In celebration of the 70th year of Indian independence, Huntsman reflects upon the life of one of our most prominent clients: Indira Devi, Maharani of Cooch Behar.
Maharani of Cooch Behar's Huntsman ledger entry
Although best known as the Maharani of Cooch Behar, Indira Devi was a princess in her own right to the Baroda State. Growing up in the opulent Lakshmi Vilas Palace in Baroda with several brothers, Indira lived a pleasant life. Initially, Devi was to wed Madho Rao Scindia, the then Maharaja of Gwalior. However, as fate would have it, during their engagement Indira attended the Delhi Durbar. Here, she met Jitendra: the younger brother of the then Maharaja of Cooch Behar. Within days of meeting, they had fallen madly in love and decided to marry.
The Three Princesses of Kapurthala: Maharaj Kumar Rani Sushila Devi of Bharatpur, Princess Indira Devi and Maharaj Kumar Rani Urmila Devi of Jubbal c. 1935
The union was not met with the joyous reception one might imagine; Indira had the complex issue of breaking off her previous engagement. She knew that her parents would be against the marriage; the diplomatic repercussions of breaking a standing engagement with the Scindia ruler of Gwalior, one of the premier 21-gun-salute princes of India, could potentially bring unthinkable shame to the family. Not only this, but Jitendra was the younger son of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar and thus unlikely ever to become king, a fact that would have undeniably tainted the opinion of Indira’s parents.
In order to avoid a calamitous family dispute, the young princess took it upon herself to end the engagement to Madho Rao Scindia; an incredibly independent and brave act for an 18 year old girl of the era.
The breaking of the engagement was achieved, however feeling of betrayal and defiance of her parents did not serve to allow for the new union. Indira’s family believed Jitendra to be a playboy that came from a family with very little noble worth.
Indira’s family tried everything to destroy their chances of marriage, even summoning Jitendra to their palace for a face-to-face warning.
But nothing worked; Jitendra and Indira’s love was eternal. They were both totally adamant that they belonged together.
It was this adamance that eventually led to a compromise: Indira’s family allowed her to leave their roof, proceed to London and wed Jitendra.
The couple enjoyed nine happy years of marriage, before Jitendra tragically fell ill and passed away. In those nine years, they parented 5 children: 3 girls and 2 boys.
In her later life, Indira became well known for her highly active social calendar, spending a significant amount of time in Europe. Indira had always been well travelled; whilst Jitendra was alive, they often travelled to London- where they would grace the Huntsman fitting rooms.