The Maharajas of Darbhanga were devoted to Sanskrit traditions and maintained an orthodox viewpoint of religion and caste. However, their views did not prevent them from having a broader nationalistic outlook. Even though the Royal Family of Darbhanga’s contribution to the Indian independence movement is ignored, the Maharajas of Darbhanga, while maintaining their loyalty to the British government, were major financial supporters of the Indian National Congress. In a letter dated 21 March 1947 Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged his friendship with the royal family of Darbhanga and said Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur was as a son to him.
After the independence of India from British rule in 1947, the Government of India initiated several land reform actions and the Zamindari system was abolished. The fortunes of Darbhanga Raj dwindled. The last Maharaja of Darbhanga Raj was Maharaja Bahadur Sir Kameshwar Singh, K.C.I.E. He died heirless.
List of Kings of Raj Darbhanga
- Raja Mahesh Thakur (died 1558).
- Raja Gopal Thakur. He was the eldest son of Raja Mahesh Thakur. He was king for a short time only as he died suddenly.
- Raja Parmanand Thakur. He was the second son of Raja Mahesh Thakur. He ruled for a brief period before abdicating in favour of his younger brother Raja Subhankar Singh.
- Raja Subhankar Thakur (died 1607). He was the fifth son of Raja Mahesh Thakur.
- Raja Purushottam Thakur (ruled 1607 to 1623). He was the son of Raja Shubhankar Thakur. He was killed in 1623.
- Raja Narayan Thakur (ruled 1623 to 1642).
- Raja Sundar Thakur (ruled 1642 to 1662) (died 1662).
- Raja Mahinath Thakur (ruled 1662 to 1684) (died 1684).
- Raja Nirpat Thakur (ruled 1684 to 1700) (died 1700).
- Raja Raghu Singh (ruled 1700 to 1736) (died 1736). Raja Raghu Singh obtained a lease for the whole of Sarkar Tirhut including Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur at an annual rent of Rs.100,000, which was a huge amount at that time. The annual revenue of Sarkar Tirhut in 1685 was Rs.7,69,287. During reign of Raja Raghu Singh, Nawab Mahabat Jung, Nawab Subahdar of Behar, was jealous of the wealth of Raja Raghu Singh and imprisoned his family at Patna. Raghu Singh escaped capture and succeeded in getting the estate back along with a large grant from the Mughal Governor on the condition that he “do justice, relieve distress, and put the country in flourishing condition.” This condition was fulfilled by Raja Raghu Singh and subsequent Maharajas of Darbhanga. He built a mud fort at Bhawara near Madhubani.
- Raja Bishnu Singh (ruled 1736 to 1740) (died 1740).
- Raja Narendra Singh (ruled 1740 to 1760) (died 1760). Raja Narendra Singh died without issue. He adopted Raja Pratap Singh, great-great-grandson of Narayan Thakur, son of Raja Shubhankar Thakur, younger brother of Raja Sundar Thakur, as his successor.
- Raja Pratap Singh (ruled 1760 to 1776) (died 1776). Raja Pratap Singh built Rajbari at Darbhanga and shifted the capital to Darbhanga from Bhawara.
- Raja Madho Singh (ruled 1776 to 1808) (died 1808). He was a younger brother of Raja Pratap Singh and succeeded him upon his death. In 1776, Raja Madho Singh received a grant of land at Dharampur in Purnea district from Shah Alam II, Mughal Emperor of India. Raja Madho Singh had a long dispute with the British government over revenue payments and the extent of his rights over the land.
- Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur (ruled 1808 to 1839) (died 1839). He was the second son of Raja Madho Singh. He was the first in the family to hold the title of Maharaja Bahadur. Maharaja Chhatra Singh made over his estate and title to his eldest son Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur on the grounds of old age in 1839. He died a few days later after the coronation of Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur.
- Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur (ruled 1839 to 1850) (died 1850). After the death of Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur, the younger brothers of Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur were involved in a long litigation for succession to the estate. It was ultimately held by the High Court of Calcutta that the ordinary Hindu Law of Succession can not apply in this case and the Raj Darbhanga family would have to follow the family custom or Kulachar. Maharaja Rudra Singh Bahadur, being the eldest son of Maharaja Chhatra Singh Bahadur, was declared to be Maharaja of Darbhanga. This permanently settled the issue of succession and thereafter the succession was based upon primogeniture.
- Maharaja Maheshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1850 to 1860) (died 1860). Maharaja Maheshwar Singh Bahadur ruled for ten years. He expired in October 1860, leaving behind two sons, Lakshmeshwar Singh and Rameshwar Singh, both of whom became Maharajas of Darbhanga.
- Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1860 to 1898) (born 25 September 1858, died 17 December 1898). Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh was a philanthropist. His statue (by Edward Onslow Ford) was installed in Calcutta in 1904 at Dalhousie Square as a tribute to him. Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur was only two years old his father’s death so Raj Darbhanga was placed under Ward of Court. He was the first Maharaja of Darbhanga to receive a western education, from a British tutor, Mr. Chester Mcnaughton. Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur took over the reins of Raj Darbhanga on 25 September 1879 after attaining his majority. He devoted himself to public works and was recognized as one of the greatest nobles and philanthropists of India at that time. He was made a Knight of the British Empire on 22 June 1897.
- Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1898 to 1929) (born 16 January 1860, died 3 July 1929). Maharaja Rameshwar Singh Bahadur became Maharaja of Darbhanga after the death of his elder brother Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh Bahadur, who died without issue. He was appointed to the Indian Civil Service in 1878, serving as assistant magistrate successively at Darbhanga, Chhapra, and Bhagalpur. He was exempted from attendance at the Civil Courts and was appointed a Member of the Legislative Council of Bengal (MLC of Bengal) in 1885. He was a Member of the Council of India of the Governor General of India in 1899 and on 21 September 1904 was appointed a non-officiating member representing the Bengal Provinces, along with Gopal Krishna Gokhale from Bombay Province.
- He was president of Bihar Landholder’s Association, president of the All India Landholder’s Association, president of Bharat Dharma Mahamandal, a member of Council of State, a trustee of Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, president of the Hindu University Society, M.E.C. of Bihar and Orissa, and Member of the Indian Police Commission (1902-03). He was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind medal in 1900. He was the only member of the India Police Commission who dissented with a report on requirements for police service, and suggested that the recruitment to the Indian Police Services should be through a single exam only to be conducted in India and Britain simultaneously. He also suggested the recruitment should not be based on colour or nationality. This suggestion was rejected by the India Police Commission. Maharaja Rameshwar Singh was a Tantric and was known as Siddha Tantric. He was considered a Rajarsi (sage king) by his people.
- Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur (ruled 1929 to the independence of India in 1947) (born 28 November 1907, died 8 November 1962). He was member of the Council of State 1933–1946, member of the Constituent Assembly 1947–1952, and the Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha-Upper House) 1952–1958 and 1960–1962. He was the first person in India to get a bust of Mahatma Gandhi made by celebrated artist Clare Frewen Sheridan, niece of Winston Churchill. The bust was presented to the viceroy of India, Victor Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow, to be displayed in Government House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan). This was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi in a letter to Lord Linlithgow in 1940.
Gandhi, in an interview during his visit to Bihar in 1947, said that the Maharaja Kameshwar Singh was an extremely good person and like a son to him.