(Maharani Gayatri Devi with Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II.
Image source: A Princess Remembers, The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur.)
She was named Ayesha by her mother, Princess May by her loving aides who took care of her and Maharani Gayatri Devi, the Queen of Jaipur by her destiny.
She was the third queen consort of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur. She was the princess of Cooch Behar in Bengal and her mother Indira Raje was the daughter of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III belonging to the Gaekwad dynasty of Marathas.
She was an excellent equistrienne, avid polo player, a true sportsman, crusader of fashion, a visionary leader with a tender heart, combined with sophistication and refined tastefulness. From a caring princess who peeped into the lives of the woodland palace aides and improved their lives by her own effort to a people’s princess who ruled their hearts….That was Maharani Gayatri Devi!
For the fifth time I read the book titled, ” A Princess Remembers, The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur ” by Santha Rama Rau and the Maharani herself. It’s a mesmerising account of a legendary lady. Everytime I read I travel with her from woodlands, her Cooch Behar palace to dutiful life in Jaipur’s Rambagh Palace and finally to Mooti Doongri….from their cheerful vacations in England to a beautiful life, full of sweet, nostalgic moments, long drives to captivating sounds of the rustling of silk and twinkling of the anklets……to profoundly remembering her life with Maharaja, whom she lovingly called Jai.
In my memories I fondly remember getting the first glimpse of the Maharani of Jaipur, Gayatri Devi when I was a small kid studying in class II, somewhere in early 80s at the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girl’s Public School, Jaipur. She was a fair, feminine built, tall figure with quite sharp features, clad in a light turquoise french chiffon saree with a white pearl necklace. Her impeccable style which she inherited from her mother Maharani Indira Raje, who herself was a fashion icon of her time and the first to bring french chiffon sarees in India, specially customised for herself.
Then came the moment when Her Royal Highness entered with the principal Ms. Lilian G. Luter. It was the efforts of Ms. Cherian, our class teacher that the class greeted her with utter perfection and discipline. She was more like a loving mother than a princess. She greeted the kids in a very encouraging manner……even our dreaded class teacher Ms. Cherian who barely smiled, on that day…..met Her Highness cheerfully and respectfully…..it greatly surprised we little tiny tods! On that day, each and every person in the school was ensnared by the charisma of Maharani Gayatri Devi……that was the charm of The Royal Highness.
From my tender, innocent years till today as a strong headed, opinionated lady, if somebody asks me about my inspiration, my mind doesn’t thinks twice before answering , “Maharani Gayatri Devi “. She was an unconventional, and had a larger than life personality, who charmed everyone whoever came in contact with her. Her elegance, her poise, her vivacious nature, her strong headedness and her boundless ideology towards life and society are timeless and classic.