Indian Maharajahs, their quirks and Rolls Royce cars - bewildering facts!! - 01

RR,Indian ruler. customized for luxury tiger hunting!

Indian  Maharajahs were  remarkably wealthy and their passion for fine, embellished palaces, expensive clothing and  jewelry (not to speak of several concubines)  visibly reflected their desire to  project their image of wealth and royal elegance.  Their honest intention was to get respect and recognition in the society. But, ultimately, the Indian rulers' over indulgence in luxury, ostentatious  life styles and flaunting of  their wealth  would  have attracted the attention of the foreigners, indirectly giving them an open invitation to take advantage of their frailties. This hastened  India’s plunderin
g and  eventual decline in prosperity far before independence.

In the later part of colonial days, the British introduced luxury cars to the status - conscious Indian rulers for fun, relaxation and travel in regal style. Under the British Raj, the Indian rulers, who lost much of their affluence, became materialistic, however, had enough dough to spend lavishly for their families' extravagant living  such as costly jewelry, diamonds, valuable gem stones, etc. Their passion for literary work, arts, etc., took a severe beating and saw a decline.  As far luxury cars in the late 1920s and 1930s, they were a no
velty for the Indian rulers. No other car had  ignited the curiosity of rich Indians  more than the Rolls Royce cars of England. The RR car's majesty and stunning look added  zest to its aura which is irresistible. When it zips past us, it never fails to leave its opulent trail of elegance. RR cars were synonymous with royalty and  aristocracy, so they were tagged as the symbol of status and  regal power. Obviously, RR had a special place among the elite who simply loved this car which had been the marque of choice.  

Maharajahs  and  Nawabs were impressed by their sturdy and stately look, engineering excellence, luxurious interiors, and decor, and bought them for ready cash, not a single

Rolls-Royce built in 1934 for the Maharaja of Rajkot The Telegraph

piece, but in batches of 2s and 4s worth their name and wealth to entertain their royal members  and European friends
. Before  independence in 1947, the Indian subcontinent now comprising  India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, had nearly 600 Princely states, each with its own maharajah, or prince. Imagine the total number of RR, they would have owned before partition. 

The following are the gripping facts about Indian Maharajahs' quirks and their passion for Rolls Royce cars:

01. The very first Rolls-Royce bought by a "native Indian prince" was the "Pearl of the East". Quite satisfied with its performance in various terrains,  it was purchased by the Maharajah of Gwalior after its record breaking trans-India runs in 1908. He himself  drove the car.  Soon the Indian rulers began to  follow him and ordered  exotic versions.

02.  According to writer Murad Ali Baig, who wrote a book "Rolls Royce and the Indian princes" more than 20,000 Rolls-Royce cars  were built before the First World War and about 20 per cent of them were for India; it has been estimated that, on an average, each Maharajah had 3·5 Rollers".  French Author Lapierre in his book 'Freedom at Midnight' pointed out  the same figure - on an average an Indian Maharajah owned 3.5 Rolls Royce cars.

03. There were about 230 ruling Maharajahs (excluding the minor ones), that meant they owned  about 900 cars between 1908 and 1939.

100 yr old,RR Silver Ghost, VI -2 Nizam,India

1912 Silver Ghost Throne car, Nizam's car

 04. The Hyderabad Nizam Osman Ali Khan, 7th Nizam (one of the richest men, but was a miser) with 12,000 employees in his palace had a fleet of 50 RR cars (citation needed). In 1911 the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad (now in Telengana) – Mehboob Ali Khan had a sort of throne car richly painted with gold mountings and and upholstered in gold silk brocade with matching curtains. He ordered RR Silver Ghost and it sent off to Bakers of Edinburgh to make  a very special body worthy of  Nizam. But, Mehboob

Ali Khan  was not alive to receive the Rolls Royce - "throne on wheels", so his son, Osman Ali Khan received it in 1912. Used for ceremonial purposes, the car rode only 356 miles during his 26-year rule!! Now, fully restored back to old charm, it is worth around £2.5 million now!!.

RR for tiger  hunting, used by Indian rulers. Narthaki

Bhupendar Singh driving Edward VIII,

 Above image: Maharajah of Patiala, Bhupendar Singh driving Edward VIII, Prince of Wales in his Rolls-Royce during the 1922 Patiala Visit ............

05. Among the Indian rulers, the Maharajah of Patiala  Bhupinder Singh (1900-1938) whose craze  for women was well-known (some one mentioned that he outshone the God of lust - Cupid) was the most famous patron of RR and owned nearly 27 of these luxury cars.

Owned by the Maharajah of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh

06. The Patiala ruler also had a German car Maybach that was donated to him by Adolph Hitler himself when the  ruler was on a visit to Germany in the early 1930s. When there was a royal outing, the RR cars would follow the ruler in a procession with pomp and show,  carrying his ten wives in grand style. It is believed that, besides, ten wives he had as many as  200 concubines and eighty-eight children!! Wow!! That is too much of  greed for a man.  

Mario Miranda's cartoon

07. This princely state in Punjab  lost the Kohinoor diamond and the world's largest red ruby to the British Crown when the latter took over the control of the state under the doctrine of subsidiary alliance. It was billed as an unjust move by the colonial power by the media as the ruler was a minor then.   

08. Here is yet another scoop about the flamboyant  Maharajah  of  Patiala. Once he had 27 RR besides other cars in hundreds. Unlike other rulers, he had to have  extra security  guards on duty while his RR-s went for tune-up or overhauling  because they were decorated with (hold your breath!!) precious stones and diamonds.

09. The credit goes to  the Maharajah of Baroda who was the first one to take delivery of the first RR car coming out of the assembly line after WWII. 

10. The Maharajah of Mysore, then the 2nd richest man in the world, when placing orders for RR opted for  multiples of 7  or 14  and even 28 at a time. From this, one can understand his vast wealth and money power of rulers like Mysore Maharajah. “Doing a Mysore” became the RR company's jargon meaning burying in bulk. 

11. The Maharajah of Kashmir also owned a special gold plated car that took him around the capital city Srinagar. 

12. Believe it or not,  Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali poet and philosopher, owned RR; the car is now kept in the Calcutta Museum.