Sartorially Rakish: Maharaja Duleep Singh

The Last Maharaja of Takht-e-Lahore & Originator of True 'SWAG'

He was deposed, brought to Britain in 1854, and paraded like a conquest of empire.

Duleep Singh is as much a conquest of empire as the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond he is claimed to have “gifted” to the crown. He is procured, coveted, treasured and locked away like a jewel.

Yet, the last Maharajah of Takht-e-Lahore remains to be one of the first ambassadors of everything 'west' about the subcontinent! 


Maharaja Duleep Singh, later in life nicknamed the Black Prince of Perthshire, was the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire. He was Maharaja Ranjit Singh's youngest son, the only child of Maharani Jind Kaur.
On 18 September 1843, at the age of five, he was, after the murder of Maharaja Sher Singh, proclaimed Maharaja of the Punjab with his mother, MaharanI Jind Kaur, as his Regent. But in December 1846, after the First Anglo-Sikh War, she was replaced by a British Resident and imprisoned. Mother and son were not allowed to meet again for thirteen and a half years. In April 1849 ten year old Duleep was put in the care of Dr John Login.
On 19 April 1854, the Maharaja and his party sailed for England where they reached in May 1854. In England Maharaja Duleep Singh lived in the first instance with the Login family and was presented to Queen Victoria who took very favourably to him. In January 1861, Duleep Singh visited India, but was not permitted to come to the Punjab. He halted at Calcutta where his mother, Maharani Jind Kaur, then living in exile at Kathmandu in Nepal, met him after 13 years. Duleep Singh took her to England where she died after about two years later on 1 August 1863. During the last two years of her life, his mother told the Maharaja about his Sikh heritage and the Empire which once had been his to rule.
Maharaja married at the British Consulate at Alexandria in Egypt, on 7 June 1864, Bamba Muller, daughter of a German merchant, Ludwig Muller, and Abysenian Egyptian mother, Sofia.
On his return to England, the Maharaja and Maharani Bamba lived for the first few years at Elveden, a sporting estate, of which the Maharaja had got possession in September 1864. Maharaja Duleep Singh and Maharani Bamba had six children, Victor Albert Jay Duleep Singh, Fredrick Victor Duleep Singh, Bamba Sofia Jindan Duleep Singh, Catherine Hilda Duleep Singh, Sofia Alexandra Duleep Singh and Albert Edward Alexander Duleep Singh, born between the years 1866 and 1979.
Drained financially and destitute of friends, he died in his hotel room in Paris on 22 October 1893. His body was taken to Elveden, England, by his son Prince Victor, where it was interred beside the graves of Prince Frederick and Prince Edward.


Image 1: Mahajara during his early days in London at the Claridge’s Hotel – inspired profusely by traditional English clothing
Image 2: Vintage trench coat. also known as the ‘Kent’ was one of the many English ensembles that inspired his style sense
Duleep Singh has not only been able to influence hundreds and thousands of Sikhs living abroad, but also used his impeccable sartorial splendor to inspire the next generation of Sikh community to its unique sense of style.
Image: The increasing influence of Maharani Jind Kaur on her son – Duleep Singh revisiting his Sikh roots increasingly reflects in his outfits
Image 1: Maharaja continues to strike impeccable balance between his eastern roots with English cuts in silhouettes)
Image 2: Maharaja towards the latter years – adorns all the mandatory 5 Ks of a sikh outfit with impeccable style
Image: Elveden Hall after transformation into a palace by Duleep Singh
Image 1 & 2: Elveden Hall from the inside was completely overhauled to South Asian architectural aesthetics

Influence On Modern Day Sikh ‘Haberdashery’

Duleep Singh has not only been able to influence hundreds and thousands of Sikhs living abroad, but also used his impeccable sartorial splendor to inspire the next generation of Sikh community to its unique sense of style.
One of my favorite style guru and fashion influencer - Waris Ahluwalia from the 'House of Waris'  (yes, some of you may remember him from the beautiful The Grand Budapest Hotelis the prime example of carrying the Sikh tradition forward in the most profoundly fusible manner possible!
House of Waris
Today, Waris stands as an authority on art, fashion and style featuring frequently with the most famous fashion brands, magazines and blogs out there!
Today, fashion icons like Jean Paul Gaultier continue to draw inspiration from the Maharaja's influence on south-asian fashion. (Jean took his Spring-Summer ’13 campaign’s inspiration almost entirely out of the sikh festival of Vaisakhi)
Heck, Duleep Singh even made it to the gaming industry!
Recently, famous gaming franchise Assassin's Creed, paid homage to the legendary Maharaja by peeping into his past and the lost glory!
The Guardian, Lahore - The City of Gardens, Wikipedia, Mr. Porter, Youtube


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