It has become a fashion for wealthy Indians and even foreigners to have Indian royal themed weddings. Just searching for the keyword “Royal Indian Weddings” on Google would throw up hosts of wedding service providers who would provide grand Indian royal weddings for a price. But in this whole bling culture, the genteel elegance of old days is lost, when thousand of guests would dine on silver plates to exotic dishes like Shikampuri kebabs and Habshi halwas.
Royal Indian Weddings - Epitome of Elegance
We look longingly at a more genteel era, at some of the grandest and classiest royal Indian weddings ever, which were covered extensively in the international news media. Thankfully then there were no glossy tabloids and lifestyle magazines, who would offer to “sponsor” a part of the wedding for exclusive wedding photos. This was the time when whole villages, including poorest of the poor participated in royal weddings. The royal weddings were always inclusive and never exclusive events.
These are some the grandest and classiest royal weddings ever celebrated:
1. Princess of Jaipur and Yuvraj of Devgadh Baria
Princess Prem Kumari, the eldest daughter of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur married Yuvraj Jaideep Singhji of Devgadh Baria in 1946. This was the first wedding of Maharaja of Jaipur’s daughter in almost 100 years. So the celebrations were grand. All major royal houses were invited..The logistics and catering arrangements were prodigious and the preparations were made with military like precision. The book of instructions to the Jaipur staff was about two inches thick, detailing every party, festivity, ceremony and entertainment and containing programs for each group of guests and their staff. Even the menus for the servants and vantage points assigned to them for watching the processions were carefully worked out. The wedding festivities lasted for around two weeks.
The Bride and Groom: Princess Prem Kumari of Jaipur and Yuvraj Jaideep Singhji of Devgadh Baria.
Bride’s Mother: Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur
Father of the Bride: Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur
For the wedding banquet long tables were decorated with flowers and plates loaded with rich meat curries, several kinds of pilau and sweets covered with gold leaf. The tables glowed with bright gleam of gold and silver thals, bowls and goblets. Throughout the meal, as thals were filled and refilled the palace musicians played. The marriage ceremony took place at the zenana of the city palace. This was perhaps first time in many years that the Jaipur City palace was actually filled with people. It was followed by gaiety and celebration all over Jaipur state. There was magically exuberant display of fireworks, the poor were fed and some prisoners were released. The famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson came to take photographs of the special occasion.
2. Princess of Jodhpur and Yuvraj of Baroda
Perhaps the first wedding of the Jodhpur royal family to receive big international media coverage was that of Princess Rajendra Kanwar of Jodhpur (Aunt of current Maharaja Gaj Sinhji) to Yuvraj Fatehsinhrao Gaekwad of Baroda. LIFE magazine as well as all major international publications carried full photo features of this wedding. It was a Maratha-Rajput wedding attended by attended by 54 maharajas, 55 lesser princes and 306 nobles.
The Bride & Groom: Princess Rajendra Kanwar of Jodhpur & Yuvraj Fatehsinhrao Gaekwad of Baroda
Images of royal wedding festivities in Jodhpur
The wedding of scions of two of india’s premier royal families was meticulously planned. A 12 man committee was formed to look after the wedding and logistics. Maharaja Hanuwant Singh personally supervised the marriage of his sister. The massive Umaid Bhawan palace and Meherangarh fort specially decorated for the wedding. Wedding reports state that the 4500 wedding guests were accommodated and the catering was done by 60 butlers, 60 English style cooks and 125 English style cooks!
The barat arrived from Baroda in a special train. The men folk were housed at Umaid Bhawan while the bride and royal ladies stayed at Meherangarh. There was a grand ceremonial procession through the streets of Jodhpur. This was followed by the main ceremony at Umaid Bhawan. The traditional vedic ceremony lasted for two and half hours while the guests enjoyed drinks and music. This was followed by series of receptions. The total cost of the wedding? A whopping 1.4 million dollars in 1948 currency value!
3. Princess of Gwalior and Maharaja of Tripura
The SUN, a famous tabloid published in London carried the headline ‘Gems dazzle as Princess weds in India’ followed by ‘Rich Rajas turn out for colorful rites at Bombay Palace’. This was princely pageantry at its best. The occasion was the wedding of Princess Padmaraje Scindia, the eldest child of Maharaja Jiwajirao Scindia and Maharani Vijayaraje Scindia to Maharaja Kirit Bikram Deb Barman of Tripura. The backdrop of the wedding was Samudra Mahal, the spectacular waterfront palace of the Scindias in Bombay.
Bride & Groom: Princess Padmaraje Scindia of Gwalior and Maharaja Kirit Bikram of Tripura, flanked by bride’s parents Maharaja Jiwajirao Scindia and Maharani Vijayaraje Scindia.
Wedding banquet at Samudra Mahal palace in Worli, Bombay.
The wedding began with the series of cocktails and receptions in Gwalior and Calcutta. A special train was chartered to bring the groom’s party from Calcutta. Invitations were sent to more than 10,000 guests and every hotel room in Bombay was booked for the occasion. The who’s who of Bombay society turned up for the wedding. Guests included royals from Gwalior, Kolhapur, Indore, Morvi as well as the Parsi aristocracy of Bombay. Thousands of flowers were specially imported from abroad for the wedding. After the wedding ceremony, hundreds of guests ate off plates of solid silver. But the most notable aspect of the wedding was the mile long baraat. This baraat was mile long and found a special mention in TIME Magazine. Princess Padmaraje was given gifts worth 1 million dollars which would be worth hundreds of crores today.
4. Princess of Jaisalmer and Maharaja of Rajpipla
This was the first Indian wedding to be covered by National Geographic magazine. The Magazine wanted to cover an authentic Hindu ceremony and the Rajpipla-Jaisalmer wedding was the perfect occasion. Maharaja Raghubirsinhji Gohil of Rajpipla married Princess Rukmani Devi of Jaisalmer in a grand ceremony at the Jaisalmer fort. The wedding festivities began with lavish parties and processions at Rajpipla. Then, a special train took the bridegroom and the members of the Rajpipla court to Jaisalmer. The wedding had the spectacular backdrop of the golden fort of Jaisalmer.
The Groom: Maharaja Raghubir Sinhji of Rajpipla
The Bride: Princess Rukmini Devi of Jaisalmer
Wedding Festivities in Jaisalmer Fort
The wedding guests included the who’s who of Gujarati royalty and virtually all of Rajasthan aristocracy. The bride was bedecked in finest Rajasthani heirloom jewellery which had been passed down from generations. The wedding festivities reflected the highly sophisticated tastes of the jet setting Rajpipla family as well as the extremely orthodox Jaisalmer family. The National Geographic carried it all in detail with great solemnity wanting to decode a Maharajah’s wedding for all their readers around the globe. Raghubir Singhji and Rukmani Devi’s son is the famous Prince Manvendra of Rajpipla.
5. Princess of Gwalior and Yuvraj of Kashmir
Termed by New York Times as the ‘Wedding of the decade’ and considered to be the last of the grand royal weddings-- Chitrangada Scindia, daughter of Madhavrao Scindia of Gwalior to Vikramaditya Singh, son of Dr Karan Singh of Jammu & Kashmir. The wedding was covered in NY Times, Washinton Post, San Fransico Chronicle and of course all well known Indian magazines and newspapers.
The Bride & Groom: Princess Chitrangada Scindia of Gwalior and Yuvraj Vikramaditya Singh of Kashmir.
The bride, Princess Chitrangada Scindia of Gwalior on wedding day
Father of the bride: Madhavrao Scindia of Gwalior.
The Jai Vilas Palace glistened with a fresh coat of white paint and shone with thousands of tiny yellow lights and musicians played traditional ragas from all corners. The platforms of Gwalior railway station were paved with gleaming marble to welcome the wedding guests. More than 40,000 guests, including villagers who arrived in bullock carts, filled the grounds of Jai Vilas Palace A special helipad was built for convenience of various dignitaries who included the entire cabinet as well as Kings of Nepal and Bhutan. In the gold plated banqueting hall, the famous Scindia silver train carried wine and port for guests chugging on its rails of silver. The wedding of Chitrangada Scindia is remembered as one of the most opulent royal weddings ever and is used as a benchmark to measure the grandeur of the weddings almost two decades later!\
By Akshay Chavan