Post partition, every morning a weak old woman would board the Model Town bus service headed to the city. The conductor never asked her for money or he would invite the anger of the last Queen of Punjab.
Princess Bamba Sutherland, the eldest daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh and grand-daughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was born on September 29, 1869, in London.
Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja of Punjab was taken away to England by British after annexing Punjab. Since he was still a child he was forcibly converted to Christianity and made to adopt British values in order to prevent him from ever thinking about regaining Punjab. He was also kept away from his mother Maharani Jindan. When he finally met his mother years later, he was told about his lost kingdom and religion after which he decided to reclaim it from British treachery. During his struggle he married and had six children, three sons and three daughters from the first marriage.
Bamba, was the most colorful character of the six and was a rebel like her father and daring like her Grandfather Ranjit Singh. She was well educated and attended Oxford university. The queen victoria was very kind towards her and prompted her to be a royal socialite. A true firebrand like her grandfather, she was very active politically in England and protested heavily for women’s right to vote.
When she visited Lahore in 1910, she met many of her relatives and admirers of Ranjit Singh and her interest in her grandfather’s kingdom grew. When she finally got the permission to bring her grandmother Maharani Jindan’s ashes to Lahore in 1924, she oversaw the entire ceremony herself alongside her sister Catherine. There, a huge number of people gathered to meet the descendants of the Maharaja of Punjab. So much so that British had to disperse the crowd for it was considered politically dangerous.
Thereafter, she started visiting Lahore more often to stay close to the land which her grandfather once ruled. During this time, she married Col. Sutherland, who later became principal of King Edward medical college Lahore. She was widowed in 1939 without any children.
Widowed and completely lonely after her sister also passed away she divided her time between England and Lahore. In 1944, she permanently moved to Lahore and chose Lahore even after partition for she wished to die in the kingdom which was rightfully hers. It was during this time that she began styling herself as the Queen of Punjab and said herself to have lived like an alien in her own kingdom. She lived in a house in Model Town which was named ‘Gulzar’ where she lived in company of her loyal secretary Pir Karim Bux, whom she had initially hired to translate inherited Persian documents from her father.
She had inherited a vast collection of pricelss paintings, art objects, historical documents and royal orders from her father and kept these in safe custody at Lahore. The collection was later formed into a museum inside Lahore fort now called the Princess Bamba Collection.
On 10 March, 1957, the last Queen of Punjab and the last living descendant of the mighty Maharaja Ranjit Singh quietly slipped into the soil of her own kingdom, unkown to most of the society. The Goverment of Pakistan arranged for a small ceremony and so did British High commission in Pakistan but unkown to most of the population of the land her grandfather had once ruled.
None of the six children of Maharaja Duleep Singh had any children. The British kept a strict eye on Duleep Singh during his entire struggle to regain his kingdom Punjab and, true to their character, treacherously frustrated all his efforts until he was found dead at age 55 in a Paris hotel room. All six of his children died issueless, some very young under mysterious circumstances, before they could have children. Could the British have cleverly orchestrated the systematic end of Ranjit Singh’s lineage to prevent any possibility of uprising.
Located in Gora Kabristan on jail road, Lahore, the grave of the last of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s descendants still remains unknown, decked with flowers brought only by the descendants of Pir Karim Bakhsh from ‘Gulzar’, Model Town, Lahore, the residence of late Princess Bamba Sutherland.
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