Indian Independence

A Changing World

In 1947, India won independence from British rule, and most princes willingly signed the Instrument of Accession, by which their territories were integrated into the new nation-states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

In both countries, the princes initially retained their status, and some continued to play a political role. The Constitution of India had guaranteed the princes their privileges and a “privy purse” (allowance), but they were stripped of these benefits by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1971.

Faced with escalating costs and declining incomes, many princes were forced to sell their assets. Yet the maharajas have survived, adapting to changed circumstances as they did under the Mughals and the British.

Although some have become impoverished, others have prominent political careers; some maharajas have transformed their palaces into hotels, opened their collections as museums, initiated wildlife and heritage conservation programs, and more.

Many maharajas remain potent symbols of regional identity and continue to exercise their royal duty, acting as guardians of the remarkable culture of India’s royal courts.