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Princess Bamba 1869 - 1957


Princess Bamba Sutherland (1869–1957) was the last member of the family that ruled the Sikh Empire in the Punjab. She returned to Lahore from her childhood in England where she was said to have "lived like an alien in her father’s kingdom".


Bamba Sofia Jindan Daleep Singh was the eldest daughter of Duleep Singh Sukerchakia and his first wife Bamba Müller. She was born on 29 September 1869 in London. She led an unusual life as her father (the ruler of the Punjab) had been brought to Britain as a child under the care of the East India Company, after the close of the Second Anglo-Sikh War and the subsequent annexation of the Punjab on 29 March 1849.

Princess Bamba Sutherland

Bamba's future father was forcibly separated from his mother and brought up as a Christian. When Duleep returned from burying his mother in India he married an illegitimate girl who was working at a missionary school in Cairo. He brought her back to England as his wife and they lived a life of luxury and were known to Queen Victoria. Bamba was their first daughter and was named after her mother, her maternal grandmother and her paternal grandmother respectively. The name "Bamba" means pink in Arabic.

Bamba's grandmother, Jindan Kaur, suffered a poor life in India after Bamba's father was taken from her. Eventually she was allowed to rejoin her son in England. Duleep collected her after special permission was given. Duleep was allowed by the British to visit India for the second time to bury his mother's ashes after she died in Britain, although the body had to remain at Kensal Green Cemetery for nearly a year whilst this was agreed. His mother's ashes were not allowed to be buried in Lahore but had to be placed in a memorial in Bombay.

Bamba lived at Elveden Hall until her mother died from kidney failure. She and the rest of her brothers and sisters were placed in the care of Arthur Oliphant, who was her father's equerry. There she completed her schooling until she went to Somerville College at Oxford.


When Bamba decided to visit India she placed an advertisement to hire a companion. The lady selected was a Hungarian, Marie Antoinette Gottesmann, who came from a noble family and had the cultural interests requested. The two of them made a number of visits to India settling in Lahore and Shimla. Whilst with the princess, Marie Antionette met and married Umrao Singh Sher-Gil and they went to live in Hungary. A notable painter, Amrita Sher-Gil, was the result. Bamba settled alone in Lahore and eventually married the Principal of King Edward Medical College in Lahore - Dr David Waters Sutherland.

In 1924 permission was finally given for her grandmother's ashes to be buried in Lahore. It was Bamba who supervised their transfer from Bombay where they had been placed when her father visited India. Her grandmother had actually died in 1863, but it had taken a year to get permission for her body to be returned to India. This was apt as her father had met Bamba's mother in Cairo on his way back from burying his mother's ashes. Bamba deposited the ashes in the memorial to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, her great grandfather.

Sutherland was widowed in Lahore when her husband died in 1939. She was reported to dream of her former glory. She was the last survivor of a royal family who should have owned the Punjab. When she finally died it was said{ that her funeral was arranged by United Kingdom Deputy High Commissioner in Lahore. Actually the quiet funeral with few guests was arranged by her secretary, Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra.


Sutherland died on 10 March 1957. As the last surviving member of the dynasty, Bamba left a large quantity of important historical items to her secretary, Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra of Lahore. The collection consists of eighteen paintings, fourteen watercolours, 22 paintings on ivory and a number of photos and other articles. The collection was sold to the Pakistan government and it is kept in Lahore Fort. It is known as the Princess Bamba Collection.

A translation of the Persian distich on her gravestone has been translated as:

The difference between royalty and servility vanishes
The moment the writing of destiny is encountered
If one opens the grave of a dead
None would be able to discern rich from poor