Friday, September 03, 2010

Last Surviving Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire Passes

His Highness the Maharaja of Dhrangadhra, appointed Knight Command, of the Eminent Order of the Indian Empire 1948, passed on August 1 aged 87. His Highness was the last of the Indian princes who ruled their own states before India became independent in 1947.

On acceding to the gadi (throne) 1942, HH ordered the State Council to meet once a week, launched an economy programme, and enacted a series of modernising laws. These affirmed his subjects' fundamental rights, established village and municipal self-government, ended the segregation of the "untouchable" castes, and permitting women to hold property and to remarry. But his patrician confidence was badly shaken when a village elder said to him: "That is all very well, sir, I know what you have done. But who will wipe away our tears?"

HH Dhrangadhra and his fellow princes had governed 565 states that covered almost half of the subcontinent of India. Born Mayurdwajsinhji on March 3 1923, his birth was celebrated with the beating of war drums and the release of all Dhrangadhra-Halvad's prisoners. Although small in comparison with its neighbours, the state comprised 1,157 square miles with a population of about 250,000, and rated a 13-gun-salute. He married, in 1943, Brijraj Kumari Sahiba (daughter of the Maharaja of Jodphur), who survives him with their three sons. The eldest, 66-year-old Sodhsalji, prefers to be recognised as the head of Jhala clan, but is still popularly known as the maharaja.