Skip to main content

A leaf from history: Rajpipla State defeated Aurangzeb in 1705, its rulers were precursor to Narmada dam

Celebrations after Epsom Derby 1934 victory of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla
By Dr Hari Desai*
The Rajpipla State of Gujarat is better known, even abroad, for its gay Prince, Manvendrasinh Raghubirsinhji Sahib. But there are other reasons, too, why the history of the Princely State of the Gohil dynasty should be made known. There are several records, which show Rajpipla as an area of resistance to the Sultans, Mughals, Marathas, and the Gaekwad of Baroda. The records suggest, the king of Rajpipla was always able to regain his independence, and maintain a relative autonomy from regional and sub-continental powers.
Judith Whitehead, for instance, records in the book, “Development and Dispossession in the Narmada Valley”, “The Rajpipala Rajas faced several attempted invasions during the medieval period, from the Sultan of Ahmedabad, the Mughal Emperor, and the Marathas. During the 18th century, the Gaekwad of Baroda also encroached upon the border region of the State. However, the Rajapipla Rajas were generally successful in preventing a takeover of the kingdom, or in reestablishing their independence in the rare cases in which they were conquered.”
Recently, when I visited Rajpipla to interact with Prince Indra Vikram Singh (Teddy), the very first thing that touched me was, he introduced himself as just Indra Vikram, instead of Prince or Rajkumar Indra Vikram Singh. He has authored several books on sports. National and international media have written about them or reviewed them. But he sounded keener to speak on his upcoming book on the history of Rajpipala and his ancestors, the Maharanas or Maharajas.
Indra Vikram told me something about which few know. “Rajpipala forces”, he he told me, “Under my ancestor Maharana Verisalji I, in alliance with Maratha Damaji Jadhav, defeated Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s forces in 1705 at Ratanpur, which was in Rajpipla State, and lies on the Rajpipla-Ankleswar highway.”
Grandson of Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji, the last ruler of Rajpipla, he also claimed that while his “research is still on”, he is sure, the defeat of Aurangzeb by Rajpipla was proved to be unbearable to the Mughal Emperor, who died in 1707.
Incidentally, Aurangzeb was born in Dahod of Gujarat, not very far off from Rajpipla! The history of Rajpipla conveys the message that Empires fall only to rise again. We may have many more interesting stories about Rajpipla State of Gohil dynasty when Indra Vikram Singh comes out with his book on his ancestors.
Indeed, I found Indra Vikram to be a keen researcher. Calling Rajpipla a first-class princely state, the largest in the Rewa Kantha Agency of the Bombay Presidency, he told me how it was ruled by the Gohil Rajput dynasty for 600 years, before it was “merged” with the Union of India in 1948.
The history of Rajpipla dates back to around 1340, when Kumar Shri Samarsinhji Mokhdaji – the second son of Thakur Mokhdaji Ranoji Gohil (reign 1309-47) of Ghogha of south Saurashtra – was adopted by his maternal grandfather Rao Chokrana, a Parmar Rajput prince of Ujjain (Malwa), which included Rajpipla then.
Aurangzeb
Chokrana Parmar’s daughter was the younger queen of Mokhdaji Gohil. When Chokrana died without a male heir, Samarsinhji succeeded to the seat or gadi of Rajpipla at Junaraj (Old Rajpipla) Fort, deep in the forests of the Satpura hills, and assumed the name Arjunsinhji. The rule of the principality of Rajpipla, thus, passed on to the Gohil Rajput clan. Mokhdaji’s first son Dungarsinhji by his elder queen succeeded him to the gadi of Ghogha (later Bhavnagar) with its capital at Pirambet Island in the Gulf of Cambay.
Rajpipla – with its hills and rivers, forests and streams, waterfalls and meadows – is often referred to as “seven steps from heaven”. For its enchanting landscape the region is also described as ‘mini Kashmir’ and ‘Switzerland of the East’. The old capital atop Devchhatra (Devastra) Hill in the Western Satpuras was where the ancient Gohil Rajput dynasty began its 600-year sway over the 4,000 square kilometres principality of Rajpipla around the year 1340.
The fort there, located 2,000 feet high, was almost inaccessible. It could be approached by narrow footpaths, which with a little effort could be made impossible to traverse even for infantry. The 13-gun salute Rajpipla State would largely take place between the rivers Narmada and Tapti. Inscribed in Gujarati on the coat of arms of Rajpipla State was ‘Revaji ne kanthe’, which means ‘On the banks of the holy Narmada’. Rajpipla grew to be one of the most prosperous princely states in Gujarat, perhaps next only to Baroda.
During the reign of Maharana Gambhirsinhji (reign 1860-97), the road from Rajpipla to Ankleshwar was built, it was during this period that Rajpipla State developed own postal system. Maharana Chhatrasinhji (1897-1915), the 35th Gohil ruler of Rajpipla, laid the 60 kilometres Ankleshwar-Rajpipla railway line. He carried out massive famine relief during the period 1899-1902. He was one of the pioneers of motoring in India.
The next ruler Maharaja Vijaysinhji (reign 1915-48) carried out massive reforms and infrastructure works spanning agriculture, health, education, administration, police and judicial system. He ordered the laying of good motorable roads, and added the Jhagadia-Netrang section to the Rajpipla Railways. He also set up a 31 kilometres steam railroad and tramway connecting the towns along the River Narmada with villages in the interior, and a power house supplying electricity and water to Rajpipla town. His town planning as far back as 1927 was far-sighted.
As Yuvraj of Rajpipla, young Vijaysinhji moved into Vijay Palace in 1911, a home built for him by his father Maharana Chhatrasinhji. Later, Maharaja Vijaysinhji bought a splendid seaside property called ‘Palm Beach’ at Nepeansea Road, Bombay. The Maharaja spent much of the summer months at ‘The Manor’, his 27-roomed Victorian mansion at Old Windsor, Berkshire, England, having acquired the sprawling estate on the banks of the River Thames in 1922.
Maharaja Vijaysinhji is still the only Indian to have bagged the English Derby, considered the greatest horse race in the world,. He was cheered by an estimated quarter to half a million people, including King George V and Queen Mary of Britain and other members of the royal family. Back in India, he built the magnificent Indrajit-Padmini Mahal or Vadia Palace between 1934 and 1939.
Sports like cricket, football and hockey were made compulsory for students by Maharaja Vijaysinhji, who equipped Rajpipla with a polo ground and a gymkhana club. Vijaysinhji, who ascended the seat or gadi in 1915, carried out massive reforms and infrastructure works. He laid an airstrip in Rajpipla, where aircraft landed in 1930s and 1940s. During World War II, he donated three Spitfire fighter planes, named ‘Rajpipla’, ‘Windsor Lad’ and ‘Embargo’, and a Hawker Hurricane aircraft ‘Rajpipla II’.
Significantly, Vijaysinhji also had plans to build a dam across River Narmada to facilitate irrigation and generate electricity. This way, he could be called the precursor to the present-day gigantic Sardar Sarovar project, for which in the process of raising investment in 1948.
---
*Senior journalist and independent researcher based in Ahmedabad. A version of this article first appeared in Asian Voice

Comments

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

PLFS data: Is rising employment good news? Deeper analysis suggests contrary results

By Ishwar Chandra Awasthi, Puneet Kumar Shrivastav*  Results of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2020-21 , released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India (GoI) on June 14, 2022, show improvement in work force participation rate (WPR) and labour force participation rate (LFPR) and declining unemployment rate. Four rounds of data have been released from 2017-18 to 2020-21 based on PLFS. The general trend in the last four rounds clearly shows consistent increase in WPR and LFPR and falling unemployment rates by usual status (PS+SS). Though increase in WPR and LFPR is reported highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19, yet rising trend in these two key indicators continues throughout, and similarly fall in unemployment is registered highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19. Clearly, the recent results give some solace and relief after unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic that has entailed enormous loss of human lives and livelihoods and crippled economic activit

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Drop all falsed charges': 150 citizens demand early release of AltNews co-founder

Counterview Desk  About 150 concerned citizens have demanded the release of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checkng newsportal AltNews, arrested over a 2018 tweet which allegedly hurt religious sentiments, even as booking for criminal conspiracy and having received foreign funds in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Denied bail last weekend and sent to 14-day judicial custody, the concerned citizens, in a statement, regretted that while the Delhi High Court issued notice to the Delhi police on a petition filed on behalf of Zubair challenging the legality and propriety of his police remand and the seizure of his electronic devices, the “frivolous case” continues. Excerpts: The illegal arrest of Mr. Mohammed Zubair happened on June 27, 2022, by the Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity over a tweet from 2018. The IPC Sections included 153(a) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race,

Chennai residents 'suffering': Faulty design, implementation of storm water project

By NS Venkataraman*  The Greater Chennai Corporation is now implementing storm water drainage project in 559 roads, covering a distance of 1033 kilometres, which cost around Rs 4,070 crore. For this massive project, which is targeted to be completed between April and September this year, huge loan has been availed from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others. Several technocrats have pointed out that the project has been designed with outdated technology and quality of the implementation is so poor that the residents have been put to great hardships. As part of the project, digging of the road has been done to around 5 to 6 feet deep and width of around 4 to 5 feet. The drains are being constructed using steel reinforced cement concrete with two walls on either side with provisions for manhole, chute etc. This has been done in front of several houses leaving little space between the gate of the house and that of the drainage structure. As the work has been going on for mor

Prime Minister's 'affordable' housing policy fails to help Gujarat slum dwellers: Study

By Rajiv Shah  A new study on the implementation of one of the major policy initiatives for the urban poor by the Narendra Modi government after it came to power, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), has said that in Gujarat, which happens to be the Prime Minister’s home state, has quoted state officials as “confirming” that no progress towards tenure regularization, a key requirement for providing housing to the state’s slum dwellers. Stating that this particularly true of smaller town, the study, carried out by the non-profit Homes in the City (HIC), which is based in Bhuj, district headquarter of Kutch that saw a devastating earthquake in 2001, says, the failure to provide affordable housing is there despite the fact that there has been “significant demand” in all the 83 out of 153 Gujarat municipalities studied by experts involved in the study. According to the study, out f a total of 1.41 lakh demands for housing under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) category, 94,232 (66.7%)

'Contractor-official nexus led to RTI activist's murder': Fact-finding team seeks probe

Courtyard inside of PWD office where Ranjeet Soni was killed Counterview Desk  A fact-finding team* visited Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh (MP) on June 19, 2022 to meet with the family of Ranjeet Soni, who was shot dead on June 2, 2022 inside the premises of the PWD office in Vidisha. The objective was to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ranjeet Soni and his work on exposing corruption through the use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A report prepared by the team members says that Ranjeet had been extensively using the RTI Act to access information from the government, and upon receiving documents showing misuse of public funds or corruption, he was filing complaints to various authorities including the Lokyukta, Publi Works Department (PWD) and the Chief Minister’s Office. It notes, Ranjeet used to work as a contractor and often undertook government works in collaboration with other contractors, including those being investigated for his murder. A f

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria