princely state

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States and Provinces of British India (Princely States yellow and green)

The princely states or native states are the nominally independent states governed by native princes under British sovereignty in India .


Not only India is familiar with the historical succession of large state structures ( Maurya Empire , Kuschana , Gupta Empire , Mughal Empire, etc.) and their repeated disintegration into small states. Even under the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb and his sons, the central power was only temporarily able to effectively control and administer the huge empire; governors ( subahdars , nawabs ) were sent or part of the power was delegated to local generals and princes. This fragmentation of northern India into small state structures, which repeatedly resulted in regional power conflicts, made it much easier for the British to gradually take power in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Unlike the provinces of British India , which were under direct British administration, the princely states had treaties with Britain that allowed them varying degrees of regional autonomy. Each state had its own ruler, laws, holidays, etc., but was under British supervision and protection. When India became independent in 1947, there were 565 such princely states, comprising 48% of the area of ​​British India and 28% of its population. Of these, however, a third were no more than manors on the Kathiawar peninsula ( Gujarat ), which had been vassals of the Peshwa of Pune or the Gaekwad of Baroda ( Vadodara ), sometimes just one or two , until the British victory over the Marathas in 1802 villages and did not even have high jurisdiction .

The four largest princely states, namely Hyderabad , Mysore , Kashmir and Baroda , reported directly to the British Governor-General (until 1857 the British East India Company ), 168 others reported to two political agencies, the Rajputana Agency and the Central India Agency . The remaining 438 states were subordinate to the provincial governors, with the vast majority falling under the presidency of Bombay (Kathiawar Peninsula).

Chamber of Princes in March 1941

Politically, the rulers were represented in the Chamber of Princes from 1921 and had an advisory function in the Indian Parliament.

In 1947, the year of independence and the partition of India into a Hindu part, the Union of India, and a Muslim part, Pakistan (including modern-day Bangladesh ), the princes were given the choice of which of the two states they wished to join, without asking the public. Most of the time this did not cause any problems, but in three larger princely states this led to conflicts. The smaller principalities merged into federations in 1947/48 ( Rajasthan , Patiala and East Punjab States Union , Madhya Bharat , Vindhya Pradesh , Eastern States Union , United Deccan States , Saurashtra , Travancore-Cochin ) until 1956 when they became what is now known as states arose (see History of India ).



The Nawab of Junagadh , the second largest state on the Kathiawar peninsula (today part of Gujarat ), decided to join Pakistan, against the majority of the Hindu population. The population revolted, after which the Nawab fled to Karachi after a short war ; the state was annexed by India after a referendum in 1948.


Similarly, the Nizam of Hyderabad in central India decided to remain independent. After many fruitless negotiations, India picked up some raids by local militias on trains passing through Hyderabad in response to a police action (Operation Polo) and forcibly annexed the state. However, the deposed Nizam was allowed to remain in Hyderabad . From 1950 to 1956 he served as Rajpramukh (head of state) of the Indian state of Hyderabad, which was dissolved in 1956 and divided between three newly formed states.


In Muslim-majority Kashmir , ruled by a Hindu Maharaja , Muslim militias revolted and gained support from neighboring Pakistan. The Maharaja, who had previously avoided declaring himself pro-India or Pakistan because he too wanted to maintain his independence, declared his accession to the Union of India to prevent his overthrow. This led to the Kashmir conflict , which continues to this day, and the first war between India and Pakistan.



The following princely states issued coins in the 20th century that were valid tender alongside the British colonial coins: Bahawalpur , Baroda , Bhavnagar , Bikaner , Bundi , Cooch Behar , Datia , Dewas Elder Line, Dhar , Marwar , Dungarpur , Faridkot , Gwalior , Haiderabad , Indore , Jaipur , Jind , Junagadh , Khanbayat , Kishangarh , Kachchh , Malerkotla , Mewar , Patiala , Rajkot , Rewah , Sailana , Travancore , Tripura , Tonk .

postal service

Alwar , Bahawalpur , Bamra , Barwani , Bhopal , Bhor , Bijawar , Bundi , Bussahir , Chamba , Charkhari , Cochin , Dhar , Dungarpur , Duttia ( Datia ), Faridkot , Gwalior , Haiderabad , Idar , Indore , Jaipur had their own state postal system, at least for a time , Jammu and Kashmir , Jasdan , Jhalawar , Jind , Kishangarh , Kotah , Las Bela , Morvi , Nabha , Nandgaon , Nawanagar , Orchha , Patiala , Punch , Rajasthan , Rajpipla , Shahpura , Sirmur , Soruth , Tonk , Travancore , Travancore-Cochin and Wadhwan .


  • William Barton: The princes of India . With a Chapter on Nepal. Nisbet, London 1934, (Reprinted edition. Cosmo, New Delhi 1983).
  • Andreas Birken : Philatelic Atlas of British India. CD-ROM. Birches, Hamburg 2004.
  • Ian Copland: The princes of India in the endgame of empire, 1917–1947 (= Cambridge Studies in Indian History and Society. 2). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1997, ISBN 0-521-57179-0 .
  • George B. Malleson: An historical sketch of the native states of India. Longmans, Green & Co., London 1875, ( digitized ).
  • Paul E. Roberts: India (= A Historical Geography of the British Dominions. Vol. 7, Parts 1-2). 2 volumes (Vol. 1: History to the End of the East India Company. Vol. 2: History under the Government of the Crown. ). Clarendon Press, Oxford 1916–1923, (Reprinted edition: Historical Geography of India. 2 vols. Printwell, Jaipur 1995).
  • Günter Schön: world coin catalogue. 20th century. 1991/92. , 23rd, revised and expanded edition. Battenberg, Augsburg 1991, ISBN 3-89441-011-6 , pp. 399–411.
  • Joseph E. Schwartzberg (ed.): A historical atlas of South Asia (= Association for Asian Studies. Reference Series. 2). 2nd impression, with additional material. Oxford University Press, New York NY et al. 1992, ISBN 0-19-506869-6 .

See also

web links

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