Design Evolution: Air India Maharajah

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If you’ve ever flown with Air India, there’s a good chance you’ve spotted their Maharajah mascot during your travels. A portly figure dressed in regal garb with his hands pressed together in a namaskar — or “namaste” — greeting, the Maharajah has won over the hearts of travellers the world over with his unique personality and characteristics. However, despite his regal appearance, the Maharajah is known for dressing down as much as he dresses up thanks to his extensive wardrobe.

Created by Bobby Kooka, a former commercial director with Air India, and illustrated by artist Umesh Rao at ad agency J. Walter Thompson Mumbai, the Maharajah made his stylish debut for the airline in 1946. Kooka was quick to state that the Maharajah was never actually of noble lineage, “We call him a Maharajah for want of a better description. But his blood isn’t blue. He may look like royalty, but he isn’t royal.”

As it turns out, the Maharajah didn’t need to be blue blooded at 30,000 feet in the sky. It was his personality that allowed him to become and remain a friend to anyone up in the air. Clad in his signature striped turban and twirly mustache, the Maharajah was full of personality. He loved a great adventure and dressed for the occasion on his many journeys to different cities around the world in Air India’s print advertisements.

Here he is in London. In spite of his costuming change, his diminutive height allowed him to, well, stand out from the Queen’s Guard.

Meanwhile, a voyage to Nairobi might have taken an unexpected turn (yikes!), but at least the Maharajah is dressed comfortably for the climate.

And start spreading the news because the Maharajah is Big Apple bound!

While rumors of a new design might have swirled around the character in 2015, Air India was quick to clarify that the mascot will remain the way Kooka created him — full of warmth, a sense of humor, and originality. No matter where in the world you head to next, take a closer look at your surroundings. You might be able to spot this icon and his silly antics!


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