Extravagant, Luxurious and Funny Lifestyles of Erstwhile Dogra Rulers of Jammu and Kashmir

Extravagant, Luxurious and Funny Lifestyles of Erstwhile Dogra Rulers of Jammu and Kashmir
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M J Aslam

On 16-03-1846, the British Rulers of India sold the territory of Kashmir with its all dependencies for 75 thousand Nanak Shahi rupees to Maharaja Gulab Singh Dogra of Jammu vide infamous Treaty of Amritsar. Considering the total population at that time of “all the hilly or mountainous country”, every living human soul of Kashmir was sold vide the said sale instrument for 7-7.25 Nanak Shahi rupees. The Dogra dynasty was most notorious for its atrocious cruelties inflicted on Muslim subjects of J&K right from Gulab Singh (1846-1857)-Ranbir Singh (1857-1885)-Pratap Singh (1885-1925)-Hari Singh (1925-1947) Dogra Hindu rulers.
Apart from their dark despotism, which we shall take up separately, the Dogra rulers have also notoriety in history of J&K for the luxurious and extravagant lives they lived. Unlike that of any other prince of British India, they had been squandering away huge part of public exchequer on their extravagant and lavish lifestyles. Pratap Singh was not good at studies right from his childhood, although one [civil] college at Srinagar and one [military] college at Jammu are after his name. We will mention here of few episodes that depict his ‘qualities” of lavishly luxurious and funny way of life.
Once Mahraja Pratap Singh decided to play a cricket match against British Residents Eleven. He formed a team among his advisers and officers with himself as captain. He was a dwarf. He had worn a very loose Pagdi (turban) on his head. The Pagdi was embedded with strings of hanging precious jewels. A good number of multi-coloured diamond necklaces worth millions hung around his thick neck. A blue coloured English cut-coat upto knees and white colour pantaloon and boats added a joker’s look to the decorated Pratap Singh. As he was roly-poly, or thick and short in size and length, he looked quite oddly laughable in that dress when he came to bat on green grass of Amar Singh Club. [Note: Amar Singh Club/Grounds were developed and named by Hari Singh Dogra in 1933 after his father’s name. But prior to that it was also a big ground or park in Sonawar a part of which was subsequently developed and changed into Amar Singh Club and so, reference to the venue here is for specification only to the same ground which is named as Amar Singh Club ground where local matches are played till date]
The “deliberate” slow bowing action and style of the bowler of English Residents Eleven Team was something to cause definitely ripples in the spectators’ bodies but for respect to His Highness, they had been apparently controlling their cackles or laughter. The bowler was not bowling but throwing bowl too gently towards His Highness as if a toy or a Ladoo was directed towards a toddler. But Pratap Singh, the captain batsman, was getting bowled on each “mock-delivery”. Every time, Pratap Singh getting clean bowled, and the umpire raising his finger with Loud Voice, No-Ball, was adding charm to the royal match, as each No-Ball meant the royal/shahi-score -board increasing by one run, every time.
Among the multiple lavish expenditure of Pratap Singh’s royal court was a “Tati-Pun” toilet-charge on Khazana/public exchequer. Three royal court attendants had a duty of washing, wiping and cleaning Pratap Singh’ s butt each time he attended to answer the call of nature in his royal toilet. A very costly muslin cloth of that time called “chatees ki malmal” was used by the court servants for cleaning the “private part” of Pratap Singh. A fresh roll of it was used for cleaning and drying. Holding it at its two ends, the roll was unfolded by two servants in the veranda of the palace. After His Highness answered the call of nature, the unfolded roll of “chatees ki malmal” was carefully moved in between two thick legs of His Highness. The third attendant in waiting holding silver gudvi (lota) in hand would gently pour water at ” exact right spot” that His Highness would make ready for the attendants by bending his body. The two servants holding “chatees ki malmal” roll at two opposite ends would then move it to and fro like two sawyers (arikash) till washing, wiping and cleaning of His Highness’s bottom was completely done. Thereafter, the costly but used-muslin cloth was taken by three royal court servants as a free royal gift for themselves.
It is also famous that sometimes dewdi-wazir or the minister-in-waiting of His Highness was “deliberately” mixing purging croton or jamalgota in milk of the monarch because he was getting lion’s share in the royal bounty of very costly muslin cloth of those times. He was shrewdly doing it so that His Highness would go to the toilet as many times as possible necessitating storing of maximum stock of muslin cloth rolls at the royal court readily available for the purpose. In this way, all unused and spare muslin cloth rolls were taken by the minister-in-waiting while three attendants were sharing used ones
Pratap Singh’s heir to the throne, Hari Singh, too was also squandering away wealth in extravagant and lavish manner by showering largesse on women of easy virtues like top prostitutes and society girls in Paris and London. It is recorded in several historical books that Hari Singh Dogra was frequently traveling to London and Paris for squandering away wealth on the mentioned things. This amoral and wholesome lifestyle of Hari Singh caused huge gaps of communication between him and his subjects, “so to say, he lived in an ivory tower surrounded by his few favourites having no personal contact with the people”. Hari Singh’s long absences from the State, for the said reasons, were exploited by local Bataas/Pandits and Dogra officers mostly against his Muslim subjects. Given to a life of luxury and carrying huge wealth in his suitcases on foreign tours, the police had to give him double cover. Once in 1918, while staying in Douglas Castle in Scotland, attempts were made to rob him at gun point and in 1921 he issued a cheque of £ 1, 50,000 to a prostitute which landed him in a court case. For Hari Singh›s such immoral behaviours, Sir John Simmons, reputed lawyer, while pleading his case before the English court, described him as ‹poor wretch›.
Source: Shahabnama by Qudratullah Sahab, Kashmiris-Fight for Freedom by ex-CJ M Y Saraf, of AK, Shabnum Qayoom’s Kashmir History & etc.

—The author can be reached at: mjaslam09@gmail.com

One Response to "Extravagant, Luxurious and Funny Lifestyles of Erstwhile Dogra Rulers of Jammu and Kashmir"

  1. SKChadha   May 10, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Mr. M J Aslam, either you have no idea about history of Kashmir or trying to deceive Kashmir citizenry by accusing Dogras and their rule by using a universal word, azadi, to push a narrow, religious demand. Kashmiris have no confusion about what this azadi means i.e. Mughaliya Rule in valley with ideal Sunni state. The slogan of Azadi “Maa azaadi mekhwaahaem, Maa azaadi mekhwaahaem” is over five centuries old and was against Mughaliya Rule. Today the same Mughaliya Rulers of 3 & half districts of valley are jumping with this slogan with Pakjabi (Saudi) support and all other are jovially watching it. The terrorism in the subcontinent and even in valley is the monopoly of such thinkers? There is just a token Shia among Azadi Brigade in Kashmir and Hurr Phurrs are mainly of this Jamat. If any Kashmiri desires freedom and democracy, how he can support Mirwaiz Throne at the age of 17, Soud Rule in KSA? Isn’t it against the basic tenets of Sunni thoughts of ancestral control of religion?

    Surprisingly for you, the idea of freedom (democracy) unfolding from valley, has its genesis from sectarian undertone of Mughaliya Rule of valley and not from Dogra Rule? Are you giving such freedom in valley to Quadianis, Lahoris, Ismilies etc.? It is irony of Kashmir that all pro-freedom voices centered in valley, won’t agreeable to give Azadi to their own lesser brothers even for Ashura Processions/ unfurling Tricolor at LalChowk, GarWaapsi of KPs or holding seminar by Ahmadi at SKICC? The entire world is watching this drama jovially since years. Don’t try to teach wrong history to all.

    The “FREEDOM” in democracy is ‘a safety valve’ for releasing pressure of anger by people against their own elected leaders. IT IS NOTHING MORE. It is only to vent out feelings and SENTIMENTS without fear or favour and think betterment of entire society in orderly manner. However, any FREEDOM in society comes with REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS for common good, which is to be decided by the same elected representatives? Expression of sentiments freely (as in valley) doesn’t make them governing norms of a nation. The freedom of expression has no scope of intimidation, violence, force, incitement or public disorder against anybody including the State.