Times Staff and Wire Reports

Gayatri Devi, 90, the former queen of the western Indian desert kingdom of Jaipur who often was described as one of the most beautiful women in the world, died Wednesday in Jaipur, where she had been hospitalized for stomach and respiratory problems.

Devi’s classical good looks ensured that photographs of her in elegant chiffon saris and diamonds and pearls were splashed across fashion and lifestyle magazines. She also was known for her love of horses and polo.

She was born into the royal family of Cooch Behar in what is now eastern India on May 23, 1919, decades before the demise of Indian royalty. She became the third wife of Sawai Man Singh, the “maharaja” or ruler of Jaipur, in 1939. Devi was the “maharani.”

In 1960, Devi launched a political party and won a place in India’s Parliament. A supporter of education for women, she withdrew from politics in the 1970s.