Empire of the Sikhs: Rare items on display in London exhibition

Among the items in the exhibition that runs until September 23 are glittering jewellery and weaponry, including personal items that belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and to his most famous wife Maharani Jind Kaur.
A statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh the first (emperor) of the Sikh Empire is silhouetted against the clouds in Amritsar near the heritage street. ‘Empire of the Sikhs’ exhibition London displays glittering jewellery and weaponry, including personal items that belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh.(Gurpreet Singh/HT Photo)
A statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh the first (emperor) of the Sikh Empire is silhouetted against the clouds in Amritsar near the heritage street. ‘Empire of the Sikhs’ exhibition London displays glittering jewellery and weaponry, including personal items that belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh.(Gurpreet Singh/HT Photo)
Updated on Jul 13, 2018 09:08 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, London | By, London

Over 100 rare items from private and public collections went on display on Thursday as part of a major ‘Empire of the Sikhs’ exhibition that narrates the life and times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), whose tenure challenged the supremacy of British rule.

The exhibition at the School of Oriental and African Studies organised by the UK Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA) with Kashi House CIC includes details of American and European adventurers who served the Sikh empire from 1799 to 1849.

Among the items in the exhibition that runs until September 23 are glittering jewellery and weaponry, including personal items that belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and to the most famous of his 30 ‘official’ wives, Maharani Jind Kaur.

A source of much interest to western visitors to the Sikh royal court prior to its annexation through the two bitterly fought Anglo-Sikh Wars (1845–46, 1848–49) was the Kohinoor diamond, which was wrested from Afghan hands in 1813.The jewel was eventually presented to Queen Victoria on July 3, 1850. Fitted with a rock crystal replica of the original, uncut Kohinoor, it is now preserved as part of the Royal Collection and is one of the highlights of the display.

The UKPHA is described as an organisation dedicated to securing Punjab’s cultural heritage for today’s audiences, and has roots in the personal journeys of its UK-based founders who set out to discover and make sense of their cultural inheritance.

Co-organiser Kashi House CIC is a media and publishing enterprise focused on the history and culture of the Sikhs and in the Punjab region in India and Pakistan. Its name refers to ‘Kashi’ in Punjab that Guru Gobind Singh founded in 1706.

Among the items in the exhibition that runs until September 23 are glittering jewellery and weaponry, including personal items that belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and to the most famous of his 30 ‘official’ wives, Maharani Jind Kaur.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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