How Maharaja of Nabha Defied British Authorities

Coronation of the Rebel Maharaja Ripudaman Singh (January 24, 1912)After the ascension of Maharaja Hira Singh, Ripudaman Singh succeeded to the throne of Nabha.Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha and Bhau Arjan Singh Baghardia were instrumental in cultivating religious tendency in Ripudaman Singh and was one of the most philanthropic and rebellious thinkers among the Sikh states of the time.Normally, the Takht Nashini was held by the British Government in the presence of the British Governor.

However, Ripudaman Singh, in a rebellious tone, performed the turban-laying ceremony on 24 January 1912 in a ceremony held by Bhai Arjan Singh Bagrian, the Guru Granth Saheb ji Maharaj as Maharaja’s successor, to assume the throne as Maharaja of Nabha.

When the British government protested against this, Maharaja Ripudaman Singh made it clear: ‘What has the British got to do with my coronation? Raj Bhog is blessed by our Gurus.”He had a distinct personality and education.

He was true to his heritage and helped steer an important legislation for the Sikhs and helped nationalists. An able ruler who introduced many reforms, he laid stress on education and health, all the while fencing with the British colonial authorities who eventually deposed him.

Of all the people,During the British Raj, like many such states, Nabha had a mixed legacy of “absolute autonomy, willing acceptance of political subordination to the British, defiance of the British authorities, feeble resistance to encroachments, and dignified insistence on their own rights.”Tikka Ripudaman Singh was educated by personal tutors like Bhai Kahan Singh and Lala Bishan Das.

He had not made the journey to Chiefs’ College, Lahore, like others did. Along with English education, he received traditional training that laid a strong foundation and shaped his actions. He grew up to be a “devout Sikh, a keen social reformer and a staunch nationalist.” He defied his father, Raja Hira Singh, and succeeded in having idols removed from the parikarma of Darbar Sahib in Amritsar.

As heir apparent, his notable contribution was in steering the Sikh Marriage Act through the Viceroy’s Legislative Council which he introduced on October 30, 1908. However, his term was not renewed and he was unhappy with the dilution of the Act into Anand Marriage Act. He, however, left a mark during his tenure in the council and fought for recognition of his work, which came after a prolonged effort, when he was vindicated in the House of Commons.

The Tikka had also raised other political and social issues. His conduct in the council led to assessment by Lord Minto that he would be “a troublesome ruler”.This could be seen right from the time of his accession. Ripudaman Singh took his succession as a matter of right, and not something to be granted by the British Political Agent.

On January 24, 1912, his dastar bandi was performed by Bhai Arjan Singh Bagrain in a darbar held with due ceremony. He delayed the British-sponsored installation ceremony for as long as he could, insisting on his own interpretation of procedures. His running battle with the local British administrators, including the Governor of Punjab, Michael O’Dyer, left many scars on both sides — something that would eventually cost the Maharaja dear.Nabha’s contribution to the war effort of the British was the lowest among Indian princes.

In administration, Ripudaman Singh consolidated the good work done by his father, who had laid a solid foundation. He introduced free primary education in the state in 1913; increased the budget of hospitals and dispensaries; and introduced electricity in Nabha in 1915. In 1918, he established a Legislative Council in Nabha, the first of its kind in North India, which introduced a certain degree of democratic governance.

Ripudaman Singh sympathised with political movements inimical to the colonial power. He was supportive of the Ghadar movement, as also Bhai Randhir Singh, son of Natha Singh, an Assistant Legal Remembrancer in Nabha.

The Maharaja’s support to Sikh causes earned him respect of the masses, and the ire of British agents. He donated Rs 2 lakh to the Banaras Hindu University and, in general, behaved in a manner that emphasised the internal sovereignty of the princely states.

Via: Sukhwinder Singh