Tag: Indias

how India’s royals are striving to stay relevant

a woman wearing a dress: Akshita M Bhanj Deo, from the royal family of Mayurbhanj in Orissa, eastern India. Photo: Handout

Akshita M Bhanj Deo, from the royal family of Mayurbhanj in Orissa, eastern India. Photo: Handout

What do a wildlife photographer, hotelier, painter and communications professional have in common? In India, they are members of a new breed of royalty – professionally successful, community-oriented and yet firmly rooted in their rich heritage.

In July 1971, India’s abolition of the almost 3,000-year monarchy left hundreds of royals across the nation at a crossroads as they grappled with the changing nature of what it meant to be a noble in the modern world.

With the privy purse cut off, some sold their jewellery and assets, but almost five decades later, many today remain elites of society and still control up to billions in wealth, even as they see themselves as ordinary Indians with day jobs.

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While many Indians acknowledge the role that royal families have played in India’s arts, culture and heritage, the relevance of these once-illustrious families continues to decline in a nation where poverty is widespread and hereditary privilege is viewed by most as offensive and anachronistic.

Many royals have navigated the shift in status by merging the old with the new, such as by repurposing their centuries-old palaces into heritage hotels.

The royal family from the northern Indian town of Mandawa, known for its warriors, was among the first to open their ancestral home to heritage tourism.

The Castle Mandawa, built as a desert fortress in 1755, was converted to a luxury hotel with 80 rooms in 1980. Princess Priyanjali Katoch runs the hotel with her mother, brother and sister.

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Mandawa, with a population of around 25,000, is a popular tourist attraction dotted with rows of painted havelis, or town houses, with intricate frescoes on walls. The hotel employs local staff and plays a role in boosting the town’s tourism sector.

The Mandawa royal family is also involved in efforts to revive the traditional art of weaving in Gujarat.

“Privilege always comes with responsibility,” Priyanjali says. “We are always aware of our role in Mandawa, where people look up to us, and we are expected to dress a certain way and observe a certain protocol.”

a woman looking at the camera: Princess Meenal Kumari Singh Deo of Dhenkanal. Photo: Handout

© Provided by South China Morning Post
Princess Meenal Kumari Singh Deo of Dhenkanal. Photo: Handout

Meenal Kumari Singh Deo, 52, the princess of Dhenkanal in eastern India, runs her family’s 200-year-old palace as a heritage homestay, which is furnished with arts and crafts from the region.

“In ancient India, the patronage of most art forms, music, dance and architecture, was thanks to royalty,” says Meenal, who is also a creative designer with her own crafts line.

“Even today, when I walk into the weaving village set up by our ancestors, I am overwhelmed by the respect that they have for us based on past initiatives,” she says. “I feel I have to live up to

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How India’s elite shooters are gearing up for a return to action

Friday morning for the Olympic core group of Indian shooters and coaches began with an early zoom call. Only this time, unlike the raft of planned meetings in the past seven months from the living rooms and bedrooms of their respective homes, they were sharing a wall.

Close to 30 shooters and coaches have congregated at the Taj Vivanta in Surajkund, Faridabad for a two-month long camp organized by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and Sports Authority of India (SAI), with the mandatory stipulation of a week’s quarantine on arrival. Pre-plated meals are being served to their rooms, along with disposable garbage bags, which they then leave outside their doors for pick-up.

The absentees from the camp include rifle shooters Elavanil Valarivan, Gaayathri N, skeet shooter Angad Singh Bajwa, Mairaj Ahmed Khan and foreign coach Ennio Falcao.

Those living within NCR have the option of isolating themselves at home or having a room to themselves at the hotel, much like the outstation shooters and coaches who reached on Friday. The latter option is one that rifle shooter Deepak Kumar readily took.

A junior warrant officer in the Air force living in Delhi, Deepak decided that isolating himself at home was only going to throw his family an extra challenge. “Also, this way it’s easier to focus, there are fewer things on my mind and I get a chance to reconnect with my early life of spiritual calm.” The monk-like talk is no surprise. Deepak, who won an Olympic quota with an Asian Championship bronze last year, spent ten years of his childhood away from his parents at a gurukul in Poundha, Dehradun.

The 32 year-old gamely set up an electronic target at home and trained through the first few months of the lockdown. Once the Karni Singh range (where the camp is being held) opened up in July, he had a much-improved choice of training location.

For someone else, like 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist Abhishek Verma, who is living out his one-week isolation period at his rented home in Gurugram, this is a good time to create a diligent log of his scores from major events in the past two years. “It will allow me to have a ready reckoner of measurable performance numbers and understand how much work is needed. At least I’ll be prepared going into the camp next week.” The camp, which according to SAI is being conducted at a total cost of INR 1.43 crore ($194,706), was postponed twice earlier.

To play by isolation rules, Verma and the two junior shooters he shares his living space with, stockpiled groceries at the start of the week. A qualified lawyer who recently received his provisional enrolment certificate from the Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana, Verma has been training since August at a range built in a Gurugram mall by one of his friends. This after five months

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India’s Top Rated Budget Hotel Chain

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