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Bhagvat Singh

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Bhagvat Singh

Bhagvat Singh
Maharaja of Gondal

H.H. Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagwat Singhji Sagramji Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Gondal, GCSI, GCIE (then only a GCIE),a 1911 photograph, during his visit to London, for the Coronation of King George V. He is wearing the mantle of a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire.
Born (1865-10-24)24 October 1865
Dhoraji, Gujarat, India
Died 5 March 1944(1944-03-05) (aged 78)
Gondal, India
Religion Hindu

Maharaja Bhagvatsingh Sahib (24 October 1865 – 9 March 1944) was the ruling Maharaja of the princely state of Gondal from 1869 till his death in 1944, in whose reign the state was raised to 11-gun salute state.[1] He is regarded as a progressive and enlightened ruler and was the only Maharaja to take a medical degree and also awarded other degrees: L.L.D, M.B.C.-M & M.R.C.P, D.C.L, M.D, F.R.C.P, F.R.S.E.&C.

Early life

Bhagvatsingh was born as Kumar Sri Bhagvatsinghji Sangramsinhji Sahib, Yuvaraja Sahib of Gondal, on 24 October 1865 at Dhoraji, the third and the youngest but only surviving son of Thakurani Bai Shri Monghiba Sahiba, daughter of Jhala Shri Rartansinhji Sahib of Minapur,[2] the third wife of Thakore Sagramji II, the Thakore Sahib, or chieftain, of Gondal, a small third-class princely state that was an offshoot of the great Jadeja dynasty.

Family

The Gondal branch of the dynasty had split off from the dynasty ruling Rajkot in the early 17th century. By the early 19th century, a succession of incompetent rulers had left Gondal in a sorry state. However, upon the accession of Sagramji II to the throne, conditions in Gondal under his reign markedly improved, with the establishment of modern schools, law courts and a police force; although still a third-class state, with its ruler not even ranking as a Raja (prince), by 1866, Gondal had become a minor salute state of 9-guns. In 1869, Sagramji II died, and Bhagvatsingh succeeded his father at the age of four.[3]

Dawn of a New Age

Reigning under a British regency until he came of age, Bhagvatsingh was educated at The Rajkumar College, Rajkot and subsequently in the latest scientific and technological developments, continuing and in many ways exceeding his father's efforts. After succeeding to his majority in 1884, he immediately worked on reforming Gondal. He reformed the state administration, developed its resources, erected schools, colleges and hospitals, provided free and compulsory education for both men and women through university, built technical schools for engineers and training facilities for labourers. As well, Bhagvatsingh improved the regional livestock through modern animal husbandry, built dams and irrigation networks and introduced sewage, plumbing, rail systems, telegraphs, telephone cables and electricity, becoming also a champion for women's rights-unprecedented for the time.[3]

Amazingly, he was so effective as a ruler that his subjects did not need to pay any taxes whatsoever, as he succeeded in improving land revenues and the state income tenfold. He provided free and compulsory education for the non-academically minded in the form of training facilities for engineers, mechanics, carpenters, joiners, surveyors, painters, and levellers. Irrigation networks and dams helped boost agriculture and cultivated wasteland.[3]

Bhagvatsingh took a deep interest in medicine at an early age, striving his hardest to alleviate disease and suffering. To do so he enrolled first at Rajkumar College, Rajkot,[2] followed by the University of Edinburgh in 1892 and studied for his degree, graduated as a medical doctor in 1895 and went on to earn his place as Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh-the only princely ruler ever to do so. In 1894, he became the President of the Organising Committee of the 8th International Congress of Hygiene and Demography at Budapest. Upon returning to Gondal, he ministered to his subjects throughout his life, working late into the night five days a week, and taking a daily tour of inspection around the capital before finally retiring to his bed. He later rose to become Vice-President of the Indian Medical Association.[3]

Not only a scientist, but a devoted scholar as well, Bhagvatsingh later published the first ever dictionary of Gujarati and a Gujarati encyclopedia, the "Bhagavadgomandal" in 1928.[3]

Immensely enlightened for the era, Bhagvatsingh educated all his family, including his wife and daughters, one of whom was sent to Edinburgh to study art. His four surviving sons were all educated abroad-his heir apparent, Bhojirajsingh, at Eton School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he took an engineering degree.  His second, Bhupatsingh,educated at Harrow School and at Trinity College, Cambridge, became a doctor like his father, going on to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at the University of London, becoming a DTM, MRCS and LRCP. After returning to Gondal, Bhupatsingh became its chief medical officer. The youngest two sons, Kiritsingh and Natwarsingh, both educated at Edinburgh, became directors of the state railways.[4]

In 1930, Maharaja Bhagvat Singh felt slighted at the British Rolls Royce company’s refusal to accept an order from him for a new Rolls Royce car. Reacting to the refusal, the Maharaja ordered new Rolls Royce cars and put them to hauling garbage, dung and filth in Patiala city to the chagrin of the all-powerful Rolls Royce-loving Viceroy and the British ruling establishment who quickly prevailed upon the Rolls Royce Company to comply with the Maharaja’s wishes.

Only four years after his formal accession in 1888, Gondal was raised to the rank of a first-class state with an 11-gun salute; in 1887, Bhagvatsingh became "Sir Bhagvatsingh" after he was knighted that year.[4]

Personal life

On 3 June 1881, Bhagvatsingh married Her Highness Maharani Shri Nand Kunverbaiji Sahiba, CI (1867-9 March 1936). The couple had six sons and three daughters:

  1. Yuvraj Sahib Bhojirajsinhji Bhagvatsinhji (8 January 1883-31 July 1952, r. 1944–1952), who succeeded as Maharaja of Gondal
  2. Maharajkumari Bai Shri Nanba Kunverba Sahiba (1884–?)
  3. Rajkumar Shri Ajitsinhji Bhagvatsinghji Sahib (January–May 1887)
  4. Rajkumar Shri Ranjitsinhji Bhagvatsinghji Sahib (16 September 1887 – 1890)
  5. Maharajkumar Shri Dr. Bhupatsinhji Bhagvatsinghji Sahib, LRCP, MRCS, DTM (25 May 1888 – 1945?)
  6. Maharajkumari Bai Shri Leilaba Kunverba Sahiba, later the Rani of Jubbal (14 February 1891-7 March 1975); had issue.
  7. Maharajkumar Shri Kiritsinhji Bhagvatsinghji Sahib (13 February 1894–?)
  8. Maharajkumar Shri Natwarsinhji Bhagvatsinghji Sahib (29 May 1895-28 October 1937) (mauled by an Asiatic lion at Junagadh)
  9. Maharajkumari Bai Shri Taraba Kunverba Sahiba (4 March 1900 – 1958)

(Although Bhagvatsingh married three other wives, they do not seem to have provided him with children) [4]

Later years

By the 20th century, Gondal boasted among the finest medical services and the finest municipal works system in the subcontinent. During his reign, he abolished all rates, taxes, customs, octroi, and export duties in the state making Gondal the only state to be tax-free.[5] He not just removed the purdah system for women,[6] but 'Zananas' or restricted women's wing were no longer built in subsequent palaces.[3][7]

By 1918, Gondal was the only state in the Western India States Agency to have compulsory education for girls in all villages[5][8] In October 1934, on the 50th anniversary of his accession to the throne he gave his weight in gold to charity.[9] In the following years, Bhagvatsingh himself became renowned beyond India, and continued working for the benefit of his people through his old age. Bhagvatsingh died on 9 March 1944 in his eightieth year after a 75-year reign, cementing his reputation as one of the most progressive monarchs in Indian history.[4]

Titles

  • 1865–1869: Kumar Shri Bhagvatsingh Sangramsinhji Sahib, Yuvaraja Sahib of Gondal
  • 1869–1877: His Highness Thakore Shri Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Thakore Sahib of Gondal
  • 1877–1887: His Highness Thakore Shri Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Thakore Sahib of Gondal
  • 1887–1888: His Highness Thakore Shri Sir Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Thakore Sahib of Gondal, KCIE
  • 1888–1892: His Highness Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Maharaja Thakore Sahib of Gondal, KCIE
  • 1892–1895: His Highness Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Maharaja Thakore Sahib of Gondal, KCIE, MRCPE
  • 1895–1897: His Highness Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Maharaja Thakore Sahib of Gondal, KCIE, FRCPE, MRAS, MRI
  • 1897–1909: His Highness Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Maharaja Thakore Sahib of Gondal, GCIE, FRCPE, MRAS, MRI
  • 1909–1913: His Highness Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Maharaja Thakore Sahib of Gondal, GCIE, FRSE, FRCPE, MRAS, MRI, HPAC
  • 1913–1937: His Highness Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Maharaja Thakore Sahib of Gondal, GCIE, FRSE, FRCPE, FCP (Bombay), MRAS, MRI, HPAC
  • 1937–1944: His Highness Maharaja Thakore Shri Sir Bhagvatsingh Sahib, Maharaja Thakore Sahib of Gondal, GCSI, GCIE, FRSE, FRCPE, FCP (Bombay), MRAS, MRI, HPAC

[4]

Honours

Maharaja Sir Dr. Bhagvatsingh received numerous prestigious honours, both academic and political, through his long reign. Given here is a full list of his honours and academic degrees:

Academic Degrees

Honours

Decorations

Medals

Honorary degrees

Academic societies

[4]

Works

References

  • Shree Bhagvat Sinhjee: The Maker of Modern Gondal, by St. Nihal Singh, Shree Bhagavat Sinhjee Golden Jubilee Committee, Gondal. Published by Golden Jubilee Committee, 1934.
  • Queensland University.


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