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Obituary: Gayatri Devi

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.

art and culture Updated: Jul 29, 2009 17:43 IST

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.

It was a tragic irony that the 90-year-old royal passed away just a day after actress and beauty Leela Naidu died in Mumbai after a prolonged illness. The prestigious fashion magazine Vogue had named Gayatri Devi as one of the 10 most beautiful women in the world along with Leela.

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.