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The Marathas: Gaekwads of Baroda
by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, 4 April 2011
Modern Baroda is a city in the Indian state of
Gujarat. However, it was once the fiefdom-turned-kingdom of its ruling Gaekwad family.
The Gaekwad family had humble origins,
coming from a village in the Pune district of Maharashtra. They belonged to the Maratha caste.
The origin of their name has a story
behind it. It is said that one of their early ancestors (as per
certain sources, this was Nandaji Rao, the fort keeper at Bhor, Pavana
Maval, near Pune) saw some cows (gai), whom Hindus consider holy,
being led by a Muslim butcher to his abattoir. Nandaji opened the small gate (kawad)
of his fort to let them in, thereby saving their lives. That's
how he adopted the name Gaekwad ('gai-kawad'), ie. the one who
opened the gate to save the holy cow.
Nandaji's son was Keroji. Keroji had four
sons, named Damaji, Jhingoji, Gujoji, Harjirao. Damaji took up service
under Sardar Khanderao Dabhade, who was in charge of the Maratha
campaign in Gujarat, and distinguished himself at the Battle of Balapur. Damaji had no children of his own so he adopted one of his
nephews, Pilaji (the son of Jhingojirao Kerojirao Gaekwad) and also
obtained for him a position under Sarsenapati Sardar Khanderao
List of kings
Pilaji Rao Gaekwad (ruled
1721-1732) Pilaji proved to be a good horse master and the
Sarsenapati's horses were entrusted to him for their upkeep. Pleased
with his performance, Sardar Dabhade promoted Pilaji to command
his cavalry squadron at Nawapur and later gave him charge of Fort Songad near Surat. (Khanderao's
other deputies were Kanthaji
Bande and Pawar).
Pilaji used his newfound power to
dislodge Rustam Khan, the rival of Hamid Khan (deputy to the Mughal
minister Nizam ul Mulk), who was stationed in Gujarat. In return, Hamid
Khan allowed Pilaji to retain the chauth of eastern Gujarat (while
Kanthaji Bande was given rights for western Gujarat).
Meanwhile, Delhi dispatched another
general, Sarbuland Khan, to take charge of Gujarat from Hamid Khan. The
latter obviously protested, leading to friction between the two.
Therefore to subdue Hamid Khan, Sarbuland enticed the Marathas with
more grants. Hamid Khan found himself isolated and had to flee to the
Deccan. But Sarbuland Khan soon realised that the Marathas were not a
contented lot. They kept eating into his revenues and marauding
the countryside. As a result he sought the services of Peshwa Bajirao
I to keep Pilaji Rao and Kanthaji in check. Bajirao sent over
his brother, Chimaji Appa, in return for the chauth and sardeshmukhi
rights of Gujarat.
Meanwhile, the Nizam ul Mulk (who was also
the peshwa's arch foe) and Hamid Khan, both of whom had been
sidelined in Gujarat, encouraged Sardar Trimbarao Dabhade, son of Khanderao Dabhade,
against the peshwa. The Dabhades also resented the peshwa's
growing influence in Gujarat which they considered to be the
birthplace of their own power. This led to a confrontation between Dabhade's
forces and the peshwa's forces. Pilaji Gaekwad and his sons (Sayaji
and Damaji Gaekwad) fought alongside Trimbakrao Dabhade, but to no
avail as Trimbakrao Dabhade was killed in battle (at Dabhoi in 1731),
was Jawaji Dabhade, Maloji Pawar and one of Pilaji's sons, Sayaji
The front gate of Chimnabai Nyaya Mandir at Baroda
Pilaji himself was wounded and could no
longer offer any effective resistance. He resigned himself to his fate
but did not go out quietly. Instead, he
died the next year fighting a Mughal sardar at Dakore who went by
the name of Abhay Singh.
Pilaji had eight sons. His second son
Damaji Rao Gaekwad became his successor.
Damaji Gaekwad (1732-1768)
succeeded his father Pilaji. In 1734, he routed the Mughal army
from Baroda city, which thereafter was to be the centre of power for the Gaekwads.
Meanwhile, the friction between the
Dabhade (Gaekwad) family and the family of the peshwa carried over to the
next generation, when Rani Tarabai used the Dabhades and Gaekwads
against the next peshwa, Barajas Bajirao (the son of Bajirao I). But this
time as well the peshwas emerged victorious and forced a treaty on Damaji Gaekwad in 1752, whereby he agreed to abandon the cause of
the Dabhades and Rani Tarabai and fight alongside the peshwas in the
In return, the peshwa granted several
financial interests to the Gaekwad family and the Gaekwads
superseded the Dabhades as the highest authority in Gujarat after the
Chatrapati (Maratha kings) and the peshwas themselves. The peshwa thereafter
conferred the title of Sena Khas Khel on Sardar Damaji Rao Gaekwad.
Damajirao died at Patan in 1768, leaving
behind six sons and a daughter.
Sayajirao I Gaekwad (1768-1778)
was the son and successor of Damajirao.
Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad (1778-1789)
was the brother and successor of Sayajirao. He died from a fall from his
palace. He had earlier entered into a treaty with the British East
India company (in 1780). The British declared the Gaekwads to be
independent maharajas of the state of Baroda.
Manajirao Gaekwad (1789-1793)
brother and successor of Fatehsinghrao.
Govindrao Gaekwad (1793-1800)
brother (eldest son of Damajirao) and successor of Manajirao.
Anandrao Gaekwad (1800-1819) son
and successor of Govindrao. He signed a convention at Cambay whereby
a British subsidiary force was established.
Sayajirao II Gaekwad (1819-1847)
half-brother and successor of Anandrao.
Ganpatrao Gaekwad (1847-1856) son
and successor of Sayajirao II.
Sir Khanderao Gaekwad (1856-1870)
brother and successor of Ganpatrao.
Malharrao Gaekwad (1870-1875)
brother and successor of Khanderao. earlier he was arrested for
trying to usurp his brother's throne by conspiring to assassinate
him, but as Khanderao had no male issue, Malharrao was made king.
was deposed in 1875 thanks to his wild and extravagant ways and
exiled to Madras, where he died in 1882.
Sir Sayajirao III Gaekwad
(1875-1939) also known as Gopalrao, was a relative of and successor to Malharrao, as
Malharrao's son, Jaysinghrao, was not considered
to be legitimate by the British.
Laxmi Vilas Palace in Baroda
Sayajirao was the son of Kashirao
Bhikajirao Gaekwad. He was trained under the able guidance of Sir T
Madhava Rao and F A H Eliot.
Being a minor on accession, he ruled
under a regency council until 1881. Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III is
heralded a great visionary, social reformer, educationist and an
excellent administrator. He converted Baroda into a model state.
Sayajirao ushered in industrialisation to support the traditional
agriculture of the state.
He contributed greatly towards
the establishment of the textile industry and overall commerce in the
Baroda kingdom. He built several institutions such as the Bank of
Baroda, the City Library, Baroda University, and more.
He also established the railway, the water supply
works, parks, roads, canals, colleges, hospitals and much more in his kingdom.
He was also the first to establish
compulsory and free primary education in the country. He propagated
equality amongst the masses and scorned the caste norms prevalent in
He was also a patron to people like Dr
Babasaheb Ambedkar, the champion of equality rights for the socially
under privileged sections and later the architect of the Indian
constitution, Sri Aurobind Ghose the great philosopher and thinker,
and Dadabhai Nowroji (who started as his dewan), and went on to
become the first Asian member of the British House of Commons.
He patronised the arts, music, dance,
literature and set up special schools and sponsorships for these.
One of his beneficiaries was the celebrated painter, Raja Ravi Varma.
He also supported scientific causes
including Dr Talpade's unmanned aircraft of 1895.
Sir Sayajirao is also known for his
famous jewellery collection which included the Star of the South,
the Akbar Shah and the Princess Eugene diamonds.
Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III thereby proved to
be Baroda's most popular ruler.
Sayajirao II enjoyed a long reign from his childhood years onwards
Sir Pratapsinh Gaekwad (1939-1951)
was the grandson of and successor to Sir Sayajirao III. He succeeded his
grandfather directly as his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Fatehsinha Gaekwad had died in
1919. However, Pratapsinha was deposed (after his controversial
remarriage to Maharani Sita Devi and the issues of impropriety that
cropped up subsequently) by the British in favour of his son
Fatehsingh. Pratapsinh resigned his position to enter exile in England.
In 1947 Baroda joined the Dominion of
India and became a part of Bombay state before being named as a city in the
newly created state of Gujarat in 1960.
Lt Col Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad
(1951-1988) was the son and successor to Pratapsinh. He was also a
parliamentarian and a first class cricketer. He died in 1988 at
Bombay Breach Candy Hospital.
Ranjitsinh Gaekwad (1988-Present)
is brother and successor of Fatehsinh and the current head of the royal
house of Baroda. He was also a parliamentarian and is a well known
painter. His son, Yuvraj Samarjitsingh, is the titular heir to the
throne of Baroda.
Lieutenant-Colonel Fatehsinghrao Gaekwad was a first class cricketer
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