Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III

Ruling Princes and Chiefs of India

THE Baroda state, which is geographically situated within the boundaries of the Bombay Presidency, has been since the year 1875 in direct political relations with the Government of India.  It is 8,135.2 square miles in extent, and though there are States in India which have a larger area and population than Baroda, she early took the lead and is still amongst the foremost in the van of progress.  The natural genius of the present Ruler, H. H. Maharaja Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III, his high ideals of statesmanship, his extensive knowledge gained by travels in foreign countries and by contact with eminent statesmen in the world, have impelled him to inaugurate many notable treasures of reform, in carrying out which he has evinced personal interest and shown a masterly grasp of the art and intricacies of good government.  These qualifications reinforced by a determination to do his duty by his people, are undoubtedly the secret of the well-established position held by Baroda to-day in the history of this country.
The early history of the State begins at the time of the dissolution of the Moghul Empire and the entry into power of the great Maratha race of which Shivaji was the renowned hero.  Khanderao Dabhade, one of the most distinguished of the Maratha leaders, invaded Gujarat in 1705 and exacted tribute from the province.  In 1716, he was raised by the King of Satara to the rank of Commander-in-Chief.  One of his officers, Damajirao Gaekwad, clearly distinguished himself in the battle of Balapur in 1720 as a result of which he was appointed by the king as second-in-Command with the title of Shamsher Bahadur.
Both Khanderao and Damajirao Gaekwar died in 1721.  The former was succeeded in his office by his son Trimbakrao and the latter by his nephew Pilajirao.  Trimbakrao was killed in a battle with the Peshwa in 1731 and was succeeded by his minor son Yeshwantrao, and Pilajirao was appointed his Mutalik with the title ‘Sena a Khas Khel’.  When Yeshwantrao came of age, he was found incapable of holding his father’s high office.  The Dabhade family, therefore, gradually gave place to the Gaekwars.  Songhad was the early capital of the Gaekwar family, and Pilajirao levied tribute in Gujarat from the year 1723.  He was murdered in 1732 by the emissaries of the Moghul Viceroy and was succeeded by his son Damajirao II.  The latter captured Baroda in 1734, since which date it has remained in the hands of the Gaekwars.  Damajirao’s power increased rapidly from this date.  In 1747 he was appointed the representative of the King of Satara in Gujarat in place of Yeshwantrao Dabhade.  He defeated the Moghul Viceroy of Gujarat and drove him from the country, while he practically became master of Gujarat, although vestiges of the Moghul power in Gujerat lingered for a few years more.  In the year 1749, Raja Shahu, King of Satara, died and the real power of the Maratha Government passed into the hands of the Peshwa.  Damajirao was from the beginning opposed to the policy which enabled the Peshwa to usurp the powers of his master, and therefore in 1751, when Tarabai, widow of Raja Ram, invited him to the Deccan in order to rescue the King of Satara and the Maratha Kingdom from the thralldom of the Brahman party, he willingly responded to the call, and set out on the expedition with an army of 15,000 men.  With this army he attacked at Nimb and defeated a much stronger force which opposed his march. Subsequently, however, disaster befell him, and finding that his forces were in danger of annihilation by the Peishwa’s army, he was compelled to accept terms which involved the cession of half of his conquests in Gujarat and of all future acquisitions.  He was also required to maintain 10,000 horse to assist the Peshwa's in times of need, and to pay Rs. 5,25,000 as tribute.  Two years afterwards, Damajirao, aided by the Peshwa’s army besieged Ahmedabad and captured it.  The Moghul power in Gujarat then came to an end, and Gujarat was divided between the Peshwa’s and the Gaekwad in accordance with the agreement mentioned above.
Damajirao Gaekwar distinguished himself greatly in the fateful battle of Panipat and, after the defeat of the Maratha army on that field; he was able to affect an honourable return to Gujarat where, with undiminished vigour, he crushed the combined efforts of the Muslims, who had hoped to win something by the great disaster which had befallen the Marathas.  Shortly after his return, he conquered all the territory which now comprises the Kadi division of the State.
On Damaji’s death in 1768, disputes arose between his sons Sayajirao and Govindrao, for the gadi.  Ultimately, he was succeeded by his son Sayajirao (1771-1778).  Sayajirao’s younger brother Fatehsinhrao became Ruler in 1778, and on his death (1789), Manajirao, (another brother) succeeded him.  He died in 1793 and finally Govindrao became the Ruler in 1793.  Govindrao was succeeded in 1800 by Anandrao, on whose accession, owing to family dissensions and the great power acquired by the Arab mercenaries, a short period of political instability ensued.  Tranquillity was, however, established in 1802 with the help of the British Government.  By the treaties of 1805 and 1817, the State entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with the British Government and agreed to receive from them a subsidiary force of four thousand Native Cavalry and one company of European, Artillery and two companies of gun-lascars with the necessary ordnance and warlike stores.  For the regular payment of these troops, districts yielding at the time a revenue of Rs. 24,31,969 were ceded.  The State also agreed to entrust the direction of its foreign relations to the care of the British Government.
Anandrao died in 1819 and was succeeded by his brother Sayajirao II.  In the reign of this Maharaja, certain differences arose between the British and the Baroda Governments.  But they were ultimately settled by Sir James Carnac, Governor of Bombay, in 1841.  Sayajirao was succeeded by his eldest son Ganpatrao.  Some reforms were introduced in the State in the time of this Ruler.  He abolished the practice of the sale of children, prohibited infanticide as well as slavery in any form.  He constructed roads, bridges and public buildings and in a general way promoted progress.  A notable event which has had far-reaching effects upon the commercial interests not only of Baroda, but also of the whole of Northern India, took place in 1856, when the first sod was turned of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Company’s system.  His Highness the Gaekwad transferred, free of cost, all land within the boundaries of his State which was required for the purpose on condition that he should be compensated for loss of revenue from transit duties.  Ganpatrao died in November of the same year without male issue, and thus, the successor to the gadi was his eldest surviving brother, Khanderao Gaekwad.  
Only a few months had passed when the Sepoy Mutiny broke out, spreading its unspeakable terrors throughout the greater part of Northern India.  Even Gujarat did not escape a rebellious outbreak, but the then Maharaja Khanderao steadily supported his British allies, and generously rendered them all assistance, which it was in his power to give, in quelling the trouble.  Speaking of the valuable help rendered by His Highness, Major General Roberts observed that but for the unswerving attachment and active assistance of His Highness to the British Government, the position of the British Government would have been untenable and that the hold of the British authorities on the whole of Western India would have been most seriously compromised.  In recognition of these valuable services, Maharaja Khanderao was presented with a magnificent pair of peacock fans, and the annual payment of Rs. 3,00,000 imposed on the State in 1841 or the maintenance of a contingent known as the Gujarat Irregular Horse, was remitted.  His Highness inaugurated a revenue survey of land, improved the administration and introduced many beneficial measures.  But the Maharaja had a passionate love for the chase, for athletic contests, fine jewellery and beautiful mansions, and his jovial and pleasure-loving nature was easily diverted so that many reforms then begun were left half finished His Highness built, at a small village, named Makarpura, about four miles distant from the capital, a beautiful palace, which has from that time been the country residence of the Gaekwars.
Maharaja Khanderao died in 1870 without leaving male issue and the succession to the gadi devolved upon his brother Malharrao, who was at the time in prison at Padra having been involved in a plot to dethrone his predecessor.  Malharrao was released and proclaimed Maharaja.  He began his reign badly.  The story of Malharrao’s misrule is a long and painful one.  His trial for attempting to poison Colonel Phayre, by a special Commission, his defence by Sergeant Ballantine and the finding of the Court and the action taken by the Government have become historic and need not be recapitulated here.  The three British Commissioners held that Malharrao had instigated an attempt to poison Colonel Phayre, the then Resident at Baroda, but the Indian Commissioners held that the charge was not proved.  The British Government, while declining to act on this divided Verdict, deposed him on general grounds which had been the subject of a previous inquiry.  The state of things in the Baroda dominions at the end of Malharrao’s rule may be imagined from the following quotation from the administration report of the State for the year 1875-76:-
“ To describe the culmination of the state of things adequately, we must borrow the forcible languages of Edmund Burke and say that it was ‘an Exchequer wherein extortion was the assessor, fraud the cashier, confusion  the accountant, concealment of the reporter and oblivion the remembrance’ ”  
The curtain then falls, the era of misrule ceases and a new era of progress and prosperity downs upon Baroda; when Sayajirao Rae, a young lad of twelve years of age is adopted by the Dowager Maharani Jamnabai, widow of Maharaja Khanderao, as her son and heir to the gadi.  This fortunate lad who was so unexpectedly to become the Maharaja of a leading Indian State and a pattern to all Indian Rulers was born on 11th March 1863 in a little village named Kavlana about 18 miles from Manmad in the Nasik district.  He was the second of the three sons of Kashirao Gaekwar who was descended from Prataprao, one of the brothers of the famous Damajirao Gaekwar who, in the middle of the eighteenth century, carried on a struggle against the Peshwa’s and won for himself the Kingdom of Baroda.
After the removal of Malharrao and during the minority of the present Ruler, Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao, K.C.S.I., was entrusted with the administration of the State.  He made it his especial care to develop character and capacity in the young ruler and instructed him in important subjects connected with the art of Government.  Having a logical and argumentative mind, the young Maharaja was able to grasp these rapidly and turn them to account without any difficulty.  Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao introduced many pressing reforms and improved the finances and, after providing for various public works, was able to show a cash surplus of a crore and a half of rupees in reserve in the treasury.  The education of the young Maharaja was entrusted to a tutor, Mr. F. A. H. Elliot of the Indian Civil Service.
During His Highness Maharaja Sayajirao Rae’s minority a historic event took place in India.  At the great Durbar at Delhi, where Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India,  His Highness the Maharaja was cordially received by Lord Lytton and was presented with a special banner of Baroda colours.  The Queen was also pleased to bestow on the young ruler the little of Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglisha.  On this occasion, he met and made the acquaintance of His Highness the late Nizam of Hyderabad and His Highness the late Maharaja of Mysore and what was perhaps of more lasting value made the first of his many journeys to famous places in Upper India.
In 1881, His Highness came of age and assumed full powers.  He soon obtained a mastery of the working of all departments of the State, inspired his officers with his own enthusiasm and kindled in them a sense of responsibility.  He thus commenced that career of reform and progressive administration which has obtained for Baroda the prominent place which it holds today.
In the administration of the State, His Highness is assisted by an Executive Council consisting of the Dewan or Minister as President, two or more  Dewans or Deputy Ministers and one or two other officers as members.  For the purpose of assisting him in the work of legislation, His Highness has established a Legislative Council consisting of 27 members including the Dewan who is the President.  The numbers of the Executive Council, the Legal Remembrancer of the State, the Chief Revenue Officer (Sar Suba) and the Government Pleader, Varisht Court (High Court), are ex-officio members of this Legislative Council.  Besides these, there are seven nominated non-official members.  The number of elected members is ten.  The number of non-official members is thus 15 and that of official members is 12.  Members have the right of interpellation and of moving resolutions on matters of general public interest.  The Council is an advisory body.  The State has a properly constituted judicial system with laws of its own in civil and criminal matters.  The Varisht (or High) Court is the highest tribunal in the State in all judicial matters.  Provision has, however, been made for the admission of appeals and applications against its decisions before the Huzur Nyaya Sabha (which corresponds to the Privy Council in London) subject to certain conditions.  This latter body which advises His Highness in the exercise of his appellate and revisional functions is composed of the Legal Remembrancer, a Judge of the Varisht Court, not connected with the case under consideration, and a third member who may be the Huzur Kamdar (Private Secretary) or a retired Judge of the Varisht Court.
The Maharaja’s activities have been of a two-fold character – first, as a ruler of an important State, and, secondly, as an Indian Patriot.  We do not know which to admire more, his ideals as a ruler or his high and patriotic conception of his duties as an Indian.  In both capacities, he has achieved pre-eminence among contemporary Indian rulers as an idealist and a practical statesman.  What is more astonishing about the Maharaja is the boldness of his measures, once he was convinced that he was doing right.  Lord Chelmsford once observed, “We in British India, may learn a good deal from observation of what has been done in the Baroda State in the way of testing and providing new paths of advance”.  The Maharaja was the first in all India to introduce free and compulsory education in his State.  This measure which appealed to the imagination of the people was due to his conviction that it was absolutely necessary “for the realization of my ambitions and wishes for the future of my people”.  Much might be written on the beneficial activities of the educational department in Baroda.  What may be termed a living monument to His Highness’ genuine efforts for the amelioration of his subjects, poor as well as rich is his splendid record of achievement in the educational progress of his State.  It is true that the progress has not been at the rate contemplated by High Highness.  Neverthless it remains a great achievement, when it is remembered that, in the times of his predecessors, there were but few schools in the State, while now the number of schools and other educational institutions of all kinds is 2,848 and the State spends nearly three and a half millions of rupees a year on education.  According to His Highness, one great aim of education should be to teach “self-help”.  He had been, he once remarked, struck by the helplessness and passiveness of the people.  To his mind, education by instruction and example was the great promoter of self-help.  If Indian youths were to rise to their fullest stature, he advised them, not to limit their horizon by prospects of government service but to forge out new careers for themselves in the spirit of manliness and self-reliance.  He looks chiefly to education not simply for progress in social conditions, but also for industrial, commercial and economic advance generally.  He has therefore modelled his educational policy on the lines which would accelerate the aim.
Chief amongst the institutions referred to above is the Baroda College.  The list of those who have graduated from this College includes a great number of persons distinguished in India, officials and others – judges, magistrates, lawyers, solicitors, authors, professors, dramatists, novelists, journalists, poets, bankers, businessmen and chemists.  Many of these have been lost to Baroda, but the College is open not only to the boys of the State but to all Indians who choose to avail themselves of it.  The institutions do not exhaust the educational efforts in Baroda.  His Highness pays special attention to the promotion of education among girls also.  The number of institutions where girls are taught is daily increasing.  Even the education of Pardahnashin women is receiving careful attention.
The backward and depressed classes are also not forgotten.  There are training colleges for men and women and there are hostels attached to them.  Boy Scouts and Girl Guides are encouraged as also physical training and sports.  His Highness has also a robust faith in technical and scientific education.  The special stress thus laid on education is the most distinctive feature of the administration.
His Highness is an ardent advocate of railway enterprise.  The Sate is well served by railways.  Lines of railway have been laid in all the districts of the State.  His Highness’ conception of a railway is that though it may not be directly remunerative it always tends to develop backward country and facilitates transport of produce.  The actual development of many country districts in recent years bears an eloquent testimony to the soundness of his views.  The State owns about 736 miles of railway.
In the administration of the Okhamandal district, we find yet another instance of the Maharaja’s far-sightedness.  The District derives importance from the fact that it contains the port of Dwarka where Shree Krishna ruled.  It is not only a place of pilgrimage but from olden times it has been a seat of Hindu learning.  Okhamandal is now connected by railway which passes through the Nawanagar State, the Maharaja having given a loan to that State for the construction of the railway.  But this was not the end of the Maharaja’s ambition in regard to the development of Okhamandal.  He has provided the district with an excellent modern port which will serve a large hinterland in Gujarat and Rajputana.  The Maharaja conceived the idea of developing this harbour more than forty years ago but the improvements were completed in 1925.  The port has cost about 30 lakhs of rupees.
There is a network of local self-governing institutions in the State.  The urban areas are under the control of municipal councils of which there are 11, and of Vishishta Panchayats or minor urban councils which have a less elaborate organization than the municipal councils – of which there are 33.  Members of these councils are partly elected and partly nominated – the former class of members preponderating.  In rural areas, the whole ground is covered by village panchayats of which there are 2,113 in the State and Pranth Panchayats or district boards of which there are 5.  All these bodies consist of elected and nominated members – the former in a majority.
The departments of agriculture, co-operation and industries are under a Development Commissioner.  The department of agriculture has for some years devoted much attention to the improvement of cotton cultivation on the same lines as in the Bombay Presidency, and this policy has resulted in the rapid elimination of inferior varieties.  The co-operative movement has also extended in the State.  In 1928-29 there were 975 societies with a membership of 34,133 and a working capital of Rs. 68.32 lakhs.
Lord Chelmsford bore ungrudging testimony to the fact that Baroda had been fortunate in having a Ruler who had devoted care and thought to the promotion of the welfare of the people.  “In your efforts”, said Lord Chelmsford, “to bring the benefits of literacy to the entire male population of your State, to spread knowledge among women, to uplift the backward and depressed classes, to promote the public health, to improve economic conditions, and to induce a desire, and an aptitude for local self-government, Your Highness has addressed yourself to questions the right solution of which would bring about the cure of many political ills”. Lord Chelmsford proceeded to state that no greater service could be rendered to India, than that of taking those measures in hand as the Maharaja had done, as a practical administrator conscious of the actual needs and familiar also with the difficulties which are involved in breaking away from old traditions.
As a social reformer, Maharaja Sir Sayaji Rao has set an example to the social reformers in India.  The welfare of the people of India generally, both physical and mental, has suffered much from pernicious social customs, and His Highness has directed a continuous attack against these social evils, such as child marriage, the caste system, the prohibition of widow remarriage and the purdah, and the treatment of the untouchables.  His support for the emancipation of the people from the thraldom of these pernicious customs has given a wholesome stimulus to social workers in India.  His Highness has always been a champion of what he terms physical sanity, advocating the need for the diffusion of knowledge of proper sanitation.  According to him not merely physical well being, but all culturable advance depends in a measure on economic progress.  For this reason he has never lost an opportunity of calling upon Indians to be alive to the needs of industry and commerce in the land if India is to take its rightful place in the modern world.  By starting industries, establishing banks, developing railways and introducing improved methods of agriculture, he has put into practice the policy he has throughout advocated.  
Maharaja Sir Sayaji Rao is not an idealist or theorist but is eminently practical. He has a high conception of his duties as a Ruler.  He has set out his own views on the conduct of a Prince in his position in a letter which he wrote to one of his former Dewans: “My policy”. He wrote, “has always been to be a friend to the British Government, to be a father to my people and to safeguard the dignity, rights and self respect of the State and its Ruler, always straightforward, honest and sympathetic in dealing with subordinates and others, self-abnegation to an extent which others can hardly realize taking in the light of knowledge and truth from whatever quarter it may happen to come, high or low with the sole purpose and desire to do justice to all interests concerned”.
This then is the key note of his conduct as a Prince.  As already stated, the Maharaja is a great patron of literature and art, and his taste in this direction is testified to by costly libraries including one containing rare and valuable oriental manuscripts.  He is an ardent social reformer and has set an example to other States by undertaking legislation in social matters for the regeneration of the people.  His State has also set an example to other States and even British India by the separation of functions of judicial and executive officers – a reform for which British Indian politicians have been agitating for a number of years.
The Maharaja’s interests in the industrial development of India are well-known.  At the Ahmedabad Industrial Conference held in the year 1902, he unfolded his idea on the necessity of the industrial development of the country and he has given practical shape to the views he then expressed by the activities of the Commerce and Industries Department of his own State.  His interest in the economic development of his State has led him to adopt admirable measure towards achieving the end.  By opening agricultural banks in the State, he has done a great deal to help the farmers.  The Bank of Baroda too which has been largely patronized by the State has become a blessing to merchants and tradesmen, not only in the State, but also in British India.  His visits to Europe, America, and Japan have provided him with numerous opportunities of studying the conditions of industry and commerce in those countries and in applying the results to problems in the State.
As already stated, the activities of the Maharaja are not confined to his own State.  He takes a keen interest in the broad cultural movements in British India also.  His speeches on these subjects are a store-house of knowledge and wisdom and are replete with advice as to the best and most practical way of advancing the material prosperity of the country by regenerating its arts and industries and improving the educational and social status of the people.  By word and deed, he has proved that he is a leader of men.  His speeches reveal the liberal breadth of his views and his deep sympathy with humanity.  They have been listened to far beyond his own dominions as an expression of the ideals of progressive Indians during the last half century and an indication of the lines along which progress may be achieved.
His Highness has always taken the greatest care in selecting the best men as his administrators and they have been chosen from various communities.  The present Dewan – Rao Bahadur V. T. Krishnama Chari, C. I. E., is an able statesman with a thorough grasp of administrative problems and he is ably seconded by others imported from outside the State or drawn from its own officers.
The progress of Baroda during the last 30 years is a remarkable testimony to the Ruler’s capacity to govern. Few States in India afford a parallel to the rise of Baroda, its phenomenal growth in prosperity and its progress in social, industrial and educational spheres.  To-day the name Baroda connotes progress, efficiency and good government and this happy result is due to the statesmanlike abilities with which Maharaja Sayaji Rao has presided over the destiny of his State and to the care with which he has selected his Ministers.
High Highness was first married in 1879 to Princess Laxmibai, a niece of the Maharani of Tanjore.  In the year 1885, he suffered a great domestic loss by the death of this Maharani.  His Highness then married Princess Gajrabai, a daughter of Sardar Bajirao Ghatge of the Dewas State.  She is known as Her Highness Maharani Chimnabai II., C. I. His Highness’ eldest son and heir by his first wife, Prince Fatehsinh Rao, died prematurely in 1908, leaving behind him an infant son, Prince Pratapsinh, who is now the heir-apparent.  By the second Maharani, His Highness had three sons and one daughter. Of these, Prince Jayasinhrao died in 1923 and Prince Shivajirao in 1919.  Prince Dhairyashilrao is now Their Highness’ only surviving son.  Their daughter Princess Indira Raja is the Dowager Maharani of Cooch Behar.