
means of influencing the future. Official support for intervention varied and 
reflected evolving British priorities and the complex interactions within the 
imperial chain of command. 

The British corporate structure had eliminated succession struggles and 
enjoyed an unprecedented monopoly of military power, but that government 
was more factious than was generally admitted. The British theories about and 
policies towards the princes are an excellent prism for seeing how these differing 
levels of authorities actually operated. There were conflicts between Parliament 
and the India Office at the metropole and between the viceroy and his political 
secretary in the colony. Since viceroys had immediate responsibility for policies 
towards the princes, a succession in viceroys could mean varying magnitudes of 
change in policies. The most dramatic was the shift between the interventionist 
Curzon to the laissez-faire Minto. At the next level there were tensions between 
the viceroy at the centre and provincial governors, who were closer to the local 
situation and concerned about bureaucratic prerogatives, as in the long-term 
disputes between the GOI and the Bombay presidency. Finally, at the bottom 


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there were political officers serving as political agents, AGGs, and residents 
who were expected to compartmentalise their professional selves into a British 
representative to the princes and an advocate of the princes to their overlord. 
They did so with differing degrees of success. 

As the challenges to British power evolved, their princely clients accepted 
new tasks. First and foremost, the princes remained an inexpensive means of 
providing for the administration of large tracts of economically unproductive 
or geographically inaccessible areas. For an imperial power with limited mon- 
etary and personnel resources, the princes provided a key link to local levels 
of society. Second, the princes continued to be substantial contributors to the 
British imperial military establishment through the Imperial Service contin- 
gents, monetary contributions, and recruiting activities. Third, the symbolic 
role of the princes was enhanced. Besides their participation in ritual encoun- 
ters ranging from lavish coronation durbars, the princes supplied a stage for 
viceregal visits and tours of the royal family that affirmed the British imperial 
order. Fourth, the princes could be useful allies in all-Indian and communal 
politics, to which their hereditary status and their financial patronage accorded 
access that the British lacked. So the princes continued as valued imperial clients 
until 1947. 


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Indian princes played multiple roles on diverse stages. Thus their actions trig- 
gered complex and sometimes conflicting perceptions among various audi- 
ences. The last chapter documented shifting British official images of the 
princes from natural Indian leaders to loyal allies to naughty schoolboys. But 
just as British policies did not create the Indian princes as rulers, they influ- 
enced but did not circumscribe princely lives and political functions. This 
chapter explores what it meant to be a ruling prince in India, with particular 
emphasis on the period from 1870 to 1947. There are four main themes. First, 
the life cycle of a prince from birth through education to marriage to succession 
to rulership will exemplify their interlocking private and public lives. Second, 
an analysis of the sources of legitimacy for Indian rulers and the inconstancy 
of British policies will disclose opportunities for princes to manoeuvre in the 
interstices of indirect rule. Third, princely patronage of religious specialists and 
institutions, visual and performing arts, luxury crafts, secular scholarship, and 
sports will reveal how princes fostered cultural nationalism while fulfilling their 
princely dharma. Fourth, an examination of the construction of the princes 
as concerned, indulgent or decadent rulers, as benevolent fathers and as cun- 
ning, inept or naive politicians will detail the shifting perceptions of their dis- 
parate audiences as well as the unequal abilities, ambitions and achievements of 
Indian princes. These images reflect the ambiguous sources of political author- 
ity, the tangled ritual and social status of princes, and a mixture of fact and 
fantasy in public consciousness. 


In princely as in most Indian families, the birth of a first son was exuberantly 
greeted.’ A son was an heir to the family fortune, a supporter of his parents 
in old age, and in Hindu families, a crucial perfomer of rituals at the death 
ceremonies of parents. Since sons in princely families ensured succession that 
brought control of extraordinary resources, elaborate ceremonies heralded the 

! Charles Allen and Sharada Dwivedi, Lives of the Indian Princes (London, 1984), chs 1-6 provides 
many examples of the patterns outlined. 


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birth of a first son. The beating of drums, an Indian insignia of sovereignty, 
and the firing of gun salutes, a British symbol of rank, accompanied public 
announcements to largely non-literate audiences. Other customs reflected 
the role of a ruler as a provider of material benefits and a fount of justice. 
Distributions of sweets indicated benevolence, and the release of prisoners 
from jails expressed justice tempered with mercy. As British power became 
dominant, news of a birth was communicated quickly to the colonial hierar- 
chy. A letter or telegram of congratulations from the British sovereign and her 
or his representative in India authenticated legitimacy — a crucial factor since 
many princes had multiple wives and concubines. Subsequently there would 
be private ceremonies of purification and naming. 

When a daughter was born, these elaborate festivities were conspicuous by 
their absence. Travancore and Cochin, where descent was matrilineal, were 
notable exceptions. There 18-gun salutes were fired for girls although boys 
received 21-gun salutes.” Another anomaly occurred in Bhopal. Upon the birth 
of her granddaughter, the formidable Begum Qudsia (r. 1819-37) was quick 
to petition British officials about the legitimacy of her succession to rule.? 
Otherwise daughters were more likely to be prized when sons had already 
appeared or there had been no daughters for an extended period. Female 
infanticide was a possibility in princely families as well as in non-ruling families, 
but hearsay is the most often cited evidence of this practice. 

Young children in princely families resided with their mothers in the palace 
zenana. Many princes and princesses remember the women of the zenana 
and their servants as being indulgent and even fawning. When they were 
judged ready to become apprentices to power, sons, particularly heirs, were 
allocated semi-independent establishments replete with family servants. By 
the end of the nineteenth and especially in the twentieth century, many 
princely fathers followed the pattern of elite, westernised Indians and em- 
ployed European, usually British, nannies, governesses and tutors. These for- 
eigners were recruited primarily to teach English and to socialise their young 
charges into a western lifestyle and perhaps to offset more indulgent Indian 

Technical or applied training for ruling was unstructured. Indian tutors were 
mainly responsible for transmitting the history of the state and the princely 
dynasty and the sources of dynastic legitimacy. They were also to teach lit- 
eracy and some mathematics. Then, much as a medical intern does in the 
early twenty-first century, heirs to princely gaddis who were titled yuvrajs or 

2 Tbid., p. 25. 3 Khan, Begums, p. 83. 


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tikka sahibs might spend a few years in various state departments learning 
administrative routines. More important was touring within the state, some- 
times done in conjunction with hunting excursions, a traditional means of 
developing appropriate masculine and royal skills in deploying weapons and 
conspicuously displaying physical courage. 

After 1858 when the British began to endorse the princes as natural leaders 
of their peoples, they evinced more concern over their education. Other factors 
were also influential. One was the debate in Britain over the proper education 
for elite British men who were to rule at home and in an empire abroad. The 
other was the growing British disdain for the western-educated Bengalis, whom 
the British deemed effeminate and alienated from other Indians because of 
inappropriate education. Although British anxiety to mould princes as clients 
responsive to their political needs is evident, it is less apparent why Indian 
princes responded to British initiatives. Possibly these allies wanted to ensure 
that their heirs learned how to function effectively within the British system 
of indirect rule. 

Many princes who played significant political roles in the twentieth cen- 
tury were educated at chiefs’ colleges, such as Bhupinder Singh of Patiala at 
Aitchison College. But several princely families continued to educate their 
sons at home with Indian and western tutors, such as Ganga Singh of Bikaner 
who had a British tutor, Sir Brian Egerton, for three years after a five-year 
stint at Mayo College in Ajmer.‘ By the 1930s and 1940s, new patterns 
emerged. Some princes went to the Doon School, which had been established 
in 1935 as a boarding school for elite Indians from British Indian provinces. In 
1942 Maharaja Karan Singh of Kashmir started a four-year stay at the Doon 
School that left him with vivid memories of inedible food, high academic stan- 
dards and a rigorous regime of sports.> Some Indian princes went to England 
for their education with mixed results. Maharaja Mayurdhwajsinhji (later 
Meghrajji III) of Dhrangadhara enrolled in Haileybury ‘on the theory that 
“since the Indian public schools were imitations of the schools in England, 
why go to an imitation and not to the original?” ”° 

Although princes received ruling powers at younger ages in the early nine- 
teenth century, the British gradually established 18 to 21 as the age of in- 
vestiture for princes who had succeeded as minors. They maintained that the 
higher age allowed for the training and personal maturity essential to fulfil 
the responsibilities of a ruler. But the appropriate age for investiture remained 

4 KM. Panikkar, His Highness The Maharaja of Bikaner: A Biography (London, 1937), note by Egerton, 
pp. 46-9. 
5 Singh, Heir Apparent, pp. 24-7. 6 Allen and Dwivedi, Lives, p. 121. 


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a hotly debated topic among the princes, their advisers, and British political 

First marriages for princes occurred from around 12 onward. As was com- 
mon practice throughout Indian society, marriages were alliances of families 
and were carefully arranged to reinforce or enhance political, ritual, social and 
economic status. Some marriages maintained longstanding ties between fam- 
ilies. Maharaja Man Singh II of Jaipur was married at 12 to an older princess 
from Jodhpur and then at 21 to her niece, continuing traditional matrimo- 
nial liaisons between Jaipur and Jodhpur.” Modern political objectives were 
also influential. Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala was married in 1931 
at the age of 20 to a princess of Seraikella. Then in 1938, after succeeding 
his father, he married Mohinder Kaur, the daughter of a popular political 
leader.’ Some princes, such as Nizam Osman Ali Khan of Hyderabad, went 
much further afield. In 1931, to enhance his credentials as a Muslim ruler, he 
married his first son to the daughter of the last Caliph of Islam and his sec- 
ond son to the great-great-granddaughter of Sultan Murad V of the Ottoman 

Some princes and princesses chose not to enter arranged marriages, and these 
exceptions precipitated social or political crises. Princess Indira of Baroda, the 
daughter of the reputedly progressive Sayaji Rao, rejected the alliance proposed 
by her parents with Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior, who was many 
years her senior. Such a union of the two most powerful Maratha ruling families 
would have made the headstrong Indira a second wife expected to maintain 
purdah. She chose instead to marry the heir to the gaddi of Cooch Behar 
and become a highly publicised hostess in London and Calcutta. Ironically 
her daughter, Gayatri Devi, accepted the proposal of Man Singh of Jaipur to 
become his third wife and to observe purdah within Jaipur state.” 

Even more problematic were those princes who chose to marry European, 
American or Australian women. Both Britons and Indians censured miscegena- 
tion. British society in India viewed white women who were sexually attracted 
to Indian men, and thus subverting the colonial hierarchy, as overtly betraying 
the imperial mission and covertly undermining claims of British masculinity 
and Indian male effeminacy. During the nineteenth century miscegenation was 
disparaged in official discourse and literature and during the twentieth cen- 
tury in novels translated into films and video series such as The Rains Came, 

7 Joshi, Polygamy, p. 46. 

8 Christiane Hurtig, Les Maharajahs et la politique dans I’Inde contemporaine (Paris, 1988), pp. 284—5. 

° Gayati Devi of Jaipur and Santha Rama Rao, A Princess Remembers: The Memoirs of the Maharani of 
Jaipur (Philadelphia, 1976), chs 8-10. 


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Heat and Dust, and The Jewel in the Crown, where the fate of the transgressing 
woman was usually death.!° For Indian princes, there was the question of the 
legality of marriages between Hindu men and non-Hindu women and the le- 
gitimacy of children born in such relationships. Both state officials and British 
political officers opposed these unions as straining bonds between a ruler and 
his subjects. 

Despite and perhaps partly because of such objections, a few ruling princes 
married non-Indian women. The most prominent examples were the rulers 
of Kapurthala, Pudukkottai and Indore. In 1910 Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of 
Kapurthala married Anita Delgrada, a Spanish dancer, whom some of his 
relatives as well as the British never recognised as a legal wife or a maha- 
rani. Jagatjit Singh’s heir and his European-educated Rajput daughter-in-law 
refused to meet or attend functions with Delgrada,'! while in 1921, at an offi- 
cial reception, a British political officer took care to direct the Spanish woman 
to an alcove carefully screened with palms from the British gaze. Beyond 
these social snubs, the maharaja of Kapurthala was not affected politically 
by this relationship, though Delgrada’s sentiments are unknown. Two other 
Indian princes experienced political repercussions. Like Jagatjit Singh, Raja 
Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman (b. 1875, r. 1894-1928) travelled extensively 
in Europe and decided to marry an Australian woman, Molly Fink. Although 
British and local Indian opinion agreed that such a marriage would not be 
considered orthodox and children from it could not succeed to the throne, 
Martanda Tondaiman married Molly in 1915. After an alleged attempt to 
poison her in Pudukkottai and extended stays in Australia, Martanda asked 
to abdicate in return for a pension. Nicholas Dirks has highlighted the ulti- 
mate irony in this situation since the British had sought to remove the raja 
from the influence of the zenana by education in Europe, preparing the stage 
for the marriage that separated the ruler from his state.'* Maharaja Yeshwant 
Rao Holkar (b. 1908, r. 1926-48) of Indore had two American wives se- 
quentially. The second one, whom he had married in 1943, produced a son, 
Richard Shivaji Rao Holkar, whom the GOI recognised as legitimate in 1950." 
But Richard did not succeed to the title of maharaja when his father died 
in 1961. 

10 Prem Chowdhry, Colonial India and the Making of Empire Cinema: Image, Ideology and Identity 
(Manchester, 2000), pp. 205-10. 

1] Brinda, Maharani of Kapurthala, Maharani: The Story of an Indian Princess, As Told to Elaine 
Williams (New York, 1953), pp. 112-13. 

12 Conrad Corfield, The Princely India I Knew: From Reading to Mountbatten (Madras, 1975), p. 17. 

13 Dirks, Hollow Crown, pp. 391-6. 4 Copland, Princes, pp. 93-4, 267. 


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Two ceremonies that solemnised succession illuminate the multiple sources 
of princely authority and legitimacy. Upon the death of a ruler, his heir was 
installed on the gaddi. Subsequently there was a separate ceremony when the 
successor was invested with full ruling powers. Using over twenty-five oral 
interviews with former ruling Maratha princes in central India and Rajputs in 
Rajasthan and central India, Adrian Mayer has analysed installation protocols 
and princely perceptions of the nature of their authority. In their ceremonies 
and symbols of sovereignty, there were similiarites and differences between 
Maratha and Rajput princes.!* Since there is no comparable analysis of the 
succession ceremonies of Sikh and Muslim rulers, the following discussion is 
mainly about Hindu princes. 

Shortly after the death of a ruling Hindu prince and before his body was 
removed for the funeral procession, an accession ceremony confirmed the heir 
as successor. This rite involved the placing of a tilak, a vertical line sweeping up 
the centre of the forehead from the eyebrows to the hairline, made by a thumb 
usually with kumkum, a red powder. Generally the new ruler remained seated 
on the gaddi in the palace during the funeral procession.!© Since the accession 
ceremony was held quickly and privately, there is little evidence that a British 
representative attended. Upon completion of a 12-day period of mourning, 
the new ruler would be publicly installed in a ceremony with an affusion 
(abhisheka) and enthronement. The affusion, a sprinkling of the new prince 
with consecrated substances ranging from clarified butter, milk, curds and 
honey to sanctified water, represents an element of continuity with a practice 
recorded in classic texts marking the installation of Hindu kings.'” The affusion 
had an important place in Maratha installation ceremonies, possibly because 
of an association with Shivaji, but it was also performed in an abbreviated 
version for Rajput princes. This ritual is said to give the ruler some degree of 
sacredness but not to transform him into a deity.'8 

The enthronement had two crucial aspects. The first one was the application 
of a rajatilaka, which was possibly more significant for Rajput rulers than for 
Marathas. In several Rajput states, such as Jaipur and Dungarpur, an adivasi, or 

'5 Adrian C. Mayer, ‘Rulership and Divinity: The Case of the Modern Hindu Prince and Beyond’, 
MAS 25 (1991), pp. 765-90. 

16 Adrian C. Mayer, ‘The King’s Two Thrones’, Man (n.s.) 20 (1985), p. 215. 

17 J. Gonda, Ancient Indian Kingship from the Religious Point of View (Leiden, 1969); J. C. Heesterman, 
The Inner Conflict of Tradition: Essays in Indian Ritual, Kingship, and Society (Chicago, 1985); 
Ronald Inden, ‘Ritual, Authority, and Cyclic Time in Hindu Kingship’, in Richards, Kingship, 
pp. 47-52. 

ue Mayer, ‘Rulership’, pp. 767-73. 


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representative of another indigenous group antecedent to the formation of the 
state, inscribed the rajatilaka to symbolise their acceptance of the sovereignty 
of the prince. These men traditionally applied blood from a cut in their thumb, 
but kumkum was the more usual substance. In Gwalior, perhaps appropriately 
considering Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia’s success in investing in Indian 
stocks, the rajatilaka was made with a gold coin, a symbol of Lakhsmi, the 
goddess of wealth. 

The second element of an installation was the ascension of the gaddi. Al- 
though a gaddi can mean either a cotton stuffed cushion or a family home, it 
has been used in this book to indicate a rajgaddi, an ensemble of cushion with 
cotton or silk coverings that was the Hindu equivalent of a European throne. 
Usually a rajgaddi was on the floor, but sometimes it was placed on a chair 
of wood, silver or stone. Mayer has described how in most Hindu states the 
rajgaddi was viewed as a female deity who imbued the rajgaddi with her sakti 
or life force. When a prince was enthroned on the rajgaddi and his body was in 
direct contact with it, sanctified royal qualities were transmitted to him. The 
rajgaddi was the key symbol of the state, the ground of the guardian deities 
of the state. Mayer claimed that the rajgaddhi ‘was believed to maintain and 
protect the kingdom and to carry the kingship over [an] interregnum, as well 
as to give the ruler his royal divinity’.!? Being seated on it was therefore the 
defining moment in the installation ceremony for both Rajput and Maratha 

As their system of indirect rule evolved, the British proclaimed their author- 
ity over succession in the installation and investiture ceremonies. The first step 
was to arrogate to themselves the right to determine who was the legitimate 
heir. Debates over succession were frequent when rulers had several wives and 
concubines or did not have a legitimate son. Dalhousie’s doctrine of lapse tried 
to deny the right to adopt those princes whose states the British claimed to 
have created, but after the revolt of 1857 the British allowed adoptions if they 
had imperial sanction. At the same time they staked a claim to jurisdiction 
over all successions. In 1916 the GOI evoked a sharp retort from the princes 
when they reaffirmed that 

Every succession required the approval and sanction of government. 
It is essential that such approval and sanction should be announced ina formal installation 
durbar by a representative of the British Government.” 

9 Mayer, ‘King’s Two Thrones’, p. 217. 
20. Proceedings of the Conference of Ruling Princes and Chiefs: Held at Delhi on the 30th October 1916 
and Following Days (Delhi, 1916), p. 7. 


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In response to vociferous protests from the princes, the British conceded 
that installation and investiture durbars should be held in the name of the 
princes and that the British representative should be seated as the chief guest 
at the right hand of the presiding prince.”! Although this dispute might ap- 
pear as one over symbols, it revealed princely fears of imperial encroachment 
on their autonomy just when they confronted new challenges from political 

Princely families, as do most Hindu families, have tutelary deities whose 
blessings are sought daily and during crucial life cycle ceremonies.”” But many 
Hindu princes had intense relationships with pan-Indian and regional deities 
and divine qualities that were important sources of legitimacy. Some Rajput 
princes claimed descent from the gods of sun (Surya) and moon (Chandra). 
Sages ina fire-sacrifice allegedly created the Agnikul Rajput clans. Many Hindu 
rulers were associated with Vishnu or Siva. Because of Martanda Varma’s ded- 
ication of Travancore state to Lord Padmanabha, an incarnation of Vishnu, 
his successors conceived of themselves as the dasa or servants, constitutionally 
and symbolically, of Lord Padmanabha.”* The maharaja of Bikaner declared 
himself to be the prime minister of Lord Lakshminarayan, an avatar of Krishna, 
while the Rajput ruler of Mandi in the Himalayas considered himself the diwan 
of Vishnu. The maharana of Udaipur was the servant of Siva in his manifesta- 
tion as Eklinga, where Siva’s linga has one face. The maharaja of Banaras, an 
eighteenth-century little king whom the British declared to be a ruling prince 
in 1911, is viewed as the representative of Siva, the lord of the ancient city 
of Kasi now known as Banaras or Varanasi. But these divine commitments 
were not restrictive. While they retained their commitment to Siva, the ma- 
harajas of Banaras became the dominant patron of the public recitation of the 
Ramayana and the dramatic performance of the Ramlila that honour Rama, 
an incarnation of Vishnu.4 

Reflecting the complex network of divinity within the Hindu tradition, 
Hindu rulers might call upon more than one divine source for legitimacy and 
as arole model. Maharaja Vikramsinhrao of Dewas Senior (b. 1910, r. 1937-47, 
adopted as the maharaja of Kolhapur, 1947 and ruled as Chhatrapati Shahaji II 

21 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 69-77. 

22 Lindsey Harlan analysed the relationship between women and these tutelary deities in Religion and 
Rajput Women: The Ethic of Protection in Contemporary Narratives (Berkeley CA, 1992). 

23 Koji Kawashima, Missionaries and a Hindu State, Travancore 1858-1936 (Delhi, 1998), pp. 18-23. 

24 Philip Lutgendorf, ‘Ram’s Story in Shiva’s City: Public Arenas and Private Patronage’, in Sandria 
B. Freitag (ed.), Culture and Power in Banaras: Community, Performance, and Environment, 1899- 
1980 (Berkeley CA, 1989), pp. 34-61. 


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until 1949) reflected on his appropriation of Rama in an extended series of 
interviews with Adrian Mayer. Vikramsinhrao argued that Rama embodied a 
utopian world where a ruler could be passive and simply follow rules. This world 
did not exist during the dark age of the kaliyuga. Now Krishna, the shrewd 
manipulator for his allies in the Mahabharata, was a better model. Krishna and 
Indian princes had to use danda, literally a stick but metaphorically power, to 
achieve equity for their subjects. Thus Vikramsinhrao offered an explanation 
for the legitimacy of overriding laws and regulations, ostensibly to achieve the 
greater good of the people. The model of sensual Krishna also permitted rulers 
considerable latitude in their personal sexual lives as long as they fulfilled their 
duties as a righteous ruler.”> However, as clients of the British imperial patron, 
the princes had to live with significant constraints on their use of danda and 
on some aspects of their personal lives. Late Victorian British officials were not 
sympathetic to Krishna as a sexual role model for Indian princes. 

Because of their concepts of one, indivisible god, Sikh and Muslim princes 
differed from their Hindu counterparts in their claims to divinity. The Sikh 
rulers of the Phulkian states asserted the blessings of Guru Gobind Singh, the 
tenth and last guru of Sikhism. A few Muslim rulers such as the nizams of 
Hyderabad and the nawabs of Pataudi and Malerkotla traced their descent 
to Sufi shaikhs or mystical holy men. Muslim princes also evoked religious 
legitimacy through the protection and patronage of indigenous and pan-Indian 
Muslim religious institutions. 


A prime component of rajadharma was to bestow gifts. Even though the princes 
might be political clients in relationship to a British patron, they continued 
to act as patrons to multiple constituencies. These groups include religious 
specialists and institutions such as temples, mosques, schools and pilgrimage 
sites; visual artists, especially painters and architects; secular scholars in litera- 
ture, language, history and archaeology; musicians and dancers; artisans who 
produced luxury crafts; and sportsmen. Through their patronage the princes 
were active, if unconscious, creators of cultural idioms that shaped regional and 
national identities and of public arenas for popular imagination of a national 

25 Adrian C. Mayer, ‘Perceptions of Princely Rule: Perspectives from a Biography’, in T. N. Madan 
(ed.), Way of Life: King, Householder, Renouncer: Essays in Honour of Louis Dumont (New Delhi, 
1982), pp. 127-54; Mayer, ‘Rulership’, pp. 783-7. 


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Religious practices and institutions 

Princes nourished religious activities within and beyond their states, further 
evidence that the British policy of isolating the princes was never as rigorous 
as represented. Pan-Indian endowments included those of Hindu rulers to 
sacred pilgrimage sites such as Banaras where they built bathing ghats on the 
banks of the Ganges for the use of pilgrims and those that the Sikh princes 
distributed to sites associated with the ten gurus such as the Golden Temple 
in Amritsar. Besides supporting Muslim mosques and their attached madrasas, 
Indian Muslim rulers, most notably those of Hyderabad and Bhopal, bestowed 
grants to holy places in Mecca and Medina. 

In the late nineteenth century, princely patrons were quick to respond 
to fresh opportunities such as educational institutions established to reform 
and revitalise religious learning. The rulers of Hyderabad, Bhopal, Rampur 
and Patiala endowed the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh 
(founded 1875) to synthesise religious instruction with western secular educa- 
tion.”° During the 1910s Bhupinder Singh of Patiala contributed Rs 5 lakhs 
to the new Banaras Hindu University, while the maharajas of Alwar, Jodhpur, 
Kashmir and Mysore each initially gave 1 lakh.?” With their contributions 
to Sikh, Hindu and Muslim institutions, the princes of Patiala were notable 
examples of the cultural pluralism of royal patronage, but rulers tended to 
bolster their own religious and ethnic communities. Hyderabad, Bhopal and 
Rampur subsidised the Muslim seminary at Deoband in the United Provinces, 
which imparted rigorous instruction in Muslim religious texts and socialised 
its graduates to foster a reformed Indian Islam among all classes of Muslims.78 
Princes in western India, especially the brahman chiefs of Jamkhandi, Ichalka- 
ranji and Miraj Senior, the Maratha rulers of Baroda, Kolhapur and Mudhol, 
and the Rajput prince of Gondal accounted for over half of the contributions 
to the Deccan Education Society between 1884 and 1910. Maharaja Shahu 
Chhatrapati I of Kolhapur fostered education among Maratha non-brahmans 
and provided job quotas for them in his bureaucracy.”? Size of state was no in- 
dication of generosity since the chief of Ichalkaranji gave Rs 44 640, while the 
gaekwad of Baroda gave Rs 1000 to the Deccan Education Society.*° All the 

26 David Lelyveld, Aligarh’ First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India (Princeton NJ, 1978), 
pp. 139-41, 156, 184, 315. 

27 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 49-50. 

28 Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900 (Princeton NJ, 1982), 
pp. 96, 116, 299. 

29 Richard I. Cashman, The Myth of the Lokamanya: Tilak and Mass Politics in Maharashtra (Berkeley 
CA, 1975), pp. 115-17. 

3° Tbid., pp. 100-2. 


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Sikh states, but especially Patiala and Nabha, donated to the Khalsa College in 
Amritsar, an institution designed to synthesise Sikh religious instruction and 
western learning. On the one hand these princely donations cultivated religious 
specialists and competent administrators. On the other hand princes strove to 
keep these institutions and their students away from anti-British demonstra- 
tions. Several princes tried to persuade the trustees of the Aligarh college to 
reject Gandhi's pleas to practise non-cooperation in 1920; the nizam tried to 
remove the director of the Deoband seminary, who was sympathetic to the 
civil disobedience movement in 1930; and Bhupinder Singh of Patiala urged 
students at Khalsa College to avoid political agitation.*! 

Printing presented a modern alternative to past patronage of copying and 
translations of sacred and literary works. With the possibility of mass produc- 
tion, princes now sponsored the publication of sacred works ranging from the 
Qur’an to the Guru Granth. Some rulers such as the nawabs of Tonk and 
Rampur amassed substantial collections of manuscripts, which are of great 
value to contemporary scholars.*” 

Princes were also attracted to communal associations. Some support was 
symbolic. Maharaja Sayaji Rao of Baroda chaired a session of the Arya Samaj, 
a Hindi revivalist reform organisation, at Ranoli on 26 February 1911 and 
declared that he welcomed ‘the work of social enlightenment of the masses 
which the missionary zeal of the Arya Samaj has undertaken’.?* The maharajas 
of Alwar, Bikaner, Kashmir and Patiala endorsed the Kshatriya Mahasabha, 
which fostered a militant image of Hinduism, as well as the interests of kshatriya 
caste groups, of which these princes consider themselves exemplary members. 
For example, in November 1924 Jai Singh chaired a session of the Kshatriya 
Mahasabha in Delhi and reminded his audience of their religious duties to 
protect the weak and to preserve the Hindu tradition. Later Jai Singh and Tej 
Singh of Alwar and Kishan Singh of Bharatpur actively cultivated the Hindu 
Mahasahba and the Sanatan Dharma Sabha outside and within their states. In 
January 1927 Jai Singh presided over the Fourth Provincial Sanatan Dharma 
Conference at Multan and buttressed his words with a donation of Rs 40 000.*4 
Within Alwar he used these Hindu associations to legitimate a strong monarchy 
and to nurture a Hindu nationalism that represented Meos, a liminal group who 
drew from both Hindu and Muslim traditions, as Muslims and outsiders.” 
Eventually Tej Singh, his successor, appointed N. B. Khare, a former president 

31 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 107-8 on Aligarh, ibid., p. 163 on Hyderabad, and Ramusack, ‘Punjab 
States’, pp. 182-83 on Patiala. 

32 Metcalf, Islamic Revival, pp. 53-4. 33 Quoted in Rice, Sayaji Rao Ml, vol. 2, p. 138. 

34 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 158-60. 35 Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, passim. 


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of the Hindu Mahasahba, as prime minister. In 1947 there were rumours that 
Alwar provided facilities for the training of members of the militant Rashtriya 
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and a refuge for the assassins of Gandhi. Although 
the maharaja and Khare were subsequently exonerated of this charge,*° the 
rulers of Alwar and Bharatpur supported the Hindu Mahasahba and the RSS 
during the trauma of partition.*” 

My own research has explored the considerable role of Maharaja Bhupinder 
Singh in the formation and subsequent activities of the Shiromani Gurdwara 
Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC). Initiated in 1920 and legally recognised 
in 1925, the SGPC was a committee of 175 men who controlled the gu- 
rudwaras in Punjab. Although he was never dominant, Bhupinder Singh, his 
son (Yadavindra Singh) and a grandson (Amarindar Singh) would function 
as intermediaries between colonial and independent central governments in 
New Delhi and this powerful communication and patronage network.*® 

Princely support for Muslim anjumans, which could be cultural, educational 
or political associations, and the Muslim League is not well researched. Lucien 
Benichou has emphasised that the nizams of Hyderabad had promoted religious 
toleration and until the mid-1940s avoided cultivating distinctly communal 

Muslim organisations.°? 

Education and medical aid for women 

Princes and their consorts aided institutions for women. Foremost among the 
beneficiaries was the National Association for Supplying Female Medical Aid 
to the Women of India or the Dufferin Fund, as it came to be called after 
the vicereine Lady Dufferin, its founder. Established in 1885, this institu- 
tion provided medical training for women, medical assistance for women in 
institutional settings, and trained nurses and midwives. About Rs 70 000, al- 
most half of its initial endowment of Rs 148 344, came from princes who 
contributed at least Rs 500 each to become life councillors. By 1886 Mysore 
had the first branch of the Dufferin Fund in a princely state,“? and Dufferin 
hospitals were built in other princely states. Maharaja Madho Singh of Jaipur 
gave Rs 135000 to the Dufferin Fund from 1885 to 1902, with the stipu- 
lation that it be used for women in purdah, and Rs 10000 to Lady Minto’s 

36 V. P Menon, The Story of the Integration of the Indian States (London, 1956), pp. 253-4. 

37 Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, ch. 6. 38 Ramusack, ‘Punjab States’. 

39 Lucien D. Benichou, From Autocracy to Integration: Political Developments in Hyderabad State (1938- 
1948) (Chennai, 2000). 

40 Maneesha Lal, ‘The Politics of Gender and Medicine in Colonial India: The Countess of Dufferin 
Fund, 1885-1888’, BHM 68 (1994), pp. 35-6. 


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Nursing Fund in 1918.41 When vicereine Hardinge appealed to ‘her friends 
amongst the Ruling Chiefs’ for funds to establish a women’s medical college 
in New Delhi to attract ‘women of the right type’, Jaipur granted Rs 3 lakhs, 
the largest donation. As the major princely donors, including Jaipur, Gwalior, 
Patiala, Hyderabad, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Kotah, did not havea reputation for 
being socially progressive, it seems the concept of an institution that could be 
feminist in its support for women’s professional education appealed to princes 
whose female relatives lived in various forms of purdah. It also might be polit- 
ically inexpedient to deny a vicereine.” Evincing regional variations, the ruler 
of Travancore, where purdah was not observed, established a scholarship for 
women at the co-educational Madras Medical College.*? 

The patronage of women in princely families focused on medicine and edu- 
cation. Jadonji Maharani, a wife of Madho Singh of Jaipur, gave Rs 1 lakh to the 
Lady Minto’s Nursing Fund in 1907. It is noteworthy that her gift occurred 
shortly after the fund was started and over a decade before that of her husband. 
The begum of Bhopal and maharanis of Gwalior provided small contributions 
to the Lady Hardinge Medical College.*° Schools for girls were early recipients 
of princely largess. Maharani Suniti Devi of Cooch Behar and her sister, both 
daughters of Keshub Chandra Sen, a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, financed the 
Maharani School, established in 1908 in Darjeeling. Begum Sultan Jahan of 
Bhopal was variously president of the All-India Muslim Ladies Conference and 

the All-India Women’s Conference, which promoted education for women.“° 

The first chancellor of the MAO College at Aligarh, in 1916 she chided her 


No less important than the education of the male members of your community is the 
education of the weaker sex . . . Female education has been a part of your programme from 
the very outset and there had been a deal of talk about it for more than a quarter ofa century. 
But these efforts have been too spasmodic to produce any appreciable good.*” 

Princesses from Bharatpur, Dharampur, Indore, Limbdi, Nawanagar, Phaltan, 
Porbandar and Wadhwan each contributed Rs 1000 to the Shreemati Nathibai 
Damodar Thackersey Indian Women’s University that D. K. Karve had 

41 Sarkar, History, p. 376. ® Tady Harding Hospital’, JAMWT5 (February 1916), pp. 33-4. 

43 Countess of Dufferin Fund, Twenty-eighth Report of the Madras Branch (Madras, 1914), p. 53, 
OIOC, ST/84. 

44 Sarkar, History, p. 376. 5 ‘Lady Hardinge’, p. 34. 

46 Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, Contesting Seclusion: The Political Emergence of Muslim Women in 
Bhopal, 1901-1930, PhD thesis, University of London (1998); Khan, Begums, pp. 179-80. 

47 Speech delivered in March 1916 at Aligarh, Speeches of Indian Princes (Allahabad, n.d.), p. 45. 


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established in 1916, first in Poona and then in Bombay.** It is difficult to 
determine how autonomous princely women were as patrons or what were the 
sources of their funds. Their male relatives might have promoted such philan- 
thropic activities to acquire prestige in the colonial hierarchy through honours 
and titles for themselves or their female relatives. But there was a longstand- 
ing pan-Indian custom that one aspect of queenly dharma was to patronise 

religious and social service institutions.” 

Literature and history 

In literary studies and historical research, the sacred and the secular are closely 
intertwined. In south India the maharajas of Mysore and Travancore accu- 
mulated substantial collections of Sanskrit manuscripts, while in north India 
the maharajas of Baroda, Bikaner, Kashmir, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur and their 
subjects (especially Jains and other mercantile communities) gathered signif 
icant libraries.°? By 1874 the Bikaner Library held 1400 manuscripts that 
Dr G. Buhler, then an education inspector on special duty in Rajputana, char- 
acterised as ‘a good deal of trash, a few nearly unique, anda dozen or two of rare 
works. Its strongest points are the Vedas, Dharmasastra or sacred law, Samgita, 
or the art of singing and dancing, and Mantra’.?! During the 1910s Sayaji 
Rao of Baroda began to assemble Sanskrit manuscripts that became the core 
of the Oriental Institute of Baroda. To extend access, Benoytosh Bhattacharya 
began to edit, annotate and publish selected Sanskrit works in the Gaekwad’s 
Oriental Series.” 

A relatively unexplored area is the princely role in the construction of Indian 
history. The analysis of Indian historiography that sought to forge a nationalist 
identity has paid little attention to the princely states, or to whether a similar 
construction of Indian or nationalist identity was occurring where colonial 
power was one level removed.”? Once again we have only stray bits of infor- 
mation. First, some princes such as those in Baroda and Patiala patronised 

48 SNDT Indian Women’s University, Silver Jubilee Souvenir (1942), pp. 57-8. 

49 Joshi, Polygamy, pp. 131-2. 

°° Donald Clay Johnson, ‘German Influences on the Development of Research Libraries in Nineteenth 
Century Bombay, SALNQ 19-20 (Fall 1985/Spring 1986), pp. 25-6. 

>! Memorandum by Dr G. Buhler, NAI, GOI, Home-Public A, June 1876, nos. 143-4. Buhler would 
later produce an influential translation of the Laws of Manu. 

52 Rice, Sayaji Rao Ill, vol. 2, pp. 153-6; Gaekwad, Sayajirao, pp. 302-4. 

3 "Two examples are Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative 
Discourse? (London, 1986) and Gyanendra Pandey, The Construction of Communalism in Colonial 
North India (Delhi, 1990). 


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scholars who wrote on the history of their regions, their dynasties and their 
religions. Second, a few princes joined nationalist efforts to shape icons for an 
Indian nation. Maharaja Sayaji Rao of Baroda and the chiefs of Ichalkaranji 
and Vishalgad, two feudatories of Kolhapur state, contributed to memori- 
alise Shivaji, the Maratha hero, but many princes, such as Maharaja Shahu 
Chhatrapati of Kolhapur, refused support for the projection of a militant 
Shivaji.** More Maratha princes donated to commemorate M. G. Ranade, 
a mid-nineteenth-century moderate Maratha reformer and nationalist, rather 
than giving to the Shivaji Fund.°® Their generosity might reflect that Ranade 
allegedly said that ‘what is happening in the States is of even greater sociological 
interest than [what is] happening in British India. For the heart of India... 
beats in the Indian States’.*° 

Besides histories and heroes, museums and archaeological sites shaped In- 
dian identity. Princes erected museums that housed disparate exhibits includ- 
ing indigenous flora and fauna, Indian painting and sculpture, European 
visual arts and industrial gadgets. In 1886 Maharaja Madho Singh opened 
the Jaipur Museum in Albert Hall, an Indo-Saracenic structure built specifi- 
cally to be a museum. It contained Indian industrial exhibits as well as arts and 
antiquities.” In 1922 Maharaja Sayaji Rao of Baroda inaugurated a museum 
although his private collection of mainly modern Indian art had been avail- 
able for public viewing since 1912.°8 Support for archaeology came in various 
forms. In September 1887 in his opening speech to the Mysore Representative 
Assembly, the diwan reported on the state-funded collection of inscriptions 
and proposed a ‘complete’ archaeological survey that would include illustra- 
tions but also conservation and restoration of buildings and monuments. He 
concluded that ‘these undertakings cannot, it is hoped, fail to give life to the 
national history and lead to a great appreciation of Jocal interests’? A few 
princes subsidised the publication of opulent volumes on major archaeological 
and historical sites located within their states. The rulers of Bhopal supported 
volumes on Sanchi, a major Buddhist stupa and pilgrimage site within its 
territory, and the nizam of Hyderabad financially underwrote some volumes 

>4 Cashman, Myth, pp. 106-15. > Thid., p. 112. 

56 Quoted by K. Natarajan, editor of Indian Social Reformer, when he presided over the Indian 
States’ People’s Conference at Delhi on 3 February 1934: N. Mitra, JAR, vol. I, January—June 
1934 (Calcutta, 1934), p. 356. 

°7 Metcalf Imperial Vision, pp. 133-5; Barbara N. Ramusack, “Tourism and Icons: The Packaging of 
the Princely States of Rajasthan’, in Catherine B. Asher and Thomas R. Metcalf (eds), Perceptions of 
South Asia’s Visual Past (New Delhi, 1994), pp. 238-9. 

°8 Gaekwad, Sayajirao, pp. 326-31. 

>) Printed Address, 30 September 1887, included in volume entitled Proceedings of the Mysore Repre- 
sentative Assembly, 1881-1886, KSA, B 20,451. Emphasis added. 


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on Ajanta and Ellora.® Since all three sites were either Buddhist, Hindu or 
Jain, the patronage of these Muslim rulers implied a pluralist, Indian cultural 
heritage. In the context of Southeast Asia, Benedict Anderson has argued that 
‘monumental archaeology, increasingly linked to tourism, allowed the state to 
appear as the guardian of a generalised, but also local, Tradition’. Then print 
capitalism disseminated archaeological reports and lavishly illustrated books 
that provided a ‘pictorial census of the state’s patrimony’.°! Anderson claims 
that the colonial state used museums and archaeological sites to legitimate 
its exercise of power and that post-colonial states continued this practice. In 
India princes patronised museums and lavishly printed books on cultural sites 
as modern means of legitimating their authority and demonstrating princely 
dharma in a rapidly changing political context. 

Visual and performing arts 

For many centuries Indian rulers were generous patrons of architecture, sculp- 
ture and painting. Such support was a crucial aspect of kingly dharma and 
affirmed izgzat (honour) and legitimacy. Moreover, Hindu rulers, the Delhi 
Sultans and the Mughals, particularly Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, used 
architecture and painting to publicise their claims to absolute authority legit- 
imated by semi-divine status. Mughal forts, palaces, gardens and tombs were 
physical representations of Mughal power strategically placed throughout con- 
quered and incorporated territories. In painting, portraits depicted Mughal 
emperors with halos indicating semi-divine status, as sources of light, and even 
standing on an hourglass and thus controlling time. Illustrations to imperial 
histories such as the Akbarnama showed emperors victorious in battle and 
supervising the construction of impressive forts and gardens. From the seven- 
teenth century onward, Rajput rulers and successor princes blended Mughal 
and Hindu symbols of authority in architecture and painting. 

Recent scholarship has reversed earlier judgements that Rajput patrons 
rather ineptly imitated imperial, whether Mughal or British, models in the 

60 John Marshall and Alfred Foucher, The Monuments of Sanchi, 3 vols (Calcutta, 1940-41); Vasudev 
Vishnu Mirashi (ed.), Vakataka Inscription in Cave XVI at Ajanta, Hyderabad Archaeological Series, 
no. 14 (Calcutta, 1941); Ghulam Yazdani, Ajanta: The Colour and Monochrome Reproductions of the 
Ajanta Frescoes Based on Photography, 4 vols (London, 1930-55). 

6! Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. 
edn (London, 1991), pp. 181-2. 

62 Edward S. Haynes, ‘Patronage for the Arts and the Rise of Alwar State’, in Schomer, /dea, vol. 2, 

. 265-89. 

63 Cicneaie B. Asher, The New Cambridge History of India, I: 4 Architecture of Mughal India 

(Cambridge, 1992). 


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visual arts. In architecture Catherine Asher and G. H. R. Tillotson have em- 
phasised that Mughal elements were incorporated within a Rajput frame of 
reference. Thus the great Rajput forts at Amber, Jodhpur, Bundi and Gwalior 
are creative syntheses of imperial and local forms. During the late nineteenth 
century Rajput princes responded yet again to the architectural models of an 
imperial overlord. Although the British initially favoured classical styles recall- 
ing the imperial legacy of Rome, by the 1870s British engineers and architects 
had. developed the Indo-Saracenic style as more suitable for public buildings 
serving Indians. Thomas Metcalf has documented this style, which combined 
Indic-Hindu elements such as lavish ornamentation and Muslim-Saracenic 
ones, especially arches and domes. He argues that the British believed that ap- 
propriate architecture influenced character and that the Indo-Saracenic style 
was particularly fitting for princely palaces and museums. The former would 
be the setting for British imperial rituals, especially viceregal and imperial visits 
where banquets required new kinds of spaces, and the latter would display a 
reconstruction of the historical past of the state and the collecting habits of a 
ruler. On the one hand Sayaji Rao and Ganga Singh, princes eager to display 
their commitment to their imperial patron, used the Indo-Saracenic style when 
building Lakshmi Vilas Palace in Baroda and Lallgarh Palace at Bikaner. On 
the other hand Maharajas Ram Singh II and Madho Singh of Jaipur, generous 
patrons of Swinton Jacob, the high priest of Indo-Saracenic architecture, were 
careful to exclude this imposition of imperial cultural hegemony from their 
personal world of the City Palace. They confined the Indo-Saracenic style to 
public buildings such as Albert Hall for the Jaipur Museum and Rambagh 
Palace, their guest house for European visitors. 

Other princes were more overt in their rejection of British prescriptions and 
built new palaces dominated by European references.°° Maharaja Jayaji Rao 
Scindia of Gwalior used Doric and Corinthian columns and Palladian windows 
in Jai Vilas Palace and had a durbar hall with the most massive glass chandeliers 
in the world. This palace was finished in less than two years to provide a stage 
for the reception of the Prince of Wales in 1875. In the 1920s another Maratha 
prince, the holkar of Indore, built a Palladian-inspired palace whose location 
on the outskirts of the capital city seemed to indicate the ruler’s retreat from 
active engagement in his state. British ideas about what was suitable for the 
princes also changed. In Marwar-Jodhpur, H. V. Lancaster, the architect of 

64 Ibid. and G. H. R. Tillotson, The Rajput Palaces: The Development of an Architectural Style, 
1450-1750 (New Haven CN, 1987). 

6 Metcalf, Imperial Vision, pp. 105-40. 

66 Maharaja of Baroda [Fateh Singh Rao Gaekwad], Palaces of India (New York, 1980). 


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Lakshmi Vilas Palace in Baroda. 

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Courtyard and City Palace in Jaipur. 

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Umaid Bhavan Palace, built between 1929 and 1944 partly to provide work 
during a famine, firmly rejected Indo-Saracenic features as inappropriate in 
Jodhpur since the area had been under only limited Muslim control.°” Thus 
princely patronage of architecture reflected ambiguous political and aesthetic 
engagement with an imperial cultural hegmony. In independent India erstwhile 
rulers would recycle both Indo-Saracenic and European-inspired palaces as 
hotels to provide fantasy for international and domestic tourists. 

In painting, rulers of states such as Bikaner, Bundi and Marwar, who 
were early allies of the Mughals, were the first to borrow selectively from 
the Mughal style of imperial portraiture, but Mewar and others eventually fol- 
lowed. Vishakha Desai has analysed how Rajput princely portraits became more 
representative of physical characteristics of individual rulers and incorporated 
Mughal symbols such as the halo while they continued to emphasise indige- 
nous conceptual aspects of idealised kingship. Thus painters at Rajput courts, 
whether Hindu or Muslims, were not trying to produce Mughal-style, psycho- 
logically sensitive images but rather were manipulating Mughal elements to 
enhance the visual representation of physical attributes of Rajput kingly ideals 
such as elephant-shaped legs and lotus-style ears. Moreover, by the eighteenth 
century Rajput princes in Rajasthan were more frequently painted in the con- 
text of their durbars, festivals, and kingly activities such as hunting than in the 
single, isolated portraits common in Mughal painting. Thus rulers acknowl- 
edged iconographically their position as first among equals and as protectors of 
their subjects, but in their bountiful patronage of painters they also advertised 
their legitimacy. 

Large-scale paintings from Mewar vividly indicate changing durbar scenes 
from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Now housed in the City 
Palace Museum in Udaipur, these paintings depict elephant fights, festival 
celebrations such as Holi and Dussehra, hunting scenes, and receptions of 
British agents. They provide visual evidence of changing power relations.”° 
In 1818 James Tod, the first British agent to Udaipur, was received accord- 
ing to Indian protocols in the open air and seated on the ground. By 1930 
L. W. Reynolds, the AGG for Rajputana and chief guest at the enthrone- 
ment durbar of Maharana Bhupal Singh, participated in a British-approved 

67 Tbid., p. 48. 68 Ramusack, ‘Tourism’, pp. 242-5. 

BLN. Goswamy, ‘Of Devotées and Elephants Fights: Some Notes on the Subject Matter of Mughal 
and Rajput Painting’, in Vishakha N. Desai, Life at Court: Art for India’s Rulers, 16th-19th Centuries 
(Boston, 1985), pp. xix—xxiii and passim; Vishakha N. Desai, “Timeless Symbols: Royal Portraits 
from Rajasthan 17th-19th Centuries’, in Schomer, /dea, vol. 1, pp. 313-42. 

70 Andrew Topsfield, The City Palace Museum Udaipur: Paintings of Mewar Court Life (Ahmedabad, 


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ceremony complete with armchairs. From the late nineteenth century onward, 
painters selectively borrowed European techniques such as a more naturalistic 
depiction of landscape and the use of photographs to paint more individu- 
alised faces for princely portraits. The impact of the camera is recorded in 
another way. A painting of Maharana Bhupal Singh celebrating the Gangaur 
festival, a women’s celebration devoted to Gauri, the goddess of abundance, 
includes a British woman with a camera.’! She was one in a long proces- 
sion of camera-carrying foreign visitors to Rajput princely states, ranging 
from Lady Dufferin, who enthusiastically photographed Udaipur’s Pichola 
Lake in 1885, to contemporary tourists in search of fantasy.’* But court 
painters and tourists were not alone in bringing photography to the princely 

By the 1860s photography was a popular means of representation in 
the princely states. Many princes relied on British firms such as Bourne & 
Shepherd or Johnston & Hoffman to take their portraits whenever they visited 
Calcutta,’? but a few chose Indians as their official photographers. Around 
1869 Maharaja Malhar Rao of Baroda selected Hurrychund Chintamon as his 
official photographer, while the holkar of Indore subsidised Lala Deen Dayal, 
who was employed first as an estimator and draftsman in the Indore Public 
Works Department.”4 In 1884 Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan of Hyderabad ap- 
pointed Dayal as his official photographer and later conferred the title of raja on 
him. While in the nizam’s service, Dayal oversaw commercial studios in Indore, 
Bombay and Secunderabad. The last one even had a zenana studio where a 
British woman photographed Indian women. Dayal also secured commissions 
from viceroys and other prominent Britons and was the official photographer 
for Lord Curzon on his visits to the princely states and for the Imperial Durbar 
of 1903. Selections of the photographs of Raja Lala Deen Dayal are widely 
published, but there has not been an in-depth analysis of how this ubiquitous 
photographer-entrepreneur influenced the representation of Indian princes by 
both British and other Indian photographers. 

Princes made other uses of photography. They documented viceregal visits 
and princely reform projects with albums elaborately bound in leather or 
velvet, ornamented with semi-precious jewels and closed with brass or silver 

71 Thid., p. 146. 

72 Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, Our Viceregal Life in India: Selections from my Journal 1884-1888, 
vol. I (London, 1890), p. 228. 

73 The Last Empire: Photography in British India, 1855-1911 with texts by Clark Worswick and Ainslie 
Embree (New York, 1976). 

74 Clark Worswick (ed.), Princely India: Photographs by Raja Deen Dayal 1884-1911 (New York, 1980) 
and Judith Mara Gutman, Through Indian Eyes (New York, 1982), pp. 28, 108-9. 


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clasps.’? These collections visually chronicled their relationship with British 
patrons and princely administrative innovations. Their pages held views of 
clean, airy, spacious hospitals, schools and jails. These images chart Michel 
Foucault’s provocative analysis of how modern states used such institutions to 
extend their control over the lives of individuals. 

Other aspects of modernisation featured in photographs included a water- 
pumping station in Mysore; a town hall, a school of industrial crafts and arts 
and a golf pavilion in Travancore; and a state library, a college, a museum and 
a clock tower in Baroda.”° These views do not appear in the continuing stream 
of coffee table books of Indian photographs published for mass consumption. 
Their emphasis on princely portraits and palaces reflect a nostalgia for Oriental 
exoticism embodied in opulent dress and fantastic architecture and sites of 
colonial performances, especially viceregal visits, dinner parties and sporting 

Princes also exploited photography to publicise their efforts as benevolent 
protectors of their subjects. Two notable examples are the series of Nizam 
Mahbub Ali Khan of Hyderabad’s Good Works Project — Famine Relief in 
1895-1902 and of Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner’s famine relief programs 
in 1899.’” One prince mimicked the British effort to classify Indian society 
and thereby employ knowledge as a means of control. In 1891 the maharaja 
of Marwar commissioned a three-volume census of the people of Marwar. 
One volume had photographs of individuals posed against studio backdrops 
as well as in outdoor settings, accompanied by descriptive texts. Firmly in 
the tradition of ethnographic photography in British India that documented 
and classified the varied ‘racial’ types and occupations of Indians — especially 
those characterised as primitive, such as Nagas and the Andaman Islanders — 
this census reflects another selective borrowing by Indian princes of imperial 
cultural forms.”® 

Some princes became enthusiastic photographers. The most noted were 
the rulers of Jaipur, Travancore and Tripura, the last joined by his wife in this 

75 Lord Curzon, OIOC, Photo 430, collected at least thirty-one albums recording his visits. On a 
more modest level, British political officers made similar collections, several of which are held at the 
British Library. 

76 Mysore, Curzon, OIOC, Photo 430/41; Travancore, ibid., Photo 430/45; Baroda ibid., Photo 

7 Examples from Hyderabad are in Gutman, /ndian Eyes, and the Bikaner’s series is in Curzon, OIOC, 
Photo 430/25 with selected views in Naveen Patnaik, A Desert Kingdom: The Rajputs of Bikaner 
(New York, 1990), p. 34. 

78 John Falconer, ‘Photography in Nineteenth-Century India,’ pp. 264—77, and ‘Anthropology and the 
Colonial Image’, in C. A. Bayly (ed.), The Raj: India and the British 1600-1947 (London, 1990), 
pp. 278-304; Gutman, Jndian Eyes, pp. 141-3. 


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Central Jail at Junagarh, c. 1900. 

avocation. Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur established a department of pho- 
tography that documented nobles over whom he was tightening control.”? 
The interest in photography was not confined to states in geographical areas 
readily accessible to the outside world. In northeastern India the maharaja and 
maharani of Tripura not only took pictures but developed their own prints. 
Their second son invented a chemical process for coating his own printing 
paper.®? In 1864 the raja of Chamba showed Samuel Bourne, then touring 
the Himalayas, his collection of cameras, lenses and chemicals.8! The princely 
interest in photography reveals that these Indian rulers were willing to experi- 
ment with new artistic forms to enhance the representation of their authority 

79 Tbid., pp. 91-2. B. N. Goswami also reports a cache of photographs of Ram Singh in erotic poses 
with his favourite mistress at the City Palace Museum in Jaipur: Goswami, ‘Devotees’, pp. xix and 

80 Vidya Dehejia, ‘Maharajas as Photographers’, pp. 227-9, in Vidya Dehejia, India Through the Lens: 
Photography 1840-1911 (Washington DC, 2000). 

81 Ray Desmond, Victorian India In Focus: A Selection of Early Photographs from the Collection in the 
India Office Library and Records (London, 1982), p. 5. 


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as well as to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. Bourne might marvel that the 
Chamba prince was interested in such a modern invention, but he shared 
his cultural condescension with scholars who deplore the erosion of princely 
patronage of painting under British cultural hegemony without acknowledg- 
ing that new political, economic and cultural factors might direct princely 
benefaction to emerging art forms such as photography or to new arenas for 
older ones such as music. 

Both Hindu and Muslim rulers throughout India nurtured musicians, 
singers, instrumentalists and dancers. Joan Erdman has analysed the changing 
patterns of patronage in Jaipur from the early eighteenth century to the 1980s. 
Since the founding of Jaipur city, the Jaipur state maintained a gunijankhana, 
a royal department of virtuosos who were state employees providing music 
for official occasions as well as leisure activities. Jaipur rulers patronised both 
folk or non-classical as well as classical musicians. Maharaja Ram Singh II, 
who died in 1880, was the last ruler to be both patron and musical per- 
former. His successors continued to maintain the gunijankhana, but Madho 
Singh mainly provided for orthodox religious activities and Man Singh was 
famous for his promotion of sports. Moreover, the gunijankhana was increas- 
ingly bureaucratised, with non-musicians becoming the chief administrators 
as the rulers changed from being connoisseurs of the arts to employers of 
artists and European manners became the preferred sign of status rather than 
the quality of the artists.8* Other states were substantial supporters of the 
performing arts: Mysore for classical bharatnatayam dance and the Maratha- 
ruled states of Gwalior, Baroda and Indore for musicians. Even smaller states 
with limited resources, most notably Rampur in the United Provinces, were 
significant benefactors. One musician said he left a theatre company when ap- 
proached by Rampur ‘because it was a court service, and a respectable one’.°? 
At Rampur the musicians played for the prince and his friends after dinner, 
reflecting how princes had adopted western-style dinner parties and times for 

Princely patronage was also involved in changing institutional structures 
for the performance of music and dance. Several gharanas that provide 
‘a repertoire of stylistic elements’ and ‘rules of appropriateness for performance 
practices in Hindustani music’ are associated with princely capitals. Evolving 
during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the gharanas 

82 Erdman, Patrons, ch. 3, and pp. 110-13. 
83 Daniel M. Neuman, The Life of Music in North India: The Organization of an Artistic Tradition 
(Detroit, 1980), p. 170. 


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encompass ‘a lineage of musicians, the disciples, and the particular musical 
style they represent’.*4 The oldest of the gharanas is associated with Gwalior, 
and others with states such as Indore, Kolhapur, Rampur, Jaipur and Patiala. In 
his comprehensive analysis of the changing organisation of music performance 
in north India, Daniel Neuman mentions princely patronage but has not ex- 
amined in depth the relationship of rulers to the families who constituted the 

In 1916 the first All-India Music Conference convened in Baroda to define a 
nationalist agenda and an educational program for Indian music. Fatesinghrao 
Gaekwad characterised this event as ‘a fest for lovers of music’ where the perfor- 
mances by musicians from rival schools ‘were in the nature of a competition’.®° 
Several other maharajas contributed funds for the second All-India Music Con- 
ference held two years later, which also solicited public subscriptions.*° Subse- 
quently Sayaji Rao held annual musical conferences in Baroda and attempted 
to change the nature of Holi celebrations so that ‘the rowdiness, obscenity 
and vulgarity that were traditionally associated with Holi were replaced by 
a running feast of wholesome and skilled artistic performance’.®’ Although 
more research is needed on princely patronage of musicians, there is clear ev- 
idence that princes were key figures during the transition of patronage from 
the personal, intimate world of the royal court to the bureaucratic, populist 
organisations of post-colonial India such as All-India Radio and the Sangeet 



Some commentators condemn the princes for shifting their patronage from 
elite activities such as the fine arts of painting and music to more vulgar ac- 
tivities such as sports. But participation in certain sports had long been part 
of kingly dharma in both the indigenous Hindu and the incoming Turkic and 
Persian traditions. Hunting was a form of preparation for battle, a display of 
physical courage, and occasionally an effort to protect one’s subjects from de- 
structive animals, particularly tigers. Mughal emperors and Hindu kings, most 
notably the maharajas of Kotah, immortalised their involvement with hunt- 
ing in vibrant paintings.°* During the late nineteenth and into the twentieth 

84 Ibid. p. 146. 85 Gaekwad, Sayajirao, p. 291. 

86 Daniel M. Neuman, ‘Patronage and Performance of Indian Music’, in Barbara Stoler Miller (ed.), 
The Powers of Art: Patronage in Indian Culture (Delhi, 1992), pp. 247-58. 

87 Gaekwad, Sayajirao, p. 292. 

88 William G. Archer, Indian Painting in Bundi and Kotah (London, 1959), pp. 47-52; Stuart Cary 
Welch (ed.), Gods, Kings, and Tigers (Munich, 1997). 


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centuries, hunting continued to be a prominent emblem of princely dharma. 
It also developed into a ubiquitous cultural activity for British colonists in Asia 
and Africa. Comparing lion-hunting in Africa with tiger-hunting in north- 
ern India, William Storey argues that colonial big-game hunting ‘articulated 
a language of power over “restless natives” ’ and implies that it displayed the 
dominance of western culture over nature and of colonists over colonised.®? 
John MacKenzie adds that ‘hunting represented a historic cultural interaction 
which the British were able to use to build social bridges with Indians, particu- 
larly the Indian aristocracy’.”° However, no scholars have analysed the British 
imperial cult of hunting that evolved in the late nineteenth century, which 
“represented an increasing concern with the external appearance of authority’ 
from the perspective of the Indian princes.”! 

First, princes as protectors of their people were supposed to be courageous. 
Charles Allen recounts that Rajput princes including Dungarpur and Kotah 
and Muslim ones such as Palanpur and Pataudi recalled shooting their first 
panther or tiger, generally around the age of 11 or 12, as a rite of passage to 
adulthood. Although hunting is usually deemed a masculine activity in both 
British and Indian cultures, women in princely families also participated both 
in the Mughal period and in the twentieth century. In 1925 Madho Rao Scindia 
of Gwalior dictated that ‘[c]hildren of both sexes should be taken out shooting 
once a week, and when they have advanced in years they should, as a rule be 
made to spend not less than a couple of weeks annually on tiger-shooting’.”” 
Later Gayatri Devi, the maharani of Jaipur, remembered shooting her first 
panther at the age of 12 in Cooch Behar.” 

Second, the organisation of hunting expeditions indicated control of sub- 
stantial material, animal and human resources. Thus the elaborate shikars or 
hunting expeditions of princes were one possible arena for displaying their 
assets to their subjects and their imperial overlord. Some princes liked to por- 
tray how they were more accessible to their subjects when they were hunting, 
especially in remote areas, than they were in their capitals. But the limited 
evidence for such encounters is mainly hearsay. More lavishly documented are 
the opulent hunting expeditions that the princes arranged for their imperial 

89 William K. Storey, ‘Big Cats and Imperialism: Lion and Tiger Hunting in Kenya and Northern 
India, 1898-1930’, JWH 2, 2 (Fall 1991), p. 137. 

90 John M. MacKenzie, The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation and British Imperialism 
(Manchester, 1988), p. 169. 

1 Thid., p. 171. 

° Quoted from Gwalior’s General Policy Durbar, 1925 in Allen and Dwivedi, Lives, p. 127. 

93 Gayatri Devi, Princess, pp. 65-6. 


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Prince George Jivaji Rao and Princess Mary Kamlaraja of Gwalior at March Past 
during visit of Prince of Wales, 8-12 February 1922. 

suzerains. The most famous hunts were for tigers in Gwalior, Jaipur and Alwar, 
for sand grouse on Gajner Lake in Bikaner, for various birds in Bharatpur, and 
using cheetahs to hunt wild buck in Baroda. 

British overlords ranging from princes of Wales to viceroys and political 
officers expected to participate in extravagant shikars, to bag spectacular 
trophies, and to be surrounded by luxury while they were living in the 
‘wild’. Three princes of Wales (Edward VII [1875-76], George V [1905] and 
Edward VIII [1921-22]) hunted extensively in the princely states. In the 
midst of Gandhi's first major non-cooperation movement in late 1921, the 
prince of Wales found refuge from the massive public protests against his visit 
in hunting in the princely states and Nepal.°4 At Gwalior he would be greeted 
by the children of the anglophile Madho Rao, who were named George and 

°4 Bernard C. Ellison, H. R. H. The Prince of Wales’ Sport in India, edited by H. Perry Robinson 
(London, 1925). 


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Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior seated among tigers with Prince of Wales standing, 8-12 February 1922. 

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Viceroys participated and even Edwin S. Montagu, the Liberal secretary of 
state, sought relief from the political negotiations during his tour of 1917-18 
in shikar.?° In describing a hunt in Alwar, Montagu revealed his attraction 
to and ambivalence about hunting as well as his equivocal attitudes toward 
non-elites, such as villagers and beaters. 

Nothing thrills me so much as these shoots. The excitement and the arrangements make 
the day pass like lightning, but what I hate about them, which destroys the happiness, is 
that I am expected to shoot the tiger . . . I agree that it is essential to shoot them, for 
the damage that they do to the villagers’ cattle, and sometimes to the villagers themselves, 
is infinite, but I would prefer that somebody else took the responsibility of the climax 
of a shoot, upon which so much depends, and upon which so much trouble has been 

During that beat he eventually shot a tigress who had wounded a beater and 
concluded ‘we would have been very happy except for the mauling of a man, 
which I am assured is incidental to this ritual. I cannot ascertain news of his 

Shikar within princely states served multiple functions. Princes could ex- 
hibit their wealth and their managerial ability in overseeing such large-scale 
undertakings. They provided opportunities to lobby informally British offi- 
cials on sensitive issues. For both princes and British, shikar was a substitute 
for warfare and an activity deemed appropriately masculine when gender roles 
and behaviours were being intensely questioned.?® Subsequently some princes 
changed their attitudes and became leaders in game preservation and conser- 
vation. The rulers of Kashmir, Mysore and Bharatpur developed game sanctu- 
aries before 1947, and their refuges and those in other princely states would 
be transformed into national wildlife parks during the 1950s.” 

Another sport closely associated with kingship in India was wrestling. The 
connection between kings and wrestlers has been traced to the epic Ramayana 
where Hanuman, the monkey god devoted to Rama, was portrayed wrestling. 
Joseph Alter asserts that ‘[k]ings have kept wrestlers because the physical 
strength of the wrestler symbolises the political might of the King’.!°° The 

95 Edwin S. Montagu, An Indian Diary, edited by Venetia Montagu (London, 1930) hunted in 
Bikaner, pp. 52-5; Patiala, pp. 203-6; Dholpur, pp. 238-42; Bharatpur, pp. 280-1; Alwar, 
pp. 290-3; Jaipur, pp: 314-18; and Bhopal, pp. 327-9. 

°6 Tbid., p. 290. Ibid., p. 293. 

°8 Satadru Sen, ‘Chameleon Games: Ranjitsinhji’s Politics of Race and Gender,’ JCCH 2, 3 (2001), 

. 23-4. 

2% Macesaae The Empire of Nature, pp. 283-91. Major parks in formerly princely territory are 
Bandipur in Mysore, Siraska in Alwar, the Gir Forest in Saurashtra, Periyar in Travancore. 

100 Joseph S. Alter, The Wrestlers Body: Identity and Ideology in North India (Berkeley CA, 1992), 
p. 72. 


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dedication to his calling, the valour, the diet and the exercise regime of a 
wrestler reflected the political power and the moral virtue of his royal patron. 
In turn, the status of a prince enhanced the esteem of his wrestlers. 

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the rulers of 
Aundh, Baroda, Datia, Indore, Jodhpur, Kolhapur and Patiala were prominent 
patrons of wrestling. One wrestler exemplifies this relationship. First nurtured 
by the maharaja of Jodhpur, Gama successfully captured the John Bull World 
Championship Competition in 1910. Indian newspapers widely celebrated 
his defeat of the best British wrestlers in the metropole. Two years later the 
maharaja of Patiala became his patron. In 1928 the Sikh prince sponsored 
a major bout in Patiala that attracted 40 000 spectators. After Gama once 
again defeated the opponent he had bested in 1910, Bhupinder Singh placed 
his own pearl necklace on the champion, had him ride the prince’s elephant, 
and awarded a village and an annual stipend to him. Gama’s victory certainly 
entertained people, but Alter stresses that it had political implications since 
“Gama and his patron the maharaja came to symbolise the possibility of self- 
determination and independence’.!°! But Indian wrestlers have not viewed the 
independent GOI kindly. They lament the passing of princely patrons who 
preserved wrestling as a way of life during the British period and transferred 
the wrestler from the private world of the akhara or training pit to the public 
sphere of popular acclaim. The contemporary employment of wrestlers in gov- 
ernment services does not promote public esteem or private self-respect and 
provides no pearl necklaces or villages. Princely patronage of Indian wrestlers 
was yet another way of performing kingly dharma. 

The princes sponsored and participated in other sports embodying military 
and masculine values. Pig-sticking and polo were indigenous sports that the 
British appropriated as displays of manly daring, courage and horsemanship. 
Some princely clients joined them in these ventures, most notably Man Singh of 
Jaipur, who died ofa heart attack while playing polo in England in 1970. Other 
princes such as Rajendra Singh of Patiala (1872-1900), who had achieved fame 
in pig-sticking and polo,'® became enthusiastic participants and patrons of 
an imported aristocratic sport, cricket. 

Although Rajendra was a vigorous batsman, he was more significant for 
recruiting a cosmopolitan team to play for Patiala. His son, Bhupinder Singh, 
expanded state patronage of cricket to the national level, and his grandson 

101 Tbid., p. 77. 
102 Rajendra’s reputation in polo was acknowledged by a caricature in Vanity Fair on 4 January 1900 
in Roy T. Matthews and Peter Mellini, Zn ‘Vanity Fair’ (London, 1982), p. 182. 


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T r 

behest (4 
4a Lae ee 

Wrestling match at Patiala, c. 1930. 

played, supported local and national teams, and organised the National In- 
stitute of Sports in Patiala.!°? Other princes overshadowed Patiala’s fame for 
cricketers. In 1894 Ranjitsinhji of Nawanagar became the first Indian playing 
for an English county team.!°4 According to Arjun Appadurai, he acquired an 
Orientalist glow in which ‘wile became guile, trickery became magic, weakness 
became suppleness, effeminacy was transformed into grace’ and thus came to 
represent the obverse of British stereotypes of Indian effeminacy.! Satadru 
Sen has elaborated on how Ranjitsinhji used his persona as a cricketer acclaimed 
in England to cultivate friendships with senior Rajput princes, especially Partap 

103 Richard Cashman, Patrons, Players and the Crowd: The Phenomenon of Indian Cricket (New Delhi, 
1980), pp. 27-35. 

104 Thid., pp. 35-9; Satadru Sen, ‘Chameleon Games’; Ranjitsinhji’s caricature appeared in Vanity Fair 
on 26 August 1897; Matthews and Mellini, ‘Vanity Fair’, p. 183; Ian Buruma, Playing the Game 
(New York, 1991) is a novel that examines his life and the ambiguities of cultural identity. 

105 Arjun Appadurai, ‘Playing with Modernity: The Decolonization of Indian Cricket’, in Carol 
A. Breckenridge (ed.), Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asian World (Minneapolis, 
1995), p. 30. 


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Singh, who would support his claims to status as a Rajput and to the gaddi 
of Nawanagar.!°° Defining the 1920s and 1930s as the golden age of princely 
involvement, Richard Cashman speculates that through cricket the princes 
gained advantageous contacts with British officials and popularity among In- 
dian audiences during a period of political change. Princely patronage of cricket 
ironically contributed to the eventual decolonisation of cricket and its present 
status as perhaps the most popular Indian spectator sport. After independence, 
the nawabs of Pataudi and Loharu continued the tradition of celebrity prince- 


From 1858 to 1947 when the British Parliament exerted direct control in 
India, British officials projected multiple and contradictory images of the 
Indian princes on the screen of public discourse. After proclaiming that the 
British desired ‘no extension of our present territorial possessions, Queen 
Victoria promised to ‘respect the rights, dignity and honour of the native 
princes as our own’.!°7 Indian princes were to be preserved, glorified and re- 
warded for services rendered in time of imperial need during the revolt of 1857. 
As outlined in Chapter 4, British officials in the colony and the metropole long 
debated over how to relate to Indian princes legally, ritually and personally. 
After almost twenty years of experimentation, Lord Lytton incorporated the 
Indian princes into an imperial ceremonial hierarchy with Victoria at the apex 
as Empress of India. Declaring that ‘[p]olitically speaking, the Indian peasantry 
is an inert mass. If it ever moves at all it will move in obedience, not to its 
British benefactors, but to its native chiefs and princes, however tyrannical they 
may be’, Lytton characterised the princes as a ‘ “powerful aristocracy” whose 
complicity could be secured and efficiently utilized by the British in India’.1° 
The Indian princes were to be subordinated to their imperial British suzerain 
while remaining influential, legitimate, even if despotic, rulers vis-a-vis their 
Indian subjects. 

The public pronouncements and private views of British officials towards 
the Indian princes continued to show striking ambiguity. Lord Curzon, the 
epitome of British paternal imperialism, and Sir Walter Lawrence, his private 

106 Satadru Sen, ‘Becoming Rajput: The Politics of Race in Ranjitsinhji’s Empire’, paper delivered at 
annual meeting of the American Historical Association, 4 January 2003. I am grateful to the author 
for permission to cite this paper. 

107 Proclamation by Queen Victoria, 1 November 1858, in Sever, Documents, vol. 1, p. 233. 

108 Lytton to Lord Salisbury, secretary of state for India, 11 May 1876, OIOC, E 218/518/1, pp. 147, 
150 and quoted in Cohn, ‘Representing Authority’, pp. 191-2. 


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secretary, reflect these enigmatic images, which indicate conflicting and at times 
uncertain conceptions of British rule in India. An ICS officer who had served 
in both British India and the princely states, Lawrence celebrated the personal 
qualities and administrative effectiveness of the Indian princes. In his memoirs 
he wrote: 

As a boy he [the prince] has listened to his father, and even to his grandfather, telling of the 
problems and incidents of past generations. The Raja is proud of his stored-up knowledge of 
customs, precedents, proverbs; he has a memory for faces and names, and knows the value 
of prompt and laconic decisions. Legends grow up of his wise and pithy judgements . . . 
Durbar justice is prompter and less ruinously expensive than it is in [British] India, and 
in the long run just as fair; for the Raja knows the facts, and understands the people. The 

Rajas — and I have known many of them — are men of great courtesy and dignity, and these 

qualities appeal to all Indian hearts.!° 

Lawrence cited personal experience including informal conversations and visits 
as well as official assignments as the basis of his assessment. 

Lacking casual, personal rapport with Indian princes, Curzon thought in 
terms of imperial policy on a grand scale. Shortly after his arrival in India, 
he declared: “The Native Chief has become, by our policy, an integral fac- 
tor in the Imperial Organisation of India. He is concerned not less than the 
Viceroy or the Lieutenant-Governor in the administration of the country. 
I claim him as my colleague and partner.’!!® But like Lytton, Curzon did not 
view princes as equals of the British. Subsequently Curzon wrote privately to 
Lord George Hamilton, the secretary of state for India in London, that he 
accepted that the British acted as schoolmasters to the princes — ‘For what are 
they, for the most part, but a set of unruly and ignorant and rather undisciplined 

Acombination of concern for protocol and possibly racist and sexist attitudes 
colour Curzon’s characterisations of social relations with Indian princes. He 
once complained of being nauseated by the sight of ‘““English ladies . . . of the 
highest rank” curtseying before the most insignificant princes . . . as if they 
were royalty’.!!? A stickler for observing tables of precedence, Curzon’s nausea 
might have been occasioned by the women’s ignorance of precedence. Even so, 
Curzon like other British men might also have been anxious over the perceived 
challenge presented to British masculinity when British women of any class 

109 Walter Roper Lawrence, The India We Served (London, 1928), pp. 180-1. 

10 Speech by Curzon at Gwalior, 20 November 1899, in Sever, Documents, vol. 1, p. 343. 

ll Curzon to Hamilton, 29 August 1900, in ibid., p. 346. 

"2 Curzon’s minute, 29 February 1904, PSCI, 1875-1911, vol. 163, No. 694/1904 quoted in Ashton, 
British Policy, p. 24. 


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publicly deferred to or were sexually attracted to Indian men. When asked for 
the participation of Indian orderlies in ceremonies related to the coronation of 
Edward VII, Curzon remarked: “The “woman” aspect of the question is rather 
a difficulty, since, strange as it may seem, Englishwomen of the housemaid 
class, and even higher, do offer themselves to these Indian soldiers, attracted 
by their uniform, enamoured by their physique, and with a sort of idea that 
the warrior is also an Oriental prince.’!! 

Although the princes might be administrative partners, they were not to 
be treated as social or sexual equals. In the twentieth century, British officials 
continued to be ambivalent about the image of the Indian princes even as they 
instituted constitutional innovations such as the Chamber of Princes, which 
accorded the princes a defined but circumscribed political forum. But the 
ambiguity of imperial images was matched by an array of images of the princes 
that Indian nationalist leaders epoused. Romesh Chunder Dutt, best known 
for his theory that the British drained India of its economic resources but also 
a former ICS officer and minister in Baroda state, was an early nationalist 
apologist for the princes. When referring to Mysore and Baroda in the closing 
decades of the nineteenth century, he claimed that ‘[n]Jo part of India is better 
governed today than these States, ruled by their own Princes’.!!4 Furthermore, 
he asserted that the princes as well as leaders of the Indian National Congress 
should represent and govern India. For many nationalists the princes, especially 
those acclaimed as progressive, were living examples of the Indian ability to 
govern themselves and to do so with wisdom and innovation. Like the British 
officials they sought to replace, some nationalists also lauded the personal 
relationship between a prince and his or her subjects, as opposed to the aloof 
one between British bureaucrats and Indian subjects. 

During the twentieth century, Indian nationalists projected other images 
of Indian princes. Born in a princely state, Mahatma Gandhi regarded the 
princes as trustees for their people and consequently advocated that the Indian 
National Congress should not intervene in princely states. Other Congress 
leaders, especially those such as Jawaharlal Nehru who were affiliated with the 
left wing of the Congress, were critical of princely autocracy and promoted 
Congress support for popular political activists in the states. In his presidential 
address at the Lucknow Congress in 1936, Nehru claimed that ‘Indian rulers 

"13 Curzon to Lord Hamilton, 1 October 1900, MSS EUR F 111/159 as quoted in Rozina Visram, 
Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: Indians in Britain 1700-1947 (London, 1986), p. 176. 

114 Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age: From the Accession of Queen 
Victoria in 1837 to the Commencement of the Twentieth Century, 4th edn (London, 1916), 
p. 32. 


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and their ministers have spoken and acted increasingly in the approved fascist 
manner’.!!> Two years later Nehru characterised princes as puppets but then 
conceded that ‘[o]ur fight is not against any individual but against autocracy 
and oppression itself. Some rulers of the native states may be good people, but 
when they get power in their hands, they become inhuman’.!!° In other words 
Nehru opposed the sin of autocracy and the imperial patron—client system 
that protected the sinner but did not condemn the erring prince if he would 
repent. In 1935 when urging greater Congress intervention in princely state 
politics, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, like Nehru a socialist, had characterised 
the princes as slaves (in their relationship with the British) when she referred to 
the subjects of Indian states as slaves of slaves.'!” In contrast, Sarojini Naidu, 
Kamaladevi’s sister-in-law by marriage and another Congress leader born in a 
princely state (Hyderabad), opposed intervention by the Congress and accused 
Nehru of ‘picking’ on the Muslim rulers of Bhopal and Hyderabad with ‘unjus- 
tified’ criticisms.''® These conflicting attitudes among the Congress hierarchy 
towards the Indian princes reflected ambivalent relationships both before and 

after 1947. 


Despite British dominance in India, the princes remained significant protag- 
onists in multiple public and private spheres. Relatives, subjects and British 
officials participated in their personal life cycle ceremonies. Princely educa- 
tion, marriages and succession disputes involved factions contending for con- 
trol over or access to the current or future occupant of a gaddi. Shrewd and 
ambitious princes manipulated these competing groups to achieve their goals. 
British officials, who might wish that the princes would behave in officially de- 
fined, appropriate ways, had to overlook personal and administrative transgres- 
sions if the political consequences of deposition or abdication were judged too 

115 Presidential Address at Lucknow Congress, 12 April 1936, Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. 
7 (New Delhi, 1975), p. 189. 

N6 Article in The Hindu, 23 October 1938, and then speech at Bombay, 18 November 1938, in 
Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. 9 (New Delhi, 1976), pp. 405-7. 

17 Speech at meeting of the All India Congress Committee at Madras, 18 October 1935, in N. N. 
Mitra (ed.) ZAR, vol. 2, July-December 1935 (Calcutta, 1936), p. 279. 

118 Sarojini Naidu to Padmaja Naidu, 16 January 1938, Padmaja Naidu Papers, NMML, quoted in Jan 
Copland, ‘Congress Paternalism: The “High Command” and the Struggle for Freedom in Princely 
India, c. 1920-1940’, SA, n.s. 8, 1 & 2 (1985), p. 81. 


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In the cultural arena, princes were not the only patrons of religious special- 
ists, activities, and association, of visual and performing arts and of sports, but 
their resources were widely sought in other arenas. Because of the tangled rela- 
tionships between religious associations, communalism and political violence 
(shown, for example, by the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi), the role of 
Indian rulers and their families in religious communalism and nationalism has 
not been fully researched. My own work on the maharajas of Patiala and the 
Sikh community outlines some continuity of participation from the colonial 
to the post-colonial era. The activities of Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia of Gwalior 
(1919-2001) in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an electoral party, and the 
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a worldwide organisation promoting Hindu 
culture, during the 1980s and 1990s and of Dilip Singh Ju Deo, son of the 
last raja of Jashpur who is a major BJP leader in Chhattisgarh, indicate that 
the mutual attraction of erstwhile princely families and religiously oriented 
associations has not ended.!!° If the princes were without political or cultural 
resonance, their appearances at public meetings would not be featured in the 
news media. But it must be emphasised that only a limited number of erstwhile 
princes are prominent in such organisations. 

Common wisdom is that princes helped to maintain cultural forms such 
as Indian dance and music during the colonial period. The evidence supports 
these assumptions. The independent GOI established a bureaucratic infras- 
tructure that assumed responsibility from the princes and distributed public 
resources to promote indigenous art forms. However, princely activity as cul- 
tural innovators in establishing museums, promoting photography, developing 
a national structure for music festivals, and providing the transitional stage in 
the evolution of some sports, especially cricket, as mass entertainment has often 
been ignored. 

Finally, the diverse images that both British officials and Indian nationalists 
projected of the Indian princes manifest complex assessments of the Indian 
princes. Even if they were publicly and privately caricatured or disdained, the 
princes had to be accommodated. Most importantly, the princes remained in- 
ternally autonomous rulers within their own territorial units and were seen as 
embodying their states. One example is the manner in which many British and 
Indians referred to princes by the name of their state as if they were synony- 
mous with the states they ruled. Another is the many histories of states that 
chronicle succession struggles, the activities of rulers, and their relations with 

a Vijayaraje Scindia with Manohar Malgonkar, Princess: The Autobiography of the Dowager Maharani 
of Gwalior (London, 1985) and Amrita Basu, ‘Feminism Inverted: The Real Women and Gendered 
Imagery of Hindu Nationalism,’ BCAS 25, 4 (1993), pp. 25-36. 


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the British. In them administrative elites, merchants and peasants constituted 
a dim background. Scholarship on the princely states as political entities with 
elites and subalterns, with varying levels of economic development, and with 
religious and cultural associations and activities has emerged only in the 1970s. 
Moreover, it generally focuses on the largest states, especially Hyderabad and 
Mysore, and certain clusters such as those in Rajasthan and western India. 


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Among the slightly more than one hundred states that were ensconced in the 
British salute table, the antique, the successor and the rebel-warrior categories, 
as outlined in Chapter 2, all survived into the twentieth century. The inter- 
nal evolution of these princely states as political and economic units has not 
been as extensively studied as their relationships with the British suzerain. The 
importance of the British renunciation of an aggressive policy of direct annex- 
ation can be overemphasised since some changes in territory continued. After 
1858, however, the number of princely states and their boundaries remain 
relatively constant until 1947 and it is useful to observe their evolution over 
the longue durée, even though much of the scholarship on individual princely 
states is usually limited to a few decades or the reign of an individual prince. 
This chapter will focus on government structures within the princely states; 
their indigenous and ‘foreign’ administrators; the expanding bureaucratisation; 
and princely efforts to modernise their economies under the constraints of the 
ambivalent economic policies and restrictions of their imperial suzerain from 

the 1860s to the 1940s. 


In most states rulers remained in power as long as they successfully manip- 
ulated alliances with external allies and internal supporters, mainly relatives, 
military entrepreneurs and land-controllers. Although relations with their ex- 
ternal competitor, the East India Company and its successor the British Crown, 
involved continual negotiation, princes also confronted crucial challenges from 
internal co-partners. Coalitions ofa clan, groups of clans, or military allies had 
created many states. Leaders of such ventures might initially differentiate them- 
selves from their allies by seeking recognition from an outside power, as had 
the Tondaiman Kallars in Pudukkottai. If the newly ascendant ruler were to 
achieve internal stability, he or she also had to accommodate cohorts. The clas- 
sic means was to provide internal allies with grants to collect land revenue from 
tracts within the conquered areas and thereby create a landed nobility or gentry. 
This practice alienated substantial sources of revenue from the central govern- 
ment, but without the collaboration of the nobility there would be no state. 


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The ruler, as the most powerful of the elite, generated the income to maintain 
an administration from land that was designated as khalsa or crown lands and 
from indirect levies such as customs, salt and stamp taxes. Occasionally there 
would be a separation between the private holdings of a ruler that supported 
his or her household and the khalsa tracts that funded the state administration. 
Usually this division was not explicit. 

Indian rulers tended to replicate more powerful models, and so the Mughal 
administration served as an archetype for successor states, and to some extent for 
rebel and antique Rajput states. When government functions were limited, an 
Indian prince had a minimal administration led by a diwan or chief minister to 
supervise the collection of taxes. Other officers headed departments of finance, 
military affairs, the judiciary, and household affairs. From the mid-nineteenth 
century onward, a few states such as Travancore, Mysore and Baroda established 
departments of public works and education. 

The revenue department had immediate jurisdiction over khalsa lands, 
which paid land revenues directly to the ruler, while jagirdars, mainly early 
military allies, relatives of the rulers, state officials, and religious establish- 
ments, collected the land revenue from tracts beyond the control of the state 
administration. States with sizeable numbers of jagirdars included Hyderabad, 
where only half the land was khalsa, and several in Rajasthan such as Alwar and 
Jaipur.! Views on the origins of the jagirs differed. Rulers asserted that they 
granted jagirs, retained control over succession to them, and had their supe- 
rior position acknowledged by the payment of tribute from jagirdars. Jagirdars 
often challenged this interpretation. In the case of Sirohi state in Rajasthan, 
Denis Vidal has documented how nobles argued that their ancestors had ob- 
tained their lands when the kingdom was in the process of formation and thus 
had autonomous rights in the land.” 

Larger states were divided into divisions and then districts, but as in British 
India, the state structure often did not penetrate into local society below the dis- 
trict level. Village headmen (pazels), accountants (patwaris), and councils were 
responsible for the collection and payment of revenues to state-appointed dis- 
trict officers or revenue contractors. In Mysore, patwaris presented their records 
and collections to district officers at an annual collection day (jamabandi). 
Accompanied by festivities celebrating the end of the harvest, the proceed- 
ings confirmed the local autonomy, which the ruler tolerated as long as order 

' Rudolph and Rudolph, Essays contains their influential essays on Jaipur. 
2 Denis Vidal, Violence and Truth: A Rajasthani Kingdom Confronts Colonial Authority (Delhi, 1997), 
pp. 56-7. 


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was maintained and revenue transmitted.? State revenue records often did not 
itemise the amount collected but only the amount forwarded. Larger jagirdars 
had their own revenue officers, but, like the British and the princes, they usu- 
ally did not collect revenue directly from peasant cultivators or tenants but 
from local intermediaries. 

A central treasury to hold state funds and a finance department to dispense 
them were rare during the nineteenth century. Karen Leonard has described 
how banking firms controlled by Gujaratis, Marwaris and local families func- 
tioned as state treasurers and accountants in Hyderabad by giving loans to the 
nizam’s government and paying salaries of state officials against the collection 
of revenues. The state finance department negotiated these loans and paid 
them off when revenues were received. Diwans therefore needed the support 
of these creditors to survive politically. Although they solved a short-term prob- 
lem, many of the bankers in Hyderabad became jagirdars and thus alienated 
more income from the state. Long-term solutions included the modernising 
reforms of Salar Jung, the cession of Berar to the British for payment of the 
salaries of the Hyderabad Contingent, and the establishment of a state bank in 
1868.4 G. S. L. Devra analysed the social mobility of Marwaris, especially in 
Bikaner. As privileged land-controllers in the eighteenth century, they moved 
into revenue farming, long-distance trade, and merchant banking for Rajput 
princes and the Muslim rulers of Hyderabad.’ Although there are occasional 
references to princes such as those in Jaipur being heavily indebted to bankers 
for the payment of tribute to the British, the role of private bankers awaits 
further research, as does the establishment of state banks. 

Many states, with a few exceptions such as Mysore, were dependent on mil- 
itary contingents that jagirdars supplied. Consequently, Indian rulers initially 
found the British-trained and equipped subsidiary forces attractive. They were 
more capable than local levies of repelling external enemies, suppressing 
internal challenges, and coercing recalcitrant taxpayers. However, princes were 
increasingly disappointed by their lack of control over forces for which they paid 
but could not command. By the mid-nineteenth century, reforming diwans 
sought to replace poorly disciplined jagirdari forces and British-dominated 
subsidiary contingents with centrally controlled military units. In 1854 Salar 

3 James Manor, Political Change in an Indian State: Mysore 1917-1955 (New Delhi, 1977), pp. 16-17. 

4 Karen Leonard, ‘Banking Firms in Nineteenth-Century Hyderabad Politics, MAS 15 (1981), 
pp. 177-201. 

> G.S.L. Devra, ‘A Rethinking on the Politics of Commercial Society in Pre-Colonial India: Transition 
from Mutsaddi to Marwari’, Occasional Papers on History and Society, No. 38, NMML (New Delhi, 


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Jung I (1829-83) initiated such a reform in Hyderabad. By 1862 he had dele- 
gated the task to Raja Girdhari Pershad, a Saksena kayasth whose family came to 
Hyderabad as record-keepers but gradually moved into military service, which 
provided more remunerative opportunities.° Alwar also created reformed state 
forces that became the core of Imperial Service Troops. In the twentieth century 
some rulers such as the maharaja of Patiala reorganised their police departments 
as educated elites, jagirdars and peasants challenged princely autocracy. Com- 
pared to the extensive research on the police and definitions of crime in British 
Indian provinces, there is a paucity of such research on those topics in the 
princely states.’ 

The judicial system reflected both the autocratic nature of states and their 
narrow infiltration into local society. Caste panchayats, village headmen and 
religious leaders settled most civil and some criminal disputes at the local 
level. In larger states the lowest-level revenue collector, either a state-appointed 
officer, variously named a tahsildar or amildar, or a relatively autonomous 
jagirdar, decided revenue claims and other civil disputes. By the early twentieth 
century appeals went to district courts and then to a high court of the state 
located in the capital, or in smaller states to a consolidated regional court. 
High courts might have some original jurisdiction. In many states the ruler 
was the highest court of appeal in both civil and criminal cases and frequently 
approved death sentences. Thus intervention of the ruler at the highest level 
and revenue authorities at the lowest sharply reduced the independence of the 

Since household establishments were the crucible of succession to leadership 
and ritual ceremonies that symbolised the distinctive position of the ruler, 
most state administrations had a formal or informal department of household 
affairs. Its multiple responsibilities ranged from management and construction 
of forts, palaces and hunting lodges, to oversight of the zenana of the ruler’s 
female relatives, the staging of private ceremonies such as the life cycle rituals 
at birth, marriage and death, and the negotiation and management of public 
ones, especially visits of imperial patrons. British officials usually regarded this 
department as a wellspring of intrigue and corruption. Considering how much 
attention and expense the British lavished on the Imperial Assemblage in 1876 
and their expectations of princely largess during British official visits, it is 
ironic that the colonial government was so critical of princely expenditures on 

© Karen Leonard, Social History of an Indian Caste: The Kayasths of Hyderabad (Berkeley CA, 1978), 
pp. 104-6. 
7 Two notable exceptions are Vidal, Violence, and Nandini Sundar, Subalterns and Sovereigns: An 

Anthropological History of Bastar, 1854-1996 (Delhi, 1997). 


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public and private life cycle ceremonies. Since they reinforced and extended 
princely claims to authority within their states, among their clan members 
and their fellow princes, these rituals were vital in the maintenance of princely 
authority. Joanne Waghorne has carefully documented British ambivalence in 
the specific case of Raja Ramachandra of Pudukkottai, whose expenditures had 
to be sanctioned by the local British authorities. Among many examples, they 
denied a ‘request for Rs 10 000 for his daughter’s puberty rites’ in 1867 but 
allowed Rs 20 000 in 1870 for the ruler to attend a reception for the Duke of 

Progressive’ princely states 

Mirroring the diversity among princely states, there were numerous varia- 
tions on the model outlined. One category was that of ‘progressive’ states 
that included Baroda, Mysore, Travancore and Cochin. Here progress meant 
administrative modernisation with some introduction of representative institu- 
tions. But most princes remained autocrats and allowed little popular political 
participation until the 1940s. Other reforms included state support for so- 
cial services, chiefly education and public health measures based on western 
medicine. Education supplied employees for an expanding bureaucracy and 
enhanced the productive capacity of the state, but there was little concern for 
the promotion of equality among state subjects. If medical programs improved 
the health of subjects, there were economic benefits for the state. 

In Travancore the conjunction of a sympathetic young ruler (Ayilyam 
Tirunal), an able young diwan (T. Madhava Rao), and a new British resi- 
dent (F N. Maltby) led to major reforms during the 1860s and 1870s. Robin 
Jeffrey has outlined the modernisation that took place: in the collection of 
land revenue that enabled the state to pay off its debts; in the establishment 
of a public works department which built roads that promoted internal trade, 
provided alternative wage labour for lower castes, and broadened the social 
horizons of many groups; and in the bureaucratisation of the administration.” 
Most importantly, the diwan fostered the establishment of state-supported 
schools that linked government service to educational qualifications.!° Until 
the 1890s this Hindu state helped Christian missionary schools with grants- 
in-aid since the foreigners mainly nurtured lower castes and girls, who were 
not the focus of state efforts.'’ As high-status Nayars and Syrian Christians 

8 Joanne Punzo Waghorne, The Raja’s Magic Clothes: Re-Visioning Kingship and Divinity in England’ 
India (University Park PA, 1994), p. 48. 
9 Jeffrey, Decline, ch. 3. 10 Thid., ch. 2. 1l Kawashima, Missionaries, ch. 3. 


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and low-caste ezhavas became educated, their rising expectations of govern- 
ment employment and awareness of civil disability aroused social and poli- 
tical tensions and strained relations between the administration and the 
missionaries.'? Although neighbouring Cochin, with a fifth of the area and a 
quarter of the population of Travancore, was slower to implement adminis- 
trative reforms, it achieved rates of literacy comparable to those in Travancore 
by 1931.19 

When explaining the ‘advanced’ government of Mysore, some historians 
attributed much of its administrative modernisation to the extended period of 
British management from 1831 to 1881 when colonial officers instituted an ad- 
ministrative structure similar to that in Madras. On the one hand, the research 
of Donald Gustafson emphasises that Indian ministers were active agents in 
implementing reforms.'4 On the other hand, James Manor argues that many 
reforms in Mysore were designed to cultivate a positive image with the British 
suzerain and Indian nationalists.!> Expenditures were channelled to urban- 
based or state-level projects such as industrial enterprises and the provision 
of electric lighting in Bangalore, before it was available in British presidency 
capitals. Despite limited funds, these efforts gained favourable publicity and 
did not trespass on local power arenas. Manor asserts persuasively that the 
Mysore ruling family with a tiny social base tried to maintain internal order by 
allowing considerable local autonomy while retaining autocratic control at the 
state level.!° Even so, the powers of local government boards were restricted, 
while their fiscal responsibilities for roads, compulsory education and health 
services were extensive. 

The Mysore state also ventured into the contested terrain of social reform. 
Despite the opposition of a majority in the new Mysore Assembly, in 1894 
Diwan Seshadri Iyer (1845-1901) pushed through a regulation that prohibited 
marriage for all Hindu girls below 8 and of girls below 16 to men over 50. 
The latter provision was designed to promote companionate marriages. The 
administration implemented this legislation through prosecutions, generally 
of lower-caste individuals, that disseminated its provisions at the very least 
by rumour.'’ Thus Mysore was in sharp contrast to the GOI, which did not 
vigorously enforce the controversial Age of Consent Act of 1891 that made illegal 

12 Thid., chapter 6; Jeffrey, Decline, chs 3-5. 13 Kawashima, Missionaries, ch. 6. 

14 Donald R. Gustafson, Mysore 1881-1902: The Making of a Model State, PhD thesis, University 
of Wisconsin at Madison (1968). 

15 Manor, Political Change, chs 1, 3. 16 Tbid., pp. 11-13. 

17 Janaki Nair, ‘Prohibited Marriage: State Protection and the Child Wife’, in Patricia Uberoi (ed.), 
Social Reform, Sexuality and the State (New Delhi, 1996), pp. 157-86. 


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sexual relations with girls under the age of 12. Janaki Nair argues that Mysore 
was not primarily concerned with the condition of women but rather sought 
‘[t]o encompass and absorb those aspects of civil and social life that had long 
lain outside its reach, thereby producing a civil society which recognised the 
overarching authority of the state’.'8 By the 1920s the administration decided 
that its objectives had been achieved. Thus it was not worth the cost to override 
local opposition to raising the age of marriage to match the provisions of the 
Sarda Act in British India that legislated 18 as the minimum age for men and 
14 for women.!? 

For Baroda, David Hardiman has described how Sayaji Rao and his diwans, 
T. Madhava Rao (served 1875-81), Manubhai Mehta (served 1916-26) and 
V. T. Krishnamachariar (served 1926-44), achieved political stability and a 
‘progressive’ reputation. Because Baroda’s rich plains lacked natural defences, 
large landlords and jagirdars had not survived and thus did not constrain 
its ruler. Rather, landowning peasant cultivators, among whom patidars were 
dominant, were the most significant class. The diwans, allied with village 
shareholders, instituted a modern bureaucracy and promoted trade and indus- 
trialisation. The bureaucracy countered the power of local notables and was 
responsive to the interests of the village shareholders and open to their sons be- 
cause of an extensive educational system. The state-sponsored construction of 
railways fostered trade and contributed to state income. Because of the growth 
of textile and chemical industries during the 1930s and 1940s respectively, the 
state was able to reduce the proportion of revenue that the rural sector paid 
and defuse peasant grievances. In 1938 the rate of land revenue was lowered 
by 20 per cent, while income and super tax rates that affected relatively few 
urban dwellers were raised.”° 

In general, the antique states of Rajputana did not have a reputation for be- 
ing progressive, but some undertook administrative reforms that significantly 
influenced the lives of their peasant subjects.”) During the late nineteenth cen- 
tury Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur implemented major public works programs 
and extended railways. Robert Stern has described how during the twentieth 
century British administrators in Jaipur followed a strategy similar to that in 
Baroda to achieve peasant support and political stability. When Man Singh 
was a minor during the 1920s and 1930s, a ryotwari settlement began to bring 
peasants into direct relations with the central administration. Simultaneously 

18 Tbid., pp. 168-9. 9 Ibid., pp. 178-83. 

20 Hardiman, ‘Baroda’, in Jeffrey, People, pp. 122-3. 

Al Rudolph and Rudolph, ‘Rajputana under British Paramountcy: The Failure of Indirect Rule’, Essays, 
pp. 7-17. 


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there was an effort to complement income from land revenue with that from 
the state’s investment portfolio, which was in GOI securities, interest-bearing 
loans to states such as Bikaner, and state railways.” 

In an ecologically precarious position in the western Rajasthani desert, 
Ganga Singh in Bikaner developed an extensive famine relief program during 
the 1890s and then undertook more permanent solutions. The Gang Canal, 
opened in 1927, brought water from the Sutlej River to the northwestern area 
of this fertile but rain-deficient state. Subsequently the maharaja and his suc- 
cessor pushed through a land settlement on both khalsa and jagirdari lands that 
regularised the relations of peasants to the land they cultivated. Furthermore, 
from 1900 to 1931 the state expended 44 per cent of its revenue on social 
overhead capital, which represents 5.04 in constant rupees per capita. Thus 
Bikaner was second only to Cochin, which allocated 47 per cent of its revenues 
to social overhead, but ahead of Mysore and Baroda.”* These expenditures on 
irrigation canals and social overhead retarded the evolution of popular political 
associations in Bikaner.” 

Rulers could implement extensive programs of public works and administra- 
tive reforms but not achieve the reputation of being progressive. Thakore Saheb 
Lakhaji Raj (b. 1885, r. 1907-30) of Rajkot in western India established a rep- 
resentative assembly in 1923 that was unique in being fully elected. Although 
Rajkot joined a small group of states that took this ultimately abortive advance 
towards popular government, it has not gained the epithet of progressive or 

Mysore was the first princely state to inaugurate a representative assembly 
in 1881; it added a legislative council or upper house in 1907. Travancore 
launched an appointive legislative council in 1888 and created an elective 
consultative assembly in 1904. Other states with such bodies ranged from 
Baroda, Bhopal, Gwalior and Hyderabad, to much smaller units such as Bhor, 
Cochin, Datia and Pudukkottai. These assemblies began as appointed bodies 
with a majority of official members and were initially advisory in function. 
In the states with a reputation for being modern, the diwan was the chair. 
In others the ruler moderated, as occurred in 1929 in Datia or in Gwalior where 

22 Stern, Cat, pp. 250-1. 

23 John Hurd II, ‘The Economic Consequences of Indirect Rule in India’, JESHR 12 (1975), p. 175. 
Mysore spent 37 per cent and Baroda spent 25 per cent of their revenues and 1.80 rupees 
per capita and 2.16 rupees per capita respectively on social overhead: John Hurd II, Some Economic 
Characteristics of the Princely States of India, 1901-1931, PhD thesis, University of Pennsylvania 
(1969), p. 242. 

24 Richard Sisson, The Congress Party in Rajasthan: Political Integration and Institution-building in an 
Indian State (Berkeley CA, 1972), pp. 91-2. 


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View of famine relief work at Gajner, c. 1900. 

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the senior maharani, a regent for the minor heir, assumed control. Where the 
prince presided, the assembly was similar to a Mughal durbar in which elites 
presented their grievances but had no legal authority to influence policy. Some 
states introduced a restricted franchise. During the 1930s in Travancore and 
Cochin, about 5 per cent of the population could vote in regular elections. 
Most of these assemblies did not control the budgets or have the right to 
initiate legislation. When they did have such powers as in Mysore, the ruler 
could authorise expenditures or legislation in ‘emergencies’. As the resources 
they managed were so restricted, these assemblies rarely became the focus for 
popular political activity. 

Princely women as mothers, wives and power-brokers 

Although neither British officials nor earlier historians considered the zenana as 
a component in the administrative structure of a princely state, the women who 
resided there had three significant political functions. First, they were respon- 
sible for producing sons. Varsha Joshi has stressed that Rajput rulers practised 
polygyny to obtain heirs as well as younger sons who could serve in their armies 
or extend Rajput control through the creation of new states.7” When Mughal 
and British dominance eliminated the possibility of expansion, polygyny con- 
tinued to strengthen clan and kinship networks and to maintain status. Such 
marriages simultaneously triggered succession disputes when princely wives 
supported candidates through strategies that ranged from alliances with no- 
bles to murder and false pregnancies.*° Despite polygyny, many princes lacked 
natural heirs. Surviving wives and mothers of ruler often claimed a role in the 
adoption of heirs. In Alwar in 1874, the British political agent sought opinions 
about two contestants for the gaddi from the Rathor widow and the mother 
of the late Raja Sheodan Singh and also from jagirdars.7” The mothers of 
natural or adoptive heirs frequently had an even more crucial role as regents 
when their sons had succeeded as minors. Rani Lakshmibai (c. 1835—58) of 
Jhansi is the most famous example of an activist regent who literally fought 
and died in 1858 to protect the interests of her adopted son. Numerous less 
well known queen mothers served as regents. 

During the nineteenth century the British tended to reduce the influence 
of these women despite their professed intention to follow custom and avoid 
unwarranted intervention. Perturbed by the hostility of two queen mothers in 
Jaipur and the state’s delinquency in forwarding its tribute payments during 

25 Joshi, Polygamy, ch. 2. 26 Thid., ch. 3. 27 Haynes, ‘British Modification’, pp. 60-1. 


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extended regencies, the British assumed more direct control in 1839, with the 
justification that 

[w]e had had sufficient experience of the bad effects of yielding to the caprices of females 
claiming a right to interfere in the government of Jaipur, and the present was the time to 
decide whether it was consonant with the prosperity of the country that a zenana influence 
shall for many years be exercised over all the affairs of the state, or whether it has not become 
the duty of the paramount power to free the ministry from all such thralldom.”8 

This misogyny was not limited to British officials since Jadunath Sarkar, when 
describing these regencies, claimed that ‘[t]o the two evils of womans rule on 
behalf of a child on the throne and faction among the nobility, was now added 
financial collapse’.”? 

The second crucial responsibility of queen mothers was the education of 
heirs to the gaddi. Since most princely women had marginal exposure to west- 
ern education in English, British officials viewed them as the repositories and 
promoters of all that was ‘traditional’ and increasingly ‘decadent’. From the 
1870s onward, therefore, the paramount power prodded their partners in em- 
pire to remove young princely heirs from the zenana. During the late nineteenth 
century Indian nationalists, particularly in Bengal, were exhorting women to 
raise heroic sons to combat the British and to remain as guardians of the spir- 
itual essence of India in the home,*° but they seem to ignore the mothers of 
princes as nurturers of potential leaders. Gradually princes began to appoint 
British nannies and tutors for their children and to send their sons to British- 
established schools for princes. This practice could produce a backlash. In 1934 
the maharani of Faridkot, a small Sikh state in Punjab, was commended for 
‘sparing no pains in the upbringing of her worthy son and in making her sons 
perfect gentlemen and perfect Princes’ and even moving to Lahore when her el- 
dest son went to school there. She supposedly pitied ‘those society woman [sic] 
who leave the care of her sons to nurses and governesses thereby surrendering 
to them the exercise and potent influence of a mother’s love and counsel’.*! 

28 GOI, F&P Procs, 26 June 1839, No. 30 quoted in Stern, Cat, pp. 82-3. 

29 Sarkar, History, p. 332. Italics added. 

30 Influential articles include Tanika Sarkar, ‘Nationalist Iconography: Image of Women in Nineteenth 
Century Bengali Literature’, EPW 22 (21 November 1987), pp. 2011-15; Partha Chatterjee, “The 
Nationalist Resolution of the Women’s Question’, in Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid (eds), 
Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History (New Delhi, 1989), pp. 233-53; Jasodhara Bagchi, 
‘Representing Nationalism: Ideology of Motherhood in Colonial Bengal’, EPW 25 (20-27 October 
1990), WS-65—WS-71; Samita Sen, ‘Motherhood and Mothercraft: Gender and Nationalism in 
Bengal’, GH 5 (1993), pp. 231-43. 

Makhan Singh, Investiture Ceremony. Of His Highness Farzand-i-Saadat Nishan-i-Hazrat-i-Kaisar- 
i-Hind Brar Bans Raja Harindar Singh Sahib Bahadur Ruler of Faridkot State (Lahore [1934?]), 
pp. 37-8. 



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In official documents and scholarly literature, women in princely families are 
usually characterised as manipulative when they functioned as power-brokers. 
The stronger the ruler, the more desirable was, and is, direct access to him. 
Wives, mothers and concubines enjoyed such access. In a system of personal 
government they might secure official appointments, the ouster of rivals, or 
lucrative boons.*” The British and rival factions of Indian officials were critical 
of this channel of influence that was outside their control. 

Women of the zenana irritated British sensibilities in the sphere of sexuality. 
As Victorian ideas linking uncontrolled sexuality and the ‘other’ became perva- 
sive, the British constructed the Indian princes as addicted to the satisfaction 
of their sensual appetites, especially sexual ones. Consequently zenana women, 
because they could gratify such passions, became convenient scapegoats for 
the refusals of Indian males to conform to Victorian constructs of appropri- 
ate sexuality and rulership. Robert Stern has pointed out how the retreat of 
Maharaja Madho Singh of Jaipur to his zenana and his deference to Rup Rai, a 
concubine, and her male patron influenced the British to exert strong control 
over his adopted heir, Man Singh.** 

Mothers were also castigated for wielding too much influence over princely 
sons. In 1938 the British resident described the junior maharani, Setu 
Parvathi Bai (1896-1983), of Travancore as ‘arrogant, uncharitable, egotisti- 
cal, bad-tempered, insular and vindictive’. He also claimed that the diwan, Sir 
C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar (1879-1966), was so loyal to her that the Briton was 
‘[a]bsolutely certain that some of his [Ramaswami Aiyer’s] most unpopular 
and... mistaken ideas have emanated from the Junior Maharani’.*4 Setu 
Parvathi Bai may have been a forceful influence on both her adult son and a 
Tamil brahman lawyer whose career included service on the Madras Executive 
Council, but the evidence so far comes mainly from British sources. Robin 
Jeffrey argues that the junior maharani’s ascendancy persisted and was be- 
hind Ramaswami Aiyar’s declaration that Travancore would assert its inde- 
pendence.*> But V. P. Menon, the perceptive collaborator of Sardar Patel in 
achieving the integration of the princely states at independence, claimed that 
‘[i]n view particularly of his [Aiyar’s] position in the public life of the country, 
this statement [advocating the independence of Travancore] had deleterious 

32 Joshi, Polygamy, ch. 4. 33 Stern, Cat, pp. 238-40. 

34 C. P Skrine, resident for Madras States, to Bernard Glancy, secretary to viceroy as crown repre- 
sentative, Political Dept, 11 October 1938, OIOC, CR, R/1/29/1849, quoted in Robin Jeffrey, 
‘A Sanctified Label - “Congress” in Travancore Politics, 1938-48’, in D. A. Low (ed.) Congress and 
the Raj: Facets of the Indian Struggle 1917-47 (London, 1977), p. 444. 

35 Tbid., p. 461. 


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repercussions and encouraged the rulers who were not favourably disposed 
towards the Indian Dominion’.*° Menon may be more discreet than was the 
British resident in not mentioning the maharani, but the evidence is still in- 
adequate for a full assessment of the political clout of Setu Parvathi Bai and 
other princely women. 

British frustration with any constraints on their exercise of power and their 
Orientalist stereotypes of Asian women as sexual objects fostered their con- 
demnation of women in princely families. In some cases Indian rulers might 
have concurred with this negative stereotype of the zenana since it could be a 
convenient excuse for not responding positively to British advice or demands. 
A few more nuanced assessments are available. Besides the work of Varsha Joshi, 
which concentrates on Rajputana from the thirteenth to the early nineteenth 
century, Uma Chakravarti and Kumkum Roy have analysed the historical char- 
acterisations of such women during the pre-colonial era, and Gita Mehta has 
placed a sharp-witted woman from a princely family at the centre of her his- 
torical novel, Raj.>” The agency of elite and non-elite women in princely states 
during the colonial era begs for further analysis. 


The diwan or chief minister was potentially the dominant state official. Rulers 
such as those in Travancore had employed non-Malayali brahmans as diwans 
from the mid-eighteenth century to create an administration personally loyal 
to them. From the early nineteenth century the British adapted this practice to 
their own ends. They expanded the category of ‘outside’ or ‘foreign’ administra- 
tors to include both British political officers and Indians from a British Indian 
province who were educated in British political and bureaucratic techniques 
and rituals. Although the British preferred that British officers not be employed 
as the diwans, they occasionally sanctioned such a practice. Examples range 
from Colonel John Munro (c. 1770-1858), diwan in Travancore from 1811 
to 1814, to Jaipur, where a series of British ministers from 1922 to 1939 used 
administrative reforms to contain peasant unrest. 

The more common British policy was to support the appointment of Indian 
collaborators who had demonstrated support and loyalty to British interests. 

36 Ibid. and Menon, Story, p. 114. 

37 Joshi, Polygamy, Uma Chakravarti and Kumkum Roy, ‘In Search of Our Past: A Review of the 
Limitations and Possibilities of the Historiography of Women in Early India, EPW 23 (30 April 
1988), WS-2-WS-10; Gita Mehta, Raj (New York, 1989). 


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In south India Maratha and Tamil brahmans who had served in the Madras 
presidency were employed as diwans in Travancore, Cochin and Mysore and 
often favoured the appointment of caste fellows or regional associates. With 
backing from the British resident in Travancore, T. Madhava Rao, whose father 
and uncle had both been diwans in this state, was appointed a district officer 
there in 1855 and confirmed as diwan in 1858. During his tenure, which 
ended in 1872, Madhava Rao acquired wide renown as the administrator 
who modernised Travancore and favoured non-Malayali brahmans. Later he 
migrated north as diwan first to Indore from 1873 to 1875 and then to Baroda 
from 1875 to 1882. Similarly, in Mysore Seshadri Iyer, a Tamil brahman who 
was diwan from 1883 to 1896, was reputedly responsible for inducting over a 
hundred men from Madras into the gazetted service of Mysore.°® 

Two groups in north India were conspicuous in princely state administra- 
tions. Western-educated Bengalis, generally bhadralok or respectable people 
and more particularly kayasths, had followed British armies and administra- 
tors into newly annexed areas of Punjab, Awadh and Rajput states. In Jaipur 
one British resident noted that ‘the employment of Bengali ministers in the 
state has become almost traditional’.*? Around 1873, Maharaja Ram Singh of 
Jaipur had recruited Babu Kanti Chander, an energetic, shrewd Bengali, who 
used his knowledge of the English language and culture to enhance Jaipuri re- 
lations with the paramount power and foster a more professional bureaucracy 
but also to check the powerful Champawat Rajput bureaucratic lineage within 
the Jaipur administration. *° 

Kashmiri brahman pandits who, like the Bengali kayasths, had a long tra- 
dition of administrative service based on fluency in a link language — initially 
Persian under the Mughals and then English under the British — had migrated 
to Delhi, Lucknow and Lahore from the late eighteenth century onward. By 
the 1820s they had entered princely states as educators and administrators. The 
Haksar family was prominent in Indore and Gwalior, the Kak family in Jodh- 
pur, and others in Bharatpur. Henny Sender has pointed out how the British 
were ready to use this community as needed but that ‘the indispensability of the 
Kashmiris had its limits’ and they would be sacrificed to British interests.4! But 

38 Vanaja Rangaswami, The Story of Integration: A New Interpretation in the Context of the Democratic 
Movements in the Princely States of Mysore, Travancore and Cochin 1900-1947 (Delhi, 1981), p. 30. 

39 Quoted in Stern, Cat, p. 182. 

40 Susanne Hoeber Rudolph and Lloyd I. Rudolph with Mohan Singh, ‘A Bureaucratic Lineage in 
Princely India: Elite Formation and Conflict in a Patrimonial System’, in Rudolph and Rudolph, 
Essays, pp. 96-106. 

a1 Henny Sender, The Kashmiri Pandits: A Study of Cultural Choice in North India (Delhi, 1988), 
p. 112. 


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Kashmiri pandits remained active in princely states until 1947. Daya Kishen 
Kaul served in Patiala during the 1910s despite British opposition, and 
Kailas N. Haksar was a prominent figure in Gwalior during an extended 
minority in the 1920s, then in the Chamber of Princes during the 1930s, 
and eventually as diwan from 1943 to 1944 in his ancestral state of 

Indians and Britons were attracted to employment in princely states for 
differing and even conflicting reasons. In the late 1830s Raja Banni Singh 
of Alwar recruited the so-called Delhi diwans, Aminullah Khan and his two 
brothers, but the British, who then favoured the local nobility, forced out these 
Muslim administrators in 1858. Here a Hindu ruler preferred officials who did 
not share religious or ethnic ties with his local challengers, and the Delhi diwans 
remained influential in Alwar politics through the 1860s.42 Other rulers used 
outsiders to reduce the power of their nobles. During the 1860s and 1870s 
Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur appointed non-official Europeans along with 
Bengalis since they combined professional competence with personal loyalty — 
they owed their positions entirely to him. 

For a few decades some princes recruited Western-educated Indians with na- 
tionalist credentials. In response to British demands for administrative reforms, 
Maharaja Malhar Rao of Baroda appointed Dadabhai Naoroji, the eminent 
Parsi from Bombay and later the first Indian member of Parliament, to be 
diwan in 1874. Occasionally a ruler retained Indians of whom the British dis- 
approved. Sayaji Rao of Baroda employed Bengali nationalists, most notably 
Romesh Chandra Dutt and Aurobindo Ghose. When opportunities for Indians 
were limited in the ICS, some Indian nationalists joined the administrations 
of princely states where they could demonstrate their administrative compe- 
tence and exercise significant executive power. By the early twentieth century, 
however, relatively few nationalists sought such experience. The example of 
Mahatma Gandhi is idiosyncratic but illustrative. Although his grandfather 
and father had served in the administrations of Kathiawadi states, Gandhi felt 
compelled for personal and ideological reasons to seek a legal career in British 

Employment in the princely states nevertheless continued to lure educated 
Indians who did not aspire to electoral or agitational political activity but pre- 
ferred administrative authority. The most prominent among them formed an 
all-India cadre that circulated through several Indian states. One such person 
was Sir Mirza Ismail (1883-1959), who began his career as a ‘native’ diwan in 

42 Haynes, ‘British Alteration’, pp. 43-8. 


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Mysore, serving from 1928 to 1940, but went as a ‘foreign’ diwan to Jaipur 
in 1942 and then to Hyderabad in 1945.43 Other examples exist. Patiala state 
retained both Hindustani Muslims such as the Sayyid brothers during the nine- 
teenth century and Punjabi Muslims such as Liaqat Hayat Khan (1887-1952), 
the brother of Sikandar Hayat Khan (the Unionist Chief Minister of Punjab 
1937-42), and Mir Maqbool Mahmud (d. 1948), a sometime elected member 
of the Punjab legislature, during the twentieth century. Unfortunately there is 
no study of this all-Indian bureaucracy and whether they functioned as a ho- 
mogenising or reforming force within princely administrations. Furthermore, 
there is little analysis of their mediation between their princely employers and 
the British and between British Indian and princely state popular politics. 

Although the British and the princes found ‘foreign’ diwans and middle-level 
administrators to be functionally useful, two groups within the states were vocal 
critics of them. Local aristocracies disliked the ready access of the diwans to the 
ruler and their influence in securing the appointment of other outsiders. By 
1900 newly emerging, educated elites within the states resented the dominance 
of these outsiders and their recruits. Outsiders who peopled the second level 
of the administration in princely states were even more disliked than ‘foreign’ 
diwans. Their importation accelerated with growing bureaucratisation. Initially 
elites within the princely states who owed their position to land control, military 
skills or blood ties did not possess or seek the kind of education that would 
equip them for bureaucratic employment. Thus western-educated outsiders 
were the most readily available pool. Gradually, however, groups of individuals 
in some states secured such education either in British India or within the 
state. They resented what they perceived as monopolies by foreigners, whether 
Indian or British. Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph have incisively analysed the 
extended struggle of the Champawat thikanadars against Bengali and British 
administrators to regain control of both lands and bureaucratic appointments 
in Jaipur. 

In Travancore animosity was tempered with ambivalence against both 
‘foreign’ diwans and middle-level administrators. T. Rama Rao (1830-95), 
a Maratha brahman who had been born in Trivandrum, was always considered 
a foreign diwan (1887-92) because of his ancestry, although S. Shungara- 
soobyer (1836-1904), a Tamil brahman who was also born in the capital, was 
considered a native when he succeeded Rama Rao as diwan (1892-98). Robin 
Jeffrey has traced how the hostility to middle-level foreigners in Travancore 

43 Mirza Mahomed Ismail, My Public Life (London, 1954). 

44 Rudolph and Rudolph with Singh, ‘Bureaucratic Lineage’. 


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state service was a key factor in the efforts of first indigenous nayars, then 
Syrian Christians, and eventually low-caste ezhavas to organise to demand 
greater representation in government services.” 

In Hyderabad and Kashmir, associational activity among their subjects to 
secure government jobs raised especially complex issues as the rulers were 
from a minority religious community. Salar Jung had created a modern diwani 
administration in Hyderabad that was staffed largely with Muslims from north 
India who were labelled non-mulkis (not of the soil). As education spread 
among indigenous Hyderabadis known as mulkis, they grew increasingly hostile 
towards the non-mulkis and demanded more government posts. Coupled with 
the usual problems of how a previously disadvantaged group catches up with 
one entrenched in a limited number of powerful positions was the issue of 
when an individual passed from non-mulki to mulki status. During the 1880s 
a legal definition evolved of a mulki ‘as a person who had permanently resided 
in Hyderabad state for fifteen years or who had continuously served under 
the government for at least twelve years’,“° but the social usage of the term 
broadened as new categories appeared such as first-generation mulki or son of 
the soil. 

In Kashmir, the largest princely state in territory, the Hereditary State Sub- 
jects movement around 1894 began calling for preferential employment of state 
subjects and culminated with the legal definition of Hereditary State Subjects 
in 1927. The situation was complicated as Kashmiri brahman pandits, who 
were a small minority, would be the immediate beneficiaries because of their 
acquisition of Persian and English language education rather than the majority 
Muslim community, who had been seeking proportional representation for 
Muslims in state service from 1907.4” 


As the English Company extended its political control throughout India, it 
annexed the most economically productive areas, both agriculturally and com- 
mercially. Thus it began in Bengal, long fabled as one of the richest Indian 
provinces; it quickly gobbled up most coastal areas to facilitate commercial 
enterprises and gradually engorged the fertile Gangetic plain to Punjab. When 
Queen Victoria renounced any further British annexation, the princely states 
were located mainly in less economically productive areas. Jammu and Kashmir 

45 Jeffrey, Decline, ch. 6. 46 Leonard, ‘Hyderabad’, p. 76. 
47 U.K. Zutshi, Emergence of Political Awakening in Kashmir (New Delhi, 1986), pp. 206-14; Bazaz, 
History, pp. 135-63. 


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encompassed majestic but desolate mountains; Rajputana was a rain-deficit 
area; some Rajput-ruled states of Gujarat had unhealthy and unproductive 
tracts such as the salt marshes of the Rann of Kutch; the Orissan states stretched 
across the inaccessible jungly hills behind the Coromandel coast; and the large 
block of central Indian states was riven by the deep defiles of the Vindhya 

Notable exceptions with extensive natural resources included the coastal 
states of Travancore and Cochin with a small but lush agricultural base in 
both food and cash crops, the cis-Sutlej Punjab states possessing fertile soils 
and early access to canal irrigation, and Hyderabad and Mysore with diverse 
economies. However, even the latter were not immune to predatory British 
economic interests. Hyderabad was coerced into giving up control over Berar, 
its rich cotton-producing northern province, to the Company in 1853. In 
Mysore private British enterprise controlled the mines of Kolar, the main gold- 
producing area in India. 

Unfortunately the economic landscape of the princely states remains clouded 
by a lack of scholarly research. Many works on the economic history of India 
ignore the princely states or make occasional remarks on their similarity or 
difference from British India. In over a thousand pages of text, the second 
volume of The Cambridge Economic History of India, c. 1757—c. 1970 has less 
than twenty references to the princely states.“® Many are a single sentence. 
Thus much of the following overview is impressionistic and calls attention to 
the need for intensive research on the economic structure and development of 
the princely states. 


As in British Indian provinces, the economies of most princely states were 
mainly agricultural with widely differing patterns of land control, land revenue 
assessment and tax collection. Many rulers monopolised a significant portion 
of their states as khalsa or crown lands but frequently more would be under 
the jurisdiction of jagirdars, as in Rajputana states such as Alwar and Jaipur. 
In some, such as Baroda and Patiala, there were powerful cultivators-owners. 
Many observers claimed that princes extracted more from their peasants than 
did the British Indian Government, but that the peasants in princely states were 
‘happier’ than those under colonial rule. However, little rigorous research on 
the agricultural economies in the princely states supports these opinions. The 
major exception is Amber/Jaipur in eastern Rajputana during the eighteenth 

48 Dharma Kumar (ed.), The Cambridge Economic History of India, vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1982). 


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century. Here Indian scholars have used an abundance of records to present 
a finely grained picture of state finances, grain production and marketing, 
increasing economic stratification in villages, and the growing importance of 
merchants or mahajans in providing credit to villages, facilitating the sale of 
the state’s revenue grain, and entering tax-farming contracts with the state. 

For Jaipur during the first half of the eighteenth century, S. P. Gupta has 
calculated that on khalsa lands the total taxation was around 44 per cent with 
about 335 per cent in direct taxation of produce and another 10 per cent in 
direct and indirect cesses. This burden was shared unequally in villages. The 
upper levels, such as the patels and patwaris who had high-caste status and a 
role in the land revenue administration, paid at concessional rates. The lower 
levels, of either middle and low-caste status, carried a disproportionate share 
of the tax burden.” When the state collected its taxes in kind, it evolved into 
the dominant force in local grain markets. Mahajans became increasingly im- 
portant to the efficient functioning of the state. Madhavi Bajekal has analysed 
how the state maintained careful records that enabled it to control the price of 
grain. The state coerced merchants to purchase its grain stocks either directly 
through forced sales or indirectly by restricting commercial transactions and 
inter-regional grain movements.” It also allowed a margin of profit to traders 
through the mechanism of deferred payments, which enabled the merchants 
to pay off their contracts as prices rose during the months after the harvest 
sales when prices had been lower. 

For the second half of the eighteenth century, Dilbagh Singh has argued that 
repeated Maratha incursions had disastrous effects on agricultural production 
and the internal grain trade in eastern Rajputana. There was a qualitative shift 
in agriculture from cash crops and inferior food crops to superior food crops 
that could be sold for better prices. A quantitative decline in total produc- 
tion also ensued as cultivators migrated to the more secure areas of Malwa 
and Harauti. Gradually the state administration alienated control of land to 
zamindars, merchants and bankers for long terms on ijara (tax-farming) con- 
tracts. Although this tactic provided some stable income over the short term 
for the Jaipur administration, it strengthened economic rivals to the state and 
intensified economic stratification in villages.°! Thus a class of rich bankers 
in Jaipur was amassing capital resources similar to the revenue officials in 

4 oP Gupta, Agrarian System, pp. 144-55. 

°0 Madhavi Bajekal, “The State and the Rural Grain Market in Eighteenth Century Eastern Rajasthan’, 
in Sanjay Subrahmanyan (ed.), Merchants, Markets and the State In Early Modern India (Delhi, 1990), 
pp. 98-104, 110-20. 

31 Dilbagh Singh, The State, Landlords and Peasants: Rajasthan in the 18th Century (Columbia MO, 
1990), pp. 65-6, 199-207. 


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western Rajasthan described by Devra, who were moving increasingly from 
tax-farming into merchant ventures. These so-called Marwaris were benefit- 
ing from the difficulty Rajput princes had in maintaining effective revenue 
administrations when confronted by Maratha offensive raids. 

Scholars have yet to analyse in similar detail what happened during the 
nineteenth and twentieth centuries to agriculture in the princely states. Official 
sources, mainly gazetteers and census reports compiled by British and British- 
trained Indian administrators, remain the starting place for scholars. The 
gazetteers include both volumes in the imperial series and those on individual 
states generated on the British Indian model.” Descriptive in nature, they 
detail the composition of soils, climate, availability of rainfall and irrigation, 
types of crops, patterns of cultivation, varieties of draft animals, horticulture, 
transportation networks, internal and external grain trade, and the incidence 
of famine. However, the data vary from the specific to the simplistic, and the 
interpretive remarks are often stereotypical. For example, the imperial gazetteer 
volume on Hyderabad declared that ‘the ryots [peasant-cultivators] have taken 
no interest in improving the quality of their crops by selection of seed, or 
by the cultivation of new varieties, or by introducing improved agricultural 
implements’.»> The volumes that the states themselves assembled report on 
individual districts and provide more information on variations in crops and 
production, reflecting ecological and social diversity. However, none of these 
gazetteers nor the administrative reports, which states striving for a reputation 
as progressive produced during the twentieth century, provide much data on 
long-term trends. For example, there is little information on the commerciali- 
sation of agriculture. In the key area of irrigation there are limited data on how 
much the princes and the land-controlling elites spent on the maintenance 
and extension of wells in north India and tanks in the south, the traditional 
sources of irrigation. There are slightly more data on canal irrigation, perhaps 
because it was regarded as modern and often undertaken in conjunction with 
British India. 

In 1861 Maharaja Narinder Singh of Patiala offered to pay for the surveying, 
project preparation and construction within his state of the Sirhind Canal, 
which would carry water from the Sutlej River through the western part of his 
state. Because of his conspicuous loyalty during the revolt of 1857 and their 

52 A strikingly graphic presentation of the coverage of gazetteers is in Joseph E. Schwartzberg, 
A Historical Atlas of South Asia (Chicago, 1978), p. 141. 
53 Imperial Gazetteer of India. Provincial Series. Hyderabad State (Calcutta, 1909), p. 32. 


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interest in expanding canal irrigation in Punjab, the British responded affirma- 
tively. After overcoming the technical obstacles in constructing a weir across 
the Sutlej at Rupar, the Sirhind Canal was opened in 1882. When Maharaja 
Ranbir Singh of Jammu and Kashmir requested a similar collaborative ven- 
ture, the response was more lethargic, although eventually the Upper Chenab 
Canal, which watered parts of Jammu, was built. These two canals did not open 
up new lands for cultivation but rather enabled more intensive cultivation of 
existing crop lands.* 

A bolder experiment that extended cultivation to fertile but hitherto waste 
lands was the Gang Canal in Bikaner state. Shocked by loss of human and 
animal life during the great famine of 1899-1900, which occurred just after 
he was invested with full ruling powers, Ganga Singh of Bikaner considered the 
development of railways and canal irrigation to be the long-term preventives 
of future famines. In 1905 he proposed to Viceroy Curzon the construction 
of a canal branching off the Sutlej at the northern border of Bikaner state. 
The Punjab Government and the neighbouring princely state of Bahawalpur 
objected. The Sutlej coursed through Bahawalpur but not Bikaner. The former 
state was unwilling to have a reduction in water available for irrigation. After 
many compromises over the location of the head-works that determined the 
area to be irrigated and negotiations to secure the requisite financing through 
private borrowing, the canal was finally opened in 1927. It brought around 
1000 square miles under cultivation.” This irrigation project also stimulated 
an increase of 49 per cent in the non-agricultural workforce in Bikaner between 
1901 and 1931. This rise was the fourth highest among the princely states.*° 
Once the debts for the Gang Canal were retired, Ganga Singh was eager to 
participate in the Sutlej Valley Scheme, which involved the first storage dam 
in the Indus Valley at Bhakra.*” Bahawalpur joined the Sutlej Scheme but its 
earlier concerns proved realistic in that it received less water for irrigation than 
expected. As less land could be irrigated, land prices and revenues fell during 
the 1930s and the Bahawalpur administration became in arrears in payments 
on its debts incurred for this scheme.*® Irrigation clearly had both positive and 

54 Aloys Arthur Michel, The Indus Rivers: A Study of the Effects of Partition (New Haven CN, 1967), 
pp. 67-72. 

55 John Hurd states that from 1921 to 1933 in Bikaner ‘the area under crops that was irrigated by 
government canals increased forty-one fold, and the percentage of total area under crops irrigated 
by such canals increased from 1 per cent to 19 per cent’: Hurd, ‘Economic Characteristics’, p. 20. 

°6 Thid. 

7 Panikkar, His Highness, pp. 288-306, and Michel, Indus, pp. 120, 316-40. 

8 Tbid., pp. 85-98; Penderel Moon, Divide and Quit: An Eyewitness Account of the Partition of India, 
new edn (Delhi, 1998), pp. 99-101. 


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negative results for states and their subjects. In western Rajasthan irrigation 
projects extended state control over local populations as rulers attempted to 
transform pastoralists into sedentary agriculturists.”” 

Such princes as Ram Singh of Jaipur and Chamarajindra Wadiyar and 
Krishnaraja Wadiyer of Mysore reaped enhanced revenues and social benefits 
from irrigation projects. Ram Singh bargained with the British to eliminate 
a provision of their 1818 treaty that Jaipur state was to pay five-sixteenths of 
its annual revenue of over Rs 4 million to its British suzerain. Since Jaipur’s 
revenue was never reported as being over the stipulated sum, in 1871 Viceroy 
Mayo rescinded this claim in return for a promise that the ruler would commit 
an increased share of his state revenues to public works. In 1867 Jaipur had 
hired Swinton Jacob, a military engineer, to lead the public works department, 
which managed irrigation, roads, palaces and other government buildings. By 
the time Jacob left Jaipur, the state had invested Rs 5 million in irrigation 
and subsequently received over Rs 9 million in increased land revenue. Ram 
Singh shrewdly confined most irrigation works to his crown lands where cash 
crops such as opium, which carried multiple taxes, were cultivated. Thus irri- 
gation in Jaipur furthered the commercialisation of agriculture and made the 
khalsa lands more attractive to cultivators when the rains failed than those 
of neighbouring jagirdars.©° In Mysore the rulers first subsidised renovation 
of irrigation tanks during the 1880s. Later, under the energetic leadership of 
M. Visvesvaraya (1861-1961), an engineer who also served as diwan from 
1912 to 1918, the durbar constructed the Krishnaraja Sagar dam and reservoir 
on the Cauvery River, which were completed in 1931.°! This elaborate project 
supplied water for the irrigation of paddy rice and sugar cane as well as hydro- 
electric power. Irrigation had multiple benefits for princely states, but scholars 
have yet to assess fully its impact on agricultural production, state revenues, or 
the lives of peasants. 

Closely linked to irrigation was the construction of railways in the princely 
states since both were seen as key elements in the prevention of famine. 
Many advocates argued that railways would facilitate the commercialisation 

>? Carol Henderson, ‘State Administration and the Concepts of Peasants and Sedentary Agricultural 
Production in the Thar Desert’, paper presented at the Wisconsin Conference on South Asia, 
6 November 1993. 

60 Stern, Cat, pp. 142-4. 

61 Bjorn Hettne, The Political Economy of Indirect Rule: Mysore 1881-1947 (London, 1978), pp. 233-4, 


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of agriculture and would help Indians to modernise because of the transfer of 
technology.© So far scholarship has concentrated on how railways expedited 
the movement inland of British manufactured goods, especially cotton textiles, 
the transport of raw materials, mainly cotton, opium and food grains, to ports, 
and the strategic deployment of imperial troops. Since railways were closely 
associated with communications and defence — two of the three areas that the 
princely states had ceded to the British as paramount power — there were nu- 
merous disputes over their construction within and across princely states. Key 
issues were finance because of British controls on the ability of states to raise 
money in public markets in Britain and in India, the routes to be followed, the 
type of gauges to be used, and political control over the right-of-ways. Railway 
development in Mysore and Hyderabad illustrates these themes. 

A railway line connected Bangalore, the administrative capital of Mysore, to 
Madras in 1870. Twelve years later the first line within Mysore state was opened 
from Bangalore to Mysore city, the seat of the maharaja. Shortly after the British 
rendition of Mysore in 1881, the durbar sought to extend its rail infrastructure. 
But the British pressured the diwan to turn over railway development to a 
private British firm, the Southern Maharatta Company, in return for a delay 
of ten years until 1896 in raising Mysore’s annual subsidy to the GOI from 
Rs 24.5 lakhs to Rs 35 lakhs.°? Thus a foreign rather than an indigenous 
enterprise was to undertake railway expansion in a progressive princely state. 
Although this settlement was clearly not to Mysore’s overall financial advantage, 
it would not be as disastrous for state finances as what would occur in its 
neighbour to the north. 

Perhaps because of its status as the most populous state and its geograph- 
ical location astride the Deccan Plateau in the centre of peninsular India, 
Hyderabad has attracted the most scholarly attention. Vasant Kumar Bawa 
and Bharati Ray have considered the development of railways in Hyderabad as 
a key issue in the increasingly troubled relationship between the princely state 
and the imperial suzerain during the diwanship of Salar Jung. This chief min- 
ister was a fervent promoter of railways despite the reluctance of the nizam, who 
perceptively feared that the railways would intensify British influence without 
sufficient financial benefits. Tara Sethia has linked railway development in 

62 Daniel R. Headrick, The Tentacles of Progress: Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism, 1850- 
1940 (New York, 1988), pp. 49-96. 

63 Hettne, Political Economy, pp. 57, 235-7. 

64 Bawa, Nizam, pp. 92-7, 117-22; Bharati Ray, ‘Genesis’, pp. 45-69. 

6 Bharati Ray, Hyderabad and British Paramountcy 1858-1883 (Delhi, 1988), pp. 137-8; Tara Sethia, 
British Imperial Interests and the Indian Princely States, PhD thesis, University of California at Los 
Angeles (1986), p. 48. 


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Hyderabad state during the 1870s and 1880s to the overwhelming desire of 
Salar Jung to recover control of Berar and to the grant of coalmining con- 
cessions.°° Consequently Hyderabad experienced many of the problems that 
hampered the extension of railways within the princely states. 

One controversy erupted over the linkages between all-Indian routes and 
the princely states. Bartle Frere, the governor of Bombay, and the India Office 
in London had proposed that the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR) 
between Madras and Bombay should meet at Hyderabad city. But because of 
political and military considerations, the governor of Madras and the GOI at 
Calcutta prevailed over their colleagues and ordered that the mainline should 
pass through Hyderabad territory at Raichur, 100 miles south from the al- 
leged political dangers of the capital city.°” The British still wished to have 
Hyderabad city connected to their railway network. So the multiple levels of 
the imperial hierarchy began tortuous negotiations with Salar Jung over the 
route, financing, and the gauge of a link between the GIPR and Hyderabad 
city. The princely state was eventually constrained to agree to conditions over- 
whelmingly favourable to the British. At first they had proposed to share the 
cost of construction, with the state’s portion coming from the surplus revenue 
of the Berar province, which was allocated to Hyderabad. Because of his de- 
sire to regain Berar, Salar Jung vetoed this suggestion, offered to pay all costs, 
and formed the Nizam’s State Railway (NSR) to build the link. The proposed 
route was conducive to British strategic objectives since it went through Secun- 
darabad, its military cantonment near Hyderabad city, and the broad gauge 
that the British demanded was much more expensive to construct than the 
narrow gauge that Salar Jung had recommended. 

Salar Jung sought to raise capital for the NSR from sahukars (local bankers), 
but they were reluctant to make the extensive commitment. Salar Jung there- 
fore employed British intermediaries to raise Rs 5.5 million on the London 
market to circumvent a 1797 parliamentary act requiring GOI approval of any 
loans between British subjects and the princely states. Following the pattern 
established in British India, the nizam’s government guaranteed a 5 per cent 
return to local investors and a generous 6 per cent return to British investors. 
Since the NSR never earned more than 1.5 per cent, this settlement was a 
continual drain on the state’s revenues. In 1881 London investors, with the 
support of the India Office, began to explore the capitalisation of an extension 
of the NSR northward to Chanda in the Godavari coalfields and eventually to 
Nagpur in British India and southward to Bezwada. Gradually Salar Jung was 

6 Sethia, ‘Berar’, pp. 59-78. 67 Ray, Hyderabad, pp. 133-6. 68 Sethia, ‘Berar’, p. 72. 


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drawn into the scheme in the hope of increasing traffic and income. The NSR 
was to be dissolved and a new enterprise formed, the Nizam’s Guaranteed State 
Railway (NGSR). Eventually this new company required an annual payment 
of over Rs 30 lakhs, which was more than any surplus revenue of the Hyderabad 
Government. The creation of the NGSR illustrates chicanery among private 
British investors in London eager to profit from stock manipulation, contra- 
dictory opinions within the British official hierarchy about what would be 
beneficial for Hyderabad, and ultimately the British goal of facilitating the 
extraction of Hyderabadi coal to fuel its railways in south India. The imperial 
patron was unconcerned by the damage to their princely client. These dis- 
advantageous terms provoked unprecedented political demonstrations against 
the nizam’s government. Dr Aghorenath Chattopadhyaya, the Bengali prin- 
cipal of Hyderabad College and the father of Sarojini Naidu, the first Indian 
woman president of the Indian National Congress, was a prime organiser of 
this response. Popular opposition to foreign financing of railways that mort- 
gaged tax revenues prefigured popular outbursts in twentieth-century China, 
first against the imperial government in 1911 and then against the warlord 
regime of Yuan Shih-kai and his successors. 

Since the British were determined to expand railway lines throughout 
India, some princes shrewdly secured benefits from what they could not stop. 
Madhava Rao constructed light railways that were cheaper than metalled roads 
since Baroda, composed largely of alluvial plains, lacked useful road-building 
materials. By 1934/35 the state system of 707 miles of railway earned 9 per cent 
of the state revenues.’? Other states such as Gwalior also constructed light rail- 
way systems that were reputed to be profitable investments for the durbars.”! 
The rulers of Jaipur were to benefit even more handsomely from collaboration 
with the British and the construction of their own state system of railways. 

Because of its geographical position across routes from the Gangetic Plain 
to Bombay, which became the major entrepét for imports from Europe upon 
the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Jaipur was soon traversed by two 
major British lines. In return for his cooperation, Ram Singh won concessions 
on such issues as the siting of stations. As a result, the railway lines enabled the 
maharaja to undercut traffic through lands controlled by his jagirdars, thereby 
decreasing their customs income and increasing his. Coincidentally, easy access 
by rail put Jaipur city, proclaimed ‘the finest of modern Hindu cities’? and 

6 Sethia, ‘British Interests’, esp. pp. 172-83. 

70 Hardiman, ‘Baroda’, in Jeffrey, People, p. 120. 

7. H.M. Bulland K. N. Haksar, Madhav Rao Scindia of Gwalior 1876-1925 (Lashkar, 1926), p. 110. 
72 WS. Caine, Picturesque India: A Handbook for European Travellers (London, 1891), p. 95. 


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favourably compared by Rudyard Kipling and others to Paris,’? on the route of 
late-nineteenth-century tourists seeking the real India and handmade Jaipuri 
souvenirs.” Meanwhile Ram Singh was able to withhold from the British 
any useful information on the economic benefits for Jaipur from the railway.’° 
Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior became an investor in British railways 
and a builder of the Jaipur State Railway. Although initially the British had 
refused the request of the Jaipur, Gwalior and Indore durbars to invest in 
sections of the Rajputana—Malwa line that passed through their territories, 
in 1905 the GOI reconsidered on the recommendation of its foreign and 
political department. It eventually decided there was ‘political advantage of 
the chiefs of India having a large monetary interest in the Indian railways’ .”° 
On an investment of Rs 5 million secured in the London market, the Jaipur 
durbar would earn Rs 9.5 million in two decades. Around the beginning 
of the twentieth century, Madho Singh of Jaipur began the construction of 
the Jaipur State Railway, which would serve his political as well as economic 
interests. This line extended his physical control to Shekhawati, the remote 
base of several Marwari clans, directed the trade and social orientation of 
that area to Jaipur and away from Jodhpur and Bikaner, and earned a 10 per 
cent profit on the northern extension to Shekhawati and a 12 per cent one 
on the southern section.’” As the Jaipur State Railway expanded, in 1936 the 
durbar took over its management from the British-owned Bombay, Baroda and 
Central Indian Railway Company. In 1940/41 the income to the Jaipur durbar 
from its own system and its investment in British Rajputana—Malwa line was 
Rs 1.6 million.78 

Not all Rajput princes were such enthusiastic supporters of railways. The 
British Rajputana—Malwa line travelled through Udaipur state via Chittor, but 
Maharana Fateh Singh cancelled further railway expansion upon his accession 
in 1884. Later he reluctantly agreed to a rail extension from Chittor to his 
capital at Udaipur in return for permission to dismiss a reform-minded official, 
Mehta Panna Lal, whom he viewed as an agent of the British.” 

Railways came to the princely states in varying degrees, but their long-term 
impact has not been adequately analysed, either for the microcosm of individ- 
ual states or for the macrocosm of the princely states and British India. The 

73 Rudyard Kipling, Letters of Marque (New York, n.d.), pp. 13-14. 

74 Barbara N. Ramusack, ‘The Indian Princes as Fantasy: Palace Hotels, Palace Museums and Palace 
on Wheels’, in Breckenridge, Consuming Modernity, pp. 66-89. 

7 Stern, Cat, pp. 139-40. 

76 GOL, E&P, August 1911, Internal A., nos 27-31 quoted in Stern, Cat, p. 191. 

77 Stern, Cat, pp. 187-92. 78 Ibid., p. 251. 

79 Rajat K. Ray, ‘Mewar: The Breakdown of the Princely Order’, in Jeffrey, People, pp. 223-4. 


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latter would be difficult to achieve without the former. Railway development 
has been viewed narrowly as a site of contestation between the durbars and 
the British, with a focus on the high construction cost of railways attributed 
to the guaranteed interest system that lessened the incentive for cost contain- 
ment. More analysis is needed of the extent to which railways precluded the 
British policy of isolating the princes and their states from each other, fostered 
ties between social, religious and political associations in the princely states 
and British India, and affected the commercialisation of agriculture and the 
development of industries in the states. 


The terms of scholarly debate on industrialisation in the princely states set 
during the 1970s have yet to be revised. In his pioneering dissertation and two 
often cited articles, John Hurd tried to compare ‘development in the princely 
states with that in British India. Based on a sample of ninety-eight states con- 
taining 89 per cent of the total population of the princely states in 1931, with 
fifty-four British districts selected as comparable, Hurd focused on three vari- 
ables: the structure of the male labour force, namely the percentage of males 
employed in non-agricultural work; migration, specifically the percentage of 
males born outside the state; and urbanisation. He concluded that although 
economic development declined in both British and princely India from 1901 
to 1931, the princely states in general lagged behind the British districts. Two 
basic categories of factors were responsible. One was British policies that hin- 
dered growth, such as the refusal to extend any guarantee for developmental 
loans. The other was the historical evolution of the states. For example, the 
higher the percentage of jagirdars in a state, the lower was the level of devel- 
opment, and Hurd argued that jagirdars siphoned off revenue from the state 
treasury. °° 

In a subsequent analysis confined to twenty-eight states, each with over 
500 000 people, which comprised 71 per cent of the populations of the princely 
states, Hurd added male literacy to his original three criteria of development. 
Political factors were mainly responsible for differences in economic develop- 
ment between princely and British India. By ‘preserving the princely states as 
separate political units, the British contributed to the disparities in economic 
development in India’.®! In another article on industrial development, Hurd 
postulated an argument similar to Sethia’s. He claimed that the British acted 
ambivalently to safeguard their interests. They intervened in the princely states 

80 Hurd, ‘Economic Characteristics’, pp. 145-50. 81 Thid., pp. 175. 


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to secure the abolition of transit duties and the construction of transcontinental 
railways and roads to facilitate British trade. But they did not intercede for the 
princes in British capital markets since industrial development in the states was 
not a colonial priority.*? In a comparison of industrial development in Alwar 
state and the adjoining Gurgaon district of Punjab, Edward Haynes supports 
Hurd’s assessment that industrialisation in the princely states was delayed by 
contradictory British policies that coupled protection from unscrupulous ‘for- 
eign’ investors with frequent opposition to projected indigenous industrial 
enterprises (such as a cotton mill in Alwar). Equally important for Alwar was 
its lack of integration into the all-India transportation network except for one 
railway line financed by state revenues and built during the 1870s when the 
British dominated the state administration.*? 

C. P. Simons and B. R. Satyanarayana challenged Hurd on his selection of 
samples and asserted that comparisons between the states and British India are 
invalid. The economy of imperial India was indivisible, comparisons conceal 
more than they reveal, and there are no scientific means to measure the factors 
that influenced economic development in such a heterogeneous area as India. 
In turn, using Hurd’s four indices, they compared statistics on the princely 
states and British India as a whole. They concluded that differences in favour 
of British India were statistically insignificant and that economic development 
in British India and the princely states was commensurate.*‘ Although railways 
and metalled roads provided a framework for an all-Indian economy, it remains 
important to analyse the development of discrete political units, whether they 
are British Indian provinces or districts or princely states. Furthermore, the 
numerous general overviews of Indian economic development under the British 
do not evaluate in any depth agricultural or industrial activity in the princely 
states, even as part of the indivisible imperial economy. So once again, case 
studies must suffice to illustrate industrial development within the princely 

Here again Mysore and Hyderabad are significant examples. During the 
1870s and 1880s, first under British and then indigenous control, Mysore had 
granted generous terms for prospecting to a British syndicate who discovered 

82 John Hurd II, ‘The Influence of British Policy on Industrial Development in the Princely States, 
1890-1933’, IESHR 12 (1975), pp. 409-24, esp. pp. 423-4. 

83 Edward S. Haynes, ‘Comparative Industrial Development in 19th and 20th-Century India: Alwar 
State and Gurgaon District’, SA, n.s. 3, 2 (1980), pp. 25-42, esp. pp. 38-9. 

84 C. P Simmons and B. R. Satyanarayana, ‘The Economic Consequences of Indirect Rule in India: 
A Re-appraisal’, JESHR 15 (1979), pp. 185-206. Simmons and Satyanarayana are responding 
primarily to Hurd’s article ‘Economic Consequences’, since they do not cite his dissertation and 
find his subsequent article on industrial development in the princely states to be much more useful 
than his first one (note 13, p. 192). 


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gold in the Kolar area in 1884. Although the Mysore durbar gained royalties, 
the development of the Kolar fields had little ripple effect on the Mysore 
economy. The heavy equipment and supervisory personnel were imported 
from England, the labourers from Madras,®° coal from Bengal, and wood from 
western India. Profits were remitted to British shareholders. Mysore provided 
some infrastructure in a railway line constructed in 1893, a hydro-electric plant 
at Sivasamudram in 1902, and eventually the Krishnasagar project. Hettne has 
argued that the durbar, driven by its need to pay a large subsidy, a stagnant 
land revenue income, and possibly the dominance of Madrassi administrators, 
was content with assured royalties of almost Rs 2 crores by 1911.°° 

In the sphere of mining concessions as in railway development, Hyderabad 
suffered more egregiously than did Mysore. The discovery in 1872 of signifi- 
cant coal deposits in the Singareni area near Warangal and the Godavari River 
interested the GOI since its railways in the south were dependent on expensive 
coal imported from eastern India or even Britain.8” In the early 1880s some 
Hyderabadi and British officials sought to combine the railway and mining 
concessions since the prospect of profitable freight would be an incentive to 
British investors in an expanded NGSR. Under strong pressure from the GOI 
and despite warnings from London, the nizam’s government granted mining 
concessions on extremely favourable terms to British investors. After convo- 
luted negotiations Abdul Haq, a Hyderabadi minister, with British support 
purchased heavily watered shares of the company holding the concessions. 
He and private British investors profited while the Hyderabadi Government 
headed towards bankruptcy. 

When some British newspapers and MPs began to question the British 
Government’ role in this venture, British officials placed the primary respon- 
sibility on Haq, whom both the British and Hyderabad had earlier agreed 
lacked skill as a negotiator. Contrasting cultural constructions of manipula- 
tive and gullible Indians and well-connected, greedy British investors overlay 
a lack of official concern about the fiscal stability of a princely ally. The Fi- 
nancial News claimed that ‘a small band of speculators’ in collaboration with a 
‘machiavellian mahomedan’, namely Abdul Hag, had victimised Hyderabad. 
Another paper referred to the scandal as ‘milking the Rajahs’, which occurred 
because the ‘milker’ on the London Stock Exchange had influence with the 

85 Janaki Nair, Miners and Millhands: Work, Culture and Politics in Princely Mysore (Walnut Creek CA, 
1998), chs 2-3. 

86 Hettne, Political Economy, pp. 246-7. A crore is 100 lakhs. 

87 Sethia, ‘British Interests’, chs 5-7. 


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authorities.8& Once again the GOI interfered in the economic affairs of states 
when it suited their interests, turned a blind eye when they would be unaf- 
fected, and was indifferent to its princely allies when unscrupulous investors 
concluded questionable deals.*? 

Ultimately the fraudulent practices of the London financiers led to a par- 
liamentary inquiry and a restatement in 1891 of a potentially more restrictive 
or protective policy depending on one’s viewpoint. Subsequently the GOI 
was to approve all loans and concessions for railways and mining between 
the princely states and British subjects. The imperial overlord wished to 
‘protect’ the states from ‘mischief’ but also to prevent any infringement on 
the British position in India. This statement would be modified in 1930 to 
allow Indians, whether or not they were subjects, to make investments in 
princely states without British approval. In fact these policy directives were 
routinely but circumspectly evaded.?° Mysore and Baroda illustrate the possi- 
bilities of and limitations on the expansion of manufacturing in the princely 
states. In Mysore the most vigorous promoter of capital-intensive projects was 
an engineer attracted to state service by the offer of authority not available to 
Indian professionals in British India; in Baroda it was a ‘modernising’ maharaja. 
In both cases cotton textile factories were the initial industries. The Mysore 
Spinning and Manufacturing Mills were established in 1884, three decades 
after the first cotton textile mill in Bombay, and the Bangalore Woollen, Cot- 
ton and Silk Mills two years later. Janaki Nair emphasises that Mysore faced 
significant obstacles to industrialisation such as the lack of an entrepreneurial 
class and indigenous sources of capital as well as restrictive imperial policies in 
areas such as tariffs.?! It persisted in order to effect a social transformation that 
would strengthen its resource base. M. Visvesvaraya, a brahman from Mysore, 
trained as an engineer in Poona and was employed by the Bombay public works 
department until 1909 when he was appointed chief engineer in Mysore.?” He 
favoured large-scale, state-sponsored schemes to build an infrastructure and 
was willing to use non-indigenous capital. Alfred Chatterton was recruited as 
the first director of the department of industries and commerce in Mysore 
in 1912. He proposed small-scale manufacturing projects based on agrarian 

88 Tbid., p.267. © Ibid., pp. 280-3. 

9° Hurd, ‘Economic Characteristics’, pp. 65-75. 

9! Janaki Nair, The Emergence of Labor Politics in South India: Bangalore, 1900-1947, PhD thesis, 
Syracuse University (1991), pp. 41-4. 

In Tentacles, pp. 359-60, Headrick implies that Visvesvaraya left the British service because of remote 
prospects of becoming the chief engineer. 



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products launched with local capital. Mysore state pursued both options with 
varying success. 

Visvesvaraya had a longer tenure than Chatterton since he was diwan from 
1912 to 1918 and later a consultant. He coined the motto ‘industrialise or 
perish’ and later became a leader in the campaign for swadeshi or ‘Mysore 
for the Mysoreans’, by which the administration meant to exclude Indians 
from outside Mysore, mainly Madrassi bureaucrats and Marwari traders, as 
well as British agency houses. First, Visvesvaraya fostered an institutional in- 
frastructure supportive of industrial development. The Mysore Bank was es- 
tablished in 1913, the Mysore Chamber of Commerce in 1916, and Mysore 
University, the first university in a princely state, in 1916.” In collaboration 
with the GOI and in response to an initial offer from J. N. Tata, the Parsi 
industrialist, Mysore helped finance the first Indian Institute of Technology, 
which opened in Bangalore in 1911.°4 Second, Visvesvaraya ostensibly pursued 
heavy, light and rural industrialisation but personally favoured capital-intensive 
schemes such as the Cauvery Reservoir Project and the Mysore Iron and Steel 
Works. Both required heavy infusions of state aid and only the first was notably 

Alfred Chatterton advocated more small-scale, intermediate industrialisa- 
tion. His endeavours included an Experimental Weaving Factory, a Sandalwood 
Oil Factory, and the Mysore Soap Factory based on agricultural products such 
as coconut and groundnut oils. After a slight hiatus during the 1920s, Visves- 
varaya’s technocratic emphasis on industrialisation and the push for economic 
autonomy continued under the diwanship of Sir Mirza Ismail. During the 
late 1930s it was proposed to establish an automobile factory financed by the 
shipping magnate Walchand Hirachand, which would assemble Chrysler cars 
in India, but British resistance rendered that undertaking stillborn.”” Ismail 
claimed that this rejection prompted his resignation in 1941. Other signifi- 
cant industrial units in Mysore included a small ammonium sulphate plant 
outside Mysore City (1937), the first autonomous fertiliser plant in India, 
and Hindustan Aircraft, a direct result of the Second World War. Although 
Mysore did not attain the economic autonomy Visvesvaraya envisioned, its 

°3 Hettne, Political Economy, pp. 264-7; Manu Belur Bhagavan, Higher Education and the ‘Mod- 
ern State’: Negotiating Colonialism and Nationalism in Princely Mysore and Baroda, PhD thesis, 
University of Texas at Austin (1999), pp. 130-99. 

94 Headrick, Tentacles, pp. 335-6. The maharaja offered free land, Rs 500 000, and an annual pledge 
of Rs 50000 a year and the GOI supplied Rs 250 000 and an annual pledge of Rs 90 000. Tata’s 
initial offer was Rs 3 million for the buildings, equipment, and endowment fund. 

°> Hettne, Political Economy, pp. 295-6; Nair, ‘Emergence’, ch. 2. 


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industrial enterprises and higher education framework prefigured crucial in- 
dustrial development in the decades ahead. 

Baroda followed a different path. Influenced by the example of Europe, Saya- 
jirao and his diwans used state resources to generate an industrial base. During 
the swadeshi era after 1905, the durbar abolished customs duties, established 
the Bank of Baroda, organised a department of commerce and industry, and 
extended loans.”° By 1918 there were eleven textile manufacturers who formed 
the Baroda Millowners Association, the first noteworthy business organisation 
in the state. It developed into the Federation of Gujarat Mills and Industries 
in which Baroda textile, engineering and chemical/pharmaceutical interests 
dominated. Early engineering firms included a tractor repair and importing 
firm that became the nucleus of Hindustan Tractors and Bulldozers. Alem- 
bic Industries, which moved from Bombay to Baroda in 1907, was a major 
success story in the chemical field. By the early 1940s it had spawned two 
sizable subsidiaries, Alembic Glass and Jyoti Engineering. Attracted to Bar- 
oda by economic incentives and easy land acquisition, the Sarabhai family of 
Ahmedabad began small-scale chemical and pharmaceutical firms in the mid- 
1940s. After independence, chemical, pharmaceutical and engineering firms 
overshadowed textiles with the opening of a major public sector oil refinery 
that supports a large contemporary fertiliser complex.”” Although several 
states experienced accelerated industrial growth when the Second World War 
cut off imported goods and stimulated domestic demand, Baroda sustained 
exceptional growth.?® However, historians have yet to analyse the relationship 
between these early efforts at creating an industrial infrastructure in Baroda 
and Mysore and the subsequent emergence of Baroda as the core of a major 
petrochemical complex and of Bangalore as the Indian equivalent of Silicon 
Valley. Further study is needed before judgements about the lack of success of 
princely industrialisation schemes are canonised. 

As most princes did not have a defined privy purse until the last decades 
of their rule, those in major states controlled significant sums of money. 
A few chose to invest in industrial enterprises in British India and British 
government securities, the latter with active British encouragement. Fifteen 
princes held 13 per cent of the shares of the Tata Iron and Steel Company 
(TISCO), with Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior injecting £400 000.°? Gwalior 

96 Hardiman, ‘Baroda’, in Jeffrey, People, p. 121. 

97 Howard L. Erdman, Political Attitudes of Indian Industry: A Case Study of the Baroda Business Elite 
(London, 1971), pp. 5-16. 

98 Copland, Princes, pp. 184-5. 

°° Kumar, Cambridge Economic History, vol. 2, p. 591; Headrick, Tentacles, p. 290. 


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was also a major investor in Bombay-based industries, but his activities have 
not been studied. Another Maratha prince, Sayaji Rao of Baroda, had invested 
in TISCO. Unfortunately he also put capital into the Villiers Companies, 
which failed to fulfil their promises to develop coal mines and a new steel mill 
in Bihar. The gaekwad eventually lost Rs 7 million of his private and state 
assets. 10° 

During the minority of Man Singh of Jaipur, British administrators invested 
surplus Jaipur state revenues in GOI securities. By then the earlier British pro- 
hibition on princes lending to their peers had been lifted, possibly in an effort 
to promote princely solidarity and prevent financial crises from weakening 
conservative allies. The Jaipur durbar extended loans to Bikaner, Bharatpur, 
Alwar and Tonk, and so by 1940/41 it was earning Rs 2 million annually from 
these loans and its British securities.'°! There is fragmentary evidence that for 
some durbars such as Jaipur and Baroda, income from investments outside the 
states and in state railways reduced their critical dependence on land revenue. 
Consequently they would be able to make some concessions on land revenue 
rates in response to peasant protest movements. 


Although most of the princely states were landlocked, fourteen of them, gen- 
erally located in western India, had coastal ports. At first these ports received 
little freight destined for British India. However, the expansion of railways pro- 
vided shorter transportation links between these princely ports and the major 
urban centres of northwestern India than the established ports of Bombay and 
Karachi in British India. In the twentieth century, princes attempted to attract 
trade by developing their port facilities to receive ocean-going ships and thereby 
benefit from increased customs duties. The most prominent developers were 
Baroda at Okhla, Nawanagar at Bedi, and to a lesser extent Kutch at Kandla. 
As trade increased at Bedi and Okhla and began to decrease slightly at British 
Indian ports, the British and the princes hotly debated the issue of customs 
duties. John McLeod has analysed the situation for seven coastal states of the 
Western India States Agency, namely Bhavnagar, Jafarabad, Junagadh, Kutch, 
Morvi, Nawanagar and Porbandar.! 

Goods from ports in princely states coming into British India were supposed 
to pay British Indian tariffs as they were ostensibly entering from foreign ter- 
ritory. Since traffic was so light before 1900, little effort was made to collect 

100 Gaekwad, Sayajirao, pp. 337-40. 101 Stern, Cat, p. 250. 102 McLeod, Sovereignty, ch. 5. 


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customs duties. Once rail links were in place, some importers began to land 
goods at princely ports that had lower duties and then avoid paying British 
Indian tariffs at the borders. They also benefited from shorter distances. More- 
over, smugglers tended to favour the more lightly patrolled ports in the princely 
states. Concerned about its customs revenues, in 1905 the GOI established the 
Viramgam Line as a customs cordon around Kathiawar and Kutch. At each 
border crossing the British collected customs duties according to their estab- 
lished rate, so goods entering through the princely ports had to pay twice. Even 
with lower transportation costs, this practice made the princely ports uneco- 
nomical and soon the coastal states experienced declining customs revenues. 
When the British needed wartime allies, they compromised with the protesting 
princes. In 1917 they removed the Viramgam Line in return for a promise from 
the princes to charge the British Indian rate of tariffs at their ports, with the 
proviso that the customs cordon could be reimposed if warranted by British 
fiscal interests. 

After 1917 the princes sought to increase trade to their ports by lowering port 
fees that were not regulated and by enhancing their port facilities. Nawanagar 
was the first to open a modernised port at Bedi by 1927, and between 1925/26 
and 1926/27 its customs duties increased from Rs 30 lakhs to Rs 78 lakhs. 
That sum represented 2 per cent of the total of British Indian customs duties. 
The GOI quickly decided its fiscal interests needed to be safeguarded and 
devised the so-called certificate system. The princes had to remit to the GOI 
the duty collected on all goods imported into British India. Thus they would 
retain only the custom duties on goods consumed within the princely states 
of Kathiawar. Although this system was slightly modified in 1929 to allow 
princely retention of all duties below Rs 2 lakhs and thus satisfy princes with 
smaller ports, the rulers with larger ports remained alienated. Ranjitsinhji of 
Nawanagar and Sayaji Rao of Baroda objected sharply to customs policies at 
the Round Table Conference of 1930 and during subsequent negotiations over 
federation. Neither was a firm ally during those critical years. After federation 
became a mute issue in 1939, the British made no further efforts to conciliate 
any of the western Indian states on the customs issue.' 

McLeod points out that the British were motivated primarily by fiscal 
objectives, while the princes were concerned with any attenuation of their 
sovereignty. In general the GOI was willing to make concessions to the princes 
when their political support was needed, as in 1917 or in 1929, but heeded 

103 Thid., pp. 103-8. 


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their financial department when they felt less threatened politically. Although 
McLeod focuses on the political aspects of the dispute over the ports, his 
work illustrates how British policies restricted economic developments in the 
princely states that might affect British fiscal or economic well-being.!° At 
the same time the princes never ceased to resist incursions on their sovereignty. 
Moreover, some undertook significant economic investments within re- 
stricted circumstances that laid the groundwork for post-colonial economic 


The princely states of India were enmeshed within the overall political and 
economic framework of the British India empire. Their autonomy was re- 
stricted in numerous ways through treaty provisions but even more extensively 
through the never defined doctrines of usage and paramountcy. However, the 
significant variations among the princely states that existed until 1947 in- 
dicates the possibilities for autonomous activity in some spheres. Ecological 
and historical factors were influential, but personal initiatives were also vital. 
Thus rulers in three disparate geo-cultural spheres — the coastal Travancore 
and Cochin, the peninsular Mysore, and the plains of Baroda — could craft 
highly centralised, bureaucratised governmental structures that made signif- 
icant improvements in the lives of their subjects through increased literacy, 
opportunities for government employment, and sometimes changes in land 
revenue rates. In even more difficult climatic environments such as Bikaner, 
a maharaja could decisively influence the economic development of his state 
and the position of his subjects through an irrigation project such as the Gang 

Overall, the centralisation of power under the princely durbar that had be- 
gun in Mysore and Baroda as early as the late eighteenth century continued. 
The expanding bureaucratisation of princely state administrations countered 
the power of the nobility but also intensified the intervention of the princely 
states into the daily lives of their subjects. This process of intrusion was ex- 
tremely uneven. It was strongest in the progressive states that expanded their 
functions to include support for primary schools, mobile libraries and public 
health facilities. For example, in 1930 Mysore had the first public hospital in 
India to dispense information on contraception. But even where the state’s 
role remained more circumscribed, durbars encroached on the lives of subjects 

104 Thid. 


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with British-style land revenue assessments that gave rights to some and cur- 
tailed them for others. Irrigation projects designed to increase productivity and 
revenues, as well as modern forms of transportation and communication, also 
caught state subjects in an expanding web. The impact of these policies would 

be one factor in stimulating the rise of new forms of popular political activity 
within these states. 


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The paucity of research on social change and popular political activity in the 
princely states contributes to Orientalist representations of the princely states 
as the epitome of unchanging India. Fortunately the adventurous scholarship 
of a few social and cultural historians challenges such interpretations. Karen 
Leonard’s path-breaking study of the kayasths of Hyderabad illuminates the 
adaptations of a literate, urban-based caste group to opportunities in a large 
princely state bureaucracy and then in a post-colonial successor state.’ Robin 
Jeffrey has traced the gradual attenuation of nayar dominance in Travancore 
and the role of women in the evolution of the Kerala model of economic de- 
velopment in independent India.” Analyses of non-elite groups include David 
Hardiman’s work on a low-caste reform movement within Baroda; Nandini 
Sundar on the tribal population in Bastar; Mridula Mukherjee and Mohinder 
Singh on peasant movements in the Punjab princely states before and after 1947 
respectively; Shail Mayaram on the construction of Muslim identity among 
the marginalised Meos in Alwar; and Janaki Nair on labourers in Mysore.? 
Their work explores the internal dynamics of group formation and identity 
and political struggles for a greater portion of scarce political, economic, and 
ritual resources. 

Other scholars have concentrated on the political associations and agitational 
activity of elite and non-elite groups. Actors range from newly educated young 
men ambitious for political power, to peasants who found their lives and 
resources increasingly circumscribed by jagirdars, who were being squeezed by 
centralising durbars and commercialised agriculture, to landlords challenging 
constraints on their authority and resources. The political activities of these 
groups provide a framework through which the complex interplay between 
agitational political activity in British India and in the princely states and 

! Leonard, Social History. 

2 Jeffrey, Decline; Robin Jeffrey, Politics, Women and Well-Being: How Kerala Became ‘a Model’ (Hound- 
mills, Hampshire, 1992). 

3 David Hardiman, The Coming of the Devi: Adivasi Assertion in Western India (Delhi, 1987); Sundar, 
Subalterns; Mridula Mukherjee, ‘Peasant Movement in Patiala State’, SH 1 (1979), pp. 215-83, 
and ‘Communists and Peasants in Punjab: A Focus on the Muzara Movement in Patiala, 1937-53’, 
SH 2 (1981); Mohinder Singh, Peasant Movement in PEPSU Punjab (New Delhi, 1991); Mayaram, 
Resisting Regimes, Nair, Miners. 


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the diversity of political actors and agendas within the states themselves may 
be deciphered. To provide a grid on which popular political activity may be 
plotted, I will first discuss the evolution and relationship of the territorial 
boundaries of the princely states to the linguistic and religious composition 
of their populations. During the twentieth century, both rulers and ambitious 
popular political leaders in the princely states increasingly appealed to language 
and religion as the basis for their legitimacy and for group identity. 


The frontiers of most princely states during the eighteenth century oscillated 
frequently depending on a ruler’s and his clansmen’s control of military re- 
sources and their skills in the negotiation of alliances. As the British consol- 
idated their political dominance in India from 1765 onward, their surveyors 
produced maps cataloguing conquests and marking boundaries, at least on 
paper, between their possessions and those of their adversaries and allies.’ It 
is important to note that the formal inauguration of a British political colony 
in India occurred in the same decade as John Harrison’s invention in 1761 of 
the chronometer, on which the measurement of longitude, and thus modern 
mapping, is based. This scientific discovery aided in the imaginary and physical 
construction of the modern empires and nation-states. 

In the revised edition of his highly influential work on the genesis of na- 
tionalism, Benedict Anderson has analysed the role of mapping in the creation 
of the modern Thai state. Thongchai Winichakul, Anderson’s key source on 
this topic, has argued that in the Thai experience 

[a] map anticipated spatial reality, not vice versa. [A] map was a model for, rather than a 
model of, what it purported to represent . . . It had become a real instrument to concretize 
projections on the earth’s surface. A map was now necessary for the new administrative 
mechanisms and for the troops to back up their claims . . . The discourse of mapping 
was the paradigm which both administrative and military operations worked within and 

A similar process appears to have occurred in the British colonial empire in 
India. During the nineteenth century both the British and the princes extended 
their authority over the populations that were inscribed within the boundaries 

4 Sen, Distant Sovereignty, pp. 65-84. 

5 Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of Siam, PhD thesis, University 
of Sydney, 1988, p. 310, quoted in Benedict Anderson, /magined Communities: Reflections on the 
Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn (London, 1991), pp. 173-4. 


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of their respective political spheres. In Chapter 6 I have described how princely 
administrations augmented their power by reducing that of their nobles and 
strengthening that of their appointed bureaucrats. In the princely states, borders 
were only gradually defined by maps, and later and haphazardly by physical 
markers. Boundaries were firmer where princely states abutted British Indian 
provinces, as in Mysore and Hyderabad, or where strategic considerations were 
important, as in Punjab. In western Rajputana the demarcation of boundaries 
continued into the nineteenth century. In more forbidding locales such as the 
Rann of Kutch and northern Kashmir there was never a precise definition, so 
the post-colonial states of India and Pakistan still dispute their international 
boundaries in those regions. During the nineteenth century British India and 
some princely states such as Hyderabad occasionally exchanged territory to gain 
borders regarded as strategically or economically more rational. Sometimes, as 
after the revolt of 1857, the British also rewarded loyal princes with small 
grants of territory that were not always contiguous with their states. In general, 
the boundaries of the princely states became frozen at varying stages in state 

Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore and Cochin were coherent territorial units. 
In Rajputana many states had compact boundaries on maps, but they would 
be unmarked and vague in physical reality because of the desolate, unproduc- 
tive character of the desert terrain. In these states princes shared control over 
the land with numerous intermediary jagirdars and thikanadars. In western 
and central India, many states ended up having pieces of territory widely dis- 
persed among British Indian provinces and other princely states. Baroda was 
a prime example — on a map its territory looked like a piece of Swiss cheese.° 
E. M. Forster claimed that in Dewas Senior and Dewas Junior in central India 
boundaries might be in the middle of streets in the capital city they shared.’ 
In many states with borders that resembled the seams of a crazy quilt, rulers 
might not share the language and religion of their subjects. Before the 1870s 
such a situation was not considered unusual since a ruler claimed legitimacy 
largely by conquest and then subsequently by offering protection from other in- 
vaders. Moreover, new ideas of nationalism and political legitimacy infiltrated 
unevenly into British Indian provinces and the princely states. 

As theorists of nationalism from Hans Kohn to Benedict Anderson have 
argued, the idea that a state should incorporate a ruler and a population who 

© See Kenneth X. Robbins, ‘Use of Numismatic and Philatelic Source Material in the Study of the 
Princely States of India’, JBR 15 (1988), pp. 144-6. 

7 BE. M. Forster, The Hill of Devi (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1965, first published in 1953), 
pp. 33-6. 


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spoke a common language, had a common history, and shared a common reli- 
gion within a defined territorial unit fostered new bases of political legitimacy. 
This emphasis on language, history and religion, coupled with the movement 
towards representative and responsible government in which the people of the 
nation-state were to have a voice, preferably through the election of represen- 
tatives, profoundly influenced the development of popular political activity in 
the princely states. Numbers now counted. The decennial censuses on which 
the Imperial Government counted in order to control its subject populations 
demanded that Indians identified themselves according to their caste, language 
and religion. 

Anderson has remarked on ‘the “census-makers” passion for completeness 
and unambiguity. Hence their intolerance of multiple, politically “transvestite,” 
blurred, or changing identifications. .. The fiction of the census is that everyone 
is in it, and that everyone has one — and only one — extremely clear place. No 
fractions’.® This assumption created categories of difference in India that erased 
more fluid conceptions of personhood and community. Someone who might 
speak several languages had to specify one as a mother tongue. It also began 
to undermine the legitimacy of rulers, whether imperial or local, who did 
not share language and religion with their subject populations. When coupled 
with government policies that allocated resources ranging from grants-in-aid 
for schools to seats in a representative assembly on the basis of numbers rather 
than status alone, these sharply drawn divisions would spawn new forms of 
popular political activity. But before analysing these political developments, I 
will briefly outline the complex interplay of ethnicity, languages and religions 
in the princely states. 

In sparsely populated antique states such as those in Rajputana and the 
foothills of the Himalayas, there were two fairly distinct population groups. 
One was the adivasis or tribal groups and the other was the ruling clan and 
their cohorts. Although the former were readily distinguished from the latter, 
extensive differentiation exists among the aboriginal groups. Based on research 
in contemporary Udaipur, Maxine Weisgrau has described the complex varia- 
tions among one such group, the Bhils. Not only are there social and economic 
differences within this category, but individual Bhils responded with a variety 
of names for themselves based on their perceptions of which term was thought 
most likely to yield desired resources. Thus many Bhils claimed that they were 

Minas, who are deemed to have a higher social status.” 

8 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 166. 
9 Maxine Weisgrau, ‘Accounting for Tribal Diversity in Udaipur District’, paper presented at Wisconsin 
Conference on South Asia, 6 November 1993. 


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Princely rulers had varied relationships with adivasis. In Amber/Jaipur, one 
aboriginal group, the Minas, was ceremonially incorporated into the state 
structure. A Mina leader placed the rajatilaka on the forehead of the Jaipur 
ruler during his installation ceremony, and Minas guarded the private treasure 
of the princely family. In some states such as Tehri Garhwal in the lower 
Himalayas, rulers were regarded as protectors of the aboriginals. During the 
1960s this role resulted in tragedy in the jungly but mineral-rich state of Bastar 
in the northern Deccan. Pravir Chandra Bhanj Deo (1929-66), the erstwhile 
ruler, was considered the priest of Danteshwari Mai, the patron goddess of the 
adivasis and Bastar state. He provided political leadership for adivasis in their 
protests against government exploitation of forest and mineral resources and 
corruption in land settlement and reform programs. Local police responded 
to their demonstrations with a firing in 1961 that killed thirteen adivasis and 
another in 1966 when Pravir was shot on the steps of his palace. Nandini 
Sundar argues that the Pravir ‘succeeded in mobilizing people because his 
movement articulated more than his own personal goals, it took up local issues 
and latent desires’.!° There were also tribal groups such as the Meos in Alwar 
who opposed their ruler during the 1930s because of discriminatory religious 
and exploitative forest and land policies.!’ Their resistance will be discussed 
in greater detail below. 

In Mughal successor states, of which Hyderabad was the sole example after 
1858, the Mughal governor frequently shared few ties with the local popula- 
tion. The nizam was a Muslim, speaking Urdu and using Persian as an official 
language, in a state whose population in 1901 included only 10 per cent 
Urdu speakers, 46 per cent Telugu speakers, 26 per cent Marathi speakers, and 
14 per cent Kannada speakers. The population was 88.6 per cent Hindu and 
10.4 per cent Muslim. !? In 1918 the nizam established the Urdu-language Os- 
mania University, which fostered the creation of a “Deccani synthesis’ bringing 
together Hindus and Muslims in a cultural nationalism. This synthesis used 
Urdu as the linking language and constructed a paternity in which tolerant 
Muslim rulers fostered local cultural expressions. Unfortunately the education 
of mainly local Muslims at Osmania University would lead to an intensified 
conflict between these insider, Hyderabadi Muslims and the outsider, largely 
Hindu kayasths from northern India, who had monopolised positions in the 
westernised administration of the state. Anderson has highlighted the key role 
of the study and analysis of language and of universities in the formation of 

10 Sundar, Subalterns, p. 231 and ch. 7; Hurtig, Maharajahs, pp. 195-8. 
Wy Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, chs 3-5. 2 Imperial Gazetteer. Hyderabad, pp. 23-4. 


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European nationalisms. In Hyderabad a university that privileged a language 
spoken by a minority triggered the development of a Telugu cultural nation- 
alism that ultimately achieved the Andhra Pradesh state in 1956.19 

In the rebel or warrior states the situation was even more tangled. The 
princes of the southern Maratha states tended to share the Hindu religion and 
Marathi language with their subjects, but they were brahman and their sub- 
jects were labelled Maratha. Other Maratha rulers, such as those of Gwalior, 
Indore and Kolhapur, were often considered sudras even though they them- 
selves claimed kshatriya status. Gwalior, Indore and Baroda had few Marathi 
speakers or Maratha caste members in their populations. In Punjab the ma- 
haraja of Patiala was a Sikh, Sidhu Jat, and his state was divided almost equally 
between Hindus and Muslims, with the Sikhs a minority. But by the 1931 
census Sikhs numbered 38.9 per cent with Hindus 38.2 per cent and Muslims 
22.4 per cent.!4 The language situation seemed more straightforward since an 
overwhelming majority of 85 per cent claimed Punjabi as their mother tongue 
in the 1931 census, and Patiala state would be the core area for the future 
demand for a Punjabi-speaking state, eventually achieved in 1967.1 

In Travancore and Cochin there were highly stratified societies with large 
religious minorities linked by the common language of Malayalam. In the 
1941 census Cochin had 45 per cent avarna (lower-caste) Hindus, 28 per cent 
Christians, 19 per cent savarna (higher-caste) Hindus, and 8 per cent Muslims; 
Travancore had 40 per cent avarna, 32 per cent Christian, 21 per cent savarna, 
and 7 per cent Muslims.!° In both states there had been a premium on literacy 
because of a long history of cash-cropping and foreign trade, an ecosystem 
that allowed the existence of an unusually large leisured class, and higher 
status for women fostered by the matrilineal system of nayar Hindus and 
attitudes among Christians. Robin Jeffrey has argued that these cultural and 
geographical factors made literacy more highly prized than elsewhere, although 
state policies were also influential. In 1941 Travancore had a literacy rate 

13 Leonard, Social History, pp. 216-21; Karen Leonard, “The Deccani Synthesis in Old Hyderabad: 
An Historiographic Essay’, PHS 21 (1973), pp. 205-18; Hyderabad State Committee for History 
of the Freedom Movements, Freedom Struggle in Hyderabad, vol. 4 (Hyderabad, 1966). 

14 W succinct analysis of the increase in Sikhs from 1881 to 1931 in the Census of India, 1931, 
XVII, Punjab, Part I, pp. 304-7 has attributed this phenomenon throughout Punjab to a growing 
denotation of Sikhism as a religion distinct from Hinduism and to a feeling among lower-caste 
members that there was more prestige in being a Sikh than a Hindu. In the 1911 census the 
definition of a Sikh was changed from one who wears his or her hair long and refrains from smoking 
to a definition that allowed each person to register as he or she wished: Census of India, 1911, XIV, 
Punjab, Part I, pp. 154-5. 

5 Census of India, 1931, XVII, Punjab, Part I, p. 284. The next most numerous language was Rajasthani, 
which 9 per cent of Patialans claimed as their mother tongue. 

16 Quoted from the Census of India, 1941, in Jeffrey, Politics, p. 26. 


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of 47.1 per cent and Cochin had 41 per cent when the all-India rate was 
15.1 per cent. Thus although Indian princes might have their power sharply 
restricted by their colonial overlord, promotion of elementary education by the 
rulers of Travancore and Cochin in the Malayalam vernacular could make a 
significant difference in the lives of their subjects.’” It also eased the integration 
of these princely states with the adjoining British India district of Malabar into 
the post-colonial state of Kerala, while the social divisions were a key element 
in the development of the communist party there. 

Although the popular political movements in the princely states are not the 
same as nationalisms in the European or all-India modes, they were intimately 
linked to appeals based on class, religious and linguistic commonalities. This 
situation was very different from what had prevailed during the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries. Then rulers were not expected to share common bonds 
with their subject populations. According to Hindu political theory enshrined 
in the concept of rajadharma, rulers were to maintain the military force that 
enabled them to provide protection and to secure order for their subjects. 
Some rulers might also have a distinctive religious role as priest or servant of 
a patron deity of the area. This status tended to be more common in areas on 
the periphery of major power centres such as in the Himalayan states or coastal 
ones such as Travancore isolated by geographical features from close interaction 
with major Indian empires. Consequently, before the late nineteenth century 
political and economic elites spoke several languages, and rulers imposed a 
link language such as Persian. In the matter of religion, the most that would 
be expected is that rulers would be tolerant of the religious practices of their 

By the beginning of the twentieth century, popular political leaders began 
to demand more. They synthesised traditional and new forms of protest, and 
rulers responded in equally eclectic modes. What was strikingly different was 
the increasingly bounded nature of communal categories, such as caste, religion 
and linguistic groups. British Orientalist constructions of types in Indian soci- 
ety and their manipulation of these categories stimulated much of this demar- 
cation. These fabrications penetrated the Indian states through the instruments 
of decennial censuses, state gazetteers, religious pamphlets, and newspapers. 
But the princes themselves contributed to these social constructions through 
their patronage of caste histories, archaeological projects, and translations of 
religious texts, as described in Chapter 5. Thus the categories of brahman 
and non-brahman, kshatriya, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh became new ways of 

'7 Tbid., pp. 56-8. 


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defining oneself and moving from the smaller groups of clan and town identity 
to larger princely state and pan-Indian categories. 


Political activity, by which I simply mean the pursuit of a share of scarce 
material and ritual resources, in the princely states during the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries has been studied primarily at the elite levels of rulers, their 
immediate relatives, their clan members, their military allies, and those who 
controlled land. Frequently all of these were interlinked. Recent scholarship 
has begun to focus on popular political activity first among literate groups 
and then among peasant-cultivators and tribal peoples in the princely states. 
This involvement of larger groups has been labelled political mobilisation. In 
my analysis I follow Robin Jeffrey’s concept that political mobilisation means 
that there are basic changes in the political attitudes, organisation and goals 
of these newly involved groups and that their general orientation is to seek 
some structural adjustments. In the princely states three phases of political 
mobilisation are discernible. 

The first phase of popular political activity centred on specific local 
grievances such as too many ‘foreigners’ or outsiders in government offices 
and a lack of freedom of the press and assembly. Dick Kooiman has also em- 
phasised the ways in which the collection of quantitative data reinforced group 
consciousness and triggered demands for equity in government employment 
and social benefits.'® Urban, literate groups were initially the most vocal in ar- 
ticulating their grievances. In Travancore this stage began in the late nineteenth 
century, but elsewhere it emerged only during the 1910s and 1920s. Petition 
was the principal mode of operation, and the organisational structure relied 
upon informal networks. A second phase commenced in the late 1920s and 
early 1930s and demanded greater popular representation and the legal right to 
form autonomous political associations. Although urban-based, literate elites 
remained dominant, they now entered a more confrontational stance vis-a-vis 
rulers. Tactics shifted from petitions to public demonstrations. 

During the 1930s and 1940s peasant movements constituted a third phase 
that overlapped temporally but usually not organisationally with the urban- 
based organisations. In the rural areas middle-caste groups generated the most 

18 Dick Kooiman, ‘The Strength of Numbers: Enumerating Communities in India’s Princely States’, 

SA 20, 1 (1997), pp. 81-98. 


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visible leaders, with relatively few prominent low-caste or scheduled caste and 
tribal leaders. Peasant movements sought alterations in land relationships, usu- 
ally to provide greater security for tenant rights. By the 1940s there were de- 
mands for the abolition of the jagirdari structure and distribution of land to 
the cultivators; more equitable land taxes; remission of land revenue in periods 
of environmental stress; an end to begar or forced labour; and adjustments in 
oppressive conditions resulting from the commercialisation of local economies. 
During all three phases populist leaders usually reaffirmed the legitimacy of 
princely rule. To illustrate these phases from the late nineteenth century on- 
ward, I will focus on Travancore before exploring more broadly their complex 
evolution at numerous sites during the twentieth century. 

By the 1890s several factors had fostered new organisations and political 
activity at the state level in Travancore.!? More influential here than else- 
where, missionary schools, increasingly funded with grants-in-aid from the 
state, and missionary pronouncements about the theoretical equality of all 
believers (despite continuing preservation of social distinctions in many mis- 
sionary establishments) had stimulated group consciousness and rising expecta- 
tions. Crucial secular factors included an expanded road network that fostered 
communication and an awareness of the possibility of other lifestyles, as well 
as a developing state administration that provided wage labour for low-status 
groups in public works departments and alternative opportunities for edu- 
cated but economically disadvantaged groups. When more education did not 
achieve more government positions, nayars, the dominant caste, were the first 
to organise a new association, the Malayali Sabha, around 1884. Although 
it projected a non-communal image, nayars were the overwhelming majority 
in this body that inaugurated petition politics in Travancore. Their Malayali 
Memorial in 1891 sought a legal definition of who was a native of Travancore 
and by inference protested against the Tamil brahman preponderance in the 
state administration. Their demand was similar to the contemporaneous efforts 
in Hyderabad to define the dividing line between mulki and non-mulki. 

Two other major communities in Travancore soon entered petition politics. 
Dr P. Palpu (1863-50), an early ezhava (avarna) student at Maharaja’s College 
in Trivandrum who was subsequently denied admission to the medical college 
and government employment in Travancore, organised ezhava petitions to 
the Travancore Government in 1895—96 asking for entry of ezhavas to all 
schools and government employment. An ezhava sannyasi, Sti Narayana Guru, 
provided the initial focus for the first caste association in Travancore, the 

!) This discussion relies on Jeffrey, Decline, Kawashima, Missionaries, and Kooiman, ‘Strength’. 


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Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP Yogam), founded in 1902 
‘to promote religious and secular education and industrious habits among 
the Elava [ezhava] community’.”° In practical politics their goals were the 
opening of government service and Hindu temples to this low-status caste. 
Syrian Christians formed a Travancore and Cochin Christian Association that 
initially sought to end sectarian divisions among Christians and to petition for 
admission to government service. 

The nayars launched several small caste associations that would eventually 
be superseded by the Nair Service Society (NSS) organised in 1914 to promote 
caste unity and advancement. Similar to other caste associations in its nurture 
of educational and welfare institutions, reform of ‘controversial or outdated 
customs’ and protection of group political interests, the NSS also wanted 
reforms of family law. It lobbied for the recognition of liaisons between younger 
nayar sons and non-nayar women as legal marriages and for the right of nayars 
to initiate partition of the traditional tarawad or joint family holding, thereby 
creating individual inheritances. Because Travancore was unusual in the close 
integration of its urban and rural populations and its relatively high rate of 
literacy, these caste-communal associations bridged the urban/rural divide. 
Roads and waterways enabled people to move freely, and newspapers spread 
ideas and programs. 

Locally generated and based caste and religious reform organisations similar 
to those in Travancore may have existed in other princely states during 
the late 1800s, but scholarly research has made little progress in excavating 
them. Literary, social and political associations began to proliferate in princely 
India by the 1920s. R. L. Handa has claimed that there was a growing resent- 
ment of princely autocracy, which the British paramount power had allowed 
after the departure of Curzon in order to use the princes as counterweights to 
Indian nationalism.*! Equally important factors were the rise in literacy rates 
and the consequent growth of indigenous professional elites within princely 
states; the intensifying hostility against outsiders in princely administrations; 
the impact of economic changes related to the tightening integration of India 
into a worldwide commercial economy; and the eruption of political activity 
during the first non-cooperation movement, which oozed through the porous 
boundaries between British and princely India. Another issue was the am- 
bivalent relationship between the Indian National Congress and the princely 

20 As quoted in Jeffrey, Decline, p. 210. 

21 RL. Handa, History of Freedom Struggle in Princely States (New Delhi, 1968), pp. 87-8. 


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After a brief flirtation with the princes as financial benefactors during the 1880s, 
the Indian National Congress consciously distanced itself from political mo- 
bilisation in the princely states. S. K. Patil has bemoaned that ‘[t]he economic 
and political demands of the Congress completely neglected the Indian states’ 
before 1920, and Vanaja Rangaswami has claimed that the Congress ‘refused 
to involve itself with the democratic struggle [in the princely states] on its 
own, at any time’.”* Both Rangaswami and Urmila Phadnis have defended the 
Congress strategy of non-interference, of which Mahatma Gandhi was the lead- 
ing proponent. They argue that it was a conscious policy decision to avoid two 
fronts because of limited resources, to focus attention on the goal of freedom 
from the British, and to avoid regional fragmentation.” As an all-Indian organ- 
isation, the Congress confronted many of the same issues faced by the GOI 
in its effort to control India with limited resources. In some ways Gandhi's 
strategy paralleled the British policy of non-interference unless vital inter- 
ests were threatened. The two all-India rivals concentrated their resources on 
British Indian provinces and left autocratic princes and their relatively resource- 
poor subjects to stalemate each other. Once the outcome was decided in the 
main arena, then both the British and the Congress would attend to princely 

Several factors besides Gandhi account for Congress ambivalence. Ambi- 
tious lawyers dominated the early Congress, and they were concerned about 
their lack of legal standing in the states, worried about the difficulties of organ- 
ising in so many disparate units where civil liberties were less protected than 
in British India, and sympathetic to the princes as sources of legitimation and 
models of the Indian capacity to govern.”4 On the death of Maharaja Chamara- 
jendra Wadiyar of Mysore, a Congress resolution in 1894 advised Indians that 
‘[h]is constitutional reign was at once a vindication of their political capacity, 
an example for their active emulation, and their future political liberties’.?° 
During the late nineteenth century the social reforms of progressive princes 

22 §_K. Patil, The Congress Party and Princely States (Bombay, 1981), p. 15; Rangaswami, Story, p. 236. 
23 Tbid., pp. 235-46; Urmila Phadnis, ‘Gandhi and Indian States — A Probe in Strategy’, in S. C. 
Biswas (ed.), Gandhi: Theory and Practice, Social Impact and Contemporary Relevance (Shimla, 1969), 

. 360-74. 

24 he N. Ramusack, “Congress and the People’s Movement in Princely India: Ambivalence in 
Strategy and Organization’, in Richard Sisson and Stanley Wolpert (eds), Congress and Indian 
Nationalism: The Pre-Independence Phase (Berkeley CA, 1988), pp. 378-81. 

25 A. Moin Zaidi and Shaheda Zaidi (eds), Encyclopaedia of Indian National Congress, vol. 1, 1885-1890 
(New Delhi, 1976), p. 489. 


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were positive examples of the Indian capacity to rule and sites of Indian re- 
sistance to western models.”° As in the case of Indian women, idealised types 
of princely rulers and princely states were constructed as part of the dialogue 
between colonisers and the colonised. Consequently many Congress leaders 
were equivocal about attacking this part of their heritage. 

Since Gandhi’s grandfather and father had served in Kathiawadi princely 
durbars, Gandhi is viewed as being personally sympathetic to the princes. 
Moreover, he shrewdly calculated the political value of maintaining ties to 
conservative Indians, whom he labelled trustees. Congressmen, who were pro- 
fessionals, might also have been attracted to the lucrative opportunities for 
employment as legal counsel as well as administrators in the princely states. 
Not only did lawyers such as C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar in Travancore serve as 
‘constitutional advisers’ or diwans, but Motilal Nehru and others continued 
to provide legal services for the princes as late as the early 1930s. More re- 
cently, subaltern scholars such as David Hardiman and Ramachandra Guha 
have emphasised the Congress’s suspicion of peasant movements that it did not 
control.”” However, much as the stated British preference for non-intervention 
might be modified in practice in response to local conditions or the viewpoints 
of particular political officers, so Gandhi as well as other Congress members 
maintained contacts and occasionally intruded personally in the princely states. 

Pleading with the princes to establish Ramraj, the ideal rule of Rama, the 
hero of the epic Ramayana, Gandhi articulated a policy of non-intervention in 
overt political mobilisation within the princely states for almost two decades 
after his return to India in 1915. Here again there is at least one parallel in the 
Gandhian strategy for the populations of princely states and Indian women. 
Both were to concentrate on ‘constructive work’.?8 Since the removal of dis- 
crimination related to untouchability was a key aspect of ‘constructive work’, 
Gandhi felt free to visit Travancore in 1925 to lend support to a satyagraha 
campaign demanding the opening of roads around a Siva temple at Vaikam 
to low-caste, mainly ezhava, Hindus. As would happen in several Gandhian 
offensives, this effort ended in a compromise. The government constructed di- 
versionary roads around the temple that all Hindus could traverse. The crusade 
for the right of all Hindus to enter the temples, nevertheless, continued into 
the 1930s. When Gandhi returned to Travancore in 1934, he validated a more 
radical rhetoric including a call for the abolition of caste that brought new 

26 Bhagavan, ‘Demystifying’. 

27 Hardiman, Coming, pp. 206-17; Ramachandra Guha, The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and 
Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya (Berkeley, 1989), pp. 83-4. 

28 Madhu Kishwar, ‘Gandhi on Women’, EPW 20 (5 October 1985), pp. 1694-701. 


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groups of poorer men into the political arena. Eventually Ramaswami Aiyar 
would have the young maharaja of Travancore proclaim the opening of all the 
temples on the ruler’s birthday of 12 November 1936 to pre-empt the polit- 
ical appeal of the SNDP Yogam. By this time, however, class divisions were 
emerging within the SNDP Yogam as lower-class ezhavas sought economic 
amelioration and equality of ritual and social status.”? A lower-status group in 
another administratively ‘progressive’ princely state further north would have 
similar goals. 

David Hardiman has provided a fascinating account of the Devi movement 
among adivasis and the influence of congressmen and Gandhian injunctions 
in Gujarat districts spread between the Bombay presidency and Baroda state. 
Articulating self-purification legitimated by the authority of the goddess Devi, 
who communicated through possessed individuals, the Devi movement ini- 
tially promoted temperance, vegetarianism and personal cleanliness among 
adivasi, who came to call themselves the raniparaj or people of the forest. 
Some goals represented a shift to the lifestyle of clean castes and a higher ritual 
status, but temperance and the refusal to work for Parsi liquor dealers fused 
ritual and economic issues. They were also a direct attack on a class who ex- 
ploited the adivasis as moneylenders and landlords as well as vendors of liquor. 
During 1922 the Devi, speaking through her human instruments, advocated 
the burning of foreign cloth, the use of kAadi, and the boycott of government 
schools. Shortly thereafter Gandhian lieutenants, notably Vallabhbhai Patel, 
a Gujarati lawyer and key Congress organiser, began to transform the Devi 
movement from a religious to a secular one and to try unsuccessfully to mit- 
igate the class struggle against the Parsis. Congress leaders emphasised those 
aspects that were congruent with the Gandhian program such as temperance 
and cleanliness. They also endorsed a more disciplined organisational structure 
with authority coming from resolutions passed by votes rather than messages 
transmitted during divine possession. 

The Baroda authorities responded both more aggressively and more sympa- 
thetically than did British administrators, illustrating the personal autocracy 
possible even in a progressive princely state. In 1923 Manubhai Mehta (1868— 
1946), the chief minister of Baroda, banned Devi meetings, but the ruling 
gaekwad lifted the ban as long as the meetings were confined to temperance. 
In 1925 Gandhi presided at the Third Raniparaj Conference, and many of the 
adivasis continued to give firm support for a Gandhian program of spinning, 

29 Robin Jeffrey, “Travancore: Status, Class and the Growth of Radical Politics, 1860-1940’, in Jeffrey, 
People, pp. 148-64. 


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temperance and vegetarianism despite a communal split over these changes in 

Although a few individual congressmen from British India were active in 
princely states during the 1920s, there was little deviation in Congress policy 
for over a decade. In 1927 political leaders from the princely states made 
two efforts to establish coordinating organisations and to forge closer ties 
with the Congress. Representatives from western Indian states dominated an 
Indian States’ People’s Conference (ISPC) in Bombay on 17-18 December 
1927. An association using the same name but later becoming the South 
India States’ People’s Conference convened nine days later in Madras just 
before the Indian National Congress met there. At their Madras session the 
Congress responded by declaring that it was ‘emphatically of the opinion 
that in the interests of both the Rulers and the people of Indian States they 
should establish representative institutions and responsible Governments in 
their States at an early date’.>! Individuals from the princely states were allowed 
to join the Congress, and many participated in the civil disobedience movement 
of 1930-32. Subsequently they would look for some reciprocal support from 
the Congress in their struggle for responsible government in the states. 

The Indian National Congress as an organisation remained aloof from the 
states’ people’s groups until 1938 and 1939 when several Congress leaders, 
notably Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel, became intimately involved in key agi- 
tations. Several scholars have argued that the shift in Congress policy was largely 
for pragmatic political reasons. First, the emerging political organisations and 
their more confrontational tactics in the states might be an asset to Congress. 
Second, there was concern about the impact of princely representatives in the 
federation proposed in the 1935 Government of India Act, which will be dis- 
cussed in Chapter 8. Third, Congress socialists at the national level intensified 
their demands for a change in the non-intervention policy; they were led by 
Jayaprakash Narayan and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya (1903-90), Congress 
provincial leaders, especially in Gujarat, and Congress dissidents, most no- 
tably Subhas Chandra Bose (1897-1945). According to Ian Copland, some 
princes were also seeking accommodation with the Congress, perceived after 
its strong showing in the 1936 elections to be the heir-apparent of their British 

3° David Hardiman, ‘Adivasi Assertion in South Gujarat: The Devi Movement’, in Ranajit Guha (ed.) 
Subaltern Studies WI (Delhi, 1984), pp. 196-230; Hardiman, Coming. 

31_ NN. Mitra (ed.), Indian Annual Register, vol. 2, July-December 1927 (Calcutta, 1927), pp. 411-13. 

32 Bipan Chandra et al., India’s Struggle for Independence 1857-1947 (New Delhi, 1988), pp. 356-74 
(Mridula Mukherjee wrote this chapter on the “The Freedom Struggle in Princely India’); Copland, 
‘Congress Paternalism’, pp. 127-9; Ramusack, ‘Congress’, pp. 387-9. 


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patron.*? On the Congress side, by their active involvement in agitations in 
Mysore, Travancore and Rajkot, Gandhi and Patel undertook to block their na- 
tional and provincial rivals from establishing a firm base within a constituency 
that now appeared to have some potential. 

Although it was not the sharp break that some have declared, a compro- 
mise resolution passed at the Haripura Congress in 1938 legitimated increased 
Congress activity in princely India. Initially Gandhi sent emissaries to investi- 
gate the situation in the princely states since, like the British, Congress found 
it difficult at times to comprehend and to control these internal political net- 
works. Because Gandhi wanted these constituencies to conform to his political 
and social programs and was generally sympathetic to the princes, he used 
agents who were personally loyal to him and likely to be non-confrontational 
with durbar officials and popular leaders. Two examples are Rajkumari Amrit 
Kaur (1889-1964), a member of a branch of the Kapurthala ruling family 
excluded from succession because of its conversion to Christianity, and Agatha 
Harrison (1885-1954), a Quaker supporter of Gandhi based in London.** 
Gandhi would also encourage Jawaharlal Nehru, his designated successor, to 
become more active in princely state politics. 

In 1939 Nehru became president of the AISPC (All-India States’ People’s 
Conference), which had recently added All to its title, partly to prevent the so- 
cialists and Subhas Chandra Bose from capturing this association. Nehru tried 
to energise the AISPC by appointing Balwantry Mehta as its general secretary 
and Pattabhi Sitaramayya as editor of a weekly journal, by undertaking some 
fundraising, and by despatching roving investigators, including Rajkumari Am- 
rit Kaur, who acted as intelligence agents in particularly troubled states. The 
AISPC also published a few investigative reports and a statistical overview.*° 
But Bombay-based leaders continued to dominate, and the AISPC never devel- 
oped into a national organisation. Thus political mobilisation among princely 
states’ subjects continued to occur at the state level with occasional participa- 
tion by individual Congress leaders pursuing particular agendas. 

Consequently, despite British allegations, outside agitators were not the 
prime organisers of the subjects within the princely states. The relationship 
between states’ people’s groups and the Congress was an anguished one even 
after the formal prohibition on Congress intervention was modified. This 
situation would make it difficult for the Congress to solidify its base after 1947 
in states that incorporated large blocks of the princely ruled territories. In 

33 Copland, ‘Congress Paternalism’, p. 132. 34 Ramusack, ‘Congress’, p. 390. 
35 During the 1930s the tracts were on Patiala, Orissa, Limbdi, Ratlam, and Bikaner and the overview 
was What are the Indian States? 


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Mysore and Travancore, however, indigenous leaders established local Congress 
committees during the 1930s with different results. 


During the 1910s urban-based princely state subjects formed praja mandals 
(people’s organisations or associations) or lok parishads (people’s conferences). 
Generally educated in British India because of the paucity of post-secondary 
institutions in most princely states, these subjects were based in British India 
if their target state was actively suppressing the right of association. Princely 
governments echoed British claims about external agents but few were evident. 
In this phase during the 1910s and 1920s, the initial demands were for greater 
recruitment of states’ subjects to government employment; the guarantee of 
civil liberties, particularly the freedoms of press, assembly and association; and 
in a few instances representative assemblies. Few popular leaders questioned 
the legitimacy of princely rule or its end. Their epithet for themselves, ‘Slaves 
of Slaves’, articulated their assessment that the British had enslaved their rulers. 
Praja mandals usually attributed political oppression in states not to princes but 
to authoritarian or corrupt officials, frequently outsiders, or scheming zenana 
women and their advisers. The Praja Mithra Mandali in 1917 in Mysore might 
have been the first such state-level association. It was soon joined by others in 
Baroda, Bhor, Indore, the Kathiawar Rajkiya Parishad in 1921, and the Deccan 
States Subjects Conference. Similar groups proliferated during the 1920s 
and 1930s in Kathiawad states such as Bhavnagar, Gondal and Junagadh; in 
Rajputana including Alwar, Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur; in Orissan 
states; and in Punjab with the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal.*° 

By the late 1920s and into the 1940s the praja mandals entered a second, 
more activist stage as evinced in public demonstrations and protest marches. 
Now urban-based praja mandals sought representative and increasingly re- 
sponsible government that would diminish princely autocracy but not deny 
princely authority. They asked for the introduction or widening of the fran- 
chises for representative assemblies; elected members of legislative councils 
selected as ministers, particularly after the popularly elected ministries had 
taken office in British Indian provinces in 1937; privy purses for rulers; and 
increased funding for social infrastructure, especially educational and medical 
facilities. They especially coveted formal recognition of the praja mandals as 

36 Copland, “Congress Paternalism’, p. 122; Handa, History, p. 89. 


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legitimate political organisations and the release of political prisoners arrested 
during public protests. Peasant movements developed simultaneously, but con- 
tact and collaboration between them and the urban-based praja mandals were 

The major challenges for popular political leaders in the states were to 
broaden their popular base, to use the resources of political groups in British 
India, and to achieve some leverage with rulers and state administrations.*” 
The first and most intricate problems were to bridge the gaps between urban 
and rural sectors and to overcome the boundaries among caste and religious 
groups. Mysore, Travancore, Hyderabad, Rajkot, Patiala, Kashmir and states 
in Rajputana have elicited most of the scholarly attention, so the following 
overview reflects this coverage. To illustrate the general trends in popular politi- 
cal activity in the princely states, I will focus on three pairs of contrasting states: 
Mysore-Rajkot, Rajputana-Tehri Garhwal, and Travancore-Patiala. Both the 
Indian National Congress and individual Congress members interacted with 
urban-based groups in Mysore and Rajkot. But Mysore was the site of au- 
tonomous labour movements that had few parallels in other states. Rajputana 
and Tehri Garhwal illustrate the ongoing tensions between praja mandals and 
peasant movements. Associational activities in Travancore and Patiala illu- 
minate the potent appeals of communal and class-based organisations within 
princely states. Although the Congress was able to lay the groundwork for later 
dominance in the first two pairs of states, in Travancore and Patiala communist 
and communal parties were such strong antagonists that they would emerge 
as major rivals in the post-colonial era. Finally, to delineate the many vari- 
ants of Muslim political mobilisation within the princely states, I will survey 
developments in Alwar, Jammu and Kashmir, and Hyderabad. 

James Manor has examined how Congress politicians in Mysore were able to 
integrate three levels of local, state and national politics in a princely state where 
politics was compartmentalised because of its social structure.** Belonging 
to a kshatriya caste group with fewer than a thousand members in 1881, 
the Mysore ruling family had no ties to the countryside. Consequently the 
ruler and his administration had allowed elite land-controllers considerable 
autonomy at the local level in return for their support of the durbar. During the 
1920s and early 1930s, there were two distinct, non-official groupings within 
elite Mysore politics. Non-brahman but dominant caste leaders, especially the 
Lingayats, adherents of a devotional reform Hindu sect, and Vokkaligas, an 

37 Robert Stern analyses what constituted resources for such politicians in ‘An Approach to Politics in 
the Princely States’, in Jeffrey, People, pp. 355-71. 
38 Manor, Political Change, chs 1-2. 


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occupational category of cultivators who acquired a base as leaders of district 
boards, commanded one coalition. They sought more educational facilities 
and government positions for non-brahmans. Urban-based brahmans who 
carried the Congress label formed the other bloc and appealed for a responsible, 
parliamentary style of government. Since they had a small numerical base, 
the brahmans solicited strength from the political resources offered by Indian 
nationalism. However, they were relatively ineffective because of the ambivalent 
policy of the Congress. Neither Mysore group developed an internal mass 
base during the 1920s and early 1930s. Gradually their mutual experiences 
with a administratively progressive princely durbar that made only limited 
political concessions stimulated more radical political demands. Their new 
aggressiveness in turn occasioned stronger repressive measures.°? 

By 1936 the non-brahman People’s Federation agreed to merge with the 
Mysore Congress. For the non-brahmans the increased attention of the na- 
tional Congress to states’ subjects seemed to promise greater Congress pressure 
on the British raj, and for the local congressmen the non-brahmans provided 
needed links to local politics. Gandhi’s disapproval of a resolution passed at 
a meeting of the All-India Congress Committee at Calcutta in 1937 protest- 
ing against certain repressive actions of the Mysore administration and call- 
ing for support of Mysoreans indicated that Congress patronage was still not 
unequivocal. Subsequently, from 1936 until 1942 the unified Mysore State 
Congress worked to break down the isolation between the state and local po- 
litical arenas,*° but it faced another formidable challenge from Leftists within 
and without its organisation over the representation of the interests of industrial 

Because of its program of economic as well as administrative modernisation, 
Mysore had one of the more sizeable industrial labour forces among the princely 
states. Janaki Nair has skilfully excavated the development of a working-class 
culture in Bangalore and the Kolar Gold Fields that generated public protests 
and private resistance as well as occasional alliances with ‘outside’ leaders. 
Workers organised substantial strikes beginning with the compositors at the 
Mysore Government Press in 1920, to the 18-day strike in the Kolar Gold 
Fields in 1930, to a 72-day strike at Bangalore textile mills in 1941, to two 
waves of strikes during the Quit India movement. Within the factory environ- 
ment workers defied restrictive industrial work routines through tardiness and 
absenteeism and the appropriation of materials. These actions reveal impres- 
sive organisational skills, a consciousness of their own interests, and ultimately 

39 Thid., chs 4-6. 40 Thid., chs 6-7. 


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a lack of the economic resources necessary to sustain extended strikes. Nair 
discusses women and the influence of gender ideology in the industrial labour 
force. Male labour leaders saw themselves as protectors of women, arguing 
for benefits specific to them such as maternity leave. But they also relegated 
women to stereotypical female work where the labour was unskilled and the 
pay was low, such as the winding and reeling sections in textile industries.*! 

From the early 1920s Congress leaders in Mysore sought recognition by 
the durbar of the representatives of workers as part of their anti-imperialist 
campaign, while at the same time accepting the durbar’s program for capitalist 
development and social stability.4? Banning labour unions, the Mysore admin- 
istration pursued a paternalistic model. Its diwan, Sir Mirza Ismail, served as 
the supposedly neutral mediator between management and labour but gener- 
ally favoured the former. Escalating labour militancy and fears of ‘uncontrolled’ 
workers prompted the Mysore Government in 1941 to permit labour unions. 
Despite some effective individual protests, socialists and communists lacked 
institutional depth for a sustained opposition. Congress became dominant and 
gained a reputation for ‘gentlemanly’ trade unionism in Mysore until the late 
1970s. Nair has asserted that ‘[t]he Congress programme was rich with ambi- 
guities: sharing as it did the aspirations of the Mysore bureaucracy, it hoped 
to transform labour into a “partner” in the capitalist order with limited rights, 
and unhesitantly used culturally-derived notions of power in order to both 
initiate mass activity and keep it pegged to safe levels’.*° 

Because of their success in incorporating non-brahman and labour groups, in 
1947 Mysore congressmen launched the formidable ‘Mysore Chalo’ movement 
that forced the diwan to concede and the maharaja to accept responsible gov- 
ernment. After integration with the Indian Union, Congress had a well-forged 
political organisation in Mysore, albeit, according to Manor, at a level of devel- 
opment that was comparable to those in British Indian provinces during the 
1920s.44 Congress would nevertheless remain dominant in the post-colonial 
state of Karnataka until the 1970s. 

Although Gandhi had withheld active support from agitations in Mysore 
in 1937, he chose to intervene in Rajkot, where he had lived for several years. 
John Wood has perceptively analysed the failure of this first attempt to secure 

constitutional change in a princely state through mass civil disobedience.” 

41 Nair, Miners, chs 4-8. 

2 Tbid., pp. 163-75, 251-60, 272-86. #8 Ibid., p. 298. 

44 James Manor, ‘Gandhian Politics and the Challenge to Princely Authority in Mysore, 1936-47’, in 
Low, Congress, pp. 405-6. 

45 John R. Wood, ‘Indian Nationalism in the Princely Context: The Rajkot Satyagraha of 1938-9’, in 
Jeffrey, People, pp. 240-74; Chandra, India’s Struggle, pp. 360-5. 


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The basis for a political confrontation in Rajkot began when a dissolute son, 
Dharmendra Sinhji (b. 1910, r. 1931-40), succeeded a sagacious and popular 
ruler, Thakore Saheb Lakhaji Raj. During the 1930s the young prince and his 
diwan, Durbar Virawala, restricted the political participation allowed under 
Lakhaji Raj and granted monopolies of basic products such as sugar, which 
enriched the administration at the expense of consumers. Popular reaction 
began with a strike at a state cotton mill to obtain better working conditions. 
It escalated to a revival of the Kathiawar Rajkiya Parishad, leading to state 
repression that sparked a /artal or general strike in August 1938. 

Sardar Patel intervened with demands for new elections to the representative 
assembly, limits on princely withdrawals from the state treasury, reductions of 
land revenue, and the cancellation of monopolies. After multilateral negoti- 
ations between Patel, the British political agent and the diwan, with Agatha 
Harrison visiting as Gandhi's envoy, the thakore saheb and Patel concluded 
a settlement. The tough Gujarati congressman called off the satyagraha cam- 
paign in exchange for the ruler agreeing to a privy purse and the appointment 
of a committee to recommend reforms. Patel was to propose seven of the 
ten committee members. Alarmed by these concessions, the British indicated 
that they would support a tougher stance by the Rajkot durbar. The belea- 
guered administration responded with ordinances banning meetings, arrests, 
and lathi charges by police patrols. When Patel submitted his nominees, who 
were either brahmans or banias, the administration adroitly advocated that 
the committee should be more inclusive of Rajkot subjects, especially Rajputs, 
Muslims and depressed communities. A shrewd diwan whose method has been 
labelled intrigue since it relied on surreptitious bargaining checkmated Patel’s 
confrontational style. 

In early 1939 Gandhi was facing a serious challenge from Subhas Chan- 
dra Bose, who had contested and won the presidency of the Congress for a 
second term against Gandhi's wishes. To counter the Bengali leader, who argued 
for Congress support of the political struggle in the princely states, Gandhi 
proceeded to Rajkot. When the thakore saheb refused to accept Patel’s nom- 
inees, Gandhi began a fast unto death. The British became worried because 
of spreading agitations and the viceroy pleaded for arbitration by the British 
chief justice of India, who basically decided in Patel’s favour. But the princely 
administration still refused to accept Patel’s nominees. Their position was re- 
inforced as Rajputs and Muslims in Rajkot threatened to launch their own 
satyagraha campaigns, and British Indian Muslim and depressed class leaders 
argued for separate representation on the reform committee. Gandhi admitted 
defeat on 17 May 1939. Rajkot was a ‘priceless laboratory’ that vindicated the 


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appropriateness of his pleas for non-intervention. His lack of success also in- 
dicated that princely administrations as well as British imperialists and British 
Indian leaders could manipulate the boundaries between religious and social 

Wood has claimed that this episode reflects the divergent political legacies 
of princely states and British India, especially the commitment to behind- 
the-scenes negotiations and consensual decisions in the states and the use of 
public confrontation and compromise by the Congress. It also indicated the 
strength that the princes derived from the willingness of the British paramount 
power to back up its clients as counterpoises to the more potent threat from 
British Indian nationalists. Still the Rajkot satyagraha campaign provided the 
experience of coordinating goals that would stand Saurashtrian politicians in 
good stead as they tried to integrate their fragmented political spheres and to 
promote regional economic and social development after 1947.“° 

Popular political activity occurred decades later in Rajputana than in 
Travancore and Mysore. Laxman Singh has catalogued the establishment of 
social reform and political organisations in Jodhpur, Bikaner and Kotah during 
the early 1920s.4” Richard Sisson has described how these and earlier social 
reform groups focused on internal reforms within their communities and is 
one of the first scholars to mention the importance of fairs and pilgrimage cen- 
tres such as the Krishna shrine at Nathdwara in Udaipur as nodes of political 
activity.** Leaders of such groups faced expulsion from or arrest in these states 
if their activities challenged princely authority. Consequently their associa- 
tions were ephemeral. A more lasting legacy were newspapers such as Naveen 
Rajasthan and Tarun Rajasthan in Ajmer, the British Indian enclave within 
Rajputana, which reported on conditions in the surrounding princely states. 

During this early period, peasant protests erupted in Udaipur, arguably the 
most conservative state in Rajputana, against the jagirdar of Bijolia. Although 
the details are vague, it appears that £isans, among whom the tribal Bhils were 
a significant element, had long been discontented with arbitrary taxes, cesses, 
and the demand for begar. In 1922 the jagirdar, under pressure from the 
Mewar durbar, instituted panchayats to mediate disputes, but subsequently 
he reneged on his commitment. The agitation dragged on throughout the 
1920s. Directed against a jagirdar rather than a prince, this episode followed 

46 John R. Wood, ‘British versus Princely Legacies and the Political Integration of Gujarat’, JAS 44 
(1984), pp. 65-99. 

47 Taxman Singh, Political and Constitutional Developments in the Princely States of Rajasthan (1920-49) 
(New Delhi, 1970), pp. 38-53. 

48 Sisson, Congress Party, pp. 41-5. 


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a pattern that persisted in Rajputana and provided organising experience for 
future political leaders.” 

Although there was some sympathetic support for the civil disobedience 
movement of 1930-31 among subjects and a few rulers in Rajputana, the 
second stage of the formal organisation of praja mandals and more radical 
demands for structural change started after 1935. The catalysts seem to be the 
strong success of the Congress in the 1936 elections; more explicit rhetorical 
support from the Congress; and the emergence of a larger group of educated, 
ambitious young men within the princely states who sought some share of 
political resources. This list of factors is not definitive and will be modified by 
further research. By 1940 praja mandals had been formed in Alwar, Bharatpur, 
Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kotah, Sirohi and Udaipur. 

During this phase of formal organisations with constitutions, elected offi- 
cers, dues-paying members, and the goal of representative government, some 
princes attempted to co-opt the praja mandals that increasingly identified 
with Congress symbols and aspirations. In a striking example, Ganga Singh of 
Bikaner advised the British chief minister of Jodhpur that Jai Narain Vyas, the 
principal leader of the Marwar Lok Parishad in Jodhpur and the founder of the 
Tarun Rajasthan, should be given the resources to carry on his political work. 
In 1937 the prescient Bikaner ruler deemed Narain to be ‘thoroughly honest, 
incorruptible, and true to his conscience and political creed . . . [and] the only 
man who can wield an elevating influence over thousands of his colleagues 
and associates who left to themselves will build their thrones upon the ruin of 
all classes in Rajputana’.°? An entente between the Jaipur Praja Mandal and 
the Jaipur durbar existed from 1936 to 1938. It dissolved when the durbar 
outlawed the Mandal under a new Public Societies Regulation and banned 
the entry of Seth Jamnalal Bajaj, a devoted Gandhian and long-time treasurer 
of the Congress whose ancestral home was in Shekhawati, to preside over a 
Mandal meeting and to assist in famine relief. Similar arrests occurred in other 
states including Jodhpur, where Parishad leaders were incarcerated in 1940 for 
protesting against a ban on political meetings. 

Although princely rulers in several Rajputana states attempted to conciliate 
these urban-based popular political leaders with representative assemblies in 
their capitals and district boards in towns, R. S. Darda has characterised such 

49 Laxman Singh, Political Developments, p. 40; Sisson, Congress Party, p. 44, n. 2, p. 74, n. 2; some 
documents in Ram Pande, People’s Movement in Rajasthan (Selection from Originals), vol. 2 (Jaipur, 
1986), pp. ix-xvi, 1-40. 

> Letter No. 201, P. S. 54-37, Ganga Singh to Sir Donald Field, Prime Minister of Jodhpur, quoted 
in Sisson, Congress Party, p. 52. 


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institutions as ‘toy legislatures and mock local self-governing institutions’.*! 

By 1942 the people’s groups ended efforts at collaboration and sought to 
develop independently of state support. They attempted to broaden their base, 
but in most cases they remained tied to capital cities. Furthermore, educated 
brahmans, mahajans, Marwaris and kayasths were dominant leaders. Their 
dilatory efforts to forge links with emerging peasant movements were generally 

In Rajasthan the principal peasant movements developed in specific areas, 
protested against local grievances, and sought ritual and economic changes 
that were relevant to their particular conditions.°” Sisson has described how 
the kisan sabhas evolved within the Jat communities, fought against feudalism, 
and targeted jagirdars rather than the princes.*? As discussed in Chapter 6, 
some rulers had rationalised relations with peasants on khalsa lands to ex- 
tend their control and ultimately to increase revenues through land settle- 
ments with fixed revenue rates. Although these princes were hardly utopian 
reformers and peasants on khalsa lands still had significant grievances, the 
conditions of peasants in jagirdari areas could be much worse. Here there 
were few revenue settlements or defined tenancy rights, and begar was of- 
ten extracted. Jat political consciousness was raised through contact with 
Hindu reform societies, especially the Arya Samaj, which sent missionaries 
into Rajputana from its bases in Delhi and Punjab, with Jat caste associations 
and Jat religious leaders. A major festival, the Jat Praja Pati Maha-Yagna held 
in January 1934 in Shekhawati, was a landmark in developing a collective 

During the 1930s Jat kisan sabhas in Jaipur sought enhancement of their 
ritual status and economic conditions through public demonstrations and no- 
rent campaigns. One graphic demand was the right to ride elephants, camels 
and horses — the prerogative of Rajput jagirdars that symbolised their economic 
and political dominance. One of most remembered events of the Jat Praja Pati 
Maha-Yagna occurred when some Jats rode on an elephant, defying the prohi- 
bition of the Sikar thikanadar.*4 To complicate the situation, the thikanadars 
of Jaipur thought that their izzat or honour was being attacked, not just by Jat 
peasants but by the British. The latter had commissioned the Wills Report, 
which postulated that thikanadars owed their power to the grant of an ijara 

>! R.S. Darda, From Feudalism to Democracy: A Study in the Growth of Representative Institutions in 
Rajasthan, 1908-1948 (New Delhi, 1971), p. 316. 

2 Hira Singh, Colonial Hegemony and Popular Resistance: Princes, Peasants, and Paramount Power 
(Walnut Creek CA, 1998). 

>3 Sisson, Congress Party, ch. 4. >4 Tbid., pp. 85-6. 


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and not to a right based on conquest. Subsequently, Raja Rao Kalyan Singh 
(succeeded 1922), the thikanadar of Sikar, would be the protagonist in the last 
stand of a jagirdar against his overlords.” 

In the summer of 1938 an armed confrontation, subsequently labelled a 
feudal revolt, erupted in Sikar between small-scale Rajput thakurs and the 
superior armed forces of the Jaipur durbar. The immediate cause was a protest 
over British prescriptions for the education of the heir, but the fundamental 
issues were the British-inspired reforms of the Sikar administration reducing 
the authority of the raja rao. Kalyan Singh lost since the British sided with 
the durbar. Moreover, the praja mandal, influenced by the Gandhian Bajaj, 
stayed on the sidelines because the thikanadar and his Rajput allies would not 
subscribe to non-violent means. 

Like the praja mandals in Rajputana, the kisan sabhas represented a crucial 
organisational development that widened political horizons and emphasised 
leadership based on achievement rather than ascription. Hira Singh has ar- 
gued passionately that ‘[t]he peasant movements in Rajasthan did not “come”: 
they were “made” by the peasants aided by multiple organizations and ide- 
ologies, with non-peasant components’.*° The praja mandals that formed the 
Rajputana Prantiya Sabha in 1946, which became the Rajputana state unit 
of the Congress Party in 1948, found it difficult to ally with peasant groups. 
This inability to forge links between urban and rural-based movements was 
endemic. Since the Congress had jagirdari abolition as one of its key goals, the 
kisan sabhas in Rajputana were pre-empted from forming a Rajasthan peasant 
party and gradually joined the Congress. However, rivalries between urban and 
rural-based groups and between Rajput and Jat groups continued to exist but 
now within the organisational framework of an electoral party.” 

Ecological and cultural factors produced another form of political protest. 
Ramachandra Guha has argued that ‘[t]he peasant political ideal, in which the 
peasantry and the king are the only social forces, came as close as is historically 
possible to being realized in Tehri Garhwal’.°® In this sub-Himayalan state of 
4500 square miles with a population of 300 000 (1931), the ruler Narendra 
Shah (b. 1898, r. 1919-49) traced his dynasty back for twelve centuries. His 
legitimacy was further undergirded by public acceptance of him as a speaking 
personification of the deity worshipped at Badrinath, one of the holiest Hindu 
shrines. Before the late nineteenth century the state revenue demand was low, 

>> Barnett R. Rubin, Feudal Revolt and State-Building: The 1938 Sikar Agitation in Jaipur (New Delhi, 

°6 Hira Singh, Colonial Hegemony, p. 248. 

57 Sisson, Congress Party, chs 5-6. °8 Guha, Unquiet Woods, p. 62. 


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and tension between the raja and praja was not evident. By 1900 lumbering in 
state forests of deodar (cedar) for railway sleepers changed this situation. After 
several decades of exploitation by British concessionaires, the raja resumed 
control of chir (long-needle pine) forests in 1885 and negotiated enhanced 
revenues from the deodar forests remaining under British management. These 
forests became the main source of state revenue. 

Modern forest management severely restricted peasant access to a resource 
once held in common. Forests had provided grazing for herds, fertiliser for 
agricultural fields, and firewood. State forest officials dramatically intervened 
in the lives of peasants. In response, the peasants resorted to dhandak to secure 
the withdrawal of forest regulations regarded as unjust. Dhandak was a form 
of customary rebellion that involved individual and collective resistance to 
oppressive officials, with an accompanying appeal to the raja for justice. A 
turning point in raja—praja relations occurred during the Rawain dhandak in 
1930. The expected response to this protest against further restrictions on the 
size of herds and the trimming of trees for fuel was for the raja to mediate in 
person. Unfortunately he was in Europe, so the diwan led a punitive expedition 
that fired on and looted protesting villagers. His action weakened but did not 
end respect for the raja. 

In 1939 the Tehri Rajya Praja Mandal was founded at Dehradun in British 
India. Sridev Suman, its principal leader, died in 1941 during a hunger strike 
demanding legal recognition for the praja mandal. Similar to the situation in 
Rajputana, the praja mandal initially solicited an alliance with the raja but 
without incorporating peasant demands. Meanwhile the raja undertook a new 
land survey and settlement that provoked a peasant andolan or movement in 
1946. Peasants held meetings; some tore up settlement papers, others marched 
to the capital, and many were arrested. Congress leaders interceded and se- 
cured the legal recognition of the praja mandal but not the release of jailed 
peasant leaders. Subsequent peasant agitations overthrew local revenue officials 
and appointed their own representatives as patwaris. Losing control, the raja 
negotiated with the praja mandal in early 1948 to form a ministry.°? During 
the crucial transition to integration with the new state of Uttar Pradesh, the 
peasant movement and the praja mandal in Tehri Garhwal had collaborated 
but remained distinct. The peasants did not question the legitimacy of the 
raja but continued to argue that he did not know of the injustices being done 
under his authority by oppressive officials.©? Although the praja mandal was 
anti-ruler in its rhetoric, it was willing to share power with the raja. It solicited 

» Ibid. ch. 4. © Ibid., pp. 88-9. 


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and attained positions in an interim ministry. The Congress achieved an uneasy 
alliance on the eve of integration. 

Contrary to the view that customary rebellion functioned primarily as a 
safety valve to release pent-up frustrations and thereby maintain the status 
quo, Ramachandra Guha has argued that it was a shrewd tactic used by peas- 
ants to achieve changes in oppressive policies when the dominant authority 
was judged to be delinquent in dispensing justice.°! Furthermore, the 1930 
dhandak in Tehri Garhwal served as a reference point for peasants in neigh- 
bouring British Indian provinces and as prototype for the post-colonial Chipko 
movement. Chipko leaders focused their protest against forest officials regarded 
as corrupt because they collaborated with manipulative logging contractors. 
During the 1970s and 1980s Chipko organisers, whose ascetic self-sacrifice 
including hunger strikes and non-violent means of protest echoed the earlier 
peasant leaders, appealed to prime ministers, most notably Indira Gandhi, who 
claimed to be supportive of environmental protection. In the post-colonial pe- 
riod elected politicians succeeded to the role of fount of justice once held by the 
raja of Tehri Garhwal. In areas more exposed to external influences, political 
patterns would be more complex since the populations of these states were 
more differentiated. 


Communal and class appeals were long evident in political activity in 
Travancore. Various groups had formed political associations as early as the 
1890s to lobby for more educational opportunities and government positions. 
During the 1930s constitutional reforms intensified communal anxieties. 
The three politically active communities — nayars, ezhavas and Christians — 
experienced internal divisions yet each tried to create an external united front 
vis-a-vis other communities. Such aspirations made it difficult for the Congress 
or local political leaders to build an integrated organisation. The Congress was 
momentarily successful during the late 1930s, but it confronted challenges 
from members of the Congress Socialist Party and the Communist Party dur- 
ing the next decade. 

61 Tbid., p.97. © Ibid., pp. 172-4. 

63 Dick Kooiman, Communities and Electorates: A Comparative Discussion of Communalism in Colonial 
India (Amsterdam, 1995), pp. 39-49, 63-4. 

64 Thid.; Jeffrey, ‘Sanctified Label’ in Low, Congress, pp. 435-72; Jeffrey, Politics, chs 3-7. 


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In 1933 a newly formed Joint Political Congress (JPC), not related to the 
Indian National Congress and known as the Samyuktha Party, composed of 
Christian, ezhava and Muslim leaders boycotted elections to a new legislature 
that would be nayar-dominated. The constituents of the JPC sought commu- 
nal reservations in the legislature and government posts based on population. 
Under the shrewd direction of Ramaswami Aiyar, the state government un- 
dertook reforms to isolate the Christians and accommodate the Hindus. In 
1935 it conceded communal reservations in the legislature. In the next year a 
Temple Entry Proclamation removed the most conspicuous sign of discrim- 
ination against non-caste Hindus and attenuated the political opposition of 
the ezhavas. By 1937 the JPC had won twenty-five out of forty-nine seats 
in the legislature, but its impetus soon declined as the government fulfilled 
most of its program. The JPC could not link up with the Indian National 
Congress since its communally oriented objectives were not congruent with 
Gandhian standards. A Travancore State Congress had to be at least ostensi- 
bly non-communal and able to fuse nationalist goals and symbols with local 

Formed in February 1938, the Travancore State Congress (TSC) initially 
contested the state administration on the issues of freedom of speech and as- 
sembly when a nayar lawyer in whose office they had met was arrested for 
publishing allegedly inflammatory articles. At the next stage the TSC pre- 
sented a memorial calling for universal franchise, responsible government, and 
the dismissal and investigation of the foreign diwan, Ramaswami Aiyar. On 
26 August 1938, some TSC leaders were arrested as they inaugurated civil 
disobedience. But the campaign continued and orchestrated the largest public 
procession ever seen in Travancore on 23 October 1938. Although estimates 
of the numbers participating range from 2000 to 20 000, the protest was 
even more remarkable for its challenges to princely authority. First, its leader 
was a woman, Akkamma Cheriyan (1909-82), a Catholic Syrian school head- 
mistress. Second, the crowd of mixed castes and religions invaded the cen- 
tral ‘Fort’ area of Trivandrum, the acknowledged preserve of caste Hindus. 
Eventually the state administration represented to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, 
Gandhi's envoy, that the public violence and attacks on Ramaswami Aiyar 
were evidence of the TSC’s lack of commitment to Gandhian tactics of satya- 
graha, which required non-violence and respect for one’s opponent. Once the 
Travancore Government released Congress political prisoners, the middle-class 
Congress leaders terminated their civil disobedience campaign. Ramaswami 
Aiyar proceeded to demonstrate the power of the state to reward its clients and 


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punish its opponents and thereby split the Congress. Nayars won changes in 
the franchise, and ezhavas left the TSC to achieve similar gains. Christians also 
fractured, with the Roman Catholics supporting the government in return for 
protection of its institutions. 

During the Second World War the TSC pulled back from agitational activ- 
ity and organising workers. Students were the only group to mount significant 
demonstrations during the Quit India movement. Educated, dedicated caste 
Hindu and Syrian Christian leaders of the Communist Party had an open 
field in organising urban workers across communal and caste divisions, with 
ezhavas, Latin Catholics and artisan workers as the intermediary level of leader- 
ship. When Ramaswami Aiyar and the maharaja proposed to make Travancore 
independent of the Indian Union in 1947, the TSC decided against a mass civil 
disobedience campaign since they feared losing control to the better organised 
socialist and communist parties. The TSC managed to form the state govern- 
ment from 1951 to 1956, but the strong infrastructure of the Communist 
Party resulted in the first freely elected communist government in the newly 
formed state of Kerala in 1957. 

Communal appeals and communist organisers were also conspicuous in the 
Punjab states. The territory of Sikh-ruled states, particularly Patiala, Nabha 
and Jind, was interspersed through the eastern half of Punjab province. Unlike 
Baroda and Mysore, they did not enjoy a reputation for progressive reforms. 
As of 1924 there were no metalled roads in Nabha state, and in 1933 Patiala 
had 1.24 students per 100 people in schools compared to 4.44 in Punjab 
province.®” This latter state, the largest and most populous of the three, with 
5932 square miles and a population of almost 1.5 million in 1921, had some 
elements of administrative modernisation such as a British-style land revenue 
settlement, canal irrigation schemes, and railway lines. But industrial devel- 
opment was almost non-existent and only 10 per cent of the population was 
urban-based. Although there were no jagirdars in the rural areas, biswedars 
or land-controllers, who held a sixth of the villages in Patiala, had had their 
revenue-collecting rights converted into proprietary rights during the land rev- 
enue settlement undertaken in the first decade of the twentieth century. This 
instrument of administrative efficiency had transformed cultivating peasants 

into muzara or occupancy tenants. 

6 Tbid., p. 124 and Jeffrey, ‘Sanctified Label’, in Low, Congress, pp. 454-6. 

66 T J. Nossiter, Communism in Kerala: A Study in Political Adaptation (Berkeley CA, 1982). 
67 Romesh Walia, Praja Mandal Movement in East Punjab States (Patiala, 1972), pp. 37, 42. 
68 Mohinder Singh, Peasant Movement, pp. 13-16. 


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During the 1910s and 1920s the Akali Sikhs had mounted a major campaign 
to win control over and reform Sikh gurudwaras throughout Punjab. Ramesh 
Walia has related how this agitation rather than the freedom movement was the 
major factor in determining ‘the shape, character and dimensions of the praja 
mandal movement in East Punjab’.” The role of maharaja Bhupinder Singh as 
a patron of moderate leaders in the Sikh gurudwara reform movement has been 
outlined in Chapter 5. Here it is sufficient to remember that he was an energetic 
intermediary between his British patron and Akali leaders during the 1920s.”° 
The immediate cause for the founding of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal in 
1928 was Bhupinder Singh’s incarceration of Sewa Singh Thikriwala (c. 1882— 
1935), a Patiala subject and former state official who had refused to agree, as 
more moderate Akalis had done, to British conditions during the negotiations 
over the 1925 Sikh Gurdwara Reform Act.’' As in other states such as Jaipur, 
the Patiala jail was a convenient repository for political prisoners whom the 
British found difficult to retain. The intermittent imprisonment and the harsh 
treatment of Sewa Singh were dramatic evidence of the lack of civil rights in 

During the first phase of the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal from 1928 to 
1938, the main focuses were on improving political and economic conditions 
in Patiala and on persuading the British to depose Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. 
Their success was limited. Because Hidayat (decree) 88, issued in 1932 and in 
effect until 1946, banned political meetings and restricted the registration of 
political organisations in the Phulkian states, the leaders of the Punjab Praja 
Mandal operated from bases in British Punjab. In Patiala the one comparatively 
safe site for spreading their message was religious diwans or meetings that even 
the autocratic princely government was reluctant to suppress. Consequently 
much of the early states’ people’s movement had a Sikh religious or communal 
orientation, although in 1931 the Sikh population in Patiala at 38.9 per cent 
was only the barest of a majority compared to 38.2 per cent for Hindus and 
22.4 per cent for Muslims. Moreover the Patiala rulers adroitly blunted Sikh 
opposition. When Master Tara Singh gained control of the SGPC in 1935, he 
concluded an agreement with Bhupinder Singh that divided the Akali members 
of the praja mandal into those who wanted to continue the struggle against 
the maharaja and those who were willing to turn to other objectives. After 
Bhupinder Singh died in 1938, his heir, Yadavindra Singh, co-opted one section 
of the praja mandal when he married Mohinder Kaur, the 15-year-old daughter 

6 Walia, Praja Mandal, p. 27. 70 Ramusack, ‘Punjab States’, in Jeffrey, People, pp. 179-91. 
71 Gurbachan Singh Talib, Sardar Sewa Singh Thikriwala: A Brief Sketch of His Life and Work (Patiala, 


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of its leader Harchand Singh Jeji.’” As the Akalis neglected peasant issues, 
the communists found fertile ground for their organising efforts. Mridula 
Mukherjee has traced communist efforts to organise the occupancy tenants in 
the biswedari villages during the 1930s and 1940s.’ 

From 1938 to 1947, there were three distinct elements in the freedom 
struggle: the Akalis, the communists, and the praja mandal. The Akalis were 
concerned about the position of Sikhs if there were a partition. Some argued 
for an independent Sikh state and were sympathetic to the Patiala ruler, whose 
territory might serve as its core. Yadavindra Singh favoured Akali causes, and by 
the 1941 census the Patiala population was 46.3 per cent Sikh, while Ludhiana, 
the British Punjab district with the highest percentage of Sikhs, had 41.7 per 
cent. The increase in the Sikh population of Patiala from the 1901—41 censuses 
possibly indicates the success of efforts to have Sikhs identify themselves as Sikhs 
and not Hindus rather than migration or higher birth rates. The communists 
concentrated on gaining proprietary rights for occupancy tenants, which were 
eventually achieved in 1952. Mukherjee has pointed out, however, that the 
political vision of the communist leaders was limited, never linking economic 
improvement to the end of British rule and of their princely collaborators, 
namely Yadavindra Singh, and so their efforts had restricted impact.”4 

During the second phase of popular political activity in the Punjab States, 
urban-based professionals who were mainly Hindu took over the leadership 
of the praja mandal. They shifted the mandal’s focus from Patiala to smaller 
states such as Nabha and Jind and emphasised different issues such as more 
employment of educated states’ subjects and greater protection of civil rights. 
The praja mandal was generally silent on peasant demands. After 1947 in the 
newly created Patiala and East Punjab States Union, the Pradesh Congress 
experienced the earlier inability of the praja mandal to forge a united front. 
PEPSU was soon amalgamated into Punjab state in 1956. Seven years later 
a Punjabi-speaking state was created with Patiala as its geographical centre. 
The tragic events in Punjab during the 1980s manifested the continuing diffi- 
culties of channelling communal appeals based on religion and language into 
constitutional and electoral arenas. 

As seen in Travancore, communal appeals and organisations had existed 
since at least the early twentieth century. But many British officials such as 

72 Ramusack, ‘Punjab States’, in Jeffrey, People, pp. 187-93. Mohinder Kaur served in the Indian 
Parliament (Lok Sabha, 1967-1969 and Rajya Sabha, 1964-1967, 1969-71) and was known for 
her social work interests: Hurtig, Maharajahs, pp. 281-94. 

73 Mukherjee, ‘Peasant Movement’. 

74 Thid., pp. 276-83; Mohinder Singh, Peasant Movement, chs 2-5 covers the post-1947 campaigns 
for tenancy legislation. 


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Michael O’ Dwyer, Arthur Lothian and Conrad Corfield and Indian nationalist 
leaders including G. K. Gokhale had contended that communal activity, by 
which they usually meant conflicts, ostensibly on religious issues, between 
Hindus and Muslims, was absent in princely states. O’ Dwyer, who had served as 
resident in Hyderabad (1908-10) and governor of Punjab (1913-20), declared: 
‘Communal tension was unknown in Hyderabad, and generally in Native 
States, in those days; for the political agitator who stirs up creed against creed, 
class against class, and incites his ignorant dupes to defiance of authority, was 
not tolerated at all, or not to the same extent as in British India.’”° 

But O’Dwyer saw the virus of communal appeals spreading to the princely 
states during the 1920s. His example occurred in Hyderabad in 1924 when an 
allegedly Hindu mob murdered a Muslim political officer at Gulbarga. Mus- 
lims retaliated by attacking over fifty Hindu temples in the city. Subsequently 
there was a sharp increase in communal violence between Hindus and Mus- 
lims in princely states during the 1930s. Episodes were reported in Alwar, 
Bahawalpur, Bharatpur, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jind, Junagadh, Kapurthala, 
Kashmir, Malerkotla, Ramdurg and Travancore. However, research is fragmen- 
tary on most of these incidents and more especially on the possible existence 
of earlier occurrences. 

In this section I will focus on three states — Hyderabad, Alwar and Kashmir — 
where tensions between Hindus and Muslims reveal the wide variations in 
communal political activity in princely states. Much of the available research 
is descriptive rather than analytical, and consequently my account reflects this 
orientation. Moreover, there has been little attention to how public festivals and 
institutions such as schools, temples and mosques shaped communal identities 
in the princely states. 

The 1924 episode at Gulbarga was a precursor ofa more extended confronta- 
tion in Hyderabad during the late 1930s. Several bloody riots throughout the 
state during 1938 triggered a nine-month satyagraha campaign of civil dis- 
obedience that involved the Hyderabad State Congress and indigenous and 
external groups from the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha demanding 
religious freedom and more popular participation in government. Indian na- 
tionalists and their local allies had alleged that the Muslim-ruled state favoured 
the Muslim minority, which constituted about 11 per cent of the population, at 
the expense of the Hindu majority, which was about 85 per cent. Thus demands 
for civil rights and an equitable distribution of public revenues in an autocratic 
state placed Indians in opposition to an Indian government. Ian Copland has 

75 O'Dwyer, India, p. 141. 


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argued that politicisation and proselytisation had created this campaign. The 
Indian National Congress, the AISPC, the Muslim League and the Hindu 
Mahasabha had all turned their attention to Hyderabad as it appeared possible 
that federation might bring this large state into an Indian Union. These political 
groups attracted the urban proletariat, who had been the object of conversion 
campaigns by the Arya Samaj encouraging the return of Muslims with Hindu 
ancestors and by the Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen, a local Muslim society seeking to 
insulate the Muslim minority position through converts from Hinduism.” 
Copland concludes that communalism was less prevalent in princely states 
because of their smaller industrial base and their lower level of politicisation 
until relatively late.” But Dick Kooiman claims that in Hyderabad, as in 
Travancore and Baroda, the spread of official enumeration and earlier rivalries 
over government employment fostered communal identities that could erupt 
into communal violence as federation and the prospect of increased popular 
representation in legislatures raised the stakes.’* Further north, public protests 
by Muslim Meos over agrarian and social status issues were coded as communal 
in the Hindu-ruled state of Alwar. 

From the 1910s onward, Maharaja Jai Singh assiduously extended his inter- 
nal control in Alwar by enhancing demands for land revenue, appropriating 
natural resources, especially forest products, and exacting forced labour. Simul- 
taneously he contested British paramountcy, projecting himself as a Hindu king 
and an Indian nationalist through patronage of Hindu organisations, especially 
the Sanatan Dharma Sabha and the Arya Samaj, and nationalist ventures such 
as Unity Conferences in 1927 and 1932.”? These policies adversely affected his 
subjects. The population of Alwar was 73 per cent Hindu and 27 per cent Mus- 
lim. Meos, who were 60 per cent of the Muslim category,®° were constructed 
in colonial ethnography as a group of indeterminate social status between tribe 
and caste, with equally ambiguous religious commitment. The 1901 Census 
reported the allegation that the Meos ‘are ready to observe the feasts of both the 
Musalman and Hindu religions, the fasts of neither’.8! In a perceptive analysis 
based on colonial archives, state propaganda, Meo oral sources and oral in- 
terviews, Shail Mayaram has asserted that the Meos claimed ‘a bi-genealogical 

status .. . as inheritors of both Muslim and Rajput traditions’.® 

76 Tan Copland, ““Communalism” in Princely India: The Case of Hyderabad, 1930-1940’, MAS 22 
(1988), pp. 783-814. 

77 Thid., pp. 812-14. 78 Kooiman, ‘Strength’, pp. 92-8. 

79 Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, ch. 3; Ramusack, Princes, pp. 158-60. 

80 Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, p. 164. 

81 Census of India, 1901, vol. 25: Rajputana, Part I - Report, p. 157. 

82 Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, p. 117. 


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Most accounts of the Meo opposition begin with a no-rent campaign in 
December 1932. They claim that external Muslim groups, especially the 
Tabligh movement, had heightened Meo religious identity as Muslims, and 
interpret the protests as communal, with Muslim Meos attacking a Hindu 
prince and his Hindu subjects. Mayaram decisively challenges this interpre- 
tation. Two Meo texts emphasise that the movement began a month earlier 
with actions against oppressive revenue collectors; that indigenous Meos were 
leaders; that the protest was against exorbitant land taxes and demands for 
forced labour in state properties such as game preserves; that Hindus partic- 
ipated in the protests; and that Hindu banias precipitated Meo attacks when 
they betrayed their plans to the state.*4 British sources, particularly a report 
by A. W. Ibbotson, confirm the agrarian character of the movement and dis- 
credit charges of looting and property destruction, while revealing that vio- 
lence against the banias erupted only after Meo leaders were arrested.®° More 
recently, Ian Copland agrees that the initial rebellion of Meos in November 
1932 was not communal in character at the outset but that the indifference 
of Hindu groups, the collaboration of external Muslim organisations, and the 
activities of Alwar officials glossed the rebellion as communal.®° After request- 
ing British military assistance to regain control, Jai Singh openly orchestrated 
Hindu support for his regime while defying British pressure for reforms. The 
British soon ordered him to leave Alwar in 1933. At the same time the Tab- 
ligh and other Muslim groups intensified educational and organisational work 
among the Meos and communal tensions increased, but subsided after the 
peasant movement. Jai Singh’s successor, Tej Singh, exacerbated the situation 
with continuing support for Hindu communal groups and by appointing 
N. B. Khare, a strong supporter of the Hindu Mahasabha, as chief minister. 
Independence brought terror, death and ethnic cleansing to the Meos of Alwar, 
who were homogenised as Muslims and foreigners.°” 

Far to the north under the shadow of the Himalayas, the Muslim commu- 
nity that constituted 93 per cent of the population in the Kashmir province 

83 Partap C. Aggarwal, “The Meos of Rajasthan and Haryana’, in Imtiaz Ahmad (ed.), Caste and Social 
Stratification among the Muslims (New Delhi, 1973), pp. 21-44; Ramusack, Princes, pp. 179-80; 
Majid Siddiqi, “History and Society in a Popular Rebellion: Mewat 1920-1933’, CSSH 23 (1986), 
pp. 442-67. 

84 Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, ch. 5. 

85 Tbid., pp. 107-10, 151. The British officer deputed to Alwar stated: “The immediate cause of the 
Meo rebellion was the excessive taxation levied on the cultivators’: Arthur C. Lothian, Kingdoms of 
Yesterday (London, 1951), p. 124. 

86 Tan Copland, “The Further Shores of Partition: Ethnic Cleansing in Rajasthan 1947’, PP, No. 168 
(August 1998), pp. 220-5. 

87 Tbid. and Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, ch. 6. 


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of the Jammu and Kashmir state has, until recently, been represented as rela- 
tively homogeneous and incorporated with Hindus in Kashmiriyat, a syncretic 
Kashmiri cultural concord. Tracing the fluctuating bases of Kashmiri iden- 
tity from the Mughal period to the 1950s, Chitralekha Zutshi argues that 
regional and national affiliations competed with religious ones in differing for- 
mations, with tragic consequences for contemporary Kashmir.*® During the 
1880s material changes such as the deteriorating economic position of shawl 
merchants and landholders provided the context for contending efforts to de- 
fine the nature of Islam in Kashmir. Two mirwaizes (head preachers) embodied 
opposing positions — the mirwaiz Kashmir proclaiming a purified Islam and 
the need for modern education for Muslims, while the mirwaiz Hamdaani 
sanctioned prayers to mystical Sufi pirs, who were deemed saints. Their cam- 
paigns to control Muslim mosques and shrines in the Srinagar Valley and 
their inability to incorporate rural Muslims hindered the formation of a coher- 
ent Kashmiri Muslim community.®? Efforts during the 1920s would be more 

Mass political activity in Kashmir reputedly commenced on 13 July 1931, 
which was later celebrated as Martyrs Day and a public holiday in the state. 
Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, who became known as the ‘Lion of Kashmir’, 
was acclaimed as the charismatic leader who orchestrated the political mobil- 
isation. As does Chitralekha Zutshi, Upendra Zutshi has claimed that many 
long-term developments such as British imperialism, and not just the person- 
ality of one man, fostered the agitations in Kashmir during the early 1930s.” 
Both cite British interventions as significant in fostering a political as well as 
religious communal identity; these included a reformed land revenue system, 
which granted occupancy rights to most Muslim cultivators, and recognition 
of Muslim grievances about lack of access to education and government em- 
ployment.” Upendra Zutshi traces how, in articulating their support for the 
demands of Kashmiri Muslims, informal Muslim groups in Kashmir were 
joined by Muslim organisations in British India ranging from the Muslim 
Kashmiri Conference, which began in Lahore around 1911, to the Anjuman- 
i-Islamia Punjab, to the All-India Muslim League.”? Thus two decades of 
petition politics channelled through memorials and resolutions preceded the 
attention-grabbing outbreak in 1931. 

88 Chitralekha Zutshi, Languages of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, and the Making of Kashmir (New 
Delhi, forthcoming in 2003). 

89 Chitralekha Zutshi, ‘Religion, State, and Community: Contested Identities in the Kashmir Valley, 
c. 1880-1920’, SA 23, 1 (2000), pp. 109-28. 

9° 'U. T. Zutshi, Emergence, ch. 1, esp. p. 18. 

9! Chitralekha Zutshi, ‘Religion’, pp. 114-16. 92 U. T. Zutshi, Emergence, chs 5 and 6. 


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The Kashmir agitation had three major phases.”? On 13 July 1931 a crowd 
gathered to protest against the trial of a Muslim servant arrested for making 
an allegedly anti-Hindu and seditious speech during a public protest against 
discriminatory state policies towards Muslims. Police firing into the largely 
Muslim crowd triggered widespread attacks on Hindu property in Srinagar. 
During the next few months Sheikh Abdullah (1905-82) emerged as a key 
leader. He was a 26-year-old graduate of Aligarh Muslim University and a 
state subject who had recently left the state education department to become 
a full-time political organiser. But other local and external groups were ac- 
tive. Three Muslim groups from Punjab soon contended as champions of the 
Kashmiri Muslims: the Ahrars, an urban, middle-class political party anxious 
to win a rural base for their struggle with the Unionist Party in Punjab; the 
Ahmadiyya, a heterodox Muslim proselytising sect based at Qadian in Pun- 
jab near the Jammu border; and the All-India Kashmir Conference operating 
from Lahore. Sheikh Abdullah forged political alliances with the Ahmadiyyas 
and Yusuf Shah, a radical claimant to succeed Rasul Shah as mirwaiz. In the 
process Kashmiris acquired substantial experience of agitational politics and 
incarceration in state jails for political activity. When repressive policies failed 
to quell the public demonstrations, the first phase ended with Maharaja Hari 
Singh appealing to the British for military force, which was provided in re- 
turn for a British diwan and a commission of inquiry. As would continue to 
happen after independence, the GOI became the last resort for an embattled 
state administration in Kashmir. But British assistance did not terminate the 
multifaceted political campaign. 

The second phase centred on rural grievances in Mirpur and western and 
southern Jammu, a province with 61 per cent Muslim and 37 per cent Hindu 
populations in 1941. Muslim peasants initially sought relief from coercive tac- 
tics employed to collect land revenue in 1932, but their economic goal acquired 
communal overtones with subsequent attacks on the property of Hindu shop- 
keepers and moneylenders. The third phase saw clashes in Srinagar in 1933 
between supporters of the rival candidates for mirwaiz. As the popular move- 
ment gradually subsided, Abdullah shifted into electoral politics in 1934. In 
response to British pressure, Maharaja Hari Singh had promised a legislative 
assembly with thirty-three elected members and forty-three nominated and 
official members. As in British India, there was a concerted effort to channel 

93 This synthesis is based on ibid.; Ian Copland, ‘Islam and Political Mobilization in Kashmir, 1931- 
34, PA54 (1981), pp. 228-59; Barbara N. Ramusack, ‘Exotic Imports or Home-Grown Riots: The 
Muslim Agitations in Kashmir in the Early 1930s’, unpublished paper presented at Third Punjab 
Studies Conference, University of Pennsylvania, 1971. 


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communal and agitational activity into the electoral arena. Eventually, under 
the influence of Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian National Congress, Abdullah 
Ghulam Abbas, a Muslim leader from Jammu, and Prem Nath Bazaz, a 
Kashmiri brahman pandit, transformed the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim 
Conference into the secular Jammu and Kashmir National Conference.” 

Tan Copland has argued that 

religion was an essential factor in the process of mobilization, providing an avenue for orga- 
nization and propaganda and a sense of communality among Muslims which transcended 
the formidable barriers of class, education and religion. But the root cause of the revolt 
was socio-economic — a determination on the part of the Muslims to win for themselves a 
prominent position in Kashmiri society.” 

Upendra Zutshi mentions material factors for politicisation such as the com- 
pletion of the Jhelum Valley Road in 1890, which allowed wheeled traffic to 
enter Kashmir for the first time, and of the Banihal Cart Road in 1922 link- 
ing Jammu to Srinagar.”° Although he does not explore their implications, 
these roads might have affected Kashmiri political activity in at least two major 
ways. First, they facilitated the movement of outside politicians into Kashmir. 
Second, although Kashmir had been linked to Central Asian and European 
markets for over a century through the export of shawls,” improved roads ex- 
panded the Punjabi-dominated trade network between Kashmir and India and 
tied the state more closely to the world economy. Asa result, the dislocations of 
the First World War and the 1929 depression would be more keenly felt than 
when the Kashmiri economy was less integrated. Recent but as yet unpublished 
research of scholars such as Mridu Rai and Chitralekha Zutshi will enhance 
our understanding of this fateful political mobilisation. 


Alwar, Hyderabad and Kashmir as well as Mysore, Rajkot, Jaipur, Travancore 
and Patiala provide a base for reaching tentative conclusions about elite political 
leadership, non-elite participation and the role of outsiders, the incidence of 
communal idioms, and the focus of political opposition in the princely states. 
Because they have left more accessible records, educated urban elites have 
been portrayed as the path-breakers in associational political activity in the 

94 Bazaz, History, chs 8-13. 95 Copland, ‘Islam’, p. 257. 

96 Upendra Zutshi, Emergence, p. 129. 

97 Michelle Maskiell, ‘Consuming Kashmir: Shawls and Empire, 1500-2000’, /WH 13, 1 (2002), 
pp. 27-65. 


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princely states. Beginning in the late 1910s, these elites first organised around 
class-oriented issues such as state employment and civil rights. Hampered by 
repressive measures from princely durbars and ambivalent Congress policies, 
they found it difficult to develop autonomous organisations. For much of the 
colonial period, praja mandal leaders sought reforms to broaden their political 
participation rather than transformations in the political, economic or social 
structures of the princely states. As did many Congress members, these elites 
desired social stability and were willing to compromise with princely durbars to 
gain access to power and economic resources or even more limited goals such 
as release from jail. Their class interests made it difficult for such leaders to 
cultivate mass bases. Furthermore, they lacked financial supporters and thus 
the material resources to undertake full-time political work. 

In many princely states, leaders of urban-based praja mandals or rural kisan 
sabhas began to acquire experience in organising and mobilising their con- 
stituencies about forty years later than had British Indian nationalist leaders. 
Thus the political vanguard in the princely states had only a few decades to 
establish themselves before independence and integration brought both wider 
opportunities and stiffer competition from more seasoned politicians. More- 
over, the political associations in unions of princely states as in Saurashtra and 
Rajasthan were fragmented along the borders of the erstwhile princely states. 
Thus princely state politicians found it difficult to fashion the coalitions nec- 
essary to achieve dominance in post-colonial electoral politics. These factors 
obscure politicians from the princely states in the scholarship on post-colonial 
Indian politics. 

During the 1990s scholars have begun to target peasants, tribal groups 
and industrial labourers who created autonomous political movements. These 
political actors sought the revision of government policies that affected them 
adversely. In Tehri Garhwal peasants demanded the revocation of economically 
disadvantageous forest policies. In Baroda the Devi movement agitated for im- 
proved ritual and economic status for tribal groups. In Mysore urban labourers 
showed growing political consciousness and impressive organisational skills in 
aseries of strikes from the 1920s onward. Urban elites attempted to incorporate 
these non-elite groups during the 1930s and 1940s. Although the Congress 
was relatively persuasive in Mysore, it had less success in encompassing peas- 
ant and tribal movements in states such as Patiala. Communists were more 
effective in Travancore and Cochin. 

With a few exceptions, women remain the most veiled of the political ac- 
tors in princely states. Janaki Nair has recorded the protests of some women 
workers in Mysore during the strikes in the 1940s, but she has little on other 


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aspects of their lives and political activities. Robin Jeffrey has scrutinised the 
increasing literacy of women in Travancore and their subsequent entrance to 
salaried professions, but he selected only four women to illustrate changing 
roles. Akamma Cheriyan Varkey, who led the 1938 demonstration but then 
was rejected by the Congress hierarchy after 1948, is the sole example of a 
woman political activist before 1947. 

It is now clear that outsiders from British India were not the primary initia- 
tors of popular political activities within many princely states as Indian princes 
and British officials had claimed. Certainly the borders of princely states were 
as porous to political ideas as they were to smuggled goods. Although they 
were influenced by the nationalist project being constructed in British India, 
local leaders were dominant in the princely states. Only gradually did the In- 
dian National Congress, socialists, communists and communal groups from 
British India penetrate the princely states. These groups were increasingly ea- 
ger to broaden their base of support as independence and the high political 
stakes became more real. After some initial forays during the 1920s, Mahatma 
Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru remained disengaged until the late 
1930s. Socialists and communists were more aggressive during the 1930s, but 
they failed to build a strong popular base except in Kerala. During the same 
decades the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha championed the protection 
of Hindus in the more distant Muslim-ruled states of Bhopal and Hyderabad as 
well as in Alwar and Bharatpur. Muslim groups ranging from the conservative 
Muslim League to the more radical Ahrars to the heterodox Ahmadiyyas in- 
tervened on behalf of co-religionists in Hyderabad and in Kashmir. The Akali 
Sikhs had numerous reasons for their deep involvement in Patiala state. But 
these outsiders rarely achieved firm coalitions with local leaders. 

The princely states demonstrate that the forging of communal identities and 
public, sometimes violent, communal confrontations had complex sources. 
Although the British exercised considerable formal and informal power over 
internal affairs, Indian rulers and their governments had significant autonomy 
in formulating policies that aroused internal opposition, such as employment 
in expanding state bureaucracies. The Sikhs in Patiala, the Muslims in Kashmir 
and the Meos in Alwar provide diverse examples of how religious identities and 
economic grievances fuelled communal political activity. 

Princes and urban elites influenced the idioms of political protest in their 
states. Where a minority of the population shared the ruler’s religion and he 
or she favoured his or her co-religionists with government positions, generous 
patronage of religious establishments, and protective legislation, popular po- 
litical activity could quickly become communal in orientation. This process 


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occurred most notably in Kashmir and Hyderabad. In the former a Muslim 
majority protested against a Hindu ruler who was protecting Brahman pan- 
dits and in the latter a Hindu majority challenged a Muslim prince. In Patiala 
the situation was reversed. Here Akali groups demanded that a Sikh maharaja 
appoint more Sikh officials including a Sikh chief minister, which Yadavin- 
dra Singh eventually did in the 1940s. In Alwar and neighbouring Bharatpur, 
Hindu rulers transformed their traditional patronage of religious institutions 
into collaboration with communal political organisations, which had tragic 
consequences for a liminal minority within their states. 

It was quite late in the colonial era before either elite or non-elite politicians 
endeavoured to alter radically or end princely rule. At least publicly, most 
viewed princes as benevolent rulers who desired to protect their subjects as 
a father did his children. Rapacious colonial suzerains, self-seeking ministers, 
greedy relatives, and perhaps substance abuse deterred rulers from this duty. 
But princes played multiple roles and increasingly were unable to accommodate 
their diverse constituencies. 


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By 1929 Indian princes and nationalists were mutually frustrated with British 
policies. The princes smarted from the refusal of the Indian States Committee 
to define paramountcy and thereby limit the extent of British intervention 
in their states. Indian nationalists were angered by the appointment of an 
Indian Reforms Commission that included no Indian members to investigate 
the operation of the 1919 reforms. The public demonstrations against the 
Commission, colloquially known as the Simon Commission after its chair, Sir 
John Simon, during its tour in India indicated that it would not be business as 
usual. In a bold move that consigned the Commission’s report to the archives, 
Lord Irwin persuaded Ramsey MacDonald, the Prime Minister, to convene a 
Round Table Conference in London in 1930. Representatives of all British and 
Indian parties would be invited to discuss the future constitutional relationship 
between Britain and India. For the first time, representatives of the Indian 
princes would participate in such deliberations. Although the prime goal of 
the British was to channel elite Indian opposition into constitutional debates 
away from mass protests, the Round Table Conference also put the final nail 
in the coffin of the British policy of isolating the princes from each other and 
from British Indian leaders. 

Princely participation in the Round Table Conference shows that neither 
the British nor the Indian nationalists considered the princes to be politi- 
cal ciphers or puppets. Although the British wanted the princes to counter 
the Indian nationalists, they did not pull the strings that triggered princely 
support for or later opposition to federation with British Indian provinces. 
Both British officials and Indian nationalists pursued princely allies, but the 
princes, for better or worse, exercised significant autonomy throughout the 
protracted constitutional negotiations, inaugurated in 1927 and finally sus- 
pended in 1939. This process was the first instalment in the integration of the 
princely states into a post-colonial government. It reveals the difficulties that 
the princes encountered in any effort to present a united front, as well as the 
multiple constituencies in Britain with conflicting agendas in India. 

Although formal constitutional proposals during the Second World War 
were limited to the Cripps Mission in 1942, the princes, like other political 
leaders, worked to enhance their bargaining positions. Congress politicians 


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broadened their mass appeal; socialists and communists organised urban in- 
dustrial workers and peasant unions (kisan sabhas); Muslim League leaders 
undertook a mass contact campaign. Simultaneously the Muslim League and 
many Indian princes sustained their beleaguered patron during crucial internal 
challenges such as the Quit India Movement of 1942. 

By mid-1943 most British officials and Indian politicians understood that 
substantial devolution of power would occur whenever the war ended. By 
May 1945, when victory was declared in Europe, the British accelerated the 
process known as decolonisation. Much of the historiography on this topic has 
focused on whether the British withdrew from India primarily on their own 
initiative or whether the Indian nationalists pushed them out. Historians have 
tended to a middle position. H. V. Brasted and Carl Bridge have argued for ‘an 
approach which coordinates all of the existing contextual strands’! and suggest 
that first, the ““high political” story has still not been satisfactorily told as 
regards Congress and British strategies’; second, ‘more detailed psephological 
analysis of the 1937 and 1945-46 elections is needed’; third, ‘the “history from 
below” studies must be integrated into the main account — Did the subalterns 
force Congress, the League, and the British, to solve the constitutional problem 
quickly in order to head off an impending social “revolution”?’; and fourth, 
‘since decolonisation was the product of changes at the metropolitan, colonial 
and international levels, it is likely that it can only be explained in terms of 
changes at all of those levels’. 

These same trends should also be applied to the analysis of the last two 
decades of the princely states. Expanding in breadth and depth upon ear- 
lier studies by Steven Ashton, Urmila Phadnis and myself, Robin Moore and 
more recently Ian Copland have detailed the high political story of British 
and princely strategies and personalities during the devolution of power.* 
John McLeod has surveyed the merger of small princely states in the attach- 
ment scheme in western India,* and Lucien Benichou and Michael Witmer 
have analysed the integration of Hyderabad in the context of international 
diplomacy as well as Indian regional and national politics.” Consequently our 

! H. V. Brasted and Carl Bridge, “The Transfer of Power in South Asia: An Historiographical Review’, 
SA 17, 1 (1994), p. 94. 

? Thid., p. 114. 

3 Ashton, British Policy; Urmila Phadnis, Towards the Integration of Indian States, 1919-1947 (London, 
1968); Ramusack, Princes; R. J. Moore, Escape from Empire: The Attlee Government and the Indian 
Problem (Oxford, 1983); Ian Copland, Princes. 

4 McLeod, ‘Agency’, and Sovereignty. 

> Benichou, Autocracy; Michael D. Witmer, The 1947-1948 India—Hyderabad Conflict: Realpolitik 
and the Formation of the Modern Indian State, PhD thesis, Temple University, 1995. 


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understanding is slowly being refined; certain aspects become more sharply 
defined while others remain indistinct. 

Several human and structural factors were responsible for the unexpectedly 
smooth and quick integration of most princely states into independent India 
and Pakistan. First, the princes, who did not have decades of experience in col- 
lective negotiations, found it difficult to decide on their mutual best interests 
and then to unite and stay united in a common campaign, both during the 
1930s and the more intense bargaining from 1945 to 1948. Second, the British 
had made promises that they lacked the material resources and the ideological 
resolve to fulfil. Third, the official British hierarchy had long encompassed 
conflicting opinions about the princely states and these differences sharpened 
during this unprecedented crisis. In the face of such divisions, authority grav- 
itated to those who were politically secure and prepared to exercise power. In 
1946, Lord Mountbatten had the political support at home and the personal 
rapport with Jawaharlal Nehru to impose a policy of accession of the princely 
states to independent states despite stout resistance from key British political 
officers. Fourth, Congress leaders had equally ambivalent views of the princes 
and employed threats, equivocation and British collaboration to secure integra- 
tion after the British departed. Here again, individuals who were prepared to 
act decisively at a crucial juncture were pivotal. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, with 
extensive experience in the states’ people’s politics of Gujarat, and V. P. Menon, 
his administrative deputy, secured integration with skill, determination, and 
Mountbatten’s active collaboration. Integration was not a foregone conclu- 
sion but once the process began it was carried through with extraordinary 



Disgruntled by the refusal of the Butler Report to define paramountcy, the 
princes saw the Round Table Conference in London as a venue to negotiate 
directly with British authorities in the metropole to restrict British intervention 
in their internal affairs. Although the support of the princes for federation 
at the Round Table Conference in November 1930 was a dramatic formal 
gesture, it was not without precedent. Neither were the process of negotiations 
or the factors that influenced their course. There were at least five areas of 

First, some princes renewed informal deliberations with British Indian 
politicians, who still saw them as useful allies or players who had to be 


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accommodated. Second, ministers employed by the princes, either individually 
or jointly, were influential intermediaries in the consultations. Third, the 
Standing Committee of the Chamber of Princes became a battleground for 
control of the Indian States Delegation to London and its agenda. Fourth, 
internal rivalries among the princes were now projected into a larger arena 
and amplified as the stakes were perceived as larger. Fifth, conflicting attitudes 
towards the princes within the British imperial establishment continued to 
influence, usually covertly, the strategies of individual princes as well as the 

Once the Congress and Gandhi declined to attend the Round Table Confer- 
ence and decided to launch a civil disobedience movement, moderate national- 
ists, most notably Tej Bahadur Sapru, and communalists such as Muhammad 
Ali and M. M. Malaviya dominated the negotiations prior to the Conference. 
Meanwhile prominent princes within the Chamber, mainly Ganga Singh of 
Bikaner, Hamidullah of Bhopal and Hari Singh of Kashmir, were meeting with 
British Indian leaders during 1929. They sought to generate a constitution that 
would be acceptable to all major political groups in India.° Such consultations 
became more crucial as British officials hinted that it might be possible to 
go beyond the recommendations of the Simon Report. However, the princes 
and nationalists, ranging from congressmen such as Motilal Nehru, to Hindu 
Mahasahbites such as Malaviya and B. S. Moonje, to Muslim Leaguers such 
as Muhammad Ali and M. A. Jinnah, reached no concrete agreements at a 
series of teas and dinners during 1930. On 29 March 1930, British Indian 
leaders assured the princes that a dominion government would be far more 
cooperative than the existing GOI. Moreover, Malaviya promised them that 
they would not be forced to adopt any prescribed form of government.’ These 
remarks were clearly sweet music to the ears of the princes. However, as fewer 
Indian nationalists were willing to attend such sessions, Liberal and communal 
leaders were more prominent. 

Collaboration between princes and British Indian politicians sympathetic 
to federation also occurred on the faultline of Muslim politics. On the 
princely side, Hamidullah of Bhopal was friendly with many Muslim politi- 
cians since his student days at Aligarh.* Before the first Round Table Confer- 
ence, Hamidullah hosted a series of talks in London between moderates such 
as Sapru, Sastri and Setalvad and Muslims leaders including the Aga Khan, 
Jinnah, and Muhammad Shafi from Punjab. Later in 1931, Bhopal, with the 

© Ramusack, Princes, pp. 188-91. Other significant sources are Ashton, Copland and Phadnis. 
v Meeting of March 29, 1930, PSAP, CS, Supplementary Index, Case No. V, File No. 14 of 1930. 
8 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 54-5 and passim. 


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blessing of Gandhi, would try unsuccessfully to fashion a compromise on the 
issue of separate electorates for Muslims in a federation.” 

From the late 1920s onward, the ministers and legal advisers of the princes 
played a more conspicuous role as surrogates for their employers. Indeed Ian 
Copland has argued that the princes agreed to a rapprochement with the nation- 
alists in 1928 mainly because of the ‘artfully deceitful pen’ of K. M. Panikkar.!° 
This assertion ignores the extended contacts that Chamber members had with 
moderate, pro-federation British Indian politicians in their professional ca- 
pacity as lawyers and in cultural and religious institutions. At the same time, 
it highlights the changing roles of ministers. Princes had long used talented 
British Indians as bureaucrats within their states to consolidate princely control 
at the expense of their indigenous nobilities. Now rulers engaged resourceful, 
ambitious British Indians externally as diplomatic agents and internally as ad- 
ministrators. They used ministers to produce position papers and speeches on 
complex issues and to serve as contemporary vakils in Westminster and New 
Delhi. Increasingly, these ministers shaped the agendas as well as the strategy 
and tactics of the princes in their constitutional negotiations with the British, 
Indian nationalists, and other princes. 

Kailash N. Haksar (1878-1953), a Kashmiri brahman, and K. M. Panikkar 
(1894-1963), an Oxford-educated nayar from Travancore, were the two most 
active intermediaries during the 1930s. A member of the minority govern- 
ment in Gwalior, Haksar undertook several assignments for the Chamber of 
Princes. Panikkar looked to Haksar as a mentor and worked in the Cham- 
ber Secretariat and later in Patiala and Bikaner.'’ Other significant ministers 
were Sir Manubhai Mehta (1868-1946), then at Baroda; Sir Abkar Hydari 
(1869-1941), the finance minister at Hyderabad; Sir Mirza Ismail, the diwan 
at Mysore; and Mir Maqbool Mahmud and Sir Liaqat Hayat Khan at Patiala. 
Although only a few ministers such as Mir Maqbool Mahmud moved freely 
between political careers in princely states and British India,'? many of these 

? Thid., p. 204, notes 74 and 75; R. J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917-1940 (Oxford, 1974), 
pp. 126-7, 144, 158-63. 

10 Copland, Princes, p. 75. 

11 KM. Panikkar, An Autobiography, translated from the Malayalam by K. Kirshnamurthy (Madras, 
1977), pp. 73-146. 

12 Unlike most of the ministers in princely states, Mahmud and Liagqat also participated in British 
Indian politics. Elected to the Punjab Legislative Council in 1923 and 1926 (as a member of the 
Swaraj Party) and to the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1937 (as a member of the Unionist Party), 
Mir Maqbool Mahmud was a close political associate and relative of Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, the 
Unionist leader and chief minister (1937) of Punjab. Two of his sisters were married to Sikandar 
and a daughter married Shaukat Hayat Khan, Sikandar’s son. Liaqat Hayat Khan was the brother of 
Sikandar: Syed Nur Ahmad, From Martial Law to Martial Law: Politics in the Punjab, 1919-1958, 


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men were concerned about the future shape of the Indian nation.!? However, 
there has been no significant study of their contribution to the ideology or 
construction of Indian nationalism. 

The participation of these ministers in the negotiations over federation has 
long been known, but their influence is not sharply etched. Moreover, moderate 
and communal British Indian politicians were significant collaborators with 
them. One prime example is the relationship between two Kashmiri brahmans, 
Haksar and Tej Bahadur Sapru.'4 A Liberal party leader and highly successful 
lawyer based in Allahabad with many princes as professional clients, Sapru had 
written the chapter on the Indian princes in the 1928 report of the All-Parties 
Conference that formulated principles for a future Indian constitution. This 
document argued for federation, that treaty rights and obligations of the princes 
should transfer from the British Crown to an Indian successor government, and 
that any dispute on treaty provisions should be referred to a supreme court.!* 
Haksar, a close personal and political friend of Sapru, was an enthusiastic 
advocate of federation. These two men lobbied intensively with the princes for 
this goal. In 1927 Haksar had approached Panikkar to accept employment in 
Kashmir state and subsequently used the latter’s research and journalist skills as 
an employee of the Chamber of Princes to fashion pro-federation propaganda. 

During the summer of 1930, preparations for what was to be the first of 
three Round Table Conferences were in high gear. Appointed as secretary of 
the India States delegation, Panikkar produced the draft for a book, Federal 
India, which advocated ministries responsible to elected legislatures in British 
India with full internal autonomy for the princely states.!° More specifically, 
federation might accomplish three princely goals. First, the ability of the British 
to intervene in princely durbars because of paramountcy might be reduced. 
Second, a federation might lead to the dissolution of the political department in 
the GOI since federating units would have full responsibility for their internal 
affairs and a federation would have no need for political officers. Malcolm 

edited by Craig Baxter from a translation from the Urdu by Mahmud Ali (Boulder CO, 1985), 
pp. 53, 61, 113, 152, 186. Another example is Dr Jivraj Narayan Mehta, the son-in-law of Manubhai 
Mehta, who served as Prime Minister of Baroda in 1948 and then was Chief Minister of Gujarat 
from 1960 to 1963. 

13 Panikkar, Autobiography, p. 138 and passim mentions his commitment to federation and Indian 

14 Mohan Kumar, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru: A Political Biography (Gwalior, 1981); Sender, Kashmiri 
Pandits, pp. 262-6. 

15 Ramusack, Princes, pp. 190-1. 

16 Panikkar presented an insider’s view of the extended negotiations over federation in his Autobiography, 
pp. 82-110 and claimed that Haksar’s name was added to the book as an author to obtain greater 
credibility for his arguments: ibid., pp. 83-4. 


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Hailey, a distinguished former governor of Punjab and the United Provinces, 
remarked after the First Round Table Conference that ‘the princes seem to be 
out for the extinction of the Political department, rather than the creation ofa 
Federal constitution’.'” Third, the princes might enhance their reputation for 
statesmanship by agreeing to federation that would trigger political advances in 
British India.'® Other ministers generated additional schemes, notably Hydari 
in Hyderabad and Ismail in Mysore, who possibly hoped for a reduction of the 
large Mysore subsidy. Their efforts disclose how ministers served not only as 
intermediaries but also attempted to shape the policies of the Indian princes. 

Princely responses reveal the diversity and difficulty of the rulers operating 
as a coherent order. Bikaner and Bhopal were early and energetic advocates 
of federation. However, Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, who as Chancellor of 
the Chamber of Princes was the nominal supervisor of Haksar and Panikkar, 
initially supported federation but then vacillated. His inconstancy forecast how 
challenging it would be to secure and retain princely support for federation, 
the multiplicity of factors that influenced princes, and, most significant, how 
for many advocates of federation it was an instrument for achieving other goals 
rather an end in itself. 

Patiala’s primary objective was the diminution of paramountcy and not 
of his own authority, now besieged from many sides. In 1930 Sikh groups 
and the Punjab Riyasti Praja Mandal, the local states’ people’s group, assailed 
his sexual habits, his financial extravagance and alleged mismanagement, and 
his political despotism. As mentioned earlier, an official inquiry headed by 
Fitzpatrick, the local political officer, had exonerated him. Although there is 
no surviving documentation of what was said in meetings between Fitzpatrick 
and Patiala, Copland suggests that Patiala’s wavering support for federation 
might indicate that Fitzpatrick, who was ‘a “Diehard” before the term had 
gained . . . notoriety’, had pressured him to resist federation and cooperation 
with Indian nationalists.” 

In the lengthy negotiations over the composition of the Indian States 
Delegation to London, there were two key issues. First, the states’ people’s 
groups were seeking representation. Princes were adamantly opposed. British 
officials and moderate Indian politicians such as B. L. Mitter and Chimanlal 
Setalvad supported the princes. W. Wedgwood Benn, the Labour Secretary of 
State, reasoned that ‘[o]ur prime objective is to make the Conference a success. 
Merely on the grounds of tactics, therefore . . . it would be fatal to alienate 

7 Hailey to Irwin, 19 November 1930, OIOC, MSS Eur E 220/34. 
18 Kailas N. Haksar and K. M. Panikkar, Federal India (London, 1930). 
9 Copland, Princes, p. 82. 


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the princes’.”? The second issue was more critical: which princes should be 
invited. On the one hand Patiala sought to limit the composition to members 
of the Standing Committee of the Chamber (whom the resident at Hyderabad 
said people in the Deccan called a phalanx of Rolls Royce rajas) and others 
who were generally not supportive of federation. The nizam of Hyderabad 
was miffed since he thought that his state lacked appropriate representation. 
Therefore Akbar Hydari, his chief minister; Ismail from Mysore, who also felt 
slighted; and Ganga Singh of Bikaner, Patiala’s long-term rival, collaborated 
to influence the viceroy to pressure Patiala to revise his list. The result was an 
enlarged delegation that included Hamidullah of Bhopal and Sayajai Rao of 
Baroda, strong advocates of federation, as well as such pro-federation minis- 
ters as Haksar, Ismail and eventually Hydari, who became a firm supporter of 
federation during the voyage out from India.! 


Once most of the delegates reached London in October, informal meetings 
proliferated. Acting as the secretary-general of the Indian States delegation, 
Haksar continued to lobby for princely commitments to federation, but he 
faced powerful countervailing factors. First, Maharaja Gulab Singh of Rewa, 
representing conservative princes, feared that federation would bring democ- 
racy to the states. Second, some officials at the India Office were rumoured 
to be against federation. Third, the ministers who supported federation were 
divided by personal ambition and conflicting strategies about how to realise 
this goal. But Haksar persisted and with Sapru and M. R. Jayakar as interme- 
diaries between the Indian States and the British Indian delegations, they set 
the stage. 

On 12 November 1930, George V opened the Round Table Conference with 
words of welcome spoken into a silver and gold microphone that represented 
a new era of communication in imperial politics. 

After an adjournment to study the official despatch from India on the Simon 
Report, the first plenary session opened five days later. Then Sapru, the liberal 
constitutionalist, asked the princes to join an all-India federation, and Ganga 
Singh of Bikaner dramatically assented. The Simon Report was consigned 
to the archives. The conference quickly divided into several committees 
to devise concrete formulas for a federation. The Minorities Committee chaired 

20 W, Wedgwood Benn to Lord Irwin, 12 December 1929, NAI, GOI, F&P, 1929, Reforms Branch, 
File No. 193-R. 
2h Copland, Princes, pp. 83-6. 


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Plenary session of the first Round Table Conference, with Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in a western suit at the far end of the table. 

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Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Maharaja Jai Singh of Alwar and Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald at the first Round Table Conference. 

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by Ramsey MacDonald and the Federal Structure Committee headed by Lord 
Sankey, the lord chancellor, were the most significant groups. 

After the British delegation recovered from its initial surprise, Labour Party 
members, the Liberals under the guidance of Lord Reading, the former viceroy, 
and moderate Conservatives pondered the possibility of limited responsible 
government at the centre. In a federal central government, the princes could 
act as a counterweight to the nationalists. Thus all three parties — the princes, 
moderate Indian politicians, and British officials — considered federation prin- 
cipally as a means rather than as a primary goal. Although some indications 
of future sticking points emerged, most crucially in regard to communal rep- 
resentation and the federal structure, the first Round Table Conference ended 

After their laudatory treatment as political innovators in London, the mem- 
bers of the Indian States delegation received a much cooler reception in India. 
Many princes were lukewarm towards, afraid of, or even hostile to federation. 
After reluctant acquiescence in London, Bhupinder Singh of Patiala became 
ambivalent towards federation. He was concerned about the princes’ ability to 
compete effectively in a parliamentary system, the financial consequences, and 
the ongoing lack of definition of paramountcy. Personal pique was also a factor 
since Hamidullah defeated Patiala for the chancellorship of the Chamber in 
a close election in March 1931. Lord Irwin remarked that he would ‘[n]Jever 
feel quite certain that the future would not see Patiala putting spokes in the 
Federation wheel that Bhopal would be pushing around’.”? The situation was 
not more encouraging among large states in the south, whose cooperation was 
crucial. The nizam of Hyderabad was more concerned about reclaiming his 
sovereignty over Berar than about all-India goals, and the maharaja of Mysore 
did not speak out. Their pro-federation ministers, Hydari and Ismail, aroused 
personal jealously among their colleagues, who then attacked them by opposi- 
tion to federation. But the shock troops of the anti-federation movement were 
conservative princes who were against any changes that might possibly open 
their states to democratic reforms. 

Even more immediately, perhaps as many as 300 princes who ruled smaller 
states feared that they would not survive as independent polities. Most of these 
states did not enjoy full sovereign rights such as their own high courts or 
the ability to impose the death penalty; they did not have direct treaty rela- 
tions with the British, and were not directly represented in the Chamber of 

22 Tbid., pp. 87-91; Ramusack, Princes, pp. 202-3. 
23 Trwin to Wedgwood Benn, 23 March 1931, OIOC, MSS Eur C152/6. 


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Princes. As rumours circulated that the upper house of the federal legislature, 
in which the princes would have a greater proportion than in the more pop- 
ular lower house, would have around a hundred members, even those lesser 
princes who were members of the Chamber worried about their future exis- 
tence. Bhupinder Singh of Patiala assumed the leadership of this constituency 
with the publication in June 1931 of a pamphlet in which he proposed a 
Union of States based on a Chamber of Princes enlarged to include more small 

When the princes and their ministers met at Bombay in late June 1931, they 
debated vigorously about the potential impact of federation and their position 
at the second Round Table Conference. Several rulers opposed federation, 
including those from Bahawalpur, Kutch, Rampur, Sachin and Sangli, and 
ministers such as Bapna of Indore and Pattani of Bhavnagar. Bikaner and 
Bhopal remained advocates. They claimed that federation would restrict British 
encroachment and that representatives in the federal assembly were more likely 
to split on regional than on British India/princely lines. Although the pro- 
federation princes won at the Bombay session, Patiala retained a firm base 
among the smaller states. 

In early August 1931 Bhupinder Singh and Udaibhan Singh (b. 1893, 
s. 1911, d. 1954) of Dholpur, his cousin, further refined the alternative to 
federation. All states presently members of the Chamber and collective rep- 
resentatives of the smaller states would form a federation that would then 
join British India in a confederation. This government would have restricted 
functions and consequently limited expenditures and need for income. The 
federation of states would also form an electoral college to select representatives 
of the states to a federal legislature with British India. On 28 August 1931, 
Patiala was able to attract twenty-nine princes favourable to confederation to 
Bombay and asked the viceroy that Dholpur should present their scheme to 
the second Round Table Conference. Meanwhile Bhupinder Singh confronted 
major financial difficulties since he was unable to obtain loans to satisfy his 
many creditors. Therefore, claiming that he wished to remain in India to work 
for confederation, he secured the appointment of Liaqat Hayat Khan to the 
Indian States delegation. Sending a minister rather than a ruler was far less 
expensive and perhaps more effective. 

Besides the division within princely ranks, there was opposition to feder- 
ation in British India. Jawaharlal Nehru was opposed because Indians would 

24 Federation and the Indian States’, PSAP, CS, File No. III (c) 36 of 1931, and Tribune, 18 June 

1931, p. 1. 


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not control the army or the salaries of the services; princes and landlords whom 
he viewed as reactionary were to be included; and there were too many con- 
cessions in the area of finance. States’ people’s groups sought a guarantee of 
fundamental rights for all citizens and the election of states’ representatives 
to any federal legislature. More ominously, groups sometimes sympathetic to 
the princes were also negative. Liberal British Indians, especially those asso- 
ciated with the Servants of India Society in Poona, protested at the lack of 
both democratisation in the princely states before federation and adequate 
provision for election of states’ representatives. With a few exceptions such as 
Terence Keyes in Hyderabad, British political officers deprecated federation. 
Their reasons ranged from a fear that the princes would be no match for British 
Indian politicians to a concern about their future employment. So the initial 
euphoria over federation had significantly subsided less than a year after it had 
first appeared.”° 

From September to December 1931 during the second Round Table Con- 
ference, the Federal Structure Committee, under the able guidance of Lord 
Sankey, worked to make the outline of the future federation more concrete. 
The details made many princes apprehensive. A list of fundamental federal 
rights was proposed and subjects allotted to the federal government opened 
areas for intervention such as jurisdiction over railways. Although the princes 
had agreed not to raise the issue of paramountcy in London, they now worried 
that they would have to rely on the Crown and the viceroy as the Crown’s agent 
for protection of their sovereignty and therefore face renewed British interven- 
tion. Another issue was the composition of the federal legislature, where the 
princes desired parity, namely half the seats in a large upper house and weighage 
in the lower house. The Sankey Report called for an upper house of 200 with 
the states allotted 40 per cent. Finally, the princes were distressed about the 
fiscal consequences of federation. They optimistically wished to get redress 
from fiscal burdens including subsidies, customs duties, and excise taxes on 
items such as salt. At the very least they did not want to increase their financial 
contributions to a central, federal government. There were signs of princely 
disaffection in London. A former political officer and now member of the India 
Council, Reginald Glancy, commented that since housing for the princes was 
insufficient at the beginning of the Second Round Table Conference, many 
left early and ‘[t]here is not one genuine friend of federation left among the 
Princes’.”° Still, Sir Samuel Hoare, the secretary of state for India, advised Lord 

25 Copland, Princes, pp. 113-21; Ramusack, Princes, pp. 208-14. 
26 Reginald I. R. Glancy, Supplementary Memorandum, 29 October 1931, T. C. 2A quoted in Moore, 
Crisis, p. 231. 


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Willingdon, who had replaced Irwin as viceroy, that ‘[t]he Government and I 
are pledged at every turn to the All-India Federation’.”” 

By early 1932 major states including Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and 
Kolhapur had openly defected from the federation camp. Patiala contin- 
ued his propaganda campaign for confederation and attracted several princes 
from Kathiawar including Ranjitsinhji of Nawanagar. Perhaps suspicious that 
Willingdon did not share his commitment to federation, Hoare urged the 
viceroy to prevent the princes from abandoning federation. In March 1932 
Willingdon responded with a supportive speech at the annual meeting of the 
Chamber of Princes on the advantages to the princes of federation; he also 
informally canvassed key princes. At the same time Hoare had urged the mem- 
bers of the Federal Finance Committee chaired by J. C. Davidson, which was 
to tour India in early 1932, to lobby with the princes for federation. 

The Federal Finance Committee was one of three expert committees who 
were to supply data that Hoare could use to construct a reform bill. Davidson 
promoted federation but also avowed that there was a lack of strong support 
in India for federation among both princes and British officials. He advised 
Hoare that he did not ‘think Willingdon is capable, certainly the Political 
Department is not, of getting the scheme across, especially when it is not their 
own, and they are unsympathetic in principle to the whole idea of federa- 
tion’.8 Lord Lothian (Philip Kerr), the chair of the Franchise Committee, also 
thought that ‘official Delhi’ was not sympathetic to federation since it was 
not its initiative.” Meanwhile, Davidson relayed that both M. R. Jayakar and 
Lothian urged Hoare or the Prime Minister to make a clear statement that 
the British Government was firmly in favour of federation and that princely 
hesitation would delay it.*° Although Lord Hastings, another member of the 
Finance Committee, thought that a lack of civility by Willingdon towards 
Davidson had made the latter take a negative view of Willingdon’s support for 
federation, Davidson continued to argue that London should impose a scheme 
upon the princes since they could never agree among themselves.*! He was 
proposing what the British would do in 1947 when they advised the princes to 

27 Hoare to Willingdon, 28 January 1932, OIOC, MSS Eur E240/1. 

28 Davidson in Bombay to Hoare, 24 April 1932, OIOC, MSS Eur E240/14(a). 

29 Lothian in New Delhi to Hoare, 27 March 1932, OIOC, MSS Eur E 240/14(b). 

30 Davidson to Hoare, 12 March 1932, ibid., and Lothian to Hoare, OIOC, Templewood Collection, 
MSS Eur E240/14(b). Jayakar thought that the GOI was indirectly assaulting federation by stressing 
the difficulties associated with it for the princes. 

31 Hastings in Viceroy’s House in New Delhi to Hoare, 16 April 1932, and Davidson in Simla 
to Hoare, 15 April 1932, OIOC, Templewood Collection, MSS Eur E240/14(a). Relationships 

between members of the Finance Committee must have been tense. Davidson advised that ‘Although 


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accede to successor governments or to face the consequences without British 

On the princely side, the volatile but astute Bhupinder Singh realised the 
need for compromise since he was unable to expand his supporters to in- 
clude the largest states, especially Hyderabad and Mysore, whose adherence 
was crucial for success. The pro-federation princes, notably Ganga Singh and 
Hamidullah, were worried because the prime minister had warned that he 
would make an arbitrary award of seats to the princes if they did not produce 
their own plan. Once again ministers, especially Prabhashankar Pattani from 
Bhavnagar and Mir Maqbool Mahmud, then serving at Alwar, were delegated 
to fashion a format that would reconcile confederation with the proposals of 
the Federal Structure Committee. After a year of not talking to each other, 
Ganga Singh, Hamidullah and Bhupinder Singh met on 11 March 1932, in 
New Delhi. Personal animosities were resolved as all three agreed to support a 
supposedly neutral Ranjitsinhji of Nawanagar for the chancellorship in 1932, 
and subsequently Bhopal and Bikaner would campaign for Patiala in the 1933 
election. Meanwhile C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar was to chair another commit- 
tee of ministers to devise safeguards that reconciled confederation with the 
Sankey Report. Their proposition allowed states to federate either individually 
or collectively and became the basis of the so-called Delhi Pact submitted for 
approval to the Chamber of Princes. 

The March 1932 session of the Chamber was the longest (it lasted for ten 
days), the liveliest, and the best attended (sixty were present) of such meet- 
ings. Rulers from the smaller states came in force and were not enthusiastic 
about the Aiyar plan. But Patiala made a forceful speech and Willingdon and 
Davidson lobbied informally. On 1 April 1932, a majority of the princes voted 
to federate. However, the proposed federal structure was encircled with two 
categories of safeguards. One focused on protecting princely prerogatives such 
as individual seats for members of the Chamber in an upper house and the 
preservation of treaty rights. The other asked for safeguards from interven- 
tion by the federal government in the internal affairs of a state. However, the 
demands from middle-sized princes for limits on British intervention in in- 
ternal affairs of the states was inconsistent with the concern of small states 
for a commitment from the paramount power to guarantee their existence. 
British officials in London and in India took small comfort in the princely 

Hastings is inclined to be thoughtless and brusque he gets away with it for reasons which you know 
as well as I do’ and that Major-General Hutchinson, another member, was lazy and disgruntled that 
he had not been chosen as chair: Davidson to Hoare, 7 March 1932, ibid. 


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assent and as Reginald Glancy remarked, “We are none of us, I should imagine, 
convinced that [federation] . . . will work, but we . . . are pledged to try the 



While Samuel Hoare was a strong supporter of federation, other members of 
his party were not. They were eager to exploit the ambivalence of the princes. 
During the early 1930s Winston Churchill emerged as the leader of the Diehard 
faction. They would be implacably opposed to any constitutional reforms in 
India, including federation and its complement of limited responsible gov- 
ernment at the centre. Although Churchill enjoyed qualified support among 
Conservative MPs, some allies commanded attention because of their admin- 
istrative experience in India, and key newspapers — the Morning Post and its 
editor H. T. Gwynne, the Daily Express of Lord Beaverbrook, and the Daily 
Mail of Lord Rothermere — were sympathetic.* In their effort to derail con- 
stitutional advance, the Diehard faction reasoned that if the princes did not 
federate then the train of central responsibility would be stalled. So the princes 
were the key to frustrating constitutional reforms. 

The Diehards focused on Ranjitsinhji, the chancellor of the Chamber in 
1932, and recruited L. F Rushbrook Williams, then his foreign minister, to 
influence him. Since Nawanager was irate towards the British because of eco- 
nomic and symbolic issues and fearful of the penetration of popular politi- 
cians from British India into the princely states, he was amenable to anti- 
federation proposals. Delhi had refused any concessions in a customs arrange- 
ment that drastically reduced the customs revenue at Bedi port which the jam 
sahib had developed with state funds; and it had not increased his 13-gun 
salute, which was lower than that of many of his Chamber peers.*4 The jam 
sahib considered both issues to be serious infringements on his sovereignty. 
The Diehards were initially successful. While Ranjitsinhji was in England for 
health reasons during the summer of 1932, he issued two circulars claim- 
ing the princes would not federate until paramountcy was defined. However, 

32 Quoted as Richard Glancy to Sir E Stewart, 29 February 1932, in Copland, Princes, p. 111. It must 
have been Reginald Glancy who was then serving on the Indian States Enquiry Committee that 
Lord Eustace Percy chaired. 

33 Thid., pp. 113-15. 

34 In 1934 Ranjitsinhji’s successor accepted Delhi’s offer of arbitration by Lord Dunedin, who ordered 
Willingdon to work out a settlement. By its terms Nawanagar was allowed to retain Rs 5 lakhs 
collected as duty on goods consumed in British India and all of the duty on goods consumed within 
Nawanagar: McLeod, Sovereignty, pp. 105-8. 


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Nawanager proved no match for the stout resistance of the reconciled duo 
of Bikaner and Patiala and the articulate skills of Panikkar, now secretary of 
the Chamber. By September Nawanagar reluctantly agreed to support the 
resolution of the Standing Committee and the Chamber favouring federa- 
tion. But the Diehards opened another front with Bhupinder Singh, who suc- 
ceeded Nawanagar as chancellor in 1933 and benefited from an unlikely ally in 

In mid-July 1932 the report of the Federal Finance Committee provided 
incentives for the princes to federate. It recommended the phasing out of trib- 
utes paid by some states to the Crown and some concessions such as allowing 
coastal states in Kutch and Kathiawar to manufacture salt for local consump- 
tion. Most states would benefit, but a few, notably Cochin and some Kathiawar 
states, would lose revenue from customs that they presently collected. At the 
same time Willingdon undertook a strategy that impeded federation despite 
its proclaimed support for that goal.*° 

Acting on a suggestion from Sir Maurice Gwyer, a legal adviser to the 
India Office, the viceroy now decided that a more reliable means of achieving 
federation would be to court six of the largest states - Hyderabad, Mysore, 
Travancore, Gwalior, Baroda and Indore — at the expense of the middle-sized 
Chamber group dominated by Bikaner and Patiala. His premise was that if 
larger states obtained multiple seats in a small upper house, then only a smaller 
number of states would have to accede to achieve federation. Supported by 
Hydari and other ministers from the so-called Big Six states, Willingdon called 
a meeting at Simla in September 1932. Here he divided the states with his 
proposal for multiple seats based on historical importance, salute rank, and 
population. Ministers of large and small states were amenable to a strong 
paramount power as an ally vis-a-vis nationalist interference. Their position 
was an affront to the Bikaner-Bhopal demand for safeguards to prevent the 
paramount power from interference in the internal affairs of states. By the end 
of the meeting an angry Hamidullah reiterated that the Standing Committee 
would not federate without the resolution of paramountcy, a position similar 
to that of the jam sahib. Willingdon had unconsciously furthered the objec- 
tive of the Diehards against the often-stated policy of Hoare, his superior in 

The omens for success at the third Round Table Conference in late 1932 were 
not positive. Willingdon invited rulers of twelve states to attend or to send their 
ministers, and thereby excluded Haksar. Once again Bhupinder Singh could 

35 Copland, Princes, pp. 114-18. 37 Tbid., pp. 118-21. 


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not attend for financial reasons, and he was able to persuade Bikaner and Bhopal 
that their attendance would be an affront to his honour.*” Consequently, with 
the exception of the raja of Sarila, the Indian States delegation included only 
ministers who could not make binding decisions on behalf of the princes. Since 
the Congress refused to join the British India delegation, the five-week session 
in London resolved few issues. 

Disunity prevailed among the princes. The states delegation remained di- 
vided on representation in the federal legislature and the basis for allocating 
it. They reluctantly had to accept a proposal for 40 per cent of the seats in an 
upper house instead of their demand for parity. They also could not agree on 
a timetable for the accession to federation by their employers, with the con- 
sequence that the princes appeared to control the inauguration of federation 
and responsible government at the centre. Meanwhile, in London on a private 
visit, the jam sahib, in contact with the Diehards, once again threw a spanner 
in the works by diverting attention to paramountcy. He eventually claimed 
that the princes should stay out of federation to prevent democratisation. The 
Bikaner-Patiala group was now concerned about Nawanagatr’s possible appeal 
to smaller states. 

Robin Moore argues that the third Round Table Conference retreated from 
a ‘self-governing conference’ to a ‘Simonesque procedure for the preparation 
of an official scheme, its embodiment in a state document, and its consid- 
eration by a joint committee, assisted by witnesses or assessors, prior to its 
presentation to parliament’.*® If the princes and Indian politicians could not 
draw up an acceptable blueprint, then the British would. A White Paper 
was published on 18 March 1933. A Joint Select Committee of Parliament 
(chaired by Lord Linlithgow, who would succeed Willingdon as viceroy) de- 
liberated on its contents from April 1933 to October 1934, and its report 
was the basis for a Government of India Act that received royal assent in 
August 1935. 

Still dedicated to federation, Hoare gained some concessions for the princes 
in the White Paper. Their seats in the upper house of 260 were increased 
from ninety to a hundred and references to fundamental rights were removed. 
Although Liaqat Hayat Khan and Manubhai Mehta recommended that the 
Chamber endorse the White Paper at their March 1933 annual meeting in 

37 Patiala’s finances remained precarious and were the main reason why the viceroy did not want the 
ruler to go to London to give evidence before the Joint Select Committee: Willingdon to Hoare, 
23 May 1933, OIOC, MSS Eur E240/12 (a). 

38 Moore, Crisis, pp. 296-7. 


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Delhi, Ranjitsinhji protested that ‘the constitution as it has emerged from the 
White Paper will inevitably work as to destroy the very principle of Indian 
Kingship’.*? Willingdon ruled the chancellor out of order. Many princes, in- 
cluding Patiala, obliquely rallied to Nawanagar’s defence by demanding more 
safeguards. The Chamber ended up passing two contradictory resolutions — 
one made the accession of the princely states to federation conditional on 
safeguards, and the other, from Nawanagar, linked accession to a resolution of 
paramountcy. Suffering from ill health that brought his death ten days later, 
the jam sahib did not stand for the chancellorship and Bhupinder Singh easily 

Now the Diehards opened another front with the Patiala ruler, whom Delhi 
had rebuffed on several issues. The GOI had denied Patiala’s request to appoint 
Fitzpatrick as his prime minister and then imposed Sir Frederick Gauntlett as 
his finance minister and a schedule of reduced expenditures to stem possible 
bankruptcy. Moreover, personal relations between Bhupinder Singh and the 
viceroy were strained and the new resident, Harold Wilberforce-Bell, was far 
less sympathetic than the departing Fitzpatrick. As agents, the Diehards used 
N. Madhava Rao, an Indian correspondent for the Morning Post, who allegedly 
had evidence suitable for political blackmail of Bhupinder Singh, and Mir 
Maqbool Mahmud, now the secretary of the Chamber. Madhava Rao urged 
Gwynne, his editor at the Morning Post, to orchestrate a delegation of Diehard 
MPs to lobby with Patiala and other princes during 1934 as the Joint Select 
Committee in London was hearing testimony on a proposed Government of 
India Bill. Lymington from the Lords and Jack Courtauld from the Commons 
found receptive listeners among the numerous princes, including Patiala, who 
still judged British intervention more troublesome than that of British Indian 
politicians or popular political opponents and were uncertain about the benefits 
of federation. Consequently the envoys were able to secure the signatures 
of five out of ten members of the Standing Committee of the Chamber to 
a letter stating that they might not accede to federation unless there were 
significant changes in the White Paper. These middle-sized and smaller rulers 
were apprehensive because of reports from London that the final form of the 
GOI bill might not be as favourable to them as hoped. They were also alarmed 
by popular agitations in Kashmir and Alwar and the deposition of Jai Singh of 
Alwar. Although the erratic Alwar ruler had few close personal friends among 
the princes, his fate was disconcerting. 

39 Speech of 24 March 1933 quoted in Copland, Princes, p. 124. 


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After a second delegation of Diehards returned from India and reported 
positively on princely opposition to federation, in late July 1934 Winston 
Churchill and other Conservatives promised publicly that they would support 
the princes ‘against any attempt to encroach upon their rights and privileges’. 
However, the Diehard strategy began to unravel in the autumn. Ministers such 
as Liaqat, Panikkar and Akbar Hydari stiffened princely support for federation. 
In Delhi, Willingdon made some timely concessions, most notably on Berar 
to Hyderabad, on the possible retrocession of the Bangalore cantonment to 
Mysore, and on the customs dispute with Nawanagar, as well as some covert 
threats to Bhupinder Singh. Meanwhile in Bristol at the annual meeting of the 
Conservative Party, the Diehards lost by seventeen votes on an amendment to 
repudiate Hoare’s policy on India. Although that margin was small, the House 
of Commons subsequently endorsed the report of the Joint Select Committee 
by a vote of two to one.” 

The final scene in the constitutional saga that began in 1927 transpired 
in January 1935 with the annual session of the Chamber of Princes. In his 
opening speech Bhupinder Singh, still the chancellor, equivocated, asking his 

to consider whether we should put ourselves in the position in which practically every 
important body of opinion in British India considers us unwelcome partners and looks 
upon our entry into Federation with suspicion. The benefits of a Federal Scheme to the 
Indian States are . . . not so overwhelming that, whatever the opinion of British India, it 
would be in our best interest to join it.*! 

Both Willingdon and Patiala’s colleagues on the Standing Committee applied 
immediate pressure that seemed to have an effect. By the next day the Sikh 
ruler retracted some of his comments. When Ganga Singh moved a resolution 
of endorsement for the Joint Select Committee report, it passed with no word 
from Patiala. Although the Diehards by now understood that Patiala’s support 
was like the motion of a weathervane, they continued to apply pressure through 
Madhava Rao. 

When the princes and their ministers next met at Bombay in March 1935 
to decide their response to the GOI bill, their highly conditional acceptance 
encouraged the Diehards. The princes continued to bargain for better terms, 
especially on the issue of paramountcy, but London and Delhi decided to stand 

40 Thid., pp. 121-43. 

41 Speech of 22 January 1935, quoted in Kavalam M. Panikkar, The Indian Princes in Council: A Record 
of the Chancellorship of His Highness the Maharaja of Patiala, 1926-1931 & 1933-1936 (London, 
1936), pp. 118-20. 


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firm.” Willingdon threatened Patiala with possible deposition for maladmin- 
istration and Hoare reported that the king-emperor himself gave the ruler ‘a 
proper dressing down . . . saying that it was an outrageous affair for a great 
Indian Prince to intrigue with conspirators here and [with] a miserable corre- 
spondent of the Morning Post in India.“ Hoare also engineered a directive that 
the princes would not be invited to the silver jubilee celebrations of George V 
in 1936. Nevertheless he tried to be conciliatory and made concessions in the 
bill in response to princely concerns about the power of the federal legislature 
to make laws for the states and the obligations of the Crown to the states in 
the non-federal areas. In June 1935 the bill passed and became law with royal 
assent on 2 August 1935. 


Desultory negotiations between the British and the Indian princes ensued from 
1935 to 1939. Although they were ultimately suspended upon the outbreak of 
the Second World War, this result should not be read backwards into the his- 
torical narrative. In the late 1930s many British officials and Indian princes still 
considered federation to be possible even if the initial euphoria had evaporated 
during the realpolitik of extended negotiations. Moreover, personnel shifts and 
political events slowed the pace of negotiations so that their suspension in 1939 
did not alarm anyone. 

First, there was a reversal in the respective attitudes towards federation of 
Delhi and London. Earlier, Hoare in London had persistently pushed Will- 
ingdon in India to motivate the princes to support federation proposals more 
vocally. Even when the viceroy acted, some Britons questioned his commit- 
ment. In June 1935 the marquess of Zetland, who as Lord Ronaldshay had 
served as governor of Bengal, replaced Hoare. Then in April 1936, Lord Lin- 
lithgow succeeded Willingdon. Both men endorsed federation with the princes 
as a goal, but they differed over procedures and timing. Now the viceroy in 
India acted with a sense of urgency, planning to inaugurate federation by 
1 April 1938, while his superior in London urged caution. In August 1936, 
four months after his arrival in India, Linlithgow appointed three political of- 
ficers, Courtenay Latimer, Arthur C. Lothian and Francis Wylie, as his special 

42 Copland, Princes, pp. 138-40. 

43 Hoare to Willingdon, 31 May 1935, OIOC, MSS Eur E240/4. 

a4 Copland, Princes, pp. 138-43. 

45 Linlithgow to Wylie, 18 August 1936, OIOC, L/P&S/13/613 in Copland, Princes, p. 145. 


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emissaries to the princes to probe their positions on federation. But in late 
September the secretary of state advised the viceroy: 

It does, however, occur to me that there may be a point in the negotiations with the 
Princes beyond which the application of more haste might result in the achievement of less 
speed . . . Let me add that I shall have to keep a sharp eye on Parliament in all matters 
connected with the establishment of the Federation.° 

Although no one found the princes enthusiastically investigating the opportu- 
nities that federation might present, the British envoys had differing percep- 
tions of the princely response. Lothian, who toured in central and south India, 
claimed ‘that, if one or two of the bigger states could be persuaded, “even at 
the sacrifice of principle, financial or otherwise”, to join the Federation, the 
rest of the States would “tumble over each other to follow”.*” Thus the princes 
apparently continued to bargain for concessions on longstanding grievances as 
the price for accession. In later recollections a more pessimistic and perhaps 
cynical Wylie asserted that most princes did not understand the implications of 
federation and were confused by high-priced lawyers. He added that the 
largest ones, especially Hyderabad, did not want to federate, whatever they 
might say, and that others such as Hari Singh of Kashmir were bored by dis- 
cussions over federation. Wylie, who adopted a demanding policy towards 
the princes when he was political adviser during the early 1940s, concluded 

if left to their own devices, there was never the slightest chance of getting rulers representing 
fifty percent of the population of the princely states to sign instruments of accession before 
the second world war broke out in September 1939. The only way, so far as the British 
government were concerned, if they genuinely wanted to expedite the creation of federation, 
would have been to take the princes by the neck and compel them to come. This is what 
Patel and V. P. Menon did later on.*® 

An Instrument of Accession acceptable to the princes was never achieved, and 
most scholars share Wylie’s perception of the negative role of lawyers in this 
process. But the lawyers acted on behalf of combatants who had longstanding 
enmities. Within the Chamber, Patiala, who was now publicly supportive of 
federation, sponsored W. H. Wadhams (1891-1970), a retired American judge, 
as the Chamber’s advocate. When Dholpur, who had remained committed to 

46 Zetland to Linlithgow, 25 September 1936, OIOC, MSS Eur F 125/3. 

47 Quoted from NAI, F&P, No. 20, Federation Secret, 1941 in Phadnis, Jntegration, p. 104. 

48 Sir Francis Wylie, ‘Federal Negotiations in India 1935-9, and After’, in C. H. Philips and Mary 
Doreen Wainwright (eds), The Partition of India: Policies and Perspectives 1935-1947 (Cambridge, 
MA, 1970), p. 521. 


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confederation and was resolutely anti-federation, unexpectedly succeeded his 
cousin as chancellor in early 1936, he employed John H. Morgan, the legal 
adviser to the Diehard Morning Post. Although a compromise was reached 
with both lawyers representing the Chamber, the two were not united in 
their negotiations with the India Office during 1936 over the Instrument of 
Accession. Meanwhile the nizam of Hyderabad employed Sir Walter Monckton 
(1891-1965), who served as his legal adviser until 1947. 

However, as Ian Copland has argued, many factors other than lawyers were 
at work. Some were personal. Ganga Singh of Bikaner was angered by what he 
perceived as a lack of appropriate recognition in London at the king-emperor’s 
silver jubilee celebration and the number of seats allocated to his state in 
the federal legislature. Hydari did not calculate any benefits for Hyderabad 
since the Berar issue was settled and internal demonstrations seemed more 
threatening. Other states also experienced intensifying popular agitations. By 
1938 Congress leaders, including Gandhi, for varying reasons intervened more 
publicly in oppositional politics in the states, especially in Rajkot, Travancore 
and Mysore. Although the ultimate failure of Gandhi to secure his objectives 
in Rajkot in 1939 demonstrated the difficulties of sustained political protest in 
the princely states, the Rajkot satyagraha was indicative of future cooperation 
across borders. As home-grown state politicians were emboldened to organise 
public rallies, princely attention swerved from constitutional negotiations to 
the containment of local opposition. These autocrats became more fearful 
of the contagion of political hostility spreading from British India to their 
states. So when Linlithgow announced that negotiations over federation were 
suspended because of the need to focus on wartime demands, the princes were 
not perturbed. 


When, without consultation of the elected Indian officials at the centre or 
in the provinces, Linlithgow declared that India was at war, the Congress 
ministries, at the direction of their party executive, resigned in protest. The 
British therefore were most appreciative of Indians who continued to collabo- 
rate, especially the Muslim League and the Indian princes. Many rulers were 
quick to provide military aid, much as they or their predecessors had done in 
1914. Stalwarts such as Ganga Singh, who had first served during the Boxer 
Rebellion, were active in planning and coordination. Younger men such as the 
future maharao raja of Bundi personally served in Burma, while many more 


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rulers made significant donations of cash and war materiel. More crucially, 
the princes opened their borders to recruiters for the British India Army and 
their subjects enlisted at a higher rate than in any British Indian province with 
the exception of Punjab. On the home front princes reaffirmed their personal 
loyalty to the British Crown and acted to control political dissent within and 
along their borders, especially during the 1942 Quit India movement.” 

In turn the British patron acknowledged the assistance of these faithful allies 
with positions on government boards and on the Governor-General’s Executive 
Council for Indians associated with the princely states, most notably C. P. 
Ramaswami Aiyar from Travancore. These appointments followed the pattern 
developed when the maharaja of Patiala and a minister from Gwalior had been 
appointed to the Governor-General’s Legislative Council as rewards for support 
in 1857. Moreover, the British moderated their lobbying for internal structural 
reforms such as civil lists, legislative assemblies, and protection of fundamental 
rights within the princely states. For example, before his departure in 1943, 
Linlithgow lamented that most princes had yet to establish civil lists, a reform 
that Lord Irwin had urged in 1927. However, British oversight of the princes 
might diminish, but it did not wither. 

In 1942 Sir Stafford Cripps, then Lord Privy Seal and a member of the 
War Cabinet, attempted a constitutional resolution. He did little to satisfy the 
princes. His draft declaration provided for membership of the princely states 
in a constitution-making body but added that ‘whether or not an Indian State 
elects to adhere to the Constitution, it will be necessary to negotiate a revision 
of its Treaty arrangements, so far as it may be required in the new situation’.*° 
When members of the Standing Committee of the Chamber sought reassurance 
about their future in a meeting with Cripps on 28 March 1942, the Labour 
MP pledged: 

So far as the undertaking of our obligations of defence of the States was concerned . . . there 
was no insuperable difficulty from the naval point of view so long as we held Ceylon, or 
from the air point of view so long as we had the aerodromes which were necessary in one or 
other of the states . . . [S]umming it all up, we should stand by our treaties with the States 

unless they asked us to revoke them.*! 

Later Cripps tried to dilute this promise, but the Cabinet at home reiterated 
their protection of the princes. His words must have reinforced the princely 

49 Copland, Princes, pp. 183-9. 

9 Quoted from Reginald Coupland, The Cripps Mission (Bombay, 1942), p. 29 in Phadnis, Jntegration, 
p. 136. 

>! Quoted in Copland, Princes, p. 188. 


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perception that the British would continue to shield them and that drastic 
reforms were not yet necessary. 

By 1943, however, British support in India for continuing guarantees of 
princely rule became more ambiguous. Two factors were crucial. One related 
to personnel changes at the top of the official hierarchy. First, in August 1943 
Francis Wylie had become political adviser to the viceroy (who was known as 
the crown representative in his relations with the Indian princes after 1937). 
In October Lord Wavell succeeded Linlithgow as viceroy. Liberal and blunt, 
as indicated in the earlier quotation on princes and federation, Wylie was 
committed to demanding internal reforms within the states. Wavell, who had 
served in the Middle East and was formerly commander-in-chief in India, 
had little knowledge of the princes and allowed Wylie significant initiative. 
At the same time Allied victories in 1943 indicated that there was likely to 
be a successful end to the war, however high the human and material costs. 
Consequently the British now must begin to plan for the devolution of power 
after the war. 

Among the princes there were also significant personnel changes. Key min- 
isters such as Hydari died in 1942 or fell out of favour, for example Ismail, who 
moved from Mysore to Jaipur. Among the Chamber stalwarts, Ranjitsinhji of 
Nawanagar and Bhupinder Singh of Patiala had passed away in the 1930s. 
Then in February 1943 Ganga Singh of Bikaner died. Their successors lacked 
the political experience and shrewdness of their fathers. Hamidullah of Bhopal 
remained, but he withdrew from active participation in the Chamber until he 
became chancellor in 1944. There were a few energetic, committed princes 
in the Chamber, but they had to operate without a supportive network of 
equally dedicated colleagues. Contrary to some expectations, Digvijaysinhji of 
Nawanagar, who became chancellor upon the death of Patiala in 1938, had 
revived the Chamber with a circumspect expansion of membership and the 
regularisation of its finances so that it might lobby more effectively for princely 
interests. Unfortunately, the administrative reorganisation and increased atten- 
dance at annual sessions did not produce any meaningful political or consti- 
tutional reforms within the states. The princes remained naively unaware of 
how they might institute painful changes from the top to preclude demands 
for more radical reforms from their British patron, their Congress rivals, or 
their own subjects. 

During the early 1940s the princes did not face consistent opposition from 
either the Congress or states’ people’s groups. The former was hamstrung by 
massive arrests after the Quit India campaign of 1942, and the latter were 
diverted by leadership struggles and conflicts between urban/professional and 


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rural/peasant factions.” However, the British continued to challenge princely 
sovereignty in two key areas. One was the Attachment Scheme of small non- 
salute states in western India. The other was the implementation of industrial 
policies that seemed to constrict the economic boom stimulated by war de- 
mands in some states.”? John McLeod has traced the origin of the Attachment 
Scheme to a proposal that Sayaji Rao of Baroda made in 1920 for annexation of 
states that paid tribute to him in western India. His not so disguised objective 
was to augment and consolidate his territorially fragmented state. Three times 
the British rejected his request because their assent would appear to renege 
on the promise made in 1858 that there would be no further annexations of 
princely states. By April 1939, however, the viceroy advised his superior in 
London that the merger of smaller states into larger ones for administrative 
purposes was needed even if pressure was required.°4 The British argued that 
a merger that was given the supposedly more benign name of attachment was 
required to bring these small units into the federation through the accession 
of the attaching states and to improve conditions within these revenue-poor 
states. Despite considerable opposition from the princes, the British finalised 
the Attachment Scheme in 1943 and thereby reduced around 435 states in 
western India to sixteen. McLeod has argued that the British hoped that by 
eliminating petty units which could not provide basic government services, 
they might fortify the enhanced states against Congress criticisms and en- 
sure their survival.®* Furthermore, both McLeod and Copland claim that the 
British support of the Attachment Scheme indicated that the British were less 
concerned about princely sensitivities than administrative rationalisation and 
Congress opposition.®° From their side, several princes were troubled about the 
implications of the Attachment Scheme for their sovereignty. When the British 
refused to reassure them, Hamidullah of Bhopal and the Standing Committee 
of the Chamber resigned in late 1944. 

By June 1945 Hamidullah and the Standing Committee had returned to 
office, and the chancellor launched a program to protect princely interests 
during the momentous postwar changes. His plan was fivefold: to rebuild the 
Chamber; to press for internal reforms; to preserve the British relationship; 

>? Sisson, Congress Party, ch 4, esp. pp. 89-96 provides one example. 

3 A general overview of these constraints is in Copland, Princes, pp. 201-4. In ‘Emergence of Labor 
Politics’, Janaki Nair argues that the Second World War stimulated several new ventures in Mysore 
but a lack of indigenous capital along with restrictive colonial policies hampered industrialisation 
in Mysore: pp. 89-99. 

4 Linlithgow to Zetland, 5 April 1939, OIOC, L/P&S/13/971 quoted in McLeod, Sovereignty, p. 128. 

> Tbid., p. 136. 

56 Tbid., pp. 129-41; Copland, Princes, pp. 198-200. 


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to explore the possible benefits of an alliance with the Muslim League; and 
to achieve some kind of understanding with Congress. If time had been on 
their side, which it was not, the princes might have achieved some notable 
successes. At a meeting in Bombay in May 1945, attending princes pledged to 
reform their administrations ‘along democratic lines in preparation for the part 
which the Indian States expect to play in the event of a national government in 
India’.*” Subsequently elected legislative assemblies and at least partly respon- 
sible executive councils began to pop up in the states like mushrooms after a 
spring rain. Some princes, most notably in Orissa, Punjab, Rajputana and the 
Deccan, took the lead in proposing regional confederations in order to create 
more viable bargaining units for the forthcoming constitutional negotiations. 
Meanwhile Bhopal remained in close contact with Muslim politicians, and 
assorted princes and their ministers renewed communications with Congress 
leaders including Nehru. Continuing the pattern established from 1927 to 
1935, these conversations demonstrate that the Congress, as had their British 
predecessors, were prepared to use the princes as best suited their goals. 


During the tumultuous years from 1945 to 1947, British policies towards the 
princes reflected a combination of expediency, nostalgia, and the desire to be 
seen as honourable and perhaps even doing the honourable thing. On the one 
hand the replacement of an astute but unsympathetic Wylie by Sir Conrad 
Corfield (1893-1980) as political adviser to the crown representative in June 
1945 meant a sympathetic mediator in the British hierarchy. Corfield had 
long seen princely India as the real India and wanted to broker a principled 
transition for the princes from British paramountcy to Indian self-government. 
His tactics offended Mountbatten, and his memoirs tried to justify the integrity 
of his position. However, the new Labour Government in London decided that 
British pledges of protection to the princes had to be sacrificed in the process of 
decolonisation. The problem was to evolve a scheme by which the British could 
disengage themselves without outright repudiation of their legal obligations to 
the princes. 

In 1946 the Cabinet Mission came to India for one final round of constitu- 
tional negotiations that aimed to transfer power to a united Indian dominion. 
The princes were clearly subordinated to this goal but were still a concern. The 
British assuaged their legal consciences by promising that independence would 

°7 Quoted in ibid., p. 212. 


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mean the end of their treaties with the princes and that paramountcy could not 
be transferred to a third party. While they asserted that the states would have 
much to gain from acceding to the new Indian state, the British would not 
coerce the princes to accede. The initial princely response was positive since the 
Cabinet Mission Plan terminated the hated paramountcy and seemed to grant 
independence. However, the British also called for a Constituent Assembly 
and the establishment of an interim government of Indian leaders to manage 
internal affairs until independence. 

As the princes had haggled over the composition of their delegations 
to the Round Table Conferences, they now debated their participation in 
the Constituent Assembly. Bhopal sought to be the chief negotiator for the 
Chamber of Princes in the Assembly and briefly tried to ally the princes with 
the Muslims to counter Congress dominance.°® K. M. Panikkar takes credit for 
derailing this proposal,°? but C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar, on behalf of Travancore, 
was the first to desist from a single princely negotiator. Eventually the repre- 
sentatives of sixteen states joined the Constituent Assembly, but the fate of 
the princes would be handled by individual, personal negotiations as well as 
group debate. The princes could not stand together and therefore they would 
be integrated individually. 

Communal allegiance became a heightened source of identity and commit- 
ment for princes as well as their subjects. The motivation for Bhopal’s political 
pilgrimage that eventually led to his resignation from the Chamber is clouded. 
Panikkar is vitrolic in his memoirs in depicting Bhopal as a scheming com- 
munalist who was anxious to join with the nizam of Hyderabad in forming 
a Muslim third column in the heart of an independent India.® Copland, 
however, takes a more measured view of Bhopal’s conversion to the cause of 
Pakistan. In any case Bhopal was not the only prince to increase his overt 
or covert support for communal organisations. The maharajas of Alwar and 
Bharatpur, among others, were financial and political supporters of the Hindu 
Mahasabha and the RSS,°! and Yadavindra Singh of Patiala was sympathetic 
to Sikh groups. Just when the princes needed a united front, a division on 
communal lines was added to long-existing ones related to size, region, and 
memories of past rivalries. 

When Mountbatten arrived as the last British governor-general, viceroy and 
crown representative, he sought to accelerate the British withdrawal and to 
create a united Indian dominion. He later claimed that ‘nothing had been said 

°8 Tbid., pp. 223-4, 235, 240-6, 266-7. 
>) Panikkar, Autobiography, pp. 153-7. 69 Thid., pp. 138-64. 
61 Mayaram, Resisting Regimes, pp. 171-2 and Copland, ‘Further Shores’, pp. 228-39. 


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in London to prepare him for the gravity and magnitude of the problem of 
the states’. After five weeks of personal exposure and extensive conversations 
with Nehru and Jinnah, Mountbatten was convinced of the inevitability of 
a quick partition and transfer of power. Nehru reluctantly accepted partition 
and agreed to dominion status with the understanding that the princes would 
be integrated into the new dominions. The princes held out for the right not 
to accede to either dominion, to remain independent, or to form a union of 
states. To retain Nehru’s support, Mountbatten was willing to serve as the 
enforcer with the princes.°? Meanwhile Nehru also protested at the proposed 
dissolution of the political department in the face of the end of paramountcy. 

Mountbatten therefore agreed to the creation of a states department headed 
by Vallabhbhai Patel to handle relations between the interim government and 
the princes, and then accepted the concept of a Standstill Agreement. This 
instrument confirmed that the independent states of India and Pakistan would 
continue the agreements and administrative arrangements that existed between 
the British and the princes. The crucial document was the Instrument of 
Accession by which rulers ceded to the legislatures of India or Pakistan control 
over defence, external affairs, and communications. In return for these conces- 
sions, the princes were to be guaranteed a privy purse in perpetuity and certain 
financial and symbolic privileges such as exemption from customs duties, the 
use of their titles, the right to fly their state flags on their cars, and to have police 
protection. Between 2 and 14 August 1947, 114 states acceded to India and 
none to Pakistan. Only a few such states as Hyderabad, Mysore and Kashmir 
were to remain autonomous for the present. By December 1947 Patel began to 
pressure the princes into signing Merger Agreements that integrated their states 
into adjacent British Indian provinces, soon to be called states or new units 
of erstwhile princely states, most notably Rajasthan, Patiala and East Punjab 
States Union, and Matsya Union (Alwar, Bharatpur, Dholpur and Karauli). 
The integration of princely states into Pakistan proceeded more slowly and has 
attracted little scholarly attention.“ 

The three-step process that led to the integration of most princely states into 
the Indian Union as well as the initial refusal of four — Hyderabad, Jammu and 
Kashmir, Junagadh and Travancore — to sign Standstill Agreements is better 
documented than most aspects of the history of the princes. V. P. Menon’s 
account has been extraordinarily influential in shaping the historiography that 
generally portrays Menon as the low-key, sensitive negotiator who offered the 

62 Moore, Escape, p. 290. 63 Tbid., pp. 290-314. 
64 Wayne Ayres Wilcox, Pakistan: The Consolidation of a Nation (New York, 1963) remains the basic 


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carrots of income guarantees and political privilege and Patel as the hard- 
headed dictator who threatened deposition and physical force. In subsequent 
years other participants such as H. V. Hodson, Conrad Corfield and K. M. 
Panikkar have produced their memoirs. Significant British official papers are 
available in the monumental Transfer of Power series and selected papers of 
Nehru and Patel have been published. Unfortunately for them, the princes 
involved did not write memoirs and they have not been well served by biog- 
raphers. Thus their voices are muted. However, it appears that many princes 
belatedly realised that the British left them no alternative but to accede and gain 
whatever concessions the Congress were willing to make. It probably worked 
to the princely advantage that the Congress leaders were confronting partition, 
communal riots, and an unimagined transfer of population while Menon was 
negotiating accession and then integration. It was in the best interests of the 
Congress to entice as many princes as possible with sweet gifts and to take a 
hard line with the few who refused their offers. Most princes acceded for a va- 
riety of reasons including patriotism, the advice of their ministers, the pressure 
of popular political leaders in their states, and a sense of abandonment. 


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Just as the British did not create the native/Indian princes, the accession and 
integration of the princely states into the independent states of India and 
Pakistan did not cause their rulers to disappear from Indian and Pakistani 
politics and culture. The most striking example of the long-term impact of 
princely states is the contested status of Jammu and Kashmir. Domestically, 
the current militant movement in Kashmir impugns the national identities of 
India as a secular state and Pakistan as an Islamic state. Materially, it has caused 
both countries to allocate extensive resources to defence and to several wars 
and military confrontations that have drastically reduced the funds available 
for internal development projects. Internationally, it has occasioned concern 
about the dangers of a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan. The 
British colonial policy of indirect rule imposed and helped to legitimate the 
rule of a Hindu prince in the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu and Kashmir. 
But policies of the rulers of Jammu and Kashmir were factors in fostering 
tensions between Muslim peasants and Hindu landlords, Muslim subjects and 
Hindu officials. Communal groups in British India, the policies of state and 
national governments in India and Pakistan, as well as groups indigenous to 
Jammu and Kashmir are also responsible for the present, difficult situation of 
this erstwhile princely state. 

Although in the decades immediately after 1948 scholars claimed that the 
integration of the princely states into independent India and Pakistan ended 
the political power of their rulers, princes have continued to play numer- 
ous roles in politics and popular culture. Since there is so little research on 
the princes in Pakistan, this brief survey will focus on princes in indepen- 
dent India. From the late 1940s onward, the princes have served in appointed 
positions where political ritual and symbolism were prominent. During the ne- 
gotiations over the integration of the princely states into India, several princes 
were installed as rajpramukh and uprajpramukh, governor and deputy gover- 

nor respectively, of unions of princely states or even of their erstwhile state.! 
Rajpramukhs included Yadavindra Singh of Patiala in PEPSU, Man Singh of 

! Much of this discussion is based on Hurtig, Maharajahs; Menon, Story; William L. Richter, 
“Traditional Rulers in Post-Traditional Societies: The Princes of India and Pakistan’, in Jeffrey, People, 
pp. 329-54. 


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Jaipur in Rajasthan, Jivaji Rao Scindia of Gwalior in Madhya Bharat (the core 
of the present state of Madhya Pradesh), and Rama Varma of Travancore in 
Travancore-Cochin. To accommodate princely izzat, senior and junior upra- 
jpramukhs were instituted. In Rajasthan, the rulers of Jodhpur and Kotah were 
the senior, those of Bundi and Dungarpur were the junior, and the maharana 
of Udaipur had his premier position among Rajput rulers recognised with the 
ceremonial title of maharajpramukh for life.?, Maharaja Jaya Chamarajendra 
Wadiyar became the governor of Mysore, one of the two princely states (the 
other being Hyderabad) that remained distinct political units until the creation 
of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which are Kannada and Telugu-speaking 
states, in 1956. Reflecting the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Karan 
Singh became Sadar-I-Riyasat (governor) in 1952 upon the abdication of his 
father. He retained this post until 1967. The GOI also appointed a few princes 
to be governors of states that were not unions of princely territory. The first 
was Maharaja Krishna Kumarsinhji of Bhavnagar, who became governor of 
Madras in 1948. 

After the posts of rajpramukh and uprajpramukh were abolished with the 
reorganisation of states and the integration of princely unions into larger states 
in 1956, some princes accepted diplomatic postings. Yadavindra Singh of 
Patiala was a member of the Indian delegation to the United Nations and 
to its Food and Agriculture Organisation, and later was ambassador first to 
Italy and then the Netherlands, where he died in 1974. Man Singh of Jaipur 
was ambassador to Spain and was later elected to the Rajya Sabha of the Indian 

Electoral politics were more risky but potentially provided more power than 
appointed positions. The princes who chose to contest elections, either at state 
or national level, had three options. They could form loose coalitions or join 
parties in opposition to the Congress party, stand as independent candidates, 
or run on the Congress ticket. Maharaja Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur (1923— 
52) followed the first path when he contested the 1952 elections for seats 
in both the Rajasthan legislature and the Lok Sabha. Tragically, he died in 
an airplane accident on the day of his victory in both constituencies.* His 
coalition won a majority of the seats in the territory of Marwar but did not 
develop into an effective force. Running on the ticket of the Swatantra party, 
which opposed the socialist policies of Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1962 Maharani 
Gayatri Devi won a seat in the Lok Sabha with a plurality of 175 000 votes 

2 Menon, Story, pp. 256-68. 

3 Dhananajaya Singh, The House of Marwar (New Delhi, 1994), pp. 186-99. 


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over the next candidate.* As independents, Maharaja Karni Singh of Bikaner 
won several terms in the Lok Sabha, and Maharaja Yadavindra Singh won a 
seat in the Punjab Legislative Assembly in 1967. The Congress party recruited 
many princes including Karan Singh of Jammu and Kashmir or their close 
relatives to run on its party ticket in areas where the Congress did not have 
a strong base, mainly in the territories of princely states. Openly pursuing 
his father’s informal allegiance to the Congress party, Amarindar Singh of 
Patiala became the chief minister of Punjab in 2001 when Congress achieved 

The former ruling family of Gwalior has one of the more complicated pat- 
terns of involvement in electoral politics. In 1957 Maharani (rajmata after 
the death of her husband in 1961) Vijayaraje Scindia, running on a Congress 
ticket, won a seat in the Lok Sabha with a plurality of 60 000 over her op- 
ponent from the Hindu Mahasabha, an ironic victory considering her later 
affiliation with the BJP.’ In 1967 the rajmata won a parliamentary seat on the 
Swatantra party ticket and one in the Madhya Pradesh state assembly on the 
Jana Sangh ticket. Accepting the assembly seat, she was a power-broker from 
1967 to 1969 in state politics and formally joined the Jana Sangh, the pre- 
cursor of the BJP. After imprisonment (which she shared with Gayatri Devi) 
during the Emergency in 1975-76, Vijayaraje Scindia joined the BJP and was 
elected its vice-president.° Soon estranged personally and politically from her 
only son, Madhavrao Scindia (1945-2001), who became a leading member 
of the Congress and Minister of Railways in Rajiv Gandhi’s government dur- 
ing the late 1980s, she died in January 2001.” Her will, which left nothing 
to Madhavrao and sought to deny him the traditional right of a son to light 
her funeral pyre, revealed the depth of her antipathy. Tragically Madhavrao, 
sometimes mentioned as a future prime minister of India, died in a plane crash 
in October 2001 at the age of 56. His death left a major gap in the leadership 
of the Congress party. Meanwhile his sister, Vasundhara Raje (b. 1953), had 
joined her mother in the BJP. In early 2003 Vasundhara Raje became the leader 

4 Gayatri Devi, Princess, pp. 251-75; Hurtig, Maharajahs, pp. 172-7. 

> Scindia, Princess, pp. 169-80; Hurtig, Maharajahs, pp. 198-215. 

© Basu, ‘Feminism Inverted’, pp. 25-36. 

7 In June 2001, Prince Dipendra of Nepal killed most of his immediate family, supposedly because of 
his mother’s refusal to permit his marriage to Devyani Rana, the child of Vijayaraje’s second daughter 
Usha Raje. It was alleged that Queen Aishwarya opposed Devyani on two counts. Her father was 
from a different branch of the Rana’s family than hers, and her grandfather was a Maratha, which the 
queen deemed subordinate to Rajputs: The Independent, 4 June 2001, p. 3. Ironically, the rajmata’s 
maternal rana grandparents went from Nepal into exile in India in the 1880s after her grandfather's 
involvement in the murder of the ruling maharaja and two other rana relatives in December 1885: 
Scindia, Princess, pp. 3-23. 


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of the BJP unit in Rajasthan and was touted as a chief minister-in-waiting if 
her party would win the next state elections. 

William Richter has highlighted four major factors that are characteristic 
of rulers who entered electoral politics. First, they were primarily from regions 
with sizeable concentrations of princely state territories and political leaders 
sympathetic to the princes such as Orissa and Chhattisgarh in Madhya Pradesh. 
Second, size was significant since politically active princes needed sizeable 
resources to contest elections. Those from larger states sought seats in the 
national Parliament while those from smaller states focused on state legislatures. 
Third, gun salutes as status symbols under the British were another factor. As 
was true of participation in the Chamber of Princes, princes from what Richter 
labels upper-middle-level families (I would assert from thirteen to seventeen 
guns) were the most active. The former ruling families of Hyderabad, Indore, 
Mysore, Travancore and Udaipur, having twenty-one or nineteen guns, have 
not been attracted to electoral politics. Finally, family ties could be important 
although they did not ensure political alliances, as the Scindia family of Gwalior 
illustrates. The relatives of Sayaji Rao of Baroda are a counter-example since 
five had held elective office as of 1978 and four were members of the Congress 

Through a constitutional amendment passed in 1971, Indira Gandhi 
stripped the princes of the titles, privy purses and regal privileges which her 
father’s government had granted. Even so in the popular imagination and me- 
dia, the former rulers remain symbols of regional identity and rajadharma. 
One example occurred in 1989 in Maharashtra. A major controversy erupted 
over a new Marathi language edition of the Kolhapur District Gazetteer, which 
published letters from Maharaja Shahu Chhatrapati II to the British which 
appeared to tarnish his reputation as a nationalist and reformer. Rallies and 
newspaper articles soon demanded the withdrawal of the Gazetteer from print 
because it was interpretive and not what was deemed an official record. Protests 
included a public burning of copies of the offending publication, a bandh ‘in 
protest against the distorted gazetteer accounts of beloved Shahu Maharaja’,’ 
heated debates in the Maharashtra Legislative Council and Assembly, and a se- 
ries of scholarly lectures over Shahu’s role as a social reformer and a nationalist 
and the function of gazetteers as official documents that report and not histo- 
ries that interpret. Véronique Bénéi concludes: ‘Plainly, the history of Shahu 

8 Richter, ‘Rulers’, pp. 335-9. 

9 Véronique Bénéi, ‘Reappropriating Colonial Documents in Kolhapur (Maharashtra): Variations on 
a Nationalist Theme’, MAS, 33(4) (1999), p. 916. The quotation was the subtitle of an article in 
Sakal, a statewide newspaper, on 24 October 1990. 


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Maharaj nowadays functions as a “myth” in Kolhapur’. She adds: ‘In the local 
context, Shahu embodies Kolhapuri identity both in general, and more par- 
ticularly for the Marathas, Other Backward Castes and Dalits’.!° Those three 
groups had particularly benefited from Shahu’s social reforms, which included 
the reservation of 50 per cent of state posts for non-brahmans as well as free 
and compulsory primary education. Their interpretation of Shahu’s policies 
motivated local leaders and political parties to assert guardianship of Shahu’s 
image against brahman attempts to undermine his reputation with the collu- 
sion of the Maharashtrian Government.'! Bénéi claims that a unifying bond 
exists between Kolhapuris and the person of the king that cuts across caste and 
time and is renewed by the annual celebration of Shahu’s birth anniversary 
and rituals which his descendants perform during the Dasera festival in the 
autumn. |? 

Ina more mundane mode, in the 2003 List of the fifty most powerful people 
in India published in India Today, Gaj Singh (b. 1948) of Jodhpur is number 
45 ‘Because he’s the king of royalty. Because none else in the blue-blooded 
pantheon straddles the feudal and the modern with such aplomb’, “Because 
he once had Finance Minister Jaswant Singh as private secretary. Because he’s 
tourism’s regal face’.!* The last accolade refers to the romantic allure of princely 
culture for international and domestic tourists. 

The princes of India offer fantasy for post-modern consumption. Faced 
with escalating maintenance costs and declining sources of income, princely 
entrepreneurs transformed palaces into hotels where tourists could experience 
an idealised, pampered lifestyle of royalty during a democratic era. In 1954 
Karan Singh of Jammu and Kashmir leased his main palace in Srinagar to 
the Oberoi chain; it seems appropriate that he became minister for tourism 
and civil aviation in 1967 in Indira Gandhi’s government.!4 In 1958 the 
Rambagh Palace Hotel opened in Jaipur followed by the much photographed 
Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur in the early 1960s. In recent decades nobles 
and merchants in the former princely states have joined princes in opening 
palaces, Aavelis, forts and hunting lodges, from Mysore city in the south to the 
foothills of the Himalayas, to tourists. Rajasthan has the largest concentration 
of such establishments, many of which stage programs of Indian folk dance and 
music to entertain tourists. Palaces-on-wheels, which originally were renovated 
railway cars commissioned by the princes and now are replications of such 
luxurious cars, connect major sites. Other attractions include museums, which 

10 Ibid., p.919. |! Tbid., pp. 927-30. Ibid., p. 926. 
13 India Today International, 3 February 2003, p. 46. 
14 Karan Singh, Sadar-I-Riyasat: An Autobiography (Delhi, 1985), vol. 2, pp. 12, 158-62. 


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display princely material culture to those who cannot not afford role-playing 
in palace hotels and palaces-on-wheels while preserving historical artefacts.'° 

In the past few years the glamour of princely jewellery and clothing has 
appealed to new audiences. A museum exhibit of designs by the Paris-based 
Cartier showcased the dramatic designs produced for the princes, frequently 
with gemstones supplied from princely treasure houses, during the 1920s and 
1930s.!° That exhibit also documented how the princes influenced the evo- 
lution of Indian-inspired designs of multicoloured gemstones, labelled tutti- 
frutti, and bracelets and necklaces of simply polished gemstones, called barbaric 
since the stones were not cut or faceted.’ During December 2002 Cartier ex- 
hibited a recreation with cubic zirconium stones replacing diamonds in the 
original platinum chains of an extravagant bib necklace that Bhupinder Singh 
had commissioned using diamonds from his treasury. The New York Times 
reported that it was one of the highlights of the Christmas season in New York, 
drawing large crowds to Cartier’s holiday window displays on Fifth Avenue.!8 

The princes of India and their states were and remain a significant aspect 
of the South Asia cultural, economic, and political landscape. Although the 
British ensured the continued existence of the princes and the states, the princes, 
their officials and their governments were agents who influenced the daily lives 
of their subjects and were a factor in imperial and nationalist politics beyond 
their borders. The princes played diverse roles as religious and cultural patrons, 
symbols of Indian abilities to govern other Indians for good or ill, and imperial 
politicians in military and civilian arenas. It is unfortunate that we yet know 
relatively little about their lives, their states, and their subjects. 

15 Ramusack, ‘Fantasy’, pp. 66-89; Ramusack, “Tourism’, pp. 235-55. 

16 Judy Rudoe, Cartier, 1900-1939 (New York, 1997), pp. 31-6. This exhibit appeared in London, 
New York, and Chicago. Katherine Prior and John Adamson’s Maharaja’ Jewels (Ahmedabad, 2001) 
provides a broad survey from the medieval period to the present and of many western jewellers beyond 

17 Rudoe, Cartier, pp. 156-87. 

18 Wendy Moonan, ‘An Heirloom Is Resurrected at Cartier’, New York Times National, 29 November 
2002, p. B 39; Bill Cunningham, ‘On the Street’, New York Times, 22 December 2002, Sunday 
Styles section, p. 4. 


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Note: In India it is common to refer to a ruler by the name of his state, for example 
Patiala may be used when referring to Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. 











Affusion, the pouring of consecrated substances such as water, milk 
or ghee (clarified butter) over a person or the image of a deity. 
Aboriginal inhabitant. 

Newsletter or newspaper. 

Training pit for Indian wrestlers. 

Lowest level of revenue officers, similar to tahsildar. 

Movement or struggle. 

Cultural, educational or political association among Muslims. 
Lower-status caste groups in Cochin and Travancore. 
Moneylending caste group; some are also associated with industrial 

A general strike, involving closing of all businesses in protest. 
Forced labour. 

Respectable people, generally brahmans and kayasths, in Bengal. 
Classical Indian dance form, originally associated with rituals in 
Hindu temples. 

Brotherhood. Among Rajput and Kathi rulers in western India, 
younger sons who had limited rights to revenue and to distribute 
criminal justice. 

Family name of Marathas who formed the state of Nagpur. 
Land-controller, principally in Punjab. 

Highest ranking varna of priests in Hindu society. 

Bard who composed celebratory poems and genealogies of Rajput 

The right to collect land revenue in a designated area, held by the 

Tax of one-fourth of land revenue that Marathas collected for 
military protection or as tribute. 

Long-needle pine tree. 

Ritual stick that is a symbol of danda. 

Stick used to inflict punishment, symbol of sovereignty. 

Muslim tomb, frequently of a Sufi saint and thus a site of 

The auspiciousness of seeing and being seen by a superior being. 


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Jam Sahib 

Jama dar 


Marathas leaders, frequently with martial skills, who achieve 
control over land and people, mainly through colonisation of 
abandoned or waste lands. 

A form of customary rebellion when the ruled perceived a breach 
of the covenant between ruler and ruled; used mainly in the 
sub-Himalayan region. 

Duty or obligations of an individual or social group. 

Senior revenue official in Mughal administration. 

Land between two rivers. 

The court of a ruler. By extension, the administration of a state or 
the ceremonies associated with major life events of a ruler. 

Lower caste groups in Kerala associated with cultivation and 
products of coconut palm. Also transliterated as irava or izhava. 
Imperial order or edict. 

A strategy combining conciliation and competition. 
Cotton-stuffed cushion. Here used to mean a rajgaddi, the 
ensemble of a cushion and low chair that is the Hindu version of 
a throne. 

Bird who serves as the vehicle of the Hindu preserver god, Vishnu. 
Surname of Maratha family who formed the state of Baroda in 

School or style of Hindustani music. 

May refer to coastal mountains, as in Kerala but it also commonly 
means steps on the banks of rivers or steps leading down into tanks 
of water adjacent to Hindu temples where ritual bathing is done. 
Literally mouthfuls (singular givas). In Kathiawar girassia meant 
petty chiefs who controlled resources sufficient to produce a 
mouthful of food. 

Royal department of musicians. 

Repository of Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy scripture. 
General strike. 


Surname of Maratha family who formed the state of Indore in 
central India. 

Tax-farming contract. 

Gift of land or assignment of revenue from land to secular 
subordinates, intellectuals, religious leaders or institutions. 
Honor, prestige, reputation. 

Holder of jagir, the right to collect revenue from designated tract 
of land granted by a superior power in return for service or 
acknowledgment of suzerainty. 

Title of the ruler of Nawanagar in Gujarat. 

Day or period when land revenue was collected, especially 

in Mysore. 

Military jobber-commander 


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Kala pani 






Kisan Sabha 

Lok Parishad 





Military group among the Sikhs based on personal, kinship, or 
regional bonds. 

The Rajput practice, when confronted with military defeat, to 
consign women and children to a fiery death and men to die 
fighting to maintain honour. 

Literally black water, and by extension seas and oceans. 

System of martial training in Travancore; teachers were known as 
panikkars, now a surname among nayars. 

Warrior-pastoralist group in south India, sometimes translated 

as thief. 

Literate, kshatriya caste group with tradition of bureaucratic 
employment, frequently in a link language such as Persian or 

Round-up of wild elephants in Mysore. 

Hand-spun and hand-woven cloth. 

Lands from which king directly collected revenue. In Sikhism, the 
community of the pure who are baptised by taking amrit or 
sugared water. 

Prayers offered on Friday in the principal mosque which 
acknowledge the legitimate Muslim ruler. 

Robe of honour sanctified by being touched to the body of a 
patron and then presented to a client. 


Peasant political or economic organisation. 

Second-ranking varna of kings and warriors in Hindu society. 
Red powder used in the i/ak ceremony. 

Devotional Hindu reform sect in south India, particularly 
prominent in Mysore. 

People’s conference in princely states. 

Muslim school usually attached to a mosque. 

A Hindu priest who assumed control of the Sikh gurudwara when 
Sikhs were persecuted, mainly during the eighteenth century. 
Merchant or moneylender. 

Great ruler. Variants include maharana and maharao. 

Imperial Mughal administrative system. A mansabdar is the holder 
of a mansab or rank in this system. A mansabdar could have both 
civilian and military duties. 

Hereditary leader of Muslim reform movement in Srinagar. 
Leader of mis/, an intermediate Sikh political unit that 
incorporated jathas. 

Indigenous or son of the soil in distinction to non-mulki 

or outsider. 

Annual military operation to collect tribute in Kathiawar. 
Occupancy peasant tenants in Punjab. 

Brahman group in Travancore. 


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Patel or Patil 




Praja mandal 






Literally the plural of na 7d, the deputy or first minister of a ruler; 
by extension, the ruler of a Muslim state. 

Caste group in Kerala with martial and matrilineal descent 

Gold coin given by client to patron. 

Title of the Muslim ruler of Hyderabad. 

Literally a council of five. Generally a caste or village council that 
decided disputes relating to personal law. 


Village headman. 

Peasant cultivators in Gujarat. 

Village accountant. 

Valuable object presented by client to patron. 

Initially the title of the chief minister of the Marathas, later head 
of the Marathas. 

Martial groups who frequently support themselves by plundering. 
Loosely associated with Marathas. 

Sufi saint. 

Warrior little king in south India. 

Popular people’s association in the princely states. 


Duties of a king. 

Son of a raja. 

Mother of a ruling prince. 

Governor of unions of princely states in independent India; 
uprajpramukh is deputy governor; maharajpramukh might be 
translated as ‘great governor’. 

Great Indian epic of Ram, the ideal warrior-king 

Rule of Ram and thus an idealised Hindu ruler and his 

Title of minor Hindu prince. Also surname of family that served 
as prime ministers in Nepal. 

Literally people of the forest, term used by Gandhians for 
aboriginal people in south Gujarat. 

Land revenue settlement made directly with ryot or 

Local banker, used in Hyderabad and Gujarat. 

Life force. 


Letter, decree or contract. By extension British certificate offering 
protection to or recognition of succession to a Indian prince. 
Holy man. Nominally the fourth stage of life for a Hindu man 
when he detaches himself from material concerns and seeks 
spiritual enlightenment. 

Honorific title of a leader. In Punjab a Sikh landholder. 


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Scheduled castes 






Tikka Sahib 





Assessment of 10 per cent of land revenue to support the 
sardeshmukh, the overlord of several deshmukhs in 
Maratha-controlled territory. 

District. By extension may also mean government. Transliterated as 
‘circars’ in designation of districts in eastern India ceded to the 
British before 1765. 

Grasping the truth, basis for non-violent resistance to evil. 
Higher-status caste group in Cochin and Travancore. 

Groups outside the varna system. Pejoratively known as 
‘untouchables’ because considered to be ritually polluting. 
Surname of Maratha family who formed the state of Gwalior in 
northern India. 

Sufi mysical holy man. 

Hunting for animals. 

Governor of a Mughal swbah or province. 

Lowest ranking of the four varna, generally peasants and some 

Use of indigenous products, particularly during the independence 

Collector of revenue in tahsil, subdivision of a district 

Leader of a taluga or area controlled by a lineage related through 
the males, generally found in Awadh. 

Joint family with a matrilineal household dwelling and commonly 
held lands in Travancore. 

Lord, common title among elite Rajputs. 

Ruler of a little kingdom, especially in Rajputana. 

Heir to a gaddi. 

Auspicious, vertical mark on forehead made with kumkum, a red 
powder, but sometimes with blood. A rajatilaka was the tilak made 
on the forehead of a ruler during an installation ceremony. 

Agent or intermediary between rulers. 

Mythological unit of inclusiveness among Rajputs. 

Literally colour. The four major social ranks or divisions within 
Hindu society: brahman, kshatriya, vaishya, sudra. 

Occupational category of cultivators in Mysore. 

Chief minister of a state. 

Heir to a raja or a princely gaddi. 

Holder of zamin or land who acquired a right to a share of the 
produce of the land for services such as fostering cultivation. Also 
a petty chief who offered protection. 

Women’s quarters. 


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