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Indian film star visits the region ahead of cultural festival launch

PUBLISHED: 15:37 05 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:16 05 July 2018

Actor Satinder Sartaaj laying flowers on the grave of Duleep Singh in the churchyard at Elveden Church in 2017. Picture: Ian Burt

Actor Satinder Sartaaj laying flowers on the grave of Duleep Singh in the churchyard at Elveden Church in 2017. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

An Indian singer, songwriter and actor has visited the region ahead of the launch of a cultural festival of which he is a patron.

The Jugnu Bhangra Dancers, dressed in their traditional folk Punjabi costume, will be performing at the Thetford & Punjab Festival. Picture:  Essex Cultural Diversity ProjectThe Jugnu Bhangra Dancers, dressed in their traditional folk Punjabi costume, will be performing at the Thetford & Punjab Festival. Picture: Essex Cultural Diversity Project

The Festival of Thetford and Punjab kicks-off at the weekend and will see numerous events held to explore the cultural links between Thetford and the Punjab.

It will also commemorate the 125th anniversary of the death of Maharajah Duleep Singh.

Known as the last King of the Punjab, the Maharajah owned and lived at the Elveden Estate.

Satinder Sartaaj, who played Duleep Singh in the 2017 film The Black Prince, visited a farm at Undley, near Lakenheath, where they hand pick saag - a traditional Indian leaf.

Director Gurinder Chadha will visit Thetford as part of the Festival of Thetford & Punjab. She is pictured at the UEA to receive an honorary degree. Picture: Denise BradleyDirector Gurinder Chadha will visit Thetford as part of the Festival of Thetford & Punjab. She is pictured at the UEA to receive an honorary degree. Picture: Denise Bradley

“Thetford is very near India in my heart as it is interlinked with the Maharaja,” said Dr Sartaaj, who said there are many similarities with agriculture with Norfolk and Suffolk and the Punjab.

“There are a huge lot of similarities of the fields and the fragrance and the weather. Even the butterflies are flying here.

“It is so nostalgic and so overwhelming to be here and it feels like you are on homeland.

“The Maharajah lived in this area during the 18th century and for me it is very important.”

The statue of last King of Punjab, Maharaja Duleep Singh in Thetford. Picture: Rebecca MurphyThe statue of last King of Punjab, Maharaja Duleep Singh in Thetford. Picture: Rebecca Murphy

Organised by the Essex Cultural Diversity Project (ECDP), a £79,900 grant was awarded from the Heritage Lottery Fund to deliver the event between Saturday, July 7 and 22.

Contributors to the festival, which will take place at venues throughout Thetford and Elveden, include Sathnam Sanghera, author of The Boy with the Top Knot, and comedian and presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli.

On July 21 the festival will link with Thetford Town Council’s River Festival.

There will be a procession through the town centre with a collaboration between Bhangra and Morris dancers, Bhangra Dhol Drummers, Punjabi food stall, Sikh martial arts Gatka, henna hand painting, storytelling activities along the River.

Indi Sandhu, festival director, said: “The festival of Thetford and Punjab will hopefully be an annual event we can celebrate every July.

“The long-term plan is to have more cultural events relating to Maharaja Duleep Singh over the years to come.”

For more information about events and tickets visit Leaping Hare of the festival website.

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