Expensive Tastes Of India’s Maharajas

by | Jun 2, 2023 | Aristocracy, Emporers, Kingdoms, Kings, Noble Titles, Queens, Royal Titles

As one of the most distinctive systems of royalty and aristocracy that have evolved around the world over the last millennia, India has a rich and diverse range of regal titles and noble ranks. 

From the great Padshahs and Nawabs who have reigned supreme over the Indian lands for generations, to the Rajas, Thakurs and Princes, India’s monarchs, sovereigns, rulers and their families have gifted a captivating and colourful tapestry of characters to the history of the Indian continent. 

Perhaps one of the most well-known titles from the royal and imperial ranks of India is that of Maharaja. 

The Maharajas Of India

The title of Maharaja roughly translates to the title of Great King in the European systems of royal and imperial rule. 

In the earliest times of the formal systems of Indian royalty, the Maharajas were the ‘great rulers’, perhaps comparable to the Great Kings of Old England, the Emperors of the developing European nations, or the Tsars of Russia. 

Over time, the title of Maharaja was subject to a number of complex variations to incorporate the range of ranks and roles within the Indian monarchy. For example, as with many royal and noble ranks, there is a female equivalent of Maharaja, which is Maharani, in a similar styling to the female equivalent of a Russian Tsar, which is Tsarina. 

The male offspring of an Indian King or ruler would also have a royal title – similar to the princes of Europe’s system of royal titles – and this was often a variation of the title of Maharaja. For example, Maharajakumar is the widely used term for the son of a Maharaja, the equivalent of an Indian Prince.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, first Emperor of the Sikh Empire

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, first Emperor of the Sikh Empire – Colonel James Skinner (1778-1841), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As with comparable royal titles around the world, the Indian hierarchy also included subtle variants of the royal titles to represent distinct positions within the family or the line to the throne. For example, a Rajmata is the term used for the widow of a Maharaja, an almost literal translation of queen-mother, a term also used in European royalty. 

Similarly, the heir to the throne, known as the Dauphin, Crown Prince or Heir Apparent elsewhere in the world, also has their own unique title within the Indian system of royal ranks. In this case, the term Yuvaraja is used, a term that translates loosely as ‘young king’. 

India’s Maharajas & Their Wealth

Historically, the emperors, tsars and great kings of the world have enjoyed immense wealth alongside their powerful roles as rulers of nations, and India’s Maharajas are no exception. 

Over the centuries, the sovereign rulers of India have enjoyed enormous levels of wealth and affluence. The extent of the riches of these India Kings can still be witnessed in modern times in the great palaces and opulent architecture that remain as a testament to the vast wealth of the Maharajas of the ages. 

In addition to the palatial dwellings and royal retreats, there were many times throughout history where it was customary for kings and queens to make great displays of their vast wealth, whether through the lavish style in which they travelled with their massive entourages, or in the opulence of their clothing, their food and drink, and their epic celebrations. 

This display of wealth was not solely to reaffirm the regal status of the Indian kings and rulers, it was also a highly strategic endeavour. Over the centuries, there has long been a strong association between wealth and power. So it was within a ruler’s best interest to make grand displays of their vast wealth, to send a message of political power and strength to neighbouring nations and around the world. 

There was also a domestic benefit to the expensive lifestyles and lavish tastes of the wealthy Maharajas and their families. The social systems of India have long supported a regime whereby the ordinary people of the land would respect and admire those in positions of royalty. 

So the opulent processions and celebrations, the lavish carriages and entourages etc… would provide a lavish spectacle for the working people. In times past, the riches of the royals would provide inspiration and entertainment for the great masses of working classes throughout the land. 

Maharajas & Jewels

The great Maharajas of India were not alone in enjoying lavish displays of their wealth – it was a custom throughout the many nations of Europe and around the world. 

For many centuries, the world’s kings and queens, emperors and empresses, tsars and tsarinas would share a common practice of representing their superlative rank and riches by wearing expensive jewels. 

Since a single gemstone could be worth a vast fortune, lavish displays of opulent jewellery were a convenient and effective way to symbolise their royal status and represent their enormous wealth. 

In keeping with this royal and imperial custom, the Maharajas of the ages have been known for their great love and admiration of expensive jewels. The stories of many of the world’s greatest jewels and gemstones often include a period of ownership by a member of Indian royalty. 

Some of the wealthiest Maharajas would even commission pieces of jewellery that incorporated enormous diamonds, emeralds and rubies, resulting in a piece worth staggering amounts of money. 

These lavish jewels were not solely the pride and possessions of the female royals of India, though many Maharanas and their daughters would have enjoyed magnificent collections of necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets and brooches. The Maharajas themselves, along with the princes and high-ranking male nobles, would also adorn themselves with lavish jewellery in the form of necklaces and brooches for their headwear. 

There would also be ceremonial occasions when the most expensive and impressive jewels would be on display, during weddings, royal celebrations and state events. 

One of the greatest jewellery houses ever established, Cartier, is famous for its relationship with the wealthy Maharajas of India. One of the founding brothers, Jacques Cartier, enjoyed a lifelong relationship with the royals of India, supplying the beautiful and impressive jewels they required, as well as taking inspiration from the colours of the Indian lands to create colourful designs that were enjoyed the whole world over. 

The expensive tastes of the Maharajas of India are well-known throughout history. The rich splendour of this unique royal group has bequeathed the world a wealth of stunningly beautiful architecture, centuries of inspiration, and a collection of jewels that continue to delight and captivate to modern times.

If learning about these lavish Indian royals and nobles has made you curious about acquiring a prestigious Noble Title of your own get in touch using the enquiry form in the sidebar or you can contact our Geneva office directly between 10.00-19.00, Monday to Friday on +41 225 181 360.

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