Princesses of Mayurbhanj: The combination of beauty, brain and big heart

Mayurbhanj: Akshita M Bhanj Deo, 26, and Mrinalika M Bhanj Deo, 28, are not just the average royals. the second and third daughters of the 47th ruler of India’s Bhanja dynasty, Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo are focused on promoting local art and culture. They are also running a sustainable boutique palace hotel and embracing eco-tourism. These young princess are following the trend of establishing themselves in the world of business and entrepreneurship.

Mrinalika M Bhanjh Deo and Akshita M Bhanj Deo are the daughters of Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo, the 47th ruler of Bhanja dynasty, part of India’s princely state of Mayurbhanj, Odisha, a state in Eastern India. the mother of these princesses is Rashmi Rajyalaxmi Bhanjdeo. She belongs from the royal family of Jaisalmer.  Maharani Bharati Rajya Lakshmi Devi, daughter of Nepal’s late king Tribhuvan is their paternal grandmother.

Mrinalika  and Akshita were born and raised in Kolkata, and attended the prestigious La Martiniere for Girls, up to Grades 9 and 10. After that, the sisters moved to the elite United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) in Singapore. Akshita pursued political science and human rights with a concentration in media and conflict areas at Bard, while Mrinalika studied sociology and international relations with a certification from the McIntire School of Commerce at UVA.

The present king and queen are active directors of the Mayurbhanj Foundation which supports local communities in the livelihood, health, arts and sports sectors.  Shree Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo is involved in politics and Shreemati Rashmi Rajyalaxmi Bhanjdeo is the founder of Ek Prayaas, a non-governmental organization for street children in Kolkata. Belgadia Palace has links with local communities, including the local leper colony and the Dokra handicraft villages to promote business and provide a livelihood through Eco-tourism.

Both Mrinalika and Akshita are the directors of the 200-years-old Belgadia Palace, a hotel in Mayurbhanj. The hotel adopts sustainable practices from zero-mile farming and recycled furniture and interiors to a towel and linen reuse program. The foundation keeps a percentage of revenue earmarked for social and environment projects benefiting the local community throughout the year, but gives communities and craftsmen access to market linkages with travelers without middleman, so all the profits directly goes to the producers or those who work.

The princesses are now supporting the local business, art and culture and Eco-tourism. In a recent Tedx Talks organized at SOA university, Akshita revealed her intention and interest about the local people and betterment of them. They hope to sustain Mayurbhanj Chhau, a martial arts dance form, and help in the sports education of young girls. Mrinalika and Akshita are hence good example of beauty with brain and good heart.

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