JIND KAUR, MAHĀRĀṆĪ (1817-1863), popularly known as Jindāṅ, was wife of Mahārājā Raṇjit Siṅgh and mother of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh, the last Sikh sovereign of the Punjab. She was daughter of Mannā Siṅgh, an Aulakh Jaṭṭ of Gujrāṅwālā, who held an humble position at the court as an overseer of the royal kennels. Scant notice of Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur is taken either by the official Lahore diarist, Sohan Lāl Sūrī, or the British records until 1838, when according to the former, a munshī brought the blessed tidings of the birth of a son to her. It appears that she and her son lived a life of obscurity under the care of Rājā Dhiān Siṅgh at Jammū. In August 1843, the young prince and her mother were brought to Lahore. In September 1843, both Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh and Dhiān Siṅgh were assassinated. Rājā Hīrā Siṅgh, Dhiān Siṅgh's son, with the support of the army and chiefs, wiped out the Sandhāṅvālīā faction. Shortly after, Hīrā Siṅgh captured the Fort of Lahore and on 16 September 1843, the army proclaimed minor Duleep Siṅgh the sovereign of the State. Hīrā Siṅgh was appointed the wazīr. The political history of Jind Kaur begins from that date. Gradually, she assumed the role of a de jure regent to the minor Mahārājā. Both Hīrā Siṅgh and his adviser, Paṇḍit Jallā, did not show her the courtesy and consideration she was entitled to. Her establishment was put under the control of Misr Lāl Siṅgh. Jind Kaur mobilized opinion at the Darbār against the dominance of the Ḍogrās. She and her brother, Jawāhar Siṅgh, pleaded with the army pañchāyats (regimental committees) to banish Paṇḍit Jallā and protect the rights of minor Duleep Siṅgh. "Who is the real sovereign?" she angrily asked the regimental committees assembled in council. "Duleep Siṅgh or Hīrā Siṅgh? If the former, then the Khālsā should ensure that he was not a king with an empty title." The council assured the Rāṇī that Duleep Siṅgh was the real king of the Punjab. The army pañchāyats treated Jind Kaur with deference and addressed her as Māī Sāhib or mother of the entire Khālsā commonwealth.
The eclipse of the Jallā regime was a political victory for Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur, who had goaded the army to overthrow Hīrā Siṅgh and install her brother Jawāhar Siṅgh as the wazīr. She now assumed control of the government with the approval of the army pañchāyats who declared that they would place her on the throne of Delhi. Jind Kaur proclaimed herself regent and cast off her veil. She became the symbol of the sovereignty of the Khālsā ruling the Punjab in the name of her son. She reviewed the troops and addressed them, held court and transacted, in public, State business. She reconstituted the supreme Khālsā Council by giving representation to the principal sardārs and restored a working balance between the army pañchāyats and the civil administration.
Numerous vexatious problems confronted the Mahārāṇī. Pashaurā Siṅgh had bestirred himself again. An alarm was created that an English force was accompanying him to Lahore, and that he was being helped secretly by Gulāb Siṅgh. Second, the troops clamoured for a raise in their pay. The feudatory chiefs demanded the restoration of their resumed jāgīrs, remission of fines and reduction of enhanced taxes and burdens imposed upon them by Hīrā Siṅgh. Finally, it appeared that the diminishing revenues of the State could not balance the increasing cost of the civil and military administration.
Jind Kaur applied herself to the solution of these problems and secured to this end the assistance of a newly appointed council of elder statesmen and military generals. Kaṅvar Pashaurā Siṅgh was summoned to Lahore and persuaded to return to his jāgīr. Early in 1845, a force 35,000 strong marched to Jammū for the chastisement of Gulāb Siṅgh. The council had accused him of being a traitor to the Panth and charged him with treachery and intrigue against his sovereign. In April 1845, the army returned to Lahore with the Ḍogrā chief as a hostage. The pay of the soldiery was enhanced and Jawāhar Siṅgh was formally installed wazīr. Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur's choice of Jawāhar Siṅgh as wazīr became the subject of criticism. To counteract the rising disaffection, Jind Kaur hastily betrothed Duleep Siṅgh, in the powerful Aṭārī family, opened up negotiations with Gulāb Siṅgh and promised higher pay to the soldiery. When Jawāhar Siṅgh was assassinated by the army pañchāyats suspecting his hand in the murder of Kaṅvar Pashaurā Siṅgh, Jind Kaur gave vent to her anguish with loud lamentation. Early in November 1845, she, with the approval of the Khālsā Council, nominated Misr Lāl Siṅgh to the office of wazīr.
Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur has been accused by some historians of wishing the Khālsā army to destroy itself in a war with the English. A much more balanced and realistic view will be obtained by a closer examination of the policies of Ellenborough and Hardinge and of other incidental political factors which led to a clash of arms between the Sikhs and the English in December 1845. The Ellenborough papers in the Public Records Office, London, especially Ellenborough's and Hardinge's private correspondence with the Duke of Wellington, disclose the extent of British military preparations on the Sikh frontier. The correspondence reveals the inside story of the main causes of the first Anglo-Sikh war -- the republican upsurge of the Khālsā soldiery to save Raṇjīt Siṅgh's kingdom from foreign aggression, the concentration of large British forces on the Sutlej, the British seizure of Suchet Siṅgh's treasure, the intrigues of British political officers to subvert the loyalty of the Sikh governors of Kashmīr and Multān, the rejection of Lahore claim to the village of Morāṅ, and the extraordinarily hostile conduct of Major George Broadfoot, the British Political Agent at the North-West Frontier Agency, towards the Sikhs, particularly the virtual seizure by him of the cis-Sutlej possessions of the Lahore Government. In view of these factors, the theory that the Sikh army had become perilous to the regency and that the courtiers plotted to engage the army against the British becomes untenable. On the contrary, the Regent was the only person who exhibited determination and courage during the critical period of the war with the British.
In December 1846, Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur surrendered political power to the council of ministers appointed by the British Resident after the treaty of Bharovāl. The Sikh Darbār ceased to exist as a sovereign political body. The Regent was dismissed with an annuity of Rs 1,50,000 and "an officer of Company's artillery became, in effect, the successor to Raṇjit Siṅgh."
Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur was treated with unnecessary acrimony and suspicion. She had retired gracefully to a life of religious devotion in the palace, yet mindful of the rights of her minor son as the sovereign of the Punjab. Henry Lawrence, the British Resident at Lahore, and Viscount Hardinge both accused her of fomenting intrigue and influencing the Darbār politics. After Bharovāl, Hardinge had issued instructions that she must be deprived of all political power. In March 1847, he expressed the view that she must be sent away from Lahore.
At the time of Tej Siṅgh's investiture as Rājā of Siālkoṭ in August 1847, it was suspected that the young Mahārājā had refused to confer the title on him at the instigation of his mother. She was also suspected of having a hand in what is known as the Premā Plot -- a conspiracy designed to murder the British Resident and Tej Siṅgh at a fete at the Shālīmār Gardens. Although neither of the charges against Jind Kaur could be substantiated on enquiry, she was removed to Sheikhūpurā in September 1847, and her allowance was reduced to Rs 48,000. Lord Dalhousie, instructed Sir Frederick Currie, the British Resident at Lahore, to expel her from the Punjab. Currie acted promptly. He implicated Jind Kaur in a fictitious plot and sent her away from Sheikhūpurā to Banāras. She remained interned at Banāras under strict surveillance. In 1848, allegations were made by Major MacGregor, in attendance on her, that she was in correspondence with Mūlrāj and Sher Siṅgh at Multān. A few of her letters were intercepted and an alarm was created when one of her slave girls escaped from Banāras. She was removed to the Fort of Chunār from where she escaped to Nepal disguised as a maid-servant.
Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur arrived at Kāṭhmāṇḍū on 29 April 1849. The British Government promptly confiscated her jewellery worth Rs 9,00,000 and stopped her pension. At Kāṭhmāṇḍū, the sudden appearance of the widow of Raṇjīt Siṅgh was both unexpected and unwelcome. Yet Juṅg Bahādur, the prime minister, granted her asylum, mainly as a mark of respect to the memory of the late Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. A residence was assigned to her at Thāpāthalī, on the banks of the Vāgmatī river, and the Nepalese Government settled upon her an allowance for her maintenance. The Nepal Residency papers relate the details of Jind Kaur's unhappy sojourn in Nepal till 1860. The British Residency in Kāṭhmāṇḍū kept a vigilant eye on her throughout. It believed that she was engaged in political intrigue to secure the revival of the Sikh dynasty in the Punjab. Under constant pressure from the British, the Nepal Darbār turned hostile towards the Mahārāṇī and levied the most humiliating restrictions on her. But the forlorn widow of Raṇjīt Siṅgh remained undaunted. She quietly protested against the indignities and restrictions imposed upon her by Juṅg Bahādur. Juṅg Bahādur expelled from the valley one of her attendants, and the Mahārāṇī dismissed the entire staff foisted upon her by the Nepalese Government. She was then ordered to appear in person in the Darbār to acknowledge Nepalese hospitality, which she refused to do. The breach between her and Juṅg Bahādur widened. The Nepal Residency Records tell us that an open rift took place, and "several scenes occurred in which each seemed to have given way to temper, to have addressed the other in very insulting language."
Towards the end of 1860, it was signified to Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur that her son, Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh, was about to return to India and that she could visit him in Calcutta. She welcomed the suggestion and travelled to Calcutta to meet her son who took her with him to England. Mahārāṇī Jind Kaur died at Kensington, England, on 1 August 1863.
B. J. Hasrat