The map of British India, before the advent of Indian independence, was of a different complexion. One-third of It was depicted as princely India where native rulers wielded undisputed authority in their States under the over all might of British paramountcy. The native princes, the scions of ancient ruling houses, presented a most colourful and aristocratic segment of society. Their magnificent places, the grandeour of their courts and their nobility, their bejewelled elephants, their quaint but costly costumes, their munificence and the rich paraphernalis, with which they always moved, presented a contrast to the gruelling poverty of their subjects. And yet they commanded a respect and obedience of their people which had no parallel elsewhere. In the present volume the author, an eminent journalist and writer of his times, has given a highly interesting and informative account of fifteen aristocratic ruling families of Southern India which had been in existence at the dawn of the twentieth century. It is a gripping and authoritative record of the landed aristocracy whose exploits were sung in ballads and received much lime-light in the pages of contemporary history. The author first served his connection with the journal of which he was the editor and then in his own words, “set out on my enterprise with the object of personally collecting facts for the book. I interviewed almost all the noblemen who figure in the book, ransacked their records and culled out as much information as I thought would be useful to me”. The fruits of his labour are embodied in the present volume. It is not that all the representatives of aristocracy, mentioned in this volume, are exclusively males. There are also two shrewd but talented ladies-the Zamidarni of Gollaprolu Muttah and the Zamidarni of Gutalah Muttah – who managed their affairs and administered their estates with as much courage, enterprise and acumen as their male counterparts in the other States. Such a remarkable book, which is being published after a long lapse of eighty years, and which serves as a window on the aristocracy of the Southern India of nearly a century ago, must be the proud possession of all students and research scholars, public and private libraries, libraries of all Schools and all the Institutes of higher learning. This will also serve as an eye-opener for people of North India and will help promote national integration.
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