The princely states of pre-independent India threw up many charismatic leaders, political stalwarts and influential princes. Among the more dynamic was Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner (1880-1943).
Inheriting a strife-ridden kingdom as a mere adolescent of eighteen, Ganga Singh showed a leadership and wisdom well beyond his years, successfully reigning in warring factions and carving out a meticulous, and far sighted plan of progress for Bikaner, which he executed with remarkable success.
Widely acknowledged for his prowess as a warrior, he was soon regarded as an able statesman and visionary, both nationally and at international forums, many of which he attended as India's representative.
As a ruler, he changed the fortunes of his state by turning a desert kingdom into a fertile prosperous land by constructing by Gang Canal. Spokesperson for the Indian Princes and their representative to the British, he first proposed the India of a federal state.
Architect-builder, able diplomat, eloquent orator, warrior, trusted and benevolent ruler, Ganga Singh's muti-hued personality and rich legacy make him one of the most resplendent figures in the vibrant history of Rajasthan.
About the Author
Educated at Bikaner, Jaipur, Sagar and The Hague, Prof L.S. Rathore is Emiritus Professor in Political Science and the former Vice Chancellor of J.N. Vyas University, Jodhpur. Receipient of various national and international honours and awards, he has also to his credit a wide range of books on political theory and many volumes of poety.
The area, which now comprises the four districts of Bikaner, Churu, Ganganagar and Hanumangarh, was known as the Rathore principality of Bikaner, prior to the integration of Bikaner State into Rajasthan Union in April 1949. It was bound on the north and west by the Bahawalpur State; on the south-west by the Jaisalmer State; on the south by the jodhpur State; on the south-east by the Jaipur State; on the east by the Loharu State and the Hissar District and on the north-east by Ferozepore District. With an area of 23,317 square miles it had the sixth largest area among all the Indian states and second largest in Rajputana.
The history of the erstwhile State of Bikaner was a record of heroic exploits, epic victories and magnificent gallantry. Founded in A.D. 1465 by Rao Bika, second son of Rao Jodha, the ruler of Marwar State; the rulers of the House of Bikaner belonged to the warrior clan of Rathores. Though the state was founded in the fifteenth century, the lineage of its rulers went back to much earlier times.
Among the many clans of Rajputs, whose patriotism, valour and chivalry decorated Indian history, none stood higher in fame or in the stature of historic tradition than the Rathores. Claiming descent from Lord Rama, the deified King of Ayodhya, the Rathores or the Rastrakutas came to be known in Indian history as the first great imperial dynasty in the Deccan. In the first decade of the eighth century the Rastrakutas wrested from the Western Chalukyas a sizeable territory, and established their capital at Malkhed, now in Andhra Pradesh. Arab and Persian travelers who visited Malkhed at the time spoke of the monarchs of Rastrakutas Dynasty as 'the Emperors of Hindustan'- among the most powerful rulers of the period. By the tenth century the Rastrakutas established themselves as the leading power in northern India with their capital at Kanauj. When the Muslims invaded India, they found the great Rajput kingdoms in existence, one of which was that of the Rathores as Kanauj, whose ruler, Jai Chand was at the pinnacle of his fame. The calamitous outcome of the rivalry between Jai Chand, ruler of Aryavarta, and the impetous Prithviraj Chouhan, constituted a turning point in Indian history. The invasion of Mahommed of Ghor in the last decade of twelfth century and the disasters that overtook the Rajput arms in the Punjab and the Gangetic Valley completed the ruin of the Empire of Kanauj.
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