Over zealous Gov. Gen. Warren Hastings and Raja Chait Singh - early colonial rule in India

During the early East India Company rule Raja Chait Singh (Raja Sri Chait Singh Sahib Bahadur) (died 29 March 1810 in Gwalior) son of Raja Balwant Singh was a ruler of Benares State (now part of Uttar Pradesh). Upon the demise of his father, Chait Singh, being the legal heir took over the administration of a Zamindari. At that point of time in the Eighteenth Century in north India, the Mogul  Empire and its influence were gradually fading into insignificance for various reasons. Since the time of Aurangzeb, there had been slow  disintegration of Mogul power  that gave rise to many small kingdoms.  With the gain of Bengal, the British Empire had begun to spread its tentacles to other parts of India. Thanks to Robert Clive who rose to the position of eminence through hard work, right war strategy and effective administration with limited resources. He laid the basic foundation for the British Empire and later Warren Hastings, a dedicated servant of ESI further strengthened the foundation upon which the empire was built.  The power of the British East India Company was growing by leaps and bounds and the resources from India helped Britain come out of economic doldrums.  The British economy began to show quick upward mobility and India became its cash cow. Warren Hastings became an effective administrator and took keen interest in Indian society, thus winning the heart of the natives. 

Chait Singh. adhikaranjanmarxist.blogspot

Chait Singh's father Balwant Singh  was a zamindar and enjoyed the title of Raja. But the Rajas were formally under the control of the Nawob of Awadh (Oudh). Since the EIC had a hold on the Nawab, he was unable to exercise  total suzerainty over the zamindari. EIC advised the Nawob to recognize Chat Singh as Zamindar in 1773. Having become annoyed with too much interference by the British company in the internal affairs of the kingdom, the Nawob
in 1775  transferred the domain to the Company under the direct control of the Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings (6 December 1732 – 22 August 1818). The Nawob  died in the same year.

Arrest of ChaiSingh. alamy.com/

Above image: Arrest of the Rajah of Benares, Chait Singh, August 1781. Benares, India present day Varanasi, also known as Banaras.  It was initiated by Warren Hastings, it was a sort of political vendetta on the part of Hastings.  ......................................

In accordance with fresh terms and conditions, Chait Singh who became the ruler of Benares,  had to  contribute cavalry and maintenance grants for the Company's Sepoy battalions. The British company, as per the agreement, could raise the  cost of maintenance of the British army at any time. This put the ruler at a disadvantage, considering his limited revenue from his kingdom. Warren Hastings put one Thomas Graham as  British Resident and  demanded exorbitant grant from the ruler- a sum of 2.3 million rupees plus tax rupees - five lakhs. The British company needed money to meet the war expenses in Madras. Till 1779, Chait Singh paid the huge sum with considerable difficulty.   Chait Singh in 1780 began experiencing financial crunch. In the meantime Chait Singh could not provide them with needed troops and in 1781 Warren Hastings and his officials paid a visit to Chait Singh. It was rumored  Hastings and his other officials received several lakhs of rupees from Chait Singh as bribes. The British, who  scented the secret plan of Chait Singh to protest against the company, stripped him off his position and placed him under house arrest in August 1781.

East India Co. Gov. Gen. Warren Ha
OPEN Magazine

In this regard Warren Hastings' action became a serious issue in his later years when facing corruption charges in the British Parliament. He escaped from his confinement using turbans as a rope and sought the help of local rulers to go after the British company. None wanted to antagonize the EIC. With limited troops, he made a futile attempt to cow down the British forces. 

The British  confiscated  the Zamindari and gave it to  to his nephew  Raja Sri Mahip Narayan Singh Sahib Bahadur on 14 September 1781.

Chait Singh took refuge in Awadh, and then Gwalior, where he was granted a Jagir for a while,  for unknown reasons, it was  later confiscated. Once holding a vast power and title of "Raja"Chait Singh died in obscurity in Gwalior on 29 March 1810 leaving behind  three sons; he lived in exile for 30 long years. The incident greatly damaged Hastings' image and capability, leading to a failed attempt to impeach him by the British Parliament. His action in haste and lack of discretion in the matter of Chait Singh and the Begums of Awadh, etc.,   eclipsed his excellent contribution to the consolidation of the British Empire. By nature, Warren Hastings was a courteous man and began his career at the bottom of the rung and moved up in the company by establishing his ability and excellent strategy and management skill.  The impeachment trial lasted for seven  long years with Edmund Burke leading the prosecution. Many of the evidences were framed up and certain accusations in respect of administration lapses and misjudgement  did not warrant  punishments. In 1795, Hastings was acquitted as many evidences were inconclusive. In 1813, he was given standing ovation when he gave evidence on  his proposed new Legislation about India.  He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1814. After his solid contribution to the British Empire, not withstanding the unfortunate impeachment trial, he led a comfortable semi-retirement life and died at the ripe age of 85. There is a simple memorial in Daylesford  (Gloucestershire, England) churchyard.


01. Raja Sri Mahip Narayan Singh Sahib Bahadur, 
on 14 September 1781 succeeded his maternal uncle Chait Singh under the terms of the British East India Company.  He had the power  to dispense justice within his domains and make an annual contribution of 40 lakhs.

02. A carved stone from Chait Singh's palace was taken to 
Cossimbazar and set in the palace of the Maharajah of that place.

03. Warren Hastings took keen interest in India and  learned about Indian culture. He said,  “I love India a little more than my own country.” He understood the value of Sanskrit and made it popular.  He was fluent in Bengali, had a fairly good working knowledge of Urdu and Persian.

04. It was warren Hastings who brought to light the classical works in Hinduism and Buddhism that were neglected during the Muslim rule.

05. In 1784, along with Sir William Jones he founded Asiatic Society in Calcutta which became a cultural center for Sanskrit and related Indian subjects.

06. Besides, he encouraged the translation of the Bhagavad Gita and he himself wrote a fine introduction (4 October 1784).

07. Warren Hastings was the first Gov. General of India who touched on the subject of racial equality before the British government. He also impressed on them that India was culturally and intellectually was well advanced.

08.Carved stone from Chait Singh's palace was later taken and incorporated into the palace of the Maharaja of Cossimbazar