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
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.
ARMS: 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.
STYLES & TITLES:
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
The Heir Apparent: Maharaj Kumar Sri (personal name)
Narayan Singh Sahib Bahadur.
The daughters of the ruling prince: Maharaj Kumari Sri (personal
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).
ORDERS & DECORATIONS:
RULES OF SUCCESSION:
Male primogeniture, with the right of adoption by the
recognised head of the family on the failure of natural
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,
Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.