In the annals of history, certain figures stand out not only for their remarkable leadership but also for their captivating charm and style. HH Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur, known affectionately as ‘Jai,’ was one such figure. Beyond his role as a distinguished ruler, Jai was celebrated for his unparalleled charisma, dashing appearance, and legendary accomplishments both on and off the polo field. This article pays homage to the extraordinary life of the man often dubbed ‘The Handsome King of Jaipur.’
The Early Days
Born in 1912, Jai was destined for greatness from a young age. His path to the throne of Jaipur, however, took a rather unconventional turn. A childhood incident where he pocketed a gold coin led to his appointment as the heir to Maharaja Sawau Nadho Singh II, despite the absence of a legitimate heir. Thus, Jai’s journey into the world of royalty began.
Polo and International Stardom
Jai’s introduction to Mayo College, India’s oldest boarding school, would forever change his life. There, he honed his skills in polo, emerging as a nine-goal hero on the polo field. His prowess on horseback, combined with his striking appearance, earned him comparisons to international film stars. His sporty persona was complemented by his impeccable wardrobe, sculpted double-breasted suits, and a dazzling smile that could rival any Hollywood icon.
The Love Story
Jai’s life took another exciting turn when he encountered the captivating Gayatri Devi, the youngest daughter of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar. Their romance was the stuff of legends, beginning with a flirtatious encounter that blossomed into love. In 1940, they sealed their love in a grand wedding ceremony, uniting two of India’s most prominent royal families.
A Royal Life
Despite his fun-loving demeanor and Western-influenced lifestyle, Jai carried the responsibilities of his royal title with grace. He maintained a balance between the opulence of the City Palace, where he was often carried in a palanquin, and his international escapades as a Western-style socialite.
A Life of Risks and Adventures
Jai’s life was marked by daring exploits, from his high-risk polo matches to his adventurous flights. In a fateful incident, a vulture collided with the propeller of his plane over Bombay, leading to a crash that claimed the pilot’s life but miraculously spared Jai’s.
In the wake of World War II and India’s path to independence, Jai’s role extended beyond the polo field. He served as a liaison officer for the Indian State Forces and was one of the few Maharajas granted permission to travel abroad during the war. However, the winds of change eventually led to the absorption of Jaipur State into the Greater Rajasthan Union.
Legacy and Endearing Popularity
Despite the loss of his royal title, Jai remained beloved by the people of Jaipur. He and Gayatri Devi continued to host distinguished guests, including Queen Elizabeth II and Nikita Khrushchev, and maintained their popularity in the region.
The life of HH Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur is a testament to the blend of tradition and modernity, grace and adventure, that characterized his era. His charisma, style, and sportsmanship continue to inspire awe and admiration, earning him a place in history as ‘The Handsome King of Jaipur.’ Jai’s legacy endures as a symbol of enduring affection and trust between a ruler and his people, making him a timeless icon.