Ganga Singh Bikaner in Europe
Sir Ganga Singh Bikaner, Maraha, (1880-1943), Indian soldier and statesman, was born Oct. 3 1880, and succeeded by adoption his elder brother, Dungar Singh, in 1887 as 21st ruler of the state. After education at the Mayo College, Ajmere, he was invested with full powers in 1898, and promptly showed energy and skill in their use in combating the great famine of 1899-1900. In the Chinese campaign of 1901 he accompanied the British contingent in command of his famous Camel Corps, the Ganga Risala, which also did good service in Somaliland in 1903. The first of his many visits to England was made in 1902, when he attended King Edward’s coronation, and was made A.D.C. to the Prince of Wales, an appointment continued by King George when he came to the throne.
In the World War I the Maharaja offered the whole resources of the state and served first on the headquarters staff of the Meerut division in France, and later on the staff of the British commander-in-chief. In 1915, at the head of his Camel Corps, he took part in the fighting to withstand the Turkish invasion of Egypt. In 1917 he and Sir S. P. (afterwards Lord) Sinha were the first Indians to be called to London for Empire gatherings. They were members of the Imperial War Conference and assisted the Secretary for India at the Imperial War Cabinet. The Maharaja’s public speeches attracted marked attention, and were collected under the title of India’s Imperial Partnership. His warm sympathy with Indian aspirations of self-government within the Empire made the greater impression on public opinion because of the notable moral and material progressiveness and efficiency of his administration in Bikaner, and his constitutional reforms.
He was selected to represent the Indian states at the Peace Conference and the Imperial Cabinet meetings in connexion therewith, and at Versailles on June 28 1919 he affixed the first Indian signature to a great international treaty. Keenly concerned to uphold the rights and dignities of the ruling princes, he formulated their views with force and skill, and his was the dominant personal influence in securing the constitution, under royal proclamation, of the Chamber of Princes in 1921 as a deliberative, consultative and advisory body. His appointment as chancellor, carrying the presidency of the small standing committee, was indicative of the intellectual ascendancy he had acquired in the deliberations of the rulers. He had made himself well known as a sportsman, and in 1920 the “record” tigress (9 ft. 7 in.) fell to his gun. A major-general of the British army, his honours included the grand crosses of the Victorian and the two Indian Orders, the knighthood of the Bath, the honorary doctorate in laws of Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh and the freedom of London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Bristol. His permanent local salute was raised from 17 to 19 guns.
He was Chancellor of the Indian Chamber of Princes from 1920-26. He also represented India as a delegate at the fifth session of the League of Nations in 1924.
Ruler and Statesman. The Maharaja was regarded as a progressive ruler, who promoted water supplies, railways, hospitals and schools in Bikaner (Rajputana), as well as a representative assembly in 1913. He put the resources of his state at Britain’s disposal in 1914, and himself served in France and Egypt. He was a member of the Imperial War Cabinet and a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919. The first Chancellor of the Indian Chamber of Princes from 1921 to 1926, he attended the Round Table Conferences in London in 1930-1, but his role, like that of other princes in the sub-continent, was to become an anachronism as a new urban, educated middle class strove for independence.