Hanvantsinhji (second from left) and his wife Rohinidevi, at 'tilakvidhi' in Sharad Baug Palace, in Bhuj on Sunday. (Express photo)
Days after Pragmalji III, the titular head of erstwhile princely state of Kutch succumbed to post-Covid complications, his younger brother Hanvantsinhji Jadeja was formally anointed as the ceremonial head of the royal family at a ceremony in Bhuj on Sunday.
The ceremony comes a day after Maharani Priti Devi, the widow of Pragmalji III, asserted that Pragmalji III had appointed his legal heirs, inlcuding Price Indrajitsinh Jadeja, and any appointments other than that would be “illegal” in the context of the royal family.
Indrajitsinh Jadeja, one of the three heirs appointed by Pragmalji III, as per Priti Devi’s statement, insisted that Priti Devi becomes head of the royal family and that others can be “head of their family”.
At a ceremony organised in Sharad Baug Palace on Sunday, Dharamsinh Matang, leader of the Matang community, inflicted a wound on himself with a sword and applied a tilak with his blood on Hanvantsinhji’s forehead, as per tradition.
Yogendrasinh Rajabava, the head priest of Mata na Madh, the shrine of goddess Ashapura in Dayapar of Kutch, placed the ceremonial paghdi (headgear) on Hanvantsinhji’s head while Krupal Maharaj, a local Brahmin, performed pooja.
A release from the Sharad Baug Palace said the “tilakvidhi” was organised to anoint 77-year-old Hanvantsinhji as the “head of the royal family of Kutch”.
The rulers of Jadeja dynasty of Kutch, used to be called Maharao. Madansinhji, the 18th ruler of the dynasty, which has a 1000-year history, was the last Maharoa of Kutch, de jure and de facto, before the princely state of Kutch acceded to the Union of India in 1948. On Madansinhji’s death in 1991, his eldest son Prithvirajji assumed the title of Maharao and he was rechristened as Maharoa Pragmalji III.
Since titles, privy purses and other privileges of royal families of erstwhile princely states of the country were abolished by the Central government in 1971, royal families of erstwhile princely states in present-day Gujarat have been organising “tilakvidhis” to formally appoint a new family head. Mandhatasinh Jadeja of the Rajkot royal family had assumed the title of Thakor Saheb after his tilakvidhi in January 2020.
However, Hanvantsinh clarified that he was not claiming any royal title. “I am not claiming any title… In 1970s, my father was still alive and was (since) known as maji (former) Maharo. So, at best, you can call Pragmalji maji Yurvaj. You definitely can’t call him Maharao. I am a common person… just the head of the family. I am son of Madansinhji but in a democracy, I personally feel that (assuming royal titles) is not the right thing to do,” Hanvantsinhji told The Indian Express after the ceremony. Gujarati term maji means former.
Hanvantsinh, fourth of five children of Maharoa Madansinhji and the youngest among three brothers, attended school in England when his father Maharao Madansinhji was serving as the Second Minister in the Indian High Commission there. He studied history, political science, philosophy and English literature at Kirorimal College of Delhi University.
Hanvantsinh lives in Bhuj as well as in Mumbai while Brijrajkumari, the youngest child of Madansinji, is married into the royal family of erstwhile princely state of Sitamau in Madhya Pradesh. Pragmalji III, who died on May 28, had no children and is survived by his wife, Maharani Priti Devi.
“The late Maharao Pragmalji III, in exercise of his powers, had ordered, and through his will, appointed (1) Kunvar Indrajitsinh Jadeja (2) Krutarthsinh Jadeja, the Devpar Thakor and (3) Mayurdhwajsinh Jadeja, the Tera Thakor, as his heirs. Therefore, I bring it to the notice of public of Kutch and the Jadeja family that we are bound to act accordingly and any appointments or decisions besides these will be illegal in the context of the royal family,” a statement from Priti Devi read.
Indrajitsinh Jadeja, who is not close blood relative of the royal family, however, contested that Hanvantsinh was not the head of the royal family. “He is not the head of the royal family. The head of the royal family is Priti Devi, the Maharani of Kutch. As per family tradition, other than crown price become bhayats (chief of principalities)… This vidhi is not valid…,” said Indrajitsinh.