Princely India and its relevance

The Department of Studies in History, University of Mysore (UoM), in association with Prof D S Achuta Rao Centenary Programme, Bengaluru, is organising a two-day Prof Achuta Rao Memorial International Conference on ‘Power Resistance and Sovereignty in Princely South India’ with special reference to the Transfer of Power at the Bahadur Institute of Management Studies.

Delivering his keynote address on the occasion on Friday, Prof David Washbrook of Cambridge University, pointed that India’s Princely States have enjoyed only a minor place in the narrative of its modern nationhood.

“Focused on the anti-colonial struggle against British rule, the Indian National Congress ignored them until the 1930s and then subsumed them under a programme designed to obliterate their ‘difference’. The difficult circumstances of partition and accession also made post-independent India instinctively hostile to the traces of Princely privilege and power,” the professor said.

Reviled as feudal relics, Prof Washbrook added, India’s Maharajas were meant to fade into history and the societies over which they ruled to blend into a single, homogenous and continuous national modernity. Yet this perspective does little justice to either past or present. While, of necessity after 1857, Princely India may have played little public role in the political struggle against colonial rule, this was not universally true ‘behind the scenes’.

Underscoring the role of princely states in educational and social developments, Prof Washbrook noted that Mysuru, Travancore, Baroda and Hyderabad led the country towards development in education, public health, industry and commerce and put the backwardness and stagnation of ‘British’ India to shame. “Moreover, they left lasting legacies,” he added.

He further pointed that dynasticism and heredity (even caste) were acknowledged and reconstructed. “As the socialism and ‘pseudo-secularism’ associated with India’s early decades of self-rule have fallen away, the significance of these continuities has become increasingly apparent. Paradoxically, the history of Princely India may be more relevant to understanding the nation in the 21st century than ever it was in the twentieth,” he said.

Number of sessions from an array of eminent speakers on ‘The Making of the Modern Mysore Matha’ by Janaki Nair, professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, ‘Mysore Royal Family – their Loyalty towards British Colonialism and Transitional Transfer of Power in Princely Mysore (1782-1947) by Dr K Sadashiva, Chairman, Department of Studies in History, UoM, among many others were part of the conference.

UoM Vice Chancellor (In-charge) Prof Yashavanth Dongre, Registrar Prof R Rajanna and Prof D S Achuta Rao Centenary Programme Advisory Board Convener D A Prasanna were present.


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