This film is held by the BFI (ID: 61289).


"Wedding of the Maharaj Kumar Shri Meghraji Saheb of Kutch and Maharaj Shri of Kishangarh 1933". "Part I. The Bridegroom. Princes of India arriving. The Dandia Ras. A Fuleka Procession". "Ghani Khama". "'Princes of India Arriving.' Ruling Princes arriving at Kundla on His Highness the Maharao Saheb's Yacht 'Nagmati'". Large yacht on open waters, about 50 people on board including uniformed crew. View of the Maharaj on the balcony, wearing double-breasted blazer. Princes disembark and walk down jetty, which is lined with guards, and go on through an archway. Five elegantly dressed Princes in an open-topped car. Four seated Princes. Training arriving at station, elderly Prince with ceremonial sword disembarks. Further scenes of disembarking, Maharaj dressed in finery. Prince enters horse-drawn carriage. Horse-backed troops. Foot soldiers lined for inspection. Return to horse-drawn carriage, four Princes now inside. Maharaj enters separate carriage, followed by others. Princes descending steps. Maharaj's carriage passes in front of troops, followed by soldiers on horseback.

Maharao Shri Khengarji (?) inspecting foot soldiers who have rifles. Canons are fired in the darkness. "'Dandia Ras' Played in the gaily decorated courtyard of the Palace by the Bridegroom during the Wedding celebrations". Guests beside a palace archway, workers visible in background carrying bundles. Views of the palace, decorated with flags. Guests at the palace, including roof-top scenes of young royalty. Princes walking through a courtyard. Military band. Royal party watching the Dandia Ras. Princes dancing the Dandia Ras, locals behind a perimeter fence look on. Princes ascend steps. More people dance the Dandia Ras. "'Fuleka Procession.' The Bridegroom tours the ancient capital of the State on an elephant with the Ruling Princes of India in procession". Fireworks watched by large crowd of locals. Maharao Shri Khengarji (?) among the crowds. Maharaj enters a glittering howdah on the back of an elephant. Elephant goes through archway illuminated with electric lights. Fuleka Procession in the darkness. Woman dancer. "End of Part I.". Wedding of the Maharaj Kumar Shri Meghraji Saheb of Kutch and Maharaj Shri of Kishangarh.

1933. "PART ii. A State Katchery. The Barkhast Salute. Mamera Procession. Garden Party. The Pistina Procession. Fireworks". "'State Katchery.' His Highness the Maharao Saheb and Members of the Ruling Family attend a State Katchery in honour of the Bridegroom". Princes parading through building with archways. Royal party sat cross-legged on a platform, Princes file towards them. "'Barkhast Salute.' His Highness the Maharao Saheb takes the 'Salute' at the finish of the State Katchery". Shot through archway of richly adorned elephant. Panned shot across troops and military band. Elephants circling in a courtyard. Troops march behind elephants in a procession. "'Mamera Procession. Presents carried in procession to the Palace from His Highness the Maharaja of Sirohi, maternal uncle of the Bridegroom". Locals among palace buildings; troops march through followed by people bearing gifts borne on trays. "'Garden Party.' Maharaj Kumar Shri Vijayarajji Saheb gives a garden party in honour of his son - 'The Bridegroom'". Indian and European guests walking in a garden. Indian military form guard of honour as guests arrive at garden party. Servants and empty tables; waiting for guests to arrive. Intermingled European and Indian guests at party, servant carries a large box camera. A hand-held movie camera visible on one of the tables. Maharaj and European man cut a cake with a large sword. "'Pistana Procession'. The Bridegroom leaves the capital in a State procession at the hour appointed by the Priests before starting out for Kishangarh". Oxen pulling canon on a cart. Locals view procession consisting of military troops, decorated elephants, camels, horses, men on stilts, palanquins, dancers and musicians. "'Fireworks.' A firework display at Hamirsar Tank in honour of the Bridegroom". Fireworks, including illuminated sign reading 'God bless the Royal Family'. "End of Part II". 'Wedding of the Maharaj Kumar Shri Meghraji Saheb of Kutch and Maharaj Shri of Kishangarh. 1933'.

"PART III. Barat Party leaves for Kishangarh. Sarhaddi Teeka Ceremony. Reception of Bridegroom at Kishangarh. The Padla Ceremony. Procession of Bride from Barat Camp". "'Barat Party.' Headed by His Highness the Maharao Saheb". Princes board decorated steam train. Train in motion. Guests walk through garlanded arch, which bears the word 'welcome'. Princes walk through guard of honour on a jetty. Footage from boat, looking at royal party on shore. Yacht bearing Kutch flag. Indian musicians playing traditional instruments. Passengers sat on the boat. Indians and Europeans playing cards below deck. Boats on the water. Motor boat approaches the cameraman's boat. Boats at sunset. Military inspection, guard of honour and military parade. Illuminated tower and palace. "'Sarhaddi Teeka.' The Bridegroom is met on the boundary of Kishangarh by Sardars, Joshis and Purohits to perform the Sarhaddi Teeka Ceremony before he enters the State". Princes beside a train. Ends.



Under British rule India consisted of two divisions: British India and the Princely or Native States. Princely states were nominally autonomous and were outside the government of India’s tax base. The Government of India advised these states and provided them with loans and finance; in return the Princes acknowledged the sovereignty of the British ruler – hence their own lower designation as ‘Princes’ - and were commonly bound to supply military forces for the Empire’s defence (Buyers, 2008).

There were over 500 Princely States in the sub-continent, occupying about a third of its landmass. They varied enormously in size, from principalities with populations under 100,000, to large States such as Kashmir and Hyderabad. The more prestigious Hindu Princes usually used the prefix ‘maha’ (great) in their titles, while the majority of Muslim Princes used the title ‘Nawab’. Ranking was signified by the gun salute system, with Princes being accorded between three and 21 salutes in line with their prestige. Kutch (or Kachchh) is the largest district in the State of Gujarat and its Maharao was entitled to a 17-gun salute.

The Princes led opulent lives. Ann Morrow recalls ‘Carpets of ivory, pearls of gold, coffers of diamonds and rubies, emeralds as big as goose eggs’ (Morrow, 1986, ix). Family events were marked with elaborate rituals, offering a mixture of ostentation and tradition. The geographical location of Kutch, surrounded by the sea on one side and the desert on the other, helped the state to preserve its distinct customs (Dilipsinhji, 2004, 11). Maharao Shri Khengarji, who ruled from 1876 to 1942, was a strong traditionalist. Dilipsinhji claims that he ‘preserved and persevered with the practices and the institutions despite the technological advancement and political awakening’ (Dilipsinhji, 2004, 13).

The Princes were not entirely immune to changing events in India. In the early 1930s they made their most visible intervention into politics, taking part in Lord Irwin’s Round Table Conferences. Responding to strong nationalist demands, these events were held to discuss the future constitution of the sub-continent. The Princes, whose status would be threatened by an independent India, proposed the idea of a federation between their States and British India. Although this idea was ratified at the first conference, divisions among the Princes eventually led them to retreat from their own proposition. Maharao Shri Khengarji, who attended the first Round Table meeting, was among the earliest to withdraw; one of his reasons being that he would not enter a federation if it meant ‘exposing his dear subjects . . . to extra taxation’ (Copland, 1997, 102).

When India achieved independence in 1947 the Princely States were encouraged to accede to either India or Pakistan. As compensation for the loss of their political autonomy, the Princes were granted their hereditary titles, given privileges of rank and honour, and awarded privy purses to cover their living expenses (Buyers). In 1948 Mahara Shri Khengarji’s grandson, Madan Sinhji, transferred the administration of Kutch to the Republic of India. Madan Sinhji had been ‘meticulously groomed’ to carry on the traditions of the state but proved to be somewhat profligate (Dilipsinhji, 2004, 11). Dilipsinhji accuses him of ‘annihilating beyond retrieval the entire cultural heritage of his forefathers’ (Dilipsinhji, 2004, 11). This film preserves part of that cultural heritage, captured in the footage of the wedding ceremonials performed for Madan Sinhji’s brother, Mehraji Saheb. This footage was shot by the amateur filmmaker Steer-Webster V.C., who was responsible for other films shot in the state, such as Visit of Mr and Mrs J Royle and Miss H Dowell to Kutch State (1936), and Expedition in Search of Flamingo Breeding Grounds in the Great Desert of Kutch (1935).



In this film there is evidence of the ways in which the members of the royal family of Kutch were ‘meticulously groomed’ to carry on the state’s traditions. Dilipsinhji argues that during the course of the twentieth century ritual celebrations were scaled down, with marriage ceremonies being performed in a day, rather than extended to over a month (Dilipsinhji, 2004, 14). Here, however, there is a ceremonial display that Mansur Quraishi describes as being ‘so opulent that it is hard to imagine that it was real’ (Quaraishi). The formalities include the state reception of royal guests; a parade of servants bearing marriage gifts, which are borne on over 100 silver trays; and the ‘Pistana’ procession, featuring decorated beasts, men on stilts, dancers, and a cast of thousands. The Princes, their palaces, and their beasts are all richly ornamented.

The film is shot from a single camera, usually positioned to capture long shots. Many of the scenes feature the bridegroom, but the camera is not primarily focused on him. Instead the interest seems to be in capturing the full scale and splendour of the spectacle. Although a great series of formalities can be witnessed, the film captures only a sample of the events that would have taken place. It also only details those rituals taking place in advance of the wedding itself, and concentrates on the bridegroom’s largely male-dominated ceremonials. Parallel events would also have taken place for the bride (Dilipsinhji, 2004, 118)

The filmed formalities capture the mix of Indian traditions (such as the Dandia Ras, the ritual sword dance that would be performed each evening in the days leading up to the departure of the bridegroom); those implanted by the British (a gun salute); as well as those that were particular to the area (such as the Fuleka Procession, a night time parade led by the bridegroom riding an elephant). The film also captures the physical isolation of Kutch that had helped the district to incubate these ceremonial practices. It begins with a larger group of ruling princes arriving by yacht, and towards the end the bridegroom’s party can be seen travelling across the sea towards the homeland of the bride.

The film discloses something of the relationship between the royal family and their subjects. The local people are excluded from many of the ceremonies; in others they perform subservient duties; and in others they are merely onlookers. They are spectators to the processions and to a firework display. The latter culminates with an illumination that spells out for them ‘God bless the Royal Family’. There is also a large crowd of spectators for the Dandia Ras. At first this dance is preserved for members of the royal party, with locals being kept behind a perimeter fence. Later on they take over the dancing, and prove to have superior technique. The film also illustrates the relationship between the Princes and the British. The least opulent part of the wedding formalities is a tea party, in which many European guests are present. Here they can be seen intermingling freely with the Indian Princes.

Although an amateur film, it is well shot, with only the night time footage occasionally suffering from a lack of clarity. The film is effectively separated into scenes that are clearly signalled by title cards. Some elements of the formalities are out of sequence, however, according to the schedule that is set out in Dilipsinhji’s book. Ultimately, the film provides a valuable record of the Indian Princes, captured during the ‘feudal twilight’ that existed between the Round Table Conferences and the coming of independence (Brown, 1994, 288).

Richard Osborne (October 2009)


Works Cited

Buyers, Christopher, India(2008)

Copland, Ian, The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917-1947 (Cambridge: CUP, 1997).

Dilipsinhji, K. S., Kutch in Festival and Custom (New Delhi: Har-Anand, 2004).

Morrow, Ann, Highness: The Maharajahs of India (London: Grafton, 1986).

Quraishi, Mansur, Wedding of the Maharaj Kumar Shri Meghraji Saheb of Kutch and Maharaj Shri of Kishangarh 1933, Mediatheque, BFI, London.




Technical Data

Running Time:
32 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film
1137 ft

Production Credits