Elegant Rebel of Jaipur
When I first arrived in India, Jaipur’s Wind Palace looked like an exotic fairytale castle to me, like a giant honeycomb, pierced with tiny windows from which hundreds of women in the royal entourage once watched the world go by, while remaining sequestered from the view of outsiders. That was before I met Gayatri Devi—the Rajmata of Jaipur, who, as I learned this morning, died last summer. I appreciate the delicacy of her rebellion.
She was his third wife (the other marriages were arranged). She had studied with the poet Tagore as a child, attended boarding school in England and in Switzerland. She was sporty, wore a daring bob and was and utterly sophisticated. Throughout the mid-20th century, she traveled by Jai’s side, following the polo circuit and hosting a string of glittering guests in India. But she also challenged the status quo in her regal way.
She simply wouldn’t stay locked up in her castle. During Jaipur’s official festivals, she acted with discretion, covering up in a veil or keeping herself hidden in the Wind Palace. Otherwise, “I played tennis, went out horseback riding every morning and drove my own car,” she told me. She was one of the world’s most elegant rebels.