- Feb 23, 2009
Gayatri Devi passes away
END OF AN ERA: Rajmata Gayatri Devi, the Shantiniketan-educated former Maharani of Jaipur, died in the pink city on Wednesday, aged 90. Hailed as one of the world’s ten most beautiful women by Vogue magazine, the founder of the Swatantra party in Rajasthan was elected to the Lok Sabha thrice.
JAIPUR: Gayatri Devi, former Queen Mother of the erstwhile Jaipur State and once ranked among the 10 most beautiful women in the world, died in a private hospital here on Wednesday after a brief illness. She was 90 and is survived by her grandchildren and stepsons, who include the former Maharaja of Jaipur, Bhawani Singh.
A pioneer in women’s education and three-time MP from Jaipur in the 1960s and early 1970s, Ms. Gayatri Devi was brought to the city about a fortnight ago from London in an air ambulance following complaints of nausea and loss of appetite.
Although her condition improved marginally after hospitalisation, she developed breathing problems from Tuesday. The end came around 4 p.m. Among the early visitors to the City Palace, where the body was kept, was her grandson, Devraj Singh. Differences had arisen between them over division of property after the death of Ms. Gayatri Devi’s son Jagat, who was married to a Thai princess.
Rajasthan Governor S. K. Singh, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Assembly Speaker Deependra Singh Shekhawat condoled the death of the Rajmata.
Mr. Singh, who happened to be in London the day her husband and former ruler of Jaipur Man Singh II died in 1970, said Ms. Gayatri Devi was known the world over for her personality, beauty and dedication.
Mr. Gehlot, who announced a state funeral, termed her a “multifaceted personality who took great interest in women’s education, history, culture, tourism and art.”
The former princess of Cooch Behar in West Bengal and third wife of the Jaipur ruler, Ms. Gayatri Devi was a woman with a mind of her own. Against all odds, at a time when upper caste women, especially those from Rajput families, were required to remain in purdah, she opened the Maharani Gayatri Devi School in Jaipur.
Among the first royals to join the democratic process of elections, Ms. Gayatri Devi won the Lok Sabha elections in 1962, 1967 and 1971 contesting on Swatantra Party ticket. During the Emergency, she underwent a jail term in Tihar.
In her later years, she kept away from active politics. Although she lived outside India for more than six months a year, her telltale symbols — the majestic castle, Moti Doongri (the pearl hillock), which was her former abode, and the present residence, Lily Pool, are in India.
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