Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
MAHARANI MEHTAB KAUR OF PATIALA
Simple yet impactful, the Maharani of Patiala’s look was a delightful marriage between simplicity in dress and opulent jewellery. As is evident in this photograph from the 1940s, her carefully crafted style plays with lines and angles: the tiara adds length to the face, as do the dangling earrings and the longer diamond necklace that has been layered with a choker necklace. The beautiful diamond cuffs are accompanied by large rings that house a coloured, precious stone in them. Finally, the chiffon sari with a lightening-like pattern and her painted nails complete the look to perfection.
MAHARANI INDIRA DEVI OF BARODA & COOCH BEHAR
The 18-year-old, strong-willed Indira was already engaged to the then Maharaja of Gwalior when she met the younger brother of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, Jitendra at the Delhi Durbar of 1911. The two fell in love. Taking matters into her own hands, Indira broke off her betrothal and married Jitendra in a hotel in London. After this (he went on to become king), the young Maharani began living primarily in Europe and cultivated a thriving social life. Her taste in fashion was equally matched: Indira's signature string of pearls and danglers in diamonds and pearls, worn with flowing saris carefully draped over the head, and her hair worn in waves,as was the fashion at the time. In fact, she turned the chiffon fabric into the sari staple as we know it today. Here, we see Indira Devi wearing a cuff made with three strings of pearls, and another with two large pearls meeting as a clasp. The simplicity of her style is enhanced with a bright, red sweep of lipstick.
MAHARANI SUNITI DEVI OF COOCH BEHAR
A women's rights activist and educationist, the Maharani and her sister were both well-known for their fine taste. In many of Suniti Devi's portraits, one can see her wearing choker necklaces with large pearls on them, layered with strings of pearls. In this photograph from 1902, she is dressed in complete regalia with a diamond crown that has a veil flowing at the back, royal medallions on the chest, and pearl and gold bangles. The modest look is balanced with soft ruffles on the sleeves and even a fan made from plumage. Take inspiration from her by drawing attention to your face with a beautiful necklace, and keeping the rest of the jewellery understated so that the statement piece stands out.
MAHARANI CHIMNABAI OF BARODA
The first president of the All India Women's Conference in 1927, Maharani Chimnambai was a woman much ahead of her times, and she worked hard towards various women's causes. In this painting by Raja Ravi Varma, we see her draped in a sari in the traditional style from Gujarat. Her jewellery is impactful yet understated. Rows of pearls embrace her neck, and a traditional earpiece covers the entire ear. These pieces are balanced with a set of matching bangles on both wrists, and chunky gold anklets, completing her look to elegant perfection.
MAHARANI BHARANITHI RUNAL LAKSHMI BAYI
During his visit to Travancore, the French naval officer and novelist Pierre Loti described the ‘Maharanee’ and her bearing with the following phrases: “Enormous rings of diamonds and rubies hang from her earlobes and her naked arms, which are much bejeweled, are unconcealed by her velvet bodice…” In this portrait of hers from 1883 by Raja Ravi Varma (who was once presented to her as a prospective partner), we get a glimpse of her much-admired ornaments. Large, circular earrings are punctuated with rings of rubies and diamonds, followed by a polki choker, strings of pearls, and another intricately-crafted necklace with precious stones. In continuation with the jewellery style, the bangles on both arms include rubies and diamonds, as do the rings. While the garments are rich, the dupatta features medium-sized embroidery and zari border, so as not to overpower her look. And holding it together is the gold kamarbandh that cinches in the waist and creates a memorable impression.
MAHARANI JIND KAUR OF THE SIKH EMPIRE
Famed for her beauty and strength, Jind Kaur lived a tumultuous life in trying to retain the power of her kingdom after the death of her husband Ranjit Singh. In this portrait by English portraitist George Richmond in 1863, where she is 45 years old, we see the queen’s impressive style, where more is clearly more. What makes her look truly impactful is the fact that she has worn her jewellery with a solid-coloured outfit. Large emeralds hang from a choker of pearls, the matha patti frames her face with a band on either side, and the grand jhumkas are complemented with a large haar that boasts crescent moons made with diamonds. The bajubandh completes the look. What makes this look interesting is that each piece is different from the other, and yet, the colour tones of white and gold make them fit seamlessly together.
MAHARANI OF TRAVANCORE
Contrary to popular opinion, erstwhile Maharanis were not always bedecked in grand jewels. In fact, as seen in this oil on canvas by Raja Ravi Varma, the queen of Travancore wears a finely-crafted necklace with rubies and pearls, along with another pearl necklace that ends in a diamond and emerald drop pendant. In her ears she wears large gold discs, and her nose pin features tiny diamonds. A chunky bracelet and a ring adorn her hands, ensuring that none of the pieces overpower her natural beauty.
MAHARANIS OF BARODA
Here we see two Maharanis from the 19th century onwards. In the photograph that was taken in 1880 (right), Maharani Jamnabai wears the traditional kaari ganthi jewellery that hails from Gujarat, where a number of gold beads are set together to create a cluster. Having draped her sari in the traditional style of the time, Jamnabai's look is completed with a chunky choker, paired with another long necklace, karas on her wrists, and solid anklets. Four decades later, the photograph of Maharani Chimnabai (left), that was taken in 1924, shows her wearing a similar style of jewellery, but in a toned-down fashion. Next to her is her daughter Indira Devi (also featured in this series), and she wears a dainty saat ladi necklace made with pearls.
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