Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Maharani Mean?

Maharani is a Sanskrit word that means “great queen.” It is the female counterpart of a maharaja, which is a Hindu monarch or prince in India who ranked above a raja. The title of maharani would be given to the wife of a maharaja or to a woman who was a ruler in her own right.

The title of maharani and maharaja came into more common use during British rule, particularly after the British deposed the Muslim ruler (padshah) in 1858. Prior to British rule in India, only the rajas of the most powerful states were given the title of maharaja. The British began bestowing the title and various powers to ensure support for their rule.


Yogapedia Explains Maharani

After India’s independence in 1947, maharanis and maharajas lost their ruling powers, but retained special privileges and stipends until 1971. Three prominent maharanis who promoted women’s rights in the 20th century were:

Maharani Chimnabai, the maharani of Baroda, which was ruled by her husband, successfully campaigned to end the system of purdah. The purdah required women to be curtained off or fully covered so men couldn’t see them. Baroda was the first state to end the purdah.

Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur was a maharani through marriage and used her position to play a key role in ending the purdah in Jaipur. She also ran for and won a seat parliament in 1962, winning by the largest landslide in history.

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi was regent of the kingdom of Travancore from 1924 to 1931, a time of progressive reforms that included abolishing financial tributes to royalty and the end to the devadasi, in which women were “married” to a deity or a temple. She ruled as the absolute monarch in her own right.

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