185. The Royal Car


The wealth of the Indians kings and princes in the past was legendary. The Rajas exhibited their wealth in the form of exquisite jewels, enormous palaces, gala parties and sumptuous dinners.

In the 20th Century, the new status symbol became the Rolls-Royce– tailor made to suit the whims and fancies of the Kings and Queens. Between 1907 and 1947, a total of 36,000 Rolls-Royces were produced in Great Britain. Of these about 1000 were exported to India!

The Maharaja of Patiala owned none less than 38 royal cars. The Maharaja of Mysore placed an order for 8 Rolls-Royce in 1947. The Maharaja of Nawangar, Jamsaheb, had a garage that could accommodate 450 cars–eight of which were the Rolls-Royces. Each car had a chauffeur and a cleaner.

The Maharaja of Nabha desired and got made a Rolls-Royce in the shape of a swan. The exhaust was discharged through the beak of this giant metal bird, making it look like a Fire-breathing-bird!

The Maharaja of Patiala had his Rolls-Royce upholstered in Salmon pink silk and its body work was painted in a matching colour. The diamond studded dashboard of the car was so valuable that, four armed guards had to stand in protection, whenever that car was being serviced!

The Raja of Monghyr commissioned a silversmith to decorate his Rolls-Royce with silver to make it look like an ornate chariot!

Due to an export ban introduced in 1969, these opulent cars can not be taken out of India. The cut on the Privy purses of the princes coupled with the ever hiking price of petrol has made the maintenance of these “white elephants” practically impossible. Though some cars are maintained in good condition, most of them lie in ruin.

Apparently the hay days of Rolls-Royces are over along with the hay days of the Royal Maharajas of India.

Visalakshi Ramani

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