Kids Corner

Photos - by the author.


Day Three in Amritsar:
Ram Bagh -
Ranjit Singh’s Summer Palace





After a fairly terrifying auto-rickshaw journey we arrived at Ram Bagh Gardens, home of Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s Summer Palace. A green serene lung in a dusty city, a short distance from the Golden Temple.

Ranjit Singh spent three months at a time here, away from the Lahore Darbar.

We started our visit at the Ranjit Singh Panorama, a large modern building created in 2006. Originally designed to hold a series of dioramas about the Darbar of Ranjit Singh alongside a large battle panorama, today it also contains the temporary displays of The Ranjit Singh Museum.
Starting with the museum and its collection, we were introduced to Raman Kumar, Keep of Museums. Raman explained that the museum had moved out of the Summer Palace seven years ago and they were still waiting for renovations to be completed.

The collection is a combination of weaponry, works on paper, paintings and two chairs. The first chair is an original chair belonging the Maharajah, and is surely the star of the show.

Consisting of carved and painted wood, it features lions, fish and peacocks.

The second is a replica of the Golden Throne; the original is in the Victoria & Albert (“V & A”) collection in London.
The work on paper, featuring Maharani Jind Kaur (Ranjit Singh’s last wife) and her son, Duleep Singh, immediately caught my attention because of the connection to the Ancient House. The collection holds a large group of these late 18th/19th century works featuring members of the Maharajah’s family; personally, I really liked them.

Another eye-catcher was the copy of the Military Manual of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, attributed to the workshop of Iman Bakhsh Lahori of Lahore, c 1822-30. The photo doesn’t really do the manuscript justice, the illustrations are exquisite and the lettering shimmers, reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts.
The collection is reasonably displayed, although it would be fair to say that there

definitely is scope for a partnership project here and advice on display techniques. For example, suitable pinning materials and some integrated pest management (IPM) are obvious areas that sharing UK expertise would benefit the museum.

I was allowed to visit the temporary store on site. There are other stores around Amritsar. I’ve been into a range of museum stores in my time, this was not the worst by a long way but there is a clear need for the collection to be housed in a permanent building.

The collection is accessioned and objects numbered, in fact the label for the Military Manuscript had a well written English translation with all the usual information you would expect to see in any UK museum.

Raman was open to suggestions and I will be meeting the senior officials next week in Chandigarh to discuss how a joint project could move forward.

Unfortunately a completion date for the Summer Palace is not in place, and after visiting the site it seems that it could be a long time before the building is fit for purpose.

I really enjoyed the panorama itself. I could see the attraction for school parties. There was a very jolly group visiting today, who all waved hello when they saw us – very reminiscent of the lovely schools who come to Ancient House! I preferred the individual dioramas to the large panorama simply because everything was facing away from the viewer, which seemed a little strange.

There was a great recreation of the gilding of the Golden Temple being overseen by Ranjit Singh. I’m sure that must be a favourite with younger visitors!
The other great excitement of the day was access to the Summer Palace itself – something normally off-limits to visitors. I can only image how spectacular the palace must have looked in its heyday. Even in the state it’s in, you can see the magnificent beauty in the structure of the building.

We were able to explore as much as we liked, unfortunately due to the large population of live and dead pigeons only Peter Singh was brave enough to go to the second floor of the building.

Ever keen to see as much as possible, we then moved onto the gatehouse, climbing right to the top to the enjoy the panoramic views of the city. It is said that Ranjit Singh could see the Golden Temple from here. This is no longer possible due to the development of the city, but I did spot my hotel which was rather exciting and almost a Ranjit Singh moment!

Peter gave me such a fabulous explanation about the bridge inside the gateway, that I could almost see the Maharajah climbing off his elephant right in front of me.

Feeling the heat, we managed to talk our way into the Amritsar Club for a quick refreshing drink. I’m not sure all the members approved, but it was nice to be able to see inside one of the many private clubs that sprung up in the gardens once the British took over the Punjab. The clubs are still around today.
Finally, it was time to see something I am already familiar with, the statue of Maharajah Ranjit Singh. The statue of Maharajah Duleep Singh in Thetford has an uncanny resemblance, a real case of ‘like father, like son’ although ours is much smaller in stature. It was fantastic to see the statue in Amritsar. I’ve seen images on the internet and in books, but as one of my group said: “You can really feel the power of the man”.

February 26, 2015

Conversation about this article

Comment on "Day Three in Amritsar:
Ram Bagh -
Ranjit Singh’s Summer Palace"

To help us distinguish between comments submitted by individuals and those automatically entered by software robots, please complete the following.

Please note: your email address will not be shown on the site, this is for contact and follow-up purposes only. All information will be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Sikhchic reserves the right to edit or remove content at any time.