Rare Eyewitness Account of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Funeral


Extract of a letter frmn the Hon. W.G. Osborne the Military Secretary to the Governor-General of India Lord Auckland who visited the Sikh Kingdom in May 1838,with an account of the funeral obsequies of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

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“Simla, July 12th, 1839.
Runjeet Sing is dead, poor fellow ! and
died as like the old Lion as he had lived.
He preserved his senses to the last, and
was (which is unusual with native princes)
obeyed to the last by all his chiefs, though
he tried them high, as you will think, when
I tell you that two hours before he died he
sent for all his jewels, and gave the famous
diamond, called the ” Mountain of Light,”
said to be the largest in the world, to a
Hindoo temple, his celebrated string of
pearls to another, and his favourite fine horses,
with all their jewelled trappings,
worth £300,000, to a third.

His four wives, all very handsome, burnt
themselves with his body, as did five of his
Cachmerian slave girls, one of whom, who
was called the Lotus, or Lily, I often saw
last year in my first visit to Lahore. Everything
was done to prevent it, but in vain.

They were guaranteed in their rank and in
all their possessions, but they insisted upon
it ; and the account from the European officers
who were present describes it as the
most horrible sight.

The four wives seated
themselves on the pile with Runjeet Sing’s
head upon their laps ; and his principal
wife desired Kurruck Sing, Runjeet’s son
and heir, and Dheean Sing, the late prime
minister, to come to her upon the pile, and
made the former take the Maharajah’s dead
hand in his own, and swear to protect and
favour Dheean Sing as Runjeet Sing had
done ; £ind she made the latter swear to bear
the same true allegiance to the son which he
had faithfully borne to his father. She then
set fire to the pile with her own hands, and
they are dead—nine living beings having
perished together without a shriek or a
groan. Dheean Sing threw himself twice
on the pile, and said he could not survive
his master, but was dragged away by main
force. You have no idea what a sensation
the poor old man’s death has caused. All
our treasure and supplies to the army of
the Indus must go through the Punjab, and
there are so many powerful and almost independent
chiefs in the country, that the
risk will be great without Runjeet Sing’s
master-mind to rule them. Kurruck Sing
is well intentioned and well inclined towards
us, but wants the courage and energy of his
father. I send you a letter from the poor
old man, nearly the last he ever wrote,
which as an original of the Lion of Lahore
(a great man here) may be considered a
curiosity.

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