Maharaja Sir Hari Singh GCSI GCIE GCVO (September 1895 – 26 April 1961) was the last ruling Maharaja of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Hari Singh
Hari Singh in 1944.
Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir
Reign23 September 1925 — 17 November 1952
Coronation29 March 1926[1]
PredecessorPratap Singh
SuccessorMonarchy abolished
RegentKaran Singh (1949–1952)
Born(1895-09-00)September 1895
Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, British India
(present-day Jammu and Kashmir, India)
Died26 April 1961(1961-04-26) (aged 65)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
(present-day Mumbai)
Spouses
Sri Lal Kunverba Sahiba
(m. 1913; died 1915)
Rani Sahiba Chamba
(m. 1915; died 1920)
Dhanvant Kunveri Baiji
(m. 1923, died)
Tara Devi
(m. 1928; sep. 1950)
IssueKaran Singh
HouseDogra
FatherAmar Singh
MotherBhotiali Chib
ReligionHinduism[2]

Hari Singh was the son of Amar Singh and Bhotiali Chib. In 1923, following his uncle's death, Singh became the new Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. After Indian Independence in 1947, Singh wanted Jammu and Kashmir to remain as an independent kingdom. He was required to accede to the Dominion of India to get the support of Indian troops against an invasion by tribal armed men and the Pakistan Army into his state. Singh remained the titular Maharaja of the state until 1952, when the monarchy was abolished by the Indian government. After spending his final days in Bombay, he died on 26 April 1961.

Singh was a controversial ruler. He faced an agitation in Kashmir in 1931 and successful rebellions in Poonch and Gilgit-Baltistan. He was complicit in 1947 Jammu massacres.

Early life edit

 
Amar Mahal Palace, the birthplace of Hari Singh

Hari Singh was born on September 1895 at the palace of Amar Mahal, Jammu. He was the only surviving son of Raja Amar Singh,[3] the brother of Maharaja Pratap Singh, then the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the Maharaja had no issue, Hari Singh was heir presumptive to the throne of Jammu and Kashmir.

In 1903, Hari Singh served as a page of honour to Lord Curzon at the grand Delhi Durbar. At the age of 13, he was sent to Mayo College in Ajmer. A year later, in 1909, his father died and the British took a keen interest in his education, appointing Major H. K. Brar as his guardian. After Mayo College, Hari Singh went to the British-run Imperial Cadet Corps at Dehradun for military training.[4]

He was appointed the commander-in-chief of the State Forces in 1915 by Maharaja Pratap Singh.[5]

Reign edit

A film of the coronation of Maharaja Hari Singh at Mubark Mandi palace in Jammu in 1926. In this film by Eastman Kodak it states, he is "wearing jewels valued at twenty million dollars" (approximately $330,600,000 in today's value).
 
Hari Singh 1931

Following the death of his uncle Pratap Singh on 23 September 1925, Hari Singh served as the second Prime Minister (1925-1926) of Jammu and Kashmir. Hari Singh ascended the throne of Jammu and Kashmir in February 1926 under British intervention, who overruled Pratap Singh's choice of an adopted son, Raja Jagat Dev Singh of Poonch.[6][7]

Hari Singh's coronation from 22 to 28 February 1926 was divided into two separate ceremonies - the first few days for the religious ceremonies and official programme in the latter part was set aside for hosting the European attendees.[8] After becoming the ruler, Hari Singh conducted free elections and formed the Praja Sabha Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly to rule with laws implemented under Ranbir Penal Code (R.P.C) which Praja Sabha decreed.[9] In April 1932, as per recommendations of the Glancy Commission, the Praja Sabha was established, made up of 75 members – 12 government officials, 16 state councillors, 14 nominated, and 33 elected (21 Muslims, 10 Hindus and 2 Sikhs). By September 1934 the elected members started making laws under the Praja Sabha which made Jammu and Kashmir a forerunner state for other Princely Indian States.[10][11] In 7 September 1939 Maharaja Hari Singh and his law and Revenue Minister, Justice Sir Lal Gopal Mukherjee, a former judge of the Allahabad high court (1926-1934) who had served the state of Jammu and Kashmir from 1935 to 1940, produced a written constitution for Jammu and Kashmir which was the "pioneer" in the annals of Asia's constitutional history; despite the fact that it was anything but a people-friendly "Magna Carta" for the state.[12] He made primary education compulsory in the state, introduced laws prohibiting child marriage, and opened places of worship to low caste subjects.[13]

 
Seal of Maharaja Hari Singh as printed on the Civil List of his government

In 1930, Hari Singh attended the First Round Table Conference in London. He suggested that the Indian Princely states should join an “All India Federation” and pleaded for equal status for Indians in the British Commonwealth of Nations.[14] While replying to the inaugural address by King-Emperor George V, Hari Singh said:

I must express our deep gratitude to His Most Gracious Majesty for the cordial welcome tendered to us and I pray that providence may grant us the vision and the will to realize the hopes expressed in the inspiring words uttered this morning by our beloved Emperor. This is the first occasion on which the Princes of India meet in person at a Conference Table along with the representatives of British India and His Majesty's Government to discuss the political future of India. ... I feel deeply gratified at the progress which has been made with the scheme of an All-India Federation as worked out in the Report of the Federal Structure Sub-Committee. But ever since the idea of a Federation was taken up in this Conference, some surprise has been expressed in various quarters in India and in England at the willingness of the Princes to join an All-India Federation. It is said that Princes have forced the pace and that in any case they should have opposed a Federation with British India. I have never disguised from my friends, my warm support of the idea of an All-India Federation.[14]

Partition and accession edit

 
Hari Singh in 1943

In 1947, after India gained independence from British rule, Jammu and Kashmir had the option of joining one of the new dominions, India and Pakistan, or remaining independent. Hari Singh opted to remain independent for the immediate future since the dominions were beset with partition violence and he needed time to weigh the options in the context of his Muslim-majority population. In October 1947, he faced an armed uprising in Poonch instigated by the Muslim Conference party, followed by Pakistan-backed Pashtun tribal invasion.

Hari Singh appealed to India for help following the invasion.[15] India's British Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, advised the Maharaja to accede to India before India could send its troops. The Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947, joining the princely state to the Dominion of India.[16][17][18] India sent troops to repel the invaders, which soon evolved into the first Indo-Pakistan War.

Pressure from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel eventually compelled Singh to appoint his son and heir, Yuvraj (Crown Prince) Karan Singh, as Prince Regent of Jammu and Kashmir in 1949, although he remained the titular Maharaja of the state until 1952 when the monarchy was abolished by Nehru's government. He was also forced to appoint the popular Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah as the prime minister of Kashmir. He had a contentious relationship with both Nehru and Abdullah.[19] Karan Singh was appointed 'Sadr-e-Riyasat' ('Head of State') in 1952 and Governor of the State in 1964.[19]

Final years and death edit

After signing the instrument of accession with India, Hari Singh was banished from Jammu and Kashmir. He spent the rest of his life in Bombay. He died on 26 April 1961, after fourteen years of banishment. As per his will, his ashes were brought to Jammu and spread all over Jammu and Kashmir, and immersed in the Tawi River at Jammu.[20]

Legacy and memorials edit

Tributes and memorials edit

 
Statue of Maharaja Hari Singh at Hari Singh Park, Jammu
  • In 2007, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad inaugurated the 'Hari Singh Janana Park' for women. It is landscaped by the Gardens and Floriculture Department at New Secretariat.
  • On 1 April 2012, the occasion of Ram Navami, Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and MP Karan Singh unveiled a statue of Hari Singh near the Tawi bridge in Jammu.[21]
  • Sh Kavinder Gupta Mayor of Jammu Municipal Corporation erected a statue of Maharaja Hari Singh in standing posture near Bagh-e-Bahu Police Station adjoining junction crossings linking Gujjar Nagar Tawi Bridge, Jammu University, Bagh-e-Bahu, Narwal[22][23]
  • On 16 May 2018, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti along with Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh inaugurated 'Maharaja Hari Singh Park' wherein statue of Maharaja Hari Singh in sitting posture is the main attraction of this park.[24][25]
  • On 23 September 2019, the Amar Kshatriya Rajput Sabha (AKRS) installed a life-sized statue of Hari Singh on his 119th birthday at Samba district, near Veer Bhoomi Park.[26]
  • On 23 September 2020, an audio-video song album in Dogri was released highlighting social reforms introduced by Hari Singh from 1930 onwards.[27]
  • On 23 September 2021, Sh Ravinder Raina BJP Jammu President unveiled a statue of Hari Singh at Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee Bhawan, Sec. 3 Extn, Trikuta Nagar, Jammu, Jammu & Kashmir, the party headquarters.[28]
  • 23 September 2022 is declared as public holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh under Negotiable Instrument Act, 1881 (Central Act 26 of 1881) across Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.[29]

Personal life edit

 
Hari Singh in 1920

Blackmail case edit

In 1921, Singh paid £300,000 (approximately £13,100,000 in today's value) to a prostitute who blackmailed him. The issue resulted in a court case in London in 1924 during which the India Office tried to keep his name out of proceedings by arranging for him to be referred to as Mr. A.[5] India Office in Britain decided to close the files for a hundred years rather than the usual thirty years as the case involved espionage. [30]

Personal wealth edit

Hari Singh was known as a lavish spender of money. In the funeral of his uncle and former ruler, Pratap Singh, he is believed to have spent excessive gold and jewellery in the funeral pyre.[31][better source needed]

Marriages edit

 
Hari Singh with his fourth wife, Maharani Tara Devi, 1950

Singh married four times as his first three wives failed to give birth to his heirs. Each of them died within a few years of childlessness, allowing Singh to immediately take a new bride. With his last wife, Tara Devi Sahiba of Kangra, he had a son, Karan Singh.[31][32]

No. Name Date of marriage Fate of marriage Issue and fate
1 Rani Sri Lal Kunverba Sahiba 7 May 1913 Ended with her death Died during pregnancy in 1915. No issue.
2 Rani Sahiba Chamba 8 November 1915 Ended with her death Died 31 January 1920. No issue.
3 Maharani Dhanvant Kunveri Baiji Sahiba 30 April 1923 Ended with her death Died young. No issue.
4 Maharani Tara Devi Sahiba of Kangra 1928 Separated Separated in 1950. Died in 1967.
Mother of Karan Singh

Titles and honours edit

Title and style edit

 
Titles of Maharaja Hari Singh and Yuvraj Karan Singh on the first page of his Civil List of 1945

As Maharaja, Hari Singh's full style was:

Lieutenant-General His Highness Raj Rajeshwar Maharajadhiraj Maharaja Shri Hari Singhji Bahadur Indar Mahindar, Sipar-i-Saltanat-i-Inglishia, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO, LLD

Honours edit

Honorary degrees edit

References edit

  1. ^ Coronation of Sir Hari Singh as the Maharajah of Kashmir . 29 March 1926
  2. ^ Mridu Rai, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects 2004.
  3. ^ General Sir Raja Amar Singh Jamwal : 14 January 1865 – 26 March 1909
  4. ^ Wakhlu, S.N. (2004). Hari Singh: The Maharaja, the Man, the Times : a Biography of Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir State, 1895-1961. National Publishing House. p. 32. ISBN 978-81-214-0231-6.
  5. ^ a b Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-84904-342-7.
  6. ^ Lamb, Alastair. Birth of a Tragedy: Kashmir, 1947. p. 58. ISBN 0907129072.
  7. ^ "Pratap Singh's British Rule". Kasmirlife. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  8. ^ "Coronation of Maharaja Hari Singh". dailyexcelsior. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  9. ^ Hussain, Masood (2 May 2011). "Kashmir's Last Maharaja". Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  10. ^ Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict 2003, p. 18.
  11. ^ Mridu Rai, Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects 2004, Ch. 5, Sec. v (Constructing Kashmiriyat).
  12. ^ "Hari Singh's 1939 constitution in J&K marked a first in South Asia". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  13. ^ Anand, Ragubhir Lal (1 February 2014). IS God DEAD?????. Partridge Publishing. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-48281-823-9.
  14. ^ a b "Remember Maharaja Hari Singh". Daily Excellsior. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Maharaja Hari Singh's Letter to Mountbatten". www.jammu-kashmir.com. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  16. ^ Ramachandra., Guha (1 January 2008). India after Gandhi : the history of the world's largest democracy. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0060958589. OCLC 474262656.
  17. ^ Justice A. S. Anand, The Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir (5th edition, 2006), page 67
  18. ^ Kashmir, Research Paper 04/28 by Paul Bowers, House of Commons Library, United Kingdom. Archived 28 July 2004 at the Wayback Machine, page 46, 30 March 2004
  19. ^ a b Ramachandra., Guha (1 January 2008). India after Gandhi : the history of the world's largest democracy. Harper Perennial. p. 92. ISBN 978-0060958589. OCLC 474262656.
  20. ^ Dynasty clash in Kashmir: Hari Singh's grandson Ajatshatru challenges Abdullahs, The Economic Times, 14 March 2013.
  21. ^ "Maharaja's Statue unveiled". The Tribune. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  22. ^ "City's statues in a sorry state". Daily Excelsior. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  23. ^ "Man behind the idea cold-shouldered". The Tribune. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  24. ^ "JDA sold Maharaja Hari Singh Park!". Dainik Jagran. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  25. ^ "Mehbooba inaugurates Hari Singh park in Jammu". Business Standard. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Maharaja Hari Singh's statue unveiled on his 119th Birthday anniversary". Early Times. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  27. ^ "Album on Maharaja Hari Singh released". Tribune. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  28. ^ Ganai, Naseer (4 February 2022). "Why Statues Of Dogra Kings Are Political Fodder For Kashmiri Politicians". Outlook. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  29. ^ "J&K Govt announces public holiday as tribute to Maharaja Hari Singh". Daily Excelsior. Retrieved 21 September 2022.
  30. ^ Jeffrey, Barbara (2019). Chancers. Amberley. ISBN 9781445689784.
  31. ^ a b Kashmir’s Last Maharaja, Kashmir Life, 2 May 2011.
  32. ^ Mufti, Kashmir in Sickness and in Health 2013, p. 157.

Bibliography edit

External links edit

Hari Singh
Born: September 1895 Died: 26 April 1961
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Pratap Singh
(as Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir)
Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir
1925–1952
Succeeded by
Republic of India
Karan Singh as titular Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir