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A rare, exotic portrait of the matriarchs of a brilliant Indian family Ranging from the final days of the Raj and the British Empire to the present, Lucy Moore vividly re-creates a splendid lost world and describes India's national growing pains through the sumptuous, audacious lives of four ravishing, influential women of the same family- Sunity Devi, friend to Queen VicA rare, exotic portrait of the matriarchs of a brilliant Indian family Ranging from the final days of the Raj and the British Empire to the present, Lucy Moore vividly re-creates a splendid lost world and describes India's national growing pains through the sumptuous, audacious lives of four ravishing, influential women of the same family- Sunity Devi, friend to Queen Victoria; Chimnabai, fierce nationalist; Indira, her flamboyant daughter; and Ayesha, her equally fashionable daughter- who fought tirelessly and with incomparable grace to turn an ancient tradition of noblesse oblige into a progressive democracy....

Title : Maharanis: The Extraordinary Tale of Four Indian Queens and Their Journey from Purdah to Parliament
Author :
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ISBN : 9780143037040
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Maharanis: The Extraordinary Tale of Four Indian Queens and Their Journey from Purdah to Parliament Reviews

  • Rama
    2019-02-28 01:29

    The queens and princesses of Royal India This is a fascinating story of four maharanis who worked tirelessly to transition from a very chaotic final days of their kingdom and the British Raj into the modern democratic and secular India. For just over a century after the British invasion of India, India’s princely families lived in an extraordinary cocoon of privilege and magnificence, protected from mass democratization ushered in the modern era by their complex association with British Empire. Author Lucy Moore’s narratives are exhaustive and the detail accounts gives us a good background in their upbringing and challenges the royal women faced as they grew up. Despite many advantages and upbringing in both Indian and European cultures, they had to live up to the traditions of a Hindu Royal family. Their opulent and sensual lifestyle with a penchant for flashing their jewelry was legendary. When the curtain came down, it diminished their power and authority. But they reckon, rejuvenate and come back to serve the people they long ignored. The four Maharanis discussed in this book comes from two families, the Royal Family of Cooch Behar and the Royal family of Baroda; Maharani Chimnabai (1872-1958), Princess Indira Raje, Maharani Sunity Devi, and Maharani Gayathri Devi. Maharani Chimnabai and Maharani Sunity Devi are the two matriarchs of their illustrious families and Maharani Chimnabai takes an active role in the struggle for India’s independence and work very closely with Mahatma Gandhi. This book also reveals the frivolous side of the men and women of Indian royal families. Despite their traditions and strong culture, in all its richness and vitality, they were also vulnerable to the material things in life. Most of them lived in the lap of luxury, with a lavish life style both in India and Europe. They had a big circle of famous Indian and European friends, British Royalty, and other fabulous riches framed by the beauty and culture. These women enjoyed the best life could offer, but also handled the difficult times in their personal lives with mixed results. So many tragic deaths occurred in the three royal families of Baroda, Cooch Behar, and Jaipur. Alcohol was the main cause of sudden and tragic deaths in most cases. In some cases either they fell down the stairs, food poisoning or pneumonia. Yet Chimnabai, Sunity Devi, Indira Raje and Gayathri Devi were always not able to bond on the happiness they sought for themselves. However they did their best to bring that in the lives of many citizens. Despite their individual faults and weaknesses, these women lived up to their rank, believed passionately in the concept of duty that drove them. They were revolutionaries rising above the cultural limitations and helped society to accept gender equality and redefine the role of women in India. These are amazing stories which reads like fairy tales. It is highly engaging and written with passion for history.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-03-12 06:31

    While the British were threatened when Indian princes did things outside of polo and debauchery, they liked it when the princely women showed themselves to be modern by leaving purdah and advocating for education and progressive reform--and thus the Raj allowed the rule of a series of regents and powerful women. Lucy Moore chronicles the four matriarchs of three families, the dynasties of Jaipur, Cooch Behar and Baroda as they struggled with how Anglicized to become, sending sons away to boarding school, maintaining lavish courts while attempting modern financial reform and balancing religious minorities. The last third of the book is the most interesting, as the INC steadily stripped away the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the princes and Indira Gandhi formed her own non-democratic dynasty, but it is also the scantiest, perhaps because Moore was interviewing family members for whom the golden days of the 1911 Durban were more relevant than having to run for Congress in 1968.

  • Annie
    2019-02-25 06:17

    What a wonderful history lesson. Lucy Moore has done some in depth research work and takes us through the lives of 4 extraordinary women who not only led glamorous lives but also used their positions of power to the betterment of their subjects. Some inescapable facts - Women empowerment a century back was completely due to belief's of the men in their lives - fathers and/or husbands. Educating women was seen as a waste of effort and resources and most high born women grew up in the purdah with her family till she married in her early teens and then exchanged it for her husband's zenana where she still lived under the purdah, seeing no men other than her husband and close relatives, for her entire life. Though there is considerable wealth all around, she herself does not have any money or own anything. She is also, usually, only one her husband's wives and her position in the zenana depends on how much her husband favours her and her seniority in the household. She is a puppet dependent on her husband's good will to grant her wishes.The males in the family grown up in luxury and having every wish granted. Most seem to die due to over indulgence and ills related to alcoholism. So many mothers grieving over lives wasted away.Parts I found interesting were:- tale of Chimnabai breaking purdah, rollerskating across the palace, playing tennis in her marathi style saree.- progressive mindset of Sayajirao Gaekwad (Chimnabai's husband), his governance and sponsoring the education of BR Ambedkar and many others- Sunity devi and her association with Brahmo Samaj- unreal how many letters the maharani's exchanged with the Queens(s) of England- Indira Raje rejecting arranged marriage to a Maharaja (in the early 1910s) and stubbornly marrying the Prince(not crown prince) from Cooch Behar- Indira Raje popularising the way the saree is worn currently in India. - (Ayesha) Gayatri Devi's political career opposing Congress, enmity with Indira Gandhi, and stay in Tihar Jail- Maharaja of Jaipur's support of his Muslim subjects during the partition riots. "No Muslim should leave Jaipur and go. They are all like the hair on my chest." All of them pushed for emancipation of women and changed the lives of scores of women directly or indirectly. Though all have been given a big piece of the pie of wealth and beauty and position, yet their lives is also a story of great suffering and tragedy. Most of them were young widows and all lived to see most of their children die early. They had trouble forgiving members of their own family but was kind to dependants and supplicants. With India gaining independence they had to give up their power and position and endure many broken promises by the govt. I recommend this book for anyone with interest in Indian History. Well worth the time invested.

  • Naomi
    2019-03-19 00:14

    While the language sometimes lacks lyricism in favor of a more journalistic tone (true to the author's roots), the story of these four women is turely extroartinary. Amidst increadible wealth, the central women and their families are depicted as sympathetically human. They are impressive people searching for their place and identities amidst rapidly changing social, political, and economic times.

  • Mary Anne
    2019-03-25 02:23

    This book is an engaging look at 20th Century India, through the lens of four, related royal ladies. Through the lens of their lives, the march of India towards independence and the march of women out of the confinement of purdah (similar to the Middle Eastern harem concept) and into public life. As well as the progress away from being a colonial power, this book also shows the process by which the nearly-all-powerful monarchies were dissolved.By the end, one suspects that the author has fallen a little in love with her subjects and may be glossing over some of the drawbacks of life in the Princely States, or by her selection of particularly progressive examples of maharajas and maharanis. There are occasional footnote references to maharajas of other families who were known to be rather less concerned with the well-being of their subjects and one wonders which is the more typical example.Despite this possibly over-romanticized perspective, the story of these four women makes a very complex and fraught period of time readable and engaging.

  • Neha
    2019-03-16 05:09

    There's a chunk of culture across India you won't find on a map that starts somewhere in Rajasthan, and encompasses what are broadly the present-day states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, eventually ending at West Bengal. In terms of contemporary customs, traditions, beliefs and rituals, these societies are vastly non-different, with minimal individualistic tweaks over time. I attribute this fascinating homogeneity to the princely-India Maharanis by Lucy Moore speaks of. An exhilarating hardback (Gayatri Devi on the cover is splendid as ever) immaculately balancing the politics and relationships of the four princesses it covers, Moore's work is a surprisingly satisfying account of the emancipation of the Indian aristocratic women who chose to seek a life outside the ghoonghat and gharaanas. For all the strength it helped me find, for the worth of romance it taught me, for satiating my fixation with Indian royalty, for Jai - I owe this book. Nobody can do the ghoonghat like our Ayesha did. Nobody. :)

  • Paul
    2019-03-06 03:32

    An interesting account of Indian aristocracy/royalty through the life stories of 4 remarkable women. A journey from the Raj of the late nineteenth century through the struggle for independence to almost the present day. It is a remarkable tale but can be a little confusing and I found some of the relationships difficult to follow. It is very much the story of rich upper class women and there is little of the grinding poverty of much of the rest of Indian society.I think I understand more the power and influence the Maharajahs and Maharanis had and some of their allure, but htere was a hollowness at its centre. I never did realise how many of the male members of the families died of alcoholism. It was interesting to read of the struggles against purdah that some of the maharanis championed.

  • Alicia
    2019-03-08 00:06

    this book was fascinating and sad, telling the story of India's political and cultural transition from the point of view of the ruling princely families that ended up giving up their power and position, not all willingly. the descriptions of the idyllic childhoods were enthralling. the story focuses on 3 generations of women and how they adjusted to and adapted to the changes in society, also how some lived in a time of purdah (segregation from men and the outside world). it was very inspiring to read how the new generations took on more active roles and adopted feminism. all in all, a fascinating and historical read.

  • Katy
    2019-03-06 02:31

    I gave this one five stars not because it was the best written work I have ever ready, but the story that was told was, like the title suggests, extraordinary.In a world where women exsisted to be wives the four maharanis whose lives Lucy Moore has chronicled were given the best western educations and allowed to grow. Through their lives they transformed a cultre and gave birth to a nation. In everything they did they were mere humans who took their roles of mystical rulers for the good of their people to heart. Lucy Moore, thank you for telling their story. Thank you for giving us a new historical perceptive.

  • Yvonne
    2019-03-11 23:31

    I think that it is safe to say that there was a lot of controversy about the British occupation of India and its affect on its citizens.The Maharani's in this books had many advantages and changed history for the women of India, it begs the question as to whether these changes would have ever happened without the involvement and hand of the British occupants.On the other hand it may have been damaging to a point in which the future rulers were too westernized.While this was an interesting look into the history of just a few women of India, there were points that were dragging and sometimes confusing.

  • Sreenorainee Dev
    2019-03-18 01:08

    I think these Royalties lived a very exquisite life having all the best they could afford during their time of reign.and the maharanis certainly exercised every aspects of feminism.i wished i was one of them..lol..but its sad to know when you are ripped of your privileges and forced to live a life which you are not used to.this novel really brings you back to the time ..excellent imagery..fantastic!!

  • Malinda Lamm
    2019-03-08 06:13

    Fascinating to read about real women whose lives changed so dramatically during their own life times and who also greatly influenced the independence of women in India. It was also interesting to learn more about the political governance of India, both the Colonial British and the Independent States.

  • Gina
    2019-03-01 23:23

    Initially, I really had a hard time getting into the book, but I ended up really enjoying this book. Great history and background on the British/India relationship. I think I'd like to read more about this time in history. Of course, it could be I just love to read about the royals...of any country.

  • Kristy
    2019-03-05 03:04

    I really enjoy books that give me an insight into cultures I am not familiar with and I enjoyed that aspect of this book. The author did a great job of showing all sides of the people involved, making them real. I would have preferred if the author had let the narrative stand on its own instead of justifying and condoning negative behavior under the context of personal circumstances.

  • Somya Sharma
    2019-03-25 01:22

    This was one of my impulsive purchases but I think I quite enjoyed reading it. Aah its always fun to read about how blue blooded mortals spend their life and this book gives you a nice peep into lives of much written about royal ladies. Paisa vasool!

  • Kerry
    2019-03-10 06:34

    This is a great book, lots of detail (sometimes, just sometimes, a little too much?) about a world I previously knew nothing of. At times I made myself get through it, but it was definitely worth it.

  • Lucia
    2019-03-19 23:28

    learn about the english colonialism (as well as its decline) in india through the stories of 3 generations of maharanis and their profound impact on everything from india's purdah to its sari style to its political progressions.

  • Patricia Doty
    2019-03-14 23:14

    Excellent! I thoroughly enjoyed the historical account of the four Maharanis of India and how their courage and willfulness helped shape the environment of modern day India for the women of today. Lots to learn about a country I knew virtually nothing about!

  • Kiri
    2019-03-23 05:09

    Not quite what I was expecting but an interesting read.

  • James Axtell
    2019-02-27 22:30

    Great background to the changes in Indian history over the last 120 years