‘Then I was the king. Now I’m a pauper’: Former playboy Raja reduced to living in a ‘mud hut’ in India

‘Then I was the king. Now I’m a pauper’: Former playboy Raja reduced to living in a ‘mud hut’ in India

Dean Nelson, The Telegraph | 13/08/13 3:19 AM ET

Raja Brajraj Kshatriya Birbar Chamupati Singh, 92, is the erstwhile king of Tigiria.


A former playboy Raja of one of India’s princely states is living as a pauper on the charity of commoners who were once his subjects.

Raja Brajraj Kshatriya Birbar Chamupati Singh, Mahapatra of Tigiria, the last surviving former ruler in Orissa, was once the life and soul of India’s royal party circuit. He kept a fleet of 25 vintage luxury cars and lived in a palace with 30 servants. He married a princess and was known throughout India for his prowess as a “shikari” – a big game hunter – who shot 13 tigers and 28 leopards. I would drink to my heart’s content and have a good time. But today, aged 92, he lives alone in a home described as a “mud hut” with a leaking roof and curtains of cobwebs, left by his wife and six children to the mercy of the villagers who bring him rice and lentils for lunch. A fellow royal, Jayant Madaraj, Raja of neighbouring Nilgiri, said he had known the former Raja of Tigiria since childhood when he was a close friend of his father. He had been known then for his generosity, his love of whisky jaunts to Calcutta, and his passion for fast cars and motorbikes. But his fortunes waned after Indian independence when he lost his state’s tax revenues and was given a privy purse of pounds 130 a year instead. He was forced to sell his palace in 1960 for pounds 900 and later separated from his wife. In 1975, the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, withdrew the last remaining royal privileges and he lost his annual income.According to Raja Jayant Madaraj, his remaining properties were taken over by one of his children, and he was left with nothing but the shack he now lives in on a plot owned by his estranged wife.

One of his children, Rajkumar Bijoy Pratap Singh Deo, told The Daily Telegraph he and some of his siblings are still in occasional contact with their father.

His survival on charity marks the final demise of a family that seized power in the tiny state in 1246AD. His ancestors support for the Maratha rulers was so highly appreciated that they issued an order that the Raja always be transported by elephants and heralded by black flags, drums and bugles. The protocol was observed by British Raj officials.

Raja Jayant Madaraj said the 92-year-old was one of, if not the very last, Rajas who had actually ruled a state when India became independent. “He is now in very bad times but the local people are looking after him. His family are not interested in him. Most of his properties have been taken away and are controlled by his son. He has been manipulated and cheated. He is staying in a farm house which is like a mud hut.”

In an interview with the Indian Express, the former Raja of Tigiria recalled treasured memories of being one of India’s ruling elite. “I would often visit Calcutta with my friend, the former King of Puri, and stay at the Majestic and Great Eastern Hotel there. I would drink to my heart’s content and have a good time. If a new car came on the market, I had to buy it. I owned 25 cars and jeeps, including a Roadmaster, Chevrolet and a Packard,” he said. Despite his spectacular fall, he remained happy, he said. “Then I was the king. Now I’m a pauper. But I have no regrets whatsoever.”

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