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Princely state

A Princely State (also called Native State or Indian State) was a nominally sovereign[1] entity of British rule in India that was not directly governed by the British, but rather by an Indian ruler under a form of indirect rule[2] such as suzerainty or paramountcy.

There were officially 565 princely states when India became independent in 1947, but the great majority had contracted with the Viceroy to provide public services and tax collection. Only 21 had actual state governments, and only three were large (Mysore, Hyderabad and Kashmir). They were absorbed into the two new independent nations in 1947 49. The absorption process was peaceful except in Kashmir (which became bitterly divided between India and Pakistan) and Hyderabad. All the princes were eventually pensioned off.[3]

Contents


British relationship with the Princely States

India under the British Raj (the "Indian Empire") consisted of two types of territory: British India and the Native States or Princely states. In its Interpretation Act 1889, the British Parliament adopted the following definitions:

(4.) The expression "British India" shall mean all territories and places within Her Majesty's dominions which are for the time being governed by Her Majesty through the Governor-General of India or through any governor or other officer subordinate to the Governor-General of India.
(5.) The expression "India" shall mean British India together with any territories of any native prince or chief under the suzerainty of Her Majesty exercised through the Governor-General of India, or through any governor or other officer subordinate to the Governor-General of India.[4]

In general the term "British India" had been used (and is still used) also to refer to the regions under the rule of the East India Company in India from 1774 to 1858.[5] The term has also been used to refer to the "British in India".[6]

The British Crown's suzerainty over 175 Princely States, generally the largest and most important, was exercised in the name of the British Crown by the central government of British India under the Viceroy; the remaining, approximately four hundred, states were influenced by Agents answerable to the provincial governments of British India under a Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, or Chief Commissioner.[7] A clear distinction between "dominion" and "suzerainty" was supplied by the jurisdiction of the courts of law: the law of British India rested upon the legislation enacted by the British Parliament, and the legislative powers those laws vested in the various governments of British India, both central and local; in contrast, the courts of the Princely States existed under the authority of the respective rulers of those states.[7]

Princely status and titles

The Indian rulers bore various titles including Chhatrapati or Badshah ("emperor"), Maharaja or Raja ("king"), Nawab ("governor"), Thakur or Thakore, Nizam, W li, and many others. Whatever the literal meaning and traditional prestige of the ruler's actual title, the British government translated them all as "prince," in order to avoid the implication that the native rulers could be "kings" with status equal to that of the British monarch.

More prestigious Hindu rulers (mostly existing before the Mughal Empire, or having split from such old states) often used the title "Raja," or a variant such as "Rana," "Rao," "Rawat" or Rawal. Also in this 'class' were several Thakur sahibs and a few particular titles, such as Sar Desai.

The most prestigious Hindu rulers usually had the prefix "maha" ("great", compare for example Grand duke) in their titles, as in Maharaja, Maharana, Maharao, etc. The states of Travancore and Cochin had queens regnant styled Maharani, generally the female forms applied only to sisters, spouses and widows, who could however act as regents.

There were also compound titles, such as (Maha)rajadhiraj, Raj-i-rajgan, often relics from an elaborate system of hierarchical titles under the Mughal emperors. For example, the addition of the adjective Bahadur raised the status of the titleholder one level.

Furthermore most dynasties used a variety of additional titles, such as Varma in South India. This should not be confused with various titles and suffixes not specific to princes but used by entire (sub)castes.

The Sikh princes concentrated at Punjab usually adopted Hindu type titles when attaining princely rank; at a lower level Sardar was used.

Muslim rulers almost all used the title "Nawab" (the Arabic honorific of naib, "deputy," used of the Mughal governors, who became de facto autonomous with the decline of the Mughal Empire), with the prominent exceptions of the Nizam of Hyderabad & Berar, the W li/Khan of Kalat and the W li of Swat. Other less usual titles included Darbar Sahib, Dewan, Jam, Mehtar (unique to Chitral) and Mir (from Emir).

Precedence and prestige

However, the actual importance of a princely state cannot be read from the title of its ruler, which was usually granted (or at least recognised) as a favour, often in recognition for loyalty and services rendered to the Mughal Empire. Although some titles were raised once or even repeatedly, there was no automatic updating when a state gained or lost real power. In fact, princely titles were even awarded to holders of domains (mainly jagirs) and even zamindars (tax collectors), which were not states at all. Various sources give significantly different numbers of states and domains of the various types. Even in general, the definition of titles and domains are clearly not well-established. There is also no strict relation between the levels of the titles and the classes of gun salutes, the real measure of precedence, but merely a growing percentage of higher titles in classes with more guns.

An 1895 group photograph of the eleven year old Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, ruler of the princely state of Mysore in South India, with his brothers and sisters. In 1799, his grandfather, then aged five, had been granted dominion of Mysore by the British and forced into a subsidiary alliance. The British later directly governed the state between 1831 and 1881.
An 1895 group photograph of the eleven year old Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, ruler of the princely state of Mysore in South India, with his brothers and sisters. In 1799, his grandfather, then aged five, had been granted dominion of Mysore by the British and forced into a subsidiary alliance. The British later directly governed the state between 1831 and 1881.
The Govindgarh Palace of the Maharaja of Rewa. The palace which was built as a hunting lodge later became famous for the first white tigers that were found in the adjacent jungle and raised in the palace zoo.
The Govindgarh Palace of the Maharaja of Rewa. The palace which was built as a hunting lodge later became famous for the first white tigers that were found in the adjacent jungle and raised in the palace zoo.
The Nawab of Junagadh Bhadur Khan III (seated center in an ornate chair) shown in a 1885 photograph with state officials and family.
The Nawab of Junagadh Bhadur Khan III (seated center in an ornate chair) shown in a 1885 photograph with state officials and family.
Photograph (1900) of the Maharani of Sikkim. Sikkim was under the suzerainty of the Provincial government of Bengal; its ruler received a 15-gun salute.
Photograph (1900) of the Maharani of Sikkim. Sikkim was under the suzerainty of the Provincial government of Bengal; its ruler received a 15-gun salute.
The gun salute system was used to set unambiguously the precedence of the major rulers in the area in which the British East India Company was active, or generally of the states and their dynasties. Princely rulers were entitled to be saluted by the firing of an odd number of guns between three and 21, with a greater number of guns indicating greater prestige. (There were many minor rulers who were not entitled to any gun salutes, and as a rule the majority of gun-salute princes had at least nine, with numbers below that usually the prerogative of Arab coastal Sheikhs also under British protection.) Generally, the number of guns remained the same for all successive rulers of a particular state, but individual princes were sometimes granted additional guns on a personal basis. Furthermore, rulers were sometimes granted additional gun salutes within their own territories only, constituting a semi-promotion.

While the states of all these rulers (about 120) were known as salute states, there were far more so-called non-salute states of lower prestige, and even more princes (in the broadest sense of the term) not even acknowledged as such. On the other hand, the dynasties of certain defunct states were allowed to keep their princely status they were known as Political Pensioners. Though none of these princes were awarded gun salutes, princely titles in this category were recognised as among certain vassals of salute states, and were not even in direct relation with the paramount power.

After independence, the Maharana of Udaipur displaced the Nizam of Hyderabad as the most senior prince in India, and the style Highness was extended to all rulers entitled to 9-gun salutes. When these dynasties had been integrated into the Indian Union they were promised continued privileges and an income, known as the Privy Purse, for their upkeep. Subsequently, when the Indian government abolished the Privy Purse in 1971, the whole princely order ceased to exist under Indian law, although many families continue to retain their social prestige informally; some descendants are still prominent in regional or national politics, diplomacy, business and high society.

At the time of Indian independence, only five rulers the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Maharaja of Mysore, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir state, the Maharaja Gaekwad of Baroda and the Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior were entitled to a 21-gun salute. Five more rulers the Nawab of Bhopal, the Maharaja Holkar of Indore, the Maharana of Udaipur, the Maharaja of Kolhapur and the Maharaja of Travancore were entitled to 19-gun salutes. The most senior princely ruler was the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was entitled to the unique style Exalted Highness. Other princely rulers entitled to salutes of 11 guns (soon 9 guns too) or more were entitled to the style Highness. No special style was used by rulers entitled to lesser gun salutes.

As paramount ruler, and successor to the Mughals, the British King-Emperor of India, for whom the style of Majesty was reserved, was entitled to an 'imperial' 101-gun salute in the European tradition also the number of guns fired to announce the birth of an heir (male) to the throne.

All princely rulers were eligible to be appointed to certain British orders of chivalry associated with India, The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India and The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire. Even women could be appointed as "Knights" (instead of Dames) of these orders. Rulers entitled to 21-gun and 19-gun salutes were normally appointed to the highest rank possible (Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India).

Many Indian princes served in the British army (as others in local guard or police forces), often rising to the high official ranks; some even served while on the throne. Many of these were appointed as ADC etc., either to the ruling prince of their own house (in the case of relatives of such rulers) or indeed to the British King-Emperor. Many also saw action, both on the subcontinent and on other fronts, during both World Wars.

Excepting those members of the princely houses who entered active service and who distinguished themselves, a good number of princes received honourary ranks as officers in the British Armed Forces. Those ranks were conferred based on several factors, including their heritage, lineage, gun-salute (or lack of one) as well as personal character or martial traditions. After the First and Second World Wars, the princely rulers of several of the major states, including Gwalior, Kolhapur, Patiala, Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad were given honourary general officer ranks as a result of their states' contributions to the war effort.

  • Lieutenant/Captain/Flight Lieutenant or Lieutenant-Commander/Major/Squadron Leader (for junior members of princely houses or for minor princes)
  • Commander/Lieutenant-Colonel/Wing Commander or Captain/Colonel/Group Captain (granted to princes of salute states, often to those entitled to 15-guns or more)
  • Commodore/Brigadier/Air Commodore (conferred upon princes of salute states entitled to gun salutes of 15-guns or more)
  • Major-General/Air Vice-Marshal (conferred upon princes of salute states entitled to 15-guns or more; conferred upon rulers of the major princely states, including Baroda, Travancore, Bhopal and Mysore)
  • Lieutenant-General (conferred upon the rulers of the largest and most prominent princely houses. After the First and Second World Wars, the princely rulers of several of the major states, including Gwalior, Patiala, Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad were given this rank as a result of their states' enormous contributions to the war effort.)
  • General (Very rarely awarded. The Maharajas of Gwalior and Jammu & Kashmir were created honourary Generals in the British Army in 1877, the Maharaja of Bikaner was made one in 1937 and the Nizam of Hyderabad made one in 1941)[8]

It was also not unusual for members of princely houses to be appointed to various colonial offices, often far from their native state, or to enter the diplomatic corps.

Doctrine of lapse

A controversial aspect of East India Company rule was the doctrine of lapse, a policy under which lands whose feudal ruler died (or otherwise became unfit to rule) without a male biological heir (as opposed to an adopted son) would become directly controlled by the Company and an adopted son would not become the ruler of the princely state. This policy went counter to Indian tradition where, unlike Europe, it was far more the accepted norm for a ruler to appoint his own heir.

The doctrine of lapse was pursued most vigorously by the Governor-General Sir James Ramsay, 10th Earl (later 1st Marquess) of Dalhousie. Dalhousie annexed seven states, including Awadh (Oudh), whose Nawabs he had accused of misrule, and the Maratha states of Nagpur, Jhansi, Sambalpur and Satara. Resentment over the annexation of these states turned to indignation when the heirlooms of the Maharajas of Nagpur were auctioned off in Calcutta. Dalhousie's actions contributed to the rising discontent amongst the upper castes which played a large part in the outbreak of the Indian mutiny of 1857. The last Mughal Badshah (emperor), whom many of the mutineers saw as a figurehead to rally around, was deposed following its suppression.

In response to the unpopularity of the doctrine, it was discontinued with the end of Company rule and the British Parliament's assumption of direct power over India.

Imperial governance

Photograph (1894) of the 19-year old Maharajah of Kohlapur visiting the British resident and his staff at the Residency.
Photograph (1894) of the 19-year old Maharajah of Kohlapur visiting the British resident and his staff at the Residency.
By treaty, the British controlled the external affairs of the princely states absolutely. As the states were not British possessions, they retained control over their own internal affairs, subject to a degree of British influence which in many states was substantial.

By the beginning of the 20th century, relations between the British and the four largest states Hyderabad, Mysore, Jammu and Kashmir, and Baroda were directly under the control of the Governor-General of India, in the person of a British Resident. Two agencies, for Rajputana and Central India, oversaw twenty and 148 princely states respectively. The remaining princely states had their own British political officers, or Agents, who answered to the administrators of India's provinces. The Agents of five princely states were then under the authority of Madras, 354 under Bombay, 26 of Bengal, two under Assam, 34 under Punjab, fifteen under Central Provinces and Berar and two under United Provinces.

By the early 1930s, most of the princely states whose Agencies were under the authority of India's provinces were organised into new Agencies, answerable directly to the Governor-general, on the model of the Central India and Rajputana agencies: the Eastern States Agency, Punjab States Agency, Baluchistan Agency, Deccan States Agency, Madras States Agency and the Northwest Frontier States Agency. The Baroda Residency was combined with the princely states of northern Bombay Presidency into the Baroda, Western States and Gujarat Agency. Gwalior was separated from the Central India Agency and given its own Resident, and the states of Rampur and Benares, formerly with Agents under the authority of the United Provinces, were placed under the Gwalior Residency in 1936. The princely states of Sandur and Banganapalle in Mysore Presidency were transferred to the agency of the Mysore Resident in 1939.

Short list of Native States in 1909

The native states in 1909 included five large states that were in "direct political relations" with the Government of India.

For the complete list of princely states in 1947, see List of Indian Princely States.

Under suzerainty of the Central Government

four large Princely States in direct political relations with the Central Government in India[9]
Name of Princely State Area in Square Miles Population in 1901 Approximate Revenue of the State (in hundred thousand Rupees) Title, ethnicity, and religion of ruler Gun-Salute for Ruler Designation of local political officer
Baroda 8,099 1.95 million (chiefly Hindu) 123 Maharaja, Maratha, Hindu 21 Resident at Baroda
Hyderabad 82,698 approx. 11.14 million (Mostly Hindus with a sizable Muslim minority) 359 Nizam, Turkic, Sunni Muslim 21 Resident in Hyderabad
Jammu and Kashmir 80,900 2.91 million including Gilgit, Baltistan (Skardu), Ladakh, and Punch (Mostly Muslims, sizable Hindus and Buddhists) 87 Maharaja, Dogra Rajput, Hindu 19 (21 within Jammu & Kashmir) Resident in Jammu & Kashmir
Mysore 29,444 5.53 million (mostly Hindu) 190 Maharaja,Arasu, Hindu 21 Resident in Mysore
Total 201,141 24.53 million 759
Central India Agency, Rajputana Agency and the Baluchistan Agency

Under a Provincial Government

Burma (52 States)
52 States in Burma: all except the Karen States were included in British India[13]
Name of Princely State Area in Square Miles Population in 1901 Approximate Revenue of the State (in hundred thousand Rupees) Title, ethnicity, and religion of ruler Gun-Salute for Ruler Designation of local political officer
Hsipaw (Thibaw) 5,086 105,000 (Buddhist) 3 Sawbwa, Shan, Buddhist 9 Superintendent, Northern Shan States
Kengtung 12,000 190,000 (Buddhist) 1 Sawbwa, Shan, Buddhist 9 Superintendent Southern Shan States
Mongnai 2,717 44,000 (Buddhist) 0.5 Sawbwa, Shan, Buddhist 9 Superintendent Southern Shan States
5 Karen States 4,830 45,795 (Buddhist and Animists) 0.5 Superintendent Southern Shan States
44 Other States 42,198 792,152 (Buddhist and Animist) 8.5
Total 67,011 1,177,987 13.5
Other states under provincial governments

Political integration of princely states in 1947 and after

The princely states shown situation post-1947 independence
The princely states shown situation post-1947 independence
At the time of Indian independence, India was divided into two sets of territories, the first being the territories of "British India," which were under the direct control of the India Office in London and the Governor-General of India, and the second being the "Princely states," the territories over which the Crown had suzerainty, but which were under the control of their hereditary rulers. In addition, there were several colonial enclaves controlled by France and Portugal. The integration of these territories into Dominion of India, that had been created by the Indian Independence Act 1947 by the British parliament, was a declared objective of the Indian National Congress, which the Government of India pursued over the years 1947 to 1949. Through a combination of tactics, Vallabhbhai Patel and V. P. Menon in the months immediately preceding and following the independence convinced the rulers of almost all of the hundreds of princely states to accede to India.

Although this process successfully integrated the vast majority of princely states into India, it was not as successful in relation to a few states, notably the former princely state of Kashmir, whose Maharaja delayed signing the instrument of accession into India until the very last possible moment, the state of Hyderabad, whose ruler wanted to remain independent and had to be militarily defeated, and the states of Tripura and Manipur, whose rulers took two years to agree to accession only in late 1949.

Having secured their accession, Sardar Patel and VP Menon then proceeded, in a step-by-step process, to secure and extend the central government's authority over these states and transform their administrations until, by 1956, there was little difference between the territories that had formerly been part of British India and those that had been part of princely states. Simultaneously, the Government of India, through a combination of diplomatic and military means, acquired control over the remaining colonial enclaves, such as Goa, which too were integrated into India.

As the final step, in 1971, the 26th amendment[20] to the Constitution of India abolished all official symbols of princely India, including titles, privileges, and remuneration (privy purses). As a result, even titular heads of the former princely states ceased to exist.[21]

Other princely states

Susuhunan Pakubuwono X of Surakarta, in the uniform of a KNIL Major-General

  • British Empire: Princely states existed elsewhere in the British Empire. Some of these were considered by the Colonial Office (or earlier by the BHEIC) as satellites of, and usually points of support on the naval routes to, British India, some important enough to be raised to the status of salute states.
    • A number of Arab states around the Persian Gulf, including Oman, the present-day United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, were British protectorates under native rulers.
    • On the Malay peninsula a number of states, known as the Malay states, were administered by local rulers, who recognized British sovereignty; they still reign, but now constitutionally, in most constitutive states of modern Malaysia.
  • Netherlands: Indirect rule through princely states (or even mere tribal chieftaincies) was also practiced in other European nations' colonial empires. An example is the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia), which had dozens of local rulers (mainly Malay and Muslim, others tribal, Hindu or animist). The colonial term in Dutch was regentschap 'regency', but did not apply to lower-level fiefs. Some rulers were also given precedence amongst others such as the Susuhunan of Surakarta and the Sultan of Yogyakarta (direct successors to the old Mataram Empire, which all the regencies in Java belonged to), which were recognized through their Vorstenlanden kingdoms and enjoyed a degree of autonomy and power amongst other regions. The state of Yogyakarta survives to this day as a special region, with its Sultan recognized as the hereditary local Governor.

See also

Notes

References

  • Bhagavan, Manu. "Princely States and the Hindu Imaginary: Exploring the Cartography of Hindu Nationalism in Colonial India" Journal of Asian Studies, (Aug 2008) 67#3 pp 881 915 in JSTOR
  • .
  • Jeffrey, Robin. People, Princes and Paramount Power: Society and Politics in the Indian Princely States (1979) 396pp
  • Kooiman, Dick. Communalism and Indian Princely States: Travancore, Baroda & Hyderabad in the 1930's (2002), 249pp
  • Pochhammer, Wilhelm von India's Road to Nationhood: A Political History of the Subcontinent (1973) ch 57 excerpt

Gazetteers

External links

ca:Principats de l' ndia cs:Kn ec st t de:F rstenstaat fr: tat princier des Indes britanniques hi: it:Stati principeschi dell'India britannica nl:Vorstenlanden van Brits-Indi ja: pt:Estado principesco ru: sv:Vasallstat zh:






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