ਸਿੱਖ ਇਤਿਹਾਸ

Princess Bamba Sutherland-duaghter of Maharaja Duleep Singh (1869-1957)

The last of the survivors of the Maharaja’s family, Princess Bamba Sutherland, who lived like an alien in Lahore, the capital of the kingdom of her father and grandfather, quietly slipped into its soil on March 10, 1957, almost unknown and unwept. The UK Deputy Commissioner organized a sparse funeral and, unfortunately, due to the sensitive relations between India and Pakistan, no Sikh was present.

Princess Bamba Sutherland, the eldest daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh was born on September 29, 1869, in London and was baptized Bamba Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh, named after her mother and grandmothers’ respectively.Like her father; she was brought up as a Christian with British values. The poor soul was unfamiliar with her historic roots and religion.

Bamba lived at

Elevaden

until her mother died from kidney failure. She and the rest of her brothers and sisters were placed in the care of Arthur Oliphant after the death of their mother, the son of her father’s equerry, Lt Col.James Oliphant.

She was well educated and attended Somerville College, Oxford University. Queen Victoria was very kind towards her and prompted her to be a royal socialite. Following in the footsteps of her grandfather Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, and after all, with the same blood running in her, she was very active politically in England and protested heavily for women’s right to vote. She got to be known well in England but had no recognition in her own roots.

When she was planning to visit India for the first time, she gave an advertisement in a local paper, inviting applications from a lady with cultural interests and musical background, who would like to accompany her on a visit to India. Marie Antoinette, a Hungarian of noble descent, applied and was accepted. Both came to India and lived at Lahore and Shimla. In the company of the Princess, Marie Antoinette met Umrao Singh Sher-Gil and this acquaintance led to their marriage and they left together for Budapest where their first child Amrita Sher-Gil, the most innovative painter of modern India, was born.

Listening to the stories of the grandeur and power of her grandfather in Punjab,  Princess Bamba visited India frequently and finally settled at Lahore. Eventually married the then Principal of King Edward Medical College in Lahore, Dr. David Waters Sutherland and thus she came to be known as Princess Bamba Sutherland. She purchased a house in Model Town (now Lahore) and named it ‘Gulzar’ where she had an exclusive garden of roses spread on an area of one kanal. She lived like a stranger in the capital of the kingdom of her father and grandfather, where her grandfather was once known as ‘Sher-e-Punjab’. That was the sad story of this princess.

 

When Maharaja Daleep Singh was not allowed to take her mother’s dead body from England to Punjab for cremation, he had to do this last ceremony at Nasik in Mumbai. In 1924 Princess Bamba was granted permission to fulfill the last wish of her grandmother Maharani Jindan, Princess Bamba got permission in 1924, dug out ashes from her samadh in Nasik, Bombay and deposited these in the samadh of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Lahore.

She had inherited a vast collection of paintings, art objects, historical documents and royal orders from her father and kept these in safe custody at Lahore. To understand the significance of these documents, mostly written in Persian, she placed an advertisement in a newspaper for hiring a suitable scholar and selected Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra for this job. Supra was well versed in Persian, Arabic, and English. Soon her relationship with her teacher became full of respect and trust.

She was invited to Amritsar to inaugurate Sikh History Society  when it was formed in 1944 with efforts of professor Ganda Singh, As the last surviving member of the dynasty, Bambequeathed the large quantity of important historical items to her secretary, Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra of Lahore., who, after her death, sold these to the Government of Pakistan. It was kept in Lahore Fort and is known as ‘The Princess Bamba Collection’.The collection, consisting of 18 oil paintings, 14 watercolors, 22 ivory paintings, 17 photographs, 10 metallic objects, and seven miscellaneous articles.

 These are now in the custody of the Department of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan, for preservation as a national asset. The collection is of immense historical significance as it throws light on the life and time of the Sikh Darbar in Lahore and of the artistic taste of Sikh royalty during the mid-19th century Punjab.

Her husband Dr. Sutherland died at Lahore in 1939 and without offspring, she was all alone. Her brothers and sisters had already died. Her Punjab was divided between India and Pakistan in 1947 on independence – Lahore on one side of the border, Amritsar on the other. The descendants of the once-ruling family had been driven out – along with millions of other Sikh refugees.

She had known Princess Bamba in Lahore, Pakistan, shortly before her death. `She, after Indian independence and was signing herself `Bamba Sahbzadi, Rightful Queen of the Punjab and Kashmir.  

Although she was still cherishing the golden age of her house, she was fully aware of the ultimate reality of life, as is apparent from a Persian distich inscribed on her gravestone, which, perhaps, she had herself desired to be engraved at her last resting-place. 

A translation of the Persian distich  on her gravestone has been translated as:

She was fond of red flowers and used to say, whosoever comes on my kabar,  do come with red flowers.

Farq-i-shahi o bandagi barkhast

Choon qaza-e navishta aayad pish

Gar kisi khak-i murda baz kunad

Na shanasad tavangar az darvish.

Its translation into the English language by Dr. Mazhar Saleem of Lahore is as under:

The difference between royalty and servility vanishes

The moment the writing of destiny is encountered

If one opens the grave of a dead

None would be able to discern rich from poor.

Located in Gora Kabristan on Jail Road, Lahore, her grave remains decked with red flowers brought by the descendants of Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra, her Secretary in whose name she did her will, ‘Gulzar’, Model Town, Lahore, the residence of late Princess Bamba Sutherland.

Eight children, married with no grandchildren? Many times this sad question arises. but Sikh consoles themselves thinking that is the curse of the tenth guru,  the Sikhs’ greatest spiritual leader, Guru Gobind Singh who had a golden box of treasure buried on his death. The line of whoever touched it would ‘vanish from the light,’ the guru had prophesied. `But Ranjit Singh dug it up, to build a monument in the memory of the 10th Guru. That is why all Duleep Singh’s children died childlessly

Many historians are of the opinion that Queen Victoria has warned everyone not to have a child, means not to produce any successor of Punjab who may claim it which was grabbed by The British Govt. through cheating.

Wahe Guru Ji ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji ki Fteh

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Nirmal Anand

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