SONEPUR

 

The Chauhan Dynasty

BRIEF HISTORY

Sonepur is an ancient place of settlement in Western Orissa, where the oldest coins in the world were discovered during the middle of the twentieth century. It is believed to be the site of Ravanna's Lanka, and the place of origin of the Singhalese people Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

The first independent ruler of modern Sonepur was Raja Madan Gopal Singh Deo. He was the second son of Maharaja Sriman Madhukar Sai Deo of Sambalpur, who belonged to the Chauhan Dynasty of Rajput Kshatriya. Granted Sonepur as his jagir in 1640, he gradually extended his control over the surrounding areas and gave protection to the aboriginal tribes. His successors consolidated their power, making Sonepur an important religious and scholastic centre, with several important temples and annual festivals.

The principality retained its independence until the Marathas emerged as a powerful force during the late eighteenth century. They took, Raja Prithvi Singh, the then ruler captive in 1800 and held him for ransom for seventeen years. He was only freed after the Bhonsle Raja of Nagpur was defeated by the British in 1817. In actual fact, he had already ceded control over the country to them, without ever having enjoyed any suzerainty, in 1803. The Raja returned home in 1822, but took little active interest in the administration of the state until his death in 1841.

Raja Niladhar Singh ascended the gadi in 1841, becoming the first of three successive rulers of great energy, learning and administrative ability. Together with his son and grandson, Pratap Rudra Singh and Bir Mitrodaya Singh, the state advanced in leaps and bounds. Schools, road and hospitals were constructed, and the land revenue, legal and administrative systems overhauled. The state also became a great centre of scholarship in Sanskrit and Oriya literature, music and poetry. The rulers also patronised gifted scholars and funded seats of learning at prestigious Indian institutions and universities. Their wives were no less forthcoming in both their interests and their patronage, with Lady Parvati Devi, the wife of Maharaja Bir Mitrodaya Singh, foremost amongst them.

Maharaja Sudhansu Sekhar Singh, succeeded his distinguished father in 1937, following the early death of his equally distinguished elder brother. It was left to him to see the extinction of his state after India achieved its independence in 1947. Sonepur was absorbed into Orissa, becoming a sub-division of the Bolangir District, in 1948. He died in 1963, leaving the representation of his illustrious family to his only son, Maharaja Bir Pratap Singh Deo. The latter died in 1973, since when, the family has been represented by his son, Maharaja Prithvi Bir Singh Deo.

SALUTE:
9-guns.

DYNASTY:
Chauhan clan of Rajputs.

STYLES & TITLES:
The ruler: Maharaja Sriman (personal name) Singh Deo Bahadur, Maharaja of Sonepur, with the style of His Highness.
The consort of the ruler: Maharani Srimati (personal name) Sahiba, Maharani of Sonepur, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Yuvraj Sriman (personal name) Singh Deo.
The consort of the Heir Apparent: Yuvrani Srimati (personal name) Sahiba.
The younger sons of the ruler: Maharajkumar Sriman (personal name) Singh Deo.
The consort of a younger son of the ruler: Rani Srimati (personal name) Sahiba.
The daughters of a ruler: Maharajkumari Srimati (personal name) Sahiba.
The grandson of the ruler, being the eldest son of the Heir Apparent: Tikait Lal Sriman (personal name) Singh Deo.
The other grandsons of the ruler, in the male line: Lal Sahib (personal name) Singh Deo.

SOURCES:
Administration report, Sonepur State. 1939/40, 1941/42-1945/46. IOR/V/10. India Office Collection, The British Library, St Pancras, London.
History of the Sonepur Feudatory State, Orissa. Calcutta, 1917.
Jilamitra Prasad Singh Deo. Archaeology of Orissa: with special reference to Nuapada and Kalahandi. R.N. Bhattacharya, Kolkata, 2006.
Feudatory States of Bihar and Orissa: List of Ruling Chiefs and Leading Personages. Government of India Central Publications Branch, Calcutta, 1924.
List of Ruling Chiefs and Leading Personages of States in the Eastern States Agency. Government of India Manager of Publications, Delhi, 1936.
Addenda and Corrigenda to the List of Ruling Chiefs and Leading
Personages of States in the Eastern States Agency, 31st December 1937 to 31st December 1943. Government of India Manager of Publications, Delhi.
B.C. Mazumdar. Sonpur in the Sambalpur Tract. A.C. Sarkar, Calcutta, 1911.
Prof. Pabitra Mohan Nayak. The Voice of Silence: Sonepur Durbar and Indian Cultural Traditions. Orissa Sahitya Akademi, Bhubaneswar, 2001.
C.L. Phillips & S.L. Marwood. Confidential History of Sonpur State. R/2/306/133 India Office Records, British Library, St Pancras, London.
S.S. Senapati & N.K. Sahu (eds). Balangir. Orissa District Gazetteers, No 2. Superintendent, Orissa Government Press, Cuttack, 1968.

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
Yuvraj Sriman Arjun Singh Deo, of Sonepur.
Kanwar Purujit Singh Tarwar, of Koti.
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CopyrightęChristopher Buyers, December 2006 - May 2011