The ancient kingdom of Kashi, or Benares, was founded by Khsatravridha, son of Ayus of the Somavansa dynasty of Pratishthana, and lasted until 1194. The modern Royal House of Benares belongs to an equally ancient Brahmin family belonging of the Bhuinhar clan, and dates back to the year 1000 AD. Their hold over Benares owes its origins to the large landed properties and estates amassed by their ancestor, Mansa Ram, who secured a revenue grant from Emperor Mohammed Shah in the name of his son in 1738. Raja Balwant Singh received the right to collect the revenues from the sarkars of Benares, Jaunpur, Ghazipur and Chunar, together with the title of Raja Bahadur.

Emperor Shah transferred the districts to the HEIC by the Treaty of Benares, following the Battle of Buxar in 1764. However, the Court of Directors in London refused to ratify the treaty and declined the offer of the districts. Instead, they came under the suzerainty of Nawab Wazir of Oudh, with certain guarantees to the Rajas family, by the Treaty of Allahabad in 1765. Although he tried to encroach upon these when the Raja died in 1770, the British authorities stepped in to enforce their guarantee in favour of his son, Raja Chait Singh.

In 1775, the Nawab Wazir having tired of British supervision over the sarkars, transferred these territories to the HEIC. Six years later Warren Hastings removed Chait Singh after he failed to comply with his demands for higher revenue payments and apparently broke the terms of his engagement. Hastings placed the Raja under house arrest pending a personal interview, but he killed his unarmed guards and escaped, gathered his followers and raised an armed rebellion. Defeated in several skirmishes, he fled to Oudh and eventually found his way to Gwalior. The incident figured prominently in the charges brought against Hastings by Burke and others, leading to his impeachment.

The Governor-General swiftly transferred the estates to Chait Singh's nephew, Raja Mahipat Singh, and concluded a new engagement with him. He proved a less than capable administrator, prompting government intervention leading to the separation of the revenue estates from the Family Domains. The HEIC assumed direct control over the sarkars, placing their administration in the hands of the company's servants. The Raja received the annual surpluses from the revenue raised in those districts, but continued in direct control over the Family Domains only. A plea by his successor for the restoration of the revenue districts led to an extensive enquiry in 1828. Unfortunately for the Raja, the enquiry revealed widespread abuses and mismanagement within the Family Domains. Consequently, the government placed these territories in administration under its own superintendent. This regime continued in place until finally amended by an Act of the legislature in 1881.

Nevertheless, the status and position of the Raja remained unique, something less than that of a ruling prince but greater than a zamindar or landed magnate. The ruling family claimed descent from the god Shiva and benefited greatly in both status and income from pilgrims to the holy places in the City of Benares. The reigning Maharaja had come to inherit the mantle of the ancient Kings of Benares, the Kashi Naresh. Eventually, the Viceroy restored the administration of the Family Domains to the family. In 1911, the parganas of Bhadohi and Keramnagar, Chakia and Ramnagar, together with certain limited rights within the City of Benares, became the newly created princely state of Benares.

The reigning Maharaja, Vibhuti Narayan Singh, acceded to the Dominion of India in 1947, and merged his territories into the United Provinces in 1949, but continued to enjoy a status throughout the remainder of his life. A devout and highly respected orthodox Hindu, he had his meals specially prepared by thakurs and ate in seclusion from others. He also presided over a number of scholastic, religious and charitable institutions, and took part in public religious ceremonies in the City of Benares (now known as Varanasi or Kashi). He died on Christmas day in 2000, when his only son, Maharaja Anant Narayan Singh, succeeded him.  He continues to fulfil the public duties performed by his father and his family for the last two centuries.

Bhuinhar Brahmin.


Azure a bezante between two fish counter embowed or, bordured or. Helmet:Sable. Crest: A trident or.Supporters: Bulls or. Motto: "There is no virtue greater than truth" or on a riband vert brodured or.Lambrequins: Or.

A red triangular flag with a golden face sun in splendour in the centre, within a white border on two sides.

The ruling prince: Maharajadhiraja Sri (personal name) Narayan Singh Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Benares, with the style of His Highness.
The consort of the ruling prince: Maharani Sri (personal name) Sahiba, Maharani of Benares, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Maharaj Kumar Sri (personal name) Narayan Singh Sahib Bahadur.
The daughters of the ruling prince: Maharaj Kumari Sri (personal name) Devi.
Other and more remote male descendants of the family: Sri Babu (personal name) Singh.
The wives of the other and more remote male descendants of the family: Sri Baburain (personal name).

None known.

Male primogeniture, with the right of adoption by the recognised head of the family on the failure of natural male heirs.

Lewis Bentham Bowring, Bowring Collection. MSS. Eur. G.38, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Charles Allen and Sharada Dwivedi, Lives of the Indian Princes. Century Publishing, London, 1984.
Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage. Burke's Peerage Ltd, London, 1900-1959.
Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage, and Companionage. Odhams Press Ltd, London, 1900-1959.
W.H.L. Impey (ed.). Manual of Titles, North-Western Provinces. North-Western Provinces and Oudh Government Press, Allahabad, 1889.
Waman P. Kabadi (ed.), Indian Who's Who 1937-38,Yeshanand & Co., Bombay, 1937.
Sir Roper Lethbridge, KCIE. The Golden Book of India. Macmillan and Co., London, 1893.
J.S. Mackintosh (ed.). Manual of Titles, North-Western Provinces. North-Western Provinces and Oudh Government Press, Allahabad, 1877.
Manual of Titles, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. Government of the United Provinces, Allahabad, 1908.
Manual of Titles, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh [Corrected up to September 30, 1931]. Published by Authority, The Superintendent, Printing and Stationery, United Provinces, Allahabad, 1932.
Memoranda on The Indian States 1940 (Corrected upto the 1st January 1940). Published by Authority, Manager of Publications, Delhi, 1940.
H.R. Nevill (ed.). Manual of Titles, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. Sixth Edition. The Superintendent, Printing and Stationery, United Provinces, Allahabad, 1908.

Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.
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