BEAUTY, GRACE, AND GLORY DIGNIFIED: The tale of Maharani Gayatri Devi
She was a living example of unmatched, revolutionary classical Indian beauty with the heart of gold.
As a child, we have heard stories of royal families from our parents but we have rarely heard about this royal family.
She is counted in the," Ten most beautiful queens of the world" by Vogue magazine.
She had the qualities of royals from The Gaekwads of Baroda and The Narayan’s of Cooch Behar.
Her maternal grandfather was liberal enough to hire tutors for his wife to read and write, her grandmother went on to become the President of All India women’s Conference.
She was born in London, in the merry month of May, during the last days of Indira Devi's (Gayatri’s mom) pregnancy she was reading Rider Haggard's novel 'SHE' and already made up her mind to name her daughter Ayesha, but one of her friends told her that it was a Muslim name (It was the name of Prophet Mohommad’s ninth & favourite wife.) Being raised by a widowed mother who broke all the barriers in raising 5 children single-handedly. In the era where women had no right to choose their partner she did. People pressured her to renounce all the worldly pleasures she chose but she refused to do so. Taking care of the palace that has over 500 staff in the male-dominated world, she broke all the stereotypes and became the role model for all her children.
“Style comes naturally to me. I guess you’re just born with it. My mother has been my role model and icon. When I was young, I watched her dress. Ma was very fussy about her clothes. Did you know, she was the first person to start wearing saris made of chiffons?”, Gayatri Devi
Gayatri Devi was very courageous as a child, she shot her first panther at the tender age of 12. That’s what being a royal signifies; not the crown but the legacy of wisdom and courage. She met her husband Jai at the age of 5 in Ooty.
Jai was a very athletic, charming, and good-looking gentleman, he always travelled in his Green Rolls Royce. He was truly a royal personality by representing India at the national level Polo and a prominent Tennis player. He was referred to as India’s best young ruler.
He told Gayatri Devi’s mother that he’ll end up marrying her; she laughingly refused, But the universe had their love story already planned. As a child, she was always fascinated by the charm of Jai. At 16, when both of them were on a drive, Jai proposed to her and she was on cloud 9, having butterflies in her tummy. They would secretly meet and experience the beauty of the relationship they shared.
She wrote a letter to her mother expressing her wish to marry Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II aka Jai. Indira Devi was sceptical about the wedding because Jai already had two wives and 4 kids. Later on, she agreed, due to the power of love.
He was head over heels in love with Gayatri and proposed to her with a diamond ring secretly. The royal wedding took place in Cooch Behar, She then went to Jaipur where the purdah system was strictly followed. She was to live in Zenana quarters. It was difficult for her to adjust since Cooch Behar was one of the most liberal royal families in the country. She exclaimed her disappointment in front of Jai and he encouraged her to come out of the Purdah system.
In the year 1943, her first task was to start a school for aristocratic women.
This embarked on a journey of beginning the era of The Maharani Gayatri Devi school that became one of the finest institutions of the country.
The aura and charisma she had were unmatched by her style. The saris and jewellery she adorned were admired by people all over the world.
Three years later in the year 1947, India marked a historic victory and became independent. Big states like Jaipur were given 1/8th of privy purses. Jai then signed the Instrument of accession but remained the Maharaja of Jaipur. Later he was named Rajpramukh or "Head of state" of Rajasthan. After Independence, Jaipur got merged with Greater Rajasthan. His inauguration ceremony was held at City Palace on 13th March 1949. Maharani Gayatri Devi and Jai were disheartened with the merger but they all wanted the betterment of the country.
Ayesha embraced motherhood in the year 1949, she was blessed with a son. Proud parents Jai and Ayesha named their son Jagat Singh.
- Entering the politics scene-
In 1960, Gayatri Devi officially entered politics by being the face of the Swatantra Party. In the Lok Sabha Election held in 1962, Rajmata Gayatri Devi won by a majority of 1,75,000 votes for the Lok Sabha constituency. This registered a Guinness Book of World Records. She was never scared of criticizing the government and expressing her discomfort, this depicted her warrior attitude.
The City Palace which was once home for the royals of Jaipur was converted into a museum, Rambagh palace into a hotel. This brought a devastating change in the era of royals.
In 1970 Jai passed away and the later year privy purses were abolished and Ayesha moved to Lily pool.
5 years later, Ayesha was arrested in an emergency but was released on parole because of illness after staying in Jail for 156 days.
Jaipur is the kaleidoscope of colours with brightly dressed people and later on declared as the capital of the beautiful state of Rajasthan.
She wore a bundle of hats of glory at the same time from being the Chairman of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, President of All India Badminton Association, President of All India Tennis, President of All India women association.
Rajmata Gayatri Devi passed away on 29 July 2009 after a battle with paralytic ileus and a lung infection.
The world truly said that Gayatri Devi was blessed with a very supportive husband who was never jealous of her success and who wanted her to climb the ladder of success, very few women get these kinds of spouses.
“She dedicated her life to creating a subtle, but implicative, change in society, particularly with her continuous efforts for the empowerment of Indian women from the confines of the veil” -Devraaj Singh of Jaipur, Grandson of Gaytri Devi.
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