The Royal Family of Tehri Garhwal belong to the ancient Panwar clan of Agnivansha Rajputs. The progenitor of their line arrived in Garhwal, from Gujarat, in 688 AD. Kanak Pal married the daughter of the ruler of a petty state called Kedarkhand, who promptly and conveniently abdicated in his favour and retired to the hills. His descendants began a slow process of increasing their territories and bringing petty nobles and tribal clans under their sway.
Raja Som Pal, the twenty-third ruler after Kanak Pal succeeded in completing the task begun by his ancestor, by establishing a degree of hegemony over most of Garhwal. However, it took Ajay Pal, thirteenth ruler after Som Pal, to fully consolidate the gains and substantially expand the kingdom.
Ajay Pal (or Purba Deo) excelled as a warrior, administrator and scholar. He his relentless waging of war over his neighbours resulted in the conquest of sixty-four forts and the subjugation of fifty-two petty rulers. He established a new capital and endowed it with a vast palace and several temples, and was hailed as a religious divine. Alas, his gains also laid the seeds for future conflict. The expansion of the state brought the Pal family into direct opposition to the Chands of Kumaon. The following centuries saw a continuous competition and conflict between these two families, each vying with each other to control the hills.
Garhwal enjoyed its golden age under the Ponwars during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It grew rich and controlled a large amount of territory, attracting travellers from far and wide. Maharaja Mahipat Shah was strong enough to attack the Mughals and mount a punitive expedition into Tibet. Maharaja Prithvi Pat Shah invited the Jesuits to settle and build churches and cultivate orchards.
Maharaja Lalit Shah surpassed his ancestors by finally subduing their old enemy, by invading and conquering Kumaon. He expelled the Chands and placed his own younger son on the throne. Alas, in this triumph also lay the seeds of disaster, his sons quarrelled with each other and brought ruin upon themselves. These divisions played into the hands of the expanding Gurkha state and Nepal, prompting them to invade Kumaon and then take control of most of the hill country, expelling or subduing most of the rajas. The Maharaja of Garhwal was one of those who fought gallantly against them, bu ultimately fell in battle against them.
Sudarshan Shah, son and heir of the defeated ruler, went into exile and settled in British territory. Increasing tensions between the British and Nepalese soon led to preparations for war. The young heir saw his chance and entered into an alliance with them in 1812. When the expected war erupted, he joined forces with them in he conquest of the hill territories. At wars end in 1815, Sudarshan received approximately half his ancestral territories and received recognition as Raja of a new state called Tehri Garhwal. He died in 1859, but without leaving a Royal heir, as demanded by family custom. Nevertheless, his gallant services during the Anglo-Nepalese War and further services during the Indian Mutiny ensured that the British authorities recognised his son by a non-Royal wife as ruler. Bhawani Shah received a new grant of the state to his legitimate descendants. He later received a sanad of adoption in case of an absence of male heirs.
Bhawani Shah was succeeded by Pratap Shah, Kirti Shah and Narendra Shah. All three rulers took a keen interest in the administration, law and education. By the 1930s his little state boasted some of the best schools and hospitals in the hills. The state also maintained a small but efficient force of sappers and miners, who won fame during the two World Wars.
Maharaja Sir Narendra Shah abdicated in favour of his son in 1946, in preparation of the momentous changes brought about by the hand-over of power in British India. The new Maharaja Manabendra Shah arranged for the entry of his little state into the Indian Union, then embarked on a long political career as a parliamentarian. He also briefly served in diplomatic posts, before returning to parliament and resuming politics. At his death in 2007, he was still serving as an MP. His son, Manujendra Shah, succeeded him and was installed as Maharajka shortly after the funeral, and has also followed him in his political footsteps.
STYLES & TITLES:
The ruling prince: Swasti Shri 1008 Badrish Charya Prayana Garh-Rajya Mahi Mahendra Dharam, Vaibhav Dharam Rakshah Shiromani Shri 108 Maharaja (personal name) Shah Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal, with the style of His Highness.
The consort of the ruling prince: Maharani Shri (personal name) Deviji Sahiba, Maharani of Tehri Garhwal, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Shri Shri Shri Shri Shri Tikka (personal name) Shah.
The consort of the Heir Apparent: Shri Shri Shri Shri Shri Tikkarani (personal name) Deviji Sahiba.
The younger (legitimate) sons of the ruling prince: Maharajkumar Shri (personal name) Shah.
The consorts of the younger sons of the ruling prince: Rani (personal name) Sahiba.
The daughters of the ruling prince: Maharajkumari Shri (personal name) Deviji Sahiba.
The grandsons of the ruling prince: Rajkumar Shri (personal name) Shah.
The granddaughters of the ruling prince: Rajkumari Shri (personal name) Sahiba.
The other sons and descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line: Kunwar (personal name) Shah.
The consorts of the other sons and descendants of the ruling prince, in the male line: Kunwarani (personal name).
ORDERS & DECORATIONS:
RULES OF SUCCESSION:
Male primogeniture amongst the legitimate descendants of Maharaja Bhawani Shah (r 1859-1871), with the right of adoption by the recognised head of the family on the failure of natural male heirs.
Administration report of the Tehri State. 1878/79-1884/85, 1888/89-1890/91, 1893/94-1898/99, 1909/10-1934/35, & 1937/38-1943/44. IOR/V/10, Oriental and India Office Collection, British Library, St Pancras, London.
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Samar Bikram Shah, VrC, VM. Sam's Indian Air Force Site Down Under.
Father Lawrence Ober, SJ.