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RIPUDAMAN SINGH, MAHARAJA

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RIPUDAMAN SINGH, MAHARAJA (1883-1942), ruler of the princely state of Nabha from 1912 to 1923, was born at Nabha on 22 Phagun 1939 Bk/4 March 1883, the only son of Maharaja Hira Singh (1843-1911) and Maharani Jasmer Kaur. His father having resisted British advice to send his heir to one of the newly established Chiefs` Colleges modelled on English public schools, Tikka (heir apparent) Ripudaman Singh was educated by private tutors including Lala Bishan Das and Sardar (Bhai) Kahn Singh, celebrated Sikh scholar and lexicographer.

He was married in 1901 to Jagdish Kaur (1884-1927), daughter of Sardar Gurdial Singh Mann, a Punjabi judicial officer and owner of tea gardens near Dharamsala (now in Himachal Pradesh). A daughter, Amrit Kaur, born to them on 8 October 1907, was later (in 1925) married to Raja Ravi Sher Singh of Kalsia state. In 1906 Tikka Ripudaman Singh was appointed as additional member to the Imperial Legislative Council in Calcutta for a two year term. During this period he joined hands with nationalist leaders such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Madan Mohan Malaviya in their opposition to restrictive legislation such as the Press Act of the Government of India.

He also introduced the Anand Marriage Bill sought to legitimize Sikh marriages conducted according to their simple religious rites known as anand. His interest in social reform was further evidenced when he presided over the Indian National Social Conference held at Lahore in 1909. In 1910. he went abroad for medical treatment. He attended the coronation of King George V at Westminster on 22 June 1911. He was in France when the news reached him of his father`s death on 25 December 1911. He came back to India, and ascended the throne of Nabha on 24 January 1912.

A man of independent views, the Maharaja alienated the British at the very outset by contesting their right to confirm his succession to the throne with a formal investiture of khill`at (robe of honour). Maharaja, citing a precedent of an installation ceremony in 1863, wanted only the necklace to be placed on him. Although the matter was amicably settled and the ceremony did take place on 20 December 1912, and later during the Great War (1914-1918), the Maharaja liberally contributed to the British war effort, the British always looked askance at him. His overt support to the Gurdwara Reform movement in the Punjab led to further alienation.

Meanwhile, an acrimonious dispute had arisen between Maharaja Ripudaman Singh and the ruler of the neighbouring state of Patiala, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. Among the welter of charges and counter charges, Patiala accused Nabha of the kidnapping of officials and other violations of Patiala`s sovereignty, while Nabha sought the extradition of a woman allegedly employed by Pa(:iala`s secret police but accused of theft in Nabha. After efforts at conciliation between the two rulers had proved futile, the British launched an enquiry by one of their own officers who found Nabha guilty of serious transgressions.

Even some of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh`s own former confidants had deposed against him. Partly under British pressure and partly persuaded by one of his former officers, Captain O`Grady, he signed a letter of voluntary abdication on 7 July 1923, and the British government formally deposed him on 9 July 1923. He was sent to Dehra Dun on an annual pension of Rs 300,000. His son. Prince Pratap Singh, born on 22 September 1919 of his second marriage in 1918 to Sarojini Devi, daughter of Major Prem Singh Garewal. of the Hyderabad State Army, was proclaimed ruler of Nabha and the state was placed under a British administrator during the prince`s minority. The Maharaja`s deposition and expulsion from Nabha led to strong popular protest.

In a series of demonstrations and meetings people demanded the restoration of the Maharaja. The protest soon took the form of a religious movement which came to be known asJaito morchd. The morcha or agitation was led by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. It became intensified after the state authorities had interrupted an akhandpdth, continued reading of Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scripture, at Gurdwara Gang Sar at Jaito, a small market town. The agitation, while successful in winning freedom of worship in gurudwaras, failed in its political aim, i.e. the restoration of the Maharaja to his throne.

He was instead removed in 1926 from Dehra Dun to Kodaikanal, in the far South. Two years later his pension was reduced to Rs 1,20,000, per annum, and many other concessions were withdrawn. His efforts to regain his gaddi through lobbying with some prominent nationalist leaders, lawyers and journalists proved abortive. But he remained unbent and unrepentant. Early in 1927 he went on pilgrimage to Sri Abichalnagar Hazur Sahib, Nanded, where he took the Khalsa pahul (initiation rites) a second time and was renamed Gurcharan Singh. He died at Kodaikanal on 13 December 1942.

References :

1. Ganda Singh, ed., Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement. Amritsar, 1965
2. Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement. Delhi, 1978
3. Syngal, Munnalal, The Patriot Prince: Or the Life Story of Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha who Died as a Martyr. Ludhiana, 1961
4. Ramusack, Barbara N., "Incident at Nabha: Interaction between Indian States and British Indian Politics, "Journal of Asian Studies. May 1969
5. Harbans Singh, The Plight of a Patriotic Prince of the Punjab," in The Sunday Statesman., 5 July 1970

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