His Highness Maharaja Bahadur Dr Vibhuti Narayan Singh
Consequently, during the nineteenth century the British administered the Banaras region directly, with the ruling Bhumihar family occupying a vague position somewhere between that of large landlord and the ruler of a princely state ( For a delineation of the rights accorded to the Raja, and how they exceeded those available to ordinary large landholders) While the government officially maintained the distinction in status between Banaras and the other "native princes" ruling elsewhere in the subcontinent (these enjoyed legal status under the doctrine of "internal" or "limited sovereignty"), India Office administrators debated in the 1870s whether or not the characterization of Banaras as a "mere zamindary" was grossly misleading ("A History," 1873). Earlier studies have suggested that nineteenth-century direct rule by the British represented a collapsing of the levels of political authority from three to two; that the British came to represent both the national and the regional level of authority. ( The new interpretation of the political history of the Banaras region sketched here reflects a shift of focus from overtly political arenas to those expressed by cultural activities. This shift enables us to make different measurements about the extent of power and influence exercised by the dynasty within the political economy of the area. As a result, we argue that the Raja maintained an important politicocultural influence that kept alive the intermediate "regional" function within local society.)
But in 1910–11 the British government took the unusual action of creating a new princely state of Banarasinvesting the Maharaja with "full ruling powers" over the area encompassed within his zamindari. ( He was to receive a 15-gun salute, and could be received and visited by the Viceroy.)While retaining direct British rule in the city of Banaras, the British nevertheless recognized the Maharaja's cultural influence there by allowing him to retain his capital at Ramnagar (situated directly across the Ganges River, and the only other town of any size in the district). This decision to re-create the princely state was informed in part by early-twentieth-century British political concerns.
The move also, however, officially recognized the ongoing politicocultural influence possessed by that triad of collaborators—the Bhumihar dynasty, the Gosains, and the merchant-bankers. In turn, it also perpetuated this influence: in its unofficial and then official role as princely state, Banaras provided important patronage for Indian artists and intellectuals, as well as opportunities for talented Indian administrators. The Maharaja's council, for instance, reflected the confluence of mercantile, landowning, caste, and educational elite possessing what we refer to here as "Hindu merchant-style" culture (see below). Together the triad shaped this culture so successfully that it integrated those who resided in the city in a way that came to be virtually unparalleled in urban north India.
to be continued.......
Ranjan Rituraj Sinh , Gopalganj