There are no rusting swords or throne in his house. No trophies on walls to serve as reminders of his hunting trips. No yellowing photographs of his younger, glory days. The palace where he lived with his wife and children till 1960 now houses a girls’ high school.
All that 92-year-old Brajraj Kshatriya Birbar Chamupati Singh Mahapatra, erstwhile king of Tigiria in Cuttack district, has is a mud hut with some plastic chairs. The asbestos roof is leaking, so a torn tarpaulin sheet covers his wooden cot. There are a few books, a plastic saline bottle, a torch, some raw tomatoes and lots of cobwebs.
Estranged from his family, the former king now leads an impoverished life. While cataract has taken a toll on both his eyes, he finds it increasingly difficult to hear too. In Puruna Tigiria village, where he has been living alone since 1987, few know that he is the only surviving royal member of the 26 erstwhile kings of the princely states of Orissa who signed the merger agreement with India on December 15, 1947. Tigiria was the smallest of the 26 princely states of Orissa, with an area of just 119 sq km.
With his palace sold to the government for Rs 75,000 in 1960, the former king-turned-recluse now survives on the charity of his former subjects. “The villagers give him his meals everyday. It’s a lonely life for him,” says Lalit Krishna Das, a local advocate.
Dharanidhar Rana, a villager, says Mahapatra is a frugal eater. “He just takes tea and a couple of biscuits for breakfast, some rice and dal for lunch and a roti at night. He eats chicken once in a while,” says Rana’s daughter Champei.
Clad in a lungi and kurta, as he walks with the aid of a stick, it is difficult to picture the bearded Mahapatra as a former king.
“He was a ruling chief till 1947-end, after which he became the ruler of the princely state, and now lives like a commoner,” says Jayant Mardaraj, the former ruler of the princely state of Nilgiri.
After a diploma from Rajkumar College in Raipur in 1940, Mahapatra married Rasmanjari Devi, princess of Sonepur. The couple had three sons and three daughters.
“I would often visit Kolkata 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