Indian nobility predicates

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There are numerous regional variations in the Indian nobility predicates in the sense of titles for rulers of princely states, as there are also distinctions between caste, religion and language. Most of the common Hindu titles are derived from Sanskrit and the practice of the older empires. With the victory of the invading Muslims, titles of Persian origin came into use for the new masters. The ranking determined the protocol at the Durbar .

The inherited titles remained in use during the colonial period ; they were systematized in the second half of the 19th century. The English king had been Kaiser-i-Hind, Emperor (in) of India since 1878 . Although the princely states were united with the Indian Union after independence , the members of the respective houses mostly carried on the titles. With the Indian Constitutional Amendment Act 1971 , all titles finally lost their political meaning and the former rulers lost their appanages . In Pakistan , a similar measure came into force in January 1972.


The nobles of Hindu lineages usually bear the title Raja , female Rani. If necessary, the prefix Maha- "large" is added.

The eldest son of a (Maha) rajas is called (Maha) rajkumar (not to be confused with the tribe of the Rajkumars). Instead of Kumar (female Kumari ) there is also the term Kunwar. In Manipur the Crown Prince was called Yuvaraj ("young Raja"), in Panjab sometimes also Sardar. Second-born sons were often referred to as diwan , but this can also be the name of a designated heir to the throne. Third-borns were sometimes referred to as Thakur. A fourth son is a Lal and his younger brother is a Babu. The latter title became a colloquial form of address in Bengal in the 19th century , corresponding to the French monsieur . From the late Victorian period, the princes were trained at so-called chiefs' colleges in the spirit of the colonial rulers.

Rana (among Rajputs ), Rao (especially in the south and west), Rawal, Rawat, Rai (mainly in Bengal), Raikwar, Raikbar and Raikat are all synonymous modifications of Raja. The reenactment of Bahadur (about "well-born", literally: brave, hero) increases the rank. In Assam , Bohmong is an equivalent for Raja. Several rulers in the Madras presidency had different titles for historical reasons. Such was Tondaiman a dynastic title of the Prince of Pudukkottai , after the ancient South Indian Kingdom Todaimandalam . The Raja of Calicut was the Zamorin , his crown prince the Eralpad . In the Shimla Hill States , the Crown Prince was a Tikka (Raja) Sahib . Elaya Raja was common in Travancore and Cochin in southern India . Some heads of Hindu sects were also feudal lords, who are then referred to as Mahant . There were also titles that were only used by individual maharajas, such as B. Sindhia for those of Gwalior or Holkar for those of Indore . Lokendra ("world protector") is common among the lords of Dholpur and Datia .

The Muslim titles are mostly derived from Persian. Nawab , female Begum , corresponds to the Maharajah, the Khan to the Raja. A Nawabzada is the Muslim equivalent of a Maharajkumar.

Amir denotes the Afghan ruler. Shahzada ("prince") was a title of certain descendants of the Tipu Sultan of Mysore , the kings of Oudh or the Amirs. Wali, Sultan, Mir (mostly in Sindh ), Mirza, Mian (often also for the son of a Rajput prince)are not always completely equivalent to Nawab. Although the Arabic title Sultan was alsowidespreadin the Bombay presidency , this title was usually worn by rulers in the co-administered outer areas such as Muscat and Aden , where Girad, a title of Somali origin, also appeared.

Thakur , female Thakurani, Diwan and Sardar (about "chief officer") designate, if they do not refer to heir to the throne, lower ranks or "land nobles," whereby the latter two titles occur both with Hindus and Muslims. The divan, if it was the administrator, normally had the right to levy taxes.

Colonial times

Chamber of Princes in March 1941

During the colonial period, the Government of India also conferred British personal titles of nobility, mostly sir, more rarely baronet (Bt). This was usually done by awarding the appropriate classes of the Order of the Star of India (from 1861) or the Order of the Indian Empire (from 1877). Ranks within the traditional title were less common. It was also important whether and how many gunshots the respective ruler was entitled to. The Chamber of Princes , created in 1921 as an advisory body , was composed of 108 princes, to whom the British had granted a right to eleven or more rounds of salute. There were also twelve other members who were selected from 127 smaller rulers.

The succession of a Raja was approved by the British Crown through a document called the sanad . The local British representative presented an “honor gown ” called a khilat and in return received an equivalent gift in return, the nazar . The supreme power lay with the British, who also deposed uncomfortable rulers. The Viceroy George Curzon, 1st Baron Curzon , even tried to dictate to the Rajas that they were not allowed to leave their "realms" without permission. After the important Prince von Baroda ignored this provision, this provision was waived in 1905.

The zamindar was actually not a title of nobility . Even under the Mughals, these were tax tenants who were liable for the taxes of certain villages and lands. Under British rule they became landowners through permanent settlement , who often owned very large estates and could act like feudal lords. In the Madras Presidency in particular, they were addressed as "Raja". The zamindar system of land ownership was abolished in 1951/55.

Honorary title for scholars

On the occasion of Queen Victoria's jubilee in 1887, the practice was revived. Outstanding scholars were given the titles Mahamahopadhyaya (Hindus) or To bestow Shams-ul-Ulama (Muslims). Pandit and Maulana are not bestowed, but common .


The most important prince of the empire was the Nizam of the Deccan, who was directly under the Mughals in Delhi, which is why the translation "king" is appropriate here.

Hindus Muslims
Maharaja Bahadur Nawab Bahadur
Maharajah Nawab
Raja Bahadur Khan Bahadur
Raja Khan Sahib
Rai (or Rao) Bahadur khan
Rai (or Rao) Sahib  
Rai (or Rao)  

The lower of these titles were often associated with an office of administration ( ex officio ) during colonial times . In the area of ​​the former Kingdom of Oudh and the Central Provinces , where the title Thakur is frequent, Rai is more dignified than in other parts of the country. In the western parts of the country the name Thakor ( Gujarati ) was also common. The rulership of a Thakur was a Thikana. In Rajputana and central India it was the name for a large landowner or no prince.

No titles of nobility, but important for the princes during the time of the British-Raj were the Order of Precedence (ranking over other princes), the number of gun salutes (since 1867) and any honorary ranks in the army (since 1877). Princes with the right to at least 11 gun salute were additionally Highness titled ( "sovereignty").

Some other titles or appellations are:

  • Amir ( sanskrit: "Hamira")
  • Aga (or Agha): Lord, "Venerable"; the Aga Khan is the head of the Ismaili Muslims
  • Arbab: Lord
  • Azam: "very large"
  • Bai, Banu [suffix]: for noble women, but the first could also mean a dancer.
  • Beg: Turkish for “Lord”, in India mostly just a family name.
  • Chhatrapati Maharaj: "protected prince" (an umbrella was held over him as a sign of his dignity)
  • Desai: Regent of a province
  • Dulha: in Hindu tradition the betrothed, used by Muslims to denote the husband of a ruler.
  • Jagir : a vassal ( Jagirdar ) who, mostly for military successes, was assigned the income from the land and subjects. (Mostly hereditary at the end of the Mughal era.)
  • Jah: "Magnificence"
  • … Jhang… (= Jung, Jang): the title indicates a deserved warrior. Frequent ministerial title especially in Hyderabad .
  • Kiladar: castellan
  • Malik: Lord and Master
  • Mirza: moved in from Amir zada. Subsequent titles of nobility. Put in front simply "Mr. ..."
  • Mushir ...: ... advice (giver)
  • Naik (= Nayak): chief, chief
  • Padnit Pradhan: Brahmin vizier, one of the titles of the Peshwar
  • Poligar: a small independent ruler in the south. Otherwise military commander.
  • Rajvi Sardar: close relative of a Raja
  • Rana: submissive form of address for a Raja, especially among the Rajputs
  • Sachiv: Minister, Counselor
  • Sawai : literally "a 125%." Hindu honorary title
  • Tazimi Sardar: hereditary title of a noble who was received by his master in a Tazim ceremony; the ruler usually received while standing.
  • … Ul-Umara: part of the second highest title at the (Mughal) court
  • ... ul-Mulk: part of the third highest title on the (Mughal) court
  • ... ud-Daula: Part of the fourth highest title on the (Mughal) court
  • Wazir, Vizir: vizier , minister or similar


  • Sir Roper Lethbridge, KCIE; The Golden Book of India; London 1893; (gives 193 different titles)

Individual evidence

  1. Prakrit : Rai = Raja
  2. Ramusack, Barbara N .; The Indian Princes and Their States; New Cambridge History of India, Vol. III, 6; Cape. 4th
  3. the lower ranks also for parsing