Memoirs of Maharaj Sajjansinghji,
a first cousin... ::
Maharajasaheb Virendrasinghji and I were first cousins. But we were
extremely close, more like close friends. I used to call him "Bhai".
He was 7 years younger to me, and I still remember clearly the time
he was born in Bombay in 1937, in a building called Shital Sagar,
on Malabar Hill. So great was the happiness of everyone, since he
was born after 12 years, that the lavish parties that my uncle Maharaja
Natwarsinghji threw in Bombay for days together was something out
of this world.
No expenses were spared, and when the Royal saloon brought the whole
family to Chhota Udepur, the entire narrow gauge railway track from
Baroda to Chhota Udepur sounded with the thunderous firing of crackers.
After returning to Chhota Udepur, further lavish parties were given.
Distinguished guests from Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and other places
were entertained by fifteen dancing girls, day and night. Gifts and
charities were given to the people, and any person who came to the
palace were fed without questioning. The entire town was bedecked
and the entire population was jubilant.
Till the age of five, Bhai was looked after and educated by an English
nanny by the name of Ms.Hohart. Bhai was full of mischief, so he harassed
Ms. Hohart a great deal, who lived on the third floor of the Kusum
Vilas palace. He would not obey her and she had to run after him for
various reasons, calling out to him "Virendra, Virendra don't be naughty
or I'll punish you, and most of the times Bhai would dodge her. A
specific incident is clearly sketched in my memory. Miss Hohart used
to go up to her room by lift. So, when she used to go up, Bhai would
press the button bringing the lift down. Initially she thought that
there was something wrong with the lift, but after this happened several
times, she knew that Bhai was the culprit and used to try and find
him, but as usual he would be untraceable. Many a time the mischievous
young prince would lock her room from the outside, or would hide her
shoes or clothes and laugh heartily afterwards.
On Bhai's fifth birthday, his hair cutting ceremony took place known
as the "Churkan" ceremony, where the hair is cut for the first time
after birth. The ceremony lasted for nine days, the function being
celebrated like a wedding. Again distinguished guests and friends
were invited to participate, and again the people were given free
food for all nine days. Eleven dancing girls entertained the guests.
Bhai and I sat in a silver carriage drawn by four magnificent snow
white horses, and accompanied by a military ADC in complete uniform.
The procession used to pass through the Bazaar street with the Military
Band playing in front and the distinguished guests walking behind
with the carriage following closely. Behind the carriage were young
girls and women singing songs. The procession used to go a short distance
where chairs would be placed for the guests and they would be served
drinks, the band playing all this while. The procession would then
proceed till it reached the temple of the presiding deity of the family
- Shri Maha Kali Mata. We would get down from the carriage to pay
our respects to the presiding deity. Thereafter, my uncle H.H. Natwarsinghji
Chauhan, my father with other family members and guests would leave
by car and proceed to the palace to be entertained. The silver carriage
carrying Bhai and me would move slowly, reaching the palace after
two hours. After dinner, Bhai and me would be shunted off to bed.
On the nine days of entertainment, there would be military sports,
fancy dress parties at the beautiful Shalimar Gardens in the palace
compound, tennis matches, billiard games, squash matches as well as
banquets. After all this lavishness and gaiety, the guests would leave
My uncle took special care to educate Bhai and train him on the ways
of State Administration, but very unfortunately in October 1946, while
on a tour to Europe, my uncle H.H. Natwarsinghji Chauhan passed away
unexpectedly in a Lisbon hotel where he was celebrating Bhai's birthday,
that very day.
Bhai was just ten years old when he ascended to the throne of Chhota
Udepur. The British government appointed Mr. Carroll as his guardian.
Miss Hobart was still his governess at that time. Further, to handle
state matters, a Regency Board was set up to overlook Bhai's property
and interests. The Maharaja of Lunawada was appointed the President
of the Regency Board, and the Maharaja of Rajpipla, Bhai's maternal
uncle, my father Maharaj Naharsinghji (being the brother of Maharaja
Natwarsinghji), and Grand uncles namely Kumar Saheb Raisinghji and
Kumar Saheb Gajendrasinghji were the members of the Regency Board.
After the passing away of my uncle, Bhai was educated at Mayo College
- Ajmer, Daly College - Indore and the Wadia College - Pune from where
he completed his graduation in Economics.
In 1960, Bhai was given full powers of his property. After Bhai acquired
the responsibility of his estate and assets in 1960, his marriage
was solemnized with the Princess of Palitana state, Gayatri Devi.
The state meanwhile had merged completely with the Indian Union, however
the Privy Purse and other privileges of the ex-rulers still existed.
So, Bhai's wedding was celebrated with all the pomp and pageantry
of Royal weddings.