Written by Priya Kumari Rana

The 489th ceremonial head of the Katoch clan, Maharaja Aishwarya Chand Katoch of Kangra-Lambagraon is crowned as king, in a tradition that dates back to thousands of years, in one of the oldest forts of India, in the presence of family members, guests, and 4,200 invitees from Dharamsala and nearby villages.

March 30, 2023, Dharamsala:

Maharaja Aishwarya Chand Katoch of Kangra Lambagraon

With the pomp and pageantry of royalty past, the ceremonial Raj Tilak (coronation) of the 489th descendant of the Katoch rulers of Kangra, Maharaja Aishwarya Chand Katoch of Kangra-Lambagraon, took place in the majestic Kangra Fort, some 20 km from the city of Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh. With the purely ceremonial nature of this Raj Tilak (since the government removed official titles and privy purses in the 70s), Maharaja Aishwarya Katoch is the first Kangra royal to be crowned at this fort for 400 years – ever since Raja Hari Chand’s time, who lost the fort to Emperor Jahangir in 1620.

Maharaja Aishwarya Chand Katoch of Kangra Lambagraon and Maharani Shailja Katoch of kangra Lambagraon
Tikka Ambikeshwar Dev Chand Katoch, Kanwarani Kalpana Kumari
of Wankaner and H. H.Maharaja Vikram Singh of Sailana

Maharaja Aishwarya Katoch, who divides his time between Delhi and Dharamsala, is a director of IndiaBulls, and runs a homestay in Dharamsala, a colonial-style villa named Cloud’s End. He also runs a private museum next to the fort, the Maharaja Sansar Chandra Museum and Cafeteria.

On this day, he hosted 300 members of the larger Katoch family or clan, friends, descendants of rulers of erstwhile Princely States, as well as 4,200 people from the region of Kangra, who were treated with a traditional Kangra ‘dham’ lunch, that is offered to their family deity, Goddess Ambika Devi.

Princess Mrinalini kumari of lunavada, HH Maharaja Vikram singh of sailana
Maharani Shailja Katoch of kangra Lambagraon with Rajkumari Aparna Kumari of Shankargarh

The ceremony, a simple ‘tilak’ from a fellow Katoch family member took place in the courtyard of the family temple of Ambika Devi, at the top of the fort (guests had to climb some 200 steps to reach the venue) with invocations from the family priest.

The Katoch dynasty is one of the oldest in the world, and traces its lineage back to The Mahabharata, and finds mention in Greek scholar Ptolemy’s writings – when a Katoch raja fought Alexander the Great. The Kangra Fort, one of the oldest forts in India – was invaded and looted several times – by the likes of Muhammad of Ghazni and the Tughlaq ruler of Delhi – and once boasted of silver doors and gold windows.

HH Maharana Siddhraj ji Singh of Lunavada, HH Maharani Nina Kumari of Lunavada
Kanwarani Saheba, Tikaraj Ambikeshwar Katoch of Kangra, Kanwar Saheb

“It was a very emotional experience for me,” says Maharaja Aishwarya Katoch of Kangra-Lambagraon, of this ceremony that took place one year after his father’s demise, late Raja Aditya Chand Katoch of Kangra-Lambagraon. Maharaja Aishwarya wore a velvet choga, with a polki necklace and sirpech, flanked by his son Yuvraj Ambikeshwar Katoch and his wife Maharani Shailja Katoch, who was wearing a pink Himachali churidar suit. “People came with all heart and excitement. Our clan took the whole event as their family function. They came as if they were celebrating in their own homes – dressed up in their finery, whatever they could muster up. I was touched by how much they wanted to meet me and be with me, not just taking photos, but participating in the prayers with me and being in the temple, being part of the ceremony, greeting my guests, wearing my badge with honour on their chest. I was humbled – it made me feel proud of my family, what my mother (Rajmata Chandresh Kumari of Kangra-Lambagraon, Princess of Jodhpur, and former Cabinet Minister with the Congress government) stood for, my ancestors, what they gained with the public’s love.”

Nawab Kazim Ali Khan of Rampur
Kunwar Yaduveer Singh Bera and Harshita Kumari

“It’s been special to have the function inside the Kangra fort, in front of my Kul Devi’s temple, after 400 years, something even my famous ancestors have not had the privilege of doing,” he says. “I just felt tremendously blessed by our Goddess Ambika Devi and humbled by the people’s love.”

Notable royals in attendance, included Yuvraj Vikramaditya Singh of Kashmir, the Maharaja of Rewa, the Maharaja of Sirohi, the Raja of Kutlehar, the Raja of Mandi, the Raja of Bilaspur, Maharaja Kamal Chandra Bhanjdeo of Bastar, Nawab Kazim Ali Khan of Rampur, Princess Mrinalika Bhanjdeo of Mayurbhanj, the Raja of Amb, the Raja of Datar, the Raja of Kullu, and several Himachali politicians.

Rani Omkareshwari Rajya Lakshmi of Kutlehar


Written by Priya Kumari Rana