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With reference to “Commoners and Kings” (April 14), the story of Bikaner House would not be complete without the man who built it—Sir Ganga Singh, Bikaner’s then Maharaja and one of the most outstanding members of the princely order. He was outstanding because of his attainments in his state as also his leadership of the princely fraternity. He built the Gang canal that brought waters of the Sutlej from Ferozepur, Punjab, to his state, creating an oasis, a granary in a part of the Thar Desert. As a leader of the princely order he was the founder chancellor of the Chamber of Princes. He was the signatory on behalf of princely India to the Treaty of Versailles which brought an end to World War I.
Singh was also an outright autocrat and a believer in the indispensability of the princely order in the Indian set-up. His memorable words as its advocate (quoted by Nehru in his autobiography) are: “We the rulers of Indian states are not soldiers of fortune. We... through centuries of heredity can claim to have inherited instincts to rule and… certain measure of statesmanship and should time unfortunately come... when the Crown is unable to afford (us)... the necessary protection, the princes and states will die fighting to the bitter end.” Ganga Singh was an eminent person but with poor foresight. He died in 1943, and within four years, emerged Vallabhbhai Patel, who wiped out the princely order from the map of India, without any of the princes dying to protect it.
R C Mody