Banaili estate in Bihar was one of the largest estates in India. It stretched into four of India's current states - Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa.

The name of the estate derives from a village Banaili in the then Purneah district of Bengal.

Though the roots of the family can be traced to 11th - 12 th century as done ably by Kumar Girijanand Sinha in his book, "Banaili - the Roots of the Raj", the family achieved its famed eminence only in the 19th century during the reign of Raja Bahadur Dular Singh Chowdhry. It was Raja Dular Singh who fixed the family residence at Banaili and gave the family its current name. He was an enterprising Raja and added to the family's wealth using the opportunities afforded by Lord Cornawalis' implementation of the Permanent Settlement in the then state of Bengal. He received the title of Raja Bahadur from the British Government for his services during the Ango-Nepalese War. Raja Dular Singh died in 1821.

The expansion of the estate continued under his able son, Raja Bahadur Bedanand Sinha, who died fairly young in 1851. He in fact is credited for the creation of much of the family's wealth which he did in a fairly short period of time he was at the helm.

His son, Raja Bahadur Lilanand Sinha, maintained the family's eminence and was famous in the entire region for his piety and benevolence. Many stories of his charity and kindness still abound in the Mithila region. He was also responsible for shifting the family's residence from Banaili which had then become a hotbed for malaria to Ramnagar in Purnia district. He again shifted his residence from Ramnagar to Champanagar, 22 kms from Purnia town in Bihar following a tiff with his son, Raja Bahadur Padmanand Singh who continued to stay in Ramnagar. The deorhi in Ramnagar still survives but is no longer in the state it once was.

Raja Lilanand Singh had two sons - Raja Kalanand Singh and Raja Bahadur Kirtyanand Sinha. The former shifted after the death of his father to a new Deorhi he built in Garh Banaili, which was famous for its beauty and perhaps the most exquisite of the reidences built by the Banaili family. However, unfortunately, the deorhi has not survived with his successors bringing the edifice down after independence.

The more prominent and better educated son of Raja Lilanand Singh was Raja Bahadur Kirtyanand Singh. He was a Bachelor of Arts from Allahabad University and was famous for his many pursuits - shikar (hunting), Polo - as well for the role he played in the contemporary public life. He was a government nominee to the Champaran Committee set up in 1917 to resolve the issue of indigo planters where he worked with Mahatma Gandhi. He was one of the founder of the Bank of Bihar, which survives even now as the Bihar State Cooperative Bank Limited. He also started a Banaili Iron and Steel Works in Asansol, referred to in the book on Indian Economy written by eminent historian Amiya Bagchi and also in a book "Bihar" published by the National Book Trust. This venture, unfortunately, as the noted historian Amiya Bagchi observes, did not survive the "Great Depression".

Raja Bahadur Kirtyanand Sinha stayed in public life until his untimely death in 1938. His place of residence remained the Champanagar Deorhi in Purnia inherited from his father. This Deorhi has remained the most enduring of the deorhis of Banaili Raj and to this day is inhabited by the descendants of the Raja.

The most prominent of the six sons of Raja Kirtyanand Sinha was Rajkumar Shyamanand Sinha. His singing prowess and legendary voice made a tremendous mark with one and all who came in touch with him. This included some great contemporary singers like Kesarbai Kerkar. His rendition of "Dwarikanath Sharan Me Teri" enthused Kesarbai so much that she wanted it to be taught to her and expressed her readiness to make him her guru for this song. His rendition of ragas was an absolute delight and mesmerised the listeners transferring the singer's sense of ectasy to the audience in a way that very few have managed to this day. He used his great wealth to open the purse strings of patronage to many maestros of classical music of his time at his residence in Champanagar, turning it into a place of learning and development of classical music. Though he learned from many eminent names, his acknowledged Guru was the legendary Ustad Vishmadev Chatterjee. Unfortunately, the few professional recordings done by All India Radio in the latter part of his life are untraceable. Only a few amateur recordings of his singing are available with his family members and friends. These are rare treasures and absolute delight for the senses. They have somehow survived his idiosyncratic hatred for recording largely due to the efforts of his disciple nephew Kumar Girijanand Singh. Unfortunately, the excellence of his singing tradition did not survive his death though his influence stayed with some of his disciples who are striving hard to keep the flame burning in Purnia.


References to Banaili Raj on the web:

#Reference to Forest of Munger owned by Raja of Banaili []
#Reference to contribution made by Raja Bahadur Kirtyanand Sinha to Tej Narayan Banaili College []
#Reference to Banaili village as a place of tourist interest in Purnia []
#Rference to history of Banaili Raj []
#Another reference in All India Reporter 1926 []
#Reference to Raja Kirtyanand Singh Bahadur appointed member of Champaran Committee ['s_life/India_1917]
#Reference to Raja Kirtyanand Singh in the Minutes of the Champaran Committee of Gandhi []
#Reference to Raja Bahadur Kirtyanand Sinha as a founder member of Bihar State Cooperative Bank Limited []
#Reference to a case involving Rani Prabhavati Devi in Supreme Court of India []
#Reference to Salamat Ali staying under the patronage of Raja of Champanagar []
#Another reference regarding Salamat Ali []
#Reference to famous hindi novelist Saratchandra having worked in the Banaili estate []
#Reference to Ustad Vishmadev Chatterjee as a Guru of Rajkumar Shyamanand Sinha []

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