Who owns Hawa Mahal? Battle lines drawn within Royal family to stake claim

Visakhapatnam: Known to many as the rich heritage of Visakhapatnam- Hawa Mahal, a grand monument on the Beach Road here, built by the Royals of Jeypore has turned a bone of contention between the members of the royal family, with each member staking a claim on it.

The edifice, constructed between 1917 and 1921, is the ancestral property of the royal family of Jeypore (Odisha) built by the then Maharaja of Jeypore, Ramachandra Deo to utilise it as a summer resort for his family.

But with each passing day, legal complications have entangled the property as the members of the royal family are battling it out to stake claim over its ownership even as the oldest member of the family – the Rajmata Rama Kumari is alive.

While her elder son Late Shakti Vikram Deo was married to Mayank Devi, the younger one Vibhuti Bhushan Deo had tied the knot with Sarika Devi. Even though the Rajmata is alive, the elder daughter-in-law Mayank calls herself the Rajmata. After the younger son died in 1997, his wife Sarika shifted to her in-law’s fort at Jeypore. It was after this that the legal battle cropped up in the family.

With both the sons’ family fighting to claim rights on Hawa Mahal, Vishveshwar Chandrachud Deo, son of younger son Late Vibhuti Bhusani, spoke exclusively to OTV stating that the current Rajmata is his grandmother, Rama Kumari and she is alive. So none else can claim to be the Rajmata. “I became the Maharaja of Jeypore Samasthanam after being coronated in 2013,” said Chandrachud.

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Explaining the present situation, he went on to say, “Mayank Devi said some derogatory stuff to me and my mother to malign our image. She also said that I am not the King because she, as Rajmata, did not coronate me as the king. The current Rajmata is my grandmother, Rama Kumari.”

Chandrachud further alleged that Mayank Devi was not allowing them to get inside the Hawa Mahal, though the property was jointly owned by five members of the family. According to sources, the property is co-owned by Rama Kumari Devi, Mayank Devi, Sarika Devi, Laitika Deo (Mayank’s daughter) and Vishveshwar.

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However, Mayank Devi, who has been taking care of the Hawa Mahal for the last two decades, said that being the eldest daughter-in-law, she is the legal Rajmata.

As per the royal traditions, after the death of a Maharaja, his widow becomes the Rajmata. She also said that it is the duty of the Rajmata to coronate the next King and because Chadrachud was not coronated by her, he is not the King, she said.

She further claimed that Chandrachud’s father Raja Vibhuti Bhusan, had named the property in her name and no other family member has any rights on it. “This was a combined property of our family. The case is pending in the court. Moreover, the lease agreement is not counter signed by all the owners and is thus null and void. I take care of the building and they want to take control of the property,” Mayank Devi alleged.

Many high ranked dignitaries including the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and first President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad have stayed in the palace during their stay in Vizag, sources said.

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