A princely state (also called a native state or Indian state) was a state within the former British Indian Empire where a native Indian prince held rule on behalf of the British rather than them holding direct control over the state. In reality the British still controlled the state as they had control over the local ruler. Such states could not have relations with other states without British approval.
The rulers of these states held various titles: e.g. raja (a Hindu ruling prince); maharaja (a greater Hindu ruling prince); nawab (a Muslim ruling prince such as the Nawab of Bhopal); nizam, the title of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Only 21 of the 565 princely states existing in 1947 had state governments of their own, and only four were large states (Hyderabad (state), Mysore (state), Jammu and Kashmir, and Baroda). Of these three became part of the dominion of India while the status of Jammu and Kashmir was disputed.