Integration of Princely States
A ‘princely state’ or a ‘native state’ is a political unit of a larger administrative province, which either is ruled directly by monarchic lineage or serves as a subsidiary coalition with a more powerful monarchic government. These smaller administrative pockets were based on the political, cultural, lingual, and geographical landscape. In the westerns and central India princely states came into existence with the entry of Rajputs into the Indian sub-continent who migrated from Central Asia around 200 AD(CE). The word ‘Rajput’ means ‘sons of kings’. Hence, princely states were established even before the Mughal and British colonial invasion. There were a number of Non-Rajput princely states too some ruled by Nawabs and Nijams, some ruled by native dynasties like Mysore, Travancore and Pudukottai. All those monarchical states subordinated to the British India were termed as Princely States. However, the word ‘princely’ was deliberately retained during the British regime, to ascribe subordination of the rulers in the sub-continent to the British Crown.
Attempts at Integrating Princely States
As mentioned earlier, the princely states were fragmented administrative pockets and the subject of integration of princely states in the phase preceding Indian independence has a long history even before the Colonial invasion. Many dynasties attempted to integrate the princely states starting from the Maghadan Kings, Bimbisara, and Ajatasatru during Mauryans, Ashoka, Chandragupta and his son Samudragupta, all of them who almost managed to bring many smaller kingdoms together, but consolidating under one rule still remained a far cry. However, when the thirst for power, jealousy and frequent disagreements among kingdoms led to resentment and disunity, it paved way for Arab and Persian invasion, establishing the Moghul empire and eventually conquering the northern part of preindependent India.
Princely States under British Raj
a) Gun Salute System:
Therefore, by the time European colonisation, i.e. the British, Portuguese, and French, started to take over, the disunity worked in their favour to establish their presence, initially through trade. Among the three, the British managed to institute sovereignty under the crown of many princely states but not all. There were 565 princely states in preindependent India and, the ‘gun salute’ system under the British rule was an open gesture to announce the level of affiliation of a princely state to the British East India Company. Therefore, there were two kinds of princely states: ‘Salute Princely States’ and ‘Non- Salute Princely States’.
b) Salute States
The ‘Salute States’ were States that had the British East India presence, and there were around 117 to 120 salute states. So, the heads, rulers, or princes of these states, were greeted with gun salutes. The number of guns used to salute a particular head of a State reflected the level of honour and prestige granted to a ruler. A 21-gun salute was the highest honour granted to a ruler and rulers of lesser ranks received a minimum of 9-gun salute. Some of the rulers
who received the 21-gun salute include:
* His Highness the Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior
* His Highness the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda
* His Highness the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir
* His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore
* His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar
Some of the rulers who received 9-gun salutes include:
* The Nawab of Sachin
* The Maharaja of Patna
* The Maharana of Wadhwan
* The Nawab of Loharu
c) Non-salute States Among the 565 Princely States, only 117 to 120 were salute states, which implied there were many other States which were under the British rule or British Raj were non-salute states. The reasons include:
a) Some were not acknowledged as gun salute states
b) Some princely states were considered of lower prestige
c) Some princely states were obsolete but the rulers were permitted to their royal entitlements and even received pensions .