To celebrate International Women’s day 2019
The Sikh Museum Initiative presents an interesting letter written by Governor General Dalhousie regarding Maharani Jindan Kaur. Annotated and commentary by Sikh scholar Gurinder Singh Mann.
Painting, paint on ivory, a miniature portrait of Rani Jindan. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum.
Who was Maharani Jindan Kaur?
She was regent of the Sikh Empire from 1843 until 1846. She was the youngest wife of the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, Ranjit Singh, and the mother of the last Maharaja, Duleep Singh. She was renowned for her beauty, energy and strength of purpose and trying to fight against British expansionism.
* She sent armies to fight for Sikh sovereignty (First Anglo Sikh War).
* Men fought in her name (Second Anglo Sikh War).
* She faced the wrath of British administrators. (Exiled and escaped British confinement)
* Separated from her son Maharajah Duleep Singh. (Reacquainted with him in 1861).
* Died in London, interned in Kensall Green Cemetry. London.
* In 2019 the Sikh Museum Initiative recreated the earrings of Maharani Jindan Kaur in 3d.
What happened after the first Anglo Sikh War?
When in August 1847 Duleep Singh refused to invest Tej Singh as Raja of Sialkot, the British Resident, Henry Lawrence (1806 – 1857), imprisoned the Maharani in the Samman Tower of the Lahore Fort and, ten days later, moved her to the fortress in Sheikhupura and reduced her pension to 48,000 rupees. She was taken to the Chunar Fort, about 45 km from Varanasi, and her jewellery was taken from her. Her treatment caused deep resentment among Sikhs.
A year later she escaped from the Chunar Fort, disguised as a servant, and travelled through 100’s of miles of forest to ask for sanctuary in Nepal. She arrived penniless at Kathmandu on 29 April 1849 and was given asylum by the Maharaja of Nepal and Jung Bahadur Rana with full dignity as a Queen consort of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The following letter is commonly cited without any context and has become an excitable quote. It was written just after the Battle of Chillianwallah on January 13, 1849 and the Battle of Gujrat of February 21 1849. The battle of Chillianwallah was a major disaster for the British and a comparatively high proportion of the casualties (almost 1,000) were British rather than Indian. This was mainly a result of the disaster which befell the 24th Regiment of Foot, which suffered 590 casualties. During this time Dalhousie and the Commander in Chief of India-Hugh Gough were facing intense scrutiny from by the British Parliament. Gough was to be recalled due to the British casualties at Chillianwallah. However, the Sikhs were defeated at the battle of Gujarat. The Punjab was annexed on 2nd April 1849.
It was at Camp Ferozepore that Dalhousie wrote to Brigadier Mountain(1).
From Governor General Dalhouise to Brig. Mountain.
Camp Ferozepore, Jan 31, 1849
My dear Mountain
I have received your letter of 28th.
I believe i have received all the letters you mentioned but the dates
of arrival from camp are very irregular.
I am much obliged by the promise of a larger plan.
It must be hard on LT. Bowie to come and go from you again.
The pretences of the Sikhs of their anxiety to get back the Ranee, [Jindan Kaur]
whom they were perpetually seeking to destroy when she was there, are preposterous. (2)
And the more sincere they are, the stronger are the grounds for not aceding to them.
She has the only manly understanding in the Punjab; and her restoration would furnish
the only thing which is wanting to render the present movement [Second Anglo Sikh War] truly formidable, an object and a head. (3)
Trust me this is no time for going back or winking an eyelid.
Em Yrs. most sincerely, Dalhouise
Brigr. Mountain, C.B..
(1) ARMINE SIMCOE HENRY MOUNTAIN, (1797–1854), colonel, adjutant-general of the queen’s forces in India. He was brought up in the ranks by Governor Dalhousie and made Brigadier Interestingly he died in a house belonging to Maharajah Duleep Singh at Futtyghur a monument to him stands at the cemetery there.
(2) A reference to the Sikh Army and various members of the Lahore Court who tried to stop her from becoming Queen.
(3) After the first Sikh war the power of the Sikhs was being eroded. The Khalsa witnessed the mistreatment of Maharani Jindan Kaur, especially in light of her separation from Maharajah Duleep Singh. It was Diwan Mulraj, the Hindu governor of Multan and his troops who would raise the standard of revolt against the British, leading to the second Anglo Sikh War. He would be joined by Raja Sher Singh Attarwiala and his father Chattar Singh Attariwal. They would be joined by many other including Bhai Maharaj Singh. Leading to the Battles of Ramnuggar, Chillianwallah and Gujarat.
It was clear that that Maharani Jindan Kaur understood politics and war in the same way as ‘man’ according to Dalhousie, as a result, she was too powerful and needed to be kept away from Punjab.
Additional Image above: Maharani Jindan Kaur. © The Trustees of the British Museum
For more information on the Anglo Sikh Wars visit the Sikh Museum Initiative website: www.anglosikhwars.com