Maharaja Hira Singh

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Samadh of Maharaja Hira Singh

Maharaja Sir Hira Singh (1843 - 1911), born on 19 December 1843, the son of Sukkha Singh of Badrukkhari, ascended the throne of Nabha state on 10 August 1877.


Nabha State had in 1808 been party to a treaty with the British which provided the state with British protection from the Maharaja of Lahore, Ranjit Singh who, Raja Jaswant Singh thought had designs on his kingdom, part of the Pulkian misl, which included the kingdoms of Patiala and Jind. But during the Anglo-Sikh war, the Maharaja of Nabha, by treaty an ally of the British, in 1845 witheld supplies from the British. Sensing that Maharaja Devinder Singh's loyalties (he was the son of the ruler who had sought British protection) were with his cis-Sutlege Sikh brothers they deposed him and placed his son Bharpur Singh on the Gaddi in 1847 (Devinder Singh died in British confinement in 1865).

When Bharpur Singh died issueless without adopting or appointing an heir the British rather than appointing a replacement themselves were politically wise enough to invite the Rulers of the other Phulkian states, the Maharajas of Patiala and Jind, to select a new heir to the throne. Bhagwan Singh, the younger brother of Bharpur Singh, was invested with the khillat in 1864. He, inturn, died issueless without an heir in 1871. Invited again to choose the kingdom's new ruler, the rulers of Patiala and Jind chose a collateral (related by marriage) relative, Hira Singh.

Stability comes to Nabha

Hira Singh, provided the stability his kingdom had been missing, ruling for forty years he did much for the welfare of the people of Nabha and for Sikhs in general. He despatched contingents of troops to fight in most of the major frontier campaigns. For his services the British rewarded the Maharaja with many honours, including in 1880, the titles of Raja-i-Rajgan (King of Kings) and Maharaja and an annual allowance of 4 lakh and 10 thousand (410,000) rupees a year.

The Raja-i-Rajgan's Sewa to Nabah

As Guru Gobind Singh once declared himself the servant of the Khalsa the generous Maharaja served his kingdom and its people's interests well. Among his many acts of generosity he provided funds for the establishment of the Khalsa Printing Press at Lahore, supported the Khalsa College at Amritsar and promoted the reformist (Anand) form of Sikh marriage.

On a trip to Rawalpindi the Maharaja, traveling with his assistant the noted Sikh scholar Bhai Kahn Singh, met with the British writer and author Max Arthur McAuliffe who sought permission from the Maharaja to allow Bhai Kahn Singh to teach him about the Sikh religion. Subsequently with the Maharaja's patronage, McAuliffe spent many winters in Nabha and summers in the Hill Stations with Bhai Kahn Singh studying the Sikh religion, history and Gurmukhi. McAuliffe's Book, The Sikh Religion was published in 1907.

The Maharaja prompted Bhai Kahn Singh (a tutor of his only son, Tikka [heir apparent] Ripudaman Singh) to write Raj Dharam his first work at the age of 23. His Hum Hindu Nahin (We are not Hindus) written in response to legal rulings that Sikhs were Hindus played an important role in the Singh Sabha movement.

Maharaja Hira Singh was one of the ablest of Nabha's rulers, wise, liberal and pious. Legends about his justice and munificence are still current in the countryside. He died at Nabha on 25 December 1911 and was succeeded by his son, Maharaja Ripduman Singh.


1. Griffin, Lepd, The Rajas of the Punjab. Delhi, 1977

2. Ganda Singh, The Patiala and East Punjab Stales Union. Patiala, 1957

3. Harhans Singh, The Heritage of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1983

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