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  • Sanjay Singh Badnor

The Rajtilak at the KotahGarh : A Photo Essay

The recent Rajtilak at Kotah heralded royal revelry, fanfare and pageantry that were truly reminiscent of an era gone by. Following the demise of late HH Maharao Saheb Brijraj Singhji, his son and heir, Ijyaraj Singh was anointed as the 19th Maharao of Kotah in a private yet spectacular ceremony at the Rajmahal Chowk within the 13th Century Kotah-Garh complex on 10th February 2022. An air of regal grandeur prevailed as almost 250 jagirdars representing over 50 thikanas of the erstwhile kingdom of Kotah gathered into the Garh precincts to reiterate their allegiance. Dressed in all white Jodhpuris and bandhgala suits they donned white or dull colored paags or headgear before taking their assigned seats as per palace protocol.

A Panoramic Shot of the Rajtilal at the KotahGarh

The headgear in Rajasthan has timelessly served as a symbol of regional identity. It is estimated that turbans of the Indian subcontinent are shaped and tied in no less than one thousand variations. The Kotah Paag, proudly remains symbolic of the Kotah’s age-old traditions and heritage. The late Maharao Brijraj Singhji was himself a staunch proponent of the Kotah Paag and encouraged its prevalence amongst the people of Kotah. Thus, there couldn’t be a more befitting tribute than one in which almost all of the jagirdars had opted to sport this particular headgear over the more universalised safa.

H.H.Maharao Ijayraj Singhji

The ceremony commenced with Ijyaraj Singhji first visiting the temple of his family’s kuldevta- Shri Brijnathji, and paying obeisance to the deity. The Royal priest then tied the Saffron colored patka onto his white paag, denoting that the Lord has given colour to the new Maharao. This sacred gesture ritually marks the end of the mourning period. Thereafter, he entered the Rajmahal Chowk accompanied by a small retinue of uniformed retainers bearing the royal standard, insignias, fly whisks and the royal chatri. He took up his position under the grand royal canopy that had been erected at the centre of thesprawling courtyard. Flanking it on either side were the resplendent Kotah coat of arms. Kotah’s royal insignia is dominated by the garuda bird at the center that is accompanied by a flying dragon on each side.

The former kingdom of Kotah, founded in 1579 AD was accorded a 17- gun salute status and was amongst the larger of the 22 states that comprised pre-independence Rajputana. The royal family of Kotah hail from the Hada clan, an off shoot of the Chauhan dynasty and trace their lineage to the illustrious 12th century Hindu king Prithviraj Chauhan. In 1948 the state of Kotah was integrated into the Union of India by its last ruler, HH Maharao Bhim Singhji, who signed the instrument of accession of his state into India.

Hence, on the right of the canopy were seated the chieftains from the same Hada clan, including members from the thikanas of Bamulia, Palaitha, Rajgarh, Koela, Kotda, Sangod, Amli, Napania, Ratawad, Chamlasa amongst others. On the left were seated representatives from other Rajput clans, close family members and other special guests and dignitaries.

Sitting as per protocol, the assembled gathering awaits the arrival of Maharao Sahaeb under the royal canopy

First on the agenda was the customary rang ka dastur, which involves the changing of colours from subdued mourning hues to brighter colours. This too, marks the end of the mourning period. The first to present the saffron paag to Ijayraj Singhji was Indradeep Narayan Banerjee from Bankura, and official representative of the Cooch Bihar royal family. This was followed by Maharaj Jai Singh of Suket. In the meantime, a simultaneous practice of the rang ka dastur was conducted at the Bhim Mahal amongst all the attending ladies.

The Saffron Paag being distributed at the Rang Ka Dastur ceremony

A bird’s eye view of the Rajtilak ceremony at the Rajmahal Chowk

Ijyaraj Singh and his son Jaidev Singh at the Rang Ka Dastur ceremony

Ladies assemble at the Bhim Mahal to witness the Rajtilak ceremony

The sudden change of colour from stark white to a myriad of hues like saffron was a dramatic sight to behold. It was as if an entire bare canvas came alive like a vivid painting of the Rajmahal Chowk. Incidentally, it was for the first time that ladies of the royal family and all thikanas were able to witness the Rajtilak and the Rajyabhishek ceremonies. They were formerly barred to witness public occasions due to the widely prevalent purdahsystem. Eras later, breaking away from such archaic customs is a possibility and prerogative of the modern era.

The rang ka dastur was followed by the rajtilak ceremony. The rajpurohit (head priest) and other senior royal priests preluded by first anointing Ijyaraj Singhji with the tilak on his forehead and then showered their blessings on him. This was followed by the rajyabhishek.

The Royal priests shower blessings onto the newly anointed Maharao Saheb of Kotah

Maharao Ijyaraj Singh and his son Maharaj Kumar Jaidev Singh are seated under the Royal Canopy during the Rajtilak ceremony.

Maharao Ijyaraj Singh with his family members including Rajmata Uttara Devi, his wife Maharani Kalpana Devi and his son MK Jaidev Singh after the culmination of the Rajtilak ceremony

Maharao Ijyaraj Singh, Maharani Kalpana Devi & MK Jaiev Singh along with Royal family retainers stand at the entrance to the KotahGarh complex

Once the religious proceedings had culminated it was time for the nazar and satkars to be performed by all the jagirdars. These are primarily social gestures on behalf of the erstwhile jagirdars who acknowledge the anointing of the new Maharao as a gesture of reposing their loyalty and allegiance to him.

The Historic 13th century Kotah-Garh or the City Palace has been a pivotal venue to the town and the community at large. Back in 1970, the late Maharao Brijraj Singhji converted a section of this into a museum and opened its doors to the public. The Rao Madho Singh Museum houses a fine collection of Royal regalia, arms and armour, textiles and object d’art. All important royal functions, such as the annual darikhanna on the occasion of Dusshera, the Maharao’s birth anniversary, musical and philanthropic events have been held at the Kotah-Garh and hence, this auspicious ceremony being held here went hand in hand with that tradition.

India attained independence in 1947 thus bringing an end to the princely order; however the age old traditions and customs in erstwhile Royal households are prevalent to this day. Socially, they continue to be relevant and are regarded in high esteem by their former Jagirdars. The overwhelming support and turnout at the recent Rajtilak of Maharao Ijyaraj Singh is just one of the many instances that goes to prove this point.

Jagirdars representing the Thikhanas of Kotah line up at the Rajtilak at the Kotah – Garh complex

Sitting as per protocol, the assembled gathering awaits the arrival of Maharao Sahaeb under the royal canopy

Disclaimer: All photographs and feature content belongs to and is the sole intellectual property of Sanjay Singh Badnor.


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