L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Maharaja and Maharani of Indore

Portrait of the Maharaja of Indore in traditional dress, by Bernard Boutet de Monvel, 1934.

Maharajadhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Sawai Shri Yeshwant Rao II Holkar XIV Bahadur (6 September 1908, Indore - 5 December 1961, Bombay), Maharaja of Indore, a member of the Holkar dynasty of the Marathas. Educated at Cheam School and at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1926, at the age of seventeen, he succeeded his father Tukojirao Holkar III, who had abdicated in his favor. At first under a regency, he was invested with his full powers in 1930.

The Maharaja of Indore, by Boutet de Monvel, 1929.
The Maharani of Indore, by Boutet de Monvel, 1929.
The Maharani of Indore in traditional dress, by Boutet de Monvel, 1934.

In 1924 he had married Maharani Shrimant Akhand Soubhagyavati Sanyogita Bai Sahib Holkar (1914 - 13 July 1937, Tarasp, Switzerland).  He and Maharani Sanyogita, who had also been educated in England, had a daughter, Usha, born in Paris in 1933.

The royal couple, very young and fabulously wealthy, with quite contemporary tastes, were completely cosmopolitan, making very prolonged sojourns to Europe and America; there were complaints that they spent so little time in their home country.

In Hollywood, on the set of "The Plainsman", with Gary Cooper and Cecil B. DeMille, 1936.
With actress Gail Patrick, 1936.

In 1930 they commissioned a German architect to build a new streamlined Art Moderne palace, Manik Bagh, in Indore.  Every detail of the this remarkable building was designed and created in Europe; the names involved in the project include Ruhlmann, Le Corbusier, Puiforcat, Eileen Gray, Luckhardt, Brancusi, etc.

Boutet de Monvel's portrait of the Maharaja can be seen on the wall.
The "Indore Pears".  Here, set as earrings.  Almost forty-seven carats each,
they were sold to Harry Winston in 1946.  In the portrait of the Maharaja
wearing Indian dress, the two stones are pendant from a diamond necklace
that can be seen under the strands of pearls.  (See below.)  In the Monvel
painting of the Maharani, they have been set into a diamond and emerald
necklace, the work of Mauboussin.
The diamonds as set by Chaumet, 1913.
Two designs by Mauboussin for a necklace setting of the "Indore Pears".
The completed necklace, as worn by the Maharani in Boutet de Monvel's portrait, differs from both of these designs.

The Maharaja of Indore came to the studio [in Paris] to be photographed, also in Western clothes - sack suits and formal evening dress. He was young, tall and very elegant. I got a substantial order from this sitting. […] Next year, the Maharaja was in the South of France with his young bride. He had taken an entire floor of a hotel in Cannes for himself and his retinue. I arrived in Cannes before noon, was assigned to my room in the suite […] The Maharanee was an exquisite girl in her teens. She wore French clothes, and a huge emerald ring. The Maharaja had bought it for her that morning while taking a walk. […] The next day I was asked to bring my camera to their suite […] to make a series of photographs that would be a record of their honeymoon. First, I had to play some jazz to which the subjects danced, and then they sat down holding hands. I made a few exposures, after which I suggested that they pose separately for individual portraits. - Man Ray

Thirteen portraits by Man Ray.
The Maharani appears to be wearing the same gown here as in the portrait by Boutet de Monvel.

The Maharani Sanyogita died at the tender age of twenty-two.  (It's been very difficult to gather any information on her life and death. Several years after I first published this post, I read that she was in Switzerland for a "cure" - whether just a rest cure or for something more serious, I don't know - and that she suddenly became ill and was operated on for a ruptured appendix, but died during the operation; I've found nothing else to corroborate any of this.)  She left behind her four year old daughter, and her husband, not even thirty, was devastated.

The Maharaja married twice more, both times to American divorcées.  He had a son with his third wife, whom he had married in 1943, but because of the irregularity of this marriage, his titles eventually passed to his daughter from his first marriage.

Two drawings of the Maharaja by Boutet de Monvel.

After the independence of India, Indore was combined with twenty-four other princely states to form the new state of Madhya Bharat, where the Maharaja served as senior Up-Rajpramukh (second in command to the governor) until 1956, when the Indian states were again reorganized.  He then worked for the United Nations.  He died in a hospital in Bombay (Mumbai) at the age of fifty-three.


Bernard Boutet de Monvel (9 August 1881, Paris - 28 October 1949, San Miguel, The Azores), French painter, sculptor, engraver, fashion illustrator, and interior decorator. Successful in his youth, he was awarded the Légion d'Honneur for his valor as a bombardier during World War I. He is best remembered for his cool and glamorous portraits of the 1920s and 30s. He was killed in a plane crash in the Azores, alongside violinist Ginette Neveu and boxer Marcel Cerdan, Edith Piaf's great love.


  1. I just read about him for the first time last week (what a coincidence) in this book called 'Champagne and real pain' - a social reporter's talking about Paris Society in the 1950s. I wondered who this was and now I know!

  2. I believe the maharani died from complications during pregnancy or childbirth. The maharaja also built a house in Santa Ana which can be google mapped as it still stands, as does his house outside Paris. The portrait of him in Maratha costume will be auctioned at Sothebys in April 2016.

    1. Yes, I knew about the house in Santa Ana! And I think the Boutet de Monvel portrait is an alternate version of the one that leads off this post; there are slight differences. All very interesting! : )

    2. It has been said, at the time they lived in Santa Ana the schools were segregated, the Marajah's child was allowed to attend a 'white-school' after the family got permission from the school board. Sad state of affairs to put any family through that. -Rj

    3. Good blog.
      Indian history is rich,especially about the maharajas & their lavish lifestyle.
      Good read.

  3. I believe one of you facts is incorrect. My great Aunt Peg, Margarette, his second wife, said that his daughter Usha was adopted in Paris in the 1930's, but even Usha, his daughter, may not know this because she would not inherit the thrown if she wasn't a blood relative. Margarette (Peg) was very close to my father until she died in the 1960's, and to this day our family has some of his photo album, monogrammed silver and china.

    1. Very interesting! So you're saying that Usha wasn't born to the couple, but was adopted? I would love to learn more; it was very difficult to gather even the very limited information I was able to share here.

    2. Very interesting page loved every bit of info in it. i'm blogging about jewellery and searching for stories of maharajah's and their wealth. Thank you ur page is a big help.

    3. I thought there were pictures of her (taken in 1932 or 33) showing her pregnant?

    4. I'd love to see any other pictures of her, pregnant or no. When I first posted this, it was VERY difficult to find any images at all. I've added many more to the post as they've become available online.

  4. so, maharani sanyogita was merely 10 years of age when she married maharaja holkar?

    1. Again, it's been very difficult to get information about her, but I think it possible that they married - ceremonially - when she was that young, but then didn't become a real couple until she was a (little) older. I wish I could get more information....

    2. She came from kagal royal family of kolhapur...!!!

    3. Yes that would have been very common in India at that time. I'm indian background, and my grandmother was married when she was 14. One of my grandaunts (who is 90 now) was married when she was 10.

  5. I could finds little information about the fabulous mahararajah— hoping at least for a book. So thank you for your post. Evidently there is an exhibit on him currently at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. Perhaps there will be more to follow!

  6. She was 11 and he 17 when married in 1924.....common in those days

  7. Very interesting information love to know more about him if we could know some book somephotos though that we get more information

  8. I stumbled across some photos of them recently and wanted to know more. This s definitely my favorite source i've found. something about the man ray photos resonate with me to such an extent, they're both so beautiful to me. so many people have been in love through out history how often is it documented i feel so blessed to be able to see other peoples love and beauty so long after the fact. <3 thank you

    1. What a lovely thing to say. Thank you for sharing those thoughts, Abbot.

  9. This is nice info of Holkars family of Indore which mostly not known. What an aristocrat and elegance way of living in those days