Thousands join medieval-style funeral procession for the former Jaipur Maharaja
Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh, the erstwhile ruler of Jaipur who died early on Sunday at the age of 80, was cremated with full State honours at the royal family's crematorium in ‘Gaitore Ki Chhatriyan' here on Monday after a medieval-style procession.
Thousands of people turned up at the historic City Palace from where the funeral procession started and thronged the streets in the Walled City to bid farewell to the last Maharaja or dynastic ruler of Jaipur. He had also had an illustrious career in the Army and was decorated with the Mahavir Chakra.
The body, draped in the Tricolour, was kept on a gun-carriage and driven in a procession through the Walled City localities such as Hawa Mahal, Tripolia, Bari Chaupad and Gangauri Bazaar on way to the crematorium. Thousands of residents paid floral tributes to the departed Maharaja even as the attendants threw consecrated rice into the ranks of mourning people.
In a sight reminiscent of the medieval age, the funeral cortege winding its way through the Pink City streets for two-and-a-half hours was accompanied by caparisoned and decorated elephants and horses marching in tandem with the tunes of a military band. The elephants and horses were bereft of riders as a mark of bereavement.
Acting Rajasthan Governor Shivraj Patil and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot joined the mourners at Chandra Mahal in the City Palace before the procession started, while soldiers belonging to Brig. Bhawani Singh's paratroopers' regiment carried his body and put it on the gun carriage.
All government offices in the entire Jaipur district were closed following a public holiday and two-day State mourning declared to condole the former ruler's death. The national flag at government buildings flew at half-mast across the desert State.
At the cremation ground, Brig. Bhawani Singh's 12-year-old grandson and adopted heir Padmanabh Singh lit the pyre amid chanting of Vedic hymns. Hindu priests recited mantras from ancient scriptures as the Maharaja's mortal remains were consigned to the flames.
Many former rulers of princely states, including Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, and other members of the erstwhile royal dynasties rubbed shoulders with the modern democratic leaders at the cremation. Several of Mr. Gehlot's Cabinet colleagues were present.
Prominent among the dignitaries who attended the cremation were Union Minister and PCC president C.P. Joshi, Union Minister of State Namonarain Meena, Alwar MP Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, Assembly Speaker Deependra Singh Shekhawat, Health Minister A.A. Khan, State BJP president Arun Chaturvedi and Chief Secretary S. Ahmed.
Brig. Bhawani Singh's death at a private hospital in Gurgaon after a prolonged illness has cut off one of the few remaining links to an era when Rajput monarchs, often enjoying an extravagant life, controlled large parts of erstwhile Rajputana. Jaipur was one of the rich princely states that had signed alliances earlier with Mughal emperors and later with the British colonial rulers.
Brig. Bhawani Singh's stepmother Gayatri Devi, known for her beauty and elegance, was accorded a similar royal funeral at Gaitore following her death at the age of 90 in July 2009.
According to the royal family's traditions, Padmanabh Singh will now ascend the titular throne of Jaipur. Brig. Bhawani Singh had adopted the boy as the heir of the Kachwaha Rajput dynasty at a magnificent ceremony in the City Palace here in 2002.