With the coming of a fresh crop of immensely talented individuals in the form of Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhury, Mehuli Ghosh, Anjum Moudgil, the records have started streaming in once again as these athletes flew in with laurels from all over the world in the field of shooting.
However, one name remains unbeatable in the Indian history of shooting – Maharaja of Bikaner, Karni Singh.
Today, on the occasion of his birth anniversary, we trace back the decades to days when the first of the sun rays illumined the red-brick palatial forts of Bikaner and Maharaja Karni Singh strode down the corridors, who despite all his regalia, helped give shooting as a sport it’s initial shape.
Karni Singh was the last Maharaja of Bikaner State to hold the title of Maharaja of Bikaner, officially, till 1971, when the privy purse and all the royal titles were abolished by the Republic of India.
Born as Prince Karni Singh on 21 April 1924 in the princely state of Bikaner, Singh’s first schooling was there, after which he attended St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and St Xavier’s College, Bombay, where he graduated BA with Honours in History and Politics.
Karni Singh’s Political & Shooting Career
In 1952, the young Maharaja Karni Singh was elected Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) of India from Bikaner constituency as an independent candidate, serving on several consultative committees of different ministries and holding his seat until 1977. He was an ardent supporter of the Rajasthani language and argued for its inclusion in the 14th schedule of the Indian Constitution.
An avid shooter, as well as a true sporting enthusiast, he played golf, tennis, cricket with equal dexterity aside from honing a private pilot’s license.
Singh won the National Championship in Clay Pigeon Trap and Skeet seventeen times and represented India at all levels of international competition. He was the first Indian to compete at five Olympic Games, which he did from 1960 to 1980.
He represented his country in the World Shooting Championships at Oslo in 1961, and the next year won a silver medal at the 38th World Shooting Championships in Cairo, after tie for 1st place, captaining the Indian team. He also competed in the World Shooting Championships at Wiesbaden in 1966, again captaining the team, and at Bologna in 1967 and San Sebastian in 1969.
In 1981 he won the Welsh Grand Prix for clay pigeon shooting, the North Wales Cup and the North West of England Cup.
In 1961 he was given the Arjuna award, becoming the first person from the world of shooting to be rewarded with that national honour.
Singh attended his last Olympic Games in 1980, and he died on 4 September 1988