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Maharajas protest too

July 7th, 2010

I have to admit that the idea of working on another Maharaja post was the farthest thing on my mind after the G20 and its accompanying protests blew through downtown Toronto. Like many of us, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about what protest means to me.

Maharaja of Baroda

Maharaja of Baroda, V&A

This also got me thinking of the maharajas before India’s independence (don’t worry, I’m adding how their subjects perceived them to my growing list of follow-up posts!).  There were many instances of rulers butting against the limits of their power due to their subservient position to the British.

Sometimes rebellion was overt such as the famous Indian Mutiny of 1857 (aka The First Indian War of Independence aka The Great Rebellion aka The Sepoy Mutiny) which included only a few rajas (and one rani). They rallied with Indian soldiers of the British army who had started the uprising. There was even an ill-fated march to Delhi to join up with the reigning Mughal Emperor whose once illustrious family had built the Taj Mahal. The final result was that legislation was passed in Britain to end the East India Company who had first gained control and transfer power to the crown. The era of The Raj had begun.

Others were more discreet like the Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda who during the 1911 Delhi Durbar upset the colonial masters by not providing King George V the proper ‘obeisance’. He did not wear his full honours and after presenting himself to his King-Emperor, he chose to do the unconscionable, by turning his back to the British monarch.

And of course, they were many who did nothing at all.

Piali Roy is a Toronto freelance writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at

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One Response to “Maharajas protest too”

  1. Lannon787 says:

    spare us….give me the old toronto…pre-trudeau…he opened the flood gates and no one can close them

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