She was a queen and died like a queen on the morning of January 8, with a grand procession marching with her to the cremation grounds – Mangardaha Ghat on banks of the River Koel at Daltonganj. My grandma was 103 years old.
And with her ended a very long and amazing chapter in the history of Chainpur Estate, one of the prominent royal families of Chota Nagpur Region in Jharkhand, India.
Princess Prafulla Manjari Devi, the third daughter of the Ruling Chief of Kharsawan (Raja Ram Chandra Singh Deo) loved and celebrated life just like Krishna, her ishtdeva. In her anecdotes, she would talk about those blissful girlhood days she had spent at Kharsawan that included travels, visits to Calcutta theatres, swimming lessons, education, elaborate religious ceremonies and a life of luxury.
After marrying my grandfather, Raja Brijdeo Narain Singh in 1941, her life took a new turn. She often told us that my grandfather looked so handsome as a bridegroom that people came in huge numbers at Kharsawan just to have a look at him. There was a train booked for the baraat and the marriage was recorded on a movie camera at that time. Otherwise all the elaborate ceremonies were a blur for her as she had to sit covered from head to toe with ornaments and bridal wear.
Accompanied by the usual retinue of cooks, servants and maids, she came to live at Chainpur fort and experienced a huge cultural change. My grandfather’s side observed purdah and ladies did not show their faces. She often smiled talking about how she was expected to walk, talk and live a veiled life in the royal household.
Communication was another issue. My grandma spoke Oriya and broken Hindi while no one in her new home knew the language. But her mother-in-law (my great grandmother) was kind enough to let her have the upper floor of the Garh where she was free to live comfortably and interact with her personal Oriya speaking staff.
Gradually, times changed, and the family moved to Chainpur Bungalow at Daltonganj town, a short distance from Chainpur. By this time, India had become free from British rule and was declared a democracy.
All the princely states got integrated into the country. My grandma adjusted to the changed and moved on to focus on education and subsequent marriages of her eight children.
After the death of my grandfather in 1977, she faced some great challenges, but the iron lady did not crumble under pressure. Instead she laughed at it all. She spent most part of her life at Daltonganj amongst grand kids and great grand kids.
She was a champion for girls education and donated land for school, hospitals and public welfare.
Towards the end of her life, she moved back to Chainpur, where she had once lived as a blushing new bride and breathed her last there. She felt no pain as she passed away in her sleep, surrounded by family.
Thus, ended the life of my grandma whose ringing laughter made people smile. She was regal, strong and spiritually exalted – the gift she passed on to subsequent generations. She is survived by three sons, four daughters and grandchildren. She will be sorely missed and mourned by all the family members of Chainpur.
Dadi Ma, we will not forget all the lessons you taught us and how you touched our lives in your own way. Hari Bol!
(Images contributed by Family)
(To read one of the anecdotes, click here.)
(To read Hindi newspapers article on her, click here)