Maharaj Kumar Udai Prakash of Sirmaur (Himachal Pradesh) and his wife, Rasika Prakash, at “Sirmaur House” in the Doon valley, are visibly disturbed. And they have reason to be so.
Rajmata Padmini Devi of Jaipur has decided to hold the “installation ceremony” of her nine-year-old grandson at the palace in Nahan in Himachal Pradesh on May 15. She held a small “tikka” ceremony at Jaipur’s city palace on April 13 where the paternal Gotra of Lakshya Raj Singh was changed from “Manav” to “Attri” of the Sirmaur Royals.
The event was performed in the presence of three former Sirmaur nobles — Arak Singh, Ajay Bahadur Singh and Abhay Bahadur Singh. Lakshya is the younger son of Diya Kumari, the only child of Jaipur’s last maharaja late Brigadier Bhawani Singh and Padmini Devi.
This has come as a shock to Udai Prakash as he has been the Sirmaur heir for the past forty eight years. Talking exclusively to The Pioneer at ‘Sirmaur House’ in the Doon valley this morning, he said he would like to question Rajmata Padmini Devi’s sudden interest in the Sirmaur and Nahan family. “Ever since her marriage in 1966 into the Jaipur Royal Family, she has neglected her part of the Nahan Palace and has brought it to a state of ruin. She has barely visited Nahan four or five times in the past four decades,” he says.
He said that in the past 30 years, she had jointly contested nine along with him) a number of cases pertaining to the property of the Late Maharaja of Sirmaur, where she had admitted Udai Prakash as the adopted son of late Maharaja Rajendra Prakash, both in courts as well as outside. “She was with me against all adversaries and now those adversaries have gone over to her side and are supporting her in her bid to declare her grandson the crown prince of Nahan. She cannot legally adopt a second grandson as she has already adopted Padmanabh Singh, Lakshya’s elder brother.”
Rajendra Prakash, the last Raja of Sirmaur, died in 1964. He did not have a male heir. He had two wives, Durga Devi and Indira Devi. Padmini Devi is the daughter of Indira Devi whereas Udai Prakash is the son of Durga Devi’s daughter Nalini. Udai Prakash was adopted in 1965 by Durga Devi as the heir to Rajendra Prakash’s property. Padmini Devi has only one daughter, Diya, whose elder son Padmanabh (14 years old) succeeded Bhawani Singh of Jaipur after being legally adopted by him in 2002. Padmanabh was made titular maharaja of Jaipur upon his grandfather’s demise in 2011.
Lakshya’s “installion” at Sirmaur is complicated because he is getting there through Padmini Devi, his maternal grandmother and daughter of the last ruling Maharaja of Sirmaur, Rajendra Prakash, who died without a male successor in 1964.
Fifty-eight year old Udai Prakash says he was legally adopted by his “Naani” (maternal grandmother) and he has the first right to Sirmaur. “The ministry of law, Government of India, examined the case and recommended my recognition as the successor to the late Maharaja of Sirmaur. The same view was endorsed by then home minister Government of India Asok Sen.”
Since long Udai Prakash has been actively restoring the Nahan palace, (which was in neglect since the death of the late Maharaja), celebrating the birthday of the late Maharaja and restoring the Khedeke Maharaj temple.
“How can she declare her grandson as the successor to her father? According to Hindu law and customs a daughter cannot declare a successor to her father once she is married into another family. She can do so in regard to her own property and family, that is Jaipur alone,” he says.
The fight is for titles which are a thing of the past. These titles have a lot of respect still attached to them. They are still prestigious.
Padmini Devi and Udai Prakash signed a legal settlement in 2011 to apportion the Sirmaur estate that includes the royal palace and a villa in Nahan, many acres of agricultural land and property in Dehradun. All disputes were settled and things were fine. “And then, all of a sudden, she has decided to place her grandson as a successor to Sirmaur,” says a puzzled Udai Prakash.
It now remains to be seen what turn things will take. May 15 is round the corner. The Royal Palace in Nahan, which has been divided between Padmini Devi and Udai Prakash, will be the focus of all attention.
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