A tribute to last Maharani of J&K

Col J P Singh, Retd
Eight years ago, on 24th May 2009, Maharani Yasho Rajya Lakshmi bid farewell to this world and undertook her journey into the auspicious world of light and bliss while this world turned gloomy. When she passed away, her husband, Maharaja Dr. Karan Singh’s tribute to her was, “Lord Shiva, one of whose appellation is Mahaleshwar, the God of Death, had decreed that my beloved wife Yasho Rajya should move on in the sixtieth years of marriage”. He further said, “We wedded as teenagers and virtually grew together. It was a unique blessing for me to have partaken of her love, generosity and compassion”. “As the Upnashids says, may her Journey into light be auspicious”, said His Excellency. 68 years ago, as a princess of ruling family of Nepal, she was married into the ruling family of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides being a routine royal matrimonial alliances, it was a political alliance as well because it strengthened friendly relationship between India and Nepal and deepened the everlasting ‘Roti aur Beti ka Rishta’ with Nepal.
She was born on 9 January 1937 as daughter of General Sharda Samsher Jung Bahadur Rana who was son of  Maharaja Sri Mohan  Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana, the ruler of Nepal. She had 5 brothers and a sister. She was married to Yuvraj Karan Singh, heir apparent to the throne of J&K on 5th March 1950. Marriage ceremony was held at Bombay where Maharaja Hari Singh was living in self imposed exile. When married she was barely thirteen and Yuvraj nineteen.  At that time Yuvraj had taken over to ruler the state as Regent, duly appointed by Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler. By virtue of this marriage, Princess of Nepal became Maharani of Jammu & Kashmir. The princess was a typical Nepali girl and could speak only her mother tongue. It goes to her credit that after marriage, she learnt Dogri, Kashmiri, Hindi and English with ease and promptness.  As she grew up, so did her duties and responsibilities. She assumed her full official duties sooner as first lady of the state and performed them with diligence, compassion and grace.
The ruling families of J&K and Nepal had matrimonial alliances in the past as well. Both the ruling dynasties, Jamwals and Ranas were the successors of Kushwah and Sisodia dynasties of Rajputana. Kushwahs, the ancestors of J&K Royal family had been the rulers of Jaipur while the Sisodias, the ancestors of Ranas of Nepal had been the rulers of Udaipur. But due to migration to different places and prolonged stay at new abodes in Jammu and Nepal, many changes had come about in their life, language, culture and other aspects of dynasties. But this marriage in particular was a political matrimonial alliance aiming at cementing bilateral ties within neighbouring Kingdoms. It is a tribute to both the dynasties that after this wedding, relations between the two countries improved as a result India could play a significance role in restoring Monarchy in 1851.
Both the dynasties mentioned above seems to have many other striking similarities. In 1743, Prithvi Narayan Shah became the ruler of small principality Gorkha in Nepal. Like Maharaja Gualb Singh, he consolidated all the smaller hill principalities and established a unified Kingdom of Nepal. His successors ruled till they were defeated in the Anglo-Nepalese war 1814-16. After a treaty with British, Shah dynasty continued to rule till 1846 when the political order changed in Nepal. In 1846, the Rana dynasty gained power. Great grandfather of Maharani Yasho Rajya, Maharaja Jung Bahadur Rana became the first Rana ruler of Nepal and founder of Rana Dynasty. Same year political order changed in J&K also when Maharaja Gulab Singh became the founder of Dogra Dynasty and founder ruler of Jammu & Kashmir. In 1850 King Tribhuvan Shah was forced into exile in India and Ranas became absolute rulers. With the Indian indulgence after the independence, Sri Mohan Shamhser Jung Bahadur Rana resigned after 105 years Rana rule allowing Shah dynasty to return to rule in 1951. This was another sterling similarity. Her Excellency’s grandfather and father-in-law left their empires for good together in 1951. (Ranas became rulers of the Himalayan Kingdom, not by design but by compulsion. Shah Dynasty had weakened after their defeats at the hands of Chinese and British and consequent factionalism in the royal family, palace intrigues and internal turmoil. In 1846 Queen Rajendralakshmi plotted a coup against Gen Jung Bahadur Rana, had several hundred princes and chieftains executed. However  Gen Rana emerged victorious and established Rana Dynasty rule in Nepal).
Maharani Yasho Rajya Lakshmi was amply bestowed with grace, charm and kindness. She was always  concerned about the poor and down trodden, both in India and Nepal. Her deep interest in the welfare of poor and needy became an everlasting passion in her life. Right from the beginning, she took active part in various social and welfare activities. During the 1965 Indo-Pak war entire civil population of Chhamb-Jaurian migrated to Jammu. Majority of them took shelter in schools, colleges and govt buildings in the city. As first lady, she visited them in their refugee camps and undertook various welfare schemes for these displaced people and organised their children education. She also visited families of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the defence of their motherland.
Despite being born in a ruling household, she led an active social and religious life never letting anyone feel that she belonged to two glorious ruling families. She was a great disciple of Durga Maata like Rajmata (Maharani) Tara Devi. Even though she was not an office bearer of Dharmarth Trust, being her family trust, she took keen interest in the maintenance and up keep of ancient Hindu Temples and Shrines, particularly in Kashmir, after the mass exodus of Pandits from the valley. Despite Pandits absence, Hindu religion and culture thrives in the valley at the behest of Dharmarth Trust.
This was because of Maharani’s interest in the sanctity of religious places and functioning of the Trust. Reciprocally Dharmarth Trust has made a Park in her memory in the City of Temples. As President of Maharaja Gulab Singh Memorial Trust, she took keen interest in the promotion of Dogra heritage, art and culture in Jammu region. She was head of Delhi Hospitals Welfare Society and Patron of Mentally Retarded and Dumb & Deaf Societies in Delhi. She generously donated in these societies and managed them well.
Her passing away came as a shock to the people of Jammu. Many rushed to Delhi to pay their last respects. Though she left the world but made a permanent place in the hearts and minds of people of Jammu region. She will be remembered by the posterity as the last Maharani of Jammu and Kashmir who played very constructive role during the period of transformation of J&K from feudalism to democracy.


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