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
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.