Mahārāja (Sanskrit: महाराज, also spelled Maharajah,
Moharaja) is a
Sanskrit title for a "great ruler", "great king" or
"high king". A few ruled mighty states informally called empires,
including Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh empire, and
Gupta, founder of the ancient Indian Gupta empire, but 'title
inflation' soon led to most being rather mediocre or even petty in
real power, while compound titles were among the attempts to
distinguish some among their ranks.
Hari Singh of Jammu and
Kashmir, the largest state in British India, was the last Maharaja
to be an independent sovereign post Indian independence.
The female equivalent, Maharani (or Maharanee, Moharani,
Mahārājñī), denotes either the wife of a
Maharaja (or Maharana
etc.), and also in states where that was customary, a woman ruling
without a husband. The widow of a
Maharaja is known as a Rajmata
Kumar generally denotes a son of a
Maharaja, but more specific titulatures are often used at each court,
Yuvaraja for the heir. The form Maharaj indicates a
separation of noble and religious offices, although the fact that in
Hindi the suffix -a is silent makes the two titles near homophones.
2 Indian subcontinent
Maharaja as a ruler's title
2.2 Compound and dynastic ruler titles
2.3 Nobiliary and honorary use
2.4 Derived style for princes of the blood
4 Malay Archipelago
4.5 Compound Malay titles
5 See also
6 Sources and references
Maharaja originates in
Sanskrit and is a compound
karmadhāraya term from mahānt- "great" and rājan "ruler, king"). It
has the Latin cognates magnum "great" and rex "king". Due to
Sanskrit's major influence on the vocabulary of most languages in
Greater India, the term
Maharaja is common to many modern languages of
India such as Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, Rajasthani, Malvi,
Telugu, Odia, Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati. The
Maharaja was originally used only for rulers who ruled a considerably
large region with minor tributary rulers under them. Since medieval
times, the title was used by (Hindu) monarchs of lesser states
claiming descent from ancient Maharajas.
Maharaja Bhagvat-Singh of Gondal.
Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III
Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda.
Maharaja Nripendra Narayan of Koch dynasty.
Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last
Maharaja of the Sikh Empire.
Maharaja as a ruler's title
Jaswant Singh II
Jaswant Singh II of Marwar, c. 1880. Attributed to Narsingh.
The Brooklyn Museum.
On the eve of independence in 1947,
India (including present day
Pakistan and Bangladesh) contained more than 600 princely states, each
with its own native ruler, often styled
Raja or Rana or Thakur (if the
ruler were Hindu) or
Nawab (if he were Muslim), with a host of less
current titles as well.
The British directly ruled two-thirds of India; the rest was under
indirect rule by the above-mentioned princes under the considerable
influence of British representatives, such as Residents, at their
Maharaja may be understood simply to mean "ruler" or "king",
in spite of its literal translation as "great king". This was because
only a handful of the states were truly powerful and wealthy enough
for their rulers to be considered 'great' monarchs; the remaining were
minor princely states, sometimes little more than towns or groups of
villages. The word, however, can also mean emperor in contemporary
The title of
Maharaja was not as common before the gradual British
colonisation of India, upon and after which many Rajas and otherwise
styled Hindu rulers were elevated to Maharajas, regardless of the fact
that scores of these new Maharajas ruled small states, sometimes for
some reason unrelated to the eminence of the state, for example,
support to the British in Afghanistan, World War I or World War II.
Two Rajas who became Maharajas in the twentieth century were the
Maharaja of Cochin and the legendary
Maharaja Jagatjit Singh
Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of
Variations of this title include the following, each combining Maha-
"great" with an alternative form of
Raja 'king', so all meaning 'Great
Maharana (as in Udaipur),
Maharawal (as in
Maharao (as in Kotah,
Maharaol (as in Baria).
Maharajah has taken on new spellings due to the time change and
migration. It has even been shortened to Mahraj and
Maraj but the most
common is Maharajah and Maharaj.
Despite its literal meaning, unlike many other titles meaning Great
Maharaja nor Rajadhiraja ('King of Kings'), nor even its
equivalent amongst. Maharaja, 'Maharajadhiraja', never reached the
standing required for imperial rank, as each was soon the object of
title inflation. Instead, the Hindu title which is commonly rendered
Samraat or Samraj(a), a personal distinction achieved by
a few rulers of ancient dynasties such as the Mauryas and Guptas; the
Muslim equivalent of emperor would be
Padshah (of Persian origin),
notably applied to the Mughal dynasty, the Paramount power until the
British established their raj.
Compound and dynastic ruler titles
Dharma-maharaja was the devout title (compare Rajadharma) of the
rulers of the Ganga dynasty.
Mughal Empire it was quite common to award to various princes
(hereditary or not) a series of lofty titles as a matter of
protocolary rank. The British would, as paramount power, do the same.
Many of these (see also above) elaborate explicitly on the title
Maharaja, in the following descending order:
Maharajadhiraja Bahadur (or Maharajadhiraj Bahadur): Great Prince over
Princes, a title of honour, one degree higher than Maharajadhiraja.
Maharajadhiraja (or Maharajadhiraj): Great Prince over Princes, a
title of honour, one degree higher than Sawai
Maharaja Bahadur: a title of honour, one degree higher than
Sawai Maharaja. (the term bahadur, originally 'brave' in Mongolian,
was often used for 'one-degree' higher', and 'sawai' is 'one and a
quarter higher', i.e. just a step above bahadur)
Sawai Maharaja: a title of honour one degree higher than Maharaja
Bahadur; as granted (directly) to the Rajas of Ajaygarh.
Maharaja Bahadur: a title of honour, one degree higher than Maharaja.
Maharaja itself could also be granted as a personal; non-hereditary
style, e.g. in 1941 to Sir Pratap Singh II,
Raja of Ali Rajpur
Kshatriya Kulavatans Sinhasanadheeshwar Maharajadhiraj Chhatrapati
Shivaji Raje Bhosale. The
Maratha king preferred the title of
Chhatrapati as against
Maharaja and was the founder and sovereign of
Maratha Empire of India
Sri Panch Bada Mahārājādhirāja
Prithvi Narayan Shah
Prithvi Narayan Shah Dev of Nepal.
His Highness Maharajadhiraj Mirza
Maharao Shri Sir Khengarji III Sawai
Bahadur, Rao of Kutch, GCIE, KIH
Furthermore, there were various compound titles simply including other
princely styles, such as :
Chatrapati in Satara, the paramount state of the Maratha
H.H. the Maharaj Rana of Jhalawar
Maharaja-i-Rajgan: great prince amongst princes
Sahib Subah of Nagpur, another Mahratta state
Maharaj Babu: A
Rajput princely title.Used as ruling title of Hazari
Estate of South Chittagong.
For details concerning various titles containing sahib, see there
Certain Hindu dynasties even came to use a unique style, including a
term which as such is not of princely rank, e.g.
Maharaja Gaikwar of
Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior,
Maharaja Holkar of Indore, three
of the very highest ranking ruling
Nobiliary and honorary use
Raja and various other titles,
Maharaja was repeatedly awarded to
notables without a princely state, such as zamindars.
Raja of Lambagraon, a
Jagir (in Himachal Pradesh) who served in
the colonial army was granted personally the non-hereditary title of
Maharaja of Kangra-
Lambagraon and a personal 11-guns salute, so
neither honour passed on to his son and heir.
In the major, Muslim realm of Hyderabad and Berar, there was a system
of ennobling titles for the Nizam's courtiers, conferring a specific
rank without any (e)state of their own, not unlike peerage titles
without an actual fief in the UK, the highest titles for Hindu nobles
Maharaja Bahadur and Maharaja, above Vant,
Raja Rai Bahadur,
Raja and (the lowest) Rai;
for their Muslim counterparts there were alternative titles, the
Jah and Umara; e.g. the Diwan (Prime Minister) Maharaja
Sir Kishen Pershad, held such a Maharaja-title.
Derived style for princes of the blood
Kumar (or Maharajkumar) means son of a
Heir-Apparent; the female equivalent is Maharaj Kumari
(Maharajkumari): daughter of a Maharaja.
Shree Panch Mahārājādhirāja
Rana Bahadur Shah
Rana Bahadur Shah Bahadur Shamsher
Jang Devanam Sada Samaravijayinam, Sovereign King of Nepal
Kings of Nepal
Kings of Nepal (now a republic) used the title of
Mahārājādhirāja which was "Sovereign among Great Kings", a title
of honour, a degree higher than Mahārājā. Rana Prime ministers of
Nepal used the title of Shree Teen Maharaja.
As many Indonesian states started out when the archipelago was still
predominantly Hindu (
Bali still is) or Buddhist, some have been ruled
by a maharaja, such as Srivijaya,
Majapahit and Kutai Karta Negara
(until that kingdom converted to Islam in 1565, when the Muslim title
of sultan was adopted). Traditional titles remain in use for the other
members of this dynasty, such as
Pangeran Ratu for the heir.
The Englishman Capt. James Brooke was declared as
Raja Brooke by the
Brunei Sultan. The word
Raja derived from the word Maharaja. Raja
Brooke pacified the Sarawak Revolt against the Brunei Sultan. Thus
declared by the latter as
Raja during the Raffles' stint.
In peninsular Malaysia:
Maharaja was the title of the monarch of the peninsular Malay state of
Johor(e) from 1873 to 1885. The Arabic, Muslim title Sultan, often
considered of higher rank, was re-adopted later and remains in current
Maharaja was used by the ruler of Pahang
(1623–1853 in personal union with Johor, eventually becoming a fief
Bendahara family), till on 6 August 1882 Tuanku Ahmad
al-Muadzam Shah ibni al-Marhum Tun Ali adopted the title, Sultan.
In northern Borneo, the title Maharajah of Sabah and Rajah of Gaya and
Sandakan was used from 29 December 1877 to 26 August 1881 by Alfred
Dent (compare White Rajah).
In contemporary Malay usage, the title
Maharaja refers to an emperor,
Maharaja Jepun" ("
Emperor of Japan").
In Seri Malayas of the Srivijaya, under the
Srivijaya satellite empire
Majapahit Empire dominated over the whole Malayas far-reaching
the present Philippine Archipelago, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia under
Srivijaya Empire of the
Maharaja Pamariwasa. The
latter's daughter Es-kander was married to an Arab (Zein Ul-Abidin)
who was a
Srivijaya ruler in Seri who were a
Srivijaya Monarchy. In
the 12th century with the fall of the empire, the Seri King being a
Muslim established the
Sultanate of Brunei
Sultanate of Brunei in 1363 with the throne
Sultan Mohamad Shah. In 1426, as his death was recorded in 1431
Mt. Makatangis Sulu grave and 1432 Brunei grave as Sulu and Brunei
claim the honour of his grave, he also did established the Sultanate
of Sulu while his brother Makdum Karim (Sharif Kabungsuwan of Malabang
Srivijaya Johore ruler, later established the Sultanate of
Maguindanao-Ranao (Mindanao) after taking the political authority of
his father-in-law Tomaoi Aliwya of the Maguiindanao family dynasty.
A progeny in 1704, Sayyid Nakhoda Perkasa Angging (
grandson of the second Brunei
Sultan Ahmad, the former married to
Mahandon the sister of Muwalil Wasit (the 1825 Sulu
Kiram-I), The latter who bigoted the 1839 Sulu
Sultan Pulalun. Being
childless, Pulalun proclaimed his Crown Prince-
Maharaja Adinda Taup
(son of Sayyid Nakhoda Perkasa Angging). The title
Maharaja Adinda at
the beginning of the name to append Sultan.
Maharaja Adinda Taup the
Maharaja of the Sulu Sultanate and Prince Heir-apparent of Sultan
Pulalun at the time.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram-I (Muwalil Wasit) was the 70 year later
descendant of the 1752 three So-called Sultans of Mindanao, namely
Kiram Sinsuat, Kiram Misuari and Kiram Sorronga. The latter in 1752,
whereby Mindanao was ceded in inheritance to them by their
consanguinity-Kinship, the Noble King Luisung Tagean-Tallano.
Maharaja Adinda Taup's son was the 1916 Sharif Imam Ul-Alam Arpa
and Highest Spiritual Leader of the Sulu's, the latter whom American
Gov. Frank W. Carpenter returned Sulu's sovereignty as a suzerainty.
The Sharif Promulgating the Literacy Campaign, building of roads,
schools, water system and Jambatans-Wharfs as supported by the said
American Governor, the latter named the said Sharif's son as Carpenter
Arpa-I placing five silver dollars on the child's chest symbolic of
the five Sulu Sultanate territories. Sayyid Paduka Ahmad Carpenter
Arpa-V is the Monarchical Chieftain of Maharlika Mindanao and Sulu, as
by the facts and proprietary rights as by the 2007 agreement between
the Philippine Government and the Prince Julian Morden Tallano, the
progeny of King Luisung Tagean Tallano.
In the Philippines, more specifically in Sulu,
Maharaja (also spelled
"Maharajah") was a title given to various sub-divisional princes after
the fall of the
Srivijaya of the
Majapahit Empire. Parts of the
Philippines may have later been ruled by community leaders as
Maharajah from once being under the
Upon the establishment of the
Sultanate of Sulu
Sultanate of Sulu c. 1425–1450, the
title of maharaja was used by monarchs such as
Sultan Shar ul-uddin Digmin, Mu'izz Ul-mutawad'in), who ruled
from 1520 to 1548.
Compound Malay titles
The word can also be part of titles used by Malay nobility:
Maharaja Lela was the title of the ruler of the State of Naning
(founded 1641), until it was annexed by the UK to
Malacca in 1832.
Most famous was
Maharaja Tun Mutahir of Malacca
(executed 1509) and Datuk
Maharaja Lela Pandak Lam of
The palace marshal of the
Yang di-Pertuan Agong
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (head of state) of
Malaysia is called Datuk
Maharaja Lela Penghulu Istana Negara.
In the Sulu Sultanate in the Philippines, the
Raja Muda (Crown Prince)
is the heir to the throne, the
Maharaja Adinda is the second heir
apparent and the
Maharaja Lailah acts as chief of the palace.
Eventually, Maharajah Adinda was also used to refer to a particular
lineage within the royal families.
Maharaja was also part of the titles of the nobility in the Sumatran
sultanate of Aceh. In the past the title of
Maharaja is given to
leader of the unreigning noble family and the Prime Minister Maharaja
Mangkubumi. The last Prime Minister of
Aceh who was installed to be
Maharaja Mangkubumi, Habib Abdurrahman el Zahir, also acted as the
foreign affairs minister of
Aceh but was deposed and exiled to Jeddah
by the colonial
Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies authorities in October 1878. The
Maharaja may also append one as a successor Sultan.
M. R. Ry.
Maharani Laxmi Bai
Sources and references
^ Tej Ram Sharma (1989), A political history of the imperial Guptas:
from Gupta to Skandagupta, Concept Publishing Company,
ISBN 81-7022-251-6, ... Literally
Maharaja means 'a great king'
Jinder Mahal ...
^ Ernst, Waltraud; Pati, Biswamoy (2007-10-18). India's Princely
States: People, Princes and Colonialism. Routledge.
^ ud-Din, Zahir (2016-08-18). "A land mark judgement". Greater
Kashmir. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
^ Hansdev Patel (1998) Royal Families and Palaces of Gujarat. Scorpion
Cavendish. ISBN 1-900269-20-1.
^ Thomas J. Samuelian (2000), Armenian origins: an overview of ancient
and modern sources and theories, Iravunq Publishing House, ... Cognate
Chart Sanskrit: Maha Greek: Mega English: Much ...
^ Horace G. Danner, Roger Noël, An introduction to an academic
vocabulary: word clusters from Latin, Greek and German, ... Mag-,
great; maj-, greater; max-, greatest; IE base: meg-, yields Sanskrit
maha; English much; Greek mega ...
^ "Entry of the
Sultanate of Sulu
Sultanate of Sulu in the Almanach de