Gayatri Devi, the Maharani Who Did

From politician to preservationist, she was always more than a glamorous queen — reminding us to stand tall in a world that men often dominate.

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Princess Gayatri Devi, or Ayesha Cooch-Behar, circa 1945 (Gordon Anthony/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Ayesha Le Breton


March 6, 2024


12 min

Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar spent the final days of her third pregnancy immersed in the pages of H. Rider Haggard’s novel She (1887), about Ayesha, a majestic woman with supernatural powers. Though her daughter’s official name was Gayatri because a pundit declared “G” to be the most auspicious letter, the maharani called her Ayesha, “she who must be obeyed.” The daughter most certainly lived up to the name: she was a force of nature.

Gayatri Devi, the former Maharani of Jaipur, was one of Vogue’s 10 most beautiful women in the world and held two Guinness World Records — first, for being part of the most expensive wedding, the second for recording the largest election win ever. These two facts allude to Devi’s multitudes: a princess born into royalty, a style icon, a women’s rights advocate, a politician, and a preservationist. Devi today reminds us to take up space in arenas that often exclude you, to protect the cities and culture you hold dear no matter the circumstances, and to keep fighting for what you believe in.

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