:: 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 rather reluctantly.

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.

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