Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Who were Raja Serfoji and Sivaji?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Doctrine of Lapse

Mains level : Not Much

A 19th-century painting of Raja Serfoji and his son Sivaji, which was stolen from Saraswathi Mahal, Thanjavur, a few years ago has been traced to the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts, in the US.

Who was Raja Serfoji?

  • For long, the rulers of Thanjavur had been devoid of absolute power.
  • Serfoji, placed by the British on the throne over his stepbrother Amar Singh, died in 1832.
  • His only son Sivaji ruled until 1855.
  • However, he had no male successor.
  • Thanjavur became a casualty of Lord Dalhousie’s infamous ‘Doctrine of Lapse’, and it got absorbed into British-ruled Indian provinces.
  • The painting, which has Raja Serfoji and his young son, according to some historians, was probably painted between 1822 and 1827 and kept in the Saraswathi Mahal.

Back2Basics: Doctrine of Lapse

  • Between 1848 and 1856, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India, devised the Doctrine of Lapse as an annexation policy.
  • It was an idea to annex those states which have no heir.
  • They lose the right of ruling, and it will not be reverted by the adoption of a child.
  • It was one of the key components that added to the 1857 revolt.

Features of the doctrine

  • Any princely state or any territory under the direct influence of the British, as a vassal state under the British Subsidiary System, would inevitably be annexed if the ruler was either “manifestly incompetent or died without a direct heir”.
  • It ousted the age-old right of an Indian ruler without an heir to select a successor.
  • Additionally, the British decided whether potential rulers were competent enough or not.

Annexations made under this policy

Annexation           Year

Satara                1848

Jaitpur                1849

Sambalpur            1849

Baghat               1850

Udaipur              1852

Jhansi                 1853

Nagpur               1854


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