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Day Five In Amritsar:
The Sandhanwalias






The Singh Sandhanwalia  family very kindly invited me to their home today to see their own private archive relating to Duleep Singh, the Last Emperor of Punjab.

Towards the latter part of Duleep Singh’s life, he began to question his treatment by the British Government and the circumstances that led to his exile in England. Despite the British Government’s best efforts to prevent it, contact with the Maharaja was re-established by Thakar Singh, the former’s cousin who had helped reignite Duleep Singh’s interest in Sikhism.

In 1884, Thakar Singh left Amritsar for London along with his sons Narinder Singh and Gurdit Singh. They were accompanied by a granthi, and a list of properties held by the Sikh Kingdom and subsequently taken by the British.

Thakar Singh and his family took an active part in the attempt by Duleep Singh to reclaim the Sikh Kingdom of Punjab.

The Sandhanwalia family are descendants of Thakar Singh and have been generous in sharing their knowledge and point of view, enabling me to extend my knowledge and understanding from a Sikh-Punjabi perspective. It’s a privilege to be invited into their home and made so welcome.

Their archive contains many letters purportedly from Princess Bamba and Princess Sophia to Sardar Pritam Singh Sandhanwalia. The family is proud of its ancestry and is keen to share its story.

Another benefit of being invited to a family home was the very delicious lunch, all home cooked and being in the Punjab – there was lots of it!

Whilst I was visiting, several family friends popped in to say hello. One of Damandeep’s aunties has a boutique and promptly measured me up for a salwar-kameez suit! I was shown some beautifully embroidered pink fabric which will be brought back tomorrow, transformed as something lovely to wear.

I’ve really had a very warm welcome from Amritsar.

The interest in Ancient House has continued. This afternoon I had an interview with Neha Saini from The Tribune. Neha was very interested in the British Council’s project and how conservation and presentation of the historical heritage of Amritsar could be enhanced. Towards this goal, both of Punjab’s major cities, Amritsar and Chandigarh, are interested in being accorded UNESCO status.

Having been here for almost a week, I can see why tourists only stay for a couple of days, but there is so much more to Amritsar than the Golden Temple, wonderful as it is, and with the right development the city could attract visitors for longer periods.

I also had a TV interview with Gurprit Singh from Sangar TV which has a large following in Birmingham, UK. Gurprit, a well known actor and presenter, was interested in the Sikh connections at the museum and the British Council project, endorsing how important it is that British Museums share their expertise and that Sikh and Punjabi Museums must engage with the offer of help and advice.

I can barely believe I’ve been here for almost a week now. I am hoping that the huge amount of interest generated by my visit will help with the new Duleep Singh gallery project at the Ancient House Museum. We need our supporters to dig deep and help us raise the £50,000 it will take to create the new displays.

March 2, 2015


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The Sandhanwalias"

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