Search Results for: maharani

Sheer Saree and Tight Choli on a Petite Maharani

Sheer Saree and Tight Choli on a Petite Maharani    vintage sarees saree history

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.

The Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur by Cecil Beaton, 1944

The Maharaja and Maharani of Jaipur by Cecil Beaton, 1944    vintage sarees saree history

Captivating, sublime, etherial light and shadow, beauty beyond words; Ayesha in a saree with glowing golden borders is all the reason any woman ever needs to wrap herself in six yards of absolutely timeless mystery and reality.

Surprisingly Simple Sarees on Patiala’s Maharanis

Surprisingly Simple Sarees on Patialas Maharanis    vintage sarees saree history miscelleneous

This is the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala with several of his “women” (as one site put it), posed around him.  The royal ladies wear simple, pale or delicate-looking sarees, and scalloped edges were apparently popular at the time.  I learned that four of his wives were sisters, northern princesses; also that he had ten official consorts whom he married and numerous concubines, and perhaps 88 children.  He died rather young, at age 46 in 1938, so this image is some years earlier.  The same discussion site suggested that his favorite Maharani must be the one wearing the amazing necklace produced by Cartier.

Surprisingly Simple Sarees on Patialas Maharanis    vintage sarees saree history miscelleneous  This is obviously the sort of thing to wear with a very plain saree, since one wouldn’t want to have all these rubies, pearls and diamonds fighting with bright colors for attention.  And believe it or not, the Patialas had an even more famous necklace that is mostly huge diamonds.  But I’m not posting a picture of it because all the good photographs show it on men, and they are not wearing sarees, vintage or otherwise.

Tags

Maharani Gayatri Devi – celebrating the Queen’s birthday May 23 1919

Maharani Gayatri Devi   celebrating the Queens birthday May 23 1919    saree pics miscelleneous

Maharani Gayatri Devi   celebrating the Queens birthday May 23 1919    saree pics miscelleneous

Maharani Gayatri Devi   celebrating the Queens birthday May 23 1919    saree pics miscelleneous

Gayatri Devi was born into staggering wealth at a time when royal families governed half of India and owned the lives of a quarter of Indians. She had it all: Swiss education, schooling in England, hunting, riding, European summers, social seasons in Paris, a palace with 500 staff — and beauty. American Vogue named her one of the world’s ten most beautiful women. Her looks were well captured in a portrait by Pietro Annigoni.

As a child she was, by her own description, a carefree tomboy who adored horses and hunting. She shot her first leopard when she was 12 and went on to play her part — with other royals — in the near-extinction of Indian tigers, personally killing 27 before announcing that she would hunt no more and would become a fervent conservationist.

She was born Princess Gayatri Devi of Cooch Behar, a former royal state in Bengal, which commanded a 13-gun salute in the British-ordained pecking order. That meant it was rich. Her father, the crown prince, became maharajah soon after her birth. She was nicknamed Ayesha — her mother had been reading H. Rider Haggard’s She while pregnant with her.

Gayatri Devi’s English governesses were recommended by Queen Mary and she attended various schools in India, England and Switzerland.

In 1932 Sawai Man Singh, the young maharajah of Jaipur and India’s leading polo player, came to stay with her parents at Woodlands, their impressive Calcutta home. Gayatri Devi fell in love with him, although he already had two wives. Their secret courtship took place mainly in London while Devi was at finishing school.

Whatever the formula, she retained her sparkle for life, breeziness, regal dignity and grace. She was irreverent, quick to laugh, to anger and to apologise. She spent her summers in England, attending polo matches and presenting the Cooch Behar cup at Cowdray and Jai’s cup at Smith’s Lawn.

Via Times Online UK

Also see the excellent portrait posted by Clio.

How to Wear Sarees Like a Real Maharani

Moving from our Sundays in the world of commercial postcards and professional entertainers, we now have two exquisite portraits by one of India’s most famous painters, Raja Ravi Varma from Kerala.  First, a saree of pristine black is worn by the young Maharani Chimanbai in a formally posed composition.  Her pearls are spectacular, her face perfection, the silk handkerchief in her hand against the crisp black an accent – as is the colourful vase of flowers.  I love the exactly pleated fantail of the nine-yard saree and her dainty feet, flat on the carpet.  The inscription date seems to be 1887 or 1889, but I’ll do some research. 

How to Wear Sarees Like a Real Maharani    vintage sarees saree history

How to Wear Sarees Like a Real Maharani    vintage sarees saree history

In the second painting the pose is more relaxed, elbow on the rolled end of the chair with bare hands clasped.  The mood is tender, as is the sheer pinky-purple of the saree the Maharani Chimanbai wears, though her abundant pearls are still just breath-taking!   The little train of saree on the floor has curves rather than stiff knife-pleats, and the sole of one foot is now turned slightly upward on the inviting fur rug.  Everything has changed to softness in this piece.  Her assured elegance could not be surpassed by any of today’s royals.

Even the early works of Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) won prestigious art exhibition prizes in India and Europe, and they are now displayed in palaces and museums, with copies on the internet.  Known for his bright scenes of gods and goddesses from classic literature, the artist’s oil portraits of real people carry a special life-essence that still breathes for viewers today.  Varma’s  paintings have just enough depth and detail to let us back into India’s regal homes from a century ago – where he was himself a resident.  That was a time and place I’d give anything to have seen and been part of.

Tags

Corrected Cinderella Story in a Saree

Corrected Cinderella Story in a Saree    vintage sarees saree history saree art

Updated Information:  The source of the image above, the archive selling copies of it on their website, apparently misidentified the exquisite Winterhalter portrait.  It is not the Maharani Bamba Duleep Singh whose history I initially posted, but the Coorg Princess Gowramma, also befreinded by Queen Victoria, also a Christian, and who also died tragically young!  The Queen even tried to “fix her up” with Dulep Singh before he met and married Bamba Muller!  So do stop to admire this Indian girl’s complete costume, and the way her saree is worn. I love the dozens of itty pleats falling from her waist, and the broad pallu wrapping around her, fastened by the gold belt.  Oh, and lots of heavy jewellery too.

 

Corrected Cinderella Story in a Saree    vintage sarees saree history saree art

The Cinderella story belongs to Bamba, the girl in this sepia photograph – an illegitimate, Arabic-speaking, half-German, half-Egyptian (her mother of Abyssinian background and possibly a slave), raised by American missionaries in Egypt, married to Duleep Singh, a young and very handsome deposed Punjabi Maharaja Sikh-turned-Christian whose holdings, including the fabulous Koh-i-Noor diamond, were all confiscated by the British government.  The Singhs were the darlings of Queen Victoria and her family for some time.

But the fairy-tale life of Maharani Bamba Muller Duleep Singh did not end happily ever after.  Like others I’ve profiled here, wearing beautiful sarees when they were young, Bamba died before she was 40, the mother of six children who all died childless, and leaving a husband who had taken a mistress elsewhere.  Life is lumpy, as a friend of mine says.

Corrected Cinderella Story in a Saree    vintage sarees saree history saree art

Tags