Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Raja Shamsher Prakash- The Reformer King of Nahan

1. Rajah Shamsher Prakash
Among the galaxy of the rulers of Sirmour, Raja Shamsher Prakash occupies the most prestigious place in the annals of the history among the erstwhile princely state of Himachal Pradesh. The calan of Rajputs of Sirmur were known to be the fierce warriors. Before becoming a protectorate of the British India they maintained their independence.

The erstwhile princely state of Sirmur was an independent kingdom founded in 1616. Presently it is located in the Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. It is also called Nahan due to the capital town of same name. The state was ruled by the Rajput chiefs who used the title of Rajah. 

He was a pioneer of the most extensive administrative and social reforms. The historic town of Nahan is a living tribute to the memory of the great ruler. The state rapidly and remarkably progressed under Raja Sir Shamsher Parksh, G.C.S.I.
He built the roads, dispensaries, post and telegraph offices and carried out revenue and forest settlements. He abolishes the forced labor or Begar from the state.

Born in Nahan in May 1842, Raja Shamaher Prakash was the son of Raja Raghuvir Prakash. While only three months old, he showed and uncommon ability to keep himself amused with his thoughts. At the age of six his favorite toy was a sword. His education was anything more than reading and writing Urdu and Hindi with some grammar and arithmetic. His English tutor and spiritual guide were Pundit Krishan Lal Bahadur and Pundit Devi Chand respectively. 

Once Rajah Raghuvir Prakash was on a way to Dehradoon on a hunting trip, but the officials wanted him at Nahan. The King ordered for his favorite palanquin. The officials directed the Kahars or the carriers if they failed to reach Nahan by the evening they will be beheaded. This episode was taken to heart by the young prince. He read the history of the world and the lives of the great men influenced him. He replaced the illiterate officials with English educated men. 

Shamsher Prakesh ascended the throne in 1856. At that time he was only 40 years old. His policy was to Angalicise the administrarion. He extensively toured the country to acquaint himself with the finer parts of administration. He realized that the law was above the ruler and the best law to enforce was the British law. He ordered six law books in Urdu for use in his court. He proclaimed that the justice would be carried out strictly in accordance with the laws of the government and not as the King or the officials pleased. 

The process of organization of the State Department was pursued and codified- rules were framed and enforced and the records were maintained in English. Urdu knowing clerks were replaced by those knowing English. The Ijlas Khas was rechristened as Head Office and every branch was places under a secretary. 

The Rajah remained loyal to the British rulers during the mutiny of 1857 for which the title of Maharaja was bestowed to him. He sent the contingent of army reinforcement to the north-west frontier during the Second Indo- Afghan War.Under the command of his second son in 1897, Major Bir Bikram Singh, C.I.E., the troupe of Sirmour Sappers and Miners took part in Tirah expedition. 

With a view to improve the lot of his subjects and raise the state revenue, Shamsher Prakash conceived many projects and gave practical shape to them. The opening of Nahan Foundry was a landmark achievement. In 1860, while on a visit to Roorkee, Shamsher Prakesh had seen a foundary which inspired him to establish one in his own state. 

Raja Shamsher Prakesh was the first one to think of an iron workshop or to show interest in mechanics. He sent a blacksmith for training in Roorkee and after his return; a small iron foundry was established at Nahan in 1864. The foundry besides its numerous products is reputed for cane crushers. It has now been converted into a workshop of Public Works Department. 

In 1890, Raja Shamsher Prakesh purchased a tea garden at Cheerapani in Kumaon district, the first at Dehradoon and named as Enfield. 
The colonization at the Kiardadun, a dense forest tract was one of the biggest achievements. 
He also settled the land revenue of the state and the propriety rights were conferred on the Zamindars. 

The dense forests formed a major share in the revenue of the state. The idea of protecting and conserving the forest wealth struck the mind of the king when once several villages got washed away in the floods. It all happened when the railway department wrote to the king about the incident of floods and held him responsible for the loss of life and property. The company maintained that the unplanned and careless felling of trees on the banks of river Markanda led to the calamity. In response the King declared most of the forests as reserved land. 

This is the reason why Sirmour can boast of some of the most well managed forests of pine, deodar, oak and saal. The measures initiated by him included the management of forests as the state property by a special state officer who carefully surveyed reservation, imposition of ban on nomadic cultivation, forbidding the grazing of cattle and limiting timber cutting by several regulations.

With an area of 1198 square miles and annual revenue of more than 300,000 rupees in 1891, it was ranked as predominant state among the Punjab hill States.

2. Nahan Fort
Another significant development was the prison reforms. The government jail manuals were introduced. Mr. Balkrishan Das, who had acquired considerable experience at Delhi Central Jail was called to supervise, introduce and handle the jail reforms. He introduced govt. registers, farms and profitable labor in jails. The real reforma were introduced by Dr. Nicholson. He apprediated the efforts of Bal Krishan Das to reform the jails and allowed him to carry every change for the better. 
The telegraph service was introduced by Raja Shamsher in Sirmour in 1885 by giving annual contracts to the British Government. 

A district Board wad formed at Nahan in 1884. The Board abolished the system of Begar which was a great burden on poor cultivators. It also extended its control over the education department, hospitals, a part of the public works department and decided to open an agricultural farm. It passed a resolution for opening an arts school. The Rajah agreed to the recommendations of the Board and ordered the opening of the school under the supervision of F.R. Jones. 

Among the multifarious reforms, the education received special attention. He declared the opening of 500 primary schools in the state. But the people in the rural areas resisted the reforms. They were of the opinion that if the children took up education, the agriculture would suffer. However the King succeeded in opening of about 70 hill schools. 
He gave a secular character to his state. He was tolerant of all religions and allowed them to grow without any interference. Naming one of the Mosque at Nahan after Rajah Shamsher Prakesh bears the testimony to the great respect he enjoyed among the people of all faiths. 

One of the oldest Municipal Committees in India was constituted at Nahan during his rule in 1868. This marked the beginning of local self- government in the state.

By way of social reforms the Rajah prohibited the custom of Siyapa or the professional crying at the time of the death. The custom was prevalent even in well to do families and was a crude practice. 
The agricultural exhibitions and Dussehra celebrations were introduced in the state during his times.

Rahah Shamsher Prakesh was married to the daughter of the Rajah of Keonthal. The Queen was used to conduct judicious and administrative business in the state during his absence. On her death the Rahah abandoned the palace and shifted to Shamsher Villa- the ruins of which can still be seen. The Rajah built a famous garden called Ranital in the memory of the Queen.

After a long reign of 42 years, Rajah Shamsher Prakesh died on October 2, 1898.

1. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by NakulGautam
Image URL-http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/NahanStamp1800s.jpg

2. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Various artists.
Image URL- http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Nahan_fort.jpg/800px-Nahan_fort.jpg