Princely state

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Colonial India
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Imperial entities of India
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Portuguese East India Company 1628–1633

British India
East India Company 1612–1757
Company rule in India 1757–1858
British Raj 1858–1947
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Princely states 1721–1949
Partition of India

A princely state, also called native state (legally, under the British) or Indian state (for those states on the subcontinent), was a nominally sovereign[1] monarchy under a local or regional ruler in a subsidiary alliance with a greater power. Though the history of the princely states of the subcontinent dates from at least the classical period of Indian history, the predominant usage of the term princely state specifically refers to a semi-sovereign principality on the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj that was not directly governed by the British, but rather by a local ruler, subject to a form of indirect rule on some matters; similar political entities also existed on or in the region of the Arabian Peninsula, in Africa and in Malaya, and which were similarly recognised under British rule,[2] subject to a subsidiary alliance and the suzerainty or paramountcy of the British Crown. Oman, Zanzibar and the Trucial States were also under the Viceroy of India, and were administered by their rulers in the same manner as the Indian princely states, as part of the Persian Gulf Residency; they were officially categorised as British protectorates, with differing degrees of autonomy.

At the time of the British withdrawal, 565 princely states were officially recognised in the Indian subcontinent,[3] apart from thousands of zamindaris and jagirs. The most important states had their own British Political Residencies: Hyderabad, Mysore and Travancore in the South followed by Jammu & Kashmir and Sikkim in the Himalayas, and Indore in Central India. Gun-salutes were often given for personal distinctions of the ruler rather than the importance of the state and varied from time to time.[4] The most prominent among those - roughly a quarter of the total - had the status of a salute state, one whose ruler was honoured by receiving a set number of gun salutes on ceremonial occasions, ranging from nine to 21. Rulers of salute states entitled to a gun salute of eleven guns and above received from the British the style of His/HerHighness; while the Nizam of Hyderabad had the unique style of His Exalted Highness.

The princely states varied greatly in status, size, and wealth; the premier 21-gun salute states of Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir were each over 200,000 km2 in size, or slightly larger than the whole of Great Britain. In 1941, Hyderabad had a population of over 16 million, comparable to the population of Romania at the time, while Jammu and Kashmir had a population of slightly over 4 million, comparable to that of Switzerland. At the other end of the scale, the non-salute principality of Lawa covered an area of 49 km2, or smaller than Bermuda, with a population of just below 3,000. Some two hundred of the lesser states had an area of less than 25 km2 (10 mi2).[5][6] At the time of Indian independence in 1947, Hyderabad had annual revenues of over Rs. 9 crore (roughly £6.75 million/$27.2 million in 1947 values, approximately £240 million/$290 million in 2014 values), and its own army, airline, telecommunication system, railway, postal system, currency, radio service and a major public university; the tiny state of Lawa had annual revenues of just Rs. 28,000 (£2100/$8463 in 1947 values, £73,360/$89,040 in 2014 values).[6][note 1]

The era of the princely states effectively ended with Indian independence in 1947. By 1950, almost all of the principalities had acceded to either India or Pakistan. [7]The accession process was largely peaceful, except in the cases of Jammu & Kashmir (whose ruler decided to accede to India, but only after an invasion by Pakistan-based tribal militia),[8] Hyderabad (whose ruler opted for total independence in 1947, followed a year later by the forced annexation of the state to India) and Kalat (whose ruler also opted for independence in 1947, followed in 1948 by the state's forced annexation to Pakistan and an ongoing and still unresolved insurgency.)[9][10]

As per the terms of accession, the erstwhile Indian princes received privy purses (government allowances), and initially retained their statuses, privileges, and autonomy in internal matters during a transitional period which lasted until 1956. During this time, the former princely states were merged into unions, each of which was headed by a former ruling prince with the title of Rajpramukh (ruling chief), equivalent to a state governor.[11] In 1956, the position of Rajpramukh was abolished and the federations dissolved, the former principalities becoming part of Indian states. The states which acceded to Pakistan retained their status until the promulgation of a new constitution in 1956, when most became part of the province of West Pakistan; a few of the former states retained their autonomy until 1969 when they were fully integrated into Pakistan. The Indian Government formally derecognised the princely families in 1971, followed by the Government of Pakistan in 1972.


Though principalities and chiefdoms existed on the Indian subcontinent from at least the Iron Age, the history of princely states on the Indian subcontinent dates to at least the 5th-6th centuries C.E., during the rise of the middle kingdoms of India following the collapse of the Gupta Empire.[12][13] Many of the future ruling clan groups - notably the Rajputs - began to emerge during this period; by the 13th-14th centuries, many of the Rajput clans had firmly established semi-independent principalities in the north-west, along with several in the north-east. The widespread expansion of Islam during this time brought many principalities into tributary relations with Islamic sultanates, notably the Delhi Sultanate and Bahmani Sultanate. In the south, however, the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire remained dominant until the mid-17th century; among its tributaries was the future Mysore Kingdom.

The Turco-Mongol Mughal Empire brought a majority of the existing Indian kingdoms and principalities under its suzerainty by the 17th century, beginning with its foundation in the early 16th century. The advent of Sikhism resulted in the creation of the Sikh Empire in the north by the early 18th century, by which time the Mughal Empire was in full decline. At the same time, the Marathas carved out their own states to form the Maratha Empire. Through the 18th century, former Mughal governors formed their own independent states. In the north-west, some of those - such as Tonk - allied themselves with various groups, including the Marathas and the Durrani Empire, itself formed in 1747 from a loose agglomeration of tribal chiefdoms that composed former Mughal territories. In 1768, Prithvi Narayan Shah, ruler of a small principality in Gorkha, likewise established the Kingdom of Nepal from a federation of small states, expanding its influence over much of north-eastern India; in the south, the principalities of Hyderabad and Arcot were fully established by the 1760s, though they nominally remained vassals of the Mughal Emperor.

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.[14]

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.[15][16] The term has also been used to refer to the "British in India".[citation needed]

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 400 states were influenced by Agents answerable to the provincial governments of British India under a Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, or Chief Commissioner.[17] 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.[17]

Princely status and titles

The Indian rulers bore various titles – including Chhatrapati (exclusively used by the 3 Bhonsle dynasty of the Marathas) or Badshah ("emperor"), Maharaja or Raja ("king"), Sultan, Raje, Nizam, Wadiyar (by the Maharajas of Mysore), Agniraj Maharaj for the rulers of Bhaddaiyan Raj, Nawab ("governor"), Nayak, Wāli, Inamdar,[18] Saranjamdar[19] and many others. Whatever the literal meaning and traditional prestige of the ruler's actual title, the British government translated them all as "prince," 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,"Raje" or a variant such as "Rana," "Rao," "Rawat" or Rawal. Also in this 'class' were several Thakurs or Thakores and a few particular titles, such as Sardar, Mankari (or Mānkari/Maankari), Deshmukh, Sar Desai, Raja Inamdar, Saranjamdar.

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 Wāli/Khan of Kalat and the Wāli 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.

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 Nawab of Junagadh Bahadur Khan III (seated centre in an ornate chair) shown in an 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.

In addition to their titles 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. 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, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India.

Many Indian princes served in the British Army, the Indian Army, or in local guard or police forces, often rising to high ranks; some even served while on the throne. Many of these were appointed as an Aide de camp, 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 saw active service, both on the subcontinent and on other fronts, during both World Wars.

Apart from those members of the princely houses who entered military service and who distinguished themselves, a good number of princes received honorary ranks as officers in the British and Indian 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, Patiala, Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad, were given honorary 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, Kapurthala, 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 for their states' contributions to the war effort.)
  • General (very rarely awarded; the Maharajas of Gwalior and Jammu & Kashmir were created honorary Generals in the British Army in 1877, the Maharaja of Bikaner was made one in 1937, and the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1941)[20]

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.

Salute states

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. As heads of a state, certain 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. 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. The states of all these rulers (about 120) were known as salute states.

After Indian Independence, the Maharana of Udaipur displaced the Nizam of Hyderabad as the most senior prince in India, because Hyderabad State had not acceded to the new Dominion of India, and the style Highness was extended to all rulers entitled to 9-gun salutes. When the princely states had been integrated into the Indian Union their rulers 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 be recognised under Indian law, although many families continue to retain their social prestige informally; some descendants of the rulers 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 – the Nawab of Bhopal, the Maharaja Holkar of Indore, the Maharana of Udaipur, the Maharaja of Kohapur 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.

Non salute states

There was no strict correlation 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. As a rule the majority of gun-salute princes had at least nine, with numbers below that usually the prerogative of Arab Sheikhs of the Aden protectorate, also under British protection.

There were many so-called non-salute states of lower prestige. Since the total of salute states was 117 and there were more than 500 princely states, most rulers were not entitled to any gun salute. Not all of these were minor rulers -- Surguja State, for example, was both larger and more populous than Karauli State, but the Maharaja of Karauli was entitled to a 17-gun salute and the Maharaja of Surguja was not entitled to any gun salute at all.

A number of princes, in the broadest sense of the term, were not even acknowledged as such.[example needed] On the other hand, the dynasties of certain defunct states were allowed to keep their princely status – they were known as political pensioners, such as the Nawab of Oudh. There were also certain estates of British India which were rendered as political saranjams, having equal princely status.[21] Though none of these princes were awarded gun salutes, princely titles in this category were recognised as a form of vassals of salute states, and were not even in direct relation with the paramount power.

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 and Satara, and Sambalpur. 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 Shahaji II Bhonsle Maharajah of Kolhapur 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.

Chamber of Princes meeting in March 1941

The Chamber of Princes (Narender Mandal or Narendra Mandal) was an institution established in 1920 by a Royal Proclamation of the King-Emperor to provide a forum in which the rulers could voice their needs and aspirations to the government. It survived until the end of the British Raj in 1947.[22]

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 India and Gujarat States 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.

Principal princely states in 1947

The native states in 1947 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 princely states of India.

In direct relations with the Central Government

Five large Princely states in direct political relations with the Central Government in India[23][24][25][26]
Name of Princely state Area in square miles Population in 1941 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 13,866 3,343,477 (chiefly Hindu) 323.26 Maharaja, Maratha, Hindu 21 Resident at Baroda
Hyderabad 82,698 16,338,534 (mostly Hindu with a sizeable Muslim minority) 1582.43 Nizam, Turkic, Sunni Muslim 21 Resident in Hyderabad
Jammu and Kashmir 84,471 4,021,616 including Gilgit, Baltistan (Skardu), Ladakh, and Punch (mostly Muslim, with sizeable Hindu and Buddhist populations) 463.95 Maharaja, Dogra, Hindu 21 Resident in Jammu & Kashmir
Mysore 29,458 7,328,896 (chiefly Hindu) 1001.38 Maharaja, Kannadiga, Hindu 21 Resident in Mysore
Gwalior 26,397 4,006,159 (chiefly Hindu) 356.75 Maharaja, Maratha, Hindu 21 Resident at Gwalior
Total 236,890 35,038,682 3727.77
Central India Agency, Gwalior Residency, Baluchistan Agency, Rajputana Agency, Eastern States Agency
Sikkim, as a Protectorate of the British Government[35]
Name of Princely state Area in square miles Population in 1941 Approximate revenue of the state (in hundred thousand Rupees) Title, ethnicity, and religion of ruler Gun-Salute for ruler Designation of local political officer
Sikkim 2,818 121,520 (chiefly Buddhist and Hindu) 5 Maharaja, Tibetan, Buddhist 15 Political Officer, Sikkim
Other states under provincial governments


Burma (52 states)
52 States in Burma: all except Kantarawadi, one of the Karenni States, were included in British India until 1937[42]
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
Yawnghwe 865 95,339 (Buddhist) 2.13 Sawbwa, Shan, Buddhist 9 Superintendent Southern Shan States
Mongnai 2,717 44,000 (Buddhist) 0.5 Sawbwa, Shan, Buddhist Superintendent Southern Shan States
5 Karenni States 3,130 45,795 (Buddhist and Animist) 0,035 Sawbwa, Red Karen, Buddhist Superintendent Southern Shan States
44 Other States 42,198 792,152 (Buddhist and Animist) 8.5
Total 67,011 1,177,987 13.5

State military forces

See article: Indian State Forces

The armies of the Native States were bound by many restrictions that were imposed by subsidiary alliances. They existed mainly for ceremonial use and for internal policing. According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 85,

Since a chief can neither attack his neighbour nor fall out with a foreign nation, it follows that he needs no military establishment which is not required either for police purposes or personal display, or for cooperation with the Imperial Government. The treaty made with Gwalior in 1844, and the instrument of transfer given to Mysore in 1881, alike base the restriction of the forces of the State upon the broad ground of protection. The former explained in detail that unnecessary armies were embarrassing to the State itself and the cause of disquietude to others: a few months later a striking proof of this was afforded by the army of the Sikh kingdom of Lahore. The British Government has undertaken to protect the dominions of the Native princes from invasion and even from rebellion within: its army is organised for the defence not merely of British India, but of all the possessions under the suzerainty of the King-Emperor.[43]

In addition, other restrictions were imposed:

The treaties with most of the larger States are clear on this point. Posts in the interior must not be fortified, factories for the production of guns and ammunition must not be constructed, nor may the subject of other States be enlisted in the local forces. ... They must allow the forces that defend them to obtain local supplies, to occupy cantonments or positions, and to arrest deserters; and in addition to these services they must recognise the Imperial control of the railways, telegraphs, and postal communications as essential not only to the common welfare but to the common defence.[44]

The troops were routinely inspected by British army officers and generally had the same equipment as soldiers in the Indian Army.[45] Although their numbers were relatively small, the Imperial Service Troops were employed in China and British Somaliland in the first decade of the 20th century, and later saw action in the First World War and Second World War .[45]

Political integration of princely states in 1947 and after

India (and Sikkim)

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, Sardar 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. In a speech in January 1948, Vallabhbhai Patel said:

As you are all aware, on the lapse of Paramountcy every Indian State became a separate independent entity and our first task of consolidating about 550 States was on the basis of accession to the Indian Dominion on three subjects. Barring Hyderabad and Junagadh all the states which are contiguous to India acceded to Indian Dominion. Subsequently, Kashmir also came in... Some Rulers who were quick to read the writing on the wall, gave responsible government to their people; Cochin being the most illustrious example. In Travancore, there was a short struggle, but there, too, the Ruler soon recognised the aspiration of his people and agreed to introduce a constitution in which all powers would be transferred to the people and he would function as a constitutional Ruler.[46]

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 his territories were under the threat of invasion by Pakistan, the state of Hyderabad, whose ruler decided to remain independent and was subsequently defeated by the Operation Polo invasion, and the states of Tripura and Manipur, whose rulers agreed to accession only in late 1949, after the Indian conquest of Hyderabad.

Having secured their accession, Sardar Patel and V. P. Menon then proceeded, in a step-by-step process, to secure and extend the central government's authority over these states and to 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 princely states. Simultaneously, the Government of India, through a combination of diplomatic and military means, acquired control over the remaining European colonial enclaves, such as Goa, which were also integrated into India.

As the final step, in 1971, the 26th amendment[47] to the Constitution of India withdrew official recognition of all official symbols of princely India, including titles and privileges, and abolished the remuneration of the princes by privy purses. As a result, even titular heads of the former princely states ceased to exist.[48]

Pakistan (and Bangladesh)

During the period of the British Raj, there were four Princely states in Balochistan: Makran, Kharan, Las Bela and Kalat. These states acceded with the newly formed Pakistan in 1947.

Bahawalpur from the Punjab Agency joined Pakistan on 5 October 1947. The Princely states of the North-West Frontier States Agencies. included the Dir Swat and Chitral Agency and the Deputy Commissioner of Hazara acting as the Political Agent for Amb and Phulra. These states joined Pakistan on independence from the British.

See also


  1. ^ Values are from the last imperial Indian census in 1941. Until 1966, when India left the British sterling area, the Indian rupee was pegged to the British pound sterling and had a value of 1s. 6d (1 shilling and 6d., equal to 18 old pence). The pre-decimal pound was subdivided into 20s. (shillings) and valued at $4.03 in 1947. One shilling was therefore worth $0.20 U.S., so a rupee was worth $0.30 U.S. In 1947, 1s. 6d had an estimated purchasing power of £2.62 in 2014, while $0.30 in 1947 had an estimated purchasing power of $3.18 (in 2014 values).(Schedule of Par Values, Currencies of Metropolitan Areas, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg xxiii, Macmillan & Co.;


  1. ^ Ramusack 2004, pp. 85 Quote: "The British did not create the Indian princes. Before and during the European penetration of India, indigenous rulers achieved dominance through the military protection they provided to dependents and their skill in acquiring revenues to maintain their military and administrative organisations. Major Indian rulers exercised varying degrees and types of sovereign powers before they entered treaty relations with the British. What changed during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is that the British increasingly restricted the sovereignty of Indian rulers. The Company set boundaries; it extracted resources in the form of military personnel, subsidies or tribute payments, and the purchase of commercial goods at favourable prices, and limited opportunities for other alliances. From the 1810s onwards as the British expanded and consolidated their power, their centralised military despotism dramatically reduced the political options of Indian rulers." (p. 85)
  2. ^ Ramusack 2004, p. 87 Quote: "The British system of indirect rule over Indian states ... provided a model for the efficient use of scarce monetary and personnel resources that could be adopted to imperial acquisitions in Malaya and Africa. (p. 87)"
  3. ^
  4. ^ Coen, Sir Terence Bernard Creagh, KBE, CIE. The Indian Political Service: A Study in Indirect Rule. London: Chatto & Windus, 1971
  5. ^ Markovits, Claude (2004). A history of modern India, 1480–1950. Anthem Press. pp. 386–409. 
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  7. ^ Ravi Kumar Pillai of Kandamath in the Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs Pages 316-319
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  12. ^ Agarwal, Ashvini (1989). Rise and Fall of the Imperial Guptas, Delhi:Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0592-5, pp.264–9
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  14. ^ Interpretation Act 1889 (52 & 53 Vict. c. 63), s. 18
  15. ^ 1. Imperial Gazetteer of India, volume IV, published under the authority of the Secretary of State for India-in-Council, 1909, Oxford University Press. page 5. Quote: "The history of British India falls, as observed by Sir C. P. Ilbert in his Government of India, into three periods. From the beginning of the seventeenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century the East India Company is a trading corporation, existing on the sufferance of the native powers and in rivalry with the merchant companies of Holland and France. During the next century the Company acquires and consolidates its dominion, shares its sovereignty in increasing proportions with the Crown, and gradually loses its mercantile privileges and functions. After the mutiny of 1857 the remaining powers of the Company are transferred to the Crown, and then follows an era of peace in which India awakens to new life and progress." 2. The Statutes: From the Twentieth Year of King Henry the Third to the ... by Robert Harry Drayton, Statutes of the Realm – Law – 1770 Page 211 (3) "Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, the law of British India and of the several parts thereof existing immediately before the appointed ..." 3. Edney, M. E. (1997) Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765–1843, University of Chicago Press. 480 pages. ISBN 978-0-226-18488-3 4. Hawes, C.J. (1996) Poor Relations: The Making of a Eurasian Community in British India, 1773–1833. Routledge, 217 pages. ISBN 0-7007-0425-6.
  16. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II 1908, pp. 463, 470 Quote1: "Before passing on to the political history of British India, which properly begins with the Anglo-French Wars in the Carnatic, ... (p. 463)" Quote2: "The political history of the British in India begins in the eighteenth century with the French Wars in the Carnatic. (p.471)"
  17. ^ a b Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 60
  18. ^ Great Britain. Indian Statutory Commission; Viscount John Allsebrook Simon Simon (1930). Report of the Indian Statutory Commission ... H.M. Stationery Office. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  19. ^ All India reporter. D.V. Chitaley. 1938. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
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  22. ^ Vapal Pangunni Menon (1956) The Story of the Integration of the Indian States, Macmillan Co., pp. 17–19
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  24. ^ "Mysore," Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 173, Macmillan & Co.
  25. ^ "Jammu and Kashmir," Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 171, Macmillan & Co.
  26. ^ "Hyderabad," Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 170, Macmillan & Co.
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  28. ^ "Central India Agency," Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 168, Macmillan & Co.
  29. ^ "Eastern States," Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 168, Macmillan & Co.
  30. ^ "Gwalior Residency,", Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 170, Macmillan & Co.
  31. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, pp. 94–95
  32. ^ "Rajputana," Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 175, Macmillan & Co.
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  34. ^ "Baluchistan States," Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 160, Macmillan & Co.
  35. ^ "Sikkim," Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 175, Macmillan & Co.
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  41. ^ "Assam States,", Indian States and Agencies, The Statesman's Year Book 1947, pg 160, Macmillan & Co.
  42. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 101
  43. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV 1907, p. 85
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  46. ^ R. P. Bhargava (1992) The Chamber of Princes, p. 313
  47. ^ "The Constitution (26 Amendment) Act, 1971",, Government of India, 1971, retrieved 9 November 2011 
  48. ^ 1. Ramusack, Barbara N. (2004). The Indian princes and their states. Cambridge University Press. p. 278. ISBN 978-0-521-26727-4. Retrieved 6 November 2011. , "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." (p 278). 2. Naipaul, V. S. (8 April 2003), India: A Wounded Civilisation, Random House Digital, Inc., pp. 37–, ISBN 978-1-4000-3075-0, retrieved 6 November 2011  Quote: "The princes of India – their number and variety reflecting to a large extent the chaos that had come to the country with the break up of the Mughal empire – had lost real power in the British time. Through generations of idle servitude they had grown to specialise only in style. A bogus, extinguishable glamour: in 1947, with Independence, they had lost their state, and Mrs. Gandhi in 1971 had, without much public outcry, abolished their privy purses and titles." (pp 37–38). 3. Schmidt, Karl J. (1995), An atlas and survey of South Asian history, M.E. Sharpe, p. 78, ISBN 978-1-56324-334-9, retrieved 6 November 2011  Quote: "Although the Indian states were alternately requested or forced into union with either India or Pakistan, the real death of princely India came when the Twenty-sixth Amendment Act (1971) abolished the princes' titles, privileges, and privy purses." (page 78). 4. Breckenridge, Carol Appadurai (1995), Consuming modernity: public culture in a South Asian world, U of Minnesota Press, pp. 84–, ISBN 978-0-8166-2306-8, retrieved 6 November 2011  Quote: "The third stage in the political evolution of the princes from rulers to citizens occurred in 1971, when the constitution ceased to recognise them as princes and their privy purses, titles, and special privileges were abolished." (page 84). 5. Guha, Ramachandra (5 August 2008), India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy, HarperCollins, pp. 441–, ISBN 978-0-06-095858-9, retrieved 6 November 2011  Quote: "Her success at the polls emboldened Mrs. Gandhi to act decisively against the princes. Through 1971, the two sides tried and failed to find a settlement. The princes were willing to forgo their privy purses, but hoped at least to save their titles. But with her overwhelming majority in Parliament, the prime minister had no need to compromise. On 2 December she introduced a bill to amend the constitution and abolish all princely privileges. It was passed in the Lok Sabha by 381 votes to six, and in the Rajya Sabha by 167 votes to seven. In her own speech, the prime minister invited 'the princes to join the elite of the modern age, the elite which earns respect by its talent, energy and contribution to human progress, all of which can only be done when we work together as equals without regarding anybody as of special status.' " (page 441). 6. Cheesman, David (1997). Landlord power and rural indebtedness in colonial Sind, 1865–1901. London: Routledge. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-7007-0470-5. Retrieved 6 November 2011.  Quote: "The Indian princes survived the British Raj by only a few years. The Indian republic stripped them of their powers and then their titles." (page 10). 7. Merriam-Webster, Inc (1997), Merriam-Webster's geographical dictionary, Merriam-Webster, pp. 520–, ISBN 978-0-87779-546-9, retrieved 6 November 2011  Quote: "Various (formerly) semi-independent areas in India ruled by native princes .... Under British rule ... administered by residents assisted by political agents. Titles and remaining privileges of princes abolished by Indian government 1971." (page 520). 8. Ward, Philip (September 1989), Northern India, Rajasthan, Agra, Delhi: a travel guide, Pelican Publishing, pp. 91–, ISBN 978-0-88289-753-0, retrieved 6 November 2011  Quote: "A monarchy is only as good as the reigning monarch: thus it is with the princely states. Once they seemed immutable, invincible. In 1971 they were "derecognised," their privileges, privy purses and titles all abolished at a stroke" (page 91)


  • 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
  • Bhagavan, Manu. Sovereign Spheres: Princes, Education and Empire in Colonial India (2003)
  • Copland, Ian (2002), Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917–1947, (Cambridge Studies in Indian History & Society). Cambridge and London: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 316, ISBN 0-521-89436-0 .
  • Ernst, W. and B. Pati, eds. India’s Princely States: People, Princes, and Colonialism (2007)
  • Harrington, Jack (2010), Sir John Malcolm and the Creation of British India, Chs. 4 & 5., New York: Palgrave Macmillan., ISBN 978-0-230-10885-1 
  • 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 1930s (2002), 249pp
  • Markovits, Claude (2004). "ch 21: "Princely India (1858–1950)". A history of modern India, 1480–1950. Anthem Press. pp. 386–409. ISBN 978-1-84331-152-2. 
  • Ramusack, Barbara (2004), The Indian Princes and their States, The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge and London: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 324, ISBN 0-521-03989-4 
  • Pochhammer, Wilhelm von India's Road to Nationhood: A Political History of the Subcontinent (1973) ch 57 excerpt
  • Zutshi, Chitralekha. "Re-visioning princely states in South Asian historiography: A review" Indian Economic & Social History Review (2009) 46#3 pp 301–313. doi: 10.1177/001946460904600302


  • Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. II (1908), The Indian Empire, Historical, Published under the authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Pp. xxxv, 1 map, 573.  online
  • Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. III (1907), The Indian Empire, Economic (Chapter X: Famine, pp. 475–502, Published under the authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Pp. xxxvi, 1 map, 520.  online
  • Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. IV (1907), The Indian Empire, Administrative, Published under the authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. Pp. xxx, 1 map, 552.  online

External links

  • Indian Princely states and their History and detailed Genealogy – Royalark
  • Sir Roper Lethbridge (1893). The Golden Book of India: A Genealogical and Biographical Dictionary of the Ruling Princes, Chiefs, Nobles, and Other Personages, Titled or Decorated, of the Indian Empire (Full text). Macmillan And Co., New York. 
  • Exhaustive lists of rulers and heads of government, and some biographies.
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