Maharani Gayatri Devi was an ageless beauty. Born to a royal, princely family of West Bengal, she became the third queen of Jaipur after marrying Maharaja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur.
She was modern and bold, even by today’s standards and a true inspiration for every woman of the country. A strong, opinionated and at times rebellious, writing a memoir on her would be as interesting to research on as it would be to read- her life was extraordinary and unconventional. She took an active part in Indian politics and chose to use a part of the enormous wealth she’d amassed for charitable purposes.
Born to a Hindu royal family, Gayatri Devi’s mother was a Maratha Princess and her father the king of a Bengal Province. It is perhaps from her mother that she acquired her flawless beauty and exceptionally sharp features. A sharp child, she completed her education in Shantiniketan, London and Switzerland.
She had a lavish upbringing in a royal palace with all the luxuries and around 500 servants to her disposal. Fondly called Ayesha by her family members, her true inspirations were her grandmother and mother who chose break open the shackles that were set by the society.
She was a trained equestrienne, excellent at horse riding and a very efficient polo player. She had good hunting skills and enjoyed indulging in the hobby of ‘shikar’ that came with the royal territory.
She was particularly fond of cars and had the first model of Mercedes specially shipped to
India. Besides owning several Ro, she also was in the possession of her own personal aircraft.
Maharani Gayatri Devi was listed in Vogue among the 10 most beautiful women in the world. She looked as much resplendent in sarees as she looked in khakhi pants on a horseback. Style somehow came naturally to her and her mother in a huge way was instrumental in carving the diva in Gayatri Devi. She had a keen penchant for shoes and owned more than hundred pairs of shoes, most of which were from Ferragamo, Florence.
Breaking the Norms
Gayatri Devi was a fierce woman and believed in making her own rules. She fell in love at the age of 12 with Maharaja Man Singh when he’d visited Kolkata for a polo match. He was already 21 year old then and married with two wives but was quite smitten by Gayatri who was feisty and lived life on her own terms, a strong characteristic not known to the Rajput women he was aware of.
Despite massive opposition from their families and society alike, they went ahead and got married amidst all the taboo and stir it had created.
Adjusting to the Rajasthani Rajputana lifestyle was no mean feat but Maharani Gayatri Devi took everything in her stride and yet remained the bold and unstoppable being that she was. She shunned the purdah system and preferred going out on dinners with the Maharaja in public which was considered against the royalty.
She actively took part in politics and joined the Swatantra Party post the formation of Rajasthan as an independent state and won the Lok Sabha elections with a landslide victory creating a history in our democratic format.
Dark times for the Maharani
A little before congress declared emergency, they took away all royal rights from the family and they were forced to flee to England. Soon after that, Maharaja Man Singh died and tragedies struck the Maharani back to back. Her eldest stepson took over the throne and she was given the title Rajmata.
A little later, emergency was declared and the Rajmata was forcefully imprisoned. The six months that she spent in jail took a serious toll on her health and though she was released on parole on medical conditions, her life was never the same.
She became a socialist and began by fighting for the prisoners who were forced to live in inhuman filthy conditions in the jail.
She successfully curbed the Purdah system in Rajasthan.
The Epitome of Womanhood
Despite hailing from a royal family, she always sympathised with the downtrodden and her heart went out to the less previliged. Her immaculate beauty had become global and the independent woman that lay within was not to be messed with. She knew how and to stand up to injustice and never shied away from voicing her opinion.
Her school, Maharani Gayatri Devi which was founded to bring about women empowerment is still an institution of pride for Jaipur.
Maharani died in 2009 in Jaipur at the age of 90, leaving behind a powerful, undeterred and bold legacy for the Indians to look up to forever.