History of Rajasthan

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Royal Rajasthan, India
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Rajasthan History

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Following the death of Aurangzeb and the dissolution of the Mughal Empire came the Marathas. They first rose to prominence with Shivaji who, between 1646 and 1680, per-formed feats of arms and heroism across central India. The Maratha Empire continued under the Peshwas, hereditary government ministers who became the real rulers. They gradually took over more and more of the weakening Mughal Empire's powers, first by supplying troops and then by actually taking control of Mughal land. The Marathas conducted numerous raids on the Rajputs, and the latter, too busy fighting among themselves, laid themselves wide open to these aggressions, resulting in numerous defeats in battle, the loss of territories and the invitable decline of the rajput states.

In the early 19th century, the East India Company, a London trading company which had a monopoly on trade in India, was taken over by the British Government, and India was effectively under British control. Meanwhile, the Marathas continued to mount raids on the Rajputs. Initially the British adopted a policy of neutrality towards the feuding parties. However, the British eventually stepped into the fray, negotiating treaties with the leaders of the main Rajput states. British protection was offered in return for Rajput support. Weakened by habitual fighting between themselves and in their skirmishes with the Marathas, one by one the princely states forfeited their independence in exchange for this protection. British residents were gradually installed in the princely states. The British ultimately eliminated the Maratha threat, but by this stage the Rajputs were effectively reduced to puppet leaders and lackeys of the British. While the Rajput leaders enjoyed the status and prestige of their positions, discontent was manifesting itself among numbers of their subjects, which broke out in rebellion in 1857. This rebellion proved to be a precursor to widespread opposition to British rule throughout India. It was Mohandas Gandhi, later to be known as Mahatma Gandhi, who galvanised the peasants and villagers into then on-violent resistance which was to spear-head the nationalist movement. By the time WWII was concluded, Indian independence was inevitable. The war dealt a deathblow to colonialism and the myth of European superiority, and Britain no longer had the power nor the desire to maintain a vast empire. Within India, however, a major problem had developed: the large Muslim minority had realized that an independent India would also be a Hindu-dominated India. The country was divided along purely religious lines, with the Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, speaking for the Muslims, and the Congress Party led by Jawaharlal Nehru, representing the Hindu population. Gandhi was absolutely opposed to the severing of the Muslim dominated regions from the prospective new nation. However, Jinnah was intransigent: I` will have India divided, or India destroyed,` was his uncompromising demand. The new viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, made a last-ditch attempt to convince the rival factions that a united India was a more sensible proposition, but the reluctant decision was made to divide the country. Independence was finally instituted on 15 August 1947, with the concomitant partitioning of the nascent country. The result was a Hindu-dominated India and a Muslim-dominated West and East Pakistan.

Emergence of the State of Rajasthan "It took some time for the boundaries of the proposed new state of Rajasthan to be defined. In 1948, Rajasthan comprised the south and south-eastern states of Rajputana. With the merger of Mewar, Udaipur became the capital of the United State of Rajasthan. The Maharana of Udaipur was invested with the title of rajpramukh (head of state). Manikya Lal Varma was appointed as prime minister of the new state, which was inaugurated on 18 April 1948.Almost from the outset the prime minister came into opposition with the rajpramukh over the constitution of the state government ministry. Varma wanted to form a ministry of all Congress members. The rajpramukh was keen to have his own candidates installed from among the jagirdars, or feudal lords. Jagirdars traditionally acted as intermediaries between the tillers of the soil (the peasants) and the state, taking rent or produce from the tenants and paying tribute to the princely ruler. They were symbols of the old feudal order, for whom millions of inhabitants of Rajputana were held in serfdom. Varma was keen to abolish the age-old system of jagirdari and, with Nehru's support, was able to install his own Congress ministry and do away with this feudal relic. Still retaining their independence from India were Jaipur and the desert kingdoms of Bikaner, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. From a security point of view, it was vital to the new Indian Union to ensure that the desert kingdoms, which were contiguous with Pakistan, were integrated into the new nation. The princes finally agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession, and the kingdoms of Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur were merged in 1949. The Maharaja of Jaipur, Man SinghII, was invested with the title of rajpramukh. Jaipur became the capital of the new state of Rajasthan. Heera Lal Shastri was installed as the first premier of Rajasthan. Later in 1949, the United State of Matsya,comprising the former kingdoms of Bharatpur, Alwar, Karauli and Dholpur, was incorporated into Rajasthan. As a consequence, Rajasthan became the second largest state m India, exceeded in geographical area only by the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan attained its current dimensions in November 1956 with the additions of Ajmer-Merwara, Abu Rd and a part of Dilwara, originally part of the princely kingdom of Sirohi which had been divided between Gujarat and Rajasthan. The princes of the former kingdoms were constitutionally granted handsome remuneration in the form of privy purses to assist them in the discharge of their financial obligations (and to keep them in the style to which they had become accustomed). In1970, Indira Gandhi (daughter of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru), who had come to power in 1966, commenced under-takings to discontinue the privy purses, which were abolished in 1971.
Many of the former rulers of Rajasthan continue to use the title of maharaja for social purposes. The only power this title holds today is as a status symbol. Since the privy purse abolition, the princes have had to financially support themselves. Some hastily sold valuable heirlooms and properties for literally nothing, in a desperate attempt to pay bills. While a handful of princes squandered their family fortunes, others refused to surrender their heritage, and turned their hands to business, politics or other vocations. Many decided to convert their palaces into hotels as a means of earning income. Some of these palace-hotels have become prime tourist destinations in India, such as the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur. The revenue earned from such hotels has enabled the maharajas to maintain their properties, sustain time-honored family traditions and continue to lead a comfortable lifestyle. However, not all palaces are on the tourist circuit and cannot rely purely on tourism as a source of steady income. Many palaces and forts are tucked away in remote parts of Rajasthan, and have been reluctantly handed over to the government, because the owners were simply unable to maintain them. Unfortunately, many of these rich vestiges of India's royal past are poorly maintained.



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