Sita Devi (Maharani of Kapurthala)

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Sita Devi (1915−2002), also known as Princess Karam, was widely regarded as one of the most glamorous women of her day.[1]

She was a daughter of the Raja of Kumaon, Raja Uday Raj Singh, and was a sister to Raja Hari Chand Raj Singh ( father of Raja K. C. Singh Baba .[2] At age 13, she married Karamjit Singh, a younger son of the Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala.

She was fluent in several European languages and was considered to have a strong sense of style.[1] She was a muse for several photographers from Cecil Beaton to Man Ray.[1]

The Rani’s preferred couturier was Mainbocher, who designed the wedding dress for Wallis Simpson's nuptials with the Duke of Windsor.[3] Sita Devi wore chiffon saris and fur coats, designed by Mainbocher.[1] She was widely followed by the society columns as a trendsetter.

As a popular society figure of the 1930s, she was the inspiration for one of Ira Gershwin's production numbers for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.[4] When she was 19 years old, Vogue Magazine anointed her the latest "secular goddess." Three years later Look named her one of the five best dressed women on earth. The couturier Elsa Schiaparelli was so dazzled by Princess Karam, that the gowns of the designer’s 1935 collection were constructed like Indian saris. In early 1939, at Lady Mendl's tea in honor of the Hollywood Dietitian, Dr. Gayelord Hauser, Sita Devi was listed among the twelve most glamorous women in the world.[5]

That July at the Season’s ending costume ball hosted by the designer, writer, arts patron, all-purpose aesthete and Renaissance man - Count Etienne de Beaumont and his wife, Edith, the Indian princess made an entrance in a Grecian-style gown by Alix (a.k.a. Madame Grès), fashioned from white jersey that was draped cleverly indicating three waist levels—just under the bosom, at normal location, and at a low hipline. It had a flowing knee-length cape gracefully attached at the shoulders.

At the end of the summer in 1939, Elsie de Wolfe threw a party in honor of the Kapurthalan Princess.[6] The entertainment included an entourage of trained elephants. As in the Indian tradition, she was dripping in jewels for all occasions. Her husband, Maharajkumar Karam, had spectacular jewelry created for her by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and among other notable jewelers.

She is the grandmother[7] of contemporary jewelry designer Hanut Singh.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Made for Maharajas: a design diary of princely India / by Amin Jaffer; pages 113, 116-117. New York: Vendome Press, 2006. ISBN 0-86565-174-4 ISBN 978-0-86565-174-6
  3. ^ [2] Sunday, 10 December 2006
  4. ^ karam kapurthala.html[permanent dead link] Paperdollywood
  5. ^ Time 13 February 1939
  6. ^ [3] A Life in Good Taste by Ruth Franklin New Yorker 9 September 2004
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 September 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013.