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Kings hold durbar at Dangs, but at Govt expense


Ahwa (Dangs district), Feb 28: Once the dispensers of favour and largesse, the royalty today are the recipients of state dole.

Five Bhil kings of Dangs descended on the Rang Upvan grounds in Ahwa -- the district headquarter town of Dangs -- on Saturday to collect their annual political pension being distributed to them every year at the Dang durbar, the only one of its kind in the country.

Five kings and nine naiks were brought in a decorated bullock cart to the ground, this time -- earlier they used to do so on foot, while dance troupes accompanying the kings sang and danced, creating a spectacular scene.

The hilly and heavily forested district of the Dangs is the only place in India where the kings alongwith their friends, administrators and police patels get their share of the political pension through the Central Government.

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had abolished the privy purse system. Dang durbar, the three-day annual cultural celebrations coinciding with the festival of Holi, wasinaugurated here by Forest Minister Kanjibahi Patel in the traditional way by lighting the lamp. State Minister for Tribal Welfare Mangubhai Patel, chief principal conservator of forests A P Mishra and other top officials were present on the occasion. The durbar, sponsored by the Gujarat forest department has come to symbolise the reversal in roles and the changes in time and is also symbolic of the Dang culture. For these three days, tribals forget their hardships and join in the festival to recall their glorious past and independent status even during the British rule when five kings ruled the Dangs.

The durbar is also an occasion for the tribals to look for brides and bridegrooms and sale and purchase of their wares. Alcoholic drinks, one of the prime attractions during the durbars, though not available freely, normally leads to largescale altercations. For that very reason, five companies of the SRP were deployed to maintain law and order.

Ahwa district superintendent of police Manoj Sasidhar saidevery precaution to prevent trouble arising from alcoholics had been taken which while District Collector J P Gupta busied himself by calling peace committees and asking them to cooperate with the administration during these days.

The five kings who had assembled at the Dang durbar were Rajachandrasinhji of Vasrunna, Raja Bhavarsinh of Linga, Raja Nilkam Rao of Pimpri, Raja Karansinh Yashwant Pawar of Gadhvi and Raja Tapan Rao of Daher. The kingdoms of these rajas cover all the 311 villages in the Dangs with the biggest empire in terms of number of villages being that of Gadhvi.

Interestingly, the Raja of Gadhvi Yashwant Rao Pawar vanished in 1992 and his whereabouts still remain a mystery. After waiting for many years, the Raja of Gadhvi is represented by his son Kiransinh at the durbar. Alongwith the rajas have come their nine naiks, 673 bhavbandhs (friends), 311 karbharis (administrators) and 311 police patels all of whom also will get their share of the political pension. This year the stategovernment has earmarked over Rs 15 lakh to be disbursed among them for this purpose. Monarchy was abolished long back in the country, but the Dang kings still enjoy some privileges and get their political pension annually in recognition of their refusal to surrender their tribal kingdom to the marauding armies right from the Moghuls to the British.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played a major role in bringing the Bhil rajas to independent India. He sent his emissary to the Bhil rajas with a separate message, asking them to merge their states with India. Raja Gulabsinh, eldest among all the five kings of Dangs understood Sardar's intentions and agreed to merge with the country.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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