Festival of Anglo Sikh Heritage will mark death anniversary of Maharaja Duleep Singh
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
A one-day festival will see hundreds of people gather in Thetford to mark the 125th anniversary of the death of the last Sikh ruler.
Maharaja Duleep Singh spent much of his life in Britain and purchased the Elveden Estate in 1863, where he lived for more than 20 years.
He died in 1893 and is buried at St Andrew and St Patrick’s Church, Elveden, along with his wife Bamba and son.
Held on Sunday, the Festival of Anglo Sikh Heritage, has been organised by the Maharaja Duleep Singh Centenary Trust in response to the demand of the Sikh community.
Thetford and Elveden have become significant places for Sikh pilgrimages and are part of the national Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail.
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Jasvinder Singh Nagra, from the trust, said: “We hold the memory of our last Maharaja very close to our heart and it is important that the 125th anniversary of his death should be appropriately marked.
“We are expecting visitors from throughout the UK from locations as disparate as Southampton and Scotland.
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“It is our duty that our heritage be celebrated and preserved especially here in East Anglia which holds so many historical bonds and remains a place of cultural and historic interest to us.”
The main event, which is free for all to attend, will be held on Melford Common between noon and 6pm.
Activities include musical entertainment and poetry, food stalls, a heritage pavilion feature rare Sikh artefacts, turban tying and bookstalls.
There will be art workshops with Suman Kaur, the winner of the BBC Big Painting Challenge 2017, and storytelling with Navleen Kaur.
Speakers will include Slough MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and the Thetford mayor Roy Brame.
Visitors will also be able to visit the Maharaja’s memorial statue at Butten Island - commissioned by the trust - and many will also pay their tribute at his graveside.
The festival is being supported by Thetford Town Council, Breckland Council and Ancient House Museum, which has currently got on loan the portrait of Duleep Singh, entitled Casualty of War, by the Singh Twins.
Oliver Bone, curator at the museum, said: “We are really looking forward to welcoming people to Thetford to mark the anniversary of Maharaja Duleep Singh.
“It’s a great pleasure to be able to share the fascinating stories of the Duleep Singh family and to be part of this exciting Anglo-Sikh heritage festival.”
This will be the third outdoor festival organised by the trust since it was formed in 1993.
Maharaja Duleep Singh
Maharaja Duleep Singh bought the Elveden Estate in 1863 and lived the life of a country gentleman with a taste for the finer things in life.
Born in 1838, he was the youngest son of Ranjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, who ruled the region.
But in 1843, five-year-old Duleep Singh found himself as sovereign – and a hindrance to the British Raj.
Two wars were fought against the British, resulting in Duleep Singh being separated from his mother and removed from power by the underhand means of the East India Company.
He was effectively exiled to Britain in 1854 and it is believed he was pressured into converting to Christianity.
He was introduced to Queen Victoria and became a firm favourite of hers.
It is believed he later renounced Christianity and reconverted as a Sikh.
He died from a stroke in Paris in 1893.
He had a Christian burial at Elveden Church.