ago, Hindu youth of noble lineage and still nobler destiny to cup
the reins of government of ruler of Gondal, a state of Bombay some
thousand sq. mile in extend. Today his grateful and devoted people
begin to celebrate the Jubilee of reins which, both by its record of
achievement and by its length has well deserved the epithet of
Highness Maharaja Bhagvatsinhji, Thakore Saheb of Gondal was born in
1865 and from his earliest year showed promise of those attributes,
which have since earned for him the title of “The Selfless
Ruler”. In preparation for the arduous responsibilities he was one
day to assume he applied himself, during his minority with uncommon
diligence to the acquisition of a sound and practical education and
soon proved to be of such scholarly ability that according to an
eminent ability ‘In knowledge he stood head and shoulder among is
not yet 19 year of age when, by virtue of his extraordinary ability,
he was installed as the administrative head of the state, yet he had
already earned for himself a considerable reputation as author and
scholar. In 1883 he made a tour to Europe, and his account entitled
“The journal of a visit to England” was remarkable for the
evidence it contained of a capacity shrewdly to observe and rightly
to appraise the various aspect of our western civilization.
By the time he was 21 his attainments had been recognized in
striking fashion. He was made a fellow of Bombay University in year
of his installation, and, two year later, took in the ordinary
course, by examination, the degree of MBCM and MRCP at Edinburgh
University. Before the age of 30 he had been invested by Her Majesty
Queen Victoria as Knight Commander of the Indian Empire, had added
to his academic distinctions the degrees of Doctor of Laws
(Edinburgh), Doctor of Civil Law (Oxford), Doctor of Medicine
(Edinburgh), and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians,
Edinburgh, and had been made a Fellow of the Royal Society of
Edinburgh. In his thirty-third year he received at the hands of Her
Majesty at Balmoral the rank of Knight Grand Commander of the Indian
Of the personal attributes of the Maharaja Shree, as distinct from
the scholastic attainments, which have so aided him in his task of
government, much has been written by the chroniclers of the period
in this and other countries. They cannot, however, be illustrated
better than by the transformation he has wrought in the condition of
Gondal and its people.
It is given to few men of his country to enjoy so long a life, for
the years between the fiftieth and sixtieth are the most critical
with Hindus. Fewer still are able to pursue so active an existence
and to practice with success the arts of statecraft for half a
century. Rarest distinction of all, however, is to have in the
hearts of his people – not all of who are of his own race and
religious persuasion. Let us see what good has been done in Gondal
to earn such loyalty and affection for its Ruler.
Gondal is an inland State in the Kathiawar province of the Bombay
Presidency. It depends for its income chiefly upon the yield of the
soil, and the welfare of the agricultural community has been one of
the main preoccupations of its Ruler since his assumption of office.
In the course of his speech at the Installation others, which has
been amply fulfilled, and to which much of the subsequent prosperity
of Gondal is attributable, He said: “It will be my earnest desire
to see……. that the Kunbi enjoys the fruits of his labour.”
A liberal policy of tax revision was instituted in order to lighten
the burden of the Kunbis, of cultivators, who hitherto had laboured
under financial and other handicaps of such a character that tillage
of land, the State, was an uphill and unpromising vocation. The
peasants were indigent, ill housed and nourished, hampered by
illiteracy and by the primitive nature of their equipment and
environment. That they ever did raise crops betokened fortitude
deserving of the help that the Maharaja Saheb gave them.
Possessed of the firm conviction that the future of Gondal was
inseparably bound up with the prosperity of its peasantry the
Maharaja Shree pursued a policy of light assessment which, during
the half-century of his administration, has improved immeasurably
the condition, the outlook and the hopes of this important section
of the community.
More than 50 taxes were abolished, and a new system of assessment,
obviating the hardships, complications and delays of the old, was
introduced. Substantial amounts owing by subjects to the State in
respect of debts incurred prior to his installation were remitted,
and in 1909 even Customs duties were abolished.
These sacrifices of State revenue
notwithstanding, Gondal’s farsighted Ruler has been unstinting in
the allocation of expenditure on public services and in the
provision of means whereby the peasants might enjoy a broader, freer
and less hazardous existence.
Insufficient rainfall and resultant failures of crops had many times
reduced his people to a lamentable state of hopeless famine and
despair. By lavish expenditure of both energy and money a vast
system of irrigation was inaugurated. The State today has 7904
wells, against 2,250 in 1884, and two huge reservoirs. The Veri
waterworks, besides irrigating 2,300 acres of land between the town
of Gondal, capital of the State, and Moviya, eight miles away,
supply drinking water to the capital. A sum of Rs. 6,51,000 was
spent on the construction of the lake at Paneli, a village on the
Gondal railway, and the canal, which is ten miles long, distributes
water to 8,400 acres.
The results of this enlightened policy are everywhere apparent.
Arable acreage increased from 2,26,550 in 1884 to 3,11,634 in 1934.
The annual income of the State, which was less than 14 lacs of
rupees when His Highness became Ruler, exceeded 79 lacs in 1934.
Fifty years ago the cultivator, having despite all adverse
circumstances raised his crop , struggled to convey the produce to
market in primitive vehicles drawn with the greatest difficulty over
crude and marshy tracks. The Maharaja Shree has built 300 miles of
roads, 57 miles of municipal streets, innumerable culverts and
bridges that place Gondal in an enviable position among native State
in respect to transport routes.
The Maharaja Saheb of Gondal with the zeal of Caesar has developed
communication. There is a network of railways, owned by the State,
serving the more important parts of Gondal, and a well-organised
telephone system links the villages.
Urban development in the State of Gondal has been carried out on a
scale in every way compatible with country’s agricultural policy.
Pratically everything that can be devised to make the life of the
inhabitants, of both towns and villages, safe, healthy and
comfortable has been introduced, and even the casual observer must
at once be impressed by the clean and orderly appearance of the
streets, the number of stone-built houses in the villages and the
handsome – public. Many of the State and municipal buildings are
competitive in architectural quality with the most modern edifices
of a European capital.
Education and hygiene, as might be expected under a Ruler so
distinguished in scholarship and medicine, have throughout the
period of his administration been foremost in the Maharaja Thakore
Saheb’s schemes of development and reconstruction. He has done
much to dispel the cloud of illiteracy, which darkened the lives of
the people, and has himself compiled a lexicon of the Gujarati
language – a remarkable achievement for a Ruler who devotes so
much of his time to the details of administrative work and to the
personal welfare of his subjects. The latest feature of the Maharaja
Shree’s educational policy is the introduction of compulsory
female education. The number of schools in the State has increased
from 30 in 1884 to 191 in 1934 and scholars totaled 19,780 boys and
girls out of a population of more than 1,35,000 attended schools.
There is no space here to recount, even in the barest outline, the
full tale of benefits and amenities introduced by this Ruler, who,
having drunk deep at the wells of both Western and Oriental culture,
pledged himself to a programme of service which has turned out to be
more comprehensive, more constructive and more fruitful than even he
could have imagined fifty years ago.
Trade has prospered, poverty, disease and crime have ceased to be
insoluble problems, and unemployment does not exist. Throughout the
country are such modern urban features as electricity supply,
waterworks, public parks, well-aligned asphalted roads, playgrounds,
markets, hospitals and infirmaries; His Highness was the first to
start a traveling dispensary, as he was also a pioneer in the
development of railway enterprise. One of his most conspicuous
achievements was the establishment of a boarding college for the
sons of landowners – a class whose interests had hitherto run
counter to those of the ruling chiefs.
In a State where such prosperity reigns there has been no change in
the civil list expenditure for fifty years. The Maharaja Shree sets
his face against personal and public extravagance, and exemplifies
his policy by a frugal and unostentatious life, eschewing
magnificence for himself and mixing freely and simply with his
noteworthy to students of Eastern life, that the Maharaja Saheb of
Gondal is more accessible than many a business man in the Western
world; he will receive any of his people, rich or poor, and give for
the racial problems that beset so often and so sorely administrators
in the East, these have no incidence in Gondal, where Hindu and
Mohamedan live together in harmony.
His own words addressed on one occasion to “fellow natives of
Dhoraji”, best summarise the personal qualities of the great Ruler
in India. “Life” he said, “be it long or be it short, can have
no value for me unless I can be of some use to my people.” It is
this sentiment which has inspired and governed the administrative
acts of a long and distinguished career; which, by the light it
throws upon the spirit of the man himself, explains the reverence
and affection of a people for its Prince; and which, no doubt, will
make for Gondal and its Ruler a still more illustrious future.