End of an illustrious dynasty

JAIPUR OCT. 26. The passing away of Narendra Singh, the scion of the royal family of Bikaner in a Delhi hospital two days back marks the end of an illustrious dynasty which ruled the desert terrain for over 500 years. For Narendra Singh, who is the son of the late Maharaja Karni Singh, parliamentarian and clay pigeon shooter, has no male progeny to inherit him.

Going by the traditions of the royalty in Rajasthan, Narendra Singh has died without a heir leaving behind considerable property and innumerable legal battles for his nearest of kin to either fight out or to settle. Though he has left behind two daughters and his wife, Padma Kumari, who is from the Champa royal family of Himachal Pradesh, it is not clear who would inherit the property.

Narendra Singh was 57 years when he finally succumbed to various ailments resulting from diabetes. When he was first admitted to the Singhania Hospital in Delhi a few days back, he was suffering from hepatitis. Later he was shifted to the Apollo Hospital where he breathed his last on Friday last.

Narendra Singh's mother, Sushila Kumari, daughter of the late ruler of Dungarpur, Mahrawal Laxman Singh and sister to Raj Singh Dungarpur, outlives her only son. The deceased has two sisters, Rajshree and Madhulika Kumari.

The body was cremated as per the royal traditions on Saturday at the Devi Kund Sagar on the outskirts of Bikaner town in the presence of members and representatives of other royal families like Jodhpur and Dungarpur, political leaders and a large number of public. The body was placed on the pyre in "maha dol'' (sitting posture) as per the royal tradition and the pyre was lit by Ravi Singh, the deceased's nephew.

The royalty watchers in Rajasthan have been rendered sad with the state of affairs in the dynasty that Bika built hundreds of years back after branching out from the royal clan of Jodhpur. Bika, the founder of Bikaner and Jodha, the ruler of Jodhpur were two brothers and as the latter was the elder, the other had to leave for laying the foundation of a new kingdom for himself.

As such even during the life time of Narendra Singh, the legal wrangling among the brother and the sisters and the mother had left the royal household a battlefield.

Bikaner used to be one of the best governed States in the whole of Rajputana and the credit of laying the vast network of canals across the mighty Thar desert goes to the late Maharaja Ganga Singh, predecessor of Karni Singh. It was during the time of Maharaja Ganga Singh that Bikaner got riparian rights for the rivers flowing through Punjab.

The shrewd and capable ruler could manage this by entertaining the British by arranging shooting expeditions on Imperial sandgrouse and Indian gazelle in the desert. The water bodies at Kodamdesar and Gajner in the former Bikaner State used to attract thousands of Imperial sandgrouse which were a great fascination for the British hunters during the days of the Raj and later to the pioneers in ornithology like Salim Ali.

Dr.Karni Singh too used to possess good knowledge about birds and as the wildlife experts in the State like Harsh Vardhan would vouchsafe, had great fascination for birds and animals in the desert. "Those who used the gun those days knew a lot about the environment and wildlife too,'' notes Mr.Vardhan.

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