A Legend with Timeless Beauty and Strong Personality - Maharani Gayatri Devi
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Formerly named as the World’s most beautiful woman by Vogue magazine, Maharani Gayatri Devi was an epitome of style, grace and an effortless royal aura that surrounded her.
People could not stop themselves from endlessly gazing at her pristine face and the regal manner in which she carried herself. A timeless beauty and a strong personality made her a major style icon in India and around the world. The Maharani was everything that a royal princess could be and look back at her life and style is more like flipping through the pages of a fairytale book.
Maharani Gayatri Devi was one of the few royals whose liberal outlook took her well beyond the traditionally-limited activities of a Queen mother and won unprecedented success in the political arena, which was the envy of even former US President John F Kennedy.
Celebrated for her classical beauty and who became something of a fashion icon in her adulthood, Gayatri Devi styled as the Rajmata was known for her strong character and was a particularly avid equestrienne. She was the third Maharani of Jaipur from 1939 to 1970.
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After Gayatri won the Jaipur seat in the Lok Sabha in 1962, Kennedy introduced her during an event as 'the woman with most staggering majority that anyone has ever earned in an election'. She tasted victory in 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.
Gayatri Devi contested as the candidate of Swatantra party of C Rajagopalachari, the last and only Indian Governor-General of India. 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.
Born on May 23, 1919 as Princess Gayatri Devi of Cooch Behar, she was the third Maharani of Jaipur from 1939 to 1970 through marriage to Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II.
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To her friends and family she was more commonly known as Ayesha. Her father, Prince Jitendra Narayan of Cooch Behar, was the younger brother of the Yuvraj. Her mother was Princess Indira Raje of Baroda, an extremely beautiful princess and a legendary socialite. Early in her life, her uncle's death led to her father ascending the throne.
Gayatri Devi studied at Shantiniketan and later in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she travelled with her mother and siblings, then studied secretarial skills in London School of Secretaries; Brilliantmont and Monkey Club London. She was raised in a sumptuous palace staffed with five hundred servants. She shot her first panther when she was 12.
Gayatri Devi lived a tomboy childhood with her brothers and sisters in the palace of Cooch-Behar, and has had adventurous trips with their elegant mother, the Maharani Indira Devi, to London and the European Continent.
When she married to the Maharaja she entered the glittering life of the City Palace of the pink city, and had to adjust to the unfamiliar customs and to life with wives of other royals.
The Jaipur Royal Family 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, and generally living the typically flamboyant life which was normal for Indian royals. Gayatri Devi had one child, Prince Jagat Singh of Jaipur.
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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.
Rajmata Gayatri Devi was India’s style icon. She had such an extraordinary aura about her. There was a softness and approachability about her even though she’s a royal. She always focused on education of girls and hence opened many schools for them. Even into her eighties, she was involved in the six schools she founded in Jaipur.
The opulence with which she lived, the Maharani who was also known as ‘people’s princess’ was extremely particular about her style. A single hair was never out of place, nor was anything mismatched or quirky.
She was elegance personified and lived with the same love of Indian fashion that she had inculcated as a young teenager.
When one thinks of Maharani Gayatri Devi, the image that usually flashes across is her pastel coloured Chiffon sari, a string of pearls or emeralds, and a pallu draped around her head in a typical Maharani style. On occasion, one did see her in fashionable winter coats, or trousers, but for the most part she preferred to stay traditional and true to her roots.
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Whether it was grand royal parties, a political event or an interview for a magazine or television show, the maharani was mostly seen in light coloured and elegant saris. She had a true, never ending love for Chiffon, and in one of her interviews, she gave credit for this to her mother who had a large collection of Chiffon saris as well.
She was particular about everything, ranging from how her room was decorated, to how a certain flower vase was kept, to how the pallu of her sari went on her head.
She knew how to match her style with jewellery and never wore anything that did not seem to fit color wise. In her own biography that she wrote in 1995, she said that “Emeralds should never be worn with a green sari since they look so much better with a pink one”! She knew she had style and that it was something that she was truly born with, and of course, the whole world agreed with her.
Maharani Gayatri Devi loved Gold embroidery, Zari work, Gota Patti work, and Pearl embroidery as well.
The way in which she carried herself was with utmost feminine grace and dignity. The other thing that set her apart was the type of blouses she chose to go along with her sarees. The sleeves were usually longer, approximately 10 inches and had handmade buttons. On most occasions, she wore a simple bindi and just a dark shade of red lipstick. Makeup was never over the top and was kept simple. Even in her later years, her style did not change, except for her hair which just went a little shorter.
Indian women and celebrities in India, and across the world always admired the Maharani for her traditional taste, and simple yet royal appeal. There was always something soft and approachable about her in spite of her royal status. She was and still remains as a fashion icon across several borders and in several thoughts.
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