Bamba Sutherland: Advocate of Indian Independence and Women’s Rights

Bamba Sutherland: From Sikh Empire Heiress to Independence Activist

Princess Bamba Sutherland (29 September 1869 – 10 March 1957) was a remarkable figure in the annals of Indian history. A member of the royal family that once ruled the Sikh Empire in Punjab, she transcended the confines of her aristocratic heritage to become a fervent advocate for Indian independence and women’s rights.

Bamba Sutherland’s life’s journey, from the courts of England to the vibrant streets of Lahore, is a testament to her indomitable spirit and her unyielding commitment to justice.

Early Life of Bamba Sutherland: Bridging Two Worlds

Born as Bamba Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh, Princess Bamba was the eldest daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh and Maharani Bamba Müller. Her father, the last ruler of the Sikh Empire, was exiled to England following the British annexation of Punjab after the Second Anglo-Sikh War. Her mother, an Abyssinian-German woman, imbued in her a rich cultural heritage that spanned continents and traditions.

Despite the tumultuous circumstances of her birth, Bamba Sutherland’s early years were marked by privilege and protection under the watchful eyes of Queen Victoria and her son, King Edward VII.

However, this period of relative stability was shattered when her father, disillusioned by his treatment at the hands of the British, attempted to reclaim his kingdom. His efforts were in vain, and he died in exile in Paris, leaving Bamba and her siblings to fend for themselves in a foreign land.

A Scholar and Suffragette

Princess Bamba Sutherland’s education was a reflection of her resilience and intellect. After completing her schooling under the care of Arthur Oliphant, she pursued higher education at Somerville College, Oxford.

Her academic journey continued across the Atlantic at Northwestern University in Chicago, where she studied medicine. Although her aspirations to become a doctor were thwarted by gender biases, her time in the United States solidified her resolve to fight for equality and justice.

Returning to India, Bamba’s life took on a new dimension. She settled in Lahore, the heart of her ancestral kingdom, and became an ardent supporter of the Indian independence movement. Her home, affectionately known as Gulzar (Rose Palace), became a hub for revolutionaries like Lala Lajpat Rai, whom she hosted and supported in their quest for freedom from colonial rule.

An Advocate for Independence

Princess Bamba’s contributions to the Indian independence movement were significant yet often overlooked. Her advocacy extended beyond mere words; she provided tangible support to the cause by sheltering and aiding key figures in the struggle. Her deep connection to her homeland and its people fueled her determination to see India free from British domination.

In 1924, she achieved a personal and symbolic victory when she successfully transferred the ashes of her grandmother, Maharani Jindan Kaur, from Bombay to Lahore. This act of reverence for her grandmother, who had fought valiantly against British encroachment, was a poignant reminder of the enduring spirit of the Sikh resistance.

Legacy and Remembrance

Widowed in 1939, Bamba chose to remain in Lahore, steadfast in her love for her homeland. Her later years were spent nurturing her garden of roses and continuing her advocacy for Indian independence. Even as the subcontinent was engulfed in the turmoil of Partition, she refused to leave Lahore, the city that held her family’s legacy.

Princess Bamba Sutherland passed away on 10 March 1957, her funeral attended by a few loyal friends and representatives of the British High Commission. Her final resting place, adorned with red roses as per her wishes, stands as a quiet testament to her life’s work and her unyielding spirit.

Also Read:Jay Duleep Singh: Bridging Cultures and Facing Adversity

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