Wealth and Power of India’s Native Princes

Dr. A. V. W. Jackson May 1 1908

Wealth and Power of India’s Native Princes

Dr. A. V. W. Jackson May 1 1908

Wealth and Power of India’s Native Princes

If Britain’s Strong Hand Were Withdrawn Anarchy in India Would at once Ensue and the Rival Princes Would Soon Betake Themselves to Internecine Wars, so it is Claimed.

By Dr. A. V. W. Jackson in Munsey’s Magazine

JEWELS, wealth, luxury, pomp and regal state—such is the picture we are prone to frame of India’s native rulers. Yet this is not by any means a complete representation. The Indian raja who wears the gem-decked turban of sovereignty bears no light burden if he wears it conscientiously. The ancient Sanskrit law-code of Manu, which has been handed down since ages before the Christian era, has a special division dealing with the duties of kings, and drawing, for future rulers, a portrait of the ideal monarch. Fear of God and devotion to the Brahman priests are the first obligations of the sovereign, but it is also prescribed that his life must be one of unceasing toil in behalf of his faithful subjects.

The same section of this ancient code enumerates the virtues that a king should possess and cultivate, and it describes in due order the eighteen cardinal vices which he should avoid. Even if not lived up to, then or nowadays, some of the elements in this early “Mirror of Princes,” if I may so term that part of the Manavadharma-castra, can never become antiquated, because of the high standard they established. In like manner the Hindu youth is still taught to look back upon Prince Rama, the beauideal of kings in the days of India’s legendary lore, as the prototype of all that is noble and exalted; and it is from the Solar Dynasty founded by that perfect prince that the present Maharaja of Udaipur proudly traces his descent.

So much may be said, by way of introduction, with regard to the an-

cient standards and examples prescribed for the guidance of Indian potentates. Nor can it be charged that these lofty precepts have never been put into practise. The Buddhist King Osoka, in the third century B.C., and the enlightened monarch Akbar, who founded the Mogul empire in the sixteenth century A.D., were princes of the blood to whom the title “great” rightfully belongs.


Chief among the native rulers of to-day, with respect to the number of subjects that he governs and the extent of territory that he controls, is the Nizam of Haidarabad, in southern India. His kingdom, which is twice as large as Ohio or Kentucky, and has eleven million inhabitants, first became conspicuous two centuries ago, at the time when the Mogul Empire crumbled ; and this Moselm ruler is acknowledged to-day to be the most powerful of the feudatory lords of Hindustan. Great Britain recognized his dignity by investing him with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, when he came to Delhi, in 1903, to attend the durbar and swear allegiance to Edward VIL, the newlycrowned Emperor of India.

Probably the most enlightened of all the rulers of the native states is the renowned Gaikwar of Baroda, the Maharaja Sir Sayaji Rao. The beneficent rule of this sovereign has done more than that of any other raja of Hindustan to promote education and to further the welfare of his people. It needs but a few minutes with this progressive prince to discover that one is in the presence of a remarkable man. His searching glance but kindly eye, his quick, incisive speech, his frank and open manner, his logical, clear-cut thought, the eagerness that he displays in seeking new ideas, and the wise judgment that he shows in his estimate of men and matters, are in keeping with the restless energy that springs from his high spirit. By the side of the Gaikwar and the Nizam of Haidarabad stands the young Maharaja of Mysore, descended from a line of kings that have ruled since time immemorial in this rich province of southwestern India. Because of a rebellion in 1831, the British government deprived Mysore of its privileges as an autonomous state for fifty years ; but in 1881 its rights were restored, and it is now one of the best-administered feudatory governments in the whole Indian Empire. As a mark of his honor and dignity, the Maharaja of Mysore, like his two compeers already mentioned, is entitled to the full military salute of twenty-one guns on state occasions. The Maharajas of Gwalior, of Indore, of Jammu and Kashmir, of Kolhapiy, of Udaipur, and of Travancore are among those whose approach is heralded by nineteen pieces of ordnance; while other princes are honored by corresponding salutes on Impressive among the figures at the grand durbar of 1903 was that of the Maharaja of Kashmir, in whose veins flows the blood of the Hindu Rajputs. He rules over a state almost as large as the Nizam's, the jewel of his realm being the beautiful Vale of Kashmir, whence came the rich draperies and antique Kashmir shawls that decorated the snowy tents of his temporary encampment near Delhi. Ä transport of three hundred horses and a hundred wagons, together with eight elephants and as many camels, conveyed his retinue of fourteen hundred attendants from the mountains of the north to the plains around the historic city of the Mogul emperors. There can be no question that education in athletic exercises and physical culture is not neglected in India. I remember, for instance, seeing a young prince, a lad of about six years of age, going through his morning's regime at daylight, as I was on my way to Bodh-Gaya to visit a scene made sacred by Buddha’s memory. When the little prince had completed his matin devotions under the direction of the Brahman priest, who was over to his gymnastic teacher, who* put him through a course of vigorousexercises. It reminded me of the daily routine that formed part of the training of the youthful Prince Siddartha—afterward the Buddha—ira Sir Edwin Arnold's “Light of Asia.” The effect, moreover, of outdoor sports, as cultivated by young Hindra nobles, is exemplified by the renown won by Prince Ran jit Singh, now ruler of the little state of Nawanagar, who for several years played with the Sussex county cricket team, and proved himself one of the very best batsmen in England.

The Gaikwar was the first native prince to introduce free and compulsory education throughout his domain, and his lead is now being followed in other states. So impatient is he to further the public good that he seems, at times, to chafe under the obstacles that impede the progress of his well-devised measures. And yet, with all his busy life, he has found time not only to govern his kingdom admirably, but also to travel in foreign countries in search of broader views. Two years ago he even visit-

ed America. Some leisure has likewise been reserved for writing scholarly essays, among which is a short critical treatise on “The Education of Indian Princes.” One of his young sons is at present studying in the United States, while a brother of the Gaikwar has emulated Western examples by founding a public library in the capital city of Baroda.


a decreasing scale down to eleven guns.


The opulence and splendor of India’s native royalty was also well represented by the chieftains of Rajpiltana, and by the sumptuous retinue that followed in the train of the Maharaja of Gwalior, with his score of superb elephants and nearly three hundred horsemen. The garden that was laid out with fountains and palmtrees to be the centre of his royal encampment almost rivaled the beauty of the palace-courts of his own ancestral capital.

The grandeur and magnificence of the palaces of the Indian rajas is generally on a par with their wealth. In some of the petty principalities no great ostentation is to be expected ; but in the royal abodes of the greater native rulers are to be found the art and luxury of East and West, combining to lend perfection in appointments and decoration, and to recall the bygone glories of the Grand Moguls. Retinues of servants stand ready at command, and troops of richly caparisoned horses await the royal summons at any moment. On festival occasions ponderous elephants, gaily painted and laden with heavily embossed trappings that are only less resplendent than their gorgeous howdahs, march forth in solemn state. At other times, these huge creatures are pitted against one another in savage combat, to the delight of some royal gathering—a barbaric sport that was the favorite pastime of the Mogul emperor Jahangir, three hundred years ago.


A good example of Indian magnificence was furnished by the Raja of Jaipur when he visited England in 1902, to be present at King Edward’s

coronation. The raja chartered, a special steamer to convey him and his large suite of followers and attendants. The ship was especially fitted up with six different kitchens. It contained a temple paved with marble for the family idol, and carried a plentiful supply of water from the holy river Ganges, so that the Hindu prince might receive no contamination from partaking of - the waters of Europe. The expense of the entire undertaking is said to have been more than thirty lakhs of rupees, or a million dollars; but the raja’s prodigality was mingled as well with princely generosity, for he gave more than twenty lakhs of rupees in donations to charity as an incident of his royal journey. The Raja of Jaipur’s capital city is modern, as cities go in India. Its first building was erected less than two centuries ago, and it is laid out in the checkerboard fashion of Chicago and Philadelphia. Kipling calls it “a pink city, to see and puzzle over.”


The education of the young native princes is an important and serious problem, as will become clear from a perusal of the tractate written by the Gaikwar of Baroda, mention of which has already been made. Some of these youths are trained at home by special tutors, some are sent to England for instruction, and some are educated in the schools and colleges of India, like the institutions established at Ajmir, Rajkot, and Indore, expressly to give a fitting education to scions of the royal stock. In each of the three methods of procedure there are advantages and disadvantages, as the Gaikwar specifically states ; and he does not hesitate to criticize the curriculum of the specially founded .colleges as not sufficiently high in standard for the purpose they have in view, and as inadequate for the training that might best fit young princes for their future duties. But progress will be made with time.

his spiritual preceptor, he was handed

A welcome opening in a somewhat kindred field of activity for the sturdier sons of chiefs and kings has in recent years been made by the creation of an Imperial Cadet Corps to serve as a bodyguard of honor for the viceroy. The establishment of this corps has met with general favor, and the fine appearance made by the princely troop, mounted on curveting steeds, and attired in handsome uniforms of white and sky-blue, capped off by turbans crested with a rich aigret, was one of the noticeable features of the durbar of 1903.


In conclusion, it may be said that England’s treatment of the native princes and principalities has been marked, as a rule, by wise judgment, just liberality, and diplomatic skill. Her control, which is largely exercised through example, influence, and guidance, but sometimes by restraint, has its severe critics, but the preponderating opinion Is that it has been a beneficent one.

To preserve at least a partial oversight over the affairs of each feudatory state, the British government maintains a resident, or political agent, whose duty is to represent the British crown, and to exercise a gen-

eral advisory control over the course of the local authorities. In “The Naulakha,” Rudyard Kipling has given a curious picture of the manner in which a native prince of the lower type chafes under the restraining hand of the resident.

Through these British functionaries, or ultimately through the viceroy, the principalities must deal with one another and with the imperial government ; nor may they engage in war or conclude terms of peace, or enter into any negotiations with a foreign power, or even have a foreigner employed in their service, unless it be with the sanction of the power behind their thrones. On the other hand, and by way of return, their ancestral rights are supported by Great Britain’s rule ; and they enjoy the justice, safety, and protection that are guaranteed them by her dominion.

The assertion is commonly made that if Britain’s strong hand were withdrawn, anarchy in India would at once ensue, and that the rival princes would soon betake themselves to internecine wars. Many of the more enlightened natives, however, strongly combat this view ; and as the world knows, a vigorous movement is now afoot to secure, if not independence, at least a greater measure of self-rule for the three hundred million inhabitants of the great Asiastic subcontinent. Any discussion of the prospects and probable results of such a movement belongs to others than the student of Sanskrit.

Our daily opportunities present themselves with open door, and when we pass along looking the other way the door is shut, and that door never opens again. Other doors of opportunity may open, but that door never.—George Hodges.