Udaipur and the Maharanas
Derived from the from the words rana (“warrior”) and raja (“ruler”), Maharana is the title granted to the proudest and bravest of the Rajputs, the Mewars.
The Mewars’ have long made their ancestral home in Udaipur, “the city of lakes,” in Rajasthan, in India’s west. Because of Udaipur’s strategic position beyond the Aravalli Range, the Mewars were the only Rajputs to resist compromise with the invading Mughals, unlike the maharajas of Jaipur and Jodhpur. Their title, Maharana, denotes not they are rulers of the kingdom, but custodians of Sri Eklingji (Lord Siva).
Maharana Fateh Singh
Defiance has long been a tradition among the Rajputs. Maharana Fateh Singh of Mewar (1853-1934), the ruler of Udaipur, could not accept his position as head of the Indian fighting class and yet be subservient to a foreign power—thus, he went after the occupying British at any opportunity.
He had a particularly low opinion of the honours and dignities handed out to local princes by the British. During the First World War, he was one of the few leaders who failed to wholeheartedly support the British war effort, saying, “When there is a fight in India, Europeans don’t come here to die, so why should we send our Indians to die when Europeans fight?”
Apparently, this statement didn’t reach some of the bureaucrats in England, because at the close of hostilities, the maharana was awarded the highest decoration for his war service. Singh is reputed to have told his interpreter, “It is the sort of thing that pattawalas (attendants) in offices wear. Put it on a horse where it would look better than on a king.” His interpreter apparently told officials that this was not an auspicious day, so His Highness would wear his medal some other time. When asked why he had received the honour at all, the maharana later said, “Because I rendered the British the highest service. While the British were away fighting the war in Europe, I did not take Delhi. Isn’t that a big enough service?”
City Palace of Udaipur
Built by the Maharana Udai Singh as the capital of the Sisodia Rajput clan in 1559, the City Palace of Udaipur (pictured above) is believed to be the largest in Rajasthan. The current maharana, Arvind Singh Mewar, affectionately known as“Sriji,” still owns the City Palace, including its two hotels, Shiv Nivas and Fateh Prakash, as well as the Jag Mandir and Jag Niwas (known as the Lake Palace), and practically all the land surrounding Lake Pichola.