Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 19:01 UK

Indian queen Gayatri Devi dies

Gayatri Devi as a guest at the Jaipur Polo Ground in 2007
Gayatri Devi was one of the last queens of India

One of the last queens of India, Gayatri Devi, once described as one of the most beautiful women in the world, has died at the age of 90.

She was hospitalised about 10 days ago with stomach and respiratory problems in Jaipur before dying on Wednesday.

Born into a royal family, she became the third wife of Sawai Man Singh, the Maharajah of Jaipur, in 1939.

The fashion icon broke with tradition by winning election to parliament in 1962. She was re-elected twice.

She supported education for women, and founded a prestigious school in Jaipur, now the capital of Rajasthan state.


Gayatri Devi was born into the royal family of Cooch Behar in 1919.

In an interview with The Times of India, she recalled as a young girl going out hunting, sitting on the neck of an elephant.

She became the third Maharani of Jaipur in 1939, marrying into a lavish lifestyle.

The family, in effect, ruled the city of Jaipur and the surrounding area in the western Indian desert kingdom.

They spent the summers in Europe and educated their children at elite schools in England.

Gayatri Devi, with her husband, the Maharajah of Jaipur, at a London airport in 1956
Gayatri Devi and her husband spent the summers in Europe

Gayatri Devi loved tennis and polo, and was a talented horse rider, while her taste in saris and jewellery, inherited from her mother, made her a glamorous fashion icon.

Vogue magazine once listed her among the "World's Ten Most Beautiful Women".

During the 1970s, the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi abolished the last royal privileges, and Gayatri Devi was jailed for five months for violating tax laws.

In later life, Gayatri Devi became known affectionately as Rajmata, or Queen Mother, still greatly admired for her natural grace and beauty.

She is survived by two grandchildren.

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