The Maharaja of Patiala and Hitler’s present

The British Raj was the supreme power in India until 1947, but within that scope they allowed local Nawabs and Maharajahs to rule. This was after Queen Victoria’s proclamation in 1858, which guaranteed the princes and maharajas of India their domains, subject to the overriding clause of British sovereignty.

One of the states that benefited from this policy was the state of Patiala, whose ruler Bhupinder Singh was an extravagant ruler. Bhupinder Singh was born in 1891, but ascended the throne in 1900. At that time he was aided by a Regency council which functioned until 1909, when the Maharaja took full control.

Bhupinder Singh was one of the most colorful maharajas of that period. He had many qualities and also served in the First World War. He was a man of taste and had a fleet of 20 Rolls Royces to carry him around. As for women, he was voracious and married 10 wives and had 85 children. In fact, the women found him irresistible and an English girl eloped with the Maharajah of Simla.

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She was the daughter of the Cin C of the British Indian Army, Lord Kitchner. The general had made Simla her abode and had also built a residence called ‘Hall of Wild Flowers’.

The frequently visiting Maharaja Simla had charmed the English girl and she eloped with him. This angered Lord Kitchner and caused the Maharaja to be banished from Simla. But Bhupinder Singh angrily built her own hill station on an adjacent peak and named it Chail. Bhupinder was a frequent visitor to Europe and after the end of the First World War he visited that continent several times. One of his visits to Germany in 1935 is important. During this visit, Hitler gave Bhupinder 10 minutes. But such was the Maharaja’s charm that Hitler extended the meeting to more than an hour and also invited him to lunch the next day. The next day, Bhupinder Singh dined with Hitler and discussed all matters with him, including the Raj. Hitler was suitably impressed.

Bhupinder Singh returned to India, but Hitler, as a token of his appreciation for the maharajah, presented him with a luxury Maybach sedan. It is recorded that Hitler presented only 3 cars to Asian rulers and Bhupinder Singh was one of them. Of course the British were alarmed, but Bhupinder accepted the gift. The car remained with the royal family of Patiala, until it was given as a gift in 1957. But this gift from Hitler will be remembered for a long time, although that was a bygone era.

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