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Bhawani Singh, 79, last maharaja of Jaipur

Associated Press / April 21, 2011

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JAIPUR, India — Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh, the last maharaja of Jaipur who continued to be revered as a social and cultural icon after India abolished royal titles, has died after a long illness, his daughter said Sunday. He was 79.

Sawai Singh died late Saturday in a hospital on the outskirts of New Delhi where he had spent the last two weeks, daughter Diya Kumari said. He had suffered from high blood pressure and a lung infection and had spent time in hospital previously.

Sawai Singh served as the maharaja or hereditary ruler of Jaipur after the death of his father, Sawai Man Singh, in June 1970. Jaipur was one of hundreds of tiny royal kingdoms that dotted India until the country’s independence from Britain in 1947.

The rulers continued to hold onto their titles after independence. However, Sawai Singh served as maharaja for only a few months until India formally abolished the royal titles in 1971.

Despite this, he continued to be revered as an icon in western India’s Rajasthan state and was often referred to by his royal title in the media as well as by locals.

Sawai Singh served in the Indian Army and fought in the 1971 war against neighbor and rival Pakistan. He leaves his wife, Padmini Devi, and daughter.