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Gravestone of Duleep Singh's son restored

india Updated: Sep 08, 2012 12:11 IST

On a solemn occasion marked by cloudy skies and a piper playing the lament, Sikhs, Scots and others came together at a church in Perthshire in Scotland to commemorate one of Maharaja Duleep Singh's children, who died there in 1865.

Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the Sikh empire, was exiled to Britain in 1854, aged 13, after the British annexation of Punjab.

Known for his lavish lifestyle, he moved to Scotland and came to be known as the Black Prince of Perthshire.

Duleep Singh's child was born in Perthshire on August 4, 1865, but died within hours. The child was buried in Perthshire.

The gravestone where the child was buried was restored and consecrated at the ceremony organised by the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail (ASHT) in Kenmore Kirk on Thursday.

The restoration work was commissioned by Kenmore parish church and the local project, Kenmore in Bloom, with financial contribution by ASHT on behalf of the Sikh community, reports from Scotland said.

Harbinder Singh, director of ASHT, said: "Despite this remote location the tragic obscurity surrounding this infant child remains a fact that he was born an heir to the Sikh kingdom. His grandfather Ranjit Singh and father Duleep Singh remain potent symbols not only of our heritage but also of the defining period in history which forged the current ties between Sikhs and the UK."

On the gravestone's restoration, Reverend Anne Brennan, minister at Kenmore, told The Times: "We've had it cleaned up a bit and made the writings on it much clearer." ecalling the remarkable course of events in Duleep Singh's life that included his presenting the iconic Kohinoor diamond to Queen Victoria, Harbinder Singh said the late maharaja was married to an Arabic-speaking woman called Bamba Muller.

"Duleep Singh and Bamba had six children," Harbinder said. "On August 4, 1865, their first son was born, but tragically the baby only lived for 24 hours and was not named. As Duleep and his wife were Christians, their child, who would have been heir to the throne, was buried in Kenmore, so it is now a place of historical significance for Sikhs worldwide."

Guests at Thursday's event included Glasgow's first Sikh councillor Sohan Singh, who was elected in June. A businessman, Sohan Singh said the Kenmore ceremony was a "great moment" for Scotland's estimated 50,000 Sikhs.

"It will be a tremendous honour to attend as Duleep Singh is a very famous name in our history," Sohan said. "He was the heart and soul of India, especially for Sikhs, Muslims and Christians in Punjab and is also famous in Pakistan."

Duleep Singh died in Paris in 1893, but his body was taken to Elveden in Suffolk, where he is buried in the churchyard.

ASHT's main aim is to promote greater awareness of the shared heritage between Sikhs and Britain.