The French government and the family of the French General Jean François Allard, who served in the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, will install a statue of the Maharaja in St Tropez, France on September 17 and Ludhiana businessman, Harjinder Singh Kukreja during his last visit to Paris had initiated efforts to make the people of France aware of the great Sikh emperor.
The statue will be of 2 feet and 8.68 inches tall with 110 kg bronze. The statue was presented to French ambassador Alexander Ziegler at Punjab Bhawan in Chandigarh by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on July 12.
In his last visit to Paris, Kukreja, who is a social activist too, cycled across Paris, starting his bike trip from Hotel de la Tremouille, where the last Sikh Maharaja, Duleep Singh died in October 22, 1893. Kukreja cycled across the French capital to top attractions such as Napoleon’s tomb and Les Invalides, the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower. He stopped at the spots along with his French speaking translator and spoke to groups of people about the installation of the statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at St Tropez, France.
Kukreja cycled to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed banks of the Seine River and stopped for a break among the trees in the pretty Tuileries Gardens. He distributed pamphlets to visitors at the Arc de Triomphe, the Orsay Museum and more, and shared information about the historical Franco-Punjab relations.
“The French capital is widely considered among the prettiest cities in Europe and a bike tour of Paris is a wonderful way to engage with Parisians,” says Kukreja.
“The Sikhs and France have an excellent historical past and I wished to celebrate that by creating awareness about it,” he added.
Most don’t know that Maharaja Ranjit Singh had a French elite army called FaujE-Khas that was trained by the famous French General, JeanFrancois Allard.
“Kukreja’s cycling activity has contributed to the awareness of turban and Sikhism in France, and also reminds the French of the great memories between Sikhs and France,” says Ranjit G Singh of Sikhs de France, an organisation which represents French Sikhs.
Thierry Morel, a French diplomat in India, appreciated Kukreja’s efforts on behalf of the French Embassy in India for highlighting Franco-Punjab relations.