The Royal Families of India have gone down in history for glory, epic victories, strategic annexations, and incredible opulence. Generations of dynasties have proven themselves, enough to have gold-stitched tapestries depicting their tales lining immense marble palaces and rule our history books amongst other things. In the era of the British in India, these Royal families ruled several princely states, namely Gwalior, Rajkot, Jodhpur, Mewar and so forth. But we were interested to note that this tradition of excellence and triumph seems to continue till date too, although the 21st Century looks a little different than the era of Challukyas, Pandyas, Marathas or the likes.
Their ruling powers were stripped away with the gaining of Independence, reducing them to nothing more than nominal heads, but these new age descendants of India’s historical royal families excel in fields far away from the throne, exploring sports, activism, art, journalism and social improvement. Being king or queen is time consuming enough for most people, but these multi-talented descendants flourish outside of the royal palace. Here are their fascinating stories.
I. The Princess of Alwar Is… An Indian Squash Legend.
Bhuvneshwari Kumari, also known as Princess Candy, is the royal granddaughter of Tej Singh Prabhakar Bahadu. Descending from the Kachhawa dynasty, she claims the rosy title of the princess of Alwar, Rajasthan. Interestingly enough, her royal crown is only one of the many shining notches on her belt.
This Women’s National Squash Champion (from 1977 to 1992 - 16 years in a row) is a decorated athelete and sportsperson, who earned a career high ranking of 3rd in the Asian circuit. Winner of 41 State titles and 2 International titles (Kenyan Open 1988 and 1989) this legendary player has attained immense national and global recognition. We could go on and on about her skill, dexterity and raw talent, but her sky high pile of awards speak for themselves.
In 1983 she claimed the Delhi Sports Journalist Association Award for The Best Sports Woman, and this was just the start. Her checklist of honours includes over five more national honours, in addition to which she was listed in the Limca Book of Records (For Sports Person of The Year, 1992 and for The Most Number of Titles Won in Indian Sports). Still, her highest points of pride were attaining the Arjuna Award in 1982, and the Padma Shri in 2001. In her own incredible way, this veteran legend has certainly redefined victory for the Kachhawa dynasty.
II. The Maharana of Rajpipla Is…
A Thriving Gay Rights Activist.
Manvendra Singh Gohil, a direct descendant of the 650 year old Gohil dynasty, has used his royal status and influence to pull India into a more liberal, accepting and informed society. Having come out of the closet to his own parents in 2002, he was rejected by the King and Queen of Rajpipla. His sexuality had caused the dismantling of his first and second heterosexual marriages, marriages he entered into out of obligation. After over a decade of living a lie, his coming out was met with instant abandonment. Four years later, in 2006, he came out publicly and received wide-spread hatred from the people of Rajpipla. This public reaction only fuelled his determination to fight stigma and prejudice in society, and build a more aware and informed country.
Manvendra, India’s first publicly gay prince, is a prominent gay rights activist and founder of the Lakshya Trust, which works to create awareness about HIV and prevent AIDS among same-sex men. His high status and controversial story caught immense media attention, which he has used to further his cause. With perseverance, this Prince has managed to win back the trust of the people of Rajpipla and has proven to be so much more than nominal royalty.
III. The Maharaja of Tripura Dynasty Is…
An All-Rounder of the North East.
Kirit Pradyot Deb Barman is the multi-faceted head of the Tripura royal family. He observes multiple tasking roles as a hotelier, social worker, politician, journalist and of course, King.
As the founder of the magazine ‘The Northeast Today,’ Barman is an active journalist catering to the residents of the Northeast States. This all-rounder has demonstrated leadership prowess as the Chairman of the Royal Heritage Hotel. And, if we weren’t already convinced of his contemporary achievements, this 21st century Maharaj and music lover was instrumental in bringing the American band Fire House to the North East.
His entrepreneurship aside, Barman is an active advocate for the people of the Northeast of India as well. He is the Working President of the Tripura Pradesh Congress and has facilitated progress in prime sectors like healthcare, rural development and education. As a social worker, he also actively supported the movement against the archaic and controversial AFSPA law.
IV. The Princess of Travancore Is…
The Creator of Stunning Hindu Mythological Artworks.
Born as Her Highness Bharani Tirunal Rukmini Bayi Tampuran, better known as Rukmini Verma, this Princess has more than royalty in her blood. Her great grandfather, Raja Ravi Varma, is venerated to this day as the Father of Modern Art in India owing to his masterful paintings.
Her various oil paintings have gained great appreciation across the country and her third series in 1974 is testament to this. It was inaugurated by the President of India, V.V. Giri. Rukmini, and captured scenes from rural Karnataka and Kerala, which brought her serious recognition in India’s art circles. She boldly painted in an impressionist style at a time when abstract expressionism had become popular in India.
Upon Rukmini’s first major international exhibition at India House in London, she received a flattering request. Her exhibition was opened by Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India. He was so impressed by her skill and ability that he asked her, subsequently, if she would do a portrait of him in traditional Indian attire, wearing a turban and an achchkan. However, portraits are not her claim to fame. She is well respected for her nude paintings of Hindu mytholigical women, inspite of religious heads advising her otherwise.
V. Thakur Kanwar Achal Singh Achrol Is…
Jaipur’s Neurosurgery Wonder.
Exceptional scholar, author and educator Thakur Ravi Singh Achrol has much to be proud of in terms of his professional accomplishments. A personal addition to his list of achievements is his medically gifted son Achal Singh Achrol.
Hailing from the Kachhawa Royal family of Jaipur, Achal Singh Achrol has switched out his crown and sceptre for a headlight and scalpel. His long list of triumphs starts with the prestigious Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, and only grows more impressive. Achal’s interest translational research guided him to neuro-innovation, where he developed a handheld electrocardiogram monitoring system, a portable cerebral perfusion measurement device and many more things that we can only pretend to understand. Currently using his gift at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, this Thakur is Jaipur’s prodigy.