Maharani Jind Kaur by M. L. Ahluwalia

Published in 2001, this work was first considered around 1993 where scholars including Dr Kirpal Singh, Professor Satbir Singh and Prithipal Singh Kapur deliberated the idea of holding a national level seminar on the first death centenary of Maharaja Duleep Singh. It was here that attendees highlighted the importance of and need for a biography focussed on Maharani Jind Kaur. Given professor M. L. Ahluwalia’s background in the study of the post-Ranjit Singh era, he was requested to undertake this vital work.


Previous works by Ahluwalia include Bhai Maharaj Singh (1972), Life and Times of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1989), and Land Marks in Sikh History (1996,1999). Around this time, Ahluwalia had faced a prolonged illness, the work was revised and expanded upon by Prithipal Singh Kapur. This is discussed further in Kapur’s editorial notes which open the reader up to the context and background of this work.

 
 

It goes without saying that Maharani Jind Kaur played an influential role in the latter days of the Sikh empire. Amongst incredible turbulence and uncertainty, she was able to politically navigate the struggle for power following the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

“But Rani Jind Kaur's escape from the British clutches and her dauntless efforts to organise an uprising against the British can be said to have had a lasting effect on Duleep Singh that made him a crusader against the British. Maharani Jind Kaur's oft-repeated advice to her son was not to trust the malechhas (the British). Such was her hatred towards the Firangzees that she bade her son not to cremate her body after her death on the British soil or to immerse her ashes in the waters of British seas or rivers.” - The Last Phase: Kathmandu and the End, Page 115

Ahluwalia begins with this angle, describing the events that followed the death of Ranjit Singh and succession that followed. This sets a vital context to the time period in which succession to the throne was obtained through assassinations and treason. The particular case of Nau Nihal Singh and his father, Maharaja Kharak Singh, comes to mind, where Nau Nihal Singh conspired with the three Dogra brothers to murder Chet Singh and imprison Kharak Singh. Ahluwalia notes that Ranjit Singh was somewhat aware of this potential clash, at which point he had stationed Nau Nihal Singh in Peshawar in an attempt to ease friction. Nau Nihal Singh’s plan succeeded, however, he tragically died after being crushed by a collapsed archway.

Through detailing Maharani Jind Kaur’s direct role in this turbulent period, Ahluwalia sets a particular focus on her treatment by the British, namely Henry Lawerence. This enables the reader to understand more about the role of the British East India company between the first and second Anglo-Sikh war, whereby Maharani Jind Kaur is treated as a prisoner in her own kingdom. It is during this time that we witness the true determination of Maharani Jind Kaur, which is further outlined by her letters between members throughout the rebellion including Kahan Singh Mann and more. Extracts of these letters are presented in Ahluwalia’s work, specifically chapter 7 Forging Rebellion.


Overall, Ahluwalia’s work is one of the very few that focus specifically on the persona and role of Maharani Jind Kaur, giving emphasis on her role post Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Throughout, Ahluwalia draws from a range of primary and secondary sources, one in particular being “Sunset on the Sikh Empire” by Sita Ram Kohli which is one of the well known works on the final days of the Sikh empire. Maharani Jind Kaur truly reflects a strong character, one that repeatedly remained unfazed in the face of oppression.


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