Radhika Raje Gaekwad: The Maharani of Baroda

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Modern royalty has, is, and will fascinate and intrigue everyone, and the current society is no exception either. The worldwide mourning of Princess Diana’s death in 1997 is a prime example, and her praises are sung aloud everywhere to this day by the Britishers. Indians are no exception when it comes to the fascination with royalty, as certain regions house royal families that are praised and worshipped by the region’s residents to this day. Notable members of the royalty include Maharani Gayatri Devi, Dr Karan Singh, and Maharani Radhika Raje Gaekwad.

Radhika Raje Gaekwad hails from Wankaner, where her father, former Maharaja Dr Ranjitsingh, famously gave up his royalties to serve Bharat by becoming an IAS officer. He had successfully evacuated several victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which made Radhika Raje realize the lesson ‘You can’t expect things to fall in place without lifting a finger’ that he constantly emphasized.  Her grandfather, the Maharaja of Wankaner, stated that his children needed to carve their paths and contribute to Bharat’s growth in every way possible. Her upbringing was in an egalitarian working-class life, with her travelling in Delhi’s DTC buses as well as the Bentleys and Buicks back in Wankaner. This gave her the best exposure to both worlds, and she even worked for The Indian Express for two years, writing on fashion.

Radhika Raje Gaekwad’s parents were finding a suitable groom for her and the search ended when she met Samarjit Singh Gaekwad, the Prince of Baroda. His nonchalant attitude and encouragement for her further studies impressed her, and they married in a private ceremony in 2002 at a Lutyens’ residence in New Delhi. She began to reside with the family in Laxmi Vilas Palace, the largest private residence in the world with an area coverage of 3,04,92,000 sq ft. Constructed by Maharaj Sayajirao Gaekwad III in 1890, Laxmi Vilas Palace houses over 170 rooms, a golf course, and other luxurious amenities.

Her in-laws were visionaries themselves as her father-in-law, Maharaja Ranjit Sinh Gaekwad was a musician, artist, and sculptor and her mother-in-law, Maharani Shubhangini Raje revived the Chanderi weaves as a textile conservationist. Their combined knowledge, love, and care provided Radhika Raje Gaekwad with opportunities to pursue and bring her ideas and vision to life. Her interest and appreciation for art, craft, glassware, and jewels since her days in Wankaner were revived, as Raja Ravi Verma’s paintings in Laxmi Vilas Palace were a major source of inspiration behind her pursuit of reviving old weaving techniques. She, along with her mother-in-law, started the initiative to empower the local weavers and met with resounding success as their first exhibition in Mumbai sold out completely.

COVID-19 saw Radhika Raje Gaekwad helping artisans who had lost their source of livelihood, as she and her sister travelled around villages, documenting their plight and posting it on social media. This attracted a large number of good-hearted individuals, and within a few months, they were able to assist over 700 families. Around the same time, she witnessed the plight of LGBTQA+ members and decided to help them establish a stable life with a stable income, as she was training and supervising a group of eunuchs to set up and run the first fully transgender-staffed cafe in Baroda. She has been hosting Garba at the palace grounds since 2019 with eunuchs participating in the celebrations and even taking care of the temple.

Radhika Raje Gaekwad wants to and continues to expand her social services everywhere in India. She also has taken numerous steps towards empowering women with various programs. The family has established plans to turn Laxmi Vilas Palace into a museum. We at Icons of Indian Business wish her and her family the best in their future endeavors.