The two surviving daughters of the Maharaja of Faridkot, Sir Harinder Singh Brar, have finally won inheritance of their father’s sprawling estate and one of India’s largest royal fortunes, amounting to an eye-popping $4.2 billion.
While this may sound fairy tale-like, getting to this point was anything but. The Faridkots descended from desert rulers in Rajasthan. Sir Brar was a senior officer in the Deccan Horse cavalry regiment.
Since the Maharaja died at the age of 74 in 1989, following the death of his son and heir apparent Tikka in a motor accident, his two surviving daughters, Amrit Kaur and Deepinder, waged one of the longest legal battles in the nation’s history to claim what was rightfully theirs. A third sister, Maheepinder Kaur, died at the age of 62 in 2002.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Chief among the items included in the estate are a number of residences: Faridkot House in Delhi, Manimajra Fort in Faridkot, and his mountain retreat at Mashobra near the Viceroy’s summer home in the Himalayan foothills. A caravan of vintage cars, including many Rolls-Royces, as well as WWII aircraft parked at his 22-acre aeorodome rounded out the windfall.
While Sir Brar’s widowed wife, three daughters and aging mother expected to inherit the estate, they were shocked to find that he had in fact doled it out to his staff and retainers via a trust he set up for them called the Meharwal Khewaji Trust. Rather than the opulent payout described above, his daughters were to serve as officers of the trust for a penance of $18-20 a month.
The decision that the estate would be awarded to the Maharaja’s surviving daughters came after revenue officials discovered that the retreat at Mashobra was illegally transferred to the trust. Further, Chandigarh judge Rajnish Kumar ruled last week that Sir Brar’s staff worked with lawyers to forge a will several years before he died, cheating the sisters out of their inheritance.
As the protracted legal battle raged, the sisters hardly suffered in the meantime. Deepinder (or Princess Bunty), for one, married the heir to the princely state of Burdwan, near Calcutta, in 1959. Her husband, the Maharajadhiraja Dr. Saday Chand Mehtab is son of the man who owned the famed 83-carat Jahangir Diamond that once rested in the beak of a Mughal peacock throne.
Although most Indian royal fortunes have gone the way of the Raj, Sir Brar was particularly shrewd in his dealings and managed to keep his wealth after losing political power. The Faridkot family has a long history of fighting for their estate. Apparently, this continues today. It has been reported that overseers of the trust may challenge the ruling, though the case stands as of now.