The Princely state of Baroda was ruled
from 1721 to 1949 by the Gaekwads of Maratha Confederacy. The genesis of ‘Gaekwad’ can be traced from ‘gaikwar’, meaning cowherd. Archaeological findings have been unearthed from an area in Baroda, earlier called Ankottaka in the 5th
and 6th century which was a popular center of Jainism. It was located on the banks of Vishvamitri. At the time of state re-organization after independence, Baroda became a part of the Union of India on
1st May 1949.
Term ‘Baroda’ or native name ‘Vadodara’ traces roots in Sanskrit which can be understood by dividing it into Vat means Banyan tree and Oodara means stomach. In some references, Vatodara is also defined as ‘heart of Banyan tree’. Guajarati poet, Premanand Bhatt mentioned other names of Baroda such as Virakshetra or Virawati, which means land of warriors. Early English travelers and merchants mentioned Brodera from which Baroda name was derived. It was stretched over large territory, across present day Gujarat. It was divided into four prants- Kadi, Baroda, Navsari and Amreli. Also coastal areas such as Okhamadal and Kodinar were a part of the Baroda princely state.
Pilaji Gaekwad conquered Songadh from Mughals and founded Baroda State in 1721. Prior to this, Pilaji Gaekwad was appointed as General to collect revenues from Peshwas. After the Second Anglo-Maratha war, the East India Company snatched most portions of Gujarat from Marathas. But Gaekwad of Baroda signed a separate peace treaty with British. They came under a subsidiary alliance system and accepted British suzerainty and external affairs to be controlled. In return internal autonomy was assured.
After the death of Sir Khanderao Gaekwad, his brother Madhavrao was supposed to be enthroned, but since he always conspired to kill Khanderao, succession was stopped. Khanderao’s widow, Maharani Jamanabai was expecting, but she delivered a baby girl. Hence, Madhavrao ascended the throne. He spent money on luxury such as a pair of solid gold canon, carpet of pearl, etc. He also tried to poison British Resident, Colonel R. Phayre C.B. with an arsenic compound. Therefore, Secretary of State for India, Lord Salisbury issued an order against Madhavrao of deposing and exiling to Madras, where he died in obscurity in 1882.
Maharani Jamanabai joined hands with Kashirao and his three sons? Anandrao, Gopalorao and Sampatrao took down Baroda from Kavlan which was at a distance of 600 Kilometer and to decide the next successor. On 27th May 1875, the British Government selected Gopalrao as the successor. He was also given a new name, Sayajirao Gaekwad III. The Maharaja of Baroda, Sayajirao Gaekwad III was the most prominent ruler. The state witnessed a golden age during Sayajirao’s reign. He made reforms in education, medicine, religious tolerance and administration. He established numerous institutions of education, art and banking. He founded Bank of Baroda on 20th July 1908 which was nationalized by the Indian Government on 19th July 1969 and today, it’s the third largest bank of India.