While preparing for my competitive exams, I got some spare time to read the books which I always wanted to. As I was staying alone and the knowledge in the books have always allured me to read more. While walking through a library in my home town Bareilly I got into one of the books named as “A Princess Remember“. I picked it up and went through the preview and that was quite interesting. While reading through the book which is written by “Gayatri Devi”, came to know about her as one of the mesmerizing ladies in Indian History.
Gayatri Devi is remembered as one of the beautiful princesses that were born to some of the Indian rulers. Yes, she was glamorous, intelligent and have a magnificent personality to attract anyone towards her. She was brought up under the influence of her mother Indira “Maharani of Cooch Bihar” and her maternal grandmother Chimanbai who was a ” Maharani of Baroda”. Their influence helped her in bringing the women empowerment in the places where she lived and doing some of the remarkable work for the females. Her Biography clearly depicts that life of a princess is not just about exploring luxury it is more than that in terms of exploring herself and the welfare of the people around.
Gayatri Devi also knows as “Rajmata of Jaipur” is well known for her magnificent personality throughout the royal families in the world. So, let have a glimpse into the extraordinary life led by one of the world’s famous and beautiful women. Let’s have a look at her story:
Gayatri Devi was born in London on 23rd May 1919 to the king of Cooch Bihar. She was born into the Rajbongshi family and her father Jitendra Narayan was the Maharaja of Cooch Bihar and her mother Indira Raje, Maratha princess of Baroda. She also has two brothers, Indrajitendra Narayan Bhup and Jaggadipendra Narayan Bhup, and two sisters, Menaka Devi and Ila Devi. Her family members call her by her nickname known as “Ayesha”
She lost her father at the age of 12 and her mother Indira Raje was a widow at 30. But for Indira Raje being a mother of five children’s didn’t get so much to express her grief for her husband. Her eldest son was just 7 years old. And she wants to give her best to up bring all of her children as the Maharaja had always thought of. Gayatri Devi traveled the world with her mother and siblings. And studied in some of the finest schools and colleges in London, India, and Switzerland. She shot her first panther at the age of 13 and was a carefree tomboy who flourished in the palace of Cooch Bihar which was staffed with 500 servants.
At the age of 12, she met the love of her life Jai (Sawai Man Singh II) in Calcutta. He came to play a Polo match and stayed with her family. It was love at first sight. She fell in love with the extremely rich and handsome King of Jaipur. Once she was sent to the monkey club in Knightsbridge to finish her school, she started meeting Jai secretly and their romance was in high spirits for six years. King of Jaipur fall in love with the princess and they choose to marry in 1940, 19 May. She was 21 when she got married to her dream man. They had an age difference of almost ten years between them, but their relationship didn’t recognize these boundaries.
Her brothers were not very happy with her decision as the Maharaja was already married and she will be his 3rd wife. There were gossips that reached her mother’s ears that Ayesha’s role as a third wife will not be easy in Jaipur. But she could able to convince them that Jai will be a great husband and will take good care of her as well.
On reaching Jaipur, Sawai Man Singh II asked her to help the ladies of Jaipur to get rid of the purdah system. She was supported by her family and her husband in following modern values with the traditional ones. Although she remained in palaces but could able to do a lot of things that maintained her dignity and she continued to be one of the favorite wives of her husband.
Post Independence in 1947, Jaipur was merged with other princely states to form Rajasthan. And Jaipur was made as a capital of the same as well. Although Maharaja Man Sigh was appointed the governor of the state, but all the power for the ruling was lying with the congress only. And they understood it soon that they either need to join hands with Congress or they can make their own party. A democracy will only the power that will sustain for the long term in the country.
In 1962, Gayatri Devi delivered her first public speech and stood in elections for her constituency. And she won over her Congress counterpart by winning approximately 190,789 votes over 250,897 cast. The won was praised by everyone and is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records as well. She ruled the state from 1967 to 1971 under the Swantantra Party. She does get the chance to join her hands with the Congress, but with all her esteem she could able to reciprocate the offer with a big NO.
In 1970, another law was implemented and all the princely states were asked to surrender their power to the government. Post publishing of the law, both the Maharaj and Maharani flew to England. And after spending a month the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh while playing the Polo match collapsed in one of the matches and lost his breath on the ground only. It was one of the coincidences that Gayatri Devi has mentioned in her Autobiography as well, about his man is he lived for Polo and eventually died in the lap of the game too.
Post Maharaja death, his eldest son Col. Bhawani Singh was given the tag of the Maharaja and Gayatri Devi was made Rajmata of Jaipur.
In 1971 another bill passed by Indian government clearly derecognised the power of princely states. But then too everything was not that ugly unless in 1975 when Gayatri Devi and Bhavani Singh was arrested and sent to the Tihar Jail. This was the time when the Emergency rule has started under the leadership of Indira Gandhi. A recent upcoming movie of Bollywood “Badshaho” clearly depicts the plight of both the parties at the time of Emergency. The movie revolves around the time of emergency and stars the Indian actor Ajay Devgan in lead role. The movie stresses upon the famous excavation of Amer Fort that was carried out in Emergency by the leaders in search of gold and silver illegally kept underground hidden from the eyes of the government.
Although the charges that were implied on them were many, none of them were proved to be right in court. She stood strong against them, but her health broke down. Before the 1977 election, she took retirement from the politics and started looking after her estate in various countries. She concentrated on her schools and how the women’s role can be strengthened in the society.
She had a child named as Jagat Singh, who was born in 1949 and got married to Mom Rajawongse in 1978. He has two children’s named as Rajkumari Lalitya Kumari and Maharaj Devraj Singh. But it was one of the unfortunate instances in the life of Gayatri Devi that in 1997 Jagat Singh closed his eyes.
His daughter and Son is the only surviving descendants of the state right now.
Gayatri Devi doesn’t spend her life in seclusion after her husband’s death. It was very unlikely to any Rajputana queen to participate in so many social events post her husband’s death. She used to reside in Ramgarh Palace but once it is converted into the hotel she started spending her time in Lilypool. Once she is in the city she used to invite people in her residence at Lilypool for a glass of Champagne in the evenings and spend some time in talking about various spheres of the world.
She lived her life to its fullest and was very much fond of sports and entertainment. She was intelligent and know how to remain updated with the latest technologies and upcoming change that is making its way to the future. Gayatri Devi used to have her own private aircraft and bought many cars from abroad. She was known for importing first Mercedes-Benz W126 in India, but later on, it was sent back to Malaysia. And was very much fond of cars and owns many Rolls Royce too. She uses to maintain her own stables for horses. At times she was seen to visit the in evenings with her goodies. Tennis, horses, long drives were her cup of tea.
Rajmata of Jaipur loves to spend her winters in Jaipur and her summer afternoons in Knightsbridge. She never ran out of fun in her life. She did a lot for her state people and once she is in Jaipur she conducts daily court in Lilypool. With her man Jai (Sawai Man Singh II), she was different taking care of all the materialistic belongings, but after him also she never lost her charm. She was naturally beautiful and received international recognition once Cecil Beaton photographed her in 1943 in his shoot. She was listed by Vogue as one of the most beautiful women in the world. At the age of 90, she gave many interviews and looked old but definitely beautiful. Undoubtedly she was a beautiful soul!
But she was someone who should be known other than her beauty as well. And she made this remarkable impact on her image and opened a chain of schools in Jaipur for girls. She started Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls in 1943 exclusively for girls as it was the time when the girl’s education was not given much importance. The school was managed by her only and she personally takes care of all the details and the quality education that should be imparted to the students.
She was interviewed by Simi Garewal, in which she mentioned various features of her life. And how she has never thought about the outcomes and surprises the life has been brought in front of her. But these surprises only made her stronger with each passing day. The best part of her personality was she knows who is she and doesn’t have regrets and embrace her life as it comes to her.
She was having lots of internal tie ups with the royalties of the Indian Society. As her elder sister, Ila Devi was married to the Tripura Royal Family, while his younger one Menaka Devi tied the knot with Dewas Jr. State. She was in constant touch with royalties of Dhar state, Bihar, Kota, Sandur, and Kolhapur. Her friendly nature was a major attraction for others that makes them irresistible to visit Jaipur at times.
At the age of 90, she was facing some gastric issues and was admitted in one of the hospitals in London. But she expressed her desire to move to Jaipur immediately and was transferred to the air ambulance. On 29 July 2009, she took her last breath at Santokba Durlabhji Memorial Hospital. She died because of lungs failure.
But what if she is not among us, she is a legendary independent woman, who will always remain with us through her books, tales and the deeds she did in her lifetime. She was not an ordinary woman, although she claims the same in many of her interviews but can be memerised as a person with a great sense of humor who lived with immense opulence and left extraordinary wealth for her descendants to cherish. In her lifetime, she did lots of work for women empowerment that will always be remembered and people will always cherish her memories not just as a Rajmata of Jaipur but as a fun loving Ayesha.