Holding the mantle of her royal lineage high, the Princess of Jaipur is just as passionate about promoting Rajasthani crafts and empowering women as her family. Regaling us with tales of her blue- blooded ancestry, she takes HELLO! on a tour of the city’s rich heritage that’s survived for aeons, thanks to her clan…
City Palace, an oasis in the desert, rests within the heart of pulsating Jaipur like the fabled pearl hidden in an oyster, given the number of arts and handicrafts that abound within its fortress-like four walls. Interestingly, each one of these hand-made stories can be traced directly to the patronage of the royal family of Jaipur, known to promote their heritage.
History has it that the late Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singh not just made room for over 20 master craftsmen to set up their atelier within his palace compound, but also helped develop the pitch and aesthetic language of their art. Little wonder then that such detailing and beauty prevails in everything the city personifies.
This beautiful legacy, created by her grandparents and lovingly nurtured by her mother, captures the cerebral space of the young Princess Gauravi Kumari. Scion of the Jaipur royal family, she’s also a true citizen of contemporary, democratic India. Princess Diya Kumari’s daughter, she naturally inherits Jaipur’s rich history, within which she and her family continue to reside. Taking over the reins of the many design projects within City Palace, she also works towards women’s empowerment, inspired by her feisty mother and dynamic grandmother, Rajmata Padmini Singh.
We meet her at her heart space, Badal Mahal, its wall filled with frescoes of buoyant badals (clouds) smiling at the cluster of happy women pottering away at the core of the Princess Diya Kumari Foundation (PDKF) sampling workshop. Lost within their midst, she’s adding her finishing touches to a bag made from scraps of soft, hand-blocked cotton fabric. It’s the young woman’s ode to sustainability, her way of not letting anything go to waste.
A graduate in media and communication from New York University, Gauravi stumbled upon the role she loves most today — that of steering the foundation. Back home during the pandemic and taking online classes, she saw up close the incredible work the women of PDKF do, having emerged out of their oppressive existence with the help of Princess Diya Kumari. She was stumped by the sheer beauty of the craft these ladies developed, and her young, creative brain decided to render to it a chic avatar, making the products globally relevant.
Founded in 2013, PDKF works towards the last-mile empowerment of women in Rajasthan. The NGO encourages women to pursue a means of employment that is the second largest industry after agriculture in India — handicrafts. Also the lead story of rural and urban Rajasthan, an economy that thrives on tourism and exports.
Nine years old, the NGO today has “five centres, each one offering a unique set of craft expertise, all of which converge at our first PDKF store housed within City Palace”, shares Gauravi. Hoping to multiply this number and seeing many more PDKF stores mushroom across the globe, she feels “what our women make has great resonance with the global market”.
And this relevance is carefully created by the dynamic duo of Gauravi and Claire Deroo, who create the merchandise story together. Curating a collection of dresses, skirts, sarongs and beach dresses, they take Indian block prints towards a completely young and boho direction, impeccable cuts and perfect tailoring and finishing defining their fashion.
“We ask ourselves whether we’d wear this. If the answer is no, we edit the product out... While the beading, hand- block printing, painting and embroideries are all done by the PDKF women, we get the clothes tailored by expert seamstresses.”
Keeping the sampling within her reach at Badal Mahal, where the core team works, Gauravi dips into the expertise of the other four PDKF centres to create the complete merchandise.
Gauravi recently added the fifth cluster in Ajmer, where she develops products made from scraps of fabrics, skillfully patched together by hand and used to make bags, scrunchies, pouches, potlis, etc.
“This is our sustainable story, our way to ensure not an inch of material goes to waste.” For Gauravi, PDKF is not just a retail enterprise, but a convergence of women with heart-breaking stories who came into their own after they began to work at one of their centres.
“The walls of our stores are lined with stuffed elephants hand-made by the women of PDKF, each one a tribute to a woman who struggled to survive. They were left to their own resources by a harsh world, and today, they earn, educate their children, drive around in their scooters and are independent in the truest sense.”
Gauravi, who looks like a spitting image of her mother, smiles and says, “People also say I look like my grandmother, which is an equally big compliment. Both my mother and she are such inspiring women. I respect my mother for all the powerful roles she plays. She’s been a backbone to all three of us.”
Princess Diya Kumari, above all, is a pal who bonds with her daughter over “the usual girly things”. “We shop together on holiday, do Pilates together and, most importantly, we share a relationship of camaraderie where we can discuss just about anything!”
“Nani, on the other hand, brought us up. She’s our friend, our nurturer. She fills us up with so many stories of the past. So many important nuggets of history that shaped us in our role as people who keep our legacy alive. She has lived both her roles as a maharani and an army officer’s wife to perfection.”
Gauravi also looks up to big brother Padmanabh Singh, the 24-year-old maharaja of Jaipur who is her friend, philosopher and guide. She pampers her little brother, Lakshyaraj, “who is not so little anymore. He’s 6ft tall, yet the one spoiled by all!” And she’s equally close to her father Narender Singh, sharing that “he’s our go-to when we need advice. All three of us are very close to him.”
A true blue globe-trotter, Gauravi likes to be out and about in her jeans and jackets when in New York. A natural beauty, she goes minimal in her makeup, her go-to including “a little bit of concealer, some bronzer or blush and some kajal occasionally.
“We make the kajal at home, so I’ve been wearing it since I was a child. My most favourite makeup item is the Dior Addict Lip Glow; I also love some of the NARS blushes.”
For her skincare, like her mother, she relies on rose water and natural face masks. “Both mom and I use them for hydration and nourishing our skin.” Not particularly a brand addict, Gauravi likes to wear off-beat labels like Jacquemus, Alice + Olivia and Reformation.
“I also love mixing pieces from high-end brands like Chanel and Gucci with Zara and Aritzia.”
However, once home, she loves to dress up in her poshaks, chiffon saris and Indian wear. In fact, she wishes to keep alive her legacy and admits that, “this Holi, I was super excited to wear my poshak and dress up in a way women of Rajasthan did”.
Indeed, for her, it’s always, “Yesterday once more.”
Photography: Ashish Chawla; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Hair & Makeup: Neha Singh; Location: Rajmahal Palace, Raas, Jaipur
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s August 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!