Gayatri Devi (23 May 1919 – 29 July 2009) holds the Guiness world record for world’s largest landslide victory in an election. Born as Princess Gayatri Devi of Cooch Behar, she was the third Maharani of Jaipur from 1939 to 1970 through her marriage to HH Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II. Gayatri Devi ran for Parliament in 1962 and won the Jaipur constituency in the Lok Sabha getting 192,909 votes out of 246,516 cast.
Her popularity with the people of Jaipur was such that she was elected to the Parliament as an MP for three terms and led an active political life for fifteen years. When the privy purses were abolished in 1971, terminating all royal privileges and titles, Gayatri Devi was accused of violating tax laws, and served 5 months in Tihar Jail.
Ethnically Bengali her father, Jitendra Narayan was prince of Cooch Behar, West Bengal. Her mother was Princess Indira Raje of Baroda. Gayatri Devi studied at Glendower Preparatory School in London, Patha Bhavana of Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan, and later in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she travelled with her mother and siblings, then studied secretarial skills in London School of Secretaries; Brilliantmont and Monkey Club London.
She married Sawai Man Singh II Bahadur on 9 May 1940. Gayatri Devi had one child, Prince Jagat Singh of Jaipur.
The Maharani had three stepsons through her husband’s first and second marriages, of whom the eldest is the present Maharaja of Jaipur, who has an only daughter (whose son Kumar Padmanabh Singh has been adopted the next heir, somewhat contrary to the tradition and customs of Jaipur, where a sonless Maharaja almost always adopted a son from the next line patrilineally junior to him, or next in succession).
Maharani Gayatri was an excellent rider and an able Polo player. She was a good shot and enjoyed many days out on ‘Shikars’. Her Highness was fond of cars and is credited with importing the first W126, a 500 SEL to India which was later shipped to Malaysia.
Gayatri Devi was once included in Vogue magazine’s Ten Most Beautiful Women list. Gayatri Devi started schools for girls’ education in Jaipur, most prominent of which is the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ Public School established in 1943. She also revived and promoted the dying art of blue pottery.
After Partition and Independence Day in India in 1947, Gayatri Devi ran for Parliament in 1962 and won the constituency in the Lok Sabha in the world’s largest landslide, winning 192,909 votes out of 246,516 cast, confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records. She continued to hold this seat on 1967 and 1971, Swatantra Party of C. Rajagopalachari, the second Governor-General of Independent India, running against the Congress Party.
When the privy purses were abolished in 1971, terminating all royal privileges and titles, Gayatri Devi was accused of violating tax laws, and served 5 months in Tihar Jail. She retired from politics and published her autobiography, A Princess Remembers, written with Santha Rama Rau, in 1976.
The Maharani developed gastric problems in London and was admitted to a hospital there. She was being treated for gastric disorder at the King Edward’s Hospital in London and had expressed her desire to return to Jaipur. Gayatri Devi was flown in an air ambulance to Jaipur. She was admitted at Santokba Durlabhji Memorial Hospital (SDMH) on 17 July 2009. She died on 29 July 2009, reportedly due to lung failure.