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Sir Ganga Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner

Full nameGen. His Highness Maharajadhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Narendra Shiromani Maharaja Shri Sir Ganga Singh Bahadur, Maharaja of Bikaner, GCSI 1911 (KCSI 1904), GCIE 1907 (KCIE 1901), GCVO 1919, GBE 1921, KCB 1918, ADC, Hon. LLD, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Benares, and Osmania University, Hyderabad, Hon. DCL, Oxford (aka Shree Ganga Singhji, Rathore)
Born13 Oct 1880, Bikaner, India
Died02 Feb 1943, Bombay, India

Ganga Singh became maharaja of Bikaner in 1887 at the age of seven. He attended Mayo College, Ajmer (1889-1894), and was granted ruling powers in 1898. He transformed a drought-prone and impoverished state into a prosperous one with modern infrastructure. A keen soldier, he led his Camel Corps alongside the British in China and Somaliland, and during WWI in Suez and on the Western Front. He represented India at the Imperial War Conference, Paris Peace Conference, and League of Nations general assemblies of 1924 and 1930, and was elected Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes from 1921 to 1926.

Bikaner was a leading representative of the Indian States, championing federation in the early sessions of the conference.

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


  • 1913-14: beseeched Viceroy Hardinge to establish a form for princely consultation regarding legislation; pressed the case in London in 1916
  • 18 May 1922: suggested a round table conference between new Viceroy Reading and the Princes to explain the Indian situation (Copland, 1997:48)
  • July 1930: at a Standing Committee of the Princes meeting including Bikaner, a round table conference was suggested to focus on future relations between British India and the Princely States. (Moore, 1974:130)
  • 9th and 25th September 1930: Sastri reported Bikaner as confident that he could bring the Princes around to the federal plan (this being the Haksar and Pannikar plan having learnt that Hydari had his own plan) (Moore, 1974:141)
  • November 10th 1930: Benn called agenda committee including Bikaner; Sapru and Reading propose federation first topic of debate (Moore, 1974:142)

First Session

  • 11th November: on the evening before the conference opening Bikaner met at his room in the Carlton Hotel with Patiala, Sir Leslie Scott and other princes. They agreed they should make acceptance of federation conditional upon recognition states' treaty rights. All wanted a limitation of paramountcy, although they had agreed with Irwin not to raise the issue at conf. (Moore, 1974:143)
  • 17th November: At the opening plenary Bikaner responded to Sir Tej Sapru’s opening address, triggering the Indian States’ support for an all-India federation, though insisting that “…our unity must be sought not in the dead hand of an impossible uniformity but in an associated diversity.” (Indian Round Table Conference, Proceedings)
  • As a member of the Federal Structure Committee, Bikaner became one of the key proponents of federation at the RTC. (Moore, 1974:154)
  • January 1931: Bikaner backed representation of the Princes in any future federation being arranged by the Chamber of Princes (Moore, 1974:157)
  • June 1931 Patiala launched his anti-federation scheme, claiming that it would destroy the individuality of the states, and proposing a confederation. Extreme animosity with Bikaner resulted (Moore, 1974:228)
  • July 1931: clear that an upper house of 150 seats to be proposed, concerns over how the princes would find representation with such small a number. This caused Patiala to defect from federation cause. (Copland, 1997:93)

Second Session

  • 20th October 1931: Bikaner expressed his thanks to the King and Queen for his recent stay with them at Sandringham, sending them in thanks a small Chinese mirror picture for the Queen and a photograph of a fine sambhar (deer) that Bikaner had shot, for the King. (The Maharaja Ganga Singh Ji Trust archives)
  • Despite Bikaner's plea, the Federal Structure Committee proposed a moderate sized upper house of 200 with only 40% reserved for states. (Copland, 1997:102)
  • The Federal Structure Committee became deadlocked between Sankey's backers and the confederationalists. The Princely States also realised that their contributions to the federal budget would increase. Bikaner and Bhopal jointly proposed a ruling on paramountcy to prevent powers of interference falling to British India. (Moore, 1974:230-1)
  • Bikaner to return to India five weeks early on Doctors orders due to the cold damp weather, in late October 1931. When he left the conference he spoke of federation as postponed for five years. By end of November Viceroy reported him as having greatly weakened his support for federation (Moore, 1974:232)
  • On return to India Bikaner started to doubt the federal scheme as details became clear, (Copland, 1997:103)
  • March 1932 Bikaner met Patiala to discuss the confederation scheme (Copland, 1997:108).
  • April: a joint resolution was taken as an agreement to federate, Aiyar outlined what this would look like (Copland, 1997:109)

Third Session

  • Bikaner, Bhopal and Patiala had decided to send their ministers but to be in London to advise from behind the scenes. Resident of Patiala advised against him going due to finances, so Bikaner stayed back too. (Moore, 1974:280)
  • The Standing Committee favoured Bikaner's proposal for an upper house of 25 seats, around half falling to the states, distributed as with the Chamber of Princes. (Moore, 1974:286-7)


  • 1937: attended coronation of King George VI
  • 1937: Bikaner and Patiala reconciled over federation plans, by 1939 Bikaner was increasingly hostile to federation plans, in part due to Congress political activism in the Princely States.
  • 1937: appointed general in the British army, the first Indian to be accorded this rank
  • 1937: Bikaner found himself edged out of federal discussions so stepped back (Copland, 1997:155)
  • 1939: Bikaner actively resisted federal plans, as fears of Congress-supported agitations in the princely states increased (Copland, 1997:175)

Sources used


Secondary literature

  • Who Was Who:
  • Barbara N. Ramusack, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
  • K. M. Panikkar, His Highness the Maharaja of Bikaner: A Biography (London: Oxford University Press; 1937):
  • Times of India, “Tributes to Late Maharaja of Bikaner: Soldier, Statesman & Administrator” (3 Feb 1943), p. 7
  • The Times “The Maharaja of Bikaner: Soldier, Statesman, and Sportsman”, Issue 49460 (3 Feb 1943), p. 7
  • H. Purcell, Maharajah of Bikaner: India (London: Haus Publishing; 2010)
  • R.K. Bikaner, The Lallgarh Palace: Home of the Maharajas of Bikaner (Delhi: Dev Books; 2009)

Online resources

ImagesPhotograph of Sir Ganga Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner, from the published biographical guide to delegates at the second session of the Round Table Conference, 1931

"Bikaner, Lieut.-Gen. His Highness Maharajadhiraja Raj Rajeshwar Shiromani Maharaja Shri Sir Ganga Singhji Bahadur, G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., G.C.V.O., G.B.E., K.C.B., A.D.C., LL.D., Maharaja of." From Indian Round Table Conference Second Session 1931: Biographical Notes and Photographs of the British and Indian Delegates (London: St. James's Palace). By permission of the British Library (shelfmark T 11187). Reproduced under Open Government Licence v3.0 (

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