The Sisodia Dynasty


The ancient state of Dharampur dates its foundation to 1262, when Kunwar Ramraja (d. 1295), a younger son of the Rana Rahap of Sisoda, left his ancestral lands to found a new principality in the south. He defeated the local Kholi chieftain and founded a new state, naming it Ramnagar after himself. He assumed the title of Rana and was accorded the suffix of Shah by popular acclaim. Although the name accorded to the principality by foreigners frequently changed according to the name of the capital, it has generally been known by locals as Pant Ramnagar.

Rana Ramshah's descendants greatly expanded the domains over the years and centuries that followed, preserving their independence while Muslim dynasties and conquerors fought with and succeeded each other. The state reached its greatest extent during the reign of Jagatshah II (r. 1531-1566). His domains stretched from Bassein near Bombay in the south, eastward to Igatpuri, Surgana in the north-east, to Rumla in the north. A shrewd diplomat, he quickly came to a peaceful understanding with the Portuguese and managed to preserve his territories while his neighbours sapped their strength by fighting them. Nevertheless, he retained friendly relations with their enemies, including the Sultans of Gujarat, always avoiding any entanglements with either party. He capped his success by adopting the suffix of Dev instead of Shah and assuming the hereditary title of Maharana.

Jagatshah's immediate successors continued to preserve their independence from the Sultans of Gujarat and the Mughals, largely by making astute political alliances. However, the rise of the Maratha power could not be accommodated quite as easily. The Marathas were more interested in collecting gold and revenue, as much of it as possible and by any means. Battle after battle ensued between the rulers of Pant Ramnagar and Maratha generals, sent by the Chhatrapati or the Peshwa to collect revenues or extort taxes. At each turn of events, territory was lost and the principality gradually reduced. At one period, 1670-1680, the entire state was lost altogether, Maharana Somdevji being forced to flee for protection to Portuguese territory. Although his son Sahadevji recovered some of his territory, his successors were again prey to Maratha greed. This declined continued right down to the reign of Maharana Dharamdevji, who lost half his remaining territory, including the capital. He virtually had to start again following the catastrophe, building a new capital at Mandvegan, renaming the town Dharampur and laying the foundations of a new state.

The state came under the protection of the HEIC in 1805 as a consequence of the Treaty of Bassein. Their arrival brought peace to the region, unknown for centuries. The small state was able to make slow progress without outside interference, consolidating its revenue without having to surrender arbitrary levies to the Marathas, and establishing the framework of a sound administration.

Maharana Vijayadevji I, reigned from 1807 to 1857, he had seen the worst of the days before the British and was not keen to see them return. Alas, his financial acumen did not mirror his martial and diplomatic skills. An inveterate spender, he mortgaged his revenue collections many times over until the British finally stepped in an appointed an administrator. The finances were eventually repaired and modest progress was made. Vaccination was made compulsory throughout the state in 1854, modern vernacular schools opened in 1857, the system of administration and the courts reformed, and state records placed in order. Maharana Narandevji II, his grandson, continued the good work by overhauling the land revenue system, modernising the administration, police, judicial and forest administration systems, constructed a modern hospital, dispensary, jail and Anglo-Vernacular school. By the time of his death in 1891, the little state had progressed more in the thirty years of his rule than in the previous five centuries.

The second son of Vijayadevji I, Maharana Mohandevji, succeeded his father in 1891. He continued his father's good works by investing in agriculture and the infrastructure of the state. An inveterate traveller, he toured the globe, visiting nearly every country in Europe and brining back new ideas and innovations to help his people. He constructed wells, irrigation tanks, roads, bridges, and established rural and travelling dispensaries for the poor. His social reforms were no less impressive, he founded 22 free schools, including those for girls and untouchables, established the first high school, and outlawed animal sacrifice throughout the state. At the conclusion of his reign, he had more than matched his father's record.

Maharana Vijayadevji II succeeded his father in 1891, having spent several years as his understudy and helper. No less interested in travel, he spread his wings yet more widely, travelling to the Americas, East Asia and Australasia, again bringing back innovations and ideas that he could use at home. Modernisation was his watchword and with it came free modern hospitals and dispensaries, a museum and library, hostels for rural students, railways, a telephone system, and an airfield. The first steps toward industrialisation followed with the establishment of oil, flour, rice, and timber mills, and the opening of a sugar factory. He was also a gifted musician, who took a great interest in both Indian and western classical music, eventually completing a six-volume treatise on the subject in 1933. All came to an abrupt end when independence and partition came suddenly in 1947, forcing him to relinquish control over his beloved principality. He greeted the inevitable with equanimity, signing the Instrument of Accession, then merging the state with Bombay on 10th June 1948 and handing the care of his 123,336 subjects to India. He lived another four years, devoting his time to music and scholarly pursuits. Having lost his only son in a motor crash early in 1952, he died within three months of the event and was succeeded by his grandson, Sahadevji.

9-guns (11-guns personal).

Argent on a pile gules between two heads coupé sable a sun in splendour. Helmet: argent.Crest: A demi lion rampant gules. Supporters: Panther and Bear. Motto: "Surya vamsa dharmmaraksha" (the solar race, protector of virtue). Lambrequins: Argent and purpure.

3x4 a white rectangular flag with a gold sun in splendour of 8 wavy and 8 straight rays, with a face and tilak.

The ruling prince: Namdar Shrimant Maha Mandaleshwar Maharajadhiraj Maharana Shri (personal name) Dharma Dev Rana Raja, Raja of Dharampur, with the style of His Highness.
The consort of the ruling prince: Namdar Shreemant Maharani Bai Shri (personal name) Kunverba Sahiba, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Namdar Shrimant Maharaj Kumar Shri (personal name) (father's name) Sahib.
The younger sons of the ruling prince: Kumar Shri (personal name) (father's name) Sahib.
The grandsons and other male descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line: Kumar Shri (personal name) (father's name) Sahib.
The unmarried daughters of the ruling prince: Chiranjivi Maharajkumari Baiji Shri (personal name) Kunverba Sahib.
The married daughters of the ruling prince: Akhand Soubhagyavati Maharajkumari Baiji Shri (personal name) Kunverba Sahib.
The unmarried granddaughters of the ruling prince, in the male line: Chiranjivi Kunveri Baiji Shri (personal name) Kumari Sahib.

Administration Report for the Dharampur State. 1884-1885, 1891-1897, 1910-1940, & 1943-1945. IOR V/10/ British Library, St Pancras, London.
Naoroji M Dumasia. Dharampur a brief sketch of its history and administration. Bombay Times Press, Bombay, 1912.
S. Devadas Pillai. Rajahs and Prajas, An Indian Princely State, Then and Now. Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1976.
List of Ruling Princes and Chiefs in Political Relations with the Government of Bombay and their Leading Officials, Nobles and Personages. Government of India Central Publication Branch, Calcutta, 1931.
D.V. Saraiya. History and Administration of Dharampur State (Prant Ramnagar) From 1262 to 1937. Published by the President State Council Dharampur by special order of H.H. Maharana Shri Viyadevji, Maharana Saheb of Dhrampur. Basel Mission Press, Mangalore, S.K. 1937.

Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
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Copyright© Christopher Buyers

Copyright©Christopher Buyers, September 2006 - January 2012