Monday, 01 Jun 2020

Queen Mother Gayatri Devi passes away

Jaipur, July 29 : Rajmata Gayatri Devi, the queen mother of Jaipur's royal family who in her young age was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world and a fashion icon, passed away today at age 90. She died in a hospital after suffering from prolonged illness.

Once the princess of Cooch Behar, a former princely state now in West Bengal state, Gayatri Devi later founder the Swatantra Party and became a member of the third and fourth Lok Sabha.

She had underwent intestinal endoscopy recently. She had chest infection.

Born on 23 May 1919, Gayatri Devi of Cooch Behar was the third Maharani of Jaipur from 1939 to 1970 through marriage to HH Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II, and was later styled as the Rajmata (Queen Mother).

Following India's independence and the subsequent abolition of the princely states, she became an extremely successful politician. Gayatri Devi was also celebrated for her classical beauty and became something of a fashion icon in her adulthood.

Her father, Prince Jitendra Narayan of Cooch Behar, was the younger brother of the Yuvraja (Crown Prince). Her mother was Princess Indira Raje of Baroda, an extremely beautiful princess and a legendary socialite.

The Queen Mother had made it to the 'World's Ten Most Beautiful Women' by Vogue magazine.

Early in her life, her uncle's death led to her father ascending the throne. Gayatri Devi studied at Shantiniketan, and later in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she travelled with her mother and siblings, then studied secretarial skills in London School of Secretaries; Brilliantmont and Monkey Club London.

She married Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II on 9th May 1940. The Jaipur Royal Family lived a lavish life: hunting in their forests, spending summers in Europe, educating the royal children at elite schools in England, entertaining streams of famous visitors at their desert palaces, and generally living the typically flamboyant life which was normal for Indian royals.

Maharani Gayatri Devi (as she was styled after marriage) was a particularly avid equestrienne. Gayatri Devi had one child, Prince Jagat Singh of Jaipur, Raja of Isarda, born on 15th October 1949, who was granted his grandfather's fief as a subsidiary title, and the Maharani later became the Rajmata, or Queen Mother.

Jagat Singh was thus half-brother to the present Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Bhawani Singh of Jaipur.

Gayatri Devi started schools for girls' education in Jaipur, most prominent of which is the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls' Public School. She also promoted the dying art of blue pottery.

After Partition and Independence Day in India in 1947, and later the abolition of Royal privileges and privy purses in 1971, Gayatri Devi ran for Parliament in 1962 and won the constituency in the Lok Sabha in the world's largest landslide, winning 192,909 votes out of 246,516 cast, confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records.

She continued to hold this seat on 1967 and 1971, Swatantra Party of C. Rajagopalachari, the second Governor-General of Independent India, running against the Congress Party.

This enraged late prime minister Indira Gandhi, who retaliated in 1971 by abolishing the privy purses, and stopping all royal privileges, breaking the treaties agreed upon in 1947.

Gayatri Devi was accused of breaking tax laws, and served 5 months in Tihar Jail. She retired from politics after that experience, and published her autobiography, A Princess Remembers, written with Santha Rama Rau, in 1976. She was also the focus of the film Memoirs of a Hindu Princess, directed by Francois Levie.

(IBNS | 11 years ago)