Raj Darbhanga

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Darbhanga Raj, also known as Raj Darbhanga and the Royal Family of Darbhanga, were a family of Zamindars and rulers of territories that are now part of Mithila and Darbhanga district, Bihar, India. Their seat was at the city of Darbhanga. The estate of Darbhanga Raj was estimated to cover an area of 2,410 square miles (6,200 km2), incorporating 4,495 villages within 18 circles in Bihar and Bengal and employing over 7,500 officers to manage the estate. The Raj Darbhanga trace their origin to maithil Brahmin at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Main Gate of Darbhanga Fort

History[edit]

North Bihar was under a state of lawlessness at the end of the empire of the Tughlaq dynasty. Tughlaq had attacked and taken control of Bihar, and from the end of the Tughlaq Empire until the establishment of the Mughal Empire in 1526 there was anarchy and chaos in Bihar. Emperor Akbar (ruled 1556–1605) realised that taxes from Mithila could only be collected if there was a king who could ensure peace in the Mithila region. The Brahmins were dominant in the Mithila region and Mithila had Brahmin kings in the past.

Maharajah Sir Lakhmishwar Singh, G.C.I.E., of Darbhanga, who was only in his forty-third year at the time of his death in 1898, was in every sense the best type of the Indian nobleman and landlord. He was the leading zamindar in Bihar, where he owned no less than 2,152 square miles with a net yearly rental of 3 million rupees, and was the recognized head of the orthodox Hindu community. His philanthropy and his munificent contributions to all public movement won him the esteem of all classes and creeds. He took an active part in public life and enjoyed a high reputation as a progressive and liberal-minded statesman. With but slight interruptions he was a member of the Supreme Legislative Council from the year 1883 until his death, and latterly he sat in that body as the elected representative of the non-official members of the Bengal Council. "Few Asiatics have combined more successfully in themselves the apparently incompatible characteristics of East and West.[1]

H. E. A. Cotton

Emperor Akbar summoned Rajpandit Chandrapati Thakur to Delhi from Garh Mangala (now in Madhya Pradesh) and asked him to name one of his sons who could be made caretaker and tax collector for his lands in Mithila. Chandrapati Thakur named his middle son, Mahesh Thakur, and Emperor Akbar declared Mahesh Thakur as the caretaker of Mithila on the day of Ram Navami in 1577 AD. A poet has written about this event:

Ati pavitra mangal karan, ramjanm ke din. Akbar Tushit Maheshko Tirhut Raja kaun?

Navgrah Ved Vasundhara, Shakme Akbar Shah, Pandit subudh Maheshko, kinho Mithila Raj.
(A very good omen has happened on the day of Ram Navami. Akbar asked Mahesh, "Who is King of Tirhut?" [Mahesh replied]: "Nine Planets, Vedas, and Mother Nature." Hearing this, Akbar made the wise Pandit Mahesh King of Mithila.)

The family and descendants of Mahesh Thakur gradually consolidated their power in social, agrarian, and political matters and came to be regarded as kings of Madhubani. Darbhanga became the seat of power of the Raj Darbhanga family from 1762. They also had a palace at Rajnagar Bihar situated in Madhubani district. They bought land from local people. They became known as a Khandavala family (the richest landlord). This family was not regarded as kings by the British Raj but they started using the title of King to impress upon the local population. The family was known to as cruel tax collectors.

For a period of twenty years (1860–1880), Darbhanga Raj was placed under Ward of Court by the British government. During this period, Darbhanga Raj was involved in litigation regarding succession. This litigation decided that the estate was impartible and succession was to be governed by primogeniture.

The estate of Darbhanga Raj was estimated to cover an area of 2,410 square miles (6,200 km2). It had an indigo concern in Sarahia and Bachaur in Muzaffarpur district, Pandaul in Madhubani District, and Gonswara in Purnea district. Raj Darbhanga started several companies. Newspaper & Publication Pvt. Ltd. published newspapers and periodicals such as The Indian Nation, Aryavarta, and 'Mithila Mihir. The Walford company was a chain of automobile dealerships having branches at Calcutta, Guwahati, and Imphal. The family owned Ashok Paper Mills, Pandaul Sugar Factory, Sakri Sugar Factory, and others. Darbhanga Raj contained 4,495 villages under 18 circles in Bihar and Bengal and employed over 7,500 officers to manage the estate.[citation needed]

Raj Darbhanga had several Palaces in Darbhanga: Rambagh Palace, Lakshmeshwar Vilas Palace, Nargona Palace, Bela Palace, and at Rajnagar in Madhubani District. Raj Darbhanga had properties at almost every prominent city in British India.

Raj Darbhanga under Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh (1858–1898) and Maharaja Rameshwar Singh became a model estate in India. Several works pertaining to famine relief, road construction, and canal and bridge construction were carried out. Raj Darbhanga came to be known for its benevolent management. During the Bihar famine of 1873–74 Maharaj Lakshmeshwar Singh contributed Rs. 300,000.00 towards relief works.

The Maharajas of Darbhanga were devoted to Sanskrit traditions and maintained an orthodox viewpoint of religion and caste. However, their views did not prevent them from having a broader nationalistic outlook. Even though the Royal Family of Darbhanga's contribution to the Indian independence movement is ignored, the Maharajas of Darbhanga, while maintaining their loyalty to the British government, were major financial supporters of the Indian National Congress. In a letter dated 21 March 1947 Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged his friendship with the royal family of Darbhanga and said Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur was as a son to him.

After the independence of India from British rule in 1947, the Government of India initiated several land reform actions and the Zamindari system was abolished. The fortunes of Darbhanga Raj dwindled.

The last Maharaja of Darbhanga Raj was Maharaja Bahadur Sir Kameshwar Singh, K.C.I.E. He died heirless.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Controversy over royal status[edit]

The origin of the royal family of Darbhanga is traced to a grant of the Sarkar of Tirhut to Pandit Mahesh Thakur by Emperor Akbar. The supporters of the theory that Raj Darbhanga was a kingdom argue that it was held by privy council that the rulership was a heridatory one with succession governed by primogeniture. The supporters argue that by the end of the eighteenth Century, the Sarkar of Tirhut was practically an independent kingdom until the conquest of Bengal and Bihar by the British.[8]

The opponents of the theory argue that Raj Darbhanga was never a kingdom but was a zamindari with all the trappings of princely state. The rulers of Raj Darbhanga were the largest land owners in India, and thus were called Raja, and later Maharaja and Maharajadhiraja. However they were never given the status of ruling prince.[9] Further, after conquest of Bengal and Bihar, the British Raj initiated permanent settlement, and the Raja of Darbhanga was recognised only as a Zamindar.[citation needed]

Insignia[edit]

Raj Darbhanga used several insignias. One of the insignia was a Ganges river dolphin riding the waves. The second insignia was a Ganges river dolphin inside a six pointed star. The third insignia was a variation of second one with the fish curved upwards.

List of Kings of Raj Darbhanga[edit]

  • Raja Mahesh Thakur (died 1558).
  • Raja Gopal Thakur. He was the eldest son of Raja Mahesh Thakur. He was king for a short time only as he died suddenly.
  • Raja Parmanand Thakur. He was the second son of Raja Mahesh Thakur. He ruled for a brief period before abdicating in favour of his younger brother Raja Subhankar Singh.[10]
  • Raja Subhankar Thakur (died 1607). He was the fifth son of Raja Mahesh Thakur.
  • Raja Purushottam Thakur (ruled 1607 to 1623). He was the son of Raja Shubhankar Thakur. He was killed in 1623.
Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur
  • Raja Narayan Thakur (ruled 1623 to 1642).
  • Raja Sundar Thakur (ruled 1642 to 1662) (died 1662).
  • Raja Mahinath Thakur (ruled 1662 to 1684) (died 1684).
  • Raja Nirpat Thakur (ruled 1684 to 1700) (died 1700).
  • Raja Raghu Singh (ruled 1700 to 1736) (died 1736). Raja Raghu Singh obtained a lease for the whole of Sarkar Tirhut including Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur at an annual rent of Rs. 100,000, which was a huge amount at that time. The annual revenue of Sarkar Tirhut in 1685 was Rs. 769,287. During reign of Raja Raghu Singh, Nawab Mahabat Jung, Nawab Subahdar of Behar, was jealous of the wealth of Raja Raghu Singh and imprisoned his family at Patna. Raghu Singh escaped capture and succeeded in getting the estate back along with a large grant from the Mughal Governor on the condition that he "do justice, relieve distress, and put the country in flourishing condition." This condition was fulfilled by Raja Raghu Singh and subsequent Maharajas of Darbhanga. He built a mud fort at Bhawara near Madhubani.
  • Raja Bishnu Singh (ruled 1736 to 1740) (died 1740).
  • Raja Narendra Singh (ruled 1740 to 1760) (died 1760). Raja Narendra Singh died without issue. He adopted Raja Pratap Singh, great-great-grandson of Narayan Thakur, son of Raja Shubhankar Thakur, younger brother of Raja Sundar Thakur, as his successor.
  • Raja Pratap Singh (ruled 1760 to 1776) (died 1776). Raja Pratap Singh built Rajbari at Darbhanga and shifted the capital to Darbhanga from Bhawara.
  • Raja Madho Singh (ruled 1776 to 1808) (died 1808). He was a younger brother of Raja Pratap Singh and succeeded him upon his death. In 1776, Raja Madho Singh received a grant of land at Dharampur in Purnea district from Shah Alam II, Mughal Emperor of India. Raja Madho Singh had a long dispute with the British government over revenue payments and the extent of his rights over the land.
  • Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur (ruled 1808 to 1839) (died 1839). He was the second son of Raja Madho Singh. He was the first in the family to hold the title of Maharaja Bahadur. Maharaja Chhatra Singh made over his estate and title to his eldest son Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur on the grounds of old age in 1839. He died a few days later after the coronation of Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur.
  • Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur (ruled 1839 to 1850) (died 1850). After the death of Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur, the younger brothers of Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur were involved in a long litigation for succession to the estate. It was ultimately held by the High Court of Calcutta that the ordinary Hindu Law of Succession can not apply in this case and the Raj Darbhanga family would have to follow the family custom or Kulachar. Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur, being the eldest son of Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur, was declared to be Maharaja of Darbhanga. This permanently settled the issue of succession and thereafter the succession was based upon primogeniture.
  • Maharaja Maheshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1850 to 1860) (died 1860). Maharaja Maheshwar Singh Bahadur ruled for ten years. He expired in October 1860, leaving behind two sons, Lakshmeshwar Singh and Rameshwar Singh, both of whom became Maharajas of Darbhanga.
Statue of Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh at Dalhousie Square, Kolkata
  • Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1860 to 1898) (born 25 September 1858, died 17 December 1898). Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh was a philanthropist. His statue (by Edward Onslow Ford) was installed in Calcutta in 1904 at Dalhousie Square as a tribute to him. Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur was only two years old his father's death so Raj Darbhanga was placed under Ward of Court. He was the first Maharaja of Darbhanga to receive a western education, from a British tutor, Mr. Chester Mcnaughton. Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur took over the reins of Raj Darbhanga on 25 September 1879 after attaining his majority. He devoted himself to public works and was recognised as one of the greatest nobles and philanthropists of India at that time. On 22 June 1897 Bahadur was advanced to the rank of Knight Grand Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire.[11][12]
  • Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1898 to 1929) (born 16 January 1860, died 3 July 1929). Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur became Maharaja of Darbhanga after the death of his elder brother Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur, who died without issue.

He was appointed to the Indian Civil Service in 1878, serving as assistant magistrate successively at Darbhanga, Chhapra, and Bhagalpur.

  • Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1929 to the independence of India in 1947) (born 28 November 1907, died 8 November 1962). He was member of the Council of State 1933–1946, member of the Constituent Assembly 1947–1952, and the Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha-Upper House) 1952–1958 and 1960–1962. He was the first person in India to get a bust of Mahatma Gandhi made by celebrated artist Clare Frewen Sheridan, niece of Winston Churchill. The bust was presented to the viceroy of India, Victor Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow, to be displayed in Government House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan). This was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi in a letter to Lord Linlithgow in 1940.[13]

Gandhi, in an interview during his visit to Bihar in 1947, said that the Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was an extremely good person and like a son to him.[14]

For earlier dynasties ruling Mithila region, see Kings of Mithila.

Palaces[edit]

Darbhanga has several palaces that were built during the Darbhanga Raj era.

Roper Lethbridge said about Lakshmivilas Palace: "The new Palace at Darbhanga, with its immense stables, its botanical and zoological gardens, and its many beautiful surroundings, is well known in England by the sketches that have appearerd in the London illustrated papers."[15]

  • Ram Bagh Palace – It is situated inside the fort and is the oldest palace in Darbhanga. It is still owned by members of Raj Darbhanga family. It is presently in a dilapidated condition.
Bela Palace
  • Bela Palace – Built for Raja Bishweshar Singh (Raja Bahadur), younger brother of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, it is the best preserved palace. It was taken by the Central Government and is being used as a Postal Training College.
  • Dilkhush Bag – It is one of two palaces situated inside Darbhanga Fort. It is almost in ruins.
  • Moti Mahal – Moti Mahal was destroyed in the earthquake of 1934. It was not rebuilt. Only one room of Moti Mahal exists today.

Dharbanga Raj had several Palaces in other towns in India.

Navlakha Palace (Darbhanga House), Patna
  • Navlakha Palace complex at Rajnagar, in Madhubani District of Bihar
  • Palace at Bhouara near Madhubani; leased to the police department
  • Darbhanga House at New Delhi situated at 7 Man Singh Road, New Delhi. The adjoining property of 25 Akbar Road, in front of the present Congress party headquarters, also belonged to Raj Darbhanga.
  • Darbhanga House at 42 Chowringhee Street, Kolkata. A greenhouse given to the Agri-Horticultural Garden at Alipur, Kolkata, by the royal family of Darbhanga is also called Darbhanga house, but it was not a residential house.
  • Darbhanga Mansions at Carmichael Road, Mumbai. All the land of Income Tax Colony on Pedder Road, Mumbai belonged to the royal family. The Income Tax Colony is also called "Darbhanga House".
  • Darbhanga House at Ranchi – It now houses the head office of Central Coalfields Limited.
  • Navlakha Palace, also called Darbhanga House, at Patna. It was donated to Patna University and now houses postgraduate departments of Patna University. It has a Kali Temple in its complex.
  • Darbhanga House at Kaithu, Shimla (currently houses the Loretto Convent School) and Kalyani House at Chharabra, Shimla (now houses the Himalayan International School)
  • Darbhanga Palace at Darbhanga Ghat, Varanasi
  • Darbhanga House and Darbhanga Castle at Allahabad
  • Darbhanga House at Darjeeling
  • Darbhanga House in Delhi at Darbhanga Lane

Indian Independence Movement[edit]

Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress in 1885. Raj Darbhanga was one of the major donors to the party despite maintaining his proximity to the British Raj.[16] During British rule, the Congress Party wanted to hold their annual convention in Allahabad but they were denied permission by the Government to use any public place for this purpose. The Maharaja of Darbhanga bought an area and allowed Congress to hold their annual convention there. The annual convention of Congress of 1892 was held on 28 December on the grounds of Lowther Castle, purchased by the then Maharaja of Darbhanga.[17] The area was leased to the Indian National Congress by the Maharaja to thwart any attempts by British officials to deny the Indian National Congress a place to hold their annual conventions.

Mithila society and Maithili language[edit]

The palace complex at Raj Darbhanga
Nargona Palace

The Kings of Raj Darbhanga were Maithil Brahmin by caste. Mithila was a centre of knowledge from time immemorial, and the kings promoted knowledge, arts, and crafts in every possible manner. This has had a profound effect on society of Mithila. Even today, a person's social standing is considered more by his knowledge than by any wealth he has acquired.

The Maharajas of Darbhanga and Darbhanga Raj were looked upon as the embodiment of Mithila and the Maithili language by people in the region. The Maharaja was the hereditary head of Maithil Mahasabha, a writers' organisation. Maharaja and Raj Darbhanga played a prominent role in the revival of the Maithili language and its literature.

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was a nationalist, and espoused the cause of the Hindi language along with Maithili. This caused anguish to the leaders of the Maithili movement. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh called for the people to start using Devanagari script rather than tirhuta script for writing in Maithili. Today, people write Maithili using the Devanagari script and efforts are being made to revive the Tirhuti script. In 1931, the then Maharaja of Darbhanga, Kameshwar Singh Bahadur, made an endowment of Rs. one hundred thousand to Patna University to create a Maithili development fund. This had the desired result of a spurt in literary activities and publications, and ultimately the language came to be recognised in the field of higher education in 1937.[18]

The views of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh did not gain popularity with the people except for the call to use the Devanagri script. He effectively became the leader of a small elite group having a pan-nationalistic agenda rather than a popular king of the masses. He lost in the general election in Bihar in 1952 despite being one of the biggest philanthropists and progressive-minded kings in pre-independence India.

A former Secretary of Maithil Mahasabha said Darbhanga Kameshwar Singh "was a great nationalist, one of the founders of Indian National Congress. Now he worked for national integration. So he removed the claim of Maithili itself and fought for Hindi. We have a script of our own, but when he established a printing press here [in Darbhanga], he established a Hindi printing press. A great contribution to national integration but a loss for Mithila."[19]

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh published Mithila Mihir, a Maithili periodical, starting in 1908. Mithila Mihir was published by Newspaper and Publications Pvt. Ltd, by one of the companies owned by Raj Darbhanga. Publication of Mithila Mihir was continued until the 1980s and intermittently thereafter. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh made a provision in his will for its continued publication.[20]

Maithil Brahmins[edit]

Darbhanga House at Darbhanga Ghat, Varanasi

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh caused great upheaval in Shrotriya Brahmin society when he went to England in spite of the traditional prohibition against going abroad. The Shrotiya Brahmin society was divided into two groups by this event, the Swadeshi and the Vilayati. The Swadeshi ("country's own") were those who called for a boycott of the Maharaja since he had broken the age-old tradition and had gone abroad. The Vilayati ("foreigners") were the group who supported the Maharaja's visit to England. For many years, the Shrotiya Brahmins were divided on this issue. Later everyone accepted the visit of the Maharaja to England as a progressive breakthrough for the society as a whole.[21]

Religion[edit]

The Maharajas of Darbhanga were devoted to Sanskrit traditions and were supporters of orthodox Hindu practices in both caste and religion.

The kings of Darbhanga were of Brahmin caste. Shiva and Kali were the main deities of the royal family. Even though they were deeply religious, they were also secular in their outlook. The palace area in Darbhanga has three tombs of Muslim saints and a small mosque. The walls of fort at Darbhanga was designed to leave an area so that the mosque is not disturbed. The tomb of a Muslim saint is located next to Anandbagh Palace.

As part of their attempt to reintroduce old Hindu customs such as the study of Vedas and Vedic rites, the Maharaja reintroduced Samavedic study by inviting a few well-versed Samavedins from south India to teach there.[22]

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh established and was general president of Sri Bharat Dharma Mahamadal, a neo-conservative Hindi organisation that sought to make Hindu scriptures available to all castes and women. He was one of the main patrons of Agamanusandhana Samiti, an organisation with the objective of publishing Tantric texts in English and other languages.[23]

Promotion of education[edit]

I hold that an education which does not provide for instruction in the religion of one's forefathers can never be complete and am convinced that a Hindu will be a better Hindu, a Christian a better Christian, and a Mohammedan a better Mohammedan if he had implicit faith in his God and in the religion of his forefathers.[24]

Maharaja Sir Rameshwar Singh of Darbhanga

The royal family of Darbhanga played a role in the spread of education in India. Darbhanga Raj was a major donor to Benaras Hindu University, Calcutta University, Allahabad University, Patna University, Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University, Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital, Lalit Narayan Mithila University, Aligarh Muslim University,[25] and many other educational institutions in India.

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur was a major donor and supporter of Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya for starting Banaras Hindu University; he donated Rs. 5,000,000 start-up funds and assisted in the fundraising campaign.[26] Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was also the Pro-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University.[27]

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh donated Darbhanga House (Navlakha Palace) at Patna to Patna University. The Maharaja played an important role getting Maithili introduced as a subject in Patna University, and in 1920, he donated Rs. 500,000.00 to establish Patna Medical College Hospital, the single highest contributor.[28]

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh donated his ancestral house, Anand Bag Palace, on 30 March 1960, along with a rich library and land surrounding the palace to establish Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University.[29] Nargona Palace and the Raj Head Office were donated in 1972 to the Government of Bihar. The buildings are now part of Lalit Narayan Mithila University.[30] Raj Darbhanga donated 70,935 books to Lalit Narain Mithila University for its library.

Raj School in Darbhanga was founded by Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur. This school was established to provide the English medium of education and to introduce modern teaching methods in Mithila. Several other schools were also opened throughout Raj Darbhanga.

Raj Darbhanga was a major donor to Calcutta University, and the central library building of Calcutta University is called the Darbhanga Building.

In 1951, Mithila Snatkottar Shodh Sansthan (the Mithila Post-Graduate Research Institute), located at Kabraghat, was established on the initiative of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first President of India. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh donated a building along with 60 acres (240,000 m2) of land and a garden of mango and litchi trees located beside the Bagmati river in Darbhanga to this institution.[31]

The Maharajas of Darbhanga were the main patrons, trustees, and financiers of Mahakali Pathshala, a school established by Mst. Gangabai in 1839 for promoting education for women.[32] Similarly many colleges like Bareilly College, Bareilly received substantial donations from Maharajas of Darbhanga.[33]

Maharani Rameshwari Bhartiya Chikitsa Vigyan Sansthan at Mohanpur is named after the wife of Maharaja Rameshwar Singh.

Music[edit]

Darbhanga became one of the prominent centres of Hindustani classical music from the late 18th century. The kings of Raj Darbhanga were great patrons of music, art, and culture. Several famous musicians were associated with Raj Darbhanga. Prominent amongst them were Ustad Bismillah Khan, Gauhar Jaan, Pandit Ram Chatur Mallik, Pandit Rameshwar Pathak, and Pandit Siya Ram Tiwari. Raj Darbhanga was a main patron of Dhrupad, a vocal style in Hindustani classical music. A major school of Dhrupad today is known as Darbhanga Gharana. Today there are three major gharanas of Dhrupad in India: Dagar Gharana, Mishras of Bettiah Raj (Bettiah Gharana), and the Mallicks of Darbhanga (Darbhanga Gharana).[34]

According to S. M. Ghosh (quoted in 1896) Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh was a good sitar player.

Ustad Bismillah Khan was a court musician of Raj Darbhanga for several years. He had spent his childhood in Darbhanga.[35]

Gauhar Jaan gave her first performance before the Maharaja of Darbhanga in 1887 and was appointed as court musician.[36] Pandit Rameshwar Pathak, one of the foremost Sitar players of the early 20th century, was court musician in Raj Darbhanga.[37]

Raj Darbhanga supported Murad Ali Khan, brother of Nanhe Khan of Gwalior. Murad Ali Khan was one of the foremost sarod players of his time. Murad Ali Khan is credited with being the first person to use metal strings and metal fingerboard plates on his sarod, which has today become the standard.[38]

Kundan Lal Sehgal was a friend of Raja Bisheshwar Singh, younger brother of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh. Whenever the two met the Bela Palace at Darbhanga witnessed long sessions of conversations and renditions of ghazals and thumris. K. L. Sehgal attended the marriage of Raja Bahadur, and took out his harmonium and sang "Babul Mora Naihar Chhuto Hee Jaye" at the wedding.[39]

Raj Darbhanga had its own symphony orchestra and police band. There was a circular structure in front of Manokamna Temple, which was known as the Band Stand. The band used to play music there in the evening. Today the floor of bandstand is the only part still extant.

Companies controlled[edit]

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was one of the great industrialists of the region. He controlled 14 businesses producing sugar, jute, cotton, iron and steel, aviation, print media, and other products. Some of the major companies were:

Newspaper & Publications Pvt. Ltd. Newspaper & Publications Pvt. Ltd. published two newspapers from Patna, Bihar. The Indian Nation was an English daily newspaper while Aryavarta was a Hindi daily newspaper. It also published Mithila Mihir, a periodical in the Maithili language, and The Dove, a monthly magazine in English. During their heyday, the two newspapers almost had a monopoly in Bihar. The company is no longer publishing any newspapers or magazines.

Walford Walford was a chain of automobile dealerships. It had showrooms at Kolkata, Guwahati, and Imphal.

Ashok Paper Mills Ashok Paper Mills manufactured newsprint. It was later taken over by Government of Bihar, and is now closed.

Sakri Sugar Factory and Pandaul Sugar Factory Both these factories were nationalised and taken over by Government of Bihar.

Rameshwar Jute Mills The jute mills located in outskirts of Calcutta were sold to the Birlas in 1960.

British India Corporation The British India Corporation was a large business with several mills and factories in Kanpur and other parts of north India. The controlling stake was held by the Maharaja of Darbhanga.

Octavius Steel This organisation was a large Calcutta managing agency with interests in engineering, tea, sugar, and other products. The Maharaja of Darbhanga had a large financial stake in this company.[40]

Thacker Spink & Co (P) Ltd This Calcutta-based publishing house was owned by the Darbhanga Raj and it published many books.

Darbhanga Investments Private Ltd This company was the investment arm of Raj Darbhanga, and held shares of various companies, including companies of the Tata Group.

Darbhanga Dairy Farm (P) Ltd This was a dairy farm owned by Darbhanga Raj. The company held dairy farms in Darbhanga and Jamshedpur.

Darbhanga Marketing Ltd This was a Calcutta based marketing company. It is now a part of KK Birla Group.

Tirhoot State Rly This company promoted a railway line in north Bihar. The first railway line in north Bihar between Darbhanga and Bajitpur on the banks of the Ganges opposite Barh was built in 1874 at the prompting of the Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh under auspices of Tirhoot State Railway. In 1874, Tirhoot State Railway opened meter gauge rail lines to Samastipur and Darbhanga.[41]

Darbhanga Aviations[edit]

Raj Darbhanga had four Douglas DC-3 aircraft (2 No.s of C-47A-DL and 1 No. of C-47A-DK) and ran an airline, Darbhanga Aviations, from 1950 to 1962. These aeroplanes were purchased from the United States Air Force. One of these planes (Registration number VT-DEM) was destroyed in an accident near Calcutta in 1954. This plane was on scheduled domestic service out of Calcutta, India, when it crashed on takeoff. The No.1 engine of the plane caught fire immediately after takeoff from Calcutta runway 19R. The aircraft failed to gain height, stalled, and crashed into some trees 3,330 feet (1,010 m) past the end of the runway. Two of the eight passengers and all three crew members aboard were killed. The six surviving passengers were all critically injured. Although the engine fire was the primary cause of the crash, the pilot was also cited for a delay in feathering the engine and for the extreme nose-up altitude of the plane during takeoff.

The second aeroplane, bearing registration No. VT-AYG, crashed on 24 May 1962 near Rajshahi in Bangladesh. The cause of the crash has been attributed to fatigue failure of the no.1 engine, forcing the crew of the DC-3 to continue on a single engine (no. 2). The remaining engine lost power due to overheating, resulting in crash of the aircraft. The third aircraft (registration No. VT-DEM) was taken over by the Indian Air Force.[42][43][44] The fourth aircraft (registration No.VT-AZX) was sold to Kalinga Airlines.

Raj Darbhanga maintained two airstrips at Darbhanga and Madhubani. The airstrip at Darbhanga is now under control of the Indian Air Force, while the airstrip at Madhubani is under control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Public works[edit]

  • The Raj Darbhanga, during the period of Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur, spent over £300,000 for relief and charity work during the Bihar famine of 1873–74. The measures taken for meeting the challenges arising out of the famine was considered to be a model for governance at that time.
  • Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur got schools, dispensaries, and other facilities constructed and maintained them out of his own funds for the benefit of the public. The dispensary at Darbhanga cost £3400, a huge sum at the time.
  • Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur initiated constriuction of iron bridges constructed on all rivers in the Raj.
  • Raj Darbhanga donated 52 bighas of land for the creation and use of the Muzaffarpur Judgeship.[45]
  • Raj Darbhanga had several lakes and ponds dug in the region to provide irrigation for farmers and thus help prevent famines.
  • The first railway line in north Bihar, between Darbhanga and Bajitpur on the banks of the Ganges opposite Barh, was built in 1874 at the prompting of the Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh.[46]
  • Over 1,500 km of roads were constructed by the early part of the 19th century by Raj Darbhanga. Of this over 300 km was metalled road. This resulted in the expansion of trade as well as greater markets for agricultural produce in the region.[47]
  • Many dharamshalas (charitable lodging houses) were constructed such as Ram Mandir and Rani Kotha in Varanasi.
  • Homes for destitute people were constructed.
  • Kharagpur Lake, a large reservoir, was built on the Man river in Munger District.[48]
  • Raj Darbhanga was a pioneer of cross-breeding cattle to improve milk production. A superior milking cow breed called Hansi was introduced by Raj Darbhanga. The cow was a cross between local cows and the Jersey breed.[49]

Sports[edit]

Raj Darbhanga actively promoted various sports activities. The Polo Ground in Laheriasarai was a major centre for polo in pre-independence times in Bihar. The winner of a major polo tournament in Calcutta is awarded the Darbhanga Cup.[50]

Raja Bishweshwar Singh was one of the founding members of the All India Football Federation, the prime governing body for football in India. Raja Bahadur, along with Rai Bahadur Jyoti Prasad Singh of Hariharpur Estate, were the Honorary Secretaries of the federation upon its inception in 1935.[51]

The first flight over Mount Everest in took place in 1933. This expedition was organised by military officers, supported by public companies, and hosted by the Maharajah of Darbhanga Kameshwar Singh Bahadur along with the Raja of Banaili.[52]

References[edit]

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  4. ^ Language, Religion and Politics in North India. Author – Paul R. Brass
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  12. ^ The Knights of England. Author: William Arthur Shaw
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  19. ^ quoted from "Claims of Maithili as Language and Literature" by Jayadhari Sinha, Searchlight, 5 April 1970
  20. ^ Language, Religion And Politics in North India. By Paul R. Brass at page 84
  21. ^ Life and Works of Sir Ganganath Jha, 1871–1941, Sanskritist – by Prof. Hetukar Jha
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  52. ^ http://www.wingsovereverest.com/history.php accessed on 18 December 2007