Dec 2, 2014

Shri Sir Nripendra Narayan, Maharaja of Cooch Behar in 1902

Shri Sir Nripendra Narayan, Maharaja of Cooch Behar in 1902

Shri Sir Nripendra Narayan, Maharaja of Cooch Behar (1862-1911), who succeeded his father at the age of one, ruled over a state in West Bengal of 1,307 square miles with approximately half a million people.

At the time, the Maharaja's principality was a semi-independent state in British India. Judged by the number of gun salutes a state was allowed, Cooch Behar was in the 5th rank of importance among the British-Indian statelets.

The Maharaja was praised by the British for setting up a model administration and attempting to make it more representative of the people.

Seen here in the dismounted review order uniform of a British officer of the 6th (Prince of Wales's) Bengal Cavalry, the Maharaja was an ardent supporter of the monarchy who had seen recent active service on military campaigns in British India – as reflected in the three bars attached to his India Medal.

The Maharaja was also a frequent visitor to London and the court. His international repute as a sportsman also served to present him to the British public as the ideal example of the Indian princely caste. The maharajas, as keenly as European royalties, were much devoted to matters of precedence and the Maharaja was assured by King Edward VII, in 1908, that “the rank of Indian princes when they are received in England... should take precedence over dukes and other members of the English aristocracy.”

The Maharaja had first met Daisy when she was fourteen at Newlands, one of her parents’ homes. During Daisy’s visit to India in 1896, her husband Hans Heinrich went off to Hyderabad and Madras in search of big game, and she accepted an invitation to visit Cooch Behar where the Maharaja became badly smitten by Daisy: “I know that one of these days he may ask me straight out if he may kiss me,” she confided in her diary, while also noting “I shall hate, hate, hate saying good-bye to the Maharajah!”

After Daisy bruised her face badly, having fallen while running from the Maharaja, he was overwhelmed with guilt at the results of his action and took the opportunity to visit the recuperating Daisy who feigned sleep while “he used to kneel down by my bed and stroke my forehead talk a bit and pray.”

The Maharaja, who visited the Lafayette studio again in 1902 for another series of poses in a variation of the same uniform but with turban, represented to the British the Indian martial spirit in his most elegant form. He died suddenly during a later visit to Britain, at Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, 18th September 1911 leaving four sons and three daughters.