Awal aakheey sift Khudaa-ei dee ji, jehrhaa kudrat de khel banaawdaa ei. Shah Mohammada os taun sadaa daree-ei, badshaahan taun bheekh mangaawdaa ei.
(First of all, praise be to God, the Creator of Nature and his ways of working.
O, Shah Mohammad, always have His fear in you. He can make the kings beg.)
The scene is the courtyard of an Aulakh Jat Sardar Manna Singh’s house at village Chaharh, Tehsil Jaffarwal, District Sialkot (Now Pakistan). A group of girls playing over there declare to play a game, Raja and Rani. “I shall be the Rani” announced a small smart girl. “I shall be the Raja” shouted
another healthy girl. By Raja, the girls meant Maharaja Ranjit Singh and by Rani a queen of the Maharaja. There was a big laugh with remarks, “How can this girl be a Rani?” The girls did play the game. Time passed. The budding beauty, who acted as Rani, grew to marriageable age always dreaming to be a Rani of the Maharaja and developing in herself the desired qualities.
Manna Singh, who was holding a respectable position in the army of Ranjit Singh, proposed the marriage of his daughter to the Maharaja. Initially, the Maharaja was not interested in marrying the young girl but due to the constant requests of Manna Singh, he sent to village Chaharh his ‘arrow and sword’ to which Jind Kaur was symbolically married and she came to the palace at Lahore as Rani Jind Kaur. Because of her beauty with royal qualities and manners better than Noor Jehan, became the Mahbooba, i.e., the ‘loved one’ of Ranjit Singh at first sight. The dream of Jindan was fulfilled.
Jindan’s rise touched the peak when the King proposed that she being more beautiful and possessing far better administrative qualities than Noor Jehan (who ruled over Delhi on behalf of King Jehangir) should rule over the Kingdom of Lahore on his behalf. She declined to say that it was her humble prayer that my Sarkar (Lordship) may live long and she may always be blessed with the love of her dear Sarkar.
4 September 1838 was the happiest day in the life of the King and this queen when they were blessed with a son who was named Dalip Singh.
One is never aware
Takdir zanad khandaa, Tadbir kunad bandaah
(A person does not know what is in store for him in future and luck laughs at his thoughts.)
Jindan’s shining star started declining like the setting of a sun behind a peak forever. Her Sarkar had an attack of paralysis, from which he never recovered.
Realizing that his end was near, the King called his Wazir, Dhian Singh and asked him to hold Gita in his hand and thus swear that he will be faithful to Khalsa Darbar and appointed his eldest son Kharak Singh as his successor. After three days on 27 June 1839 as the sun set, Faqir Azizudin, the Foreign Affairs Minister and an Hakim who was continuously checking the pulse beat of the King, came out of the King’s room and raised his arms up announcing the demise of the King. The whole of Lahore was dark the following night because nobody ignited a fire even to prepare dinner.
The cremation date was announced as 30 June 1839. Jindan was not allowed to sit on the funeral pyre of the Maharaja to become Sati by Rani Gudan (Daughter of Raja of Kangra, who was holding the head of the dead King in her lap) and persuaded her to care for the young prince who was not even one year old.
Within a span of six years and after several tribulations, destiny smiled at the young prince. With Hira Singh as Wazir and Pandit Jallah as Advisor, Dalip Singh was appointed Maharaja and Maharani Jindan as Regent of the child Maharaja.
The political history of this great woman now started. She approached the Panchayats in the army and mobilised opinion in her favour. The Panchayats started treating her as Mai Sahib of the Khalsa Commonwealth and Dalip Singh as their King. Hira Singh, Jallah, and Misr Lal Singh (who was controlling her establishment) were eclipsed. This was a political victory for her.
She cast off her veil (Parda) and assumed the sovereignty of the Khalsa ruling Punjab on behalf of her son and appointed her real brother Jawahar Singh as Wazir. She was reviewing the troops and addressing them, holding the court and transacting the business of the State with manly qualities. The army esteemed her so high that the generals declared that they will place her on the throne of Delhi. She became the symbol of the sovereignty of the Khalsa, ruling Punjab in the name of her son. At this stage, she was the Valeria Messalina of Punjab (Valeria Messalina was a Roman Empress and third wife of Emperor Claudius – a powerful and influential woman).
The Dogras, since the demise of Ranjit Singh, were eliminating all his successors one after another. They managed the murder of his son Pyshoura Singh and blamed Jawahar Singh for the same and killed him while inspecting army units along with Maharani Jindan. Thereafter Misr Lal Singh was appointed Wazir and Tej Singh as Commander-in-chief of the army.
In December 1845 there was a clash of arms between the Sikhs and the English due to hostilities of Major George Broadfoot in the cis-Sutlej area of Lahore Darbar and also due to the policies of Lord Ellenborough and Hardinge proved by papers in the Public Records Office, London. This led to the first Anglo-Sikh War. The Maharani, the Regent exhibited remarkable determination and courage during the critical period of the First War with the British.
The war, which had nearly been won, was lost due to the traitors Misr Lal Singh, Tej Singh and Gulab Singh. The Treaty of Bhairowal was signed on 16 December 1846. As per the terms,
Maharani was dismissed as Regent and given a pension of Rs. 1,50,000. Henry Lawrence was appointed British Resident and Raja Gulab Singh got Kashmir as a reward. Jalandhar area was annexed with British territory.
By March 1847, Maharani Jindan was deprived of all powers. In August 1847, the child Maharaja refused to confer the title of Raja to Tej Singh. Blaming that this was due to the instigation by Jindan and blamed her to plot a conspiracy to murder the British Resident and Tej Singh. She was removed from Lahore Fort to Sheikhupura Fort and separated from her son by force in contradiction to Bhairowal Treaty. Her allowances were reduced to Rs. 48,000.
Lord Dalhousie instructed Sir Frederick Currie, the British Resident at Lahore to expel her from Punjab. Currie acted promptly. Implicating the Maharani in a fictitious plot, she was sent from Sheikhupura to Benaras, where she was under strict surveillance by Major Macgregor. Again there was a case that she was in correspondence with Diwan Mool Raj of Multan and Raja Sher Singh of Attari who ultimately fought the Second Sikh War against the British. She had written a letter to Raja Sher Singh, reading:
”The first thing to be done is to root out the stem and you must continue to effect this by punishing the Firangees. Use towards these Malechhas the same wiles and artifices that they have used themselves and manage by some device to expel them from Lahore…Encourage the Hindustanis as much as possible…My thoughts night and day are fixed on you”
It seems the instructions to Sher Singh leaked and she was shifted to Chunar Fort after confiscating all her jewellery worth lakhs. She filed a case against East India Co. by appointing an advocate in Calcutta but to no avail.
The Chunar Fort is on the bank of the sacred river Ganges, she used to get water from the river for a bath every day through her maids. On April 19, 1849, she kept a note in her cell reading:
“You put me in the cage and locked me up. For all your locks and your sentries, I got out by magic… had told you plainly not to push me too hard – but do not think I ran away, understand well, that I escaped by myself unaided…When I quit the fort of Chunar I threw down two papers on my Gaddi and one I threw on European Charpoy, now don’t imagine I got out like a thief.”
She escaped from the fort in disguise as a maid and never returned. She kept her shoes by the side of flowing sacred water as if she had drowned in it. She and a maid wore dresses as a saint and a follower and started travelling on foot towards Nepal. There was an alert all around Chunar and up to the border of Nepal regarding her disappearance from the fort. All the staff of the police stations was engaged in search of her. But by spending nights in temples and at other religious places and moving in the daytime she was able to cross the border on foot on April 29, 1849. She then sent a message to Rana Jang Bahadur of Nepal that Maharani Jindan, your friend’s wife, is coming to you for asylum.
The Rana personally came to welcome her at a place 25 miles from Kathmandu with a Palki (palanquin) and escorted her to the city with full royal honours on 29 April 1849. She has been sanctioned a maintenance allowance and given a residence at Thapathall on the bank of river Bagmati. In Nepal, Rani Jindan carried through her secret plans for the expulsion of the British from Punjab. She was the guest of the Nepal Raj till 1860. The British Residency all along pressurized Nepal Raj to hand her over to the British. Nepal Raj got tired and imposed undue restrictions on her.
In 1860 Dalip Singh was allowed to come to Calcutta to meet her. She left Nepal and joined her son in Calcutta in April 1861. She was practically blind at that time. She was pained to find that her Dalip had lost her Sikh identity and symbols. Dalip promised to re-adapt the same and fulfilled it. Mother and son sailed for England on May 4 arriving in July 1861.
Realizing that her end was near, she asked Dalip that her bones should not be buried in the earth of this country of merciless cheats and they must go to her loving Punjab. She died at Kensington, England on 1 August 1863. Dalip brought the body to Nasik, hurriedly cremated it on the banks of the River Godavari and immersed the ashes (while still hot) in the river because the Britishers did not like his presence on the soil of India for a longer time than required for the immersion ceremonies. He was also not allowed to go to Punjab.
Bhekhari te raj karawai Raja te bhekhari, Dharti te akaash chraavai Chareh akaash giravai (1252)
(Almighty can make a beggar a king, and king a beggar, He may elevate one to the heights of the sky, and may also cause one’s downfall to the earth.)