You’ve binge-watched every episode of The Crown twice and have read up everything there is to know about the royal family. But did you know, India has some of the most illustrious and enigmatic royal families in the world?
India’s rich culture, fine arts, textiles, spices and heritage have always played a vital role in putting the country on the world stage. The Indian monarchies, patrons of this culture and trade leaders were known across the globe for their wealth and majesty, and our history is incomplete without stories of royal conquests, architecture and opulence. Although the royal families no longer officially reign in India and the government abolished princely titles in 1971, these families are still known for their titular positions.
Indian Royal Families
Today, even while their luxurious lifestyles and aristocratic wealth retain their sheen, it’s their commitment to their heritage, social causes, the fine arts and conservation initiatives that make them shine. Here are some of the royals that you need to know about...
The Gaekwads of Baroda
One of the most preeminent royal families of India is the Gaekwad family, descendants of a lineage of Hindu rulers of the Maratha Empire. They ruled the incredibly wealthy Baroda princely state till 1947, and much of their lucrative trade was rooted primarily in cotton and textiles. Since the 19th century, the family has worked on modernising Baroda—now Vadodara—by establishing compulsory primary education and setting up textile factories. Maharaja Satyajit Rao, who took the throne in 1857, is famously known to have funded BR Ambedkar’s university education.
Today, the Baroda royal family continues to reside in the world’s largest private residential home, the Laxmi Vilas Palace. The palace has stood the test of time grandly for more than a century. The current head of the family, Maharaja Samarjitsinh Gaekwad, has an affinity for cricket and golf. Maharani Radhikaraje Gaekwad—also of a royal background—took to modernising the royal family and its palace. Her graceful yet minimal aesthetic celebrates traditional and native textiles. With a masters in history, it’s unsurprising that she is passionate about keeping Indian heritage and the arts alive. Radhikaraje is currently the director at CDS Art Foundation and is incredibly active on social media, always advocating for important issues and sharing her affection for her family and friends. The couple, married for nearly 20 years, has two daughters.
The Mewars of Rajasthan
The Mewar dynasty of Rajasthan traces its roots back to Surya, the sun god, and is one of the oldest royal families of India. Influential monarchs such as Maharana Sanga and Maharana Pratap are part of its legacy. The House of Mewar, having been founded in the 8th Century, strongly holds onto its values of what we may today call sustainability.
The Mewar royal family, with Maharana Arvind Singh Mewar as its 76th custodian, resides in the City Palace of Udaipur. He is married to Maharani Vijayraj Kumari Mewar, who hails from the royal family of Kutch. Her passions lie in spiritualism, the development of Udaipur, and education. The lucrative family business, the Historic Resort Hotels (HRH) Group, has made them influential figures in the tourism industry. The maharaja is also the chairman of the Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation, and there are several other trusts that run under his helm.
Bhargavi Kumari Mewar, their daughter, is the executive director of the HRH Group and also has a deep bond with polo. So much so that she is married to Thakur Lokendra Singh Rathore, one of the finest polo players of India. In the overwhelmingly western retail space, she works hard to make the handicraft and handloom industries stand out.
The second daughter of the family, Padmaja Kumari Parmar, has an illustrious career as a business leader. She has been part of several initiatives that aim to develop human resources and has also been a member of the advisory committee of society at Seva Mandir, Udaipur, which works for the upliftment of women.
The scion of the Mewar family, Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar, motivated by his commitment to his city, established the Vastra Daan initiative, which aimed at providing warm clothes to the poor in the winter. This is just one of several causes that the prince has taken on, alongside working with his family in running their magnificent hotels. He is believed to be enthusiastic about cricket, music and painting.
The Royal Family Of Jaipur
The illustrious royal family of Jaipur is the head of the Kachwaha Rajput clan. In fact, the beautiful Maharani Gayatri Devi hailed from this family. At the centre of this family is 23-year-old Maharaja Padmanabh Singh—who fondly goes by Pacho—his mother Princess Diya Kumari, grandmother Maharani Padmini Devi and his siblings, Princess Gauravi Kumari and Prince Lakshya Raj Singh. Both Pacho and his sister have received a cultured education and have busy lives, running the family’s various properties and projects. While they are one of the wealthiest families in India, their lives aren’t all about business—they love travel, polo, fashion, arts (the siblings studied the subject in Europe), literature and social welfare.
Their lives may be a little out of reach for some of us, but the Jaipur royal family’s home, the City Palace, is the first royal home to have a suite listed on Airbnb. In addition to the experience of living in a royal home is the feel-good factor of knowing that all proceeds from renting the suite go to the Diya Kumari Foundation, which supports women and artisans.
The Wadiyars of Mysore
The Mysore royal family is currently under Maharaja Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, the 27th head of the royal family. In 2016, he married Maharani Trishika Kumari Wadiyar of the Dungarpur royal family. They have one son, Aadyaveer Narasimharaja Wadiyar. The family, which still calls the awe-inspiring Amba Vilas Palace home, owns properties and lands of impressive worth. The family owns one of the most famous silk brands there is, the Royal Silk of Mysore, started by the king’s uncle, Srikantadatta.
While their central responsibility is preserving culture, the maharaja actively participates in public life, especially in the areas of environmental conservation, social reform, and the arts. He also has a keen ear for music and plays the guitar.
The Alsisars of Rajasthan
The Alsisar Mahal in Rajasthan isn’t just a renowned heritage hotel but is also the spot for one of the hottest EDM festivals, Magnetic Fields. The palace first became a royal abode to the Alsisar noble family of the Shekhawat dynasty in 1757. Since then, it has been home to eight generations of the family. The present-day inheritor of the Alsisar legacy is the enigmatic Abhimanyu Alsisar—the 16th scion of the dynasty who is married to Sanyukta Singh.
Abhimanyu’s love for music extends beyond the festival to supporting aspiring artists. He also takes on conservation endeavours. A man with many interests, his Instagram profile reflects his deep bond with his jeeps. Besides the mahal, the family owns havelis in Jaipur and Ranthambore.
The first Pataudi became a nawab back in 1804. A few centuries later, the leading family of the royal dynasty also became the royalty of cricket and Bollywood. The family has a regal past, and its present is a story surrounding the arts and sports. The Pataudis are arguably among the most famous royals of India. The head of the family, Saif Ali Khan, is the son of the late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, who once captained the Indian cricket team, and Sharmila Tagore, also an icon of the film industry.
The three siblings, Saif, Soha and Saba Ali Khan have their own successful careers. Saif—the “Chhote Nawab”—and Soha followed their mother’s footsteps into Bollywood, while Saba is a jewellery designer and trustee of the charitable trust endowed by the royal family of Bhopal. Other illustrious names part of the Pataudi family are, of course, Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Saif’s children Sara, Ibrahim, Taimur and Jeh.
The Pataudi Palace in Haryana, is styled after the colonial mansions of imperial Delhi. It’s currently held by Saif and often becomes the family home during the winter. Here’s a lesser-known fact: the Neemrana group operated a hotel out of the Pataudi Palace till Saif wished to have it back after his father passed away. In an interview, he said he wrapped up the lease and made fair financial arrangements to get back possession of the property.
The Royal Family of Jodhpur
The Rathores are descendants of the Kingdom of Marwar. Their titular head, Maharaja Gaj Singh, is also a politician and once served as a high commissioner for India. He is married to Maharani Hemlata Rajye of the royal family of Askot. The couple has two children, Yuvraj Shivraj Singh and Shivranjani Rajye.
The family lives in the palatial Umaid Bhawan in Jodhpur. It’s known for its size, for being perhaps the only palace to be built in the 20th century and most recently, for being the location of Priyanka Chopra’s wedding to Nick Jonas. A part of the palace has been converted into an award-winning hotel and another portion of it is a museum. The family also owns India’s largest fort, the Mehrangarh Fort, and other properties, some of which are now resorts.