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Bamba Sutherland, The Sikh Princess Who Died Unknown

Discussion in 'Sikh Personalities' started by Hardip Singh, Mar 31, 2010.

  1. Hardip Singh

    Hardip Singh India
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    The Princess who died unknown​

    Princess Bamba Sutherland, eldest daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, lived like an alien in her father’s kingdom, writes Kanwarjit Singh Kang.

    "If man were immortal he could be perfectly sure of seeing the day when everything in which he had trusted should betray his trust, and, in short, of coming eventually to hopeless misery. He would break down, at last, as every good fortune, as every dynasty, as every civilisation does. In place of this we have death."

    THIS observation by Charles Sanders Pierce reminds one of the tragic drama that unfolded after Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death, followed by assassinations, conspiracies, treacheries, betrayals and wars, and the vicissitudes of his dynasty, as had happened, dwindled from bad to worse.

    Three sister Princesses — Bamba, Catherine and Sophia — photographed in 1892. (Princess Bamba is sitting on left side holding flowers)

    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 organised 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. She was baptised Bamba Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh, named after her mother and grandmothers’ respectively. 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 Shergil and this acquaintance led to their marriage and they left together for Budapest where their first child Amrita Shergil, the most innovative painter of modern India, was born.

    Henceforth, Princess Bamba visited India frequently and finally settled at Lahore. She purchased a house in the posh locality of Model Town and named it ‘Gulzar’ where she had an exclusive garden of roses spread on an area of one kanal. Here she married Dr David Waters Sutherland who was Principal of the King Edward Medical College, Lahore (now Medical University).

    When Maharaja Duleep 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 where a small samadh was built over her ashes. To fulfill the last wish of her grandmother Maharani Jindan, Princess Bamba dug out ashes from her samadh 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 bequeathed her collection of paintings and art objects to Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra, who, after her death, sold these to the Government of Pakistan. The collection, consisting of 18 oil paintings, 14 water colours, 22 ivory paintings, 17 photographs, 10 metallic objects and seven miscellaneous articles, are known as ‘The Princess Bamba Collection’.
    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 in 1939 and without offspring she was all alone. Her brothers and sisters had already died. 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:

    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 flowers brought by the descendants of Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra from ‘Gulzar’, Model Town, Lahore, the residence of late Princess Bamba Sutherland.
     

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  3. spnadmin

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    Just an aside -- but the life stories of each of these women is tragic in their own unique way. Thanks for posting this. It is very difficult to find information about them.
     
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  4. Hardip Singh

    Hardip Singh India
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    This valuable document came to my knowledge while I was working on Amrita Shergil, the renowned painter's life. How tragic on our part, we never knew prince Duleep had some offsprings who had die unknown. This is a mistake on the part of our historians who never brought their lives in the public knowledge.
     
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  5. spnadmin

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    There were 3 sisters. One of them was seduced into a lesbian relationship by a friend of her governess, never married and died childless. Catherine married but was ordered by Queen Victoria to never have children. The third sister Sophia became a fighter for women's rights. She never married.

    Some corrections and some links I had on bookmark. They contain information regarding the 3 girls.

    Maharaja Raj Rani

    Duleep Singh Photograph Album

    Maharaja Duleep Singh

    On Sophia there is very little,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophia_Duleep_Singh
     
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