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Fighter For Freedom Maharaja Duleep Singh
Introduction To 'Fighter For Freedom Maharaja Duleep Singh' By Dr. Baldev Singh Baddan
History, by and large, has painted Maharaja Duleep Singh as thorough English country gentleman of his times, living beyond his means and incurring debts in consequence. Living in London after his exile to England, he spent most of his youth in his favourite pastimes of fencing, hawking, hunting and shooting.
- And yet for all his spirited exertions in later life to free his motherland from the British yoke and regain his sovereignty having come to nought, he is seen as a pathetic, helpless figure, an object of pity and in British eyes an object of ridicule. G.B. Mallesan in his introduction to 'Lady Login's Recollections' in the following pages has succinctly shown the two facets of the Maharaja when he recalls that the Maharaja had confessed to him in 1871 that he had had a thrilling and thoroughly satisfying life for over 17 years of his stay in England (he had come in 1854 at the age of 16) and reckoned himself the happiest man on earth. But just ten years later when Col. Mallesan again chanced to meet him, the Maharaja told him that he was the most miserable man that there ever lived. What had happened in the intervening period to impair his perfect happiness of long standing into utter despair? He died in 1893, at the age of 55, an exhausted, shattered and broken-hearted man.
Let me lope through history of the period to highlight the reasons that had contributed to the early happiness and later despair of Maharaja Duleep Singh. Maharaja Ranjit Singh died on June 27, 1839; his eldest son, Kharak Singh whom Ranjit Singh had himself appointed his successor, succeeded to the throne. He had hardly been on the throne for three months, when he was dethroned in favour of his son Naunihal Singh. Few days later Kharak Singh died, allegedly by slow poisoning that was seen as the handiwork of the Minister Dhyan Singh, who was the lead player in the tragic drama that unfolded after Ranjit Singh 's death.