If you thought Maharajas were all about sitting on a gold throne surrounded by jewels and servants, think again
By: Royals of India
Posted on: April 27, 2015
Whenever we talk about luxury in India, we always look at our Maharajas and the luxurious lives they led. The jewels, the cars, the palaces – they all manage to glamourize the era of plenty for us.
But then, there has been more to the lives of Maharajas than what is usually made public or is known. They have certain talents, skills and resources which made India grow significantly. And so, we chronicle the contributions of some royals in 5 key areas in India.
Maihar Gharana was founded by Ustad Allauddin Khan Sahab & HH Maharaja Brijnath Singh Judeo of Maihar under the generous patronage of the Maihar Royals. The great Maihar Gharana of Indian Classical instrumental music has seen three generations of outstanding performers including Maharaja Brijnath Singh Judeo himself, Ustad Allauddin Khan Sahab, his son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Sahab and his grandson Ahish Khan. Their contribution to Indian music includes the likes of renowned international artists such as Pt. Ravi Shankar.
Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was one of the Eastern world's greatest musician. A five time Grammy nominee, Ustad was called by Yehudi Menuhin, "an absolute genius, the greatest musician in the world." He made his public debut during a concert in Allahabad in 1936. It was in 1955 that Yehudi Menuhin invited him to US. In addition to performing at the museum of Modern Art in New York, he recorded the first western album of Indian classical music and became the first Indian musician on an American television when he appeared on Alistair Cooke's Omnibus. He has received many awards. If Noble Prize was to be given in performing arts, he would have surely received it. In 1956, Ustad founded the Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in Calcutta and started teaching students who were interested to learn music from him.
Textiles & Banking
An international state-owned bank now, Bank of Baroda, was founded in 1908 by the Gaekwad family of Baroda. The bank has become the second largest bank in the country. The Gaekwad family was also key to the initial progress of the textile industry in Gujarat. All of their efforts were very progressive, driven by pure logic and inculcating sound economics. The Laxmi Vilas Palace was the largest ever private residence to be built by them, four times the size of Buckingham Palace, and built in an area of 700 acres - a great global feat.
The royal family of Darbhanga played the most vital role in the spread of education in India. Darbhanga Raj was a major donor to Benaras Hindu University, Calcutta University, Allahabad University, Patna University, Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University, Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital, Lalit Narayan Mithila University, Aligarh Muslim University, and many other educational institutions in India.
Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur was a major donor and supporter of Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya for starting Banaras Hindu University. He donated Rs. 5,000,000 start-up funds and assisted in the fundraising campaign. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was also the Pro-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University.
Maharaja Rameshwar Singh donated the Darbhanga House (Navlakha Palace) in Patna to Patna University. The Maharaja played an important role getting Maithili introduced as a subject in Patna University, and in 1920, he donated Rs. 500,000 to establish Patna Medical College Hospital, becoming the single highest contributor. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh donated his ancestral house, Anand Bag Palace, on March 30, 1960, along with a rich library and land surrounding the palace, to establish Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University. Nargona Palace and the Raj Head Office were donated in 1972 to the Government of Bihar. The buildings are now part of Lalit Narayan Mithila University. Raj Darbhanga donated 70,935 books to Lalit Narain Mithila University for its library.
Raj School in Darbhanga was founded by Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur. This school was established to provide English medium education and to introduce modern teaching methods in Mithila. Raj Darbhanga was a major donor to Calcutta University, and the central library building of Calcutta University is called the Darbhanga Building.
In 1951, Mithila Snatkottar Shodh Sansthan (the Mithila Post-Graduate Research Institute), located in Kabraghat, was established through the initiative of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first President of India. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh donated a building along with 60 acres (240,000 m2) of land and a garden of mango and litchi trees located beside the Bagmati river in Darbhanga to this institution.
The Maharajas of Darbhanga were the main patrons, trustees, and financiers of Mahakali Pathshala, a school established by Mst. Gangabai in 1839 for promoting education for women. Similarly many colleges like Bareilly College received substantial donations from Maharajas of Darbhanga. Maharani Rameshwari Bhartiya Chikitsa Vigyan Sansthan at Mohanpur is named after the wife of Maharaja Rameshwar Singh
The royal house of Kurupam in Andhra Pradesh, located on the border of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, is an exemplary example of promoting welfare and equality in their region. Since 1200s, this family has been the tribal Chieftains working as custodians of the community. Kurupam never had a Treasury, a fact almost unheard of in any royal family or kingdom. Kings of Kurupam were also very aware of co-existing with the environment, as one would imagine all tribals to be. Their contribution towards irrigation in the entire belt of Kurupam to Vizag still exists, as their legacy projects still provide irrigation to the belt. The current Raja Sahib was the former Cabinet Minister for Tribal Affairs until very recently, and contributed extensively to integrate and solve issues of tribals across India.
Radical Social Reforms
Maharaja Ratan Singh, 18th Maharaja of Bikaner, put an end to the practise of lavish dowries in Bikaner in 1844. Later the Maharaja, together with several hundred followers, set off on a pilgrimage to Gaya and it was there that he made the Nobles of his court take a solemn vow never to kill their infant daughters, and warned them that should they do so, they would face confiscation of their estates and Jagirs. It was a very progressive and radical reform judging the times he lived in, and it seems that Maharaja Ratan Singh was the first Indian ruler to introduce and take effective measures to suppress both excessive dowries and female infanticide.
Do these facts change the way you perceive and look at India’s royals now?
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