Born to the royal family of Bikaner, Princess Rajyashree Kumari is the daughter of Maharaja Karni Singh and Maharani Sushila Kumari. A woman of substance, she has bountiful talents; she was conferred with the Arjuna award in shooting in 1969 when she was all of 16 years. The Rajasthani princess is also involved in a variety of trusts and projects related to charity and historical preservation, besides sports, travel, and writing.
Walk us through your shooting days.
My shooting days started from the age of six. My father was a brilliant coach and taught me well. It was exciting to participate in the National shooting competitions where I represented the Bikaner Thunderbolts Rifle Club. Later I had the good fortune to represent India at International championships. My father was very strict and ensured that I practiced regularly in all weather conditions, which was good, as on the day of the match one could rarely expect perfect weather. It was a privilege to represent Bikaner, and moreover India. I met wonderful people from across the country and the world and learned a lot from them.
What led you to author the books The Lallgarh Palace – Home of the Maharajas of Bikaner and The Maharajas of Bikaner?
I come from a rich ancestry and a historical lineage. I spent my childhood in perhaps one of the finest palaces in India, and it was a natural progression to put the experience into writing. Nothing pleases me more than when people tell me how much they enjoyed reading about the Lallgarh Palace in Bikaner and also of the history of my ancestors.
Are there any traditions of the Bikaner family that you wish to keep alive?
The Maharajas of Bikaner have historically maintained close ties with the citizens of Bikaner and have served them faithfully. Once the states were merged after independence, my father set up trusts to maintain old forts and palaces, and at the same time disburse funds within the former Bikaner state to a wide range of organisations and people. It is very satisfying to continue the tradition of my family in my own small way.
What is the most iconic heirloom of your family?
That would have to be the ancient sandalwood throne of the Rathore rulers. Its history represents continuity. It was brought many centuries ago by our ancestors from Kanauj and from there to Jodhpur, and finally, my ancestor Rao Bika, who founded Bikaner, brought it to Bikaner where it occupies pride of place in The Junagarh Fort. It has a deep connection with history and it is on this throne that the Rajas and Maharajas of Bikaner and their ancestors were crowned.
You took action against the poor living conditions of animals earlier. Why the penchant for animal welfare?
Compassion for all living creatures exists among all of us. From the time one is a baby one feels compassion for animals. Sometimes as adults, for some reason, one loses that ability to feel for another creature, and this results in horrible acts of neglect and cruelty. Fortunately, there are many organisations that speak up for the rights and welfare on behalf of those who cannot speak. They are after all God’s creations and we must learn to co-exist with them in harmony.
What are your other interests?
Reading has been a childhood interest that was sparked at an early age by our governess Mrs Edwards and still remains an abiding love. I love decorating my homes and giving them a fresh look every now and then; this keeps my creative juices flowing! Gardening is also a great therapy and I keep adding plants and shrubs to my garden in my home in Bikaner.
What is your favourite place for vacation?
To travel anywhere is an immense pleasure. I have travelled extensively across the globe and there is a lot to learn with each trip. However, there are still many parts of my own home state of Rajasthan which I still have to see! It is on my bucket list. London and Bangkok are some of my most favourite cities to visit. --- as told to Sumana