Bohemian Royalty - Princess Mrinalika M. Bhanjdeo of Mayurbhanj

She’s young, wild, and free, and also happens to belong to a royal family. The spunky Mrinalika stands out in a crowd because of her independent spirit, drop-dead gorgeous looks, and edgy sense of style. After globetrotting for a while, she’s back in her hometown of Kolkata. We caught up with her this month to find out what she’s been up to lately.

Tell us a bit about your background.
Being an avid traveller and having studied in three different countries, my upbringing has been very multicultural and cosmopolitan. I studied in Kolkata at La Martiniere for Girls, but was eager to broaden my horizons and travel. So I finished my studies at the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore before moving to the United States. There I pursued my undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia, graduating with a major in sociology and a minor in international affairs.

I moved to New York City after college to hone my skills in communications and brand management with a job at Puig. Puig is a third-generation, family-owned luxury fashion and fragrance business, based in Spain.

Keeping my roots in the back of my mind, while I learned and absorbed from the world around me, my education and work ethic have very much been shaped by that idea at its core.

What’s it like to be a royal in today’s day and age?
I believe that being royalty in India today is about being a custodian of a legacy and heritage that spans centuries; it’s a heritage that is woven into the fabric of India. Being a royal in modern-day India has given me a voice and a platform to support the causes I hold close to my heart. I hope to be a force of sustainable change in my community, and represent my state to the best of my ability. What I do feel is a responsibility to preserve, conserve, and promote the culture and tradition that has been passed on in our family for generations.  

You must have heard some fascinating stories while growing up!
Being an admirer of the arts, my favourite story is that in 1912 my great-grandfather, Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo, presented a magnificent show of the Odia martial arts form Chhau in the form of a war dance (Paika dance). The show was put on in Kolkata to welcome the British Emperor, George V, and his Queen.

Royal men and women have a unique way of dressing. What is your personal style like?
My sense of dressing has been inspired by Maharani Sucharu Devi (1874-1961) – the Maharani of Mayurbhanj. She was the daughter of the Brahmo Samaj reformer, Maharshi Keshub Chandra Sen of Calcutta, and was a feminist in her own right. I believe that style should be timeless; fashion comes and goes. I like wearing minimalistic designs with clean silhouettes. Quality should never be compromised. I think fashion in its truest sense in this day and age has to be sustainable and organic.

What are your other interests?
I am a yoga teacher certified in Hatha Yoga, and am very passionate about organic brands in the health and lifestyle space. I have my own brand of certified organic spices called Beej. Working within the health and lifestyle industry has made me more conscious of adopting qualities that could keep one close to nature.

How has living abroad impacted your way of thinking and living?
Living outside my comfort zone has definitely helped me challenge myself and push myself to learn about my strengths and weaknesses. It also helps one prioritise your passions and your purpose in life.  To travel, to see the world, and meet different people, especially in the divisive times we live in, is one of the biggest learning experiences you can have.

What’s a lesser-known fact about you?
I am very keen on promoting ecotourism in Odisha and bringing to light its rich art and culture, while also restoring old heritage structures and temples.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew earlier in life?
That what makes you unique is ‘being you’. I wish I never had to be embarrassed or try to hide my background because I wasn’t sure how it fit into the identity of my peers. Be proud of who you are and where you come from, always.

What’s next?
I would like to establish a platform where organic and sustainable brands can be housed in one space, and would like to be associated with brands that believe in giving back and doing social good.

I would also love to promote ecotourism in my state by starting a wellness centre in a 100-year-old heritage house. Taking people on tours and brining Odisha’s rich cultural and natural resources to the forefront excites me.