MAHARANI GAYATRI DEVI OF JAIPUR
EXTRAORDINARY AND UNCONVENTIONAL, RAJMATA GAYATRI DEVI WAS ONE OF THE MOST INDEPENDENT, MODERN, AND CHIC MAHARANIS OF INDIA – AT ONE TIME EVEN VOGUE’S TEN MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN OF THE WORLD. SHE WAS BORN INTO WEALTH WHICH SHE CHOSE TO USE TO HELP THE NEEDY. FOLLOWING INDEPENDENCE, AND THE ABOLITION OF THE PRINCELY STATES, SHE WENT INTO ACTIVE POLITICS, JOINING THE SWATANTRA PARTY.
I spent my childhood in Cooch Bihar but when I married Jai, I came to live in Jaipur. This city has been home now for me for many decades. Jai taught me so much about Rajasthani culture and pride for oneʼs home. He always said that the greatest service we can render is to the common man. Every tear wiped away turns into a spiritual pearl. Jaipur is home now. And will always be.
Now that I am no longer in public life, I am able to enjoy the quiet and comfort of my home, the Lily Pool. People are always surprised at this unlikely name. My home is not like the palace I once lived in but it has a certain charm and warmth. I like it because it is so open – bright and airy – like living outdoors. Guests who come to stay feel so much at home.
Jaipur has so much to offer and if one wants to be quiet, there is my garden where one can always hear the sound of birds. When I go for a walk in the mornings, the scent of jasmine mingles with the smell of horses. When the flag goes up above the Lily Pool people know that I am in Jaipur and they come to me to ask for help.
I have to, of course, take care of the educational institutions I have started. Education is necessary for finding good jobs. But the students are also taught to live in a world where dignity, understanding and sensitivity for others matter. I realize that Jaipur has to grow and keep pace with the times but the walled city and the archeological treasures must be protected. For example, if Rome did not have its ancient monuments, who would go to see it?
Excerpts from ʻA Princess Remembersʼ by Gayatri Devi published by Rupa & Co