Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Princess Without a Crown: Princess Bambi Daughter of Last Sikh Emperor Dalip Singh

Princess Bambi Dalip Singh, the Last of Maharajah Ranjit Singh Family

Princess Bambi Dalip Singh was the last of the Ranjit Singh clan.She settled in Lahore in Pakistan where she breathed her last in 1959. She was given a Christian burial and some ministers of the Pakistan government attended. No Pakistani Sikh or Indian was allowed to attend the funeral. Her grave is at Lahore.

The beginning or End?
Ranjit Singh expired in 1839. He was succeeded by his youngest son Dalip Singh in 1843. After the 2nd Anglo Sikh war Dalip Singh was deposed and taken to England. He had 8 children, but only his daughter princess Bambi Duleep Singh achieved any recognition and survived.
Rise of Dalip Singh

Dalip Singh's rise to the throne was itself mired by bloodshed as two of his elder brothers were killed in court intrigue and he was put on the throne when he was just a child in 1843. After Dalip Singh was deposed, his upbringing was taken over by the British who converted him to Christianity and took him to England. Dalip Singh was well received in society in England . But on being refused an increase in pension he left England in 1882. Dalip Singh married twice and had 8 children. Unfortunately all his children deceased except Princess Bambi Dalip Singh.
The Princess

 She was born in 1869 in England from his first wife Maharani Bamba Muller. She received her education in England and soon became a part of London society as a self styled 'Maharani' from Punjab. She petitioned the British government for a restoration of her title and return of the kingdom of Punjab. This was a naive request as no power hands over any land after it is annexed.
Return to India

 She made her first visit to India in 1924, when she was 55. She landed in Bombay and proceeded to Pune, where her grandmother Rani Jindan Kaur was buried. She got the remains of her mother transferred to Lahore and installed next to the samadhi of her grandfather Maharajah Ranjit Singh. This was her first visit to Lahore and the teeming bazars enthralled her. In Punjab she wished to recreate the magic of the Lahore Durbar and set about tracing the nobles who had worked with Ranjit Singh. She was able to trace the descendants of Hari Singh Nalwa and Sandhanwalia. She married but had no children. She continued staying in London, but took a keen interest in the affairs of the Punjab. But she had very little clout and no political standing , for which the Punjab political leaders ignored her.
Political Views

 She was opposed to the division of Punjab and lobbied against it, but no one listened to her. After 1947 princess Bambi settled in Lahore in Pakistan. She lived a quiet life surrounded by her memorabilia of paintings and sculptors. These are now displayed in the Lahore Museum as after her death the collection was taken over by the Pakistan government.

Maharani Bambi died in 1959 at the age of 90. She was given a Christian burial, though in her last days she had converted to Sikhism.She is buried in the Lahore cemetery. But in a churlish act, The Pakistan government refused any Indian or Sikh permission to attend her funeral. Thus passed away the last of the Ranjit Singh clan.Only a small obituary in the daily newspapers announced her death. The dynasty that had ruled Punjab( modern day Pakistan) went into oblivion.