December 31, 2008

A Princess Remembers by Maharani Gayatri Devi

Recently I picked up the book A Princess Remembers by Maharani Gayatri Devi. It was one of those spontaneous buys, where I knew nothing about the reviews, or what the book holds. I knew who was Maharani Gayatri Devi and the blurb sounded like a story of a girl who has become a woman through the pages.

I started reading it, was immediately absorbed, and moved through a good 200 odd pages very quickly. Life at Cooch Beher as a young girl in complete awe of her elder brother followed by her move to England for studies and her long courtship with the Maharaja of Jaipur. Interesting to note is that the Maharaja already had two wives whom he married before he turned 18, and they were arranged for him by his father. She was the only one who drew his attention genuinely. How would the two wives take to this love affair of the Maharaja, it is enlightening to see how they accept what their husband wishes of them. They serve to be a guide to the new Maharani after the wedding, and help her in getting accustomed to the new culture and form of life.

We breeze through their young days, her siblings’ weddings, children and deaths. We see hoe the royalty married all across India, in just a search for a perfect match and relationship for their states in many cases. We see their princely way of life, and how they envisaged a change for India and their subjects with the forming of a republic India after the independence struggle. Many of the rulers were comfortable in their positions and interactions with the British that very few managed to surface anywhere near the freedom struggle which was led by men of more humble statures. These royals were very well read, worldly wise, but a threat to their position kept them away from the struggle to free India from being a territory of the British.

Independence and selfishness came hand in hand almost all across India. All important positions fell into the only party existing and the people, who stood with them through the fight, did not see an alternative in front of them. Here we see how the princely states came to their rescue, to the rescue of their people, the people who have forever contributed to their privy purses. It would be too simple to say that they came up in sheer love for their people, I believe they also saw that their say in state and politics was diminishing with each passing day, hence this can be seen as their way of some kind of revolt on the part of the Indian royalty against the Congress rule in their states. I thought of them as selfish in only venturing into politics, when they were stripped of their powers and privileges, but maybe the fact that they saw the way the their states were suffering, did contribute in making a successful opposition party in India. The people were more or less not in the habit of rising in opposition, and even if they did they would surely be represented by some who would only change the ruling party but not the corruption and squander which the country was being subjected to. (Doesn’t it somehow just resemble today’s world? I wonder where and who are going to make a good opposition this time? )

On reading this book, I saw the royal ways of life which were in the past, and how they adapted to the changed united India. It is a good light read, with some thoughts which do rummage through your head as you flip the pages of this Indian history, lifestyle, autobiography mix.

PS: This has been cross posted at Le Books blog, which is a new online book store for book enthusiasts. They have some wonderful features like book lists which offers some great reads.


  1. Good review. It must have been a trying time for the royalty as they straddled their princely past with portents of change, with nationhood and democracy. Of course, the world as seen through a maharani's eyes (versus a king/maharaja) would be different too.

  2. Shantanu : Completely agree.

    How much ever she says that she has a Maharani was free, you can still see the one step behind the Maharaja effect all through the memoirs.


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