Aprincely state was a nominal sovereign entity of India during the British Raj that was not directly governed by he British, but rather by a local ruler under a form of indirect rule, subject to a subsidiary alliance and the suzerainty of the British Crown. There were officially565 princely states in India at the time of independence in 1947, only 21 major ones had actual state governments, and among them only four were large (Hyderabad, Mysore, Baroda and Jammu and Kashmir).
Before WW-I near about 29 states maintained state forces. By 1914 these numbered about 22,500. They were further re-organised after the war and classified into three categories. Class ‘A’ troops were organized on the lines of the Indian army with similar establishment,weapons and equipment. Class ‘B’ troops were a little inferior to Class ‘A’ while Class ‘C’ was all militia battalions which were not permanently embodied. Their organization and standard of training was inferior to Class ‘B’ troops. During the WW-II these forces fought side by side with the Indian Army units in several campaigns and distinguished themselves. After independence they
were slowly absorbed in the present army as far as possible. Three such State Forces were amalgamated into the Maratha Light Infantry Regiment – Kolhapur State Forces (19th Bn) Baroda State Forces (20th Bn now 10 Mech Inf ) and Hyderabad State Forces (22nd Bn).
KOLHAPUR STATE FORCES
Kolhapur State (1707-1949) was a Maratha princely State of British India under the Deccan Division of the Bombay presidency and later the Deccan States Agency. It was considered the fourth most important of the Maratha principalities, the other three being Baroda State, Gwalior State and Indore State. Its rulers, of the Bhonsle dynasty, were entitled to a 19 gun salute thus Kolhapur was also known as a 19 gun State. The state flag was a swallow-tailed orange pennant.
The Maharajas of Kolhapur have a common ancestry with the Bhonsle dynasties of Tanjore and Satara, claiming decent from the Maratha royal clan honsla. The states of Satara and Kolhapur came into being in 1707, because of the succession dispute over the Maratha kingship. Shahuji, the heir apparent to the Maratha kingdom, captured by the Mughals at the age of nine, remained their prisoner at the death of his father Sambhaji, the elder son of Shivaji Maharaj.
The Dowager Maharani Tarabai (a widow of Rajaram Chhatrapati, younger son of Shivaji Maharaj) proclaimed her
son Shivaji I, as Chhatrapati Maharaj under her regency. The Mughals released Shahu under certain conditions in 1707, and he returned to claim his inheritance. He defeated the regent at the Battle of Khed and established himself at Satara, forcing her to retire with her son to Kolhapur. By 1710 two separate principalities had become an established fact, eventually confirmed by the Treaty of Warana in 1731. The British sent expeditions against Kolhapur in 1765 and 1792; Kolhapur entered into treaty relations with the British, after the collapse of the Maratha confederacy in 1812. In the early years of the 19th century the British invaded again, and appointed a political officer to temporarily manage the state. On 26 Jan 1845, the Kolhapur Fusiliers was raised as a Local Corps to create a disciplined force in the state. It was redesignated as Kolhapur Infantry in 1846. 6 NCOs and 127 men from the unit were drafted in regular units which fought in WW-I. On 01 Jul 1841 the unit was disbanded and redesignated as named after the late ruler Shrimant Chattrapati Rajaram Maharaj of Kolhapur.
Beginning early in the 20th century, the British recognized the Marathas as a martial race of India. Earlier listings of martial races had often excluded them, with Lord Roberts, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from 1885-1893, stating the need to substitute “more warlike and hardy races for the Hindusthani sepoys of Bengal, the Tamils and Telugus of Madras and the so-called Mahrattas of Bombay”. The British considered The Rajput as the most worthy antagonist and the Mahratta the most formidable enemy.
After a brief re-designation, the State Force was again renamed as RAJARAM RIFLES in 1941. Young educated youth from Kolhapur were recruited as commissioned officers for the first time and granted state commission as 2nd Lieutenants and were sent to various Army training establishments for training. During the period from 1943 to 1945 Rajaram Rifles was deployed for rear area security at Ferozpur and Vishakhapatnam. It subsequently moved to Landikotal in the NWFP (now Pakistan). Subsequently, post independence, the unit participated in military operations known as the Hyderabad Police Action against uprising of Razakar in 1948 in the areas of Warangal and Karimnagar. The last ruler of Kolhapur was HH Maharaja Chhatrapati Shahaji II Puar. After India’s independence in 1947, the Maharaja of Kolhapur acceded to the Dominion of India on 14 Aug 1947 and merged with Bombay State on 01 Mar 1949.
The Rajaram Rifles moved to Dipatoli Camp in Ranchi and was placed under command 5 Inf Div as the Div HQ battalion. Post the merger of Kolhapur state with Union of India on 01 Mar 1949, Rajaram Rifles formally ceased to exist as part of Kolhapur State Force on 04 June 1949 and was raised as 19 MARATHA LI (KOLHAPUR). The Battalion is now one of the illustrious units of the Regiment.
THE HYDERABAD STATE FORCES
Hyderabad State was a Indian Princely State located in the southern region of India which was ruled by various Nizams from 1724 until 1948. The capital city being Hyderabad.
The Asaf Jahi Dynasty was a dynasty of Turkish origin from the region around Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan, which came to India in the late 17th century, and became employees of the Mughal Empire. The region became part of the Mughal Empire in the 1680s. When the empire began to weaken in the 18th century, Asif Jah defeated a rival Mughal governor’s attempt to seize control of the empire’s Southern provinces and declared himself Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad in 1724. The Nizam-ul-Mulk’s army was based on the Mughal Army pattern.
In 1812 when the irregular troops mutinied and murdered their Commandant Major Garden, the then British Resident Henry Russell undertook the responsibility to modernise a part of the force. He created the Russel’s Brigade of 2000 men with the necessary guns andother equipment. This force subsequently moved to the northern boundary of Hyderabad and merged with the force of 5000 then located in Berar to form the Hyderabad Contingent, paid for by the Nizam but not State Regular Troops. Officered by the English they fought under the orders of the East India Company. This contingent caused bankruptcy of the Nizam and subsequently the loss of the Circars and Berars to pay the outstanding loans and arrears. One of the Samasthans ‘Wanaparthy’, most important in the HEH The Nizam’s dominion located 100 km south of Hyderabad had a small force of Infantry, Cavalry and elephants. The army was mostly created by buying black slaves that Arab traders brought from Somaliland and sold in Bombay market.
Alongwith them, he bought women for their wives. They were not treated like slaves and were fiercely loyal to Raja Rameshwar Rao I of Wanaparthy. The Africans soon gave themselves the name of Bin Bahiris or Sons of the Eagle. By 05 Nov 1953, the Raja had organised the Wanaparthy forces into the African Cavalry Guards, the Wanaparthy Lancers and an Infantry Battalion which retained the title Bin Bahiris.
The Bin Bahiris, a guerilla force, in the days of financial crisis was even used to get the booty to fill up the empty treasuries of Wanaparthy, and became a force to reckon with, but to the discomfort of the Nizam and the Government as they would even attack the heavily guarded revenue collection convoys. Raja Rameshwar Rao was approached by the Nizam, if he could
lend the services of this force. Later, alongwith the Nizam’s Force, Wanaparthy forces joined the cause of the British and assisted them in suppressing the 1857 Mutiny. For their services the Raja was recognised by the British Government and also awarded a Khillat.
During the mutiny of 1857, the Hyderabad contingent was utilized to defeat the Zamindars of Pipalia and Raghugarh, keep the Delhi-Bombay lines open as part of 1st Central India Brigade at Dhar, capture of Madnpur Pass near Sagar, clearing of Talbhat forests (30 miles South of Jhansi), the siege and capture of Jhansi under Sir Hugh Rose, capture of Kalpi and finally on their return to the Deccan, the dispersal of the troops of the Raja of Sholapur. The Hyderabad Contingent Cavalry is survived by the 9th Deccan Horse. In 1850, the Field Force was augmented and the whole force kept in Hyderabad, ready to deal with any emergency. It consisted of the 80 troops of African Cavalry (African Bodyguards), 100 Nawab Fakhrul- Mulk’s household troops. 80 Wanaparty troops and 40 troops of Kupal Paltan (Sir Salarjungs household troops).
On demise of Raja Rameshwar Rao in 1866, Bin Bahiris staked a claim that the Raja had left no heirs. The Raja’s sister persuaded Sir Salarjung I to accept the Bin Bahiris as a gift to the Nizam. The crisis at Wanaparthy passed and the Bin Bahiris became the 4th Regiment of Infantry (city troops) as part of the Hyderabad Regular Forces. 1897, by an edict of the Nizam, all the military forces were placed under the control of the Dewan and Peshkar, Raja Kishan Pershad Bahadur, who thus became the Military Minister. The troops consisted of three forces i.e The Regular Force, Irregular Force and Paigah Force.
The Regular Forces consisted of the Hyderabad Imperial Service Troops, the Regular Troops, the Golconda Brigade and the Nizam-e-Mahbub (Maiseram) Regiment. The Regular Forces were so called because they had been brought under organised discipline and had been given equipment of modern design. Of these, the Imperial Service Troops were considered fit to take the field with British.
The Paigah nobility of Asman Jah, Khursheed Jah and Vicar-ul-Umra had their own household troops, which were also at the service of the Nizam if required. Several other noble men also
maintained troops to assist the government when called upon.
Considering the religious issues that sparked off the 1857 Mutiny and the British penchant for neatly slotting various communities, Hyderabad and its army continued to be a melting pot. Except for the African Cavalry Guards, the other units became composite mixes of the then available martially inclined classes. In 1947, at the time of the partition of India, the British offered various princely states in the sub continent the option of acceding to either India or Pakistan, or staying on as an independent state. The Nizam decided to keep Hyderabad independent. The leaders of the new Union of India however, were wary of having an independent and possibly hostile state in the heart of their new country. Most of the other 565 princely states had already acceded to India or to Pakistan voluntarily. In September 1948, India launched a military operation named Operation Polo, led by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, then Minister of Home Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of India and annexed the State of Hyderabad and its forces. All state forces were amalgamated under 2nd Hyderabad Infantry and in 1953, the unit became part of Regular Indian Army and it joined the Maratha LI Regiment as 22nd Bn The Maratha LI. Certain units of the contingent are today serving as 2 Kumaon and 4 Kumaon in the Indian Army.
HISTORY OF BARODA STATES
Baroda derives from its native name Vadodara. The Gaikwads are the real originator of Baroda States. The Marathas attacked Gujarat in 1705 led by Maratha leader Khandi Rao Dabhade, who grew powerful in the region. He was succeeded by Damaji Rao Gaekwad who died in 1721 and his nephew Pilaji Gaekwad became the king. Although the Gaekwads trace their origins to 1720, but it was considered as independent state after 1800. Till the middle of 18th Century, they captured almost whole of the Gujarat, including Saurashtra from Mughals. Since then the Gaekwads started having a considerable disciplined forces of their own. In 1921-22 the Army grew further and its composition was a mix of artillery, cavalry and infantry as regular forces.
On 27th May 1875, Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III ascended the throne at Baroda. He became one of the most important rulers of the state. Founding numerous institutions including Bank of Baroda, he took keen interest in the field of arts and sports. He had ministers and artists like Sri Krishnamachiari and Raja Ravi Verma who flourished the art and culture during his regime. By the 20th century the relations of the British with Baroda were managed by the British Resident, under the direct authority of the Governor General of India. He maintained good relations with Britain and boosted trade with foreign countries, which state made Baroda as one of the richest State of India. His economic development initiative included the establishment of the railroad.
Another important ruler of Baroda States after Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III was Pratap Singh Ji Gaekwad, who is known for his sound administration. He was a good sportsman and established the Baroda Cricket Association. He is honoured with the title of “Soldiers King”, who sent the Baroda Forces to Burma during the World War II to fight against Japanese. He took the decision of merging Baroda Forces into Indian Army after independence.
On 1st May 1959, the Baroda State Forces merged into Indian infantry and two Battalions were raised, 20 Maratha Light Infantry from 1st Infantry Battalion at Dound and 21st Maratha Light Infantry from 2nd Infantry Battalion from Baroda itself. 21st Maratha Light Infantry disbanded after 04 months, and the officers and soldiers were posted in other Maratha Light Infantry units.
The 20 Maratha Light Infantry now 10 Mechanised Infantry is thus the sole successor to carry forward the legacy of Baroda State Forces.