Oct 23 2011
Nothing in this 1880 studio photograph looks especially opulent, though it is quality work. Portraits and later postcards of young women in fancier sarees, leaning on more elegant chairs or pedestals are often identified as mere nautch girls. But this is the widow of a Maharaja of Baroda, one of the richest princely states in Raj-era India. Maharani Jamnabai wears a tiny traditional choli with shaped and outlined bust pieces, not unlike a couple I have posted here being worn by dancing girls. Even her selection of jewellery is similar, though probably more costly. The saree looks like a fine cotton with simple zari borders, and is a kaccha drape around her legs. It would be nice to wear on really hot days.
The Maharani’s adopted son was HH Sayajirao Gaekwad III, who ruled Baroda – Vadodara in today’s Gujarat – for many decades. She was only ten years older than Sayajirao, who was a boy of 12 when chosen to ascend the throne after the Maharani’s evil brother-in-law, who poisoned people, was deposed. Despite being a mother in her mid twenties, Jamnabai looks like a slim and slightly overwhelmed young girl. Their story would make a cool movie script, and it is all true. For those of you into royal family genealogy, Maharaja Sayajirao ends up being the grandfather of our stylish 1940s favorite, Gayatri the Maharani of Jaipur.