The South Asian Times

21 May 2019 13:24 PM

Padmanabh Singh: Carrying on royal love for polo

Jaipur: He is the  youngest ‘Maharaja’ at 16 and he is privileged as he ‘rules’ he majestic City Palace and other royal properties of the erstwhile Jaipur state. But the young Maharaja has no airs about it and is grooming himself by studying in a school in UK and playing polo.

In the City Palace, the retinue of staff call him “ Darbar” or “His Highness’. Maharaja Padmanabh Singh’s title is not recognized by law, after Mrs Indira Gandhi stripped the princes of their privileges in the 1970s. But in Jaipur  and in former principalities like Udaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Alwar and Bharatpur, the head of the royal family is  still regarded as “the Maharaja” by many people. The former rulers or their scions still inspire  respect in Rajasthan where old traditions endure.

How Padmanabh Singh became the Jaipur maharaja at age 12 is quite a story. In 2002, the late Jaipur ruler, Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh, not blessed with a son, adopted his daughter Diya Kumari’s eldest son, Padmanabh, as his heir apparent. After Bhawani Singh passed away,  Padmanabh Singh, then a school student of Mayo College of Ajmer, was coronated as the new “Maharaja”.

Like his great grandfather and  grandfather, Padmanabh has great love for polo and for this reason, he chose to enroll himself at Millfield School in Somerset, UK, which has a good polo facilities.

Padmanabh Singh explains, “My grand father went to Harrow for his schooling and he wanted me to study there. But I opted for Millfield School because apart from good academic it has great sports facilities and I was allowed to play polo outside the school campus also. I play polo in two school grounds and also at Vaux Park Polom Club and the Guard’s Polo Club, which is patronized by the British royals. Playing with top notch British players  has helped me improve my game. And  I am recognized as a one goal handicap player. I have bought five polo horses in all.”

Millfield School is a remarkable place.  From its foundation in 1935, with six princes brought from India, Millfield is today one of the leading UK independent schools for boys and girls, aged 2-18 years.  It’s a co-ed boarding school and a number of UAE and Arab royals’ children and also the children of Mumbai’s elite study there. The best known Indian alumnus is Arun Nayar, business tycoon.

“I am proud to be in Millfield  that provide  an exceptional, all-round education that enables each child to try everything on offer, to find out what they really enjoy and are good at. The school is grounded in the strength of relationships that are the bedrock of all great communities.  Millfield is tremendously diverse in terms of the academic, cultural and sporting backgrounds of its pupils, and we celebrate this diversity,” said Padmanabh Singh.

 Padmanabh Singh is known as Pocho at Millfield, This nickname was given to him  when he was studying at Mayo. He is in the 12th standard with politics, history and business studies as  subjects.

“Not many people know about  my royal background here and am grooming myself as a commoner. Here my world is confined to studies and polo. I have chosen politics as a subject and also business studies because after my schooling I would love to go to Oxford or Cambridge to study the same subjects at the university level,” he added.

Padmanabh Singh’s mother, Diya Kumari is MLA in Rajasthan and he is also keen to join politics when he returns to India after his studies.

 “Politics is power. My ancestors were rulers and they were the rulers on the strength of their might and military power. But time has changed - you can be in politics only if the people recognize you as an individual and they elect you to be their representative with the hope that you would do something for them. I also want to be in business, because I want to make an honest living. I have plans to develop our heritage properties and be in hospitality and in tourism business. There is enough to do in this sector,” explained Padmanabh.

The schoolboy maharaja inherits a mixed blessing with priceless properties in and around the city still controlled by the crown but embroiled in decades of family feuds and estrangements.   There is no authentic report on the family’s worth but the family has priceless jewelry, the worth of which alone as per one British valuer  is Pound sterling 400 million.

When in Jaipur Padmanabh Singh stays with his parents and his two other siblings - a brother and a sister as well as Rajmata Padmini Devi. His brother  Lakshyaraj Singh is not interested in polo and loves soccer and cricket.

“I think there is no better city in the world than Jaipur. It’s here that I get the love of both my biological mother and also the Queen’s mother (Padmini Devi). I get the love of my biological father Narendra Singh, who also loves polo,”  said the young royal.

Padmanabh has been made the  brand ambassador of La Martina, the producers of polo equipment. La Martina normally appoints star polo players as brand ambassadors, but Padmanabh has got the honor because he is a royal and belongs to a family known for its love for polo.

Update: 12 Sep, 2015