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Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala

Full nameLieutenant-General His Highness Farzand-I-Khas, Daulat-i-Inglishia, Mansur-I-Zaman, Amir-Ul-Umra, Maharaja Dhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Shree, Maharaja-I-Rajgan Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, Mohinder Bahadur, Yadu Vanshavatans Bhatti Kul Bhushan, Maharaja Dhiraj of Patiala, GCSI 1921, GCIE 1911, GCVO 1922, GBE 1918, extra honorary ADC to the King-Emperor (aka Bhupendrasingh Rajindersingh; Bhupendra Singhji; Bhupindar Singh; Bhupindra Singh; Bhuppa)
Born12 Oct 1891, Patiala, India
Died23 Mar 1938, Patiala, India

Bhupinder Singh became Maharaja of the Sikh-ruled state of Patiala aged 9 upon the death of his father in 1900. He was educated at Aitchison Chiefs’ College, Lahore, and received full ruling powers in 1909. He was a great sportsman, captaining the India cricket team on their 1911 England tour, and a keen soldier who served in WWI with the Indian Expeditionary Force, and provided significant troops, equipment and finance to British forces in WWI and the Afghan War, for which he was highly decorated. He represented India at the Imperial War Conference and Cabinet (1918) and League of Nations General Assembly of 1925, and played a leading role in the Chamber of Princes, elected Chancellor each year from 1926-1930.

Patiala was an Indian States representative at the conference and became an opponent of the conference plans for federation.

For additional biographical information, see the official delegate Who's Who for the First Session. See also Emery Kelen's caricature, from his portfolio of delegates at the Round Table Conference.


  • November 1917: Patiala was one of one of the four members of a committee (alongside Alwar, Bikaner and Ranjitsinghji of Nawanagar) to put proposals for reform before visiting Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu. (Copland, 1997:38)
  • 1921: helped organise the Chamber of Princes and was a perpetual member of their Standing Committee. As Chancellor in 1930 he headed the Indian States Delegation to the RTC.
  • 1927: Patiala led calls for an inquiry into the future of the Indian States, which came to be headed up by Sir Harcourt Butler. (Copland, 1997:65)
  • February 1930: personal attacks were made on Patiala by the Sikh Akali Dal and the All-India States People’s Conference, through a report entitled Indictment of Patiala, which accused the Maharaja of torture, illegal arrests, misuse of public funds, and abduction and trafficking of girls. The government were asked to investigate, acquitting Patiala but leading to greater scrutiny of his spending and behaviour. (Copland, 1997:81)
  • 31st October 1929: Irwin’s declaration of an RTC for British Indian and Indian States delegates in London allowed Patiala to lead a renegotiation with the government after the disappointing conclusions of the Butler report. (Copland, 1997:72)
  • July 1930: Patiala attempted block discussion of federation between the princes and the Viceroy at the Simla conferece. (Copland, 1997:82)
  • August 1930: Patiala appointed a legal team to help in preparation for the RTC, with Kailash Haksar heavily involved, and Patiala successful in incorporating the participation of Hyderabad via communications with Hydari. (Copland, 1997:74)
  • 13th October 1930: in considering which delegates might need police protection in London, Patiala was given special attention by the British government. The recent agitation against him made protests likely in London. A note on file “If feelings were roused to such a pitch that some fanatic here should take it into his head to seek a martyr’s crown, he would, I imagine, be likely to assassinate the Maharaja of Patiala in preference to anyone else.” (British Library L.PJ.12.426.)

First Session

  • “Patiala went to London confident that his machinations had brought the federation brushfire under control. But sea-air euphoria, the indefatigable lobbying of Haksar and Panikkar and the flaws in his own character all conspired against him. Brilliant when it came to grasping the large picture, Bhupinder Singh was much less at home in the world of detail, especially when the details were or an arcane constitutional nature; and while a rousing speaker when occasion demanded, he was less effective as a debater of issues.” (Copland, 1997:93)
  • November 10th 1930: Patiala complained to the government that he had been under the impression that he was the head of the Indian States Delegation, but on returning to duties in London after ill health had found this disputed. The Viceroy was consulted and telegrammed Patiala on 18th November suggesting that while the Chancellor could represent the Chamber of Princes delegates, other Princes would need to assent to be represented by him. (BL. L.PO.6.60.)
  • November 1930: Outflanked by the increasing support for federation before the conference began, Patiala retired to his hotel, and then Paris, on health grounds, but returning the following week to campaign against the focus on federation. (Copland, 1997:94)
  • November 19th 1930: Patiala used his plenary address to the RTC to assent to federation, to assert the strength of the Princes’ connection to Britain, and to insist on the internal autonomy of the Princely States within any federation: 
    • “To put it otherwise, by federation we mean an arrangement entered into by us and by British India jointly under which, while British India manages those affairs that exclusively concern it, and while the Indian States manage those affairs that exclusively concern them, and while the Crown discharges such function in India as are reserved to it, the Crown, British India and the Indian States join together in a system which provides for the joint management and joint control of matters that jointly concern the two sides of India.” (Indian Round Table Conference, Proceedings)
  • November 1930: Patiala vacated the Chancellorship of the Chamber of Princes, citing ill health. In India he campaigned against federation, due to the risks of continued Crown control and at the risk of nationalist interventions from a new federal centre without sufficient safeguards. (Copland, 1997:95-96)
  • 9th June 1931: JAO Fitzpatrick, Political Agent of the Panjab States, wrote to the Political Department in New Delhi warning them that two of the agitators from the “Indictment of Patiala” were seeking passports to allow them to travel to London for the Second Session to launch protests against the Maharaja. Requested that passports be denied. (British Library R.1.1.2134)
  • 13 June 1931: Patiala led defection away from federal plan, publishing a five page memorandum against the RTC proposals. (Copland, 1997:93, 98)
  • Summer of 1931: Patiala successfully demanded that two supporters of his cause go to the Second Session. Although he declined to attend himself he campaigned against the emerging federal vision of the RTC from India and in favour of a confederationalist alternative. (Copland, 1997:100)


  • March 1932: Patiala was reconciled with the Maharaja of Bikaner and supported a reconfigured federation.

Sources used

Selected publications

  • Bhupindar Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, Public pronouncements in connection with the Indian States Committee (London: Printed by Spottiswoode, for private circulation; 1928)


Secondary literature

  • Who Was Who:
  • Barbara N. Ramusack, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
  • K.M. Panikkar, The Indian Princes in Council: A Record of the Chancellorship of His Highness the Maharaja of Patiala, 1926-1931 and 1933-1936 (London: Oxford University Press and Humphrey Milford; 1936):
  • The Times “The Maharaja of Patiala“, Issue Number 47951 (24 Mar 1938), p. 19
  • Manchester Guardian “Obituary: Maharajah of Patiala” (24 Mar 1938), p. 14
  • Times of India “Maharaja of Patiala’s Work for States” (24 Mar 1938), p. 10
  • Sir M. F. O'Dwyer, ‘The Maharaja of Patiala: War Service to the Empire’, The Times (25 March 1938), p. 16

Online resources

ImagesPhotograph of Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, from the published biographical guide to delegates at the first session of the Round Table Conference, 1931

"Patiala, Major-General H.H. Farzand-i-Khas-i-Daulat-i-Inglishia, Mansur-i-Zaman Amir-ul-Umra Maharajadhiraja, Rajeshwar Sri Maharaja-i-Rajagan, Sir Bhupindar Singh Mahindar Bahadur, G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., G.C.V.O., G.B.E., A.D.C., Maharaja of." From Indian Round Table Conference St James's Palace: Delegates from the Indian States and British India (London: St. James's Palace). By permission of the British Library (shelfmark T 13206). Reproduced under Open Government Licence v3.0 (

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