In Lutyens’ Delhi today, there are numerous official or Sarkari buildings with peculiar names and connects. The Patiala House Court complex, today’s Northern Railway headquarters that was once the Baroda House, the National Green Tribunal- the old Faridkot House and the old Bahawalpur House which is now the National School of Drama and so on. Few people realize that these buildings were part of a British attempt to recreate the grand Mughal court in Delhi. When the British capital shifted to Delhi after the Delhi Durbar in 1911, the princely states were asked to make grand houses around the residence of the Viceroy, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and offered prime plots at very low prices.
The India of the early 19th and 20th century was divided into two parts: British India under direct administrative control of the government and crown in UK, and Princely India, covering about one-third of the British Empire in India, administered by the princes over centuries. Some of the princely states were larger than England. Gwalior for example was as large as Portugal! The revenues earned by them, the enviable fleet of cars they owned coupled with their extravagant lifestyles made headlines across the world. But despite their riches, these princes were in no way seen as equals to the British Crown. It is interesting to note that the King of England was addressed as King-Emperor while Indian Maharajas and Nawabs were known as Ruling Princes and Chiefs, and were considered as just ‘vassals’.
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