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Gayatri Devi (1919–)

Gayatri Devi (1919–)

Indian political leader. Born May 23, 1919, in London, England; one of five children of the Maharajah Jitendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur of Cooch Behar (died 1922) and Princess Indiraraje Gaekwar of Baroda; educated by private tutors; attended St. Cyprian's in Eastbourne, England; graduated from Shantiniketan University, Balpur, India, 1936; attended Brilliamount school, Lausanne, Switzerland, and the London College of Secretaries; m. Sawai Man Singh Bahadur (maharajah of Jaipur), May 9, 1940 (died June 1970); children: one son, Maharaj Kumar Singh.

Maharani of Jaipur and member of the Parliament of India, founded three schools: Maharani Gayatri Devi Public School in Jaipur, a sewing school, and a school of arts and crafts, through which she hoped to perpetuate the handicrafts of Jaipur; joined the Swatantra (Freedom) Party (1961), as a rightist opponent of Indira Gandhi's Congress Party, and announced her candidacy for the House of the People, the lower chamber of Indian Parliament; on election day (Feb 1962), received the largest plurality of any candidate in the country; during 1st 5-year term, focused on her home state of Rejasthan; lost bid for a state legislative seat (1967) but was reelected to the national Parliament; when opponents of the Congress Party in Rejasthan protested the return of the party to power (1967), escaped arrest but made clear her support of the uprising; responding to Gandhi's dissolution of Parliament and her call for elections a year ahead of schedule (1971), ran for the opposition from Jaipur and won by 50,000 more votes than her Congress Party opponent; suffered a political blow (Dec 1971), when both houses of Parliament passed a bill that "derecognized" all former rulers, thus abolishing their privileges, titles, and privy purses, including those of her late husband; served out term in Parliament but admitted that politics was a full-time job for which she did not have the time; in conjunction with her school of arts and crafts, formed a company to export cotton rugs, or durries, made by the local weavers.

See also memoir (with Santha Rama Rau) A Princess Remembers (Lippincott, 1976); and Women in World History.

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