The Punjab government would hand over the bust of Sikh emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh to the French envoy in India in June for its installation at Saint-Tropez in France, the birthplace of his general, Jean Francois Allard. The bust of the will be installed along with those of general Allard and his wife Bannou Pan Dei on September 17.
A delegation led by Saint Tropez deputy mayor Henri Allard, the direct lineal descendant of general Allard, had met Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday.
While the move is best seen to herald a new epoch of Punjab-France relations and boost tourism, HT gives you the story behind this move and a glimpse of General Allard’s life whose bust will be installed next to the Sikh emperor.
*Jean Francois Allard, a Frenchman and native of Saint Tropaz, was born in 1785. Trained in military life, Allard served as soldier in Napolean’s army. After the death of his officer Marshal Brune, he went to Leg-horn, with the idea of proceeding to America, but was persuaded by an Italian officer to go to Egypt with him.
*According to ‘A General Biographical Dictionary’ (Volume 4) by John Gorton, Allard left for Persia after finding no good fortune in Egypt and visited Abbas Mirza, who promised to give him the title of colonel and a regiment, which he never got. He then left for Kabul, where he was honourably received, but was scarcely established. It was here that he heard about a bold chief (Maharaja Ranjit Singh) in Lahore who was occupied in founding a kingdom.
*Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s association with Jean Francois Allard dates back to 1822, when he entered into the services of the Sikh emperor. Allard was commissioned with the work of raising Fauj-i-Khas, along with his colleague General Ventura (Italian), after which he was awarded the rank of a general.
*According to Gorton’s book, at first General Allard was set to discipline some men who were to be made instructors for others. After this, he organised a regiment, then a brigade, and subsequently a division. After the army was formed, the rival chiefs, who disputed the power with Ranjit Singh, were attacked and beaten in succession.
Highly impressed with his contribution, the Sikh emperor loaded him with honours. According to Kerry Brown’s book titled ‘Sikh Art and Literature’, Maharaja Ranjit Singh decorated General Allard with the ‘Bright star of Punjab’, which he very proudly wore above his Legion of Honour that was awarded to him by Napolean Bonaparte.
*The general left for France in 1836, to see his friends and relatives, but returned to India, agreeably to a promise made to Ranjit Singh. He continued to serve the Sikh emperor till tye latter’s death in 1839. General Allard died after a brief illness in 1840.