Gwalior, 25 January 2015: Smashing the image of a Maharani and capturing a new likeness, she transformed into a skilful leader having assured her place in highest rank of the BJP’s hierarchy. She was born on 12 Oct. 1919 at Sagar town of Madhya Pradesh and was named Lekha Divyeshwari by her father Thakur Mahendra Singh and mother Chuda Deveshwari. Her maternal grandfather Khadga Samsher Jung Bahadur Rana evacuated from Nepal and resided in Sagar during 1880s. Being a normal citizen of Sagar, she married a prince of the Scindia dynasty left everyone ope-mouthed. The gorgeous beauty of Lekha enthralled Jivajirao when he saw her at Bombay’s Taj Mahal hotel. After marrying Maharaja Jivajirao Scindia in 1941 she changed her name to Vijayaraji Scindia as per the culture of Scindia and resided at Usha-Kiran Palace. The Maharaja died in 1960 and she evolved into the Rajmata (Queen mother). She was introduced into electoral politics in 1962 when she challenged the Guna Lok Sabha seat of Madhya Pradesh on a Congress ticket. Five years later, she resigned Congress and linked to Bharatiya Jana Sangh which later became BJP. She conquered the Kerera assembly seat as the party’s candidate and charged breakneck in state politics winning seven successive parliamentary elections. She has set up a history in electoral battles for never loosing even once.
Following in 1975, after Indira Gandhi’s request of Indian Emergency, she was imprisoned in Tihar Jail as a political prisoner with the inmate as Maharani Gayatri Devi, Rajmata of Jaipur. BJP made her one of its vice-presidents in 1980. She actively favoured the BJP’s Ayodhya subject till 1998 when she has to quit politics due to her prolonged illness. In midst of her other posts, she served as President, All India Women’s Conference (Gwalior Branch) for 40 years; Trustee, Viswa Hindu Parishad; Pro-Chancellor, Sagar University. She had keen interest in women’s education and well-being, musical programmes and tasks by Gwalior Ladies Club. She also liked target shooting with her .22 rifle. She wrote two books – an autobiography with Manohar Malgonkar titled as The Last Maharani of Gwalior, and Lok Path se Raj Path, in Hindi. One more biography was written by Mridula Sinha titled Ek Thi Rani Aisi Bhi. Under the same title film is being made by Gulbahar Singh and acted by Hema Malini.
She gave birth to Padma (also known as Akka) on 23 Feb. 1942 nearly one year after the marriage. On 31 Oct. 1943 she became mother of Usharaje, in 1953 Vasudhara was born, and after a year in 1954 Yeshodhara was born. She had only son named Madhavrao born on 1945.
Her private life was jammed with tragedies which possibly made her the strongest Maharani the nation can ever see. Her mother died nine days after her birth, her husband passed away when he was hardly 45, her eldest daughter Padmavatiraje ‘Akkasaheb’ Scindia who married Maharajah of Tripura died unhappy and young. There was fight over her guardianship between her grandmother and father. Her father had married for the second time and the age variation between Vijayaraje and her stepmother was only six years.
The conversation from records when she opposed after a close relative of the Maharaja, Sardar Krishnarao Mahadik, addressed her as “Princess”
“And what about music, Princess; are you fond of music?” asked Sardar.
“You must not call me Princess; I am not a Princess,” She replied.
“How am I to address you then,” asked the Sardar.
Faultlessly came the reply from the young lady “Lekhi Devi (her original name) I think. That is how visitors to our house address me.”
The first indication of the Maharaja’s consent came when his ADC, a young captain, bent low as if to touch Lekhi Devi’s feet with right hand before lifting it to his chest three times. The salutation is known as “Mujra” and courtiers in Maratha princely states greet their Maharajas and Maharanis and their children in this fashion.
“You mustn’t do ‘Mujra’ to me, captain,” she protested.
“I must to our Maharani,” said the captain.
She rest in peace on 25 Jan. 2001 at an age of 81. “I have seen her before. She was not like an ordinary Rajmata. I was as important to her as anyone else despite my poverty. She once gave me a blanket during winter,” Vimlabai, a witness was quoted who was present at the gates of the Raj Vilas Palace where Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia’s body laid covered with wreaths.
References: Tribune India, Rediff and Sawnet
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