Funny, Extravagant And Luxurious Lifestyles Of Kashmir’s Dogra Despots

Seal of Maharaja Hari Singh on the cover of the Civil List

On 16-03-1846, the British Rulers of India sold the territory of Kashmir with its all dependencies for 75 Lakh Nanak Shahi rupees to Maharja 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. 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, some time, the Dogra rulers have also notoriety in history of J&K for the funny & luxurious 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 funny & lavish lifestyles. Gulab Singh, the founder of Dogra despotic rule in Kashmir, had immeasurable greed for money so much so that anyone could get his ear to his petition by holding up a rupee in his hand & crying out “Maharaj Arz Hai” [Maharaja, petition] & he would immediately swoop on the rupee like an eagle. But once it happened that a person, before Gulab Singh would pounce down on the rupee in his hand, immediately closed his fist & asked Maharaja to hear him first. Gulab Singh had all patience to listen him till he completed his petition & opened his fist to allow Gulab Singh to take rupee.

Pratap Singh was not good at studies right from his childhood, although one [civil] college at Srinagar & one [military] college at Jammu are after his name. We will mention here of few episodes that depict his ‘qualities” of lavishly luxurious & 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 & officers with himself as caption. He was 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-colour diamond necklaces worth millions hung around his thick neck. A blue colour English cut-coat upto knees & white colour pantaloon & boats added joker’s look to the decorated Pratap Singh. As he was roly-poly, or thick & short in size & 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 & 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 & changed into Amar Singh Club & 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 & 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 cackle or laugh. 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 & 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 & 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. 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 & fro like two sawyers ( arikash) till washing, wiping & 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 among themselves.

It is also famous that sometimes dewdi-wazir or 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 & 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 & Paris for squandering away wealth on the mentioned things. This amoral & wholesome lifestyle of Hari Singh caused huge gaps of communication between him & 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 & Dogra officers mostly against his Muslim subjects. Given to a life of luxury & 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 & 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’.






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