Maharani Jindan Kaur
Maharani Jindan Kaur, the last wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, is in news for the auction of some of her jewellery at Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art sale in London recently.
Who was Rani Jindan?
- She was the youngest wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh empire, whose boundaries stretched from Kabul to Kashmir and the borders of Delhi. She was also the mother of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the empire, who was raised by the British.
When did she become the regent?
- Duleep Singh was five years old when he was placed on the throne in 1843 after the death of two heirs to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Since he was just a child, Maharani Jindan was made the regent. Not a rubber stamp, she took an active interest in running the kingdom, introducing changes in the revenue system.
When did the British imprison and exile her?
- The British declared war on the Sikh empire in December 1845. After their victory in the first Anglo-Sikh war, they retained Duleep Singh as the ruler but imprisoned Jind Kaur. The British tried hard to vilify Jindan as she tried to rally forces against them, but “unlike many others, she did not give in.”
- The British campaign against her was vicious, describing her as a prostitute, seductress and the ‘Messalina of the Punjab’, a reference to the promiscuous third wife of Roman Emperor Claudius.
- Jindan believed that if united, Indian rulers could oust the British. She was in touch with Bhai Maharaj Singh, who tried to rebel against the British after the annexation of the Sikh empire.
Did she ever reunite with Duleep Singh?
- Maharani Jindan met Duleep Singh at Calcutta in April 1861. The British, ever suspicious of the maharani’s machinations, ordered then that she leave for London in May.
- It was due to her influence that Duleep Singh, who had converted to Christianity, returned to Sikhism.
- The long exile took a heavy toll on Maharani Jindan’s health. She passed away in her sleep on August 1, 1863, two years after she walked into the Kensington Gardens in 1861.