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This is the first of three volumes studying the more than 400 erstwhile Indian Princely States (IPS) now integrated into Gujarat. Gujarat was formed after independence from parts of British India like Surat and Ahmedabad and what was then labeled Baroda, Gujarat, Kathiawar, Kutch, and Western India. These states ranged from a large progressive state Baroda with a population of 2,433,077 in 1931 to Bilbari in the Dangs with a population of 27. Somehow the whole area has not garnered close scrutiny or much interest. For example, it still surprises many Westerners to learn that most of the Rajput States were here and not in Rajasthan.
The historical discourse on India often ignores the IPS or describes their rulers only as ‘Oriental despots’ or ‘puppets’ who participated in spectacles and receiving honors which gave the Raj an aura of invulnerability and permanence. At the same time, the British system of changing the groupings of states and their relationship to the Government of India and the Bombay Government as well as attaching smaller states to larger ones gives the false impression that the British were omnipotent and omniscient.
The articles in these volumes show that Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III and other rulers were guardians of tradition, promoted social and cultural values, and were important political actors. Some tried to insist that British control was limited and even that they had entered relationships with the British on equal voluntary terms. Study of the honors system and state postal systems shows how these could be used to enhance princely legitimacy and power. Even after independence, many members of the royal families continued to engage in politics.