‘Bamba’s collection’ and the princess who remained unrecognised in Lahore
Today I am taking you to another unrevealed part of Lahore Fort which hardly is known to the public. This is Princess Bamba’s Collection or the Sikh Gallery of Fort. As you enter the Jahangiri Quadrangle, a building on your left houses this collection which was also the haveli of Maharani Jindan. She was the youngest wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the mother of the last Maharaja, Duleep Singh. The same haveli inside Lahore Fort houses this grand collection. Another access to it is from the Lahore Fort’s curator office near the canteen area. Now you must be thinking why it is called the Bamba’s collection.
There is a lengthy story behind this mystery and to make it short let me start with the Last Maharaja Duleep Singh. He was taken to Britain as a child under the care of the East India Company after the second Anglo-Sikh War. He was kept away from his mother Maharani Jindan, so that the Sikhs might not come into the power again, that’s my opinion. After several years he was allowed to meet his mother and at that time he was told about his lost kingdom and religion after which he decided to reclaim it from British treachery. In the meantime, Duleep Singh got married and had six children. Bamba was the eldest. So here comes in the Bamba Jindan to whom this gallery is dedicated.
Princess Bamba lived like a stranger in the capital of the kingdom where her grandfather was once known as ‘Sher-e-Punjab’. This was the sad story of this princess. Before her death she requested to have following words inscribed on her grave: “The difference between royalty and servility vanishes,
The moment the writing of destiny is encountered
If one opens the grave of a dead,
None will be able to discern rich from poor”
Princess Bamba was born on September 29, 1869, in London and like her father; she was brought up as a Christian with British values. The poor soul was unfamiliar with her historic roots and religion. She was well educated and attended 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 be known well in England but had no recognition in her own roots.
Listening to the stories of the grandeur and power of her grandfather in Punjab, Bamba decided to visit India. Bamba settled alone in Lahore and 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.
Bamba was widowed in 1939 and had no children. When she died, her funeral was arranged by United Kingdom Deputy High Commissioner in Lahore with only a few people on March 10, 1957. She rests in peace at the Gora Qabristan located on Jail Road near Sherpao Bridge. She was an important personality being the offspring of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, but unfortunately she was ignored during her lifetime and now also people hardly know where she lays buried. Before her death she requested to have following words inscribed on her grave;
The difference between royalty and servility vanishes
The moment the writing of destiny is encountered
If one opens the grave of a dead
None will be able to discern rich from poor
Now let me take you back to Bamba’s collection in Lahore Fort. Well, Princess Bamba left important artifacts to her secretary, Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra of Lahore. The collection was huge and consisted of watercolor and paintings on ivory and a number of photographs, statues and other articles. The Princess Bamba Collection had been acquired by the Government of Pakistan for preservation as a national asset by the Department of Archaeology and today this collection is placed in Lahore Fort. The collection belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his son Maharaja Duleep Singh. Most of the objects appear to have originally gone out of the Sikh Darbar in Lahore to England, where Maharaja Duleep Singh was exiled after the annexation of the Punjab by the British in 1849. The collection remained in his Suffolk home as a family treasure, which was later on inherited by his daughter, Princess Bamba.
Previously, the Bamba collection was closed for the public but recently it was opened for all by the Walled City of Lahore Authority. While visiting the place you will see that it is a collection of extraordinary pictures and paintings of Sikh Darbar, Maharaja Duleep Singh, Prince Nau Nehal Singh, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, Maharani Jindan, Bahadur Shah Zafar, and Maharaja Sher Singh’s Council, a model of Ranjeet Singh’s entourage on elephant and views of city at the bank of River Ravi. The collection is of immense historical significance as it throws ample light on the life and time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, his son Maharaja Duleep Singh and the Sikh Darbar in Lahore.