Dhrangadhra

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The ruling house of Dhrangadhra belongs to the Makwana sect of the Jhala clan of Rajuts.

They were a warrior clan who originated in Baluchistan, ruled the area near Nagar Parkar in Sind, and entered Kathiawar during the eigth century.

The family shares a common ancestry with the Royal houses of Wankaner, Limbdi, Wadhwan, Chuda, Sayla and Than-Lakhtar.

The founder of the dynasty was Harapal Devji of Kirantigarh, in Sind. He entered the service of Raja Karan Solanki of Patan (Anhilpataka), married the daughter of Pratap solanka, and received several large tracts of land including some 2,400 villages, which became known after the clan as Jhalavad. The clan names derives from a miraculous act of Harapal’s wife, who caught up her children through an open window when they were charged by a crazed elephant in musk.

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Painting: Maharaja Jai Singh and Maharaja Gaj Singh, 1630

Jhalvan is Gujarati for ‘catching’ and her children and descendants thus began to be called Jhalas. Harapal Devji, established his capital at Patdi, near Little Rann of Cutch, where it remained until his descendant Jetsinghi I abandoned it in favour of Kuwa during the 15th century.

Rana Waghoji succeeded in 1469, but rebelled against the Muslim power. The Sultan of Gujarat sent Khalil Khan against him, but Waghoji succeeded in defeating that prince.

In 1486, the Sultan took the field to chastise Waghoji himself, arrived at Kuwa and laid seige to the fort. When supplies were about to run out in the town, Waghoji ordered fires to be lit and told his wives to prepare for sati, then sallied forth to do battle against the enemy.

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Emperor Aurangzeb (1618 – 1707)

Emperor Aurangzeb confirmed Maharana Jaswantsinhji I in his possessions by an Imperial sanad in October, 1680.

During the conflict his standard bearer tired of carrying his burden and temporarily put down his ensign. This act prompted the poor Ranis to imagine the death of their lord, and each of them dutifully mounted the pyre. Waghoji returned to the fort to find them all dead.

Disconsulate, he vowed to die fighting in battle and rode out again into the thick of the enemy. He killed many in close combat, until eventually he succumbd to their swords. The Sultan’s forces invaded the fort, ransacked and destroyed Kuwa.

Rajodharji [Raydharji] established a new capital at Halvad in Kathiawar in 1488.

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Maharaja Jaswantsinhji I of Jodhpur

Maharaja Jaswant Singhji I of Jodhpur, the Mughal Viceroy of Gujarat, annexed Halvad from Maharana Jaswantsinhji I in 1673 and made it into an imperial jagir. Maharana Chandrasinhji of Wankaner wrested control of Halvad from its Muslim jagirdar in 1679, but yielded it to Jaswantsinhji I in the following year. Emperor Aurangzeb confirmed Jaswantsinhji in his possessions by an Imperial sanad in October, 1680.

Maharajah Jaswant Singh II removed his capital permanently to Dhrangadhra in 1783.

Maharajah Jaswant Singh II removed his capital permanently to Dhrangadhra in 1783.

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Jhala Jaswantsinhji II playing polo in Halvad

Although the family held the state uninterruptedly after 1783, frequent quarrells and disputes over the succession and over territory coninued to plague the clan for the next century and a half. The enmity and feuding reached such a state that in 1805 Wadhwan and Dhrangadhra battled with each other over a goat. Eventually, this period of conflict was brought to an end by the Walker settlement of 1807-1808. Thereafter, the peace afforded by the settlement ensured that the Jhala rulers could concenrate on improving he lot of their subjects.

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Halvad and Dhrangadhra are located within the Indian state of Gujarat

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Luckily for the people of Dhrangadhra, they basked under the benevolent rule of five successive rulers who took their interests to heart.

Great imporvements in education, irrigation, administrative and judicial reform, as well as investmens in indusry and agriculture ensued over the next 150 years. Maharanas Ranmalsinghji, Mansinhji II, Ajitsinhji, Ghanshyamsinhji and Megrajji III all excelled as enlightened rulers.

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Maharana Ghanshyamsinjhi 

The foundations of England’s Millfield School in 1935, stem from the school established by Maharana Ghanshyamsinjhi for the education of his sons and those of his relatives.

Most engrossed themselves in intellectual pursuits and thus prized education and learning for their subjects. After sixty years of school building, the state provided both primary and secondary education during the first decade of the twentieth century. This interest in education did not limit itself to Dhrangadhra, as the Maharana’s also assisted their subjects obtain tertiary and higher educational qualifications in the major institutions outside the state, in metropolitan universities and abroad. The legacy of that interest can even be seen in England today.

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Maharana Ghanshyamsinjhi’s sons were pioneer students at Millfield School

The foundations of Millfield school stem from the school established by Maharana Ghanshyamsinjhi for the education of his sons and those of his relatives.

Apart from education, the Maharana Ghanshyamsinjhi also took a great interest in agricultural and industrial development.

The salt industry, which provided a large portion of stat revenues, saw a great expansion. Industrial and chemical plants were consruted to produce related and value added products. This industry remains the major industry in Dhragadhra to this day.