Maharani Jind Kaur was the youngest wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. She was married to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1835. Known for striking beauty, intelligence and toughness, the British feared her as a threat.
Jind Kaur was popularly known as Maharani Jindan, she was the youngest of the five wives of the Maharaja. Her son Duleep Singh was born on 6th September, 1838.
During the birth of Duleep Singh, gossip started in the palace that he might not be the son of the Maharaja, but Maharaja Ranjit Singh put an end to it by publicly claiming Duleep Singh as his son and elevated Jindan’s position to a senior Rani. Thereon, started the rise of Maharani Jindan.
On Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death in June 1839, his senior ranis performed sati but Maharani Jindan refused, insisting that she had to look after her nine months old infant son. After Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death his eldest son Kharak Singh ascended the throne but was soon poisoned. Constant plotting against each other led to the death of all his sons.
In 1843, five years old Duleep Singh, the only surviving son heir of Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to ascend the throne. His maternal uncle Jawahar Singh, who appointed himself as the Prime Minister of Lahore and Maharani Jindan as the Regent. She became the de-facto ruler of Punjab. The Sikh army formed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, fully supported Duleep Singh but were unhappy by Jawahar Singh and killed him.
Meanwhile, the British were continuously watching the jostling of power in the Kingdom of Punjab. Maharani Jindan was young and inexperienced, she was fearful that the Sikh Army would take over her authority. This led to the Anglo Sikh war of 1845. Her plan failed as two generals Tej Singh and Lal Singh were bought over by the British.
The British couldn’t tolerate Maharani Jindan’s rebellious nature that threatened the British interest. Her influence over her son and her continuous endeavor to defy the British Empire made her a serious threat to the British Rule in India. The British started a smear campaign against her by calling her the ‘Messalina of Punjab’. The British separated the young Maharaja Duleep Singh from his mother and put him under the care of Doctor John Spencer Login.
They imprisoned the Maharani in Lahore and then to the impregnable Chunar Fort from where no prisoner had ever escaped. But the intelligent Maharani Jind Kaur escaped the Chunar Fort in the garb of a washer woman. She took refuge in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal.
Meanwhile, the British brainwashed the young Maharaja Duleep Singh and converted him to Christianity and took him to England.
Years later, Maharaja Duleep Singh was granted permission to meet his mother in Calcutta. Maharaja Duleep Singh was welcomed by a group of Sikhs by singing in unison “Bole So Nihal”. On seeing this the British forbade the Maharaja to travel further. He was ordered to leave India but allowed him to take his mother along with him to England. It cannot be denied that Maharani Jindan’s influence over Maharaja Duleep Singh was unquestionable and a major miscalculation of the British was that they thought her to be sick,frail and blind. The Maharani prompted her son to convert back to Sikhism. She acquainted her son to his faith, heritage, land and people.
She died in England and it took nearly a year for Maharaja Duleep Singh for transportation of her mortal remains to India. Neither her body nor her ashes were permitted by the British to be taken to Punjab. Her cremation took place in Nasik, in central India. It was in 1924 that Maharani Jindan’s granddaughter Princess Bhambha brought her ashes to Punjab and placed them in the memorial of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. This shows that even after her death the British feared her as “She had an iconic status,the last one to stand up to the British.” She was a brave and strong woman reintroduced Maharaja Duleep Singh to his lost faith, his people, his land, his heritage and his kingdom. It was her influence that made Maharaja Duleep Singh re- embrace Sikhism.
Maharani Jindan is still remembered in Punjab as the indomitable lady, a legend and a woman who courageously stood up eye to eye with the British till the very end. A woman who was a force that even the British feared.
Written by: Samita Kaur