Centuries after Maharaja Ranjit Singh first held his Royal Durbar in Lahore, the descendants of his noblemen and generals convened at the Chandigarh Golf Club on Wednesday for the release of UK-based Writer, historian and filmmaker Bobby Singh Bansal’s book, The Chiefs of Punjab: The Lost Glory of the Punjab Aristocracy.
The book, which incorporates the histories of 65 families who had once served the Maharaja, was released by British Deputy High Commissioner (Chandigarh) Caroline Rowett, and descendants of the Mighty Chiefs of the Sikh Empire, including Inder Pal Kaur, 96-year- old granddaughter of Raja Sher Singh Attariwala.
In this hefty “Rolls-Royce of books,” Bansal has included rare Photographs and painstakingly charted the family trees of the former Chiefs of Punjab. They have recorded the testimonials of octogenarians and nonagenarians with “vivid Memories of their forefathers,” and their great grandchildren’s recounting of these Tales of Valor and Fortitude they grew up hearing.
“Some of the last people to recall the Sikh Empire had passed away after I spoke to them. Had their Memories not been recorded, they would have been lost forever. Many families had to be left out this time, but a second volume will come out in 2025, ”said Bansal.
This is Bansal’s third book after The Lions Firanghis (2010), and Remnants of The Sikh Empire (2015).
On how the businessman developed an interest in history, Bansal said, “Growing up in Britain, I knew little of my Sikh heritage. A friend once gave me a Magazine with Photographs of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. I was surprised to know that his youngest son Maharaja Duleep Singh was buried two hours away from my house and I didn’t know! I visited the grave that evening and two weeks later, I went to Lahore. After visiting Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s samadhi, and his Durbar, I knew I had found my calling. ”
Air Marshal KD Singh, who traces his ancestry to Maharaja Ranjit Singh, says, “Bansal’s research for the book has helped us reconnect with relatives, and rediscover Forgotten documents preserved in‘ sandooks ’. After 1947, the question of who we are cropped up constantly and the documents of the jewelery we gave to the British helped us reclaim our properties and a ‘boonga’ in Sri Harmandir Sahib. ”
The book has been published by Himalayan Books, New Delhi, in association with the SK Foundation, UK, and the International Sikh Confederation.
Adviser and executive committee member of the International Sikh Confederation Gurpreet Singh says, “The families who have been featured in the book should not just bask in the Laurels of their Ancestors, but play a much more active role in the Resurgence of Punjab, keeping in line with what their Ancestors did in giving Punjab its golden age under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. ”