Think how she felt, the harem beauty transported against her will from a fairy-tale existence in the Mahajarah's harem courtyard to a barbarous country far away. No wonder she was in a foul mood; all those cameras flashing, all that noise. President or no president, White House of no White House. She growled.

"Look," President Dwight D. Eisenhower (according to press accounts) replied, "Look, I'm not going to get in that cage."

Yesterday she was dead at 20.

Once lissome and supple, the muscles under the sleek and startingly striped black and white fur rippling, Mohini (the enchantress) Rewa had become increasingly enfeebled and crippled by chronic arthritis. She was humanely put to death yesterday by saddened zoo veterinarians who noted that tigers usually begin to show signs of senility between the ages fo 10 and 15.

As a child she gamboled about the harem courtyard of the Maharajah of Rewa, probably unaware she was a captive as were her parents before her.

She was a pampered, but, because her temper was short and her claws long, probably seldom petted. If she knew or cared that her mother was also her half-sister, she never let on.

She was very special, as was her regal father, the greath white Bengal tiger.

When she arrived, Mohini was one of only seven white tigers in the world and the only one outside of India.

The white coloration is a recessive tiger trait, but in her long life, Mohini produced several white offspring.

Her days were normally halcyon, but there was one notable tragedy when, in 1970, she inadvertently crushed to death three of her four newborn cubs druring the pain of labor. The surviving kitten was a white male.

The year before she had given birth to a white female-to zoo officialdom's surprise, as it turned out: They hadn't noticed she'd been expecting.

But all this soured Mohini's royal temper and, her biographers have reported, she was particulary testy when she was courted by a bid yellow male tiger from Chicago. However, the two were reconciled and she continued to produce enough young tigers to keep zoos throughout the country well supplied.

Few of her children and grandchildren kept in close touch with the aging Mohini, but the death notice from the National Zoo suggests that she is survived by at least four grandchildren at her home zoo, two of whom, Priya and Bharat, are white.

"Mohini was one of the nationally known and respected zoo animal personalities," said Dr. Theodore H. Reed yesterday. Dr. Reed, as director of the National Zoo, had named Mohini. Upon her arrival in 1960 he observed, "If she were human, she'd be a moviestar." CAPTION: Picture, Mohini Rewa, the National Zoo's white Bengal tiger who died yesterday.