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A tribute to Maharani Gayatri Devi

By: By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee
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The world renowned magazine Vogue had once listed her among the 10 most beautiful women in the world. Maharani Gayatri Devi lifted the veil off the face of Indian Royalty. She went beyond the traditional purdah to mesmerise the world with her intellect, beauty and royal charm. Her sense of styling was often compared to former US first lady and style icon Jacqueline Kennedy. The iconic princess who the first symbol of liberated Indian women passed away on at the age of 90.

Gayatri Devi was born on May 23, 1919 to the royal family of Cooch Behar. Her father was Prince Jitendra Narayan and her mother Maharani Indira Devi of Baroda. Gayatri Devi studied at Shantiniketan and later in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she travelled with her mother and siblings. Then she studied secretarial skills in London School of Secretaries; Brilliantmont and Monkey Club London.

Gayatri Devi was a tomboy as a child. She was an excellent marksman, a tennis player and a keen rider with a deep knowledge of horses. She would always partake in adventurous trips with their elegant mother to London and the European Continent. She was also known to have shot her first panther when she was just twelve. Her adventurous nature can be ascertained from the fact that she had her private plane at the age of 21.

The 19-year-old princess had the world at her feet but she chose to marry the renowned polo player Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur who was already married twice. After a courtship that lasted for six years the couple decided to go for a wedlock that shocked their families. The Jaipur Royals 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.

The popular and beloved Maharani of Jaipur had her success in her political career as well. She ran for the Parliament as a candidate of the Swatantra party in 1962 and scored world's largest landslide poll win bagging 192,909 out of 246,516 votes. The achievement was endorsed by the Guinness Book of Records. Her fight against the Congress enraged the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who retaliated in 1971 by abolishing the privy purses. This meant stopping all royal privileges, breaking the treaties agreed upon in 1947.

She established the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls School emphasising on the education of the girl child. Many traditionalist considered this as an attempt to counter purdah system. For decades after the independence this remained as the only institution which nursed the girl child liberating her from the veil. Throughout her life she worked for the liberation of the Indian women from the clutches of the male dominated society.

Be it her bobbed brown hair, chiffon saree, elegant jewellery or stunning presence Gayatri Devi commanded authority wherever she went. President John F Kennedy has once said introduced her during an event as "the woman with the most staggering majority that anyone has ever earned in an election." Gayatri Devi will always be saluted for crossing the threshold and breaking boundaries. She was one who tried to change the world and more importantly welcomed change.

Maharani Gayatri Devi Passed away
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