The word Mahārāja (also spelled maharajah) is Sanskrit for "great king" or "high king". Many languages of India have borrowed the word 'maharaja', there languages include Punjabi, Bengali, Hindi and Gujarati. Its use is mainly for Hindu rulers. A female ruler is known as Maharani (or Maharanee) or great queen. She can be the wife of a Maharaja or a ruler herself.
British India contained more than 600 princely states each with its own ruler. Some states called the ruler Raja or Thakur (if the ruler were Hindu) or Nawab (if he was Muslim); there were many other titles as well. Originally only rulers of large empires such as the ancient Gupta Empire were Maharajas but in later centuries even rulers of small kingdoms used the title. In 1971, the government of Indira Gandhi abolished the titles and money for all Indian rulers. However some people still claim such titles.