History : Sep-Oct 2016
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 59 with considerable autonomy still coexisted alongside territory run directly by the English viceroy and his civil servants. These states were divided into three categories. At the top were 118 salute states. Their rulers, who took the title of maharaja, raja, or nawab, were entitled to be greeted with up to 21 cannon shots upon arrival at the capital, Delhi. In the middle were 117 non- salute states, which had limited jurisdiction. The rest were powerless states run by taluqdars, thakurs, and jagirdars, hereditary landowners without civil jurisdiction. Pawns and Profligacy The maharajas had full jurisdiction within their states—though that did not mean they were fully independent; the British controlled the army and foreign policy. Having stripped the maharajas of real autonomy, the British Raj secured sources of income for the loyal ones by bestowing titles and honors. Having been relieved of the raja-praja, the sacred bond to protect their people, the maharajas devoted their time to other pursuits. They were encouraged to be- come Anglicized. A university for princes was built: Rajkumar College in Rajkot, where many received an elite education. The arrival of Pax Britannica in India meant that the maharajas no longer needed to fight among themselves. Many decided to leave their drafty rural fortresses and move into luxurious, modern palaces built by British architects. As the maharajas’ power waned, Indian-born writ- er Rudyard Kipling wrote, all they had left was “to offer mankind a spectacle.” When Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the maharaja of Baroda, had Laxmi Vilas Palace built, it was the largest privately con- structed building in the world at the time. He had a private train and a polo field. He wrote in his memoirs that it took him two years to fully get to know his vast estate. Ram Singh, the maharaja of Bundi, built and embellished Bundi Palace in Rajasthan, which Kipling described as “such a palace as men build for themselves in uneasy dreams—the THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN In 1849, the British confiscated the famous Koh-i-noor diamond from the maharaja of Punjab. In 1937, the stone was mounted in a crown (below) worn by the mother of Queen Elizabeth II. GRANGER/ALBUM PAUL PANAYIOTOU/FOTOTECA 9X12 FLOATING PALACE It is not known when the stunning Jal Mahal, the “Water Palace,” was built in the middle of Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur. The palace was restored and extended by Maharaja Jai Singh II in the 18th century as a recreational pavilion.