Princely States and British Provinces

May 12 2007

“She, whose only peer was the Holy Roman Empire …”

Below, Wikipedia’s simplified list of the main Princely States of India and their main groupings as they stood on the eve of independence, August 15 1947. Absorbing these states was one of the early tasks of independent India. Understanding the system as it evolved over time under the British would take years. There is a rather opaque database, listing 958 states, here, and further listings here.

Not all the articles refer to princely history. Some are written by people whose first language is not English. This has been a problem with English Wikipedia coverage of India, though the article on Tamil history, for example, has recently been overhauled. There may not be a consistent principle determining which states are listed here and which are not.

According to Surjit Mansingh’s Historical Dictionary of India, “At the time of India’s independence from Britain in 1947, something between 562 and 600 (depending on definition) Princely States were scattered over two-fifths of the subcontinent. They ranged in size from petty principalities of a few hundred acres to domains as large as France. Their rulers were of similarly diverse lineage, traced back to mythological times as in the case of Mewar, to medieval Afghan incursions as in the case of Bhopal to the Maratha confederacy in the case of many west and central Indian states, to the Sikh chieftains in Punjab, or to assertive vassals of the Mughal Emperor as in the case of Hyderabad. Serious scholars have turned their attention to the internal and external dynamics of these Princely States only recently, though the deeds, misdeeds, and lifestyles of Princes have been for long the material of pulp literature.” And hear this fascinating recent BBC Crossing Continents programme about the present gay Prince of Rajpipla (which is on the list).

Continuing with Mansingh: “Princely States were survivals of traditional Indian polity in which four different levels of control might operate […]: [in ascending order] a local chieftain with a title befitting his power; a Raja who would command allegiance and revenue from several little kingdoms; a higher functionary with an appropriate title such as Maharaja or Nawab, entitled to collect revenue from a large area and connect it directly with the imperial or paramount power; and the imperial power itself, which was the Mughal Emperor in the eighteenth century. The decline of Mughal power was accompanied by assertiveness and conflict at all the other levels. The East India Company, seeking commercial gain, also engaged itself in military and political competition. It signed treaties, subsequently known as Subsidiary Alliances, with some Princes against others; it annexed many territories; it emerged as the de facto paramount power in the early nineteenth century; and it suppressed the Uprising of 1857, during which Indian Princes fought both for and against the British.

“In 1858 the British Crown assumed sovereignty over an Indian Empire and removed the Princes’ fears of expropriation. Their status was fixed by the number of guns fired in salute; eighty-three princes were entitled to eleven guns and over, twenty-four to seventeen and over, and only five – Baroda, Gwalior, Hyderabad, Jammu, Kashmir and Mysore – to twenty-one-gun salutes. The British looked on the Indian Princes as props of a conservative Empire; they interacted with them in asymmetric personal transactions resembling patronage, appointing Residents, Dewans [administrators and revenue-collectors], and English tutors for purposes of ‘modernization’ but remaining wary of active or ambitious Princes. [The most important states had British Residents. Others were overseen by Agencies.] Though railway lines and posts and telegraphs ran through the Princely States as they connected different parts of British India, and though Indian familial and cultural ties surmounted political borders, there was little or no contact between the Princes and the emerging, politically conscious, middle class of British India that founded the Indian National Congress in 1885.

“By 1900 some Princely States such as Baroda, Cochin, Mysore, and Travancore had good administrative systems; the primary education schemes financed by the rulers of Tranvancore, Cochin, and Baroda were certainly better than any in British India. But the stereotyped image of Princely States was of feudal, backward despotisms. Indian Princes provided the Viceroy with pomp and pageantry, especially at the durbar of King George V in Delhi in 1911. As military allies (in theory) of the King-Emperor, they rallied their troops for service in World War I but were disappointed with the meager recognition they received from the British. A few Princes entered the all-India political arena in the first quarter of the twentieth century, notably Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, Maharaja Scindia Madho Rao of Gwalior, and Nawab Hamidullah of Bhopal. Some represented India at the League of Nations; others were courted for their name and financial support by newly formed groups in British India.

“A Chamber of Princes was established as a deliberative assembly with limited powers of advice in 1921, at the same time as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms were introduced in British India. Rulers of the more important states sat in their individual capacity, smaller states elected representatives from among themselves for the Chamber of Princes. There was an active membership of about forty Princes with a core of about fifteen from different parts and different communities of India. World War I accelerated the pace of change in India and the Non-Cooperation Movement demonstrated the need to readjust group relationships, but through the 1920s the Princes remained clients of the imperial power, aloof from the national movement and seeking constant reassurance for their own status and security in subsequent constitutional changes from the British. The Princes, for the most part, responded well to a suggestion made by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru at the first Round Table Conference in 1930 [in London] for a federation between Princely India and British India. However, the federal scheme incorporated in the Government of India Act of 1935 became mired in the marshes of British ambivalence, princely intransigence, and Congress opposition even before World War II. Mutual mistrust between most Princes and Congress leaders was fueled too by the agitations led by the States Peoples Conference in the late 1930s for democratization in the Princely States.

“The Princes played no direct role in the British-Indian negotiations for the transfer of power during the 1940s. A few, such as Bhopal, Hyderabad, and Travancore, entertained fantasies of independence when Lord Louis Mountbatten, last Viceroy of India, announced on June 3, 1947 that ‘paramountcy’ would lapse on August 15; but most recognized the imminent reality of a new paramount power in New Delhi. Through the efforts of Mountbatten himself, Vallabhai Patel, and their troubleshooter V.P. Menon, 584 princely rulers signed Instruments of Accession to India by August 15, 1947. The administrative harmonization of their domains with contiguous areas was completed by the mid-1950s. The varying cases of Hyderabad and Junagadh were resolved by 1948; the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in October 1947 but much of his territory was occupied by Pakistani forces and remains disputed.

“At the time of accession, 284 of the Princes were qualified to receive privy purses. These were abolished after the Derecognition of Indian Princes proclamation introduced by Indira Gandhi’s government in 1971 later passed into law. Most Princes and their families actively participate in the commercial, professional, political, service, and touristic streams of contemporary Indian life.”

Gwalior Residency


Other Residencies

Jammu and Kashmir

Baluchistan Agency

Las Bela

Gujarat States Agency and Baroda Residency

Chhota Udaipur
Devgadh Baria
Sanjeda Mehvassi

States of the North-West Frontier


States of the Punjab


States of the Rajputana Agency

Mewar, or after its capital Udaipur

States of the Central India Agency

Ali Rajpur

Kothi Baghelan
Nagod (Unchahara)

States of the Eastern States Agency

Cooch Behar
Pal Lahara
Udaipur (Chhattisgarh)

States of the Deccan States Agency and Kolhapur Residency


States of the Madras Presidency



The provinces of British India on the eve of independence were

Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Bombay Province, or the Bombay Presidency
Central Provinces and Berar
Delhi Province
Madras Province, or the Madras Presidency
North-West Frontier Province
United Provinces of Agra and Oudh

37 Responses to “Princely States and British Provinces”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    See Lives of the Indian Princes, Charles Allen and Sharada Dwivedi.

    My edition of Mansingh is shorter than the one I have linked to on Amazon.

  2. Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo Says:

    I am absolutely appalled by the incorrect information given in your article regarding the former chief minister of Orissa Maharaja Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo’s family. His elder son Maharaja Raj Raj Singh Deo’s name is not even mentioned, who was a two-term Member of Parliament. Currently, his elder son Maharaja Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo is the Minister of Urban Development & Public enterprises in the Govt. of Orissa, from the B.J.P. I am married to him & I am a consecutively elected third-term Member of Parliament from the B.J.P. We have a daughter Maharajkumari Nivritti Kumari who is studying in Switzerland, currently. My father-in-law Maharaja Raj Raj Singh Deo & my husband, Maharaja Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo were responsible for the meteoric rise of the B.J.P. in Orissa when they joined the party in 1989.

    Instead, you have given information of A.U.Singh Deo who is the youngest (sixth)child of Late Maharaja R. N.Singh Deo & is not even in the line of succession & his son Kalikesh. Where is the relevance? That way, you should have named other inconsequential family members as well. When one talks of princely states & royal families, one names the people in the line of succession not second & third cousins.

    It is sad & dangerous that Wikipedia can impart such misleading information. Soon people will believe that your information is not reliable. Kindly make the necessary amendments & also pull up the persons responsible for this.



  3. davidderrick Says:

    Dear Maharanee Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo

    Thank you, but I did not write the Wikipedia article. I only linked to it. The whole point about Wikipedia is that you can edit it – and correct it – yourself, now. You do not even need to register. Wikipedia is written by everyone. That is why it is rich and also full of mistakes.

    David Derrick

  4. davidderrick Says:

    Here, from the database I linked to, containing 958 states, is the entry on Maharaja Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo of Patna, which is presumably correct:

  5. Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo Says:

    Dear David,

    Well now that you have the correct information you can make the necessary amendments in this & other related articles.

    Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo

  6. […] subject line: “Exchange with the Maharanee of Patna”. You can read the minor tiff in his […]

  7. Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo Says:

    Dear David,

    Spoke to my daughter yesterday & she told me all about wikipedia. I guess I owe an apology. SORRY……….

    Where are you based? Would love to show you our place considering your interest in history & royalty.

    Take Care.

    Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo.

  8. davidderrick Says:

    Dear Sangeeta

    Please don’t mention it.

    I am based in London. I would love to visit Bihar and Orissa and have been thinking of adding them to another visit to Bengal. I have only been to Calcutta. I’ve been mentally filing various reasons and your kind invitation is another.

    Some of my great grandfather’s letters are in the Mukul Dey archives at Santiniketan. He was a painter called George Clausen. Link: The only picture(s) of his in India are in Baroda, collected by the Maharaja Gaekwar and sent there in, I think, 1912-13. As far as I know it or they are still there. (There is nothing in the Salar Jung museum in Hyderabad.)

    Thank you.

    Kind regards

    David Derrick

  9. Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo Says:

    Dear David,

    Nice to know that your family has very old links with India. Your grandfather must have been quite a painter, because the Baroda family is renowned for its amazing collection of art.

    Have you been in touch with the Baroda family? My sister in law’s younger sister is the Yuvrani or crown princess of Baroda. She’s married into the Gaekwad family. So, when you’re here, you can meet my sister in law & perhaps take a trip to Baroda & see your grandfather’s works.


    Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo.

  10. davidderrick Says:

    Dear Sangeeta

    What a serendipitous conversation! I have not been in touch so far. It would be great if you could ask your sister-in-law’s sister about the Clausen picture(s). I would even like to order photographs – but perhaps the best thing would be to add Gujarat to this trip to India.



  11. Sir, JAMNIA STATE was under central province of india, and was a small state of 101 sq km. we are from rajput clan of songara chouhans. i have more details to give. present ruler is SHRIMANT RAJA SHALIWAHAN VATS OF JAMNIA.

  12. H H UDAIPUR Says:

    respected, shrimant raja of jamnia, one of your sister is married to shri yuvraj saheb of rajkot, could u tell me about her and her kids. thanks.

  13. […] even more striking in a British-Indian provincial town like Ahmedabad or in the capital of an Indian State like Jodhpur than they were in the two ports. Brief though my overland journey in India was, I saw […]

  14. davidderrick Says:

    Dear H H UDAIPUR

    Thank you very much for your question. I am afraid that I cannot answer it, as I am only publishing links to certain information and am not an expert.

    I hope that you find what you need.

    Kind regards

    David Derrick

  15. Hello David
    Just by chance visited Toyenbee Convector, and found your ref. to Mukul Dey Archives to Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo.
    Good to know that you remember the Archives. Visit us whenever you are in India next.

  16. davidderrick Says:

    Dear Satyasri

    I meet the most interesting people on this page! Great to hear from you again. Work has not taken me to Delhi, let alone east, for some time, but seeing you and your family is one of the reasons I want to be in India again. I have neglected Clausen matters recently, but must get back to them.

    Hope you are well.

    Warm regards

  17. Arun Purie Says:

    Dear David,

    Its amusing to see the vehement reply of “Maharanee Sangeeta Singh Deo”. It just goes to show the antiquated world the royals still live in. The title’s of India were lifted in the 70’s yet there seems to be a zealous claim and reference to lines of succession. Incidentally I remember “Maharanee Sangeeta Singh Deo” as being featured as one of the 5 worst performing MPs in India in an established weekly. Maybe a little less attention to irrelevant pedigree and imaginary political achievements and more to her responsibilities would be more heartening.

    Look forward to other such insights into India.

    Warm Regards

  18. davidderrick Says:

    Dear Arun

    Thank you. I suppose the pedigree is important if it is your family, and it must be irritating to see people getting things wrong. And she made up very charmingly! As for the career of her husband, I am out of my depth on that. Are you a journalist? I have Googled you, but found too many Arun Puries for clarity.

    There is already quite a bit more on India here, if you click the India category on the left.

    Warm regards

  19. Arun Purie Says:

    Dear David,

    Pedigree exists… and doesn’t have to be proved!!

    I would rather keep my identity hidden for the time being lest i fall victim to the Maharanee MP’s ire. I have heard that she has on more than one occassion vented her fury physically on her poor voters :)

    However i can tell you that i have an interest in current affairs and have enjoyed the variety of information you have managed to garner. In time i hope to contribute to your links.

    Best Wishes

  20. Subodhdhwaj Singh Says:

    The only thing that I can say is that it is really pathetic on the Maharani’s part. What world is she living in? Even after three terms as an M.P. and that too on the name of her Late Grandfather in law, she still doesn’t know where her priorities lie. She herself has mentioned in one of her replies and I quote, “That way, you should have named other inconsequential family members as well. When one talks of princely states & royal families, one names the people in the line of succession not second & third cousins” unquote. I quote again, the Maharani, ” Have you been in touch with the Baroda family? My sister in law’s younger sister is the Yuvrani or crown princess of Baroda. She’s married into the Gaekwad family. So, when you’re here, you can meet my sister in law & perhaps take a trip to Baroda & see your grandfather’s works” unquote. Which sister in law’s younger sister is she talking about? She only has two sisters in law from her husband’s side,namely, Mitrabinda Kumari and Satyarajeshwari Kumari and none of them are married in the Gaekwar family. If it suits her bloated ego then the second and third cousins are not inconsequential otherwise they are not worth mentioning. What a hypocrite.

  21. Mitrabinda Kumari Says:

    Dear Subodhdhwaj Singh

    Sister-in-laws as in English can be husbands sister’s / Brother’s wife. Check your references properly please.


  22. Subodhdhwaj Singh Says:

    Dear Mitrabinda. I know sister in law is a broad term in English but with relevance to the Maharani’s statement kindly enlighten me as to which sister in laws sister is married in the Gaekwad family?

  23. Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo Says:

    Dear David,
    Long time since we’ve been in touch. Thanks for being gallant & picking up for me. I was surprised at the venom & hatred being spewed by Mr. Arun Purie & Mr. Subodhdhwaj Singh(I suspect these are pseudonyms as they seem a little too bitter). I think I have touched a raw nerve & someone is very upset. Now I am sure we dont want this site to end up being a ‘Hate- Mail’ site.
    By the way the sister-in-law I mentioned is the Yuvrani of Dhenkanal & her younger sister is married into the Gaekwar family.
    As goes my parliamentary performance, the very fact that I have been elected thrice consecutively is self-explanatory. Though their concern for me is absolutely touching.
    By the way, when are you coming to India?

  24. davidderrick Says:

    Dear Sangeeta

    My sincere apologies for replying so late. I suppose I could have censored all the stuff here, but as soon as someone says something, another has the right to respond, and so it goes on. If it wasn’t happening here, it would be somewhere else. I barely understand it. I am glad you take it philosophically!

    As to when I will visit India, I am hoping to come in March and look forward to meeting you.

    Kind regards


  25. Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo Says:

    Dear David

    Looking forward to meeting you in March. I sincerely hope we don’t have elections then. I’m sure you’re aware that there is a lot of talk about mid-term polls in India. Just keeping my fingers crossed.

    I spoke to my sister in law about you (Dhenkanal). She too is looking forward to meeting you.



  26. davidderrick Says:

    Bikram Jeet Batra writes:

    Hi David,

    Came across your webpage while looking for some information about the legal structures of the various princely states. I am working on a history of capital punishment in India, and trying to get some leads into the legal structures of the various princely states.

    I read somewhere that the British classified Indian native/princely states into three classes, of which the first class states had the maximum sovereign powers (including that of the death penalty over their own subjects, though not over British subjects). However the accuracy of this information needs to be verified. Do you have any “information” of these three classes.

    Any help would be appreciated,

  27. davidderrick Says:

    Thank you. I am afraid I am not an expert. Weren’t they ranked via a gun salute system? People, Princes and Paramount Power: Society and Politics in the Indian Princely States (1979) by Robin Jeffrey may be relevant. Good luck.

  28. Som Patidar Says:

    David, I have read your article and comments of all noted personalities. I have complete respect for your research work, meanwhile, i feel that there is need to work more on history of princely states in India. Here, we do have lack of information, it’s only due to unavailibility of authentic data and records.

    Hope, researchers like you keep on enriching our knowledge by providing information without any bias.

    Som Patidar,
    Journalist-Parliamentary Fellow,
    New Delhi, India.

  29. […] The present Maharanee of Patna left some entertaining comments below this post. […]

  30. Dear David,

    I came across this thread today.
    I am a scion of one of the ancient royal families of Orissa.
    I must say that no matter how glorious the past was for the Orissa royals,all they do now is live in thir own worlds with no intention of serving the very people that elect them.

    If you have the time please go through the details of the constituenicies that have elected the royals of Orissa and you will realize that the majority of the electorate in these places is either illiterate or barely educated.

    H.H.Maharani of Patna and other politicians belonging to my community need to set an example for us, the next generation,rather than just spending their five years in Delhi or in the luxuries of the their palace.

    I am proud of the fact that the SinghDeos and other Deos have strived to serve the people but I am ashamed at their failure to succeed in this endeavour.

  31. Durga Devi Says:

    Wow! This Sangeeta Kumari person is the very epitome of viciousness! After reading her posts, consistent in terms of venting bile, and negativity, I did a bit of checking up on her. Sangeeta Kumari’s father worked as the chief security officer at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Her bombast and attitude are nice foils to a very middle-class upbringing it would seem. In her husband’s home state of Orissa, it is her husband’s uncle, Maharaja Anang Uday Singh Deo — son of the late Maharaja R N Singh Deo, one of the most admirable and beloved Chief Ministers of Orissa — who has a track record of terrific public service at the forefront of political life, dating back to the early nineteen eighties. Sangeeta is viewed as an interloper: some sort of hustler, in Orissa as well as in Delhi — a wheeler dealer who’s made her way into parliament with zero credentials. Additionally, she has no track record of meaningful contributions in parliament, notwithstanding her protestations to the contrary; MP’s such as her are an abysmal waste of taxpayer money. She may have been elected 3 times but that’s no testament to her credentials as a solid leader who delivers for her state at the centre. She’s being given a good run for her money in the current election by Maharaja Anang Uday Singh Deo’s brilliant and promising son, Kalikesh, who is an MLA. People in her constituency, Bolangir, say that chances are Sangeeta will be beaten roundly, into oblivion.

    I do agree with the comment above that all this “royal” stuff is a bunch of drivel. They’re all plebeians now, like the rest. And if you want to be a true leader, you have to have the right qualities, motivation, and a desire to genuinely better the lot of India’s poor. Think of President Obama in the US! A Harvard law degree for starters. Or think of India’s Prime Minister — a world class economist, with a Ph.D. from Cambridge.

    These guys are painfully ill-educated and quite an embarrassment. This lady sounds like bad news!

  32. […] Indian princely states July 8, 2009 I’ve password-protected a 2007 post called Princely States and British Provinces. […]

    • Obed S. Ranawat Says:

      Dear sir,

      Greet you in christ Jesus.

      My family certainly needs to be included in the list of princely states of india. for the following reasons;
      My ancestors were the representative rulers for Raghuji III of Nagpur maratha state from 1826 to 1853 on the raipur seat of Chhattisgarh, when the state lapsed to british. but my family was granted lands and ruling right in chhindwara district of narmada division of central provinces on commutation that is leaving the districts of ripur Bilaspur and sambalpur of orrissa state and settleing down in Chhindwara. Then they got other districts of saugor narsinghpur Hoshangabad seoni, jabalpur baitul balaghat etc in their diwani state which was originally created at the instructions of Lord Canning between 1860 to 1868. A DISTRICVT GAZATTEER PREPARED FOR ALL ABOVE THOSE DISTRICTS CLASSIFIED AS CORRECTED FROM 1891 TO 1028 WAS PUBLISHED FROM GOVERNMENT PRESS NAGPUR IN 1928. THE LAST DIWAN BAHADUR ROHIDAS WAS MURDERED IN 1894 IN CHHIDWARA AND THE STATE LAPSED AFTER 1912. i AM THE GRANDSON OFBABA GARIBDAS ANS GREAT GRANDSON OF DIWAN ROHIDAS.



  33. davidderrick Says: http://JAMNIA

    H H JAMNIA Says:

    May 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm e

    Respected sir,my JAMNIA STATE was in madhya bharat in india,jamnia was given the hnour of 7 gun salute by the british pramont power.but later on because of the money power of marahtas we were deprived,i have all the historical papers and the certificate which was given by the british, know as the princely state of jamnia SANAD.I WILL BE GREATFUL TO U SIR IF U COULD INCLUED MY JAMNIA STATE NAME IN THE SALUTED STATES OF INDIA.THANKS

  34. […] Princely States and British Provinces […]

  35. Obed S. Ranawat Says:

    I would be greatly encouraged to see my family included in the list of royal families of India. In fact we are Ranas of Udaipur in Rajasthan and the family moved tocentral india at the inviation of maratha rulers of napur somewhere 1770 AD

  36. Surendra Bhoi Says:

    In 2015 who is Maharaj and Maharani of Patna we do not know. How you could address by them with such prefixes. My foot with all such prefixes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s