Last Princess of Lahore - Princess Bamba Sutherland (1869 - 1957)
The last of the survivors of the Maharaja’s family, Princess Bamba Sutherland, who lived like an unknown in Lahore, the capital of the kingdom of her father and grandfather, quietly slipped into its soil on March 10, 1957, almost unknown and unwept.
Princess Bamba Sutherland, the eldest daughter of Maharaja Daleep Singh, was born on September 29, 1869, in London. She was baptised Bamba Sofia Jindan Daleep Singh, named after her mother and grandmothers’ respectively.
When she was planning to visit India for the first time, she gave an advertisement in a local paper, inviting applications from a lady with cultural interests and musical background, who would like to accompany her on a visit to India. Marie Antoninette, a Hungarian of noble descent, applied and was accepted. Both came to India and lived at Lahore and Shimla.
In the company of the Princess, Marie Antoninette met Umrao Singh Sher-Gil and this acquaintance led to their marriage and they left together for Budapest where their first child Amrita Sher-Gil, the most innovative painter of modern India, was born. Henceforth, Princess Bamba visited India frequently and finally settled at Lahore.
She purchased a house in the posh locality of Model Town and named it ‘Gulzar’ where she had an exclusive garden of roses spread on an area of one kanal. Here she married Dr David Waters Sutherland who was Principal of the King Edward Medical College, Lahore (now Medical University).
She had inherited a vast collection of paintings, art objects, historical documents and royal orders from her father and kept these in safe custody at Lahore. To understand the significance of these documents, mostly written in Persian, she placed an advertisement in a newspaper for hiring a suitable scholar and selected Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra for this job. Supra was well versed in Persian, Arabic and English. Soon her relationship with her teacher became full of respect and trust. She bequeathed her collection of paintings and art objects to Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra, who, after her death, sold these to the Government of Pakistan.
The collection, consisting of 18 oil paintings, 14 water colours, 22 ivory paintings, 17 photographs, 10 metallic objects and seven miscellaneous articles, are known as ‘The Princess Bamba Collection’. These are now in the custody of the Department of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan, for preservation as a national asset. Located in Gora Kabristan on jail road, Lahore, her grave remains decked with flowers brought by the descendants of Pir Karim Bakhsh Supra from ‘Gulzar’, Model Town, Lahore, the residence of late Princess Bamba Sutherland.
Note by: Kanwarjit Singh Kang