Baroda, a native state of India, within the Gujarat province of Bombay, but in direct relations with the governor-general. It consists of four isolated divisions, each of which is interlaced in the most intricate fashion with British territory or with other native states. Three of these divisions - Kadi, Baroda and Nausari - are in Gujarat proper; the fourth, Amreli with Okhamandal, is in the peninsula of Kathiawar. The total area covers 8099 sq. m. In 1901 the population was 1,952,692, showing a decrease of 19% in the decade, compared with an increase of 11% in the preceding decade. This decrease was due partly to the famines of 1896-1897 and 1900-1901, partly to the epidemics of cholera and fever which accompanied them, and partly to the plague which attacked the state in as great measure as the surrounding presidency.
The princes of Baroda were one of the chief branches of the Mahratta confederacy, which in the 18th century spread devastation and terror over India. About 1721 one Pilaji gaekwar carved a fertile slice of territory out of Gujarat, and afterwards received the title of "Leader of the Royal Troops" from the peshwa. During the last thirty-two years of the century the house fell a prey to one of those bitter and unappeasable family feuds which are the ruin of great Indian families. In 1800 the inheritance descended to a prince feeble in body and almost idiotic in mind. British troops were sent in defence of the hereditary ruler against all claimants; a treaty was signed in 1802, by which his independence of the peshwa and his dependence on British government were secured. Three years later these and various other engagements were consolidated into a systematic plan for the administration of the Baroda territory, under a prince with a revenue of three-quarters of a million sterling, perfectly independent in all internal matters, but practically kept on his throne by subsidiary British troops.
For some time the history of the gaekwars was very much the same as that of most territorial houses in India: an occasional able minister, more rarely an able prince; but, on the other hand, a long dreary list of incompetent heads, venal advisers and taskmasters oppressive to the people. At last a fierce family feud came to a climax. In 1873 an English committee of inquiry was appointed to investigate various complaints of oppression against the gaekwar, Malhar Rao, who had recently succeeded to the throne after being for a long time kept in prison by his brother, the former gaekwar. No real reform resulted, and in 1874 an attempt at poisoning the British resident led to the gaekwar being formally accused of the crime and tried by a mixed commission. The result of the trial (1875) was a failure to obtain a unanimous verdict on the charge of poisoning; the viceroy, Lord Northbrook, however, decided to depose Malhar Rao on the ground of gross misgovernment, the widow of his brother and predecessor, Khande Rao, being permitted to adopt an heir from among the descendants of the founder of the family.
This heir, by name Sayaji Rao, then a boy of twelve years in the humble home of a Deccani cultivator, was educated by an English tutor, the administration being meanwhile placed for eight years under the charge of Sir T. Madhava Rao, formerly diwan of Travancore, one of the ablest and most enlightened of Indian statesmen. The result was a conspicuous success. The gaekwar showed himself a model prince, and his territories became as well governed and prosperous as a British district. He repeatedly visited Europe in company with his wife. In 1887 the queen-empress conferred upon him at Windsor the insignia of G.C.S.I., and in 1892 upon his wife the Imperial order of the crown of India.
The gross revenue of the state is more than a million sterling. In 1901 the state currency of Babashai rupees was withdrawn, and the British rupee was introduced. The regular military force consists of a field battery, with several regiments of cavalry and battalions of infantry. In addition, there is an irregular force of horse and foot. Compulsory education has been carried on experimentally since 1893 in the Amreli division with apparent success, the compulsory age being 7 to 12 for boys and 7 to 10 for girls. Special measures are also adopted for the education of low castes and aboriginal tribes. There is a female training college under a Christian lady superintendent. The Kala Bhavan, or technical school, has departments for drawing, carpentry, dyeing, weaving and agriculture. There is also a state museum under a European director, and a state library. Portions of the state are crossed by the Bombay & Baroda and the Rajputana railways. In addition, the state has constructed three railways of its own, on three different gauges. Other railways are in contemplation.
The state possesses a cotton mill.
The city of Baroda is situated on the river Viswamitri, a station on the Bombay & Baroda railway, 245 m. N. of Bombay by rail. Pop. (1901) 103,790. The whole aspect of the city has been changed by the construction of handsome public buildings, the laying-out of parks and the widening of the streets. An excellent water-supply is provided from the Ajwa lake. The cantonments, garrisoned by a native infantry regiment, are under British jurisdiction, and have a population of 4000. The city contains a college and many schools. The chief hospitals are called after the countess of Dufferin, Sayaji Rao and Jamnabai, the widow of Khande Rao.
See Baroda Gazetteer, 1908.