Annexation of the Punjab
Was born at Lahore on 6 September 1838, the youngest son of Maharaja
Ranjit Singh. On 18 September 1843, at the age of five, he was,
after the murder of Maharaja Sher Singh, proclaimed Maharaja of
the Punjab with his mother, Maharani Jind Kaur, as his Regent.
The country was in a state of disorder and the
army had become all-powerful. Though little Duleep Singh attended
all the council meetings seated on the royal throne, the real authority
had passed from the palace to the cantonment and the military panchayats.
The English, who had been watching the happenings in the Sikh State
with more than a neighbour's interest, were looking for an opportunity
to strike and penetrate into the Punjab. Matters were brought to
such a pass that war between them and the Sikhs became inevitable.
Hostilities in fact broke out in December 1845.
The British who emerged victorious forbore to
annex the State, but occupied a rich piece of the country between
the rivers Beds and Sutlej under the peace treaty concluded on 9
March 1846. More stringent terms were imposed under the Treaty of
Bharoval (16 December 1846), reducing the kingdom of the Punjab
to a virtual British protectorate. The Regent was pensioned off
; the British government assumed the guardianship of the young Maharaja
Duleep Singh during his minority; and a British Resident was to
direct and control the entire civil and military administration
of the State of Lahore with a council of ministers which was to
be nominated by him. After the second Anglo-Sikh war (1848-49),
the ten-year-old Maharaja whom, under the Treaty of Bharoval the
government was committed to protect and maintain until he attained
maturity, was deprived of his crown and kingdom and the Punjab was
annexed to the British dominions.
Duleep Singh's Conversion
and Exile to Britain
On 6 April 1849, soon after the annexation, the deposed Maharaja
Duleep Singh was formally introduced to his new 'superintendent,'
Dr John Login, a native of Orkney, Scotland, who had started his
Indian career as a medical officer in the Bengal army. Duleep Singh
was removed from the Punjab to Fatehgarh, a small village in Farrukhabad
district in the then North-West Province, where he arrived in February
1850. John Login took a great liking to the Maharaja whom he treated
like his own son. Walter Guise was named his tutor.
On 8 March 1853, Duleep Singh was quietly baptized
a Christian at a private ceremony at Fatehgarh. The conversion was
hailed as "the first instance of the accession of an Indian
prince to the communion of the Church." On 19 April 1854, the
Maharaja and his party sailed for England where they reached in
May 1854. In England Maharaja Duleep Singh lived in the first instance
with the Login family and was presented to Queen Victoria who took
very favourably to him.
Duleep Singhs Visits to India
In January 1861, Duleep Singh visited India, but was not permitted
to come to the Punjab. He halted at Calcutta where his mother, Maharani
Jind Kaur, then living in exile at Kathmandu in Nepal, met him after
13 years. Duleep Singh took her to England where she died after
about two years later on 1 August 1863. In October the same year
died the Maharaja's most sincere and devoted guardian, Dr Sir John
Login, on whom he had come to depend a great deal for negotiations
with the British government for the settlement of his affairs.
Maharaja Duleep Singh made another trip to India
in the spring of 1864, this time with his mother's ashes which,
on being disallowed by the British to proceed to the Punjab, he
consigned to the River Godavari. On his way back, the Maharaja married
at the British Consulate at Alexandria in Egypt, on 7 June 1864,
Bamba Muller, daughter of a German merchant, Ludwig Muller, and
Abysenian-Egyptian mother, Sofia. On his return to England, the
Maharaja and Maharani Bamba lived for the first few years at Elveden,
a sporting estate, of which the Maharaja had got possession in September
1864. Maharaja Duleep Singh and Maharani Bamba had six children,
Victor Albert Jay Duleep Singh, Fredrick Victor Duleep Singh, Bamba
Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh, Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh, Sofia Alexandra
Duleep Singh and Albert Edward Alexander Duleep Singh, born between
the years 1866 and 1879.
The Maharaja now lived in the extravagant style of Victorian English
nobility. He loved art; he was an accomplished musician, was fond
of the theatre, of hunting and of hawking. He came to be known as
one of the best shots in Britain and entertained the greatest in
the land, including the Prince of Wales.
Maharajah requests acount of his Fathers
Living beyond his means, the Maharaja incurred heavy debts.
He sought from the India Office enhancement of his allowances. At
the instance of his mother Maharani Jind Kaur, Malika Muqaddisa
(the holy queen mother) of the regency days, he claimed from the
British lands which belonged to the family prior to the installation
of his father as king of Lahore. Under her influence, Duleep Singh
was also gradually estranged from what had become his natural English
style. The question of his private properties he pursued to the
To prepare a detailed list of his ancestral estates, Duleep Singh
sent his solicitor, Mr Talbot of Farrer and Co., to India. He also
invited his collateral Thakur Singh Sandhanvalia to visit him in
England. Reaching London in 1884, Thakur Singh stayed with the Maharaja,
then putting up at Holland Park. He daily read out from the holy
Guru Granth Sahib to the Maharaja and instructed him in the tenets
of the Sikh faith. Thakur Singh had brought with him a document
signed by the custodians of the Sikh Takhts (the highest ecclesiastical
seats) in India confirming the prophecies about Duleep Singh's
restoration to the throne of the Punjab. These prophecies, attributed
to Guru Gobind Singh himself, announced in crisp, aphoristic Punjabi:
"He [Duleep Singh] will drive his
elephant throughout the world ... Dissensions will arise at Calcutta
and quarrels will be in every home. Nothing will be known for 12
years. Then will rise the Khalsa whom the people of four castes
will like .... Fighting will take place near Delhi .... When Delhi
remains 15 kos away, the king will cease. Duleep Sdngh will sit
on the throne and all people will pay him homage."
Duleep Singh Decides
to return to his Motherland
When in August 1885, Thakur Singh Sandhanvalia returned to the Punjab,
Duleep Singh gave him Rs 1,000 for distribution of karahprasad,
the Sikh ritual food, at the Golden Temple, Amritsar.
The Maharaja himself decided to return
to his motherland and left England on 31 March 1886 to settle down
quietly in Delhi. He invited Thakur Singh to meet him at Bombay
and arrange for his reinitiation into Sikhism. As the government
was reluctant to permit Thakur Singh to receive him, Duleep Singh
wrote to the Secretary of State:
As my cousin, Sardar Thakur Singh
Sandhanwalia, informs me that he fears permission will not be accorded
him to go to Bombay by the Liutenant-Governor of Punjab, and as
I particularly desire to be rebaptized into the faith of my ancestors
by some relative of my own, may I therefore beg your Lordship kindly
to request His Excellency by telegraph on my behalf or permit me
to do so, that the Sardar be allowed to meet me on reaching India.
Duleep Singh Stopped from going to the
Duleep Singh's Rebaptism into Sikhism
The news of Duleep Singh's likely return sent a thrill of expectation
across the Punjab. The government warily stopped him at Aden. This
was the advice it had from one of its leading Sikh supporters Mahamahopadhyaya
Sardar Sir Attar Singh of Bhadaur. Stung by this insult, Duleep
Singh resigned his allowance and forswore fealty to the British
crown. One favour he sought was that the government continue payment
of pound 500 each annually to the widows, respectively, of his superintendent,
Login, and Comptroller, Oliphant.
On 3 June 1886, he left for Paris. But before
departing from Aden, he had, on 25 May 1886, received the rites of
Sikh baptism from the Five Beloved (Panj Piare) - Thakur Singh of
Wagah, another cousin of his (son of his mother's sister), Bur Singh
of village Kohali in Amritsar district, Javand Singh of Barki in Lahore
district, and two Sikhs brought for the ceremony from a transport
ship which happened to touch at Aden.
Rumours in Punjab
The Punjab at this time was astir with
rumour. Anticipation filled the air. Reports were studiously kept
in circulation that Maharaja Duleep Singh would lead a Russian invasion
into India and overthrow the British. A network of secret communication
was established; Duleep Singh's emissaries kept filtering into India
in spite of government vigilance. The most important of them were
Ghulam Rasul, a wool merchant of Amritsar, who had lived for many
years in the Sudan and Egypt, and Arur Singh of village Kohall (Amritsar),
a Europeanized Sikh. The Maharaja's statements and proclamations
- as from "the Sovereign of the Sikh nation and Implacable
Foe of the British Government" - were smuggled into the country
for distribution. The Kuka Sikhs who had come into clash with the
government in 1872 were the most enthusiastic in pro-Duleep Singh
The brain behind this entire movement for furthering the cause of
Duleep Singh was Thakur Singh Sandhanwalla who had implanted the
seeds of rebellion in the mind of the Maharaja and who had finally
persuaded him to renounce Christianity and rejoin the faith of his
forefathers. From Pondicherry, where he had taken asylum to escape
British authority, he masterminded the operations in behalf of Duleep
Sinngh. To win support for him, he visited secretly the Indian princely
states and the Sikh shrines. He maintained an active liaison with
people in distant places through a chain of servants, dependents
and relations. Major Evans Bell's book The Annexation of the Punjab
and the Maharaja Duleep Singh, exhibiting the illegality and immorality
of British occupation of the Punjab, was widely circulated. Pondicherry
had become the seat of Duleep Singh's peripatetic government with
Thakur Singh as his prime minister. Thakur Singh hoped that his
sovereign master would one day land in Pondicherry. The latter had
in fact written to The Tribune (3 July 1886) the following letter:
Although the Indian Government
suceeded in preventing me from reaching Bombay, yet they are not
able to close all the roads that there are in India; for when I
return I can either land at Goa or at Pondicherry...
Singh Goes to Russia
Maharaja Duleep Singh left Paris on 21 March 1887 for St.
Petersburg (Russia) where he tried to seek the help of the Czar.
Arur Singh who had been with Duleep Singh in Russia brought from
him secret missives including a circular letter for the ex-king
of Oudh, Holkar, Scindia and the rulers of Patiala, Nabha, Faridkot,
Jind and Kapurthala. The princes generally implicated in the cause
of Duleep Singh were Raja Bikram Singh of Faridkot, Raja Hira Singh
of Nabha, the Maharaja of Kashmir and Raja Mod Singh of Punchh.
From Russia Duleep Singh sent to Thakur Singh a seal and letter
in token of his appointment to the office of prime minister.
appoint you my Prime Minister should Sri Satguru Ji one day replace
me on the throne of the Punjab.
Singh Suffers a Stroke
After Thakur Singh's sudden death on 18 August. 1887, his son Gurbachan
Singh was invested by Duleep Singh with the title of prime minister.
But returning from Russia to Paris, Duleep Singh had a stroke and
remained bedridden for three years, the passion and grand designs
of former day pathetically congealed in his heart. Drained financially
and destitute of friends, he died in his humble hotel room in Paris
on 22. October 1893.
His body was taken to Elveden, England,
by his son Prince Victor, where it was interred beside the graves
of Prince Fredrick and Prince Edward. Thus was completed a life
cycle drawn, as it were, to stated requirements of the tragedian,
the poet, the philosopher.