Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Kashi Naresh : History Part 1

Important for us is the emergence of the Raja of Banaras as the regional ruler of the area. Bayly notes that, particularly during this period of political flux, the establishment after migration of the great agricultural clans of Bhumihars or Rajputs led to the creation of new commercial centers. Building on the model sketched by Richard Fox (1969), Bayly suggests that a two-stage process linked economic development to the political emergence of a raja from the previously democratic clan organization. Working from a relatively small estate.
(zamindari), between the 1730s and 1750s, this Bhumihar family( The caste name is usually transliterated in British sources Bhumihar or Bhuinhar. (We have ignored Platt's transliteration of Bhunhar, which may be based on a different regional pronunciation.) This twice-born caste enjoyed high status throughout north India; exercising much influence, particularly in the rural areas, its members were prominent landowners and tenants with very favorable terms. The family that became Rajas was headed, first, by Mansa Ram (1730–38) and then by his son Balwant Singh (1738–70). The longevity of Balwant Singh was doubtless significant in consolidating the power of the family. Chait Singh succeeded to the gaddi (throne, seat of authority) in 1770. The power of the dynasty also helped to entrench the power of the Bhumihar clan in the area. ) used its position as tax official for Awadh to become zamindar for most of Banaras province, and to gain the title of Raja. ( This was elevated to Maharaja in reward for loyalty during the 1857 Mutiny/Revolt. ) Functioning as the virtually independent regional-level ruler, it paid only a lump-sum tax or tribute to Awadh. What enabled the family to preserve this distance from Awadh was its own ability to profit from the changing economic and legal circumstances affecting control of land—particularly that introduced by the British (see Cohn 1960 for details)—as well as the interdependent relationship the family developed with the Banaras merchant-bankers for meeting Awadh's demand for tribute.
In recognition of the virtual independence of the Raja of Banaras, the British did not attempt to rule the area directly when they took Banaras over from the Nawab in 1775, but simply replaced Awadh as the national-level authority. Indeed, as a special mark of favor, the East India Company Governor-General, Warren Hastings, gave further rights to Raja Chait Singh, allowing him to coin money and administer penal justice ("A History," 1873:100–7). Hastings established a Resident there but did not interfere directly in the administration of Banaras until the pressures of war with France led him to make extortionate money demands on the Raja, who "rebelled" in 1781. Even then, the British simply replaced Chait Singh with his young relative, Mehip Narayan, whose claim to the throne was at least as compelling as Chait Singh's own. The rights to the mint and judicial functions were withdrawn, however, and by 1795 the Resident's administrative power had expanded greatly. This was symbolized by his permanent revenue settlement of the area and was officially recognized when the young and perhaps epileptic Raja signed away his independent authority to the East India Company in 1794. (His successor (Udit Narayan Singh, 1795–1835) unsuccessfully attempted to have the agreement set aside (Nevill 1909a:116). )
to be continued..........
Ranjan Rituraj Sinh , Gopalganj

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