Luxury-loving scion of south Indian royal dynasty dies at 60

BANGALORE (AFP) - The luxury-loving scion of a former south Indian royal family died Tuesday of a heart attack at the age of 60, doctors said.

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar was the last descendant of the Wodeyar dynasty, which ruled over the erstwhile Mysore state that is now part of the Indian state of Karnataka.

The system of "princely states" was phased out after independence from Britain in 1947.

Even so, "I lived like a maharaja (king) without technically or legally being one", Wodeyar had said in an interview with Indian media about his life a few years ago.

Wodeyar, who owned the sprawling Mysore and Bangalore palaces, was one of the richest scions of India's former royal families.

He was known for his passion for luxury cars but also dabbled in left-wing politics as a youth, Indian media quoted him as saying.

All his cars bore the registration number 1953 - the year he was born, the Deccan Herald newspaper reported.

Doctors said the 60-year-old Wodeyar, who had been suffering from ill health, collapsed at his palace in Bangalore, which he had painstakingly restored.

He was taken to hospital where "doctors could not revive" him, Vikram Hospital administrator K. Madan Kumar told AFP.

Wodeyar, who married his distant cousin Pramoda Devi, had no children of his own.

In 1974, he succeeded his father, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, as head of the dynasty which had ruled over Mysore state for nearly six centuries.

The royal family was known for its progressive rule and social reforms.

The bearded Wodeyar wore many hats, from being a fashion designer who walked the runway with models to an avid art collector.

He was also a cricket enthusiast who had recently been elected president of the Karnataka state cricket association, and he also served as a federal lawmaker.

Karnataka home minister K. J. George told reporters that the state had declared two days of mourning.

Funeral rites were due to be held Wednesday.

"Our last connection with the Mysore royal family is lost. He was a sincere man," said former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.