India

An intimate look at India's royal women

Maharani
Image caption Rani Sethu Parvathi Bayi and Rani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore, Kerala. Unknown photographer, undated. Courtesy B Jayachandran/Tasveer

India's royalty lost their official powers when the nation gained independence in 1947, but there is still a great sense of romance and fascination with the men and women who once ruled large tracts of the country.

However, the discourse has mostly centred around the "maharajas" or kings, many of whom are still wealthy and influential.

Although there have been prominent maharanis (queens) like Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, who was instrumental in promoting girls' education in India, and featured on a Vogue list of "most beautiful women", many of India's royal women have been out of the spotlight and not much is known about them.

A photography studio, Tasveer, is now trying to change that - as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, it has collected portraits of Indian queens and princesses and is showing it in an exhibition, titled "Maharani: Women of Royal India".

Tasveer said the pictures were sourced from the archives of the Museum of Art and Photography, royal collections from across the subcontinent and other institutional and private collections both in India and abroad such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Amar Mahal Museum and Library in Jammu.

Image caption Thakorani Vijayalakshmi Devi Sahiba of Kotda Sangani, in Gujarat, in 1941-1942. Photo courtesy Urmila Devi/Tasveer Mysore
Image caption This photograph of Rani Yashoda Devi of Patiala was taken in Vandyk Studios in London in the 1930s. Courtesy MAP/Tasveer
Image caption This photograph by Raja Deen Dayal & Sons of Hyderabad, taken in 1915, shows Rani Prem Kaur Sahiba of Kapurthala - originally Anita Delgado Briones of Spain. Courtesy MAP/Tasveer
Image caption Princess Rafat Zamani Begum - or Bari (senior) Begum Sahiba of Rampur, formerly of the Najiabad family. Photographed by Kinsey Studios of Delhi in 1960. Courtesy MAP/Tasveer
Image caption Maharaj Kumar Rani Sita Devi of Kapurthala, formerly of Kashipur. Photographed by Andre Durst in 1934. Courtesy MAP/Tasveer
Image caption Maharani Chimnabai II of Baroda, also known as Shrimant Gajrabai Ghatge of Dewas Senior. Photographed by Lala Deen Dayal in 1891. Courtesy MAP/Tasveer
Image caption Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, also known as Princess Ayesha of Cooch Behar, photographed by Derek Adkins in 1951. Courtesy MAP/Tasveer

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