THE PRINCE AND THE MUSICIAN
Native States, Bureaucracy,
and Colonial Influence
In 1896, a man named Sayajirao Gaekwad ordered his staff to have makeshift beds for his wife and himself made out of silver while their permanent beds, made out of gold, were being repaired.1 He had the money to order a hundred such beds if he so desired. He was the ruler of a wealthy princely state, Baroda, and the eighth-richest man in the world in the early years of the twentieth century.2 As a Baroda ruler, moreover, he was merely carrying on an established practice of spending vast sums of money on jewelry and precious metals. A previous ruler, Khanderrao Gaekwad, had cannons cast out of gold and silver and carpets woven from pearls. He diverted money (thirty-six lakhs of rupees) earmarked to provide the residents of the capital city with clear drinking water to build a palace for his bride and added eccentricity to extravagance by conducting pigeon marriages with solemnity and ostentatious pomp.
Sayajirao, gold and silver beds notwithstanding, was a different kind of ruler. By the end of his reign, he would be known for his progressiveness and enlightenment, unlike the rulers of numerous other princely states, who typi