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Sayajirao Gaekwad: Maharaja who chose to insult the King-Emperor

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Sayajirao Gaekwad III, an able and vigorous ruler of Baroda from 1875 until his death in 1939, was born in the year 1863.

Sayajirao Gaekwad III
H.H. Shrimant Sarkar Sena Khas Khel Shamsher Bahadur Maharaja Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III. Taken c. 1903 by Bourne & Shepherd, Calcutta and Simla. Image Credit: Royal Collection Trust.

Till his death, he had personally directed, regulated, and supervised the administration of Baroda in all its departments. He proved himself to be an able and vigorous ruler whose territories were well-governed and prosperous. In all matters pertaining to his subject’s welfare, he took a deep interest. Many reforms were made during his reign, the chief of which were, ban on child marriage, legislation on divorce, removal of untouchability, development of Sanskrit, and encouragement of the fine arts. He was the first among the Indian Rulers to introduce free compulsory education for boys and girls, regardless of caste and status, in his state.

Sayajirao Gaekwad III
H.H. Shrimant Sarkar Sena Khas Khel Shamsher Bahadur Maharaja Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III.

Sayajirao Gaekwad was known for his independent political views. He was warned several times by the British Government that he would have to abdicate if he did not mend his ways. During Jalsa-i-Shahanshahi, or Imperial Assemblage, in Delhi in 1911, which was held to proclaim George V and Mary as Emperor and Empress of India, Sayajirao was most discourteous to King-Emperor. He wore a simple pearl necklace; a long white linen coat over white trousers; and carried a walking stick instead of a bejeweled sword. Sayajirao saluted him with the stick instead of bowing low before him and he returned to his seat whirling his stick 1Each Indian Ruler was expected to wear his full regalia of jewels and honour. They were expected to perform proper obeisance to the King-Emperor by bowing three times before him, then retracing seven steps backwards while facing the monarch..

Explanations from the Gaekwad were sought for this deliberate insult of the King-Emperor. Anglo-Indian newspapers and people went ballistic and called for action against him. Upon advice from the British Resident in his court, Sayajirao Gaekwad sent a written apology. He got out of the difficulty by saying that due to his position as the second ruling prince to be presented to the King-Emperor, he did not know how and in what form he was to present himself.

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Royal Archives

Royal Archives aims to create, stimulate and maintain awareness amongst the general public about the importance of India’s royal heritage and of the importance of preserving the heritage and culture for the benefit of future generations.
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Note(s)

  • 1
    Each Indian Ruler was expected to wear his full regalia of jewels and honour. They were expected to perform proper obeisance to the King-Emperor by bowing three times before him, then retracing seven steps backwards while facing the monarch.