Raj Darbhanga
Khandawala Dynasty
Coat of arms of Raj Darbhanga
Coat of arms
• 1960
6,200 km2 (2,400 sq mi)
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Oiniwar Dynasty
Today part ofIndia and Nepal

The Darbhanga Raj, also known as Raj Darbhanga and the Khandwala dynasty, was a Maithil Brahmins dynasty and the rulers of territories, not all contiguous, that were part of the Mithila region, now divided between India and Nepal.[2]

The rulers of Raj Darbhanga were Maithil Brahmins and their seat in the town of Darbhanga became the core of the Mithila region as the rulers were patrons of Maithil culture and the Maithili language.[3] The dynasty emerged after the fall of the Oiniwar Dynasty.


Main Gate of Darbhanga Fort
Main Gate of Darbhanga Fort

The Khandaval dynasty was one of many Brahmin dynasties to rule in India, doing so in the Mithila/Tirhut region from the time of the Mughal emperor Akbar until the 1960s. They became known as the Raj Darbhanga. The extent of their lands, which were not contiguous, varied over time, and their area of ownership was smaller than the area that they were granted under sanad arrangements. A particularly significant reduction occurred when the influence of the British Raj caused them to lose control of the territories that were in Nepal but, nonetheless, their holdings were considerable. One estimate suggests that when their rule came to an end, the territories comprised around 6,200 square kilometres (2,400 sq mi), with around 4500 villages.[4][unreliable source?]


The area that now comprises the northern part of the Indian state of Bihar was under a state of lawlessness at the end of the empire of the Tughlaq Dynasty. Tughlaq had attacked and taken control of Bihar and from the end of the Tughlaq Dynasty until the establishment of the Mughal Empire in 1526 there was anarchy and chaos in the region. Akbar (ruled 1556–1605) realised that taxes from Mithila could only be collected if there was a king who could ensure peace there. The Brahmins were dominant in the Mithila region and Mithila had Brahmin kings in the past.[citation needed]

Akbar summoned Rajpandit Chandrapati Thakur to Delhi and asked him to name one of his sons who could be made caretaker and tax collector for his lands in Mithila. Chandrapati Thakur named his middle son, Mahesh Thakur, and Akbar declared Mahesh Thakur as the caretaker of Mithila on the day of Ram Navami in 1557 AD.

The Raj Darbhanga used its military to help the Nawabs in suppressing rebellions from Bettiah, the chieftains of the Terai and Banjaras. The first king of this dynasty helped Mughals to uproot Oiniwar dynasty from Mithila.[5]

The Raj Darbhanga also made the Sena chiefs of Makwanpur in Nepal their subordinates with the Sena's having to pay tribute to the Rajas of Darbhanga.[2]


The family and descendants of Mahesh Thakur gradually consolidated their power in social, agrarian, and political matters and came to be regarded as kings of Madhubani. Darbhanga became the seat of power of the Raj Darbhanga family from 1762. They also had a palace at Rajnagar Bihar situated in Madhubani district. They bought land from local people. They became known as a Khandavala family (the richest landlord).

For a period of twenty years (1860–1880), Darbhanga Raj was placed under the Court of Wards by the British Raj. During this period, Darbhanga Raj was involved in litigation regarding succession. This litigation decided that the estate was impartible and succession was to be governed by primogeniture.[citation needed] Zamindari estates in the region, including Darbhanga, actually sought intervention of the Court of Wards from time to time because the stewardship of the British authorities, who invested funds wisely, had a tendency to boost their economic position. The estate had in any event been badly run prior to this time: a complex system influenced by both nepotism and sycophancy had dramatically affected the family's rental income. The bureaucratic system introduced by the Court, whose appointed officials had no ties to the area, resolved the issue although, being focussed entirely on what was best for the owners, it did so without considering the consequences for the tenants.[6]

Towards the end of the 19th century, 47 percent of the cropped area of the Darbhanga estate was used for the cultivation of rice.[7] Three percent of total cultivation was given over to indigo at that time, making the estate one of the most important centres in the region for this crop prior to the introduction of chemical dyes.[8]


After the independence of India from British rule in 1947, the Government of India initiated several land reform actions and the Zamindari system was abolished. The fortunes of Darbhanga Raj dwindled.

The last ruler of Raj Darbhanga was Maharaja Bahadur Sir Kameshwar Singh. He died in 1962 without naming a successor.[4]

Controversy over royal status

The origin of the royal family of Darbhanga is traced to a grant of the Sarkar of Tirhut to Mahesh Thakur by Akbar. The supporters of the theory that Raj Darbhanga was a kingdom argue that it was held by privy council, that the rulership was a hereditary one with succession governed by primogeniture. The supporters argue that by the end of the 18th century, the Sarkar of Tirhut was practically an independent kingdom until the conquest of Bengal and Bihar by the British.[9][full citation needed]

The opponents of the theory argue that Raj Darbhanga was never a kingdom but rather a zamindari with all the trappings of princely state. The rulers of Raj Darbhanga were the largest landowners in India, and thus were called Raja, and later Maharaja and Maharajadhiraja. They were given the status of ruling prince.[10][full citation needed] Further, after conquest of Bengal and Bihar, the British Raj initiated the Permanent Settlement, and the Raja of Darbhanga was recognised only as a Zamindar.[citation needed] Raj Darbhanga also paid yearly lagan (land tax) to old existing Zamindar of Darbhanga, Kachari at Khan Sahib ki deaorhi.[citation needed]

According to Arvind, they were "robber barons", who curried favour from the British and kept trying to be accorded gun salutes and other privileges but it never materialized.[11]


Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur
Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur
Statue of Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh at Dalhousie Square, Kolkata
Statue of Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh at Dalhousie Square, Kolkata


Old Darbhanga Raj Palace-Damaged by an earthquake in 1934
Old Darbhanga Raj Palace-Damaged by an earthquake in 1934

Darbhanga has several palaces that were built during the Darbhanga Raj era. They include Nargona Palace, which was constructed after the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake and has since been donated to Lalit Narayan Mithila University, and Lakshmivilas Palace. which was severely damaged in the 1934 earthquake, rebuilt, and later donated to Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga Sanskrit University and Darbhanga Fort.

Navlakha Palace (Darbhanga House), Patna
Navlakha Palace (Darbhanga House), Patna

Darbhanga Raj also had several palaces in other towns in India, including the Rajnagar Palace Complex at Rajnagar, in Madhubani District of Bihar.

Indian Independence Movement

Lakshmeshwar Singh was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1885. Raj Darbhanga was one of the major donors to the party despite the family maintaining its proximity to the British Raj.[citation needed] During British rule, the INCy wanted to hold their annual convention in Allahabad but they were denied permission by the Government to use any public place for this purpose. The Maharaja of Darbhanga bought an area and allowed Congress to hold their annual convention there. The annual convention of Congress of 1892 was held on 28 December on the grounds of Lowther Castle, purchased by the then Maharaja.[15][full citation needed] The area was leased to the INC by the Maharaja to thwart any attempts by British officials to deny the party a place to hold their annual conventions.[citation needed] National flag hosting was done on the Darbhanga Kila gate by Mithila Student Union after 57 years in 2018.

Mithila society and Maithili language

The palace complex at Raj Darbhanga
The palace complex at Raj Darbhanga
Nargona Palace
Nargona Palace

The Raj Darbhanga royal family was looked upon as the embodiment of Mithila and the Maithili language by people in the region. The incumbent maharaja was hereditary head of Maithil Mahasabha, a writers' organisation, and they played a prominent role in the revival of the language and its literature.[citation needed]


The Maharajas of Darbhanga were devoted to Sanskrit traditions and were supporters of orthodox Hindu practices in both caste and religion. Shiva and Kali were the main deities of the royal family. Even though they were deeply religious, they were also secular in their outlook. The palace area in Darbhanga has three tombs of Muslim saints and a small mosque. The walls of fort at Darbhanga was designed to leave an area so that the mosque is not disturbed. The tomb of a Muslim saint is located next to Anandbagh Palace.

As part of their attempt to reintroduce old Hindu customs such as the study of Vedas and Vedic rites, the Maharaja reintroduced Samavedic study by inviting a few well-versed Samavedins from south India to teach there.[16]

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh established and was general president of Sri Bharat Dharma Mahamadal, a neo-conservative Hindu organisation that sought to make Hindu scriptures available to all castes and women. He was one of the main patrons of Agamanusandhana Samiti, an organisation with the objective of publishing Tantric texts in English and other languages.[17]

Promotion of education

I hold that an education which does not provide for instruction in the religion of one's forefathers can never be complete and am convinced that a Hindu will be a better Hindu, a Christian a better Christian, and a Mohammedan a better Mohammedan if he had implicit faith in his God and in the religion of his forefathers.[18]

Maharaja Sir Rameshwar Singh of Darbhanga

The royal family of Darbhanga played a role in the spread of education in India. Darbhanga Raj was a major donor to Benaras Hindu University, Calcutta University, Allahabad University, Patna University, Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga Sanskrit University, Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital, Lalit Narayan Mithila University, Aligarh Muslim University,[19] and many other educational institutions in India.

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur was a major donor and supporter of Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya for starting Banaras Hindu University; he donated Rs. 5,000,000 start-up funds and assisted in the fundraising campaign.[20] Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was also the Pro-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University.[21]

Maharaja Rameshwar Singh donated Darbhanga House (Navlakha Palace) at Patna to Patna University. The Maharaja played an important role getting Maithili introduced as a subject in Patna University, and in 1920, he donated Rs. 500,000.00 to establish Patna Medical College Hospital, the single highest contributor.[22]

Maharaja Kameshwar Singh donated his ancestral house, Anand Bag Palace, on 30 March 1960, along with a rich library and land surrounding the palace to establish Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University.[23] Nargona Palace and the Raj Head Office were donated in 1972 to the Government of Bihar. The buildings are now part of Lalit Narayan Mithila University.[24] Raj Darbhanga donated 70,935 books to Lalit Narain Mithila University for its library.

Raj School in Darbhanga was founded by Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur. This school was established to provide the English medium of education and to introduce modern teaching methods in Mithila. Several other schools were also opened throughout Raj Darbhanga.

Raj Darbhanga was a major donor to Calcutta University, and the central library building of Calcutta University is called the Darbhanga Building.

In 1951, Mithila Snatkottar Shodh Sansthan (the Mithila Post-Graduate Research Institute), located at Kabraghat, was established on the initiative of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first President of India. Maharaja Kameshwar Singh donated a building along with 60 acres (240,000 m2) of land and a garden of mango and litchi trees located beside the Bagmati river in Darbhanga to this institution.[25]

The Maharajas of Darbhanga were the main patrons, trustees, and financiers of Mahakali Pathshala, a school established by Mst. Gangabai in 1839 for promoting education for women.[26] Similarly many colleges like Bareilly College, Bareilly received substantial donations from Maharajas of Darbhanga.[27]

Maharani Rameshwari Bhartiya Chikitsa Vigyan Sansthan at Mohanpur is named after the wife of Maharaja Rameshwar Singh.


Darbhanga became one of the prominent centres of Hindustani classical music from the late 18th century. The kings of Raj Darbhanga were great patrons of music, art, and culture. Several famous musicians were associated with Raj Darbhanga. Prominent amongst them were Ustad Bismillah Khan, Gauhar Jaan, Pandit Ram Chatur Mallik, Pandit Rameshwar Pathak, and Pandit Siya Ram Tiwari. Raj Darbhanga was a main patron of Dhrupad, a vocal style in Hindustani classical music. A major school of Dhrupad today is known as Darbhanga Gharana. Today there are three major gharanas of Dhrupad in India: Dagar Gharana, Mishras of Bettiah Raj (Bettiah Gharana), and the Mallicks of Darbhanga (Darbhanga Gharana).[28]

According to S. M. Ghosh (quoted in 1896) Maharaja Lakshmishwar Singh was a good sitar player.

Ustad Bismillah Khan was a court musician of Raj Darbhanga for several years. He had spent his childhood in Darbhanga.[29]

Gauhar Jaan gave her first performance before the Maharaja of Darbhanga in 1887 and was appointed as court musician.[30] Pandit Rameshwar Pathak, one of the foremost Sitar players of the early 20th century, was court musician in Raj Darbhanga.[31]

Raj Darbhanga supported Murad Ali Khan, brother of Nanhe Khan of Gwalior. Murad Ali Khan was one of the foremost sarod players of his time. Murad Ali Khan is credited with being the first person to use metal strings and metal fingerboard plates on his sarod, which has today become the standard.[32]

Kundan Lal Sehgal was a friend of Raja Bisheshwar Singh, younger brother of Maharaja Kameshwar Singh. Whenever the two met the Bela Palace at Darbhanga witnessed long sessions of conversations and renditions of ghazals and thumris. K. L. Sehgal attended the marriage of Raja Bahadur, and took out his harmonium and sang "Babul Mora Naihar Chhuto Hee Jaye" at the wedding.[33]

Raj Darbhanga had its own symphony orchestra and police band. There was a circular structure in front of Manokamna Temple, which was known as the Band Stand. The band used to play music there in the evening. Today the floor of bandstand is the only part still extant.

Public works


Raj Darbhanga actively promoted various sports activities. The Polo Ground in Laheriasarai was a major centre for polo in pre-independence times in Bihar. The winner of a major polo tournament in Calcutta is awarded the Darbhanga Cup.[39]

Raja Bishweshwar Singh was one of the founding members of the All India Football Federation, the prime governing body for football in India. Raja Bahadur, along with Rai Bahadur Jyoti Prasad Singh of Hariharpur Estate, were the Honorary Secretaries of the federation upon its inception in 1935.[40]

The first flight over Mount Everest in took place in 1933. This expedition was organised by military officers, supported by public companies, and hosted by the Maharajah of Darbhanga Kameshwar Singh Bahadur along with the Raja of Banaili.[41]

See also


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  2. ^ a b Tahir Hussain Ansari (20 June 2019). Mughal Administration and the Zamindars of Bihar. Taylor & Francis. pp. 200–223. ISBN 978-1-00-065152-2.
  3. ^ Jha, Makhan (1997). Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective. ISBN 9788175330344. Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b Rorabacher, J. Albert (2016). Bihar and Mithila: The Historical Roots of Backwardness. Routledge. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-35199-757-7. Archived from the original on 11 May 2018.
  5. ^ Choudhary, Rabindra Nath (1987). "Political History of Khandavala Dynasity [sic] in Mithila, 1556-1793, Volume 1". p. 149. Archived from the original on 12 April 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  6. ^ Yang, Anand A. (1989). The Limited Raj: Agrarian Relations in Colonial India, Saran District, 1793-1920. University of California Press. pp. 83–86. ISBN 978-0-52005-711-1. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017.
  7. ^ Yang, Anand A. (1989). The Limited Raj: Agrarian Relations in Colonial India, Saran District, 1793-1920. University of California Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-52005-711-1. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017.
  8. ^ Chaudhuri, B. B. (2008). Peasant History of Late Pre-colonial and Colonial India. Vol. 8. Pearson Education India. p. 420. ISBN 978-8-13171-688-5. Archived from the original on 2 August 2017.
  9. ^ Jnanendra Nath Kumar – The Genealogical History of India
  10. ^ Lakshmana Jha – Mithila: A Union Republic
  11. ^ Das, Arvind N. (1992). The Republic of Bihar. Penguin Books. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-14-012351-7.
  12. ^ "No. 26864". The London Gazette. 22 June 1897. p. 2.
  13. ^ The Knights of England. Author: William Arthur Shaw
  14. ^ http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL094.PDF[bare URL PDF]
  15. ^ Indian Politics Since the Mutiny by Sir Chirravoori Yajneswara Chintamani
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link); accessed on 13 December 2007
  17. ^ Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: An Indian Soul in a European. Author: Kathleen Taylor. Page 212
  18. ^ "Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya quatations". Archived from the original on 6 March 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2008. accessed on 21 Jan. 2008
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  20. ^ History of BHU Archived 1 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Source – Radhakrishnan: His Life and Ideas By K. Satchidananda Murty, Ashok Vohra at page 92
  22. ^ "PMCH , Patna". Archived from the original on 15 October 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2018. accessed on 17 April 2008
  23. ^ Umesh Mishra; Author Govinda Jhā; at page 60
  24. ^ Anthropology of Ancient Hindu Kingdoms: A Study in Civilizational Perspective. Author – Makhan Jha
  25. ^ "Darbhanga Raj relic languishing Dipak Mishra". The Times of India. 3 August 2002. Archived from the original on 6 March 2008.
  26. ^ A Concise History of India. Authors: Barbara Daly Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf at page 147
  27. ^ "Welcome to Bareilly College , Bareilly". Archived from the original on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 20 April 2008. accessed on 14 April 2008
  28. ^ The importance of being Gauhar Jan Archived 8 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine The Tribune, 26 May 2002.
  29. ^ "Yahoo Search - Web Search". in.news.yahoo.com. Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  30. ^ "The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum - Article". tribuneindia.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  31. ^ http://www.ashokpathak.com/AshokPathak_pages/Pathak_Gharana-Tree.html[permanent dead link].
  32. ^ Sitar and Sarod in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Author: Allyn Miner; at page 144
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 May 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
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  35. ^ "Bazaar India". cdlib.org.
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  37. ^ Sringrikh, Kharagpur Hills, Munger Archived 10 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine accessed on 3 December 2008
  38. ^ Handbook of Indian Agriculture. Author – Niya Gopal Mukerji at page 476
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  40. ^ "All India Football Federation". Archived from the original on 2 April 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007. accessed on 18 May 2007
  41. ^ "Wings over Everest - History of the first flight attempt over Everest". Archived from the original on 6 March 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2007. accessed on 18 December 2007

Further reading