Royals won't tell what Gayatri will holds

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  • Published 16.08.09

Jaipur, Aug. 16: If there is a will, there must be a united way.

Jaipur’s blue-blood band has clammed up after Rajmata Gayatri Devi’s death that fuelled talk of a royal feud over property.

The family, strained by numerous legal disputes over property worth more than Rs 1,000 crore, is firm on projecting a cohesive front and keeping mum over the will. So much so that security at Lily Pool, the palatial residence of Gayatri Devi, and Moti Doongri, the Scottish-style pearl palace atop a hill, has been tightened with everyone wishing to enter being screened.

Gayatri Devi’s grandson Devraj, who is currently staying at Lily Pool along with sister Lalitya and their Thai mother Priyanandana Rangsit and who was the only one speaking initially, has now gone into a shell.

Devraj, 21, and Lalitya, 24, children of Gayatri Devi’s late son Jagat Singh, are the legal heirs to the Rajmata’s vast property, which includes palaces in Jaipur, sprawling houses in England and the Caribbean and an enormous amount of jewellery.

Devraj had initially said he was not allowed into Lily Pool when he went to meet his ailing grandmother but was later permitted by relatives.

Some reports suggest Devraj and his grandmother had patched up over a case in 2006 and she had altered her will in April this year to accommodate him and his sister, but sources close to the royals said Gayatri Devi never spoke much about her grandchildren.

The sources said that though Devraj and Lalitya did visit Jaipur from Thailand during their holidays and spent time with her, the distance perhaps did not make the heart grow fonder.

Devraj now says he wants to live in Jaipur and carry on the work of his grandmother, who was believed to be socially conscious.

Author Dharmendra Kanwar, who has written about the Rajmata and co-authored a book on cuisine with her, said: “Gayatri Devi was very caring and supportive of any cause she believed in. She used to sit in her office and meet people who came with their grievances, she was approachable but kept the media away.”

Kanwar said the Rajmata was also protective about the family. “She loved them and always tried to keep the family together, notwithstanding the legal battles. They visited her, especially during festivities.”

The sources said the Rajmata was closest to Prithviraj Singh, 74, her stepson from Man Singh’s second wife Kishore Kunwar. As Prithvi looked after Gayatri Devi’s property, legal angles and also the disputes, he was in constant touch with her.

One reason for her proximity to Prithviraj could have been his wife, Devika of Tripura, the daughter of Gayatri Devi’s elder sister. Devika was estranged from her husband and lived in Delhi. She died a few months back.

Gayatri Devi was also close to Rani Vidya Devi, the wife of Jai Singh, the brother of Prithviraj. She had entrusted Rani Vidya with the administration and management of her two prestigious educational institutions, the Maharani Gayatri Devi School and the Sawai Man Singh School. “Whenever there was a function, both came together and relations seemed cordial,” said a teacher.

Rani Vidya, who is from Jubbal in Himachal Pradesh, can speak Bengali fluently and even did a small cameo in Satyajit Ray’s Kanchenjunga.

Kanwar says Gayatri Devi also spoke Bengali fluently, especially with her Cooch Behari aides. Strangely, nobody from the Cooch Behar royal family, into which she was born, turned up for the cremation.

Gayatri Devi’s most strained relations were perhaps with her eldest stepson, Jaipur’s current maharaja Brigadier Bhawani Singh (known as Bubbles as champagne overflowed after his birth in 1931).

The relations soured after Gayatri Devi’s son Jagat filed a partition suit in 1986, demanding the court’s intervention to split up Maharaja Man Singh’s estates and belongings.

The other parties in the dispute were Gayatri Devi, Prithiviraj and Jai.