Benevolent Native Rulers of India – Sayajirao Gaekwad

We have many native rulers who ruled India. But, only a few among them are very kind-hearted. One such ruler is Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda state (Vadodara). To know about his generosity, let us read this article.

Sayajirao Gaekwad III Alias Shrimant Gopalrao Gaekwad

Sayajirao was born at Kavlana on 10th March 1863. The original name of Sayajirao was Shrimant Gopalrao Gaekwad. He is the second son of Meherban Shrimant Kashirao Bhikajirao Gaekwad and Shrimant Akhand Soubhagyavati Ummabai Sahib.

Maharaja of Baroda

Baroda which is also known as Vadodara was a state of Gujarat. This state was ruled by many maharaja’s of Gaekwad dynasty and Sayajirao Gaekwad III is one of the Maharaja’s of Baroda from 1875 to 1939. He is remembered by the people for reforming much of his state during his rule.

How Sajajirao became the Maharaja of Baroda?

Before Sayajirao, Sir Khanderao Gaekwad was the Maharaja of Baroda from 1856 and his wife was Maharani Jamnabai. With the sudden death of Khanderao the throne of Baroda became vacant. So, Maharani Jamnabai called heads of the extended branches of dynasty to come to Baroda. She said that they have to present themselves along with their sons to decide upon their successor.

As a part of it, Kashirao and his three sons, Anandrao (1857-1917), Gopalrao (1863-1938) and Sampatrao (1865-1934) went to Baroda from Kavlana which is at a distance of 600 Kms from Baroda. They had presented themselves before Jamnabai. When each son of the Kashirao were asked about the purpose of presenting themselves at Baroda, one among them Gopalrao stated, “I have come here to rule”, without any hesitation. With this, the British Government selected Gopalrao as the successor. Accordingly, Maharani Jamnabai adopted Gopalrao on 27 May 1875, and he was given a new name called “Sayajirao”. This is how Sayajirao (Alias Gopalrao) became the Maharaja of Baroda state and ruled the region from 1875-1939. He had a long term of ruling for almost sixty years in Baroda. He was proven extremely fruitful for the people of Baroda.

Benevolent ruler cum social reformer

Besides being a benevolent ruler, Sayajirao was also a great social reformer of India. He tried to reform Hindu society with his ideas on two major social issues – the caste system and the status of women. The problem of untouchables and caste system of Hinduism always pained the Maharaja. So, during his rule of modernization, he recognized the talent and brilliance of the people and promoted them in education and training, who in his opinion would shine in life. He is the first Indian ruler to introduce free and compulsory education in the state of Baroda.

How Maharaja helped Dr. B. R. Ambedkar?

Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda had once announced scholarship for higher studies in abroad to any promising untouchable student. By hearing this B. R. Ambedkar was sent to Maharaja Sayajirao by his father. Ambedkar told about his position to Sayajirao. Then, Maharaja asked him several questions; the answers given by Ambedkar made him impressed and provided the scholarship of 25 dollars per month to Ambedkar, towards his college education.

Later, Maharaja thought of sending some brilliant students to abroad for higher studies at Columbia University. Then, he decided to send Ambedkar along with three other students for higher education to abroad. As part of it, Bhimrao Ambedkar was called to Baroda. On June 4, 1913, he was asked to sign an agreement before the Deputy Minister for Education of the Baroda State. He signed the agreement to devote his time to study the prescribed subjects and also to serve the Baroda state, after the completion of his studies for ten years. Gaekwad was certainly responsible in sanctioning a stipend for Ambedkar’s study in America through the Baroda State Education Department.

Ambedkar served Baroda

  • After passing his B.A. examination in 1912, in January 1913 Ambedkar came to the Baroda State Forces and served the state for fifteen days as Lieutenant. Later, he was appointed as a member of the state legislative assembly.
  • In 1933, Satisfied by the progress of Ambedkar, Sayajirao made him the leader of downtrodden classes.
  • Though Maharaja helped him financially, Ambedkar’s experience as an officer in Baroda state service was not happy, because the officers of upper castes were over dominating. So, he prepared to resign and leave Baroda. But, during that time Sayajirao was helpless.

This is how Sayajirao served the people of Baroda and attained a good name as one of the beloved Maharaja of Gaekwad dynasty.

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