Obituary : Gayatri Devi

29 Jul

gayatriMaharani Gayatri Devi is a personality that attracted me since childhood. Recognized as one of the ten leading beauties of the world by the fashion magazine Vogue, the Maharani of Jaipur breather her last today at a Jaipur hospital at the age of 90.

She was a successful politician and known for her philanthropic activities. She was a strong activist for the right for education of the girl child. She started schools for girls’ education in Jaipur, most prominent of which is the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ Public School. She also promoted the dying art of blue pottery.

Gayatri Devi contested as the candidate of Swatantra party in 1962 and won by the world’s largest landslide poll win bagging 192,909 votes of 246,516 cast and the achievement was endorsed by the Guinness Book of Records. Kennedy introduced her during an event as “the woman with most staggering majority that anyone has ever earned in an election.”

She continued to hold this seat on 1967 and 1971 running against the Congress Party. This enraged the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, who retaliated in 1971 by abolishing the privy purses, and stopping all royal privileges, breaking the treaties agreed upon in 1947. Gayatri Devi was accused of breaking tax laws, and served 5 months in Tihar Jail in Delhi during the Emergency. She retired from politics after that experience.

There were rumours that she might re-enter politics as late as 1999, when the Cooch Behar Trinamool Congress nominated the 80-year-old Gayatri as their candidate for the Lok Sabha elections, but she did not respond to the offer.

She was the queen of Bengal as much as Jaipur. She was born as Princess of Coch Behar and she was educated at Shantiniketan before moving to Lausanne, Switzerland for higher studies.

Gayatri Devi, who was maharani of Jaipur state from 1939 to 1970, was an excellent marksman shooting her first panther when she was 13. She played tennis and was a keen rider, with a deep knowledge of horses.

In 2006, India’s first 3D documentary movie “Rajmata Gayatri Devi’s Legacy”, based on her life, was made by the students of Arena Multimedia in Jaipur. Rajmata herself inaugurated the movie through the medium of a digital art exhibition on 16th of November 2006.

External Links : Gayatri Devi at Wikipedia

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