Air India’s official Mascot, the Maharaja, was adopted in 1946. It was created by Bobby Kooka, then A-I’s Commercial Director, and Umesh Rao, an artist with J. Walter Thompson Ltd., an advertising agency. Maharaja was used for sales and promotion purposes and for design on memo pads. Kooka wanted to use it as an illustration for his letterhead.
Maharaja is a symbol of high living, grace, dignity, naughtiness which has given him worldwide recognition. His creators gave him a very unique personality with an extra-large moustache, striped turban and a prominent curved nose. However its popularity was deeply affected when certain political leaders took over Indian Airlines.
During the pre-independence period also, Air India was an international airline. It showed speedy growth in early years and was a symbol of pride for India. The Government of India nationalized the air transportation industry in 1953 which gave birth to Air India international limited (AIIL). In 1962, Indian Airlines became the first all-jet airline. It made history by operating the first non-stop flight from New York City to Delhi. However, in the last decade, the downfall of the airline started; fading away the old professional leadership passing into the hands of certain corrupt leaders who were only interested in personal gains and benefits. This was a very humiliating and painful situation for the government.
The decision to merge Indian Airlines into Air India, the flagship carrier, was the biggest mistake. The merger took place in a hassle. This also made Maharaja, an important topic of discussion for the new leaders and politicians. They decided to do away with the old Maharaja in 1989; although this was subject to a very brief span of time. The Mascot’s popularity started declining when the airline stopped using it for its promotion. But the loud cries of the public brought back the gracious Maharaja very soon.
Now the new Air India logo is formed by merging the logos of both Air India and Indian Airlines. The logo in red and orange signifies “vigor and advancement” as said by the government of India in a press release. This new logo consists of a ‘Flying Swan‘ logo which is a part of Air India Centaur logo along with the Indian Airlines’ logo, ‘Konark Chakra’, embedded inside it.
All said and done, I am sure you never knew all this about that famous mascot of Air India. Good thing is, now you do!