SIROHI

 

BRIEF HISTORY

The Sirohi Royal Family are an ancient line of the Chauhan clan of Rajputs, who ruled over a large area of South Western Rajasthan and Gujarat in ancient times. Lakhan or Lakshman Raj, younger son of Wakpati Rao Chauhan, seized Nadol (near Jodhpur) from the Paramaras and established himself there toward the end of the 10th century. His descendant, Kirti Pal [Keytu] was driven from Nadol by Sultan Qutb ud-din Aybak of Delhi, during  the 12th century. Keytu, then journeyed further to the South West to Bhinmal and Sanchor, before seizing Jalor from the Paramaras. The Sirohi house traces their descent from Man or Maha Singh, younger son of Rao Udai Singh (a son or grandson of Keytu), briefly surrendered Jalor to Qutb's son-in-law, Sultan Shams ud-din Altamish, in 1210 AD. Although restored shortly afterwards, Udai's grandson lost Jalor to Sultan Ala ud-din Khilji in 1312. However, the son of Man Singh, Pratap Singh or Deoraj, had already laid the foundations of the Sirohi principality. It is from Deoraj that the family sept takes its name of Deora.

Vijayraji of Bijad, son of Deoraj, acquired Mandar and Badgaon, which formed the nucleus of the kingdom. Mandar remained in Deora hands throughout their rule in Sirohi, and until it was absorbed into independent India. While Badgaon eventually became part of Jodhpur territory.

Lumbha, the son of Vijayraj, dove out the last of the Paramaras from Chandravati, thereby acquiring control over Abu. The feat by which he accomplished this audacious act is given to some of the most romantic tales of by the Rajput bards. Perhaps the most entertaining of them, the tale that he pledged a vast number of Chauhan brides to Paramar sons. The marriage party arrived at the Parama citadel, with armed soldiers disguised as the brides, they disrobed, overpowered and killed their would-be husbands, then seized control of the whole area known as Arbudaranya.

Rao Rar Mal, the fifth ruler after Lumbha, built a new capital at old Sirohi in 1347. Rao Shivbhan, his son, founded a new capital at Shivpuri but the location proved a bad choice. Shivbhan's son and successor, Sahas Mal or Sainsmal, abandoned his fathers capital and founded the new capital of Sirohi in 1425. Having driven out the Solankis from the area and greatly extended his kingdom, the larger state soon came to be known by the name of the new capital. He also gave refuge to Maharana Kumbha, who built himself the fortresses of Basantgarh and Achalgarh, then refused to yield them up to his obliging host. His forces remained there until finally expelled by Sahas Mal's son, Rao Lakha, in 1457. Nevertheless, the Sisodias refused to surrender their rights until Rao Jagmal, Lakha's son had fought beside Maharana Raimal against the Muslims, and then married his daughter. His two immediate successors also fought heroically with the Sisodias against the Muslim rulers of Delhi, Gujarat and Jalor.

The cosy relationship with Udaipur ended after the death of Maharao Man Singhji II in 1572. The death of his posthumous son soon after his own, resulted in something of a vacuum. The new ruler, chosen by the leading nobles, was opposed by several of his own clansmen and by the minister. The latter rebelled and briefly ousted Maharao Surtan. The latter had received help from the Maharana of Udaipur, the military contingent being led by a distant cousin called Kalla, who then attempted to have himself proclaimed as ruler instead. Surtan went on to build something a reputation for himself as the Rajput Don Quixote, ever engaged in battling the Mughal foe, though defeated at every turn. By the time he died, he had fought fifty-two battles and lost every one.

The next two hundred years saw Sirohi largely in decline. The first great catastrophe taking place during the reign of Maharao Man Singhji III. The Jodhpur Maharaja invaded his territories several times and annexed large tracts of them to his own domains. The Maharaja's greed satiated only after he secured the hand of the Maharao's daughter in marriage.

The second catastrophe visited itself on Sirohi in 1808. Maharaja Man Singh of Jodhpur seized the then ruler, Udaibhan Singhji, while returning home after scattering his father's ashes. The Jodhpur ruler demanded a huge ransom in exchange for his freedom, and sent him home to raise the required sum. The only way in which he could meet his obligation was by raising the tax burden on his subjects. Several nobles escaped their share by transferring their allegiance to the neighbouring state of Palanpur, which resulted in a sizeable loss of territory. The rest rebelled against him and confined him on Mount Abu. Eventually, they agreed to his younger brother assuming the reins of government. Luckily for him, the British had arrived on the scene and he lost no time in securing an agreement with them. He was recognised as Regent for life and the throne guaranteed to his elder brother and his heirs, check-mating the more powerful and troublesome nobles, who were intent on control affairs themselves.

Sheo Singh eventually succeeded his inactive brother in 1847 and ruled relatively successfully until a debt crisis forced him to appoint a British superintendent in 1854. Although this arrangement was loosened with the appointment of his son as President of a General Council of Administration in 1861, his successor did not resume full control over state affairs for another four years.

Maharao Umed Singhji died in 1875, to be succeeded by his son, Maharao Keshri Singh. The latter enjoyed a long and remarkable reign lasting forty-five years, during which the state advanced beyond the recognition of its inhabitants. He improved the infrastructure, reformed the administration, built schools, hospitals, dispensaries, roads, railways, bridges and modern buildings. He directed virtually all his state expenditure on civil projects, maintaining an army of little more than 150 infantry and 7 guns. The achievements of his reign were recognised by government several times, being promoted to the hereditary titles of Raj Rajeshwar, Maharao and finally Maharajadhiraj at the 1911 Durbar. Weary of his burdens in later life, he first appointed his surviving son as Musahib-i-Ala or Chief Minister in 1911, then abdicated in his favour in 1920. He died in retirement, six years later.

Maharao Sir Sarup Ram Singhji continued his father's good works throughout his term as Chief Minister and after succeeded as Maharao. During the 1930's and 1940's his mind turned towards political reform, and he began to establish the structures for a new era. A Council of State, which functioned along cabinet lines, began work in 1940. He established a High Court in the same year. In 1941, a Central Advisory Committee was established as a forerunner to a parliament, and village panchayats came into being. Soon afterwards, the Maharao transferred government and administrative affairs to his ministers. Yet, his death within five years unleashed an unexpected storm.

At the reading of the late Maharao's will, his wishes for his burial included a stipulation that he be buried a Muslim. Soon afterwards, his testimony also included his confirmation that he had converted to Islam as far back as 1927 and married a Muslim lady in 1931. His whole public life after those dates had been a charade, outwardly professing the role of a benign Hindu ruler, but secretly a Muslim. Although this enraged his subjects enough, his death without a legitimate son left the succession in even greater confusion. His heir was a young infant, whom he had adopted two years previously, from a distant collateral line.

The British authorities consulted widely amongst the late Maharao's wives, remaining blood relatives, in-laws and ministers. Most concluded that despite his lapse, the adopted heir was also his closest male relative in the male line of descent. The Viceroy accordingly selected the three and a half year old Tej Ram Singhji as Maharao, installing him on the gadi in July 1946.

A Council of Administration headed by the Chief Minister,conducted government affairs on behalf of the new ruler, and arranged for the accession of the state to the Dominion of India in 1947. Just before leaving, the British had also retroceded their enclave at Mount Abu as a parting gift. Soon after acceding to the new Dominion, significant parts of the state were dismembered and attached to Bombay, the rest merging with other neighbouring states to form the Rajasthan Union.

No sooner had India achieved its Independence when old wounds within the ruling family erupted. The Manadar family, descendants of Maharao Sheo Singhji had long been a thorn in the sides of subsequent rulers. Successive heads of that family had been in dispute over a number of issues, including inheritance rights to jagirs, property rights, titles and forms of address, the wearing of gold ornaments and much else besides. The head of the family, the Thakur of Manadar, now asserted his rights to the gadi ahead of the little infant ruler. The new Indian government was faced with an immediate problem. Tempers were running high, the ruling council unpopular, and supporters of the different claimants exchanging blows, with opponents of the Congress Party exploiting the situation to their own ends. Faced with a mounting crisis, the government appointed a new commission to investigate the competing claims. In the meantime, they removed the ruling council and appointed a Council of Regency composed of the Dowager Maharani, the popular Maharana of Danta, and the father of Tej Ram Singhji. After a lengthy investigation, the government overturned the British decision and chose Abhai Singhji of Manadar in his stead. The new ruler ascended the gadi shortly afterwards in October 1950. At his death, the succession devolved on his elder son, Maharao Raghubir Singhji.

CLAN:
Deora sept of the Chauhan clan of Rajputs.

SALUTE:
15-guns.

FLAG:
A rectangular Rajput "Panchranga" consisting of five horizontal stripes or bands of equal width, from top to bottom: saffron, green, red, blue and white.

STYLES & TITLES:
The ruling prince: Maharajadhiraj Maharao Shri (personal name) Singhji Bahadur, Maharao of Sirohi, with the style of His Highness.
The consort of the ruling prince: (clan name) Maharani Shri (personal name) Sahiba, Maharani of Sirohi, with the style of Her Highness.
The sons of the ruling prince, during the lifetime of their father: Maharajkumar Shri (personal name) Singhji Sahib.
The younger brothers and grandsons of the ruling prince in the male line, after the death of their fathers: Raj Sahiban Shri (personal name) Singhji Sahib*.
The wives of the sons of the ruling prince: (clan name) Rani Shri (personal name) Sahiba
The daughters of the ruling prince: Maharajkumari Baiji Raj Shri (personal name) Sahiba.
The other male descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line, during their father's lifetime: Kunwar Shri (personal name) Singh.
The other male descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line, after the death of their fathers: Raj Shri (personal name) Singhji**.
The other female descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line: Baiji Shri (personal name) Sahiba.

* The title of Maharaj was extended to all living holders of this title in 1924, but as a personal distinction only.
** Styled Thakuran Raj Shri when members of a jagir holding family.

SOURCES:
Administration Report - Sirohi State. 1939/40-1945/46. IOR/V/10, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Adoption of Infant Tej Singh of Bari-Panti Manadar by H.H. the Maharao of Sirohi to Succeed Sirohi Gaddi as Tej Ram Singh. IOR/R/2/195/428, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Annual Administration Report of the Sirohi State. 1911/12-1915/16, 1935/36-1938/39. IOR/V/10, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Chiefs and Leading Families in Rajputana. Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta, 1894, 1903 and 1916.
Death of H.H. Maharajadhiraja Maharao Sir Sarup Ram Singh Bahadur, GCIE, KCSI, Maharao of Sirohi and Consequent Arrangements for Carrying Out the Administration of Sirohi. IOR/R/2/194/426, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Death of H.H. Maharao Sir Sarup Ram Singh Bahadur, Maharao of Sirohi, in Delhi, and his burial in accordance with Muslim rites (1). Question whether succession to the Sirohi Gaddi is affected by the Maharao's conversion to Islam (2). IOR/R/1/1/4426 (1) and IOR/R/1/1/4426 (2), Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
B.N. Dhoundiyal (comp.). Sirohi. Rajasthan District Gazetteers, No 5. Jaipur, 1967.
Grievances of Thakur Abhai Singh of Manadar Against the Sirohi Durbar. IOR/R/2/196/435, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Major K.D. Erskine, IA, CIE (comp.) Rajputana Gazetteers Vol III-A. The Western Rajputana States Residency and the Bikaner Agency. The Pioneer Press, Allahabad, 1909.
Grievances of Thakur Abhai Singh, son of Maharaj Man Singh of Manadar Against the Sirohi Durbar. IOR/R/2/196/432, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Dr Vijay Kumar. British Paramountcy in Rajputana (A case study of relation (sic) of the Sirohi state with the British 1823-1905 A.D.). Book Treasure, Jodhpur, 1991.
Dr Vijay Kumar. Studies in the History of Sirohi. Hill Top Publisher, Jodhpur, 1982.
The Rajputana Gazetteer. Volumes I, II & III. Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta, 1879.
Sirohi Succession. IOR/R/2/194/427, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Succession to the Manadar Estate after the Death of Raj Sahiban Tejsingh. IOR/R/2/197/438, IOR/R/2/197/439, and IOR/R/2/197/440, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
Denis Vidal. Violence and Truth: A Rajasthani Kingdom Confronts Colonial Authority. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1997.

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:
Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.
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