Karan Singh

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Karan Singh

Singh in 2009
Sadr-i-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir[1]
In office
17 November 1952 – 30 March 1965
Prime MinisterSheikh Abdullah
Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad
Khwaja Shamsuddin
Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq
Minister of Education and Culture
In office
30 July 1979 – 14 January 1980
Prime MinisterCharan Singh
Preceded byPratap Chandra Chunder
Succeeded byB. Shankaranand
Minister for Health and Family Planning
In office
9 November 1973 – 24 March 1977
Prime MinisterIndira Gandhi
Preceded byUma Shankar Dikshit
Succeeded byRaj Narain
Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation
In office
13 March 1967 – 9 November 1973
Prime MinisterIndira Gandhi
Preceded byMinistry established
Succeeded byR. Bahadur
Member of the Rajya Sabha for
National Capital Territory of Delhi
In office
28 January 2000 – 27 January 2018
Member of the Lok Sabha for Udhampur
In office
Preceded byG. S. Brigadier
Succeeded byGirdhari Lal Dogra
In office
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byG. S. Brigadier
1st Governor of Jammu and Kashmir
In office
30 March 1965 – 15 May 1967
Preceded byPosition created
Succeeded byBhagwan Sahay
Ambassador of India to the United States of America
In office
Preceded byP. K. Kaul
Succeeded byAbid Hussain
Personal details
Born (1931-03-09) 9 March 1931 (age 89)
Cannes, France
Political partyIndian National Congress (1947 - 1979, 2000 - Present)
Other political
Indian National Congress (U) (1979 - 1984)

Independent (1984)

National Conference (1996 - 1999)
Spouse(s)Yasho Rajya Lakshmi
RelationsDogra dynasty
ChildrenAjatshatru Singh, Vikramaditya Singh
ParentsMaharaja Hari Singh
Maharani Tara Devi
Alma materUniversity of Kashmir (B.A.)
University of Delhi (M.A., PhD)
AwardsPadma Vibhushan

Karan Singh (born 9 March 1931) is an Indian politician, philanthropist and poet.[2] He belongs to Jamwal Dogra Dynasty is the son of Maharaja Hari Singh, and was born in Cannes, France. From 1947 he worked closely, as a teenager, with Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sardar Patel during the founding of the Republic of India, and in 1967 became the youngest ever union cabinet minister in the government of Indira Gandhi. He was the Prince regent of Jammu and Kashmir till 1952. Following which at age 21 years old, Karan Singh served as the first President of Jammu and Kashmir from 1952 to 1965.

He was a member of India's Upper House of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha representing the national capital territory of Delhi. He is a senior member of the Indian National Congress Party who served successively as President (Sadr-i-Riyasat)[3][4] and Governor of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. He was a life trustee and president of India International Center. He was elected chancellor of Banaras Hindu University for three terms,[5] and served till 2018.[6]

Singh is the son of the last ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh.[7] In the 26th amendment[8] to the Constitution of India promulgated in 1971, the Government of India, of which Karan Singh was a Union cabinet minister, abolished all official symbols of princely India, including titles, privileges, and remuneration (privy purses).[9] During the conclusion of the Cold War, he was India's ambassador to the USA. Singh received the Padma Vibhushan in 2005. He was proposed for candidacy in the July 2017 Indian presidential election by Bhim Singh.[10][11]

Early and personal life[edit]

Karan Singh was born in Cannes, France into the Dogra dynasty. He was the only son of Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruling Maharaja of Kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir. His mother, Maharani Tara Devi, who was the fourth wife of his father, was the daughter of a landowning Katoch Rajput family and came from Bijapur (Vijaypur near Bilaspur) in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.[dubious ][citation needed]

Singh was educated at Doon School, Dehra Dun, a boarding school, which represented a departure from the usual practise of princes being educated by tutors at home. The school was very elite, but it nevertheless meant that Karan Singh shared the classroom (though not the hostel) with boys from non-royal backgrounds, and received a standard education. Unusually for the scion of an Indian royal family, he then enrolled in a college for a graduate degree, receiving first a B.A. degree from Jammu and Kashmir University, Srinagar, and subsequently an M.A. degree in Political Science and a PhD degree from University of Delhi.[12]

In 1950, the 19-year-old Karan Singh was married to 13-year-old Yasho Rajya Lakshmi, daughter of a nobleman belonging to the Rana family of Nepal. Her father, General Sharada Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, was a senior army officer and the son of Mohan Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana, the last Rana Prime Minister of Nepal.[13] The match, arranged by their families in the usual Indian way, was entirely harmonious and lasted all their lives. The couple were blessed with three children:

Political career[edit]

In 1949, at age of eighteen, Singh was appointed as the regent of Jammu and Kashmir state after his father stepped down as the ruler, following the state's accession to India.[15] From that point, he served successively as regent, the Sadr-i-Riyasat, and the first governor of the state of Jammu and Kashmir from 1965 to 1967.

In 1967, he resigned as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, and became the youngest-ever member of the Union Cabinet, holding the portfolios of Tourism and Civil Aviation between 1967 and 1973.[16][17] Two years later, he voluntarily surrendered his privy purse, which he had been entitled to since the death of his father in 1961. He placed the entire sum into a charitable trust named after his parents. In 1971, he was sent as an envoy to the Eastern Bloc nations to explain India's position with regard to East Pakistan, then engaged in civil war with West Pakistan.[18] He attempted to resign following an aircraft crash in 1973, but the resignation was not accepted. The same year, he became the Minister for Health and Family planning, serving in this post until 1977.

Following the Emergency, Karan Singh was elected to the Lok Sabha from Udhampur in 1977 on a Congress ticket [the party had not split into Congress(I) and Congress(U) factions till then], and became Minister of Education and Culture in 1979 in Charan Singh's cabinet, representing Congress(U), which had split from Indira's Congress. Notably, Charan Singh became Prime Minister after the fall of Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai. And Charan Singh himself resigned without facing Parliament even for a day as he was not sure of having a confidence motion passed in his favour. Karan Singh contested the 1980 Lok Sabha election on a Congress(U) ticket and won. In 1989–1990, he served as Indian Ambassador to the US, and this experience became the subject of a book he wrote, "Brief Sojourn".[19]

From 1967 to 1984 Karan Singh was a member of the Lok Sabha. In 1984, he contested the Lok Sabha polls as an independent candidate from Jammu but lost the election. He was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 30 November 1996 to 12 August 1999, representing National Conference, a Muslim dominated party active in Jammu and Kashmir. Later, he was a Rajya Sabha member from 28 January 2000 to 27 January 2018 representing INC. He is known for switching his loyalties from one political party to another quite frequently. He has served as Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Jammu and Kashmir University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and NIIT University.[20]

On population[edit]

"In 1974, I led the Indian delegation to the World Population Conference in Bucharest, where my statement that 'development is the best contraceptive' became widely known and oft quoted. I must admit that 20 years later I am inclined to reverse this, and my position now is that 'contraception is the best development'.”[21]

Academic career[edit]

Dr. Karan Singh meets Hillary Clinton along with Congress party President Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi. July 2009

Karan Singh served as the chancellor of Banaras Hindu University for three terms up till 2018. In 2008, he awarded an honorary doctorate to then prime minister Manmohan Singh,[22] and in 2016, he was asked by university administration to award an honorary doctorate to prime minister Modi, that the prime minister declined.[23]


  • Towards A New India (1974)
  • Population, Poverty and the Future of India (1975)
  • One Man's World (1986)
  • Essays on Hinduism. Ratna Sagar. 1987. ISBN 81-7070-173-2.
  • Humanity at the Crossroads, with Daisaku Ikeda. Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Autobiography (2 vols.)(1989)
  • Brief Sojourn (1991)
  • Hymn to Shiva and Other Poems (1991)
  • The Transition to a Global Society (1991)
  • Mountain of Shiva (1994)
  • Autobiography. Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-19-563636-8.
  • Hinduism. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd, 2005. ISBN 1-84557-425-7
  • Mundaka Upanishad: The Bridge to Immortality.
  • Ten Gurus of the Sikhs Their Life Story, Tr. into English Pramila Naniwadekar & Moreshwar Naniwadekar.
  • Nehru's Kashmir. Wisdom Tree. ISBN 978-81-8328-160-7.
  • A Treasury of Indian Wisdom. Penguin Ananda, 2010. ISBN 978-0-670-08450-0.
  • An Examined Life ed. Raghav Verma. Harper Collins, 2019. ISBN 9353570239[24][25]
The Chancellor, Banaras Hindu University, Dr. Karan Singh presenting Honorary Doctorate Degree to the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, at the '90th Convocation Ceremony' in Varanasi on 15 March 2008

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Karan Singh on Accession of Kashmir to India". Outlook India. 19 September 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2017. Karan Singh, who had become Sadr-i-Riyasat (President) of Jammu and Kashmir
  2. ^ "Dr. Karan Singh". karansingh.com. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Karan Singh on Accession of Kashmir to India". Outlook India magazine. 19 July 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  4. ^ Saraf, Nandini (2012). The Life and Times of Lokmanya Tilak. Prabhat Prakashan. p. 341. ISBN 9788184301526. Before leaving Srinagar he also had long talks with Yuvraj Karan Singh, who was then being pressed to become the Sadr-i-Riyasat - President of the State.
  5. ^ 24 Jun, TNN |; 2010; Ist, 23:02. "Karan Singh elected BHU chancellor for 3rd time | Varanasi News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 February 2020.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ India, Press Trust of (27 November 2018). "Madan Mohan Malaviya's grandson next BHU chancellor". Business Standard India. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  7. ^ Rajya Sabha MP Karan Singh slams attempts to brand Hari Singh as communal
  8. ^ "The Constitution (26 Amendment) Act, 1971", indiacode.nic.in, Government of India, 1971, retrieved 9 November 2011
  9. ^ 1. Ramusack, Barbara N. (2004). The Indian princes and their states. Cambridge University Press. p. 278. ISBN 978-0-521-26727-4., "Through a constitutional amendment passed in 1971, Indira Gandhi stripped the princes of the titles, privy purses and regal privileges which her father's government had granted." (p 278). 2. Naipaul, V. S. (2003), India: A Wounded Civilization, Random House Digital, Inc., p. 37, ISBN 978-1-4000-3075-0 Quote: "The princes of India – their number and variety reflecting to a large extent the chaos that had come to the country with the break up of the Mughal empire – had lost real power in the British time. Through generations of idle servitude they had grown to specialize only in style. A bogus, extinguishable glamour: in 1947, with Independence, they had lost their state, and Mrs. Gandhi in 1971 had, without much public outcry, abolished their privy purses and titles." (pp 37–38). 3. Schmidt, Karl J. (1995), An atlas and survey of South Asian history, M.E. Sharpe, p. 78, ISBN 978-1-56324-334-9 Quote: "Although the Indian states were alternately requested or forced into union with either India or Pakistan, the real death of princely India came when the Twenty-sixth Amendment Act (1971) abolished the princes' titles, privileges, and privy purses." (page 78). 4. Breckenridge, Carol Appadurai (1995), Consuming modernity: public culture in a South Asian world, U of Minnesota Press, p. 84, ISBN 978-0-8166-2306-8 Quote: "The third stage in the political evolution of the princes from rulers to citizens occurred in 1971, when the constitution ceased to recognize them as princes and their privy purses, titles, and special privileges were abolished." (page 84).  5. Guha, Ramachandra (2008), India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy, HarperCollins, p. 441, ISBN 978-0-06-095858-9 Quote: "Her success at the polls emboldened Mrs. Gandhi to act decisively against the princes. Through 1971, the two sides tried and failed to find a settlement. The princes were willing to forgo their privy purses, but hoped at least to save their titles. But with her overwhelming majority in Parliament, the prime minister had no need to compromise. On 2 December she introduced a bill to amend the constitution and abolish all princely privileges. It was passed in the Lok Sabha by 381 votes to six, and in the Rajya Sabha by 167 votes to seven. In her own speech, the prime minister invited 'the princes to join the elite of the modern age, the elite which earns respect by its talent, energy and contribution to human progress, all of which can only be done when we work together as equals without regarding anybody as of special status.' " (page 441).  6. Cheesman, David (1997). Landlord power and rural indebtedness in colonial Sind, 1865–1901. London: Routledge. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-7007-0470-5. Quote: "The Indian princes survived the British Raj by only a few years. The Indian republic stripped them of their powers and then their titles." (page 10). 7. Merriam-Webster, Inc (1997), Merriam-Webster's geographical dictionary, Merriam-Webster, p. 520, ISBN 978-0-87779-546-9 Quote: "Indian States: "Various (formerly) semi-independent areas in India ruled by native princes .... Under British rule ... administered by residents assisted by political agents. Titles and remaining privileges of princes abolished by Indian government 1971." (page 520).  8. Ward, Philip (September 1989), Northern India, Rajasthan, Agra, Delhi: a travel guide, Pelican Publishing, p. 91, ISBN 978-0-88289-753-0 Quote: "A monarchy is only as good as the reigning monarch: thus it is with the princely states. Once they seemed immutable, invincible. In 1971 they were "derecognized," their privileges, privy purses and titles all abolished at a stroke" (page 91)
  10. ^ "Bhim Singh pitches Dr Karan Singh as next President", Daily Excelsior, 5 June 2017, retrieved 18 June 2017
  11. ^ "Propose Dr. Karan Singh as next President: Prof. Bhim". JK Monitor. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Dr. Karan Singh Profile". Doon School. Archived from the original on 18 September 2009.
  13. ^ http://www.jkdharmarthtrust.org/maharani.html
  14. ^ The Gwalior Royal Wedding Event covered in India Today
  15. ^ Dr. Karan Singh Raj Bhawan, Jammu and Kashmir official website.
  16. ^ "COUNCIL OF MINISTERS: GANDHI 2". kolumbus.fi. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  17. ^ "COUNCIL OF MINISTERS: GANDHI 3". kolumbus.fi. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  18. ^ Official website-chronology
  19. ^ Karan echoes Omar, but ‘J&K part of India’, Arun Sharma, Jammu, Sat 23 October 2010, The Indian Express Limited
  20. ^ http://www.niituniversity.in
  21. ^ "Quotations". populationmatters.org. Retrieved 3 July 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  22. ^ "Manmohan Singh awarded honorary doctorate degree by BHU | India News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  23. ^ "Take pride in India's heritage, culture: PM Modi at BHU convocation ceremony". Business Standard India. 23 February 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  24. ^ SINGH, KARAN. VERMA, RAGHAV. (2019). EXAMINED LIFE : essays and reflections by karan singh. [S.l.]: HARPERCOLLINS INDIA. ISBN 93-5357-023-9. OCLC 1100771553.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ "An Examined Life". HarperCollins Publishers India. Retrieved 14 June 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • An Examined Life: Essays and Reflections by Karan Singh, ed. Raghav Verma. Harper Collins, 2019. ISBN 9353570239

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Post created following abdication of Hari Singh
Regent of Jammu and Kashmir
Succeeded by
President of Jammu and Kashmir (Sadr-i-Riyasat)
Preceded by
Regent of Jammu and Kashmir
President of Jammu and Kashmir (Sadr-i-Riyasat)
Succeeded by
Succeeded by that of Governor of Jammu and Kashmir
Preceded by
President of Jammu and Kashmir (Sadr-i-Riyasat)
Governor of Jammu and Kashmir
Succeeded by
Bhagwan Sahay
Preceded by
Ministry established
Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation
13 March 1967 – 9 November 1973
Succeeded by
R. Bahadur
Preceded by
Uma Shankar Dikshit
Minister of Health and Family Planning
9 November 1973 – 24 March 1977
Succeeded by
Raj Narain
Preceded by
Minister of Education and Culture
Succeeded by
Preceded by
P.K. Kaul
Indian Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Abid Hussain