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INDIRA RAJE (1892–1968)

Indira Raje was a princess of Baroda who defied her parents and broke off her engagement to the Scindia ruler of Gwalior to marry the ruler of Cooch Bihar. Later she also served as regent of Cooch Bihar for her son. She was the daughter of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda and his wife Chimnabai II (q.v.), and was betrothed very young to Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior. Aged eighteen, Indira attended the Delhi durbar of 1911, where she met the dashing Jitendra, younger brother of the then Maharaja of Cooch Bihar. Compared to Gwalior, Koch Bihar was a small and marginal state, but Indira and Jitendra were undaunted. Braving scandal and diplomatic difficulties they decided to marry.

Indira then wrote to Madho Rao breaking off the engagement. Madho Rao Scindia sent a terse telegram to Indira’s father in Baroda, asking ‘What does the princess mean by her letter?’ Indira told her parents what had happened, and though the ruler of Gwalior withdrew gracefully, Indira still had a battle on her hands convincing her parents to let her marry Jitendra. They hardly knew him and thought of him as a playboy and an upstart. He was summoned and told to stay away from Indira, but Indira herself refused to break off ties with him. Finally her parents realized that they had little chance of marrying her off now. They agreed to let the couple wed provided it happened in London, away from prying eyes. The pair had a quiet Brahmo wedding at a London hotel, as Jitendra’s mother Suniti Devi (q.v.) was the daughter of the Brahmo Samaj reformer Keshab Chandra Sen.

Within days of the wedding, Jitendra’s brother died of complications arising from his excessive drinking in 1913, only two years after assuming the title. Indira was now the wife of the ruler, which compensated her somewhat for her loss of status, and they had five children, including Gayatri Devi (q.v.). However, Jitendra too, drank himself to death in a few years, leaving Indira to act as regent for her minor son Jagatdipendra Narayan. Her duties did not stop her from being a fixture on the party circuit, and her name was linked to various eminent men, including the Duke of Kent. Her second daughter Gayatri (q.v.) became the third wife of the Maharaja of Jaipur at a very early age, and later went into politics. Indira’s elder son assumed the title in 1936, and she thereafter spent most of her time in Europe, returning to Mumbai and dying there in 1968.
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