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New life of Indian royalty

Out of position, descendants of Indian royal families have to work and try to maintain influence by preserving culture and art.

In 7/1971, India abolished the monarchy lasting nearly 3,000 years, causing hundreds of royal families across the country to change their lives. In order to survive, many people have to sell jewelry and wealth. Others, even holding tens of billions of dollars, still have to consider themselves civilians and find jobs. One of the most popular jobs chosen by the clan members is to turn hundreds of years old palaces into hotels.

The Mandawa royal family, Gujarat state are pioneers in the business of ancestral heritage.

Mandawa Castle was built as a fortress in the desert in 1755. By 1980, it became a luxury hotel with 80 rooms. The current operator of Mandaw Castle is Princess Priyanjali Katoch.

In addition to hiring local workers and playing an important role in promoting tourism, the Mandawa royal family also strives to revive the traditional art of weaving.

Like Priyanjali, 52-year-old Princess Meenal Kumari Singh Deo from the Dhenkanal clan in eastern India runs the family’s 200-year-old castle. This place has been turned into a homestay, the inside is decorated with local crafts.

Yaduveer Singh is a descendant of Maharana Pratap, the 13th king of Mewar, now renamed the state of Rajasthan. The 24-year-old boy said his parents had directed their children to the hospitality profession.

Preserving traditional culture and arts is also how the Indian royal family maintains their influence. According to the World Bank, in 2015, India had 1.3 billion people, of which 176 million people lived in poverty with income less than 2 USD per day. In the midst of that context, the “hereditary” privileges of royal families were easily viewed as offensive and backward. Not to mention, many Indian kings and queens have been known for their lavish lifestyles and their ruthlessness towards their subjects.

Krishna Kumari, Panna’s royal princess from Madhya Pradesh, said she can switch between two different worlds “seamlessly”. The 48-year-old woman lives in the palace left by her ancestors and takes care of a school her family opened 32 years ago for low-income households. She also has many other jobs such as wildlife photography, off-road racing and porcelain.

Krishna said the most important thing is to make use of his position to give to society. “You have to appreciate your origins and what you have, because you are part of this prestigious family,” she said.

Akshita M Bhanj Deo, 27, a media strategist at a research institute, says the role of the royal family has changed over the years.

The Akshita family turned their 18th-century Belgadia palace into a sustainable hotel with furniture made of recycled materials.