RIPUDAMAN SIṄGH, MAHĀRĀJĀ (1883-1942), ruler of the princely state of Nābhā from 1912 to 1923, was born at Nābhā on 22 Phāgun 1939 Bk/4 March 1883, the only son of Mahārājā Hīrā Siṅgh (1843-1911) and Mahārāṇī Jasmer Kaur. His father having resisted British advice to send his heir to one of the newly established Chiefs' Colleges modelled on English public schools, Ṭikkā (heir apparent) Ripudaman Siṅgh was educated by private tutors including Lālā Bishan Dās and Sardār (Bhāī) Kāhn Siṅgh, celebrated Sikh scholar and lexicographer. He was married in 1901 to Jagdish Kaur (1884-1927), daughter of Sardār Gurdiāl Siṅgh Mānn, a Punjabi judicial officer and owner of tea gardens near Dharamsālā (now in Himāchal Pradesh). A daughter, Amrit Kaur, born to them on 8 October 1907, was later (in 1925) married to Rājā Ravi Sher Siṅgh of Kalsīā state.

         In 1906 Ṭikkā Ripudaman Siṅgh was appointed as additional member to the Imperial Legislative Council in Calcutta for a two-year term. During this period he joined hands with nationalist leaders such as Gopāl Krishna Gokhale and Madan Mohan Mālavīya in their opposition to restrictive legislation such as the Press Act of the Government of India. He also introduced the Anand Marriage Bill sought to legitimize Sikh marriages conducted according to their simple religious rites known as anand. His interest in social reform was further evidenced when he presided over the Indian National Social Conference held at Lahore in 1909. In 1910, he went abroad for medical treatment. He attended the coronation of King George V at Westminster on 22 June 1911. He was in France when the news reached him of his father's death on 25 December 1911.

         He came back to India, and ascended the throne of Nābhā on 24 January 1912. A man of independent views, the Mahārājā alienated the British at the very outset by contesting their right to confirm his succession to the throne with a formal investiture of a khill'at (robe of honour). Mahārājā, citing a precedent of an installation ceremony in 1863, wanted only the necklace to be placed on him. Although the matter was amicably settled and the ceremony did take place on 20 December 1912, and later during the Great War (1914-1918), the Mahārājā liberally contributed to the British war effort, the British always looked askance at him. His overt support to the Gurdwārā Reform movement in the Punjab led to further alienation. Meanwhile, an acrimonious dispute had arisen between Mahārājā Ripudaman Siṅgh and the ruler of the neighbouring state of Paṭiālā, Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh. Among the welter of charges and countercharges, Paṭiālā accused Nābhā of the kidnapping of officials and other violations of Paṭiālā's sovereignty, while Nābhā sought the extradition of a woman allegedly employed by Paṭiālā's secret police but accused of theft in Nābhā. After efforts at conciliation between the two rulers had proved futile, the British launched an enquiry by one of their own officers who found Nābhā guilty of serious transgressions. Even some of Mahārājā Ripudaman Siṅgh's own former confidants had deposed against him.

         Partly under British pressure and partly persuaded by one of his former officers, Captain O'Grady, he signed a letter of voluntary abdication on 7 July 1923, and the British government formally deposed him on 9 July 1923. He was sent to Dehrā Dūn on an annual pension of Rs 300,000. His son, Prince Pratāp Siṅgh, born on 22 September 1919 of his second marriage in 1918 to Sarojinī Devī, daughter of Major Prem Siṅgh Garewāl, of the Hyderābād State Army, was proclaimed ruler of Nābhā and the state was placed under a British administrator during the prince's minority.

         The Mahārājā's deposition and expulsion from Nābhā led to strong popular protest. In a series of demonstrations and meetings people demanded the restoration of the Mahārājā. The protest soon took the form of a religious movement which came to be known as Jaito morchā. The morchā or agitation was led by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee. It became intensified after the state authorities had interrupted an akhaṇḍ pāṭh, continued reading of Gurū Granth Sāhib, the Sikh Scripture, at Gurdwārā Gang Sar at Jaito, a small market-town. The agitation, while successful in winning freedom of worship in gurdwārās, failed in its political aim, i.e. the restoration of the Mahārājā to his throne. He was instead removed in 1926 from Dehrā Dūn to Koḍāīkanāl, in the far South. Two years later his pension was reduced to Rs 1,20,000 per annum, and many other concessions were withdrawn. His effort to regain his gaddī through lobbying with some prominent nationalist leaders, lawyers and journalists proved abortive. But he remained unbent and unrepentant. Early in 1927 he went on pilgrimage to Srī Abichalnagar Hazūr Sāhib, Nāndeḍ, where he took the Khālsā pāhul (initiation rites) a second time and was renamed Gurcharan Siṅgh. He died at Koḍaikanāl on 13 December 1942.


  1. Ganda Singh, ed., Some Confidential Papers of the Akali Movement. Amritsar, 1965
  2. Mohinder Singh, The Akali Movement. Delhi, 1978
  3. Syngal, Munnalal, The Patriot Prince : Or the Life Story of Maharaja Ripudaman Siṅgh of Nabha who Died as a Martyr. Ludhiana, 1961
  4. Ramusack, Barbara N., "Incident at Nabha : Interaction between Indian States and British Indian Politics," Journal of Asian Studies. May 1969
  5. Harbans Singh, “The Plight of a Patriotic Prince of the Punjab," in The Sunday Statesman,5 July 1970

Barbara Ramusack