The Disabled Maharajah: An Inspiration to the World

Major-General H.H. Maharajadhiraja Maharana Shri Sir Bhopal Singh Bahadur, Maharana of Udaipur

Udaipur is the most beautiful city we visited while in India. Little did I know that one of its most noted Maharajahs was disabled with Potts curvature of the spine, a disease that paralyzed him from the waist down before the age of 20. I discovered this amazing person when I was privileged to ride in the secret elevator up to his private quarters in the Udaipur Palace, which is now a museum. The elevator is not normally opened to visitors and is not on the museum map. However, our guide knew about it and arranged for us to use it because of my walking disability. It was a great moment in my ongoing discovery of India.

Maharana Bhopal Singh not only had a physical disability but also had tuberculosis. At one time his diseases reduced his weight to a mere 50 pounds, and it was feared he would not survive. However, as with so many people who have disabilities, he had a mighty spirit. The Maharajahs of Mewar were the only rulers that never succumbed to the Mughal Emperors, remaining independent for over 1500 years.  Maharana Singh inherited the inner power and courage of his ancestors. Although he never fully recovered, he ruled his state of Mewar for 25 years during the massive changes brought about by Independence and the departure of the British. Among the rulers of over 600 independent states in India, he was the first to accede to the newly formed state of India, leading the way for many others to follow. The grateful Government of India nominated him as “Maharaj Pramukh”, the only title of its kind in all of India. He was also assigned the privilege of retaining his title and of having the 19-gun salute, higher than all others in his class. (Note: "Maharana"is similar to "Maharaja" but is considered by some as being more honorific.)

Maharanah Singh used his massive wealth for the good of his people. He was a relentless reformer in education, justice and environmental improvements, establishing schools for girls, reforming the justice system and improving industrial and agricultural works. 

Maharana Bhopal Singh lived during the same time as President Franklin Roosevelt, who also achieved greatness in spite of his disability. It is possible that the struggle with their own personal weaknesses helped these leaders to develop  inner resources to overcome the enormous political challenges of their times. They are an inspiration not only to those with physical challenges but also to the world.

Below are pictures of Maharana Singh's wheelchair and toilet chair, as well as FDR's wheelchair.



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