Born in the royalty of Cooch Bihar, Gayatri Devi was the daughter of Maharaja Jitendra Narayan and Maharani Indra Devi. Born on 23 rd May 1919 in London, she was the perfect example of elegance and style all her life. Celebrating happiness for 90 years, she died on 29th July 2009.
Rajmata of Jaipur or shall we say Rajmata Gayatri Devi has always been in the limelight, not just because of her royalty but also for her embarking fashion style, unapologetic boldness, and budding love story. She, as the last Rajmata before Indian Independence in 1947, left a remarking portrayal for the world about the lifestyle as well as Indian royalty. This year, on 23rd May 2019, Rajmata Gayatri Devi’s birth anniversary completes 100 years. Paying tribute to her life, her grandchildren are organising a year-long exhibition in Jaipur at Rajmata Gayatri Devi Girls’ Public School. The exhibition at large will display her favorites from her lifespan. Her endless love for the French Chiffon saree will also be on display. Rajmata Gayatri Devi has always been a style icon, and in an interview, she herself spoke about her extravagant dressing style. She said, “I learnt style from my mother...she was one of the most fashionable, most independent and most modern Maharanis yet she always insisted she was ordinary.” Also, film star Amitabh Bachchan went down his memory lane and mentioned, “As a young student in the Delhi University I used to sneak into the Jaipur Polo ground to watch some of the finest polo players...the Maharaja of Jaipur...would play there and accompanying him used the Rajmata Gayatri Devi, in her soft and pastel flowered chiffons, a picture of grace and beauty.” It was not just her sarees that grabbed the limelight, it was her beautiful and serene face that was enough to demand attention. Hillarie Belloc, and Anglo-French writer and historian, once wrote about her that, ‘...her face was like the king’s command when all the swords are drawn.' The exhibition celebrating her 100th birthday will have a whole bundle of her sarees, rare photographs and the love letters of the much-anticipated love story of Sawai Man Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur and Rajmata Gayatri Devi. Gayatri Devi, at a very young age, fell in love with Sawai Man Singh II when he was already married to two wives. Their love was complex and also forbidden. She once said, “There was this challenge of outwitting our elders and arranging secret meetings every now and again...there was unheard-of liberty of going for a drive in the country with Jai, of a stolen dinner at Bray, or of an outing on the river in a boat. It was a lovely and intoxicating time.”
However the date, 23rd May will mark Rajmata’s 100th birthday, here are some things that you must know about her.
In celebrating a lifespan of 90 years filled with the grace of royalty, Rajmata Gayatri Devi gorged herself as the epitome of refinement
Princess of Cooch always lived a happy and regret free life. Born in London, she did her schooling from Glendower Preparatory School, London and acquired secretarial skills from London School of Secretaries. After six years of courtship with Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II, she became the third consort of Jaipur in 1940. In an interview, she said that she isn’t a nostalgic person and prefer living in the present. She believes in doing the best she can when she experiences unhappiness around her. The lady during her young days was raised in a carefree atmosphere of India's one of the most relaxed royal families. She had in her a philanthropic streak and was always concerned about the welfare of her folks.
2.Relevance with Polo
Rajmata Gayatri Devi was an ace equestrienne and an excellent Polo player. She had been associated with polo since childhood when polo more than a sport, it was a way of living. The first polo match she was in 1933 in Calcutta. Ever since then her ambition was to be a syce. She was chief patron of Jaipur Riding and Polo Club during her later years. After her death in 2009, she and her quintessential polo skills were honored by ‘Rajmata Gayatri Devi Memorial Cup’ sponsored by Rambagh Palace, Jaipur and ‘Maharani Polo Cup’ celebrated every year in Argentina.
She broke the traditional restrictions back in 1962 and bagged a seat in the Indian Parliament. With the world’s largest majority of votes, 192,909 out of 246,516, she won the constituency in the Lok Sabha elections. Moreover, she had her firm grip on the seat from 1967 till 1971 as the member of Swatantra Party, a rivalry of Indian National Congress initiated by C Rajagopalachari. However, in 1965, then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri asked her to join Congress. After the death of her husband in 1970, she became the godmother of Jaipur and got the title of ‘Rajmata’. Representing Swatantra Party, she was a formidable opponent of Congress National Party and its public faces, Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indra Gandhi. However, this relationship between two strong women reached a tipping point when Prime Minister, Indra Gandhi declared Emergency in the country in 1975.
Income tax raids occurring all over the country landed Gayatri Devi behind the bars with the accusation of having undeclared gold and wealth. She was held in jail for five months after which she hated Congress even more. After coming out, Gayatri Devi decided to retire from politics and diverse herself completely towards women empowerment and social welfare.
In 1976, she published her biography, A Princess Remembers, penned by Santha Rama Rau. The Princess of Cooch, Behar and the Rajmata of Jaipur died a quiet death in 2009 as she suffered from paralytic ileus and lung infection. She was and will always be an epitome of beauty and bravery and will be remembered for her role in transforming society for the better.
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