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Indian Princely States

Last modified: 2024-05-11 by ian macdonald
Keywords: india | princely states |
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The states ordered alphabetically

Below, the states are ordered alphabetically, including those for which the number of guns is unknown.


The main source is A. Filcher (1984), Drapeaux et Armoiries des Etats princiers de l'Empire des Indies (Flags and Arms of the Princely States of the Empire of the Indies), Dreux, 1984, Neubecker (1992), Ziggioto (1998)

Other sources of information on the Indian princely states include:

  • Charles Allen and Sharada Dwivedi
    Lives of the Indian Princes
    London: Century Publishing, 1984
    ISBN 0-7126-0910-5

  • or, if you crave a set of more "academic" things:
    Robin Jeffrey, ed.
    People: Princes, and Paramount Power: Society and Politics in the Indian Princely States
    Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1978
    ISBN ??? 19-560886-0

  • When it comes out, the volume on the Princes by Barbara Ramusack in the New Cambridge History of India (Cambridge Univ. Press, sometime "soon"?) will be good.

  • As a more general background, the choices are mostly all bad. The whole "Dissipate Maharaja" genre is dominant and useless (unless you want unfounded tales of sex and degradation, but we learn little about the states).

Ed Haynes, 3 April 1996, 9 July 1996

Other sources are:

And several books I have in PDF

"A Gazetteer of the Territories under the Government of the East India Company and of the Native States on the Continent of India" by Edward Thornton Esq. [1858]

"An Historical Sketch of the Native States of India in Subsidiary Alliance with the British Government" by Colonel G.B. Malleson C.S.I. [1875]

"Ancient and Modern India" by W. Cooke Taylor L.L.D. and revised Third Edition by P.J. MacKenna Esq. [1857]

"Geography or First Division of The English Cyclopaedia" Volume III by Charles Knight [1867]

"Memorandum on the Census of British India of 1871-1872" [1875]

"Report on the Census of British Burma taken in August 1872" [1875]

"The British Colonies - British India" by R. Montgomery Martin Esq. [no year is given, but it is after 1853]

"The Modern History of the Indian Chies, Rajas, Zamindars etc. - Native States" by Loke Nath Ghose [1879]

"The Native Chiefs and their States in 1877" by G.R. Aberigh-MacKay [1878]

The books are not flags or heraldry collections, but I used them for better understanding the system and for historical or political facts.

Vanja Poposki, 29 October 2020

Definitions of states

Definitions of terms:


A jagir was technically a feudal life estate, as the grant reverted to the state upon the jagirdar's death. However, in practice, jagirs became hereditary to the male lineal heir of the jagirdar. The family was thus the de facto ruler of the territory, earned income from part of the tax revenues and delivered the rest to the treasury of the state during the Islamic rule period, and later in parts of India that came under Afghan, Sikh and Rajput rulers. The jagirdar did not act alone, but appointed administrative layers for revenue collection.
This feudal system of land ownership is referred to as the jagirdar system. The system was introduced by the Sultans of Delhi from the 13th century onwards, was later adopted by the Mughal Empire, and continued under the British East India Company.
Some Hindu jagirdars were converted into Muslim vassal states under Mughal imperial sway, such as the Nawwabs of Kurnool. Most princely states of India during the colonial British Raj era were jagirdars. Shortly following independence from the British Crown in 1947, the jagirdar system was abolished by the Indian Government in 1951.
The Supreme Court of India used the following definition of jagir in a 15 April 1955 judgment:
The word 'jagir' connoted originally grants made by Rajput Rulers to their clansmen for military services rendered or to be rendered. Later on grants made for religious and charitable purposes and even to non-Rajputs were called jagirs, and both in its popular sense and legislative practice, the word jagir came to be used as connoting all grants which conferred on the grantees rights in respect of land revenue, and that is the sense in which the word jagir should be construed in Article 31-A.


The territory of land under the control of a Thakur was called thikana. Thakur is a historical feudal title of the Indian subcontinent. It is also used as a surname in the present times. The female variant of the title is Thakurani or Thakurain, also used to describe the wife of a Thakur. the title Thakur was used to refer to "a man of intermediate but mid–level caste, usually implying a landowning caste". Wadley further notes that Thakur was viewed as a "more modest" title in comparison to Raja (King). Some academics have suggested that Thakur was merely a title and not an office whereby a holder was entitled to wield some power in the state". However, some other academics have noted that this title had been used by "petty chiefs" in the western areas of Himachal Pradesh.
The title was used by rulers of several princely states, Some Thakurs were recognised with hereditary 9-gun salutes.


A zamindar, zomindar, zomidar, or jomidar, was an autonomous or semiautonomous ruler of a state who accepted the suzerainty of the Emperor of Hindustan. The term means land owner in Persian. Typically hereditary, zamindars held enormous tracts of land and control over their peasants, from whom they reserved the right to collect tax on behalf of imperial courts or for military purposes.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, with the advent of British imperialism, many wealthy and influential zamindars were bestowed with princely and royal titles such as Maharaja (Great King), Raja (King) and Nawab.
During the Mughal Empire, zamindars belonged to the nobility and formed the ruling class. Under British Colonial rule, the permanent settlement consolidated what became known as the zamindari system. The British rewarded supportive zamindars by recognising them as princes. Many of the region's princely states were pre-colonial zamindar holdings elevated to a greater protocol. However, the British also reduced the land holdings of many pre-colonial princely states and chieftaincy, demoting their status to a zamindar from previously higher ranks of nobility.
The system was abolished during land reforms in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1950, India in 1951 and West Pakistan in 1959.
Unlike the autonomous or frontier chiefs, the hereditary status of the zamindar class was circumscribed by the Mughals, and the heir depended to a certain extent on the pleasure of the sovereign. Heirs were set by descent or a times even adoption by religious laws. Under the British Empire, the zamindars were to be subordinate to the crown and not act as hereditary lords, but at times family politics was at the heart of naming an heir. At times, a cousin could be named an heir with closer family relatives present; a lawfully wedded wife could inherit the zamindari if the ruling zamindar named her as an heir.

Valentin Poposki, 1 November 2020