PAṬIĀLĀ AND EAST PUNJAB STATES UNION, popularly known as PEPSU, formed on 5 May 1948 by merging together of eight East Punjab princely states of Paṭiālā, Jīnd, Nābhā, Kapūrthalā, Farīdkoṭ, Kalsīā, Malerkoṭlā and Nalāgāṛh, was formally inaugurated on 15 July 1948 by Sardār Vallabhbhāī Patel, Deputy Prime Minister of India. The government of the Union started functioning on 20 August 1948 when Mahārājā Yādavinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā took over as Rājpramukh or governor. The process of consolidation of the Princely states brought to completion by Sardār Patel had its origin in the integration schemes drawn up by the political department under the British during the War days. But after Independence events took a more drastic turn. Administrative integration envisaged by the British paved the way for political consolidation by the Indian Government of about six hundred odd princely states into bigger and more viable political units, and PEPSU was one of them. The Union was divided into eight districts of Paṭiālā, Barnālā, Baṭhiṇḍā, Fatehgaṛh Sāhib, Saṅgrūr, Kapūrthalā, Mohindergaṛh and Kohistān. The first five districts were contiguous to one another and lay mainly in the Mālvā tract south of the Sutlej, while Kapūrthalā was located to the north of the river; Mohindergaṛh was in the southeast on the Rājasthān border, and Kohistān was to the northeast near Himāchal Pradesh. Having a population of 3,493,685 according to the 1951 census, PEPSU was the smallest in that category of the seven Part B States which were former princely states or unions of them, but with an area of 10,119 square miles, it was slightly larger in extent than the smallest Part B state of Ṭrāvancore-Cochin. Its population was spread over 64 towns and 5,708 villages and was divided in the ratio of nineteen per cent urban population (665,510) to eighty-one per cent rural population (2,828,175). PEPSU had a density of 347 per square mile which was higher than that of the East Punjab at 338 and the overall Indian average of 296.

         Of the eight princely states constituting the Union, the Rājpūt state of Nalāgāṛh was the oldest which was founded around AD 1100. The Muslim state of Mālerkoṭlā came into existence about the middle of the fifteenth century, its rulers being the scions of Shervānī tribe of the Afghāns. The Sikh states of Paṭiālā, Jīnd, Nābhā, Kapūrthalā, Farīdkoṭ and Kalsīā took birth in the middle of the eighteenth century when Ahmad Shāh Durrānī's repeated invasions had weakened the Mughal authority. The Sikhs then had the opportunity of extending their influence and assuming power as successors to Muslim rule in northern India. However, different in their origin, size and early history, all these states had come under the protection of the British over a period of time.

         Originally it was contemplated to constitute a union of the Punjab states leaving out Paṭiālā which was considered large enough to stay as a separate unit, but without it the new state would not have been administratively viable. From the point of view of territorial integrity, administrative efficiency and development of agricultural and other resources, the formation of the union inclusive of Paṭiālā was essential. Mahārājā Yādavinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā volunteered to work for the formation of a common union. When the covenant forming the Union was signed, he was named Rājpramukh, the equivalent of governor, for life while Mahārājā Jagatjīt Siṅgh of Kapūrthalā was made Uparājpramukh or deputy governor for life. Paṭiālā city was chosen to be the capital of the Union and Paṭiālā was the only state specifically included in the name of the new Union.

         After the Union had been established, the formation of a cabinet to run the administration proved to be a problem that was never adequately solved. The major claimants to power were the Punjab Riyāstī Prajā Maṇḍal (soon to be the PEPSU Pradesh Congress), the Akālī Dal championing Sikh interests and the Iok Sevak Sabhā organized by Colonel Raghbīr Siṅgh, a former police inspector-general and revenue minister in Paṭiālā state. An attempt to form a coalition ministry of four Congress, two Lok Sevak Sabhā and two Akālī members with a neutral Sikh as premier failed to secure the necessary agreement from the various components. Eventually a caretaker government was installed on 20 August 1948 under Sardār Giān Siṅgh Rāṛewālā, a former Paṭiālā official and, maternal uncle of Mahārājā Yādavinder Siṅgh. Negotiations to form a representative ministry for PEPSU continued throughout 1948. Giān Siṅgh Rāṛewālā was sworn in as chief minister on 13 January 1949, with colleagues from the Lok Sevak Sabhā and Prajā Maṇḍal. The new ministry, however, did not last long and was replaced by another caretaker government with Giān Siṅgh Raṛewālā again as chief minister and Mr Bhide, of the Indian Civil Service, as minister. The first general elections were scheduled for 1952 and the Prajā Maṇḍal had in the meanwhile been transformed into PEPSU Pradesh Congress. Colonel Raghbīr Siṅgh and his Lok Sevak Sabhā merged with it and he, as a Congressman, became chief minister on 23 May 1951 with old Prajā Maṇḍal leader, Brish Bhān, as deputy chief minister. In the 1952 elections, the Congress won 26 out of 60 seats, with 29.22% of the votes while the Akālīs took 19 out of 41 seats contested with 23.45% of the votes, the communists, smaller parties, and independents dividing the remaining seats. The PEPSU legislative Assembly met for the first time on 16 April 1952 and with it the state embarked on its parliamentary career. The Congress government formed with the aid of independents however lasted only one day and was replaced on 21 April 1952 by a United Front ministry of Akālīs and independents led by Giān Siṅgh Rāṛewālā. This United Front ministry fell in March 1953, giving place to President's rule. In the 1954 mid-term poll the Congress carried the majority, and Colonel Raghbīr Siṅgh once again became chief minister. Upon the death of Raghbīr Siṅgh in 1955, Brish Bhān took over as chief minister.

         On 1 November 1956, PEPSU ceased to be a separate entity as it was merged with the larger state of the Punjab which came into being as a result of the Partition of 1947 and recommendations of the States Reorganization Commission set up by the Government of India in 1953. The new Punjab again came to be subdivided on linguistic basis ten years later with the state of Haryāṇā carved out of it, in addition to Kāṅgṛā district and some areas of Hoshiārpur district transferred to Himāchal Pradesh. PEPSU has been largely subsumed into the post-1956 Punjab and constitutes a major portion of its territory. Paṭiālā city is no longer a capital, but it has remained an important educational and cultural centre. Some PEPSU political leaders continued to be prominent in post-1956 Punjab politics. They included Giān Siṅgh Raṛewālā, who served as a minister in Partāp Siṅgh Kāiroṅ's ministry from 1956 to 1962, and Mahārājā Yādavinder Siṅgh, who made a brief foray into electoral politics by winning a seat in the Punjab Legislative Assembly as an independent candidate in the 1967 elections. His son, Captain Amarinder Siṅgh, is also a political leader of note. The most conspicuous figure, however, was Giānī Zail Siṅgh (1916-94) of Farīdkoṭ who acted as the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee for a number of years before becoming chief minister of the Punjab (1972-77). In 1980 he became Home Minister of India; in 1982 he was elected President of India.


  1. Ganda Singh,The Patiala and the East Panjab States Union : Historical Background. Patiala,1951
  2. Gursharan Siṅgh. History of Pepsu. Delhi, 1991
  3. Khushwant Singh, History of the Sikhs, vol. II. Delhi, 1977
  4. Iqbal Narain, ed., State Politics in India. Meerut, n.d.

Barbara Ramusack